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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Testing 4.0.6 PTR changes

Matthew Rossi

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, Old Gods and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

If you're wondering where your heroic dungeon gear guide is, it's been eaten by the PTR. Frankly, I've been running heroics as DPS and as a tank for about a week straight now, and I'm kind of bleary-eyed anyway, so looking at something aside from a long list of gear might just be the way to go. Above, you may see my draenei warrior just after successfully getting his hands on a new offhand weapon and zoning out of Grim Batol, whereupon Deathwing immediately set him on fire. I mean, I wasn't even done loading yet. Or you may see me, this morning, waking up to the news of the patch notes for the PTR. Take your pick, I suppose.

In an expansion that has already proven to be significantly melee-unfriendly (to put it mildly), today's notes make me a touch cranky. Some I understood the reasoning on; others I expected -- but they still didn't do much to make me feel like Cataclysm is going to stop dumping its particular form of love down on melee classes any time soon. So let's take a look at the coal Father Blizzmas is putting in our stockings, shall we? (Hey, I still have a tree up in my living room.)

One good change we should open up with.

  • Meta gems with the Chaotic and Relentless prefixes now have a requirement of 3 red gems.
  • New meta gems have been added: Agile Shadowspirit Diamond (Agility/3% critical damage), Reverberating Shadowspirit Diamond (Strength/3% critical damage), and Burning Shadowspirit Diamond (Intellect/3% critical damage). These new recipes are unbound and can drop from any Cataclysm creature. The new meta gems have a requirement of 3 red gems equipped.

Interestingly, this isn't as good a change for a fury warrior as it is for an arms warrior. I can easily gem blue up the wazoo as fury right now and still never come close to the cap, but even so, eventually we'll be able to; when we do, a meta-gem requirement that simply asks for a certain amount of a certain color is to my eyes better than "more X than Y." I'm interested in that Reverberating Shadowspirit Diamond, of course, as I'm sure all strength-value melee are. But frankly, I'm disappointed that as yet there's no Thundering Shadowspirit. At least in my fury setup right now, I've been playing with haste procs like the Hurricane enchant, and I'm getting pretty solid single-target numbers off of it as well as smoothing out some of my rage generation. I can't recommend haste over hit or expertise in good conscience, but I am interested in tinkering more with it, at least for fury. It still seems like a hot, wet mess of nothing for arms so far.

Now let's talk about our talents and skills

  • Charge now shares diminishing returns with stun effects.
  • Cleave damage has been reduced by 20%.
  • Heroic Strike damage has been reduced by 20%.
I can't think anyone is surprised by these changes. Anyone who read Ghostcrawler's recent blog post about the direction class changes were likely to go saw this coming: "We think Arms and Fury warriors are getting too much damage out of Heroic Strike. We want it to be clear that it's a rage dump and not make it the hardest hitting ability." Unfortunately, the reason it and Cleave became our hardest-hitting abilities is because everything else is either relatively weaker or proc-based or is Slam. Way back when the Shattering dropped, I said there wasn't much reason to hit Slam over Heroic Strike. Guess what? There still probably won't be. No, not even with the rest of the changes below.

Talent specializations

  • Juggernaut no longer increases the cooldown on Charge, but instead increases the duration of the Charge stun by 2 seconds. In addition, Charge is usable in all stances, however, the talent now causes Charge and Intercept to share a cooldown.
  • Lambs to the Slaughter Instead of granting 10/20/30% damage to the next Mortal Strike, Overpower, or Execute, it now grants a 10% buff to any Mortal Strike, Overpower, Slam, or Execute that stacks 1/2/3 times.
  • War Academy no longer buffs Heroic Strike or Cleave. It now buffs Mortal Strike, Raging Blow, Devastate, Victory Rush and Slam.
Some of these changes are pretty good in some ways. Linking Juggernaut to Intercept is probably the most elegant way to make the ability better without making it too good. Being able to Charge, Heroic Leap away, and Intercept back for another stun would probably be too many bites of the apple, but extending Juggernaut's charge stun and making Charge usable in all stances goes a way toward letting arms warriors in PvP use their full toolkit in any stance.

The Lambs to the Slaughter change is aimed at PvP, forcing the damage bonus from MS to ramp up over time instead of letting a warrior charge in, MS, Overpower for big damage, MS again and basically keep Lambs up all the time for full power. I don't like this change, but why would I like a change aimed directly at decreasing warrior offensive power in PvP? Given the stated goal of reducing warrior burst, it should do exactly that.

The War Academy change is aimed directly at PvE. It's a change aimed at making us using HS and Cleave less. Between the massive 20% nerf to those two abilities and this effective 15% additional nerf to them, they really will be less attractive to use. You won't see any guides saying "use HS over Bloodthirst/Raging Blow," and you'll probably be more likely to hit Bloodsurge-instant Slams now.

However, for fury, both Raging Blow and Slam are dependent on a proc. Fury warriors are still going to put HS or Cleave in the rotation every time Bloodthirst is on cooldown and nothing else is proccing. There's simply no way around it. You're not going to sit there, hold onto rage and hope an ability will proc while Bloodthirst cools down; you're going to fill that 4-second hole with an ability. It's human nature to take the sure thing over the chance that in that 4 seconds, you'll get lucky on a proc, especially when you're constantly having to move in and out of various avoidable damage and may well waste the proc even if you get lucky and get one. Plus, with Incite, often Heroic Strike is invaluable for being able to force a flurry state, as seen in the screenshot above. I don't know about you, but 15% more crit on HS than Slam means I'm going to use HS over Slam when possible, and you're absolutely going to hit HS again after it's critted to keep Flurry going longer.

Meanwhile, for arms, Slam is still a cast time ability. While it keeps casting while moving now, if something moves out of range and you can't close the gap in time, that's damage you could have dealt instantly but didn't with an HS. With all the procs and bleeds and mobility to manage in PvP and the added dancing we have to do in PvE, arms warriors are not likely to surrender instant damage for cast times unless they're positive it will go off.

However, I do like War Academy a lot more for tanking now. It makes Impending Victory more interesting and gives more damage to Devastate, which should always be the bread and butter tanking strike.

  • Unshackled Fury (Mastery) now grants 5.6% benefit per mastery point, up from 4.7%.
All this will do is compensate for the DPS lost with the HS/Cleave/War Academy changes, and it won't make it all up by a long shot. It does make mastery even better, which makes me wonder where that puts crit and haste in the DPS scheme of things. I'd actually like to see Blizzard move Bloodthirst back to a 5-second cooldown now that it doesn't have to synergize with WW as its off strike; I'd also like to see its damage increased, possibly by making Bloodthirst directly scale with an enrage much as Raging Blow does (or buff Raging Blow, if you're into simple solutions).

Fury's single-target is so ridiculously hit-dependent now that it's going to be a very long time before it's balanced with other strength-based melee. It's not even that the damage is currently bad, because HS and Cleave were propping it up. With them nerfed, we'll start to slide back down the way we did before the infamous 4.0.1 fixes. Hopefully, things won't wobble that badly this time around.

  • Glyph of Rapid Charge has been changed from a 7% reduction to Charge's cooldown, to 1 second off of the cooldown. This change is primarily to clarify the exact cooldown reduction this glyph provides.
When even the patch notes tell you something isn't really a change, it's not really a change.

In the end, the changes aren't major and suit the philosophy of the class redesign more than any real imbalance in class DPS. We weren't overpowered, but we're too bursty in the current "burst is no longer king" PvP mentality, and we're too dependent on HS and Cleave for the de-emphasized HS/Cleave design goal. Expect some drop in PvP efficiency and some loss of DPS until followup patches raise other numbers to compensate. The changes to Juggernaut are pretty interesting, however, and I'm excited to tank with the new War Academy.

At the center of the dury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, including Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors, a guide to new reputation gear for warriors, and a look back at six years of warrior trends.

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