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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Rage in Cataclysm, part 1

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.

We should talk briefly about two nerfs to warrior DPS in the most recent patch 4.2 PTR. They're not earthshaking in and of themselves, but I would be remiss if I didn't address them.

  • Recklessness and Deadly Calm can no longer be used at the same time. One cannot be used while the other is active, but using one does not put the other on its full cooldown.
  • Talent Specializations
    • Arms
      • Two-Handed Weapon Specialization weapon damage increase has been lowered to 12%, down from 20%.
    • Fury
      • Dual Wield Specialization weapon damage increase has been lowered to 5%, down from 10%.
If I thought warrior DPS was through the roof or overpowered in any way right now, I guess I'd understand these nerfs. It more seems to me like, "Well, we nerfed some other classes ... We might as well nerf them, too -- it's protocol." I'm going to assume it's a change similar to the one we saw when Ulduar went live aimed at keeping warrior scaling from getting out of whack with the higher amounts of hit, crit and mastery that will be available.

How normal does rage actually get?

To a certain degree, rage normalization baffles me, because when we were first told back near the end of Wrath that we were going to see rage normalization, one of the things we were told was that it was intended to prevent the ridiculous scaling warriors saw as gear increased in power. I would argue that's exactly what it did. Rage normalization worked very well for standardizing warrior DPS and did very little to make rage a resource that mattered to tanks.

The reason rage normalization worked for DPS and not for tanking can in large part be traced to the different ways DPS and tanking warriors generate rage. In short, the majority of DPS warrior rage comes from damage the warrior deals. The majority of rage tank rage (be it bear or warrior, as I tank alongside a druid tank in my raid) comes from damage taken.

When rage normalization was discussed for Cataclysm, it was intended to make rage a resource that actually needed managing instead of what it was at that time. For low-level or undergeared warriors, rage was a strangle point that held down their DPS or threat artificially, as they couldn't generate that much due to misses and dodged or parried attacks and when they did connect, they didn't do enough damage to generate much if any rage. Meanwhile, for a DPS warrior whose gear improved, every incremental improvement provided significant rage increase. The more hit, the more ArP, the closer to experience cap they got the more they hit and the harder they hit. The more and harder they hit, the more rage, until in full ICC gear, warriors simply did not have to care about rage at all. A DPS warrior in an ICC raid simply hit buttons the second they came off of cooldown. He or she would be a fool not to.

Rage normalization fixed this by making the amount of rage generated by an attack fixed. This means that no matter how hard you hit, you don't get any more or less rage, turning the exponential rage gen machine into a more linear one. Yes, hit and expertise and haste all still affect your rage generation. The more you hit, the less you're dodged, and the more often you swing all increases how much rage you get, but the double dipping on rage scaling is no longer an issue. In fact, it's the way rage normalization has worked out for DPS that has me shaking my head at the nerf to both DPS specs. Why reduce base damage, and by such large numbers? Rage normalization actually worked for DPS warriors; we don't scale exponentially anymore, but we can top meters with effort and skill.

No, where normalization failed was for tanking.

The rage tank's dilemma

I don't mean to say that warriors cannot tank or are prevented from tanking by their resource system. What I mean to say is that before rage normalization, rage was a feast or famine system that tanks didn't really try and gear to improve, because on bosses, rage would be near infinite and on trash, you'd always be behind a tank who started with a full bar anyway. Warriors were not the best AOE tanks purely because they would never have the full tank to get groups glued to them the way tanks who didn't use rage could. Being able to open with your biggest group threat move and then keep going was an amazing advantage, and since no tank ever has to worry about running out of their main resource while tanking a boss, that ended up as a non-issue. Warrior tanks (this can be extended to say "all rage tanks") were no better off on bosses and slightly worse off on trash.

Now, after rage normalization, the exact same situation applies. If anything, warrior tanks are even less likely to gear for threat/rage generation. Between Vengeance stacking up as the tank takes damage and rage becoming near infinite due to the constant damage intake on a tank, over the course of a fight, the warrior does not have to manage rage as a resource at all. If he did, it would probably be deleterious on most progression content. Simply put, how much does a tank really want to have to think about rage conservation? If you're already tanking Vile Swills on heroic Maloriak, you possibly don't want to have to worry about your resource.

This is the catch-22 of rage as a resource for tanking: It's not really managed and provides no benefit to the tanks using it if they try and do so, but making it so that rage tanks had to manage their rage might just make them worse tanks. It's an unsatisfying all-or-nothing system that probably wouldn't work any better otherwise.

Next week, we'll talk about how each spec gathers and spends rage in more detail and try to think about how the system could be improved for each.

At the center of the fury 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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