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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: A week on the patch 4.3 PTR

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.

I mean that headline quite literally -- I have been on the PTR pretty much every available moment since it dropped. I've run End Time close to 40 times now. I've messed around with transmog, copied over my warrior four times and run amok with options, done some DPS and tanking and mused over the set bonuses for tier 13. In general, I've gorged on the PTR like Thrall running headlong into hostile mobs in Durnholde Keep. As soon as I get a chance to run The Hour of Twilight, I'll let you know if he still yells I did not ask for this while throwing himself bodily at six hostiles.

Frankly, Thrall, you so asked for this.

So what do I think of Patch 4.3 at this early, early date? I'm glad I rhetorically asked. Well, for one thing, I am loving transmogging my gear like you would not believe. I'm vacillating between a mix of Onslaught and Ymirjar Lord's (I like the tier 10 chest and legs with Onslaught everything else) and the classic Horde level 60 PVP gear. But as much fun as transmogging is, it's hardly the meat and potatoes of this patch.

Warriors, heroics are fun again so far

If you're a non-raider and you're worried about getting geared enough for the Raid Finder feature, don't. Take a look at the Axe of the Tauren Chieftain. It's solidly representative of how gear for warriors in the new heroics is itemized. Compared to the Skullstealer Greataxe from regular Shannox in Firelands, it is effectively equivalent depending on your stat needs. You will be able to run these new 5-mans and get as geared as a 10- or 25-man normal mode raider can right now. The Crown of Epochs from Murozond is better than the Greathelm of the Voracious Maw from Alysrazor, in my opinion. More crit, hit instead of mastery, and a red socket. Itemization in this first 5-man, at least, is simply superb. Since I currently have four level 85 warriors, I'm looking forward to catching up on three of them.

With only one dungeon to run at the time I write this, I can at least tell you that it's a fun dungeon. End Time is not just a place to crack open some loot pinatas, even at this early stage with unfinished quests. The boss fights have interesting mechanics and often ask you to make use of abilities like Heroic Leap (very useful against Baine, as an example).

DPS warriors and scaling in Cataclysm redux

As things stand right now, I'm prepared to say that rage normalization has failed. At least it didn't render the class unplayable this time, but one off the stated goals of normalization was to prevent the constant need for nerfing warrior DPS with every patch as we saw in Wrath. Warriors would gear up in a tier of raiding, go from terrible DPS to leaders in DPS, and then get nerfed as new content was released. This happened in Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader, and ICC.

It's also happened in Cataclysm, and if the recent Dev Watercooler is any indication, it's going to happen in 4.3. I felt nauseous when I saw yet again the oft repeated Fury warrior damage is almost certainly too high that almost certainly indicates some sort of nerf is in our future. Now, I understand nerfs come and nerfs go, but I'm frankly well past the point of being sanguine about being nerfed every patch because rage is simply not working as a resource. I talked at length about this subject back in patch 4.2, so I don't want to beat it to death here.

I will say that I'm a trifle tired of being nerfed at the beginning of every raid only to see scaling effects from rage put me up after I've been carried through the content by classes that weren't nerfed. I like my guild. It's not fair to the other people in my raid to have to pick up the slack because someone who once contributed good DPS suddenly can't do as much, especially when it happens every single patch. I sincerely hope that whatever the next expansion is, it features a major overhaul of how warriors work, perhaps one inspired by Diablo 3's Fury system. You own it, Blizz -- consider using it.

Patch 4.3 PTR notes
  • Vengeance for Protection warriors, Protection paladins, Blood death knights, and Feral druids has been redesigned slightly. It no longer ramps up slowly at the beginning of a fight. Instead, the first melee attack taken by the tank generates Vengeance equal to 33% of the damage taken by that attack. In addition, as it updates periodically during the fight, it's always set to at least 33% of the damage taken by the tank in the last 2 seconds. It still climbs from that point at the rate it did previously, still decays when damage is not taken, and still cannot exceed a maximum based on the health and Stamina of the tank.

You will all taste my Vengeance

Tanking changes aside from the Vengeance fix have not been rolled out for warriors yet. (Neither have any changes to warrior DPS.) I'd have to say that both the Vengeance change and the recent threat hotfixes do what they were designed to do, but without the new tanking paradigm of active mitigation in place, they feel exactly like the Band-Aids that they are. Still, we shouldn't snub a Band-Aid. They exist for a reason. I'm actually fairly eager to start playing around with this form of tanking and seeing how it works.

Warriors and the shifting T13 bonuses

Until we get to look at the redesigned way we'll be tanking, we can at least talk about our tier 13 set bonuses. When these were first revealed last week, I was not overly impressed with our DPS set bonuses, and I was worried about the possibly implication of the tanking ones. I didn't panic at the time because it's the PTR; stuff is subject to change. Well, stuff has already changed at least once. I definitely like the current tier 13 four-piece for DPS warriors over the one Blizzard announced last week.

Warrior Tier 13 set bonuses (Old and new)
  • Protection, 2P -- Your Revenge ability now also grants a physical absorption shield equal to 20% of the damage done by Revenge.
  • Protection, 4P -- Your Shield Wall ability now grants 50% of its effect to all party and raid members.
  • DPS, 2P -- Heroic Strike costs 10 less rage while Inner Rage is active.
  • DPS, 4P -- Your Execute critical strikes have a 20% chance to refresh the duration of Colossus Smash.
  • DPS, 4P -- Your Raging Blow and Mortal Strike abilities have a 13% chance to apply the Colossus Smash effect on your target for 6 sec.

I really cannot tell you how underwhelmed I am by the two-piece DPS bonus. 20 rage HSes while Inner Rage is active? Is anyone swimming in rage to the point where they're spamming HS enough that this sounds appealing to them? Frankly, I think the Inner Rage experiment has failed. It was interesting as a semi-cooldown that increased your damage and rage costs. Giving rage a bit of a strategic use, but once it was changed to simply lower the cooldown on HS and Cleave it became more useful for tanks wanting to hold aggro than DPS. With the threat changes, it's lost even more of its niche. There are times where I use Inner Rage, like after one of Staghelm's raid-wide slashes where I have a ton of rage, but it's not very often.

Even changing the bonus to (as an example) increase the damage on HS when Inner Rage is active wouldn't make me all that excited to juggle another DPS cooldown-style ability. Between trinkets, Death Wish or Sweeping Strikes and Recklessness, both arms and fury warriors have enough to do. The new four-piece for DPS is much improved over the old. It does make me wonder if arms will be able to keep the CS debuff up almost indefinitely, which should be a very solid DPS increase for them.

The tank bonuses are superior. With Vengeance increasing attack power faster now, tanking warriors will quickly see very significant damage on Revenge. With no internal cooldown yet discussed, 20% of a 20,000-damage Revenge crit in tier 13 gear (based on the fact that I can easily crit for 10 to 15k with Revenge now) will be 4k, and those popping up every few seconds sounds pretty tasty. As nice as the Revenge damage shield (basically turning Revenge into Death Strike) sounds, the four-piece is the one with the more complicated implications.

Assuming you have unglyphed Shield Wall and Shield Mastery so you can use it every 2 minutes, you will now have a cooldown capable of reducing the raid's damage by 20% every 2 minutes and another cooldown (Rallying Cry) capable of giving the raid 20% additional health every 3 minutes. This is kind of an insane amount of raid cooldowns in one class. An unglyphed Shield Wall will increase the time to 4 minutes but will also increase the raid's damage reduction to 30%. I'm not 100% sold on forcing tanks to sacrifice a personal cooldown for the raid, but it has potential. I do worry about fights where there's so much raid damage that the tank has to have these kinds of cooldowns to get through them.

Right now, that's about all that can be said about the PTR. We'll see what the next week will bring.
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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