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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Wild, wild speculation and the BlizzCon effect

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.

Well, how about that change to Mortal Strike? I mentioned a few weeks back that it felt to me like arms had lost its teeth in PvP, that it needed all of its cooldowns lined up to really put the hurt on anyone and that it had lost its identity as a force to be reckoned with. Does this change restore it? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that it will indisputably increase arms (and rogue, and hunter pet) potency in the PvP setting. No, in that it will not increase it by all that much. A 10% healing debuff is trivial. A 25% healing debuff is more than twice as good, but we'll see if that means much against healers at the level of gear they're going to have.

What the MS change really did to my brain (especially as I write this on the verge of BlizzCon, where hopefully many secrets will be revealed) is think about what I would like them to do for all three warrior specs. What do I want to see? What would I never, ever want to see again? Let us peer into this completely imaginary crystal ball and speculate.

This post will be broken up into two parts. Part one will be my pre-BlizzCon speculations. Then, in part two, I'll come back after BlizzCon and react to what the announcements are, and see how close I managed to get to the mark.

Before the storm: my pre-BlizzCon wish list

After nearly seven years (2004 to 2011) of living with rage, I've come to the conclusion that it has never worked as well as it does now, and that's depressing Because rage is at best a middling mechanic right now. It artificially throttles the player, and reinforces a playstyle where management means not doing something. I simply can't get behind a system where your option for managing your resource is to just wait.

One of the things I like about the Death Knight class (yes, I'm willing to admit I like other classes) is that with Runes and Runic Power, you essentially have two resources that cooperate with each other. When you use your runic power generators, you tend to put your runes on cooldown. You then spend runic power until your runes come off of cooldown. Yes, I'm simplifying it. But my point is, it's more fun to hit buttons than to not hit them, and it's more fun to manage resources when you're not forced to manage them via inaction.

I think that rage as it currently exists is the closest warriors have gotten to this kind of system, and I want to see it move further. One way to accomplish this would be to make Heroic Strike a weaker attack than it is now, keep it on its own separate cooldown, and let it generate rage instead of costing it. This would give warriors more options as to how to get rage, whereas at present they essentially have shouts, glyphed berserker rage and charge, which is mostly the property of arms and protection warriors. Balancing rage so that more abilities generated it would also mean you could move away from the 'standing around autoattacking' aspect of rage generation.

I'm also hopeful that the big talent panel this weekend is going to radically redesign the talent system. Frankly, I wouldn't be put out if a lot of talents were just gone. Cataclysm did an excellent job redesigning talents and abilities so that a lot of passive talents became baked into your choice up front (As an example, Two-Handed Weapon Specialization became baked into arms) and I think now's the time to go even further. I'll elaborate more on that as I talk about each spec. But before I do that, let me take it to the furthest extreme imaginable: imagine the death of talent trees.

Yes, that's right: imagine if all talents were pared down to no talents at all. Warriors have a balanced damage spec, a tanking spec, and a spec dedicated to crazed battle lust. Why not take that whole "You pick a spec at level 10" idea and run even wilder with it? Imagine just getting everything you need to be an arms, fury or protection warrior as you level, and instead of 41 talents to spend over 85 levels, you got 9 talents, non-spec specific abilities you could choose from a list of 18 or so, over the course of 90 levels? These talents could be anything: a new rage generator ability, a rage spending ability, increased stealth detection, and by being a limited amount of talents that any warrior could choose they'd allow for customization and personal choice across all specs. I think it could work, and work well.

It is the outside edge of what I think possible for them to do, I admit. It's not very likely.

After the wave: BlizzCon makes me go holy heck

So, how about that? The talent redesign was even more extreme than I had hoped for. This may be the first time I've felt I was overly pessimistic about how far Blizzard's designers would go, and I'm pleased that they've proved me wrong in so spectacular a fashion. The way the new talent system works, you'll get a new talent point every fifteen levels. You can spend that talent on any one of three talents at that tier, and these talents will be designed so that they all fill a similar role.

Taking a look at the talents for warriors posted at BlizzCon (and yes, please keep in mind these are prelimnary) you're looking at six talents by level 90, out of a possible 18. The first one will be a mobility/charge talent, the next one a healing/survival talent, and so on. They mentioned at the convention that in the past, when players were given an option between a survival and DPS boost talent, they'd always pick the one prescribed by their role, so that DPS warriors would always take a DPS boost. The idea is to match apples to apples, so that each talent in a tier offers the same kind of reward. This is exactly what I never dared dream they'd do, provide non-spec specific talents that reach across lines. If you look at the final tier, you see the potential most clearly. If you're a protection warrior and you want another way to clear snares and roots, you'll take Bladestorm or Avatar. You can take any one of three talents you want, and in any spec you want.

What happens now?

One of the things we're seeing is that some talents are going to abilities. They specifically mentioned Enraqe (seriously, enraqe? How does that even happen? I meant Enrage.) as an ability all warriors will have. Likewise, a lot of current talents like Titan's Grip and SMF are going to be baseline to their specs. This, combined with an entire talent tier that is aimed at giving you more options as to how you generate rage has given me hope that pretty much everything I wanted, we're going to get.

Mists of Pandaria
has done more to revitalize and redesign how talent and spec work than any expansion before it. I'm very eager to see how it plays out.

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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