The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Unleashing fury in the Dragon Soul

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|01.21.12

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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Unleashing fury in the Dragon Soul
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 love fury. I raided in vanilla WoW with a two-handed fury DPS spec and also tanked, because everyone who played a warrior tanked back then. I tanked with a fury spec that worked very well for threat generation, but I eventually switched to an arms/prot spec for the Mortal Strike debuff.

When Titan's Grip was announced for Wrath of the Lich King, everyone who knew me knew what my reaction would be. TG fury became my DPS spec of choice until I became a main tank for my Wrath guild, and it has stayed my favorite spec throughout the talent's existence. Even now that I raid as arms DPS, fury is technically my main spec and arms my secondary. I even applauded when Single-Minded Fury was announced for Cata because I knew a lot of fury warriors missed the one-handed weapon playstyle.

At present, this is all moot. Both SMF fury and TG fury lag well behind arms as a DPS spec. Neither can match either the AoE potential of a Blood and Thunder build or sustain the rage for a single-target fight, with the exception of Ultraxion. Fury suffers for a variety of reasons, which we'll go into as we discuss the spec. I don't currently have BiS SMF weapons, so my SMF sims/testing and runs produced artificially low results. It is my belief that fury warriors who prefer SMF to TG would be better off considering a No'Kaled despite the agility, as the proc on the weapon is superior for DPS than Souldrinker. I'm sure a lot of shaman hate me now. (Remember, the Raid Finder version of No'Kaled is unavailable to you warriors.)

Cooldowns and survival

There are some positives to a fury DPS build in Dragon Soul.
  • Fury can be the more survivable option. With proper glyphing and talents, a fury warrior can increase his self-healing options, useful for fights like heroic Zon'ozz where there's a lot of raid damage going around. Since there's not a ton of AoE to be done in this fight and there's incoming damage to increase your rage generation, fury also has higher DPS than normal in these situations. Making healing easier while putting out respectable numbers is a good option to have.
  • Fury is competitive on DPS check fights. The biggest DPS check in the instance is Ultraxion, and due to the high incoming raid damage, fury can usually ensure its proper rotation and put out competitive if not chart-topping DPS. The survivability from the above point should be kept in mind.
  • Fury has more cooldowns for burn phase fights. Being able to use Reck, Death Wish, and a combination of two-piece T12 and T13 lined up at the proper time can give fury a surprisingly high burst potential. Doing 55k to 60k DPS on Yor'sahj is fun as arms, true, but it's mostly Bladestorm abuse. Fury can blow a globule up in a few swings with proper use of cooldowns, and that has value in tight situations.
I don't want to sound like I'm whitewashing the truth here. Fury is behind the curve in Dragon Soul, and in fact is the worst-performing melee DPS spec in the game at present. That's in the face to the buffs to melee attack power abilities made in patch 4.3, because as we know fury was nerfed significantly and therefore stood still while everyone else blasted past it. A good fury warrior can put out respectable numbers, but a lackluster arms warrior will almost always outperform, especially with a spec designed to put out AoE, due to a variety of factors.

Stat capping and the fury warrior's dilemma

Arms benefits more from Deep Wounds due to the Blood Frenzy talent, so the fix to the Deep Wounds bug had much less of an effect on them. Not only do Blood Frenzy, their access to Battle Trance, and Deadly Calm all combine to give arms a great deal of rage generation and the ability to ignore rage costs when necessary, arms also has the ability to spread bleeds around and therefore increase the physical and bleed damage taken by all those mobs. So not only will they be taking Rend ticks, but those Rend ticks will increase their bleed damage by 30%, which means that any critical hits dealt while Bladestorming, hitting Sweeping Strikes or Cleaving (while under the effect of Deadly Calm, those Cleaves will be entirely free) will do 30% more damage.

Then consider the fact that arms can entirely hit cap, meaning that no swing will be wasted. Any auto-attack made by an arms warrior is guaranteed to generate rage, which they can then turn around and convert into damage. It also means that arms can more readily concentrate on critical strike and mastery (which is a solid stat for them), as they'll almost hit cap just from gear and can even reforge most hit away comfortably.

Fury, meanwhile, can either accept capping for yellow attacks and take a very high miss chance of 16% (24% miss chance after Precision minus 8%), which will cost them the extra 40% auto-attack damage from Precision, and try and make it up with critical strike and a mastery that's better for TG than SMF (and even then, not that much better) -- or you can pursue a higher hit cap knowing you'll never hit the 24% you would need to cap auto-attacks. 16% is about as high as you can feasibly get, and even then, you'd be hurting yourself on all other stats to do it, at least before full heroic gear. This is exacerbated by the fact that weapons like Souldrinker and Gurthalak have no stats. If Gurth's proc chance in the off hand was as good as it is in the main, that wouldn't be an issue, as a 10% to 15% uptime on Gurth would produce more than enough DPS to compensate for the lost hit. At present, that's still undetermined.

Can the proc be a detriment?

My own dummy testing, heroics and raids all seem to be showing me a consistent proc rate whether or not I have Gurth OH or not. The rate can be extremely variable, of course; it can not proc at all in an entire Ultraxion, although that's rare, or it can have up to 83% uptime on the Tentacle of the Old Ones debuff over the course of a fight. But if it turns out that Gurth doesn't proc more often with two equipped, then the lost stats on the off-hand completely annihilate it for DW purposes. With hit impossible to cap, losing any stats means losing rage. Losing rage must be compensated for by the proc, or it's not worth it.

Fury's forced reliance on proc weapons that don't seem to proc at the same rate in both hands is another blow to the spec's ability to compete. A missed attack doesn't just cost you DPS (it does); it also costs you resources to use for DPS. Most other classes that miss just lose the DPS -- they don't also lose a chunk of resources, and it's that double cost to a miss that hinders fury. Back when Deep Wounds was bugged and we had a flat 5% increased damage while dual wielding, the cost was manageable. Now it is not.

Quite frankly, the fact that Bloodthirst gets half the benefit from the T13 four-piece set bonus as Mortal Strike isn't helping anyone, either. You're better off holding on to that T12 two-piece, frankly. Combined with T13 two-piece, you have a mini cooldown that buffs your damage dealt by 10% for 6 seconds and lets you throw three or four HSes after a Colossus Smash, if you have the rage for it. It's a lot better than hoping Bloodthirst might put CS on a target, when you know it probably won't (and even if it does, you'll have to be very fast to take advantage of it).

Fury could be restored to parity with a few simple changes. One would be to reduce the dual wield miss penalty to make it possible to miss less often. Missing a lot with two fast weapons or with high haste like an unholy DK is a lot less punitive, because they attack so much faster that a miss streak isn't nearly so crippling as it is for a fury warrior. Even an SMF warrior with two one-handed weapons is probably swinging at or around 2.3 or 2.4 seconds per at best, with haste being so otherwise lackluster for fury. A TG warrior swinging at 3.4 or even 3.55 just can't have two misses in a row; it's completely destructive to the priority system, and it can happen all too frequently. However, with Precision also offering 40% increased auto-attack damage, it might be preferable to leave fury's miss chance alone and instead borrow a strategy from arms.

The lack of an ability like Deadly Calm hampers fury's ability to line up attacks at the proper time to get the most benefit out of its cooldowns. Death Wish is going in this direction in MoP, flat-out increasing rage generation, and we may just have to hold our noses and wait for the expansion to see fury get back to where it competes with anyone.

The real issue for fury DPS in Dragon Soul is simply an inability to compete on the resource generation level. Arms has multiple ways to lower rage costs or generate free rage in addition to its other advantages, while fury's constant rage starvation is only exacerbated by reducing how much damage the attacks that manage to land can even do.

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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