The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Considering the Mists talent calculator

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 now have a new version of the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator to discuss. While we've covered the Mists talents and abilities before, every new iteration of the design process brings us new elements to consider. What we're effectively being presented is a snapshot of the future through the lens of current design, giving us a chance to muse about what warriors will be doing and not doing.

One of the things that jumps out immediately when considering the new talents is that the current capstones Bladestorm and Shockwave (as well as Avatar), which had been gained at level 90 before, are now level 60 abilities. I'm not actually surprised by this change, but I am pleased by it. Those are abilities people can currently get by around the end of Outland, so making them level 60 talents means they'll be useful for leveling characters again.

Let's go over what can be gleaned from the calculator update and discuss what it all means.

Able and willing

Looking first at the class-wide abilities, we see some interesting things. Incite is now a passive, class-wide ability, for starters. It's gained at level 64. I expect this is because just about every warrior spec at least considers Incite right now. The redesigned Mists version of Incite only provides the chance to guarantee a second critical and not the increased critical strike chance, which is a general trend in the redesign probably aimed at making crit from gear more attractive (which I find strange because it's already one of our best stats).

The ability War Banner at level 87 is now the last class-wide ability gained by warriors. At present, I don't know what the cooldown on War Banner will be. (If you can see one, please let me know; every time I look at the ability, I can't find it.) It has two 15-second duration possibilities and one 30-second duration. This implies to me that it's at least 30 seconds on the cooldown, if not a minute. Longer than that would entirely trivialize it to my eyes.

The Skull Banner ability (30% critical hit chance for 15 seconds) seems powerful enough that I have to believe it's a minute cooldown. Demoralizing Banner (10% less damage by all enemies with 30 yards of the banner for 15 seconds) and Mocking Banner (all enemies attack the warrior for 6 seconds; banner lasts for 30 seconds) are just revamped versions of Demoralizing Shout and Challenging Shout, and as such, I expect the ability can't be longer than a minute or they'll be fairly useless.

I suspect future design on this ability will actually break it up into an entirely new category of ability for warriors called banners, much in the same way that paladins have hands and blessings and seals. Warriors will use shouts for active abilities that generate rage and buff directly, and banners for passive buffs or static areas of effect. That way, abilities like Skull Banner can be uncoupled from Mocking Banner.

I really like how the level 1 abilities have been redesigned so that warriors just get Heroic Strike to start. No more clunky Strike ability you never use again. I also like that Enrage is now passive and class-wide and that it's been redesigned to increase rage generation. (We'll talk about how fury's mastery has been redesigned in the spec section.)

The talented

Talents have been shuffled around and redesigned. I mentioned moving the talents that had been at level 90 to level 60, which I find to be a very solid and positive change. You'll feel more like a warrior with one of those three big abilities and getting them at 60 will allow you to use them for 30 or so levels. I really, really want to play around with Bladestorm as fury or Shockwave in an arms PvP spec or see if Avatar's single-target DPS outweighs either. Avatar's clearing of movement-impairing effects makes me want to play around with it for tanking or fights like heroic Hagara where I can get snared. I hate getting snared.

The CC talents at level 45 have been redesigned, becoming less about CC and more about AoE shouts. One that baffles me is Staggering Shout, which will root all enemies in range if they're snared. I'm baffled by it because, if I'm not insane, I can't find Hamstring anywhere on this talent calculator. It's not a talent, it's not a class-wide ability, and it's not an arms-specific ability. This could be an oversight, or it could be a deliberate removal. Either way, I'm not sure how Staggering Shout's going to work if we can't actually snare anyone anymore. Piercing Howl and Disrupting Shout are unchanged from our last version of the talents.

The level 75 talents have a redesigned Safeguard that still doesn't seem worth spending a talent point on to me, but it's a lot closer than before. I'd consider taking it if I was expecting to off tank and wanted a way to ensure the other tank's survival. Vigilance, however, has become an active cooldown similar to Hand of Sacrifice (transfering 30% of damage taken by the target of Vig to you for 12 seconds as well as removing taunt's cooldown while it's active and enraging you when your target is attacked). Frankly, this seems a lot better to me than Safeguard. It comes down to whether or not you want to go to them or have their attacker come to you.

The third talent on this obviously tank-oriented tier is Mass Spell Reflection. Now, MSR looks awesome, but since so many boss attacks don't count as spells for SR's purposes, I'm not knocked out by it. Redefine a lot of those big AoE attacks so that Spell Reflection can protect the party or raid even if it doesn't actually reflect the damage back -- seriously, why is this so hard? Just make bosses immune to their own spells so SR can do something useful without killing the boss for you. Then Mass Spell Reflection will be awesome.

The level 90 talents are an interesting mixed bag. We have Deadly Calm (free heroic strikes and cleaves, 50% more damage for those HS/Cleaves), Bloodbath (think Super Deep Wounds, but actively triggered on a 1-minute cooldown) and Storm Bolt (turns Heroic Throw into a ranged stun and does an extra 300% weapon damage to anything permanently immune to stuns). These are interesting but hardly as good as they should be for their position on the talent tree, in my opinion.

Deadly Calm and Bloodbath are decent short DPS cooldowns; you'll macro whichever one you pick and forget it. Storm Bolt has some solid PvP and boss tanking potential, but a lot of the time, you're not going to want Heroic Throw to stun something you're trying to pull. (This of course depends on how good normal Throw is going to be for pulling.) I'd like to see some beefing up of these talents, but I expect we'll get them at about this level if they make it live.

All your specializations

There aren't a ton of surprises in the specialization-specific abilities. Slam is now instant and arms-only, which is nice for arms. Colossus Smash is not arms-only; fury gains access to it as well, just as arms and protection both share Blood and Thunder. Strikes of Opportunity and Critical Block are effectively unchanged, but fury's Unshackled Fury is redesigned so that while all warriors get Enrage passively, only fury gets the physical damage increase from it. Fury will start with Enrage boosting all physical damage dealt by 11%, with each additional point of mastery adding 1.4% damage.

This redesign balances out Single-Minded Fury and Titan's Grip in terms of the benefits they gain from mastery. We'll have to actually have a means to test this to see if it will make us like mastery or not, but it's definitely interesting. Arms and fury also both share Whirlwind as a specialization ability, most likely due to its no longer being assumed that arms will have Bladestorm and that fury won't.

Finally, protection gains Shield Barrier, a flat-out magic damage cooldown that reduces magical damage talent by 25% for 6 seconds. Like most mitigation in Mists so far, it costs a huge amount of rage, which is intended to serve as the limiting factor for its use. Since Shield Barrier is effectively Shield Block for magic, I hope it gains from Critical Block in the same fashion to make that 60 rage cost (the same as Shield Block) worthwhile.

That should cover the highlights of what's changed since the last talent calculator update. Some abilities are going to be on glyphs (Gag Order and Rude Interruption were mentioned as incoming glyphs), and there's always a chance things will change. Perhaps Hamstring will make a triumphant return? Who knows? I sure don't.

At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, from hot issues for today's warriors to Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors and our guide to reputation gear for warriors.