The Care and Feeding of Warriors: DPS warrior performance and perception

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|11.17.12

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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: DPS warrior performance and perception
The Care and Feeding of Warriors DPS discrepancies and the power of situation
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.

If you didn't read Brian Wood's excellent State of DPS in Mists of Pandaria post yet this week, you should before we go any further, because I'm going to be discussing it as well as GuildOx's study of the most popular raiding and PvP specs. What I'm seeing studying these two related but different posts (one about actual DPS, the other about representation) is as follows.
  • Fury is twice as popular as arms for PvE DPS, but both warrior DPS specs combined are less popular than either of the popular rogue specs or any of the really popular DPS specs.
  • Arms absolutely dominates warrior PvP, and is one of the single most popular specs in PvP at the moment.
  • Fury's DPS is absolutely middle of the road in 10 and 25 man normal raiding right now, hovering right around the baseline.
  • Fury sees a sudden shift upwards when going from normal to heroic raiding - Fury is a contender for the top DPS spec in 10's, and practically is the top spec in heroic 25's.
Now, there's a lot that we can't say based on the data we have from these two posts - for starters, which fury, TG or SMF? These also don't tell us what talents in particular these crushingly dominant arms warriors are taking for PvP (if I had to guess, though, based on the Avatar nerf in patch 5.1 I'd go with a Bladestorm/Avatar combo) or what talents fury is using in PvE. Still, there's still a lot to talk about here. What does all of this mean?
The Arms Warrior Rises in PvP

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Perception, performance, situation and DPS warriors
The easy one to determine is arms in PvP. Clearly, the player base considers arms to be an overwhelmingly potent spec in PvP at the moment. By now we've all seen videos of huge Taste for Blood stacked HS crits (usually after a Colossus Smash and a solid five minutes of stacking that pain in the butt buff to five) and we know that, in the right circumstances, arms can put out high burst. But it's not just the burst, but the combination of that burst with high mobility thanks to Double Time and the level 45 talent tier, plus the current ability of Avatar to make warriors completely immune to snares that puts arms warriors in PvP at an advantage. A warrior who can charge again immediately after charging (making abilities like Demonic Circle and Blink less useful for escape) who can Bladestorm to avoid CC and then Avatar to avoid snares can put a lot of pressure on classes used to being able to kite and destroy warriors with ease. Since fury lacks TfB's streaky burst, Sudden Death's Colossus Smash reset and has to use Wild Strike to apply the same healing debuff as Mortal Strike, it's not as popular for PvP.

I'm still of the opinion that Taste for Blood will be nerfed due to PvP. Do I agree it needs it? No, not at all, but I can see the writing on the wall already. The nerfs to Avatar and the Glyph of Gag Order point in that direction.

The fury of PvE

But when we start looking at fury's performance in raiding, we're on much shakier ground. There are lots of variables to consider in why fury DPS is at the median in normal raids, yet shoots above in heroics. First off, there's the kinds of fights to consider - is there more or less movement, more adds, higher health on mobs to inflate Execute damage by extending the execute period? Are the fury warriors in heroics geared better to the point where they can get enough crit to keep Enrage going more reliably so that they can use more Raging Blow strikes? What talents are they using? Are they TG or SMF? Clearly, there are more players running normal mode than heroics at the moment, are there just more fury warriors in the normal mode raids skewing the results? One notes that looking at the LFR numbers, they're very close in terms of where fury stacks up compared to normal mode raids. We can see that, looking at the GuildOx numbers, DPS warriors in general are not highly represented. They're not as low as other specs, however - fury warriors outnumber feral druids and enhancement shamans, but they're well behind any of the really popular dps specs. So are the results in heroics skewed because fury is under or overrepresented in heroics as compared to normal raids?

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Perception, performance, situation and DPS warriors

Critical hit and Bloodthirst

Even so, I have to believe some of the sudden and shocking DPS disparity between normal and heroic DPS for fury is based on gearing. I mean, let's admit it, warriors - we're crit junkies. We're addicted to crit. Once we get hit and expertise around that 7.5% area (I'm sort of sold on Ask Mr. Robot's argument about hit caps nowadays) then it's crit, crit, crit, gimmie more crit. I'd had hopes that haste would pop up in usefulness, but in the end crit just swamped everything else and we all know it's due to Enrage. But with fury, crit interacts with Bloodthirst in a way that makes crit count twice as much for the spec in terms of entering Enrage. For a fury warrior, every point of crit has double the chance of enraging us on every Bloodthirst strike, because Bloodthirst has twice the chance to critically hit. Arms warriors don't get that on their Mortal Strikes. If a fury warrior in normal raids has 18% crit before buffs, his Bloodthirst crit chance is 36%. If he's at 22% after buffs, he's at 44% on Bloodthirsts. Now, imagine as you get into heroics and are approaching 25% or even higher. That's a 50% chance to crit every Bloodthirst, increasing your Enrage uptime and thus not only your chance for a Raging Blow, but also giving you that flat 10% damage increase for 10 seconds, increasing the damage of your white hits and all attacks you do. The more often you crit with Bloodthirst, the more damage you do overall.

Does it really matter?

This is hardly all of the reason, but it's definitely a factor. As warriors crit increases this expansion, you'll easily hit over 30% crit in raids (a few warriors may already be there) and once you do, you're looking at 60% chance to be enraged every 4.5 seconds. Combine this with specific fight situations (a high add fight or one that allowed for Cleave/Whirwind, especially since you can follow Whirlwind with Meat Cleaver buffed Raging Blows for even more damage, as well as glyphing for Raging Wind so that your RB's buff Whirlwind damage) and this inflating Enrage rate can be put to profitable work. Warrior damage depends upon rage income still, but with Enrage serving as the de facto warrior secondary resource (Enrage is our Maelstrom Weapon or Holy Power, essentially) the more often we can get there, the better everything is. More damage, more ability to use that damage, and the ability for that to buff our other abilities.

What does it mean for the future? Well, depending on how high crit gets, it's possible we'll see a Bloodthirst nerf of some sort in the future, specifically aimed at fixing its crit scaling. That could have disastrous effect on warrior DPS outside of the best geared warriors, and it also depends on how much crit gear is out there for warriors. Right now, of all plate DPS, only warriors are so astonishingly in love with crit. Since there's a lot of haste out there on gear, which we have really no use for, we may be limited not by a class nerf but purely by what gear there is to choose from. Since at present we don't really have enough heroic raiding going to to determine if fury's performance there is an outlier of low representation or not, we'll mostly have to abide by the normal mode numbers, which are not skewed high at all for fury warriors but rather place them squarely in the middle of the pack.

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.
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