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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Toolkits and themes

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.

This week, in a discussion of War Banner, some interesting points were made. In his response to the discussion, Daxxari said something that really made me think about the warrior class and where it is going -- more importantly, where it can go.

Daxxari - War Banner
Ultimately, we wanted to try and expand the design potential for warriors a bit. Increasingly, it seemed that any new ability had to be another type of movement, a weapon strike, or shout, or it wouldn't feel like a warrior ability. We wanted to try something new, and we're hoping that warriors will give them a shot once we're in beta and let us know how it feels.

What I really found worth examining is this idea of what feels like a warrior ability, exactly. So many people objected to War Banner based around the idea that it's a totem, and totems are shaman-only. War Banner isn't going to be implemented like a totem. But the idea of trying to design new abilities that broaden the feel of warrior abilities leads us to ask what, exactly, does feel like a warrior ability. Should all warrior abilities be shouts, movement-based abilities or weapon strikes?

Warriors: Yelling and smacking

I mentioned last week when discussing the buff/debuff balance of warriors that we provide more than twice the debuffs than buffs and that we're based around a theme of doing something to an enemy to either hold its attention or deal damage. Warriors, even protection warriors, are all about hurting them, not helping us. An ability like War Banner not only gives us a series of abilities that in fact includes a group buff (similar to modern Rampage, but stronger and more limited in duration), but it forces us to consider what warriors can do and what they should do.

War Banner is thematically different than any previous ability. It's the first non-movement warrior ability that can target an area -- in this case, within 30 yards of the warrior. (Technically, Heroic Leap does this too, but that's in order to move to that area.) It seems based on the description of each banner that it will affect an area around the banner, making it a form of AoE taunt, buff or debuff, depending on which of the three banners is activated. Since it's a physical object that the warrior sticks into the ground (I'm still hoping that Blizzard makes Skull Banner appear on your back like the old Blademaster banners) and it not only has 33% of the warrior's health but it can even be Intervened to, it has properties never before seen in any other warrior ability. It is, in effect, a stationary pseudo-pet with one power based on which banner is dropped.

It's not quite fair to say that all warrior talents and abilities are shouts, movement-based or weapon strikes, because some are simply Hit Things Harder abilities that lack even those conceits, such as enrages or Titan's Grip, Shockwave or Thunder Clap. All three warrior specs have a significant amount of direct attacks at present, as well. It would be somewhat difficult to work in a new attack at this point in time, and furthermore, it wouldn't make a terrible amount of sense to do so and force warriors to learn a new rotation. As an example, protection warriors now have Shield Slam, Revenge, Devastate, Heroic Strike, Thunder Clap, Shockwave, Rend and Cleave to use depending on the situation. Where would a new attack go? What would it look like?

A lot of this asks us a deceptively simple question. What are warrior abilities? What does a warrior do? Warriors are in this case almost defined by what they don't do. I've jokingly defined warriors in the past as hitting things and yelling at them, but in truth, warriors are defined by their lack of magic and their roles as masters of martial disciplines. Warriors turn their rage into strength, whether it be by disciple, berserk fury or iron determination. No mysticism, fancy tricks, or power outside of their own is required. War Banner fits in fine with this basic concept of the warrior, drawn from a theme that we see all the time in history and folklore alike. And it serves to break out of the rut warrior design is in, as well.

We are the warriors

As much fun as it is to hit things or yell at them, we have that covered. We have plenty of attacks, a solid repertoire of bellows, and we have four movement-based abilities. War Banner by itself doesn't suddenly change everything in our toolkit, but it does provide the design of the class with a new precedent after seven years that it sorely needed. Being able to slap a flag into the ground is all well and good, but the real beauty of the ability is what it isn't.

Mirror Image was originally a Blademaster ability. I'm not mentioning this to grump about those dirty mages stealing our abilities, per se, but to demonstrate that the warrior class can and should be designed with abilities that don't fit into the present dynamic and that War Banner does exactly that.

Frankly, some of the new talents we're looking at for Mists of Pandaria are kind of boring compared to what other classes are getting. There's nothing wrong with Bloodbath or Deadly Calm, but they lack the excitement factor of a Gorefiend's Grasp or a Execution Sentence, and in part I think that's due to the straitjacket of the current design which tends to have everything fall into attacks, shouts or a new way to get from point A to point B. The new Safeguard is an excellent, even compelling ability, but I wish it went further and allowed you to castle yourself and your targets' positions, switching places on the battlefield. That would be a talent with absolutely fascinating applications.

While it's doubtful we'll get Mirror Image back, the inclusion of Storm Bolt and Avatar brings us up to three abilities from the Mountain King WC III unit, meaning that warriors can now effectively simulate the Blademaster, Tauren Chieftain and Mountain King. This means that rather than just being somewhat generic armor and weapon fighters, warriors are now grounded heavily in the Warcraft setting.

With these changes, the warrior becomes something more than the class that's defined by what it doesn't do; it becomes the class that personifies front line combat. War Banner becomes an entirely new way for it to do that and opens up the gate to allow entirely new talents and abilities. Right off my head, I'm imagining a warrior creating a tower of pure willpower to prevent magics from controlling or dominating his or her mind, summoning her or his rage to call honored ancestor spirits back from the dead to fight by her side for a moment ... even an ability that shivers a sword or shield arm so badly that an enemy takes damage every time it tries to attack anything for a few moments.

The point isn't that these are amazing new abilities but rather that they're different, and now they can be conceived, that they're not limited to yelling or bashing. The warrior class is now free to expand. Just for that reason alone, I'm interested in watching how War Banner unfolds. Warriors encompass the fighting men and women, the battlefield grunts of the orcs and the chieftains of the tauren, every grim, grimy fist clenched on a hilt.

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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