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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Mists of Pandaria beta impressions

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.

Go ahead and hate me for being in the beta. I know how it is. But believe it or not, I'm running around testing out the new warrior talents, the specializations, and I've even leveled a pandaren warrior to 12 in order to see how the new rage scheme plays out at low levels as well as for my level 85s. I also imported two 85 warriors so I could spec one arms and one fury and then play with talent choices.

Before I get too mired in details, let me tell you about Dragon Roar. Dragon Roar takes the place of Avatar in the level 60 talent tier, with Avatar moving to the level 90 talents, replacing Deadly Calm. At level 60, you can spec Bladestorm, Shockwave or Dragon Roar, and Dragon Roar is fantastic. It's a 1-minute cooldown ability that hits everything within 10 yards of you, doing damage and knocking them back and down for 5 seconds. It does fairly solid damage, too.

What this means is that the level 60 tier is actually compelling now, and you're able to choose between different abilities that each do something interesting. It also means warriors have a knockback that also stuns after it goes off, if they spec for it. Man, I would have loved Dragon Roar when we were doing heroic Ragnaros.

At present, only the pandaren starting zone is open for testing, you can't go to Pandaria yet. So after taking my tauren out for a couple of spins through testing out the new talents and playing with stance dancing, I rolled a pandaren warrior and saw what it felt like to level.

This is the talent pane on my level 12 pandaren warrior, greyed out because he can't actually take any of these talents yet. It's still fairly close to the talent calculator, with the exception of Avatar moving to level 90 and Dragon Roar taking its place. Since I haven't leveled to 90 yet, I can't talk about Avatar, Bloodbath or Storm Bolt, but everything else got at least a few minutes of me playing around with it. Double Time is implemented now, and I ended up preferring it over Juggernaut or Warbringer, but I will admit that the Warbringer stun could be useful depending on the situation.

Interesting choices ahead

Frankly, I have yet to find a spec I feel like I would use for all situations. I think that as far as an attempt to give us interesting talent choices, we're well on the way to that goal being realized. My fury build currently has Bladestorm in it, while my arms build is using Dragon Roar.

Since we no longer have stance-specific abilities, spellbooks are organized into active and passive abilities now. It's not particularly hard to figure out. Stuff you press a button to activate is active, and passive are things like armor specialization or the new Deep Wounds. Since nothing is stance-specific anymore, as an arms warrior, I actually put Whirlwind back on my bar.

Don't count stance swap macros out yet, though. Since Cleave, Whirlwind and Bladestorm get bonus damage from Berserker Stance now (it's an AoE stance, and when you take Bladestorm as a talent, it modifies the tooltip appropriately), I imagine at least some players are going to try and write macros that automatically move you into Zerk whenever you use any of those abilities. In fact, both arms and fury warriors are going to sit in Battle Stance for the flat 10% damage increase single-target and swap to zerk for any AoE, making stance dancing something that's actually designed for again.

Frankly, I kind of hope Blizzard changes the way switching stances brings up a new bar. There's no real reason for it anymore since no ability is stance-dependent and your talents are divorced from your specialization. It was kind of annoying to have to put down three identical bars when I first logged into the beta.
No more prime glyphs

You'll notice looking at the glyph pane that there are no more prime glyphs. There's no glyph that adds 10% damage or 5% crit to anything anymore. Major glyphs like Bloodthirst or Mortal Strike add healing or other utility to abilities, while Death from Above (seen above, and watch out!) and others reduce cooldowns and/or increase duration or number of targets.

Minor glyphs are cosmetic or flavor glyphs. I hope that we get back the number of glyphs we had, especially with so many glyphs being utility- or flavor-oriented. At the least I'd like to see four majors and four minors at level 90. I don't have a problem with the decision to remove primes, as they weren't really compelling.
Unfurling our banners

Since we covered it as a design element last week, here's in-game War Banner. Each of the banners has its own entry in the spell book (the three not-yet-learned spells you see above are Demoralizing, Mocking and Skull Banner, respectively), so you can easily cast them without any weird or clunky fiddling about. Each banner currently has a 3-minute shared cooldown. (I really think Demoralizing Banner could do with a shorter, separate cooldown.)

There's lots of potential for the banners as a new design element for warriors. Just off the top of my head, I can imagine dropping a Mocking Banner into a pack of mobs at its max range, waiting for them to reach me, intervening back to the banner once they reached me, then using either Shockwave or Dragon Roar to stun them as they got near me again ... and finally Heroic Leaping away, just to be the ultimate in yo-yo jerks.

Changes to rage generation

The changes to rage generation should be discussed. Moves that cost rage tend to cost between 20 to 30 rage. (Most offensive strikes cost 30 rage unless they're rage generating attacks like Mortal Strike, Shield Slam or Bloodthirst, which all generate 10 rage.) Mitigation abilities like Shield Block and Shield Barrier cost 60 rage. Since Charge is usable in combat in any stance now, it's very tempting to charge into combat, hit your rage generation attack first, try and use a shout for more rage, and then settle into a rotation getting and spending as you go.

It played a little haltingly for me at low levels when you don't have one of your spending attacks yet, but once you hit level 10 and get your specialization, it gets a lot easier. At level 85, the number of attacks you have to juggle does make rage management something you'll want to pay attention to, but luckily, the increased rage generation from going into an Enrage helps quite a bit. Combined with the lack of stance requirements and having to manage rage generation, it feels to me like it's going to be the primary governor on warriors as both tanks and DPS this coming expansion.

Since I didn't get to do more than run through a couple of Wrath heroics on my 85 (and yes, you can still design an incredibly effective soloing build), I'll talk about how it feels to level a new warrior in Mists of Pandaria. You may or may not care, but if you do decide to roll a pandaren warrior, the animations are smooth and flow well. Seeing the pandaren swing his sword around (as well as watching another pandaren warrior, this one female, do her stuff as well) has me convinced that this will be a fun race/class combination to play.
Solid low-level play

You get abilities fairly quickly, even before you hit level 10. You start out with Heroic Strike. You gain Charge at level 3, Victory Rush at level 5, and Execute at level 7. At level 10, you gain your specialization rage generation attack (Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst or Shield Slam) and your first passive ability (Crazed Berserker, Seasoned Soldier or Unwavering Sentinel). You don't get your first talent until level 15, but even so, by level 10 you're relatively well stocked with abilities. I found leveling to be improved from the already excellent Cataclysm revamp.

The only downside is that before you get any shouts (Battle Shout, level 42), you're absolutely reliant on that rage generation attack for anything like a decent rage flow. Before level 10, I would charge and then auto-attack until I finally had that 30 rage for an HS strike, and missing can be agonizing. I frankly think Battle Shout and Execute should change positions in the spellbook, with Battle Shout coming around level 7 or 8, while Execute can really wait quite some time before you pick it up. Between Heroic Stike, your rage generation attack and Victory Rush, you have enough offensive buttons to hit.

I felt neither ludicrously powerful nor pathetically weak as a level 1 to level 10 warrior with no heirlooms or other means to skip levels or have a strong weapon and armor right off the bat. Even in just the quest whites I received, I felt like as long as I played smart and paid attention to the quest objectives I would be OK. Once I had Victory Rush, I had no fear of pulling multiple groups. The only real downside was the extreme rage cost of Heroic Strike, which is your only real offensive for five levels.

In short, so far my experience with the beta has been a positive one. By next week, I should have a lot more details, especially once I've had time to play with 85 and up.

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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