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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Issues and Concerns

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.

Okay, let's talk about some things that are concerning me as far as the future of warriors in Mists of Pandaria. These are things that are bothering me about the design of the class going forward, and I think it's worth discussing them in some detail. These issues are as follows:
  1. With warrior tanks relying so much on Revenge, dodge and parry end up working as both avoidance and threat stats, and hit and expertise end up devalued. Of all four tanking classes going into Mists, warriors are the least likely to want hit and expertise at the 7.5% caps. Theck's stat weights indicate that mastery is king for prot, with dodge and parry just behind it, and hit and expertise well below them. Well below them, to the point where in the most recent set of numbers you don't need any.
  2. Warrior tanks get nothing at all from haste. So when abilities like Bloodlust/Heroism/Time Warp get used, warrior threat doesn't go up and neither does warrior resource generation.
  3. With stance-switching on a 3 second cooldown, it seems unlikely to me that most DPS warriors are going to switch to Zerk stance except in extremely specific high damage situations. At this point, PvE warriors have two stances, and PvP warriors have two, since I expect both Defensive and Zerker Stance to be the PvP flavors of choice. This depends on how well Battle Stance's rage generation works in PvP.
  4. Warrior DPS seems heavily AoE dependent, even with changes to Sweeping Strikes to cut back on Arms' cleave. Warriors have a significantly higher bite when AoEing, until you get into Execute range, and it makes warriors feel weak on any fight where you can't get a significant chunk of Executes off.
None of this means the class is broken or unplayable. The rage redesign, stance redesign and tanking redesign are all complex, and having multiple such changes occur at the same time invariably leads to issues.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Issues and Concerns

Stat weighting for protection

Revenge and stat weights are nagging away at me and have been for a while. I linked to Theck's post because he's way better with math than I am, and what he's seeing so far has me wondering about how Revenge works in the active mitigation model. Even before that post, I had some concerns about Revenge. Warrior rage generation was buffed because warriors were finding using their active mitigation to be difficult, a move I supported and still support. As part of those buffs, the amount of rage Revenge generates was buffed to 15 rage. That's not really the problem. The problem is, with Revenge generating 15 rage (or any rage, really) then for a warrior, dodging and parrying are both avoidance stats (you take no damage if you dodge or parry) but also rage generation stats (you get to hit Revenge again if you dodge or parry).

Any warrior tank currently tanking can attest to how powerful Revenge can be. If you're attacked by five mobs and one of those mobs' attacks is dodged or parried by you, Revenge lights back up. When Revenge lights up, and you hit that button, you immediately get 15 rage and hit up to three targets. It's better than Cleave was or is, and you can easily fit in three Revenges (45 rage) in-between two Shield Slams. It means that you won't even bother trying to refresh your Shield Slam with Devastate, because you simply won't have time with Revenge lighting up and giving you guaranteed rage as opposed to the potential rage if Devastate refreshes Shield Slam. Sure, the Shield Slam is more rage if you get it. But you can be sure of that Revenge rage when it lights up. You're always going to hit Revenge over Devastate, so you're always going to just wait for Shield Slam to refresh instead of trying to make it do so.

Now, as we level up and get new gear our dodge and parry rates will drop, and we'll Revenge less. But that's not the point, really. The point is, we're always going to get more bang for our buck with dodge and parry than we do from hit and expertise. If we dodge or parry, we completely avoid damage and at the same time get a Revenge for more rage which we can dump into a Shield Block or Barrier. And since our non-special ability rage generation is entirely passive (we get rage from Charge, Shield Slam and Revenge and then we passively generate 1 rage every three seconds) then missing a few white hits doesn't really matter. They don't generate rage, and their threat is minimal. Even missing a few specials doesn't really matter, since we'll be almost constantly using Revenge as soon as it refreshes anyway. So for the brand new active mitigation system, that was intended to make us care about hit and expertise, we care the least about hit and expertise.

What would be a good solution for this? Well, for starters, we should probably lose some rage from Revenge. It's simply too good right now. 10 rage for a Revenge is probably good enough. Second, in order to make hit more rewarding, we need to move away from passive rage generation. Just getting one rage every three seconds is not a compelling fix to rage starvation issues. We want people to want hit and expertise. The easiest way to get them to want those stats is to make them do something for our rage generation. Now, they do already in terms of landing those Shield Slams and Revenges, but I think it's time to accept that warriors shouldn't passively generate rage. A simple change to Defensive Stance that generated 1 rage per white hit would come close to matching 1 rage every 3 seconds (it would be more like 1 rage every 2.6 seconds) and it would not only make hit and expertise more valuable, since they'd directly contribute to that static rage generation but it would also make haste actually do something for prot warriors, since it would increase our weapon speed and thus our rage generation. You don't want rage generation based on how much damage you do, but having it based on how many times you connect with an attack would smooth out the hit/expertise problem and make haste not totally worthless, and thus allow us more resources in a Bloodlust phase.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Issues and Concerns

Stances and cleaves

It's too early to call Berserker Stance useless, because I definitely see a use for it in PvP where warriors get focus fired just for existing and in certain combat situations in PvE where there's lots of environmental damage flying around, but the three second cooldown on stance switching makes active use of stance switching pretty difficult. Now, that and the changes to Battle and Berserker Stance and the removal of stance specific requirements on abilities has killed macro stance switching and I deeply approve of that change. But I am concerned that right now, Berserker Stance seems like an appendix. I'd like to see the stance switch cooldown drop to 1.5 seconds so that you can do it more 'on the fly' so if a fight has a high damage component you can switch to zerk, harvest that rage, and then unload it without having to worry about locking out Battle Stance for three seconds and losing your rage generation when you finally get into melee range again. This is a minor issue at best, but it's one that concerns me, especially because I'm still very worried for warrior PvP in Mists of Pandaria.

The loss of Mortal Strike's healing reduction in Cataclysm did what I previously didn't think possible, it completely defanged warriors in PvP. For a while it looked like fury might get to hold on, but the changes to mastery took warrior fury PvP burst down and once that happened, we were effectively dead. Prot held on until Vengeance was removed from PvP as well, effectively nailing that coffin shut. Are there still warriors in comps advantageous to them in Arenas, in rated Battlegrounds, even in random BG's? Absolutely. But no one can deny that warriors took a pretty savage mauling in PvP this expansion.

Meanwhile, warriors in PvE DPS roles are still exceedingly depending on cleaves and trash DPS. We don't have enough single target DPS and we probably have more AoE than we need, especially arms. Sweeping Strikes can make a standard two mob trash pull into a frenzy of severed limbs, and with its 10 second cooldown it's up constantly. There's never any strategy to its use - you pop it on cooldown any time there's more than 1 mob up. Running Well of Eternity or Hour of Twilight or any high-trash boss fight like Yor'sahj, you're just hitting Sweeping Strikes over and over again without fail. Rather than nerfing its damage (which is the move they made) I'd have rather seen its cooldown go up to 20 seconds or so.

I really feel like our strikes (Mortal Strike, Slam, Wild Strike, Bloodthirst, Colossus Smash) all need a bit more damage brought to them. I don't think that damage needs to come from Execute - I don't think warrior DPS is good right now. I think our AoE is too good, and our single target is anemic in comparison. It would perhaps be better to say our damage is too lopsided and needs to be brought more into balance. Fury is just plain low (still) but can manage good damage if you play a waiting game on rage. I really feel like one more pass on warrior DPS would be a good idea.

That covers most of my issues, I think. This is our last week with Cataclysm content, folks. Next week, a guide to Jade Forest for warriors.

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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