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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: 2012 ends, 2013 begins

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.
Above you're looking at the consolation prize the game finally handed me for not getting a 1h weapon for testing out Single-Minded Fury. As consolation prizes go, it's a fairly nice one. I enjoy hitting things with it.

While looking over the patch 5.2 notes we saw last week, I got to thinking about the warrior changes, most of which seem aimed either at reducing protection warriors' AP scaling (which I assume must be 10% too good, based on these nerfs, despite my not noticing warriors tearing up the universe as tanks) and several changes rooted entirely in PvP. The Shockwave change will leave it basically unchanged for tanking warriors while making PvP warriors less likely to use it as an every 20 second stun (potentially making Dragon Roar and Bladestorm slightly more competitive in PvP again) and the Taste for Blood change was expected ever since they nerfed the ability to only stack once in PvP.

So I'm not surprised by any of it, save the Slam buff (moving Slam up to 220% weapon damage means to me that there's an expectation that arms DPS is going to drop significantly with the new TfB) but I am contemplative of it all. See, to my mind, the warrior class exists in a state of AC (After Cataclysm) and it will be patch 5.2 that makes the first really significant changes to warriors in the Mists of Pandaria world. So let's take a look at these notes, and see what they tell us.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors 2012 ends, 2013 begins

Patch 5.2 notes

  • Warrior
    • Shockwave now has a 40 second cooldown (was 20 seconds), striking 3 or more targets will reduce its cooldown by 20 seconds.
    • Second Wind now causes a Warrior that has been reduced to 35% health or lower to regenerate 2% of their health per second (was 3%), and now generates 15 Rage over 10 seconds (was 20 Rage).
    • Warbringer now reduces the target's movement by 50% for 15 seconds (8 seconds in PvP) in addition to its other effects.
    • Shield Barrier now scales approximately 10% less efficiently with attack power.
    • Storm Bolt now deals 125% weapon damage (was 100%).
    • Enraged Regeneration now costs 30 Rage (was 60).
    • Glyph of Death from Above no longer increases the damage dealt by Heroic Leap.
    • Arms
      • Taste for Blood has been redesigned. It now causes the Warrior to gain 2 stacks of Overpower (maximum of 5 stacks) when Mortal Strike deals damage or the target dodges, and no longer interacts with Heroic Strike. It now requires level 20 (was level 50).
      • Slam now deals 220% weapon damage (was 190%).
    • Protection
      • The base damage of Shield Slam and Revenge has been increased by 150%, but these abilities now scale approximately 10% less efficiently with attack power.

Well, first off I should probably admit that the Second Wind change makes me sad. Second Wind simply isn't that good in any current content - it can easily be burned through by anyone in PvP who is even half awake and it won't save you on any current raid encounter. Shaving a third off of its healing really puts a crimp in warrior soloing. But cumulative with the other changes, this one is clearly aimed at addressing complaints about warriors in PvP, and potentially is aimed at making Second Wind less attractive so that Enraged Regeneration and Impending Victory will be more attractive by comparison. (I personally prefer ER for tanking, as it becomes basically another mini-cooldown to be used when needed.) Seeing ER get its rage cost reduced confirms my suspicion that Second Wind has basically just been too attractive, and that ER and IV have been suffering in comparison.

The change to the Glyph of Death from Above is pretty easily understandable - it was one of the few glyphs that offered a cut and dried DPS increase. In the current glyph landscape, this glyph is simply too powerful. I don't like the change, but I do understand it. The Warbringer and Storm Bolt changes both seem clear enough to me - these are talents people aren't taking. Both Juggernaut and Double Time are very attractive talents for both PvP and PvE, it's not surprising that people are taking a reduced charge time or an on-demand second charge over a fairly limited version of the excellent old Throwdown ability appended onto a charge. Baking a snare into the ability might at least give it parity in PvP. As for Storm Bolt, increasing the damage may make me pick it back up for my PvE DPS spec, if it ends up competitive with Bloodbath. I already use it for tanking.

The changes to Shield Barrier, Revenge and Shield Slam seem aimed at warriors stacking strength for the combination of its parry and attack power benefit, which increased Shield Barrier's absorbs as well as the threat/damage of Shield Slam and Revenge. I don't know how much of a problem this actually was (I certainly wasn't stacking str in my tank set) but that's the best explanation I can think of. None of these changes thrill me, but they're not insurmountable either. The changes mean that Shield Block just got even better by comparison.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors 2012 ends, 2013 begins

What really interests me out of all these changes is the redesign to Taste for Blood, a tacit admission that this ability just plain doesn't work. At present, while a five stack TfB can be crazy awesome, it's extremely annoying to hit Overpower and not see it stack the TfB buff, and to watch it fall off entirely time and again. With Slam getting a damage buff, and HS no longer getting TfB's bonus, arms warriors are now going to even more heavily rely on Overpower and Slam as their fillers between Colossus Smash and Mortal Strike. Since it will be Mortal Strike that stacks the buff, and based on the way the notes are worded it sounds like every MS or target dodge will stack the buff. I'm not entirely sure what this will mean - will you hit Mortal Strike and follow that up with two Overpowers back to back? Are you ever going to want to sit on your Overpower and then hammer four or five off at a time? We'll have to see how this affects arms DPS.

What's really interesting to me is how none of these changes are a direct nerf to fury. We know that right now fury is the more dominant DPS spec for warriors in PvE, and unless the new TfB works out to a DPS increase for arms the 5.2 changes we have so far will only put fury out ahead of arms in PvE. Since fury in turn is really only dominant once it hits heroics, we could be looking at an outlier based on limited representation - fury looks good because those few fury warriors in heroic raiding are skewing the results. At any rate, fury warriors will have to check their talents, but no baseline mechanics like Wild Strike are seeing any changes as of these notes.

Of course, these are very preliminary. There could be more changes coming, and we'll have to pat attention. Next week, I'm going to talk about how Titan's Grip is doing since the universe won't give me an offhand for SMF.

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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