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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Talent switching, conditional use and gear

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.

I switch around my talents pretty consistently when raiding Throne of Thunder. I know some people will tell you it's always a DPS decrease to use Bladestorm, but on Tortos Bladestorm is an absolute treasure if your tank is rounding up the bats and bringing them to melee. When I say it is a treasure, I mean that it is an idol and I think you should have to engage in a whip based economy for it. (I don't use Shockwave much as DPS due to the positioning needed.) But like a lot of you, I drop it on fights with a minimal AoE component for Dragon Roar, because DR always crits and does a pretty healthy amount of damage even on single target. Here's a question I hadn't asked myself until this week, however: do I really need to be doing this?

I use Second Wind as a raiding talent for two reasons:

  1. I don't have to think about it at all. If I go below 35%, I get some healing. That's it. It's not better than Enraged Regeneration, but it doesn't require me to do anything. Similarly, it's not that Impending Victory isn't good, but it's another attack and I don't need another attack right now. Both my arms and fury rotations are plenty busy (arms in particular does not have a lot of slack time when I'm not doing anything) and putting in another attack doesn't really benefit me.
  2. It's never unavailable. With Enraged Regeneration and Impending Victory, there are times I can't use them because I have recently used them. Second Wind will always proc once I drop below 35%. It's always there. It does nothing for me if I never drop that low, and it won't save me if I get gibbed for huge damage and die, but if I drop below 35% and don't immediately die, there it is, plugging away some healing for me.
This is what got me thinking about talent switching while raiding. There are some talents I just never switch out of, and then there's the big three of Bladestorm, Dragon Roar and Shockwave. These see a lot of switching, to the point where I carry about 40 tomes per raid because I know I'll use at least five and I want to make sure I don't run out. But am I obsessing over nothing? Does it really matter if I don't switch between Bladestorm and Dragon Roar depending on the fight?

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Talent switching and conditional use
I should take the moment to point out that I do realize there are mathematical reasons, tested in many many sims, why you would change talents or use one talent over another. The majority of PvE DPS warriors use either Bloodbath or Storm Bolt. Avatar's cooldown is too long for the damage it does, and the nerf it received due to PvP concerns made it even more toothless for PvE. Those of us that choose Bloodbath over Storm Bolt probably do so either because we don't want to have another thirty second cooldown attack or because we'd rather have a 1 minute mini-cooldown that increases the damage all of our attacks do. For instance, I spec Titan's Grip because... well, okay, I spec Titan's Grip because I am in a long term relationship with Titan's Grip at this point. Let me be honest. But that being said, I went TG over arms this raid tier because of Titan's Grip's ridiculously potent AoE and how it improves with gear and so far I have been rewarded for this choice on AoE fights like Horridon, Council, Tortos, and it is a thing of beauty on Lei Shen's Ball Lightning.

All of that AoE is enhanced by Bloodbath. Storm Bolt would add more single-target, and therefore I should probably consider switch to SB over BB on fights like Iron Qon, Durumu or Megaera where AoE is trivial or even meaningless (yes, you can technically hit two heads at once on Meg, but it's absolutely pointless to do so) but to be honest I find Bloodbath's 1 minute cooldown just about perfect for a DPS cooldown. I find Colossus Smash to be about the longest cooldown I can endure in my actual rotation, which is one of the reasons I don't like Dragon Roar very much - sure, it's great single target and a good AoE ability, but frankly I enjoy my TG rotation more when I don't have to remember to slot in a DR every minute or so.

In the interests of science I decided this week to simply keep Bladestorm for the entire raid. I know, that's not really a particularly scientific thing to have done. But what I found was that my DPS didn't really suffer very much at all for it - without Dragon Roar I just filled that spot in the rotation with Bloodthirst, Raging Blow, Colossus Smash and Wild Strike on occasion. Quite frankly, I get enough RB procs now that it isn't like there are a lot of gaping holes in my rotation to be filled with more attacks anyway. And that's what I think has changed - fury in particular starts ramping up once you're at high enough crit, and as it does, Raging Blow becomes more and more reliable which means that the pressure to switch talents between fights is decreased. If I want to switch to Dragon Roar and Storm Bolt I can, but if not, I have buttons to press reliably.
The Care and Feeding of Warriors Talent switching, conditional use and gear
I think that's the point that really needs to be made about talent switching on a per-boss basis. It's conditional based not only on the conditions of the fight (i.e. whether there are adds to AoE down or not) but also on how much personal benefit you'll gather from it. If I had less crit and Raging Blow wasn't proccing often, then having a Storm Bolt every 30 seconds and a Dragon Roar every minute could help fill those gaps in my rotation. But when you have a 70% chance for any Bloodthirst to activate Raging Blow and you can use Berserker Rage to fill any gaps that come up, suddenly those talents aren't necessary. You can still take them, and even get good use out of them if you can keep them in mind, but for someone like me who likes not having to keep track of as many things (note my choice of Second Wind over Enraged Regeneration or Impending Victory) then having the free space to just use those Raging Blow procs is actually beneficial.

For my playstyle, having a cooldown I can use every minute and a big AoE that I don't have to use at all if there's nothing to AoE down is absolutely perfect. The biggest lesson I took from my week was that if you're switching talents on a per-fight basis be sure that you're doing so with an eye towards actual usability - are you actually hitting those buttons in a reliable manner? Are you making use of those abilities? One of the complexities of the new talent system that I'd failed to consider properly was that its options vary in ways that may appeal to a certain style of play more than another. If you're the kind of player who thrives on tracking numerous short cooldowns, Storm Bolt may in fact be your best possible option. For me, it's Bloodbath.

Next week, we'll talk tanking. Are warriors falling behind in tanking coolness?
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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