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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: A snapshot of change

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.

Yeah, we're going to be talking about patch 5.4 again. Honestly, it's hard not to when they keep dropping changes on us. Between all taunts now adding 200% threat for 3 seconds after they're used (a move seemingly aimed at helping with tank swaps), the addition of Riposte, and a whole lot of small changes to damage abilities for protection and arms.

I'll admit, I was ecstatic just to see Shield Wall and Spell Reflection no longer requiring a shield, and frankly I don't really care about players who are saying 'It doesn't make sense to have Shield Wall without a shield' because warriors have needed the survival improvement this gives for years now. It's a minimal change for PvP (since no warrior seriously PvP's without a shield equip macro) but it gives arms and fury warriors in PvE a nice survival ability on a three minute cooldown.

We'll go over the other changes in detail after the break, reproducing the patch notes and working from there.

Rygarius - 5.4 PTR Now Live!

  • Blood and Thunder now also increases the damage of Thunder Clap by 50%.
  • Hamstring is no longer on a global cooldown.
  • Riposte is a new passive ability learned at level 76. When the Warrior dodges or parries any attack, they gain 50% of their Parry and Dodge as an additional bonus to Critical Strike for 20 seconds.
  • Shield Wall no longer requires a shield. If the Warrior does not have a shield equipped, it will show a visual of an equipped shield.
  • Spell Reflection no longer requires a shield. If the Warrior does not have a shield equipped, it will show a visual of an equipped shield.
  • Impending Victory now heals the Warrior for 20% of their maximum health at all times (up from 15% on attack and 20% on kills that yield experience or honor).
  • Storm Bolt now also has an off-hand attack for Fury Warriors.
  • Warbringer now roots the target for 4 seconds instead of stunning them for 3 seconds. The 50% reduction to movement speed snare effect for 8 seconds remains unchanged. Glyph of Blitz will now cause Warbringer to root an additional 2 nearby targets.
  • Seasoned Soldier now also reduces the cost of Thunder Clap by 10 Rage.
  • Sweeping Strikes now causes melee attacks to strike an additional nearby target for 75% of the initial damage (up from 50%).
  • Ultimatum now activates from critical hits with Shield Slam instead of a flat 20% chance, and the ability will make the next Heroic Strike or Cleave be a critical hit in addition to costing no Rage.

Well, for starters we can see a few decent buffs for arms in here - the Blood and Thunder change will buff both protection and arms damage, the Seasoned Soldier change will make Thunder Clap cheaper for arms, and the Sweeping Strikes change is just a buff for arms' AoE damage. None of these changes will affect arms as a single target spec, but arms isn't really hurting for single target DPS at the moment, it's AoE where it falls way behind. I'm actually pretty optimistic that these changes will go a good way towards creating some parity for arms without necessarily catapulting it to the top of the warrior DPS the way the nerfs to fury after Firelands put arms as the number one DPS spec in Dragon Soul.

Fury actually has to make a hard decision now in terms of its final tier of talents - get Bloodbath and spread that DPS around (for heavy AoE fights, Bloodbath will still be the winner) or get Storm Bolt and smash some single target face in? That second Storm Bolt offhand attack will make the talent very compelling for any fight where you're expecting to do the majority of your damage to one target. Fights like Durumu or Megaera, unless you're padding the meters with pointless cleave/AoE (I've found it pretty easy to hit two heads for most of the fight) you'll want Storm Bolt. Some fights, like Ji-Kun heroic or Lei-Shen, will make this a really difficult decision. It's nice to have as much AoE damage as possible for certain moments like Ball Lightning, but it's also nice do do as much single target as possible. We'll see how it shakes out.

The changes to Shield Wall and Spell Reflection are huge and yet, not mechanically very big, and they won't affect protection at all. I don't expect them to last into the next expansion - I'm willing to believe that we'll end up seeing a shield slot for warriors and paladins that will be used to equip our shields for abilities like this. It'll probably be balanced so that we don't get any stats from the shield when not using it to tank, in order to prevent it from becoming a new relic/ranged slot and cause other classes to get upset about our getting extra stats. What's really great about this change for a DPS or PvP warrior is you won't even need to have a shield and you won't need a shield equip macro just to have some extra survival.

The change to Hamstring is a PvP one, a band aid put on a sucking chest wound. Warriors are ludicrously kitable, overly dependent on abilities like Charge and Heroic Leap that are immediately countered and escaped from, and spamming Hamstring isn't going to fix that. Neither is being able to hit Shield Wall/Spell Refection without a macro. Even the Warbringer change won't really help very much - if anything, losing the stun means that your rooted target will have more time to use a root breaker or teleport and get away. Maybe if Staggering Shout just rooted without needing the snare applied, or if Hamstring could have a chance to proc a root, but these are still just trying to fix a fundamental weakness of the class now that its burst has been gutted. Yes, Virginia, warriors do need the same ability to deal ludicrous burst in PvP that ranged classes get. Without it, the only other alternative is to significantly improve our uptime or our survival, neither of which has happened yet.

Okay, we've discussed DPS specs, now it's time to talk protection - however, most of these changes will affect protection's DPS. Riposte isn't going to directly increase protection's survival, protection isn't getting any benefit from the Shield Wall or Spell Reflection changes (they're already using a shield) and the Impending Victory change is okay but not enough to really seriously alter tank survival. No, what we're looking at is a new ability, a reworked Ultimatum, and a buff to Blood and Thunder that will all add to DPS in one way or another. Looking at Riposte, every time a warrior dodges or parries he'll get 50% of those two stats as a buff to crit. Now, in my mix of gear from the previous tier of raiding, ToT LFR and ToT normal, I'm at about 12% dodge and 16% parry (I'm set up for hit/expertise) so that's roughly 14% crit for 20 seconds every time I dodge or parry an attack, and I'll probably dodge or parry at least once in the time before that falls off, so it's basically a free 14% crit in gear that's not even set up for dodge or parry. It wouldn't be hard to reforge my gear for more dodge and parry, especially as I go forward and get better overall gear (right now, I have almost fully capped expertise and I'm close to capping specials on hit). It seems reasonable to assume that by the time patch 5.4 drops I could easily have 15% dodge and 20% parry if I chose, giving me 17.5% crit.

With the change to Ultimatum, it may actually proc less (since it will only proc from crits, while may be lower than 30% even with the new Riposte - right now, looking at my tank gear, even if I pushed dodge and parry to very high levels it would still be closer to 25% crit with Riposte. But the change that guarantees that next Heroic Strike or Cleave will crit will mean extra damage, and it means that Ultimatum will scale with gear, increasing your chance to proc a free guaranteed crit HS or Cleave as your gear improves. Meanwhile, the buff to Blood and Thunder increasing Thunder Clap damage to 50% is nice by itself, but with Devastate and Shield Slam also proccing enrage, as physical damage those Thunder Claps will have a chance to be buffed by Enrage. This means you're looking at a potential 60% increased Thunder Clap damage, not just 50%, and every little bit counts. The synergy of Riposte buffing protection's crit chance, Shield Slam and Devastate crits proccing Enrage and Enrage buffing Thunder Clap's already buffed damage will potentially have the most effect on tanking DPS, especially AoE DPS, for warrior tanks. Free rage Cleaves that are automatic crits thanks to Ultimatum won't hurt AoE DPS either.

Overall, I'm optimistic now. I don't think the Warbringer or Hamstring changes will do enough for us in PvP, although fury might see some popularity due to the buff to Storm Bolt there. For PvE survival, DPS warriors will have some new tools, and that's solid, but I'd still like to see a bit more than just 40% less damage - we need a survival cooldown that lets us avoid some of the ridiculousness in raiding and keep our uptime intact. But overall these are positive changes.
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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