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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Look at all these trees

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.

There's an old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees. It can be applied to World of Warcraft - sometimes you can't see the problem with your class because you're operating in a vacuum composed of yourself and your raid group and you have no way of knowing how others are doing. I let this happen to myself over the course of Throne of Thunder and now I'm forced to realize things aren't fine after all. The problem is fairly simple - warrior DPS has not kept up.

Warrior DPS falls as more mobility and/or target switching become required on fights. While it's hardly conclusive of anything, take a look at this listing of DPS rankings from Noxxic. If you remember the same rankings back when patch 5.2 first came out, you'll remember that fury was a lot higher up on it, not ranked around number 19/20. Arms is an even more depressing number 23. What happened to our DPS?

Well, for starters, all the fights did. There's always a difference between optimal DPS (that is, you can stand there, hit all your buttons properly, and put out your best) and realistic DPS. If you look at Noxxic's maximum DPS for 522 gear, you'll see a pretty substantial improvement, popping fury back up to number 11 or so. Again, this isn't conclusive, it just points to a trend. If you want more evidence of that trend, take a look at the World of Logs DPS rankings for Throne of Thunder. On Normal, looking at all regions, warriors only manage to make the top 10 on Tortos. On heroic, they don't even manage that. Even heroic Tortos, a fight warriors excel on in normal mode, becomes grueling on heroic.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Look at all these trees SatSun
Warrior DPS has fallen in part because other classes get better scaling with their stats while we're forced to stack one stat, and in part because we can't keep uptime in fights like heroic Horridon or Jin'rokh. Any fight where we have to switch to a new target penalizes us for the following reasons.
  1. We have no real ranged option unless we spec into Storm Bolt, and even then you'll probably be using it rotationally so it may or may not be up.
  2. Deep Wounds doesn't really make up for having to switch targets, because its actual damage is fairly low compared to other classes.
  3. Since rage changed, target switching is even harder on our rage generation than it used to be. Stance switching to Zerk can only compensate for this if there's reliable raid damage that can be anticipated and planned for.
  4. We don't hit hard enough. Arms in particular took a significant loss to its burst after the Taste for Blood change, and it hasn't been compensated for - warrior burst is now very anemic.
Of course, one might point out, at least we now have conclusive proof that the buff/nerf cycle is finally at an end, since you don't have to nerf a class that's barely managing to stay in the top 20. Then we can all ruefully chuckle and look sad for a while. Still, considering the lack of any real changes for fury in 5.4, and arms getting AoE buffs (including a DPS boost to Bladestorm specifically for arms) that neither warrior spec really needs (AoE is where most of our DPS comes from as it is, you'll note that arms does very very well on normal Tortos due to the bats) we're then forced to wonder how we got to this state and how it can, or will, be fixed.

Frankly, I don't really think it will be fixed. As things stand now, it seems likely to me that arms will be the DPS spec going into Siege of Orgrimmar, since its AoE should improve thanks to the Sweeping Strikes buff and the buff to Thunder Clap. Arms still won't hit hard enough, but since arms has the potential to ignore a lot more armor than fury does, and since arms can get more use out of haste and mastery than fury can (since fury will be stacking crit for quite a while to come) there is some room for arms to grow.

So if there was even going to be an effort to fix fury DPS, or to get arms up to where it's competitive, you'd need to fix our scaling with stats other than critical strike chance. Specifically, we'd have to get good stuff at a worthwhile rate from those stats. Right now, we absolutely do not get enough from haste or mastery and that needs to be fixed with a flat out buff. No weird games, no tricky abilities that convert stats, just straight up more from haste and mastery. Mastery exists to be a knob that can be turned when our DPS is too high or low, well, it's too low. Turn the knob. Just as important, though, is that the coupling of our rage generation and our big melee attacks (Mortal Strike and Bloodthirst) has led to those attacks being undervalued as attacks, and allowed to do less DPS than they should. These big primary single target attacks do not hit hard enough, at all. And it is the lack of damage from these bread and butter attacks that hurts us so much in mobility fights, since they're the attacks we most often need to use first to generate rage when we've had to switch targets or move twenty yards to avoid poison on the ground, get out of a frost circle, reapply a buff to ourselves... you name the fight gimmick and I'll show you a priority destroying nuisance.

Am I saying we can't have fights with complex and unique mechanics? No. I'm saying warriors have to be designed with complex and unique mechanics in mind. No more instant kill curses we have to move out to get cleared while other melee can just stand there and ignore it, unless we're given a means to ignore it too. If a fight is going to have constant streaming adds and instant kill mechanics that force us to run away from those adds, we need a means to do significant damage at range and choosing that option can't cost us our decent damage cooldown. But more than any of this, warriors need to be designed with powerful and reliable burst in mind. If you can't do your damage at range, then when you finally get into melee, it needs to count. This is the case for both PvE and PvP, frankly, and it's why arms has dropped in PvP all expansion ever since patch 5.1. Easily kitable in PvP, with charge still placing us out of range and facing the wrong way in PvE, the warrior who can't unload a lot of burst as soon as he or she steps into melee will keep facing the same difficulties.

I can hear people typing some variation on "But I/the warriors in my raids do top DPS" and I'm very happy for you or them, but that's not the point. The point is the average of all warriors is low, significantly low and it has been dropping since the current raid tier came out.

This is a problem for both PvP and PvE that bleeds one into the other. It can't be fixed with band aids, it has to be fixed with something very basic - a buff to our damage on specifically single target abilities that will be used as soon as possible to maximize their effectiveness on target switch or mobility heavy fights. Nothing else will fix it, nothing less is worth pursuing. Will it happen? If enough people can get on the PTR and demonstrate our lack of teeth, perhaps.
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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