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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: AoE vs. Single Target

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've done some tanking in flex, and I even decided to tank in LFR after doing a fun Sha of Pride kill as arms, which turned out to be less fun due mostly to my own impatience (and a fair degree of rust on my tanking skills). Still, I felt like prot was working fairly well - it still lacks the old Cataclysm feeling of mobility, but damage is up and the two piece protection set bonus is nice.

What really happened while I was tanking, though, was that I started to think about all the AoE we hurl around as warriors. Both protection and arms are tossing Deep Wounds around like candy - Deep Wounds is so much of my AoE DPS it can get ridiculous on certain fights. I can put out enough damage on the opening pull of General Nazgrim that I can basically coast for the rest of the fight and still place in the top five. As a tank, I have yet to be able to convince myself not to take Shockwave - being able to hit a cone of mobs in front of me every 20 seconds is just so convenient.

I find myself wondering if the past year of World of Warcraft has just conditioned me to think of the class as an AoE class.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors AoE vs Single Target

Face it - our AoE toolkit just got bigger and bigger this expansion. Our level 60 tier forces us to choose between three solid AoE options - Bladestorm, Dragon Roar and Shockwave. Dragon Roar has become the AoE option for people who want to focus on one big attack every minute, while Bladestorm has settled nicely into the "I know I'm going to want to hit everything, and that there will be a lot of everything for me to hit" niche, and Shockwave still reigns supreme for tanking and PvP stunning.

But what really set us apart as an AoE class is a talent that I don't think everyone really considers an AoE talent, because it doesn't actually do that, per se - Bloodbath. All of our AoE - Thunder Clap, Whirlwind, Raging Blow (thanks to Meat Cleaver), Bladestorm, Slam (thanks to Sweeping Strikes), Raging Blow, Shockwave - all of it comes from special attacks. Bloodbath modifies each and every one of those attacks. Every minute, you do an extra 30% damage as a BoT bleed. And that stacks on top of Deep Wounds, so if you're arms or prot, you can easily do more damage in bleeds than you do otherwise, at least for a 12 second window every minute.

I don't really have a problem with this, but it's interesting to consider. Warriors have always had a strong AoE component, and it has at times bled into our single-target rotation - a fury warrior in Wrath was going to be hitting Whirlwind every time it was up, it filled a gap in our rotation. It was expected you would use it. We've seen AoE and single target abilities get far more separation this expansion - Shockwave actually punishes you for using it on too few mobs with an extended cooldown (added due to its popularity as a stun in PvP) but Dragon Roar is the AoE talent most people pick for single-target fights, since it doesn't interrupt your rotation and still hits fairly hard on a boss or small group. You won't use Bladestorm at all on Malkorok, for instance, but you'll hit Dragon Roar pretty much on cooldown.
The Care and Feeding of Warriors AoE vs Single Target

Warrior AoE is so good right now - even fury, which lacks the ludicrous bleed inflicting power of arms or protection can get significant benefit out of Meat Cleave and the synergy between Whirlwind and Raging Blow - that in a way it overshadows our ability to bring hurt to a boss, especially boss fights with no adds. Fights like Norushen, Galakras, or Spoils of Pandaria are ideal for warriors. Fights like Norushen, Fallen Protectors and Nazgrim at least provide some adds (in the fight itself - Nazgrim opens with a host of cannon fodder for meter padding if that's your thing, and I admit I hit Bloodbath and Bladestorm on the pull there, it's just so much fun) for a warrior to try and get some AoE off. But on fights like Iron Juggernaut, Malkorok, Paragons of the Klaxxi or Thok, warriors start to fall behind. In the past, I would probably complain more about this than I'm going to do today - while I'd like to see our single target go up, I can't pretend I'm dissatisfied with the class right now.

It's one of the reasons I really like the Garrosh Hellscream fight - it rewards both smart AoE use and focused single target at different portions of its length, meaning that it's a good fight for AoE DPS as well as single-target. It allows warriors to contribute - the opening phase, for example, is a rollicking explosion of adds that rewards the warrior playstyle, and there are portal phases that have more or less AoE options, as well as being able to use our AoE to help break MC on our own raid and help kill the adds spawned by Empowered Whirling Corruption. In general, fight and encounter design has a real impact on whether or not a class or spec that focuses more on AoE than single target damage is viable - if a raid has enough fights with adds, then AoE is viable for those fights, and thus the raid as a whole. (AoE heavy classes are always viable on trash, and don't make the mistake of assuming 'trash doesn't matter' - not only does it often have abilities that will show up again in boss fights, it serves both to provide context to a raid and give it the feeling of being more than just a big round room, makes a raid feel lived in)

It's unlikely that we'll see any changes to our DPS at this point - fury's two big single target attacks, Bloodthirst and Raging Blow, both saw a 20% buff after 5.4 dropped, which wasn't a surprise to anyone who'd been watching the beta. Well, it wasn't a surprise that the buffs were needed - it was a little bit of a surprise that they happened. Slam and Mortal Strike were buffed before the patch dropped, and protection saw several design changes intended to increase the frequency of its enrages (which would contribute to all of its damage output). If warriors are behind on single target, which I think is a fair assessment, it's not crippling and our AoE power helps make up for it. I still switch to fury whenever I hit a fight like Iron Juggernaut and as long as I can keep the gear for both close enough that I don't have to reforge between pulls I can accept that. It helps that I switched to Storm Bolt for my fury spec - it's an extra attack every 21 seconds thanks to my trinket, and it does crazy single target damage. I definitely recommend it for TG fury.

Next week - what I like and dislike about protection in 5.4
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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