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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: The Burst Window

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.

Still working on that prot in 5.4 post, as well as a post about how best to use SimCraft (and how not to use it) - so of course this week we talk about DPS again. One of the things I see on twitter and in email is a general sense of confusion about how to DPS as a warrior. It can be somewhat anti-intuitive, especially if you played a warrior in previous expansions and you're trying to adapt to the new scheme.

As someone who was prot for the end of Cataclysm and the first few months of Mists one of the concepts that I really had to re-learn and get very comfortable with was that of the burst window. Strictly put, fury warrior DPS is predicated on the idea of a period of about six seconds following every Colossus Smash. After CS, you bypass 100% of your targets armor for six seconds, which means that this is the best time for you to put as much damage on your target as possible. Because Heroic Strike is off the GCD, it can be used at the same time as other attacks such as Raging Blow, which means that during the Colossus Smash window you can fit about three Heroic Strokes (with its 1.5 second cooldown) and two Raging Blows within that window. You can usually also fit a Bloodthirst within that period as well. This burst window - the six second duration of the 100% armor reduction following a Colossus Smash - results in a sort of punctuated equilibrium for fury warrior DPS.

What do I mean by that? Well, I'll elaborate.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors The Burst Window

In essence, what you're trying to do is build up as close to a full rage bar as possible to use during that six second burst window without going over - so during the fourteen seconds between the end of the previous burst window and your next Colossus Smash, you're doing your best to bank rage, spending it only when you're in danger of capping out. During that period, you want to either use Bloodthirst (which generates rage), a Bloodsurge proc set of Wild Strikes (since Wild Strike costs no rage during Bloodsurge) or potentially a Raging Blow if you have 10 seconds or more until your next Colossus Smash (Raging Blow charges last 12 seconds, so if you have less than 10 before your next CS, you'll likely be able to save your RB and use it during CS) - if for whatever reason you need to dump rage (due to being close to cap) you can use a 30 rage unprocced Wild Strike or a Heroic Strike. Just make sure you have Heroic Strike ready to go during your Colossus Smash period.

This period of 'gather/spend/gather' is strange if you came up as a fury warrior in previous expansions, or play as an arms warrior primarily now. Thanks to Sudden Death, arms warriors don't have a predictable CS window in the same way - an arms warrior can see a series of Sudden Death procs that allow her or him to keep the Colossus Smash debuff up for an extended period. But there's still a priority during the CS debuff - you want to hit Slam as much as you can, trying to fit at least two if not three Slams into the complete CS period. That's because in patch 5.4, Slam hits for an extra 10% damage when your target is afflicted by Colossus Smash - so the two to three Slams you'll be hitting during that CS will not only do more damage because your target is debuffed, they'll do an extra 10% on top of that.

If possible, you also want to try and line up Enrage during as much of this burst window as possible. If you crit with your Colossus Smash, great - you're enraged. The enrage period lasts exactly as long as the CS debuff, so if you manage to crit with that first CS, you're golden - both periods will exactly overlap. If not, you can use Berserker Rage to force an enrage and still get most of your attacks off during that six second period, or you can try hitting Bloodthirst/Mortal Strike first and hope that crits - especially for fury, if the BT crits you should still have time to get in your full HS/Raging Blows during the burst window. For arms, you'll likely only get two Slams off.

The window is a little different during execute phase - you'll generally want to be hitting filling your CS debuff with Executes. For arms, you may alternate in a few Overpowers if you're low on rage, since Overpower is free after an Execute. For fury, you'll use Raging Blow during your down phase to keep your CS phase open for Execute. You still want to be enraged, and you'll still hit your rage generation as much as possible. For certain fights like Sha of Pride or Garrosh, the execute phase is often a high raid damage phase - switch to Berserker Stance is that is the case.

Another thing that complicates the burst window for fury is talent choice and certain set bonuses/gear choices. If you have Bloodbath, you'll be wanting to use it as much as you can during the window, but as it's a bleed it will be ignoring armor anyway. And since Bloodbath has a one minute cooldown, it would only be up once every three burst windows anyway. This gets more complicated when considering the Evil Eye of Galakras trinket. This reduces Bloodbath's cooldown, and depending on which version of the trinket you get, it can allow you to hit Bloodbath once every 40 seconds or so. This makes it possible to use it every other burst window. But if you're TG fury and you have the Storm Bolt talent, the trinket can almost put Storm Bolt down to a 20 second cooldown, meaning that you could easily fit a Storm Bolt (and the offhand SB attack) within your burst window instead of Bloodthirst, greatly increasing the damage you do. You'll definitely want to line up your burst window to take advantage of being able to SB almost in synch with it. I personally find it easier to get SB to line up if I use it between Raging Blows - I'll hit an RB/HS, SB/HS, then RB/HS to finish.

If you take Dragon Roar as your AoE talent, you absolutely do not want to use it during the burst window - it already ignores armor and it costs no rage, making it ideal to use during the down cycle when you're banking rage for your next burst window. It's good to use just before the window, especially if you've popped all your cooldowns (esp. assuming you have Bloodbath instead of Storm Bolt, because you want Bloodbath to affect Dragon Roar) and want them to overlap both your use of Dragon Roar and your damage during the window.

The reason the 2 piece tier 16 set bonus is so good for us is that it allows us to generate rage during the burst window - this guarantees smoother rage flow and makes it easier to be sure we'll have enough for all the attacks we want to fit into that window. It's great for arms because Slam is a rage hog at 25 rage - lowering the cost to an effective 20 means you only need to have 60 rage banked, half a rage bar assuming you're using the Glyph of Unending Rage, which you should be. It's great for fury because to hit two Raging Blows and three Heroic Strikes in that six seconds means spending 110 rage (30 rage per HS, 10 rage per Raging Blow) and with the set bonus, you'll be getting an extra 25 rage during that window (five rage per special attack). That means, even if you go into the CS period with less than a full rage bar, you'll be okay. It's a huge bonus. It also means you can play a little more with attacks that cost rage during the down period between CS without hurting yourself.

Next week - hopefully I'll have finished this prot warrior piece. If not that, then we'll start looking at what SimultaionCraft does, and doesn't do.
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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