The Care and Feeding of Warriors: What should the warrior become?

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|01.05.14

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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: What should the warrior become?
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.

Last week, we talked about where the warrior class has been this past year. One of the things that's been most glaring about warriors has been the dichotomy between PvP and PvE content, and even which part of each warriors do the best in.

Arms warriors started the expansion doing very well in Arena play, saw a mechanics change that effectively slashed their numbers in top-end arena by 2/3rds, and then climbed back up to high representation and high end performance. At present, while arms isn't a juggernaut in BG's (due to the old standard 'focus the warrior down' mentality) it's a topic of constant debate on the forums, as casters hate it when warriors can kill them. Hate it. I expect arms to be redesigned between now and Warlords of Draenor and to see it struggle heavily in PvP for the start of the next expansion's PvP season.

If you're protection or fury, well, you may PvP for fun, but no one really cares about you one way or another. It's cool to have a prot warrior for flag carrying in rated BG's but that's true of any tank, and druids and monks are still going to be way better for it.

That said, this isn't a post about our current condition. It's about what we should become. And it isn't a post telling you, but asking you - what are our flaws? Where should we go from here? I have ideas, of course, and I'll share them, because that's what I do.

When talking about class design or development, one thing that must always be kept in mind is the established flavor and playstyle of the class. The warlock revamp shows us the dangers of tinkering too much with a class - while warlocks are certainly improved, it came at a cost - not all established warlock players wanted to have to relearn their class.

The glaring problems of the warrior class at present are monofocused itemization (we're like zombies for crit), a loss of our role as mobility tanks leaving us with no real tanking identity aside from 'the shield tank who can't immunity cheese whole mechanics', our constant buff/nerf/buff cycle having endured, and the feast or famine nature of the rage system. These are things that need to be addressed. But how do we address them while retaining our essential identity as warriors?

No idea. That's why I'm not on the design team. But I'm happy to speculate.

One idea that keeps popping up in my head is the idea that warriors need more to do with rage, or reasons to do things with it. For protection right now, rage is pretty decent once it gets going - you get it, once it gets high you spend it on Shield Block/Shield Barrier to keep the dying at a minimum. There's gameplay to it - do you want to bank rage and hit both close together to smooth a big damage spike, or are you better served using the rage as it comes in? Certain fight mechanics make this decision for you, but recognizing those moments is still your decision, and it rewards attentive play. The only real changes I'd like to see for protection are the incorporation of the 2 piece Tier 15 and Tier 16 set bonuses. I don't think it's feasible for warriors to lack on-demand self healing of some kind in the modern tank era - these abilities need to be baked into tanking (and only tanking - Gladiator Stance needs no self heals). So protection uses rage properly.

Arms and fury are basically in a weird place. Both are in a position where, if they dump rage when the Colossus Smash debuff isn't on a target, they're effectively wasting it. Arms at least has a degree of unpredictability here - with Sudden Death, it's possible to get more Colossus Smash uptime, and so you're rewarded for paying attention and have opportunities to spend rage outside of a rigidly prescribed burst window. It's still weird, but at least there's some gameplay here, and a chance that you'll get a Colossus Smash at an odd moment.

Fury, however, has no such gameplay. You will hit Colossus Smash on cooldown. You will have six seconds to spend as much rage as possible. Then you will have fourteen seconds where you are basically just trying to get up to near full rage, so you can do it again. That's it. That's the entire mechanic of fury in action. Colosuss Smash - everything you can (Most likely Bloodthirst and then Raging Blowx2 with Heroic Strike x2 or x3, although there's time for four HS technically) - and then just Bloodthirst for rage gen and maybe some Wild Strikes if Bloodsurge procs. It ends up being simultaneously hard to execute if a boss decides that you simply can't stay in melee range for whatever reason (punts you across the room, does a ground effect you have to move out of, moves itself, etc etc) and completely devoid of any decisionmaking on your part. Either you will execute this sequence, or you won't due to events - there's no decision in any of it.

Limiting a class so that its only read damage output comes six seconds out of every twenty (and thus, eighteen seconds out of every minute) is simply bad design. Designing warriors around the Colossus Smash debuff was a way to keep that feeling of armor penetration alive when the statistic was removed - it's outlived its usefulness. Either extend the debuff so that warriors can attack more freely (you should be able to use your rage at least half the time you're in combat, so it would have to last ten seconds per Colossus Smash period) or remove it utterly and give warriors more damage to compensate. Give that damage in the form of things to do with rage. Possibilities include giving warriors a mini-cooldown that is essentially a rage dump - spend 20 rage, get 5% increased physical damage, let it stack with Enrage so it doesn't get wasted and punish you for using it.

Ultimately, Enrage itself is also a concern - or at least, the way we get enraged is. As long as we're entering enrages by landing a critical hit with our main attacks, we're going to want crit over all, especially as Enrage has become so integral to our damage output and rage generation. Every time you get an enrage, you get 10 rage. It's what turned Berserker Rage from a "I use this to break fear" into "I can't use this to break fear because I'm always using it for that 10 rage and 10% physical damage buff" and it's why we stack crit like people playing Jenga. And I think it's time to consider alternate ways to enter Enrage.

I've talked before about bringing back rage from damage dealt, something warriors lost with Mists, and many of you have rightly pointed out that this encouraged warriors to do things like stand in fire. We don't want that. But for tanks, who take damage constantly anyway, the following idea seems worth discussing to me - what if tanks had a chance (say, 10%) of getting enraged every time they took a hit? Every boss swing, every spell effect, any time a warrior tank took damage they could potentially get enraged? That, to me, would be an interesting way to bring rage from damage back to tanks without making rage meaningless.

You could even tie this into warrior manuverability - a talent that allowed warriors to choose ways to customize their Enrages in some manner. You could have it add a reset on Heroic Leap, or a flat 10% increased speed buff when enraged, or reset Charge/Intervene. (That last one would have to be really carefully watched or warriors would end up with endless Charges - an internal cooldown on the reset would be a necessity.)

For the DPS crowd, simply do the inverse - give them the chance to enter an enrage on hit. Don't remove enrages from your main attack - just make it potentially possible that any hit could be the one that gives you an Enrage. Perhaps Colossus Smash could go away entirely, and Enrage could give your attacks a chance to put the 6 second debuff on a target? I'm not sure about that idea - making it impossible to predict the six second window would make rage pooling for it harder, which might end up benefiting warriors overall, but it might also mean penalizing our overall damage because the armor penetration effect could theoretically be up more often.

Well, I've mused enough. Now you get to tell me how bad my ideas are, and suggest your own. Yay for simulated democracy!
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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