The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Courting Critical

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|02.08.14

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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Courting Critical
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'm going to tell you a story.

I recently spent a coin and got a pair of heroic warforged DPS shoulders. And yet, they are currently in my bank. Why is that? Because using them will cost me almost 2% critical strike chance, and I simply cannot afford it, instead sticking with the non heroic, non warforged shoulders that do have critical strike chance on them. And that, in a nutshell, is exactly what's wrong with warrior design right now.

See, I like crit. I think crit should be good. But it shouldn't be so good that nothing else can compare - that the heroic warforged pieces (a solid 19 ilevel better, when both are fully upgraded) simply cannot come close to competing. I current have two heroic 2h, but only one of them has crit. So I have to use a normal mode offhand rather than (again) a heroic upgrade. When you start to realize that all you're doing is piling crit on top of crit - and that something as seemingly simple as an upgrade can be massively higher in ilevel and still not be an actual upgrade - it starts to become maddening.

Combine this with the fact that warrior DPS is anemic until it is in full BiS yet again (and that full BiS? Crit until your eyes bleed) and we get the same problem we have seen for warrior DPS in every expansion since the days of vanilla, the problem that rage normalization was supposed to fix, but instead exacerbated - we stack one stat, because only that stat helps us significantly with rage generation. Trying to cap hit beyond the 7.5% is pointless, and so hit is unwelcome. Similarly, expertise is capped easily and forgotten, which is why both stats are going away in Warlords. But the fact that even mastery is a distant second for fury and haste, which is a distant second for arms is a dismal, hold your nose and take it if you have to stat just highlights the issue.

Now, every class has its stat priorities. Some classes have wildly disparate stat priorities for each spec. Here's the thing - if I go protection, I still want crit, so I chase dodge and parry. If I go arms, I still want crit, and the spec isn't really viable for PvE anyway. And doing what I really have to do to be raid viable right now - namely, having a gear set that works for arms and fury - means I can't push arms all the way into higher haste because the same pieces have to work when I go fury, minus one or two that I swap out, because I simply cannot afford to carry around a complete set of arms and fury gear. So I'm stuck - and the emphasis on crit above all else is making it exhausting to play the game, because every time I get an upgrade via a coin roll, it ends up not being an upgrade.

It's hard to trust that it'll get better next expansion. We've heard the promises before - haste will help with rage generation, warriors will do more than just stack one stat. But here we are, and we're still chasing that old crit dragon. I'm annoyed by this.

I mention this now not to gripe for griping's sake, but because I sincerely want it to change. The warrior design is in many ways as old as the game - the Mists of Pandaria changes just made what was already there show up more starkly. The way protection interacted with haste at the start of this expansion - indeed, the entire state of protection warriors at the start of this expansion - was inexcusable. There is no reason the most well rounded, best designed tanking spec, the one that managed to be good without being overpowered should have been reduced to the spec people took if they were desperate or didn't know any better. Arms being a powerhouse in small scale PvP and a joke outside of it, fury swinging between SMF and TG, and the general underperformance until certain gear thresholds are hit just made everything more obviously worse. And it all ultimately comes down to the fact that warrior don't work unless they're enraged.

That means stacking crit. Protection was made viable by making dodge and parry provide crit - before the introduction of Riposte and the increased ways for protection to enter Enrage, it had nothing like other tanks had, no stats that provided good damage - even now, prot really only shines if it can afford to dump rage during an execute phase.

Now, in Mists we have three new stats coming in, and we've talked about them before. Also, we don't have reforging, which means that if we end up heavily dependent on crit again, we'll have even less of an option - if a piece without crit drops, we just plain can't use it. We can't reforge it and see if it manages to overcome the crit we lose (which, so far, it usually doesn't) we just pass, just like in the days before reforging. (For people like me who raided in Wrath, this isn't hypothetical - we remember the days of Armor Pen or GTFO) So what can be done to make us less dependent on crit?

Well, for starters, we can hope that Amplification, Multistrike and Readiness are all good for us. That would give us four stats we'd want. Since Multistrike won't be getting us any rage, I expect it'll be a stat we don't particularly look for, leaving us with Amplification and Readiness as potential positives. But moreover, we need to design our mechanics so that crit isn't the only way to light them up. Secondly, it's time to decouple enrage from crit, or at least consider adding in mechanisms that favor another stat over critical strike - the easiest idea would be to let white hits have a fixed chance to trigger an enrage, which allows haste to increase our chance of getting enraged by letting us attack more often. This could create a scenario where SMF warriors favored haste over crit, while TG warriors were the inverse, but that doesn't bother me - having the warrior class favor different stats for different specs (sub-specs in this case) is a good thing, to me.

One benefit I see in the Warlords of Draenor design for us is that there won't be caps that you hit and then they become meaningless, the way hit and expertise are now. I spent a lot of time making sure my hit and expertise are at 7.5% - much of the Throne of Thunder tier, that was an impossible task, and getting below 9% hit took real, significant effort. With those stats gone, we at least won't be in the situation we're in now where switching between fury and arms means recalculating those caps.

Ultimately, I just want what we've been promised - I want a gear upgrade to be an unambiguous thing, to know that when a piece drops that is significantly higher in itemization budget, it will be a better piece of gear. I don't want to spend my warforged seal, get a heroic warforged Gar'tok, and then sigh and leave it in my bags forever.
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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