Stances, Rage, and Uncrittable in Mists of Pandaria
Here’s the deal with my long lack of posts in this space: in addition to my own innate laziness and the real-life challenges of the past few months (overcoming my depression-induced conditioning enough to actually look for a job, running around the country for interviews, spending the majority of the rest of my time curled up in bed clutching a dolphin and freaking out), I’ve also had some major apprehensions about the changes Blizz has been making to warriors, especially protection warriors, in the name of active mitigation. I didn’t want to jump the gun by stereotypically claiming that what was going on in beta was ruining the class, especially since until a week ago I had barely played on beta due to my internet situation.
I’ve played on beta now, and found that my suspicions were, for the most part, correct.
I’d like to clarify before I get into the meat of my whining that my problems with the 5.X warrior model are a matter of personal preference and class identity. As far as I know (though I haven’t been keeping up with the theorycraft as much as I should have, see above) there’s nothing about the new warrior model that makes them unplayable; they seem to be where they’ve always been, the dependable baseline of tank acceptability. Sure, DKs will still be the kings of magical damage, and the new bear mastery is WTFoverpowered, but my objections to the new direction of the warrior class are about enjoyment, not numbers. Whether this makes them more or less relevant is your call.
The root of the problem is in Blizzard’s new tank philosophy of active mitigation, which they define as ‘using your resource to increase survivability.’ In theory, I agree with this philosophy. I am all about having an active relationship with my resource; in fact, the major reason I didn’t switch my DPS offspec to Arms in 4.3 was that I enjoyed the unreliability and therefore challenge of resource management in Fury.
The problem with active mitigation for protection warriors comes from the extreme level of tank parity which Blizzard’s current design philosophy requires. Again, I agree in theory with a close level of parity between the tanking specs: except on extreme gimmick encounters like Spine of Deathwing, tanks are the role most likely to hold back raid progress due to class limitations. (Another exception: healadins in ICC, without which you were sometimes better off single-tanking a normally two-tank fight. I’m looking at you, Heroic Marrowgar). The active mitigation model that Blizzard settled on, however, requires that resource be converted into survivability – and rage, which presents warriors & bears the unique challenge of an unpredictable, feast-or-famine resource pool, is antithetical to the predictable-but-never-excessive resource model they based the mitigation model on.
Rather than modify the model – a challenge, I agree, but not an impossible one in my opinion – Blizzard chose to replace protection warriors’ rage with runic power. Protection warriors in defensive stance can now generate rage only from two abilities: Shield Slam and Revenge. Under certain conditions, Shield Slam and Revenge can be refreshed or generate slightly more rage, but the effect is the same: a relatively predictable, relatively slow buildup of resource, linked primarily to certain yellow attacks. This is indistinguishable from Runic Power, a mechanic which is implicitly acknowledged, in the DK class design, as a not sufficiently engaging resource. This is how they propose to make prot warriors – widely acknowledged since Wrath as one the most engaging/fun spec in the game – more engaged: by taking away what made them engaging, and replacing it with half of the DK resource system.
Worse than that, by tying rage to survivability, it is now downright irresponsible to dump rage. If we don’t need a survival ability right now, and our rage bar is maxed, we have to just sit on that maxed rage pool: we might need it soon.
Sitting on a maxed rage pool is proper play in Mists of Pandaria.
I can think of no greater condemnation of warrior mechanics.
I have always loved rage and rage dumping. I love the feeling of taking a big hit and then stomping on the threat-accelerator, or seeing that you only have 30 rage while the boss is on your co-tank and autoattacking for a little while to conserve for the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am of taunt -> Concussion blow macroed to Inner Rage -> Shield Slam macroed to Shield Block while spamming Heroic Strike. The best part was that you got immediate feedback on your rotation: if you were Doin’ It Rite, you were able to fill every GCD with a minimum of time spent at full rage. Whether your rage bar was full or empty, you knew you were playing suboptimally and could adjust on the fly. Rage management was what drew me to the class and what kept me playing through the bitter months of wiping on Sindragosa and the Lich King, through guild drama leaving me without a raid until 4.1, and through the long, dark night of the Dragon Soul.
It’s on the unfair side to criticize the way Blizzard is implementing active mitigation without offering alternatives.
What Blizzard Hopes to Accomplish
Active mitigation was announced back in 4.2 when blood DKs were having trouble competing with the other three tank classes. The blood model was interesting, engaging, a credit to the game – but it was also hard to balance against classes whose (major) mitigation was mostly passive. Especially of note was that blood DKs were the only class which had to rely on hit and expertise for its major mitigation: though a miss/dodge/parry refunded the runes for their Death Strike, they could still end up a GCD late and potentially get gibbed as a result of two or three back-to-back avoids. Though the devs reduced the ‘activity’ of DKs’ mitigation in 4.3, to bring them more in line with the rest of the tanks, GC announced that in the future, all classes would be reworked to have active mitigation along the lines of DKs’.
At the time I was tanking alongside a bear, and leveling my own bear through the 80-85 bracket. While GC had correctly noted that prot paladins and warriors considered hit/expertise a garbage stat, to bears, they were decent (though of course not optimal). It would take an extremely well-itemized lower tier piece to prevent a bear from upgrading to a hit/mastery, expertise/mastery, hit/crit, or expertise/crit leather piece. This was because agility was their best mitigation stat: it increased their chance of proccing Savage Defense, the size of their SD bubble, and even their dodge chance!
If the goal is to get paladins and warriors to upgrade their gear based on ilvl/primary stats instead of secondary stats, scaling them more strongly with strength would be a good way to accomplish that. Increase the strength->effective parry rating conversion to 0.6 like paladins used to have with agi->dodge, or even warriors’/dks’ 0.4, and voila: the same tanks who were picking up Signet of the Elder Council in 4.0.3a are now picking up higher-itemlevel pieces despite their worse secondary stat itemization.
Baking in Defensive Stance
One thing that’s annoyed me all expansion is that, unlike bears and paladins (and DKs? I’m at work, can’t look it up), warriors were crit immune only in prot spec and defensive stance. This was mostly fine for progression content, but became very annoying in 5-mans, especially running lowbies through gearing runs, or bear runs in ZG. When the tank is your top damage dealer, an extra 20% damage is not to be sneezed at.
In the new Mists paradigm, tank stances are mostly about how you generate rage: in Battle Stance you generate it from white hits only, but at a good enough rate to support a rotation; in Berserker Stance you generate it from white hits at about half that rate, but also generate some from damage taken. Defensive Stance is the boring man out, allowing you to generate rage only from your prot-spec yellow attacks, with crit immunity and the +threat modifier baked in. In an expansion in which the two warrior DPS specs finally have to think about what stance to use, prot warriors not only lack the choice, but are forced by necessity into the most boring of the stances. Baking the crit immunity of defensive stance into a prot spec passive, making the +threat component a buff a la Righteous Fury, then grouping the passive damage reduction with whichever of these you prefer, and letting us make the same choice the DPS can make – would I rather gain all my rage from white hits done, or will I be taking enough damage predictably enough to suffer the reduced white hit to rage conversion? – would be far more engaging.
Of course, this would mean letting prot warriors back in to the old fluctuating-rage model, but I have a solution for that too…
Colossus Shield, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
This doesn’t actually have anything to do with Dr. Strangelove; it just flowed off my mental tongue.
I’ve brought this idea up before on the official beta forums, but I didn’t want to bother anyone by spamming it. I bring it up again now only because it’s the only thing I can think of that would save warriors – a form of active mitigation which would allow and benefit from a real, warrior-style rage management, while also addressing the considerations listed above.
I adore Colossus Smash. Colossus Smash, for those of you who don’t play DPS warriors, is an ability with a 20 second cooldown which grants the warrior 100% armor penetration on the target for 6 seconds (50% in PVP). The fury rotation ebbs and flows around Colossus Smash. You spend the other 14 seconds of each 20-second ‘rotation’ in conservation mode, doing your rotation but not much else, saving up rage for the CS cooldown. Then Colossus Smash comes up again, and wham-wham-wham-wham, pop Inner Rage if it’s up and spam Heroic Strike alongside your rotation; if it’s during Execute phase, you can even substitute 30 rage Executes as more than just a way to keep Executioner going. Then the 6 seconds are over and your rage pool’s down in the dregs again, playing conservatively, waiting for the next big push…
Colossus Smash is the reason that hit past the yellow cap is a high-priority stat for fury warriors. The more hit you have, the more rage you can pool for CS. So if the devs want to make warriors care about threat stats, and use our resource for survival, why not a Colossus Smash clone? Instead of us using our resource for powerful cooldowns with relatively low uptime, give those to us for free on a decently long cooldown, and gut our passive effects. Reduce our block value, remove our chance to critically block, remove some of our armor – whatever. Then, give us Colossus Shield. For six seconds we spam the crap out of our abilities, doing as much damage as possible. When it’s over, we have a 20-30 second survivability buff proportional to the amount of damage we did. Armor, block value, whatever you took away from our passive defenses, make us earn it back with Colossus Shield.
- Inherently scales with AP, and thus Strength, giving the benefits discussed in the scaling-with-strength section.
- Encourages warriors to use hit and expertise, to avoid a painful string of misses during Colossus Shield.
- Returns rage management to the class/spec, using the ebb-and-flow model already seen/successful with Colossus Smash.
- Differentiates warrior active mitigation from bear and paladin active mitigation
- Can serve as the basis for a new mastery model, differentiating warrior mastery from paladin mastery
Of course, it wouldn’t have to be called Colossus Shield. Lindenwood Shield would be good too. ;)
OK, I don’t seriously expect that this post will do any good. It didn’t do any good when I brought it up on the beta forums, and at least I know someone from Blizzard was reading that. But I fell in love with rage, whence I fell in love with my warrior, whence I fell in love with WoW – and without it, I have no reason to stick around.
All of which is a long, roundabout way of saying – “Welp, I’m out.”
See y’all on Rift.