September 18, 2009

WoW Warriors: Old Mechanics

This week, The Care and Feeding of Warriors looks back at the legacy of the Warrior class through the original game and two expansions. Matthew Rossi remembers when Taunt cost rage. Remember that? Makes you shudder, doesn't it?

I don't mean crotchety guys in stained overalls working on your car.

No, what I'm talking about is the foundation of the warrior class itself, those abilities that are holdovers from the very beginning of the game. It's hard to remember sometimes, with a game that changes and flows with time the way WoW has, that things were once very, very different... I still remember when they fixed the bug that kept dodges, parries and blocked attacks from generating any rage, hoo boy was that one a killer for warriors... and some of our abilities date back to the very beginning of the game or shortly after it. (Pummel was removed in patch 1.1.0, for instance, and returned in patch 1.2.0, when Maraudon was introduced.) I personally have a very hard time remembering not having Pummel, which is probably because I didn't use Berserker Stance enough before that patch went live. It's even more interesting to note that before patch 1.2.0 Berserker Stance granted a flat 10% melee haste instead of 3% crit, the kind of stat that probably would have had me scratching my head in confusion back then. (I don't scratch my head now, I just kind of grunt softly and bang on the monolith with a bone.)

Having been ridiculously sick this week, I've had plenty of time to sit and think about the game and how it has changed over the years, since I couldn't actually play much. (I tried logging on and I got so dizzy I nearly passed out, it wasn't until today that I could even stomach it for a few minutes.) With Cataclysm looming on the horizon (and man, it feels like it's coming out next month or something to me, I don't know why) I started thinking about abilities and mechanics that could be revamped or even tossed out entirely. One easy one? Take Mortal Strike and Bloodthirst off of the same cooldown. That one's kind of a non-issue, admittedly. I mean, you could spec for both, if you wanted to, but you wouldn't. It just annoys me that they're on the same cooldown, I don't really care if anything is done about it.

What do I care about, then? I'm glad you asked.

Heroic Strike. It's possible that no other ability (outside of Charge, anyway) has as much claim to be an iconic, everyman ability for Warriors as HS does. You have it no matter what spec you are. It's useful for DPS and tanking. Sure, it's not as flashy as Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst, or Devastate, not as sexy when you're tanking as Shield Slam, not as impressive when DPSing as an Bloodsurge Slam or an Overpower or Execute made possible through one of Arms' proc abilities But HS is still there, helping to bleed off rage and convert it into damage or threat (or both, depending on what you're doing) pretty much the same way it always has.

The problem with HS is twofold: first off, it's basically constantly in use when tanking. Especially as damage taken increases and Warrior tanks have to worry less and less about rage generation and more and more about survival (meaning that they gear almost exclusively for survival when tanking) all the rage that comes in is almost immediately converted back out via constant use of the Heroic Strike ability. I actually have HS macro'd to my Devastate and Revenge keys so that when I use either of them I queue up a Heroic Strike as well. Quite frankly, when I'm tanking, it's very unlikely that I'll get a 'not enough rage' error even with the macro in place, especially when tanking in raids. (In five mans, I may have to adjust my gear for more threat stats, as if I wear my raid tanking set I can avoid too much damage to keep up with DPS threat, I simply won't have the rage. That's a different issue, however.) By itself this might not seem like that big a deal: make Heroic Strike something you don't want/need to spam, you might say. Change it to have a cooldown, jack up its threat to compensate, we're good to go.

That would be fine, except that HS isn't just a tanking ability. Arms Warriors use it infrequently to bleed rage, but Fury uses it (especially glyphed so that an HS crit will generate 10 rage instead of costing rage) as a crucial part of its rotation. Since it serves a role in DPS rotations, making it a Junior Shield Slam (cooldown, big threat) is untenable unless it is replaced for DPS. Taking HS out of its current 'jack of all trades' functionality without a replacement of some kind would neuter Warrior DPS (especially Fury). Similarly, just adding a toggle so that you didn't have to press the HS button at all (the way some Hunter pet abilities work, firing whenever the pet has enough focus) doesn't seem likely or desirable.

The two solutions that seem most obvious to me (and please, feel free to suggest your own) are either to split HS into two abilities, a 'tanking' HS that had the extra threat and a cooldown of some kind or some other limitation that would prevent it from being spammed (but again, this runs the risk of transforming it into Junior Shield Slam or Junior Revenge, both of which we already have) and a 'DPS' HS that doesn't have the added threat (frankly, I've always hated that HS has added threat when I use it in my DPS rotations, especially since Arms/Fury Warriors have no threat dump). Another possibility would be to change the ability so that the added threat is only provided when it is used in Defensive Stance, perhaps by altering it into an instant attack with a short cooldown instead of an on-next attack ability, while removing the threat when used in Battle and Berserker Stance but retaining its on-next status. Since rage generation is much more of a concern for DPS, this might be tenable.

Then again, I could be missing the fact that in Cataclysm, warrior tanking will be far different and not nearly so 'stand there and soak ridiculous amounts of damage' oriented. Perhaps HS will become a rage generation attack, similar to how some Death Knight abilities generate runic power, which will make it something warriors use when they specifically need rage for other abilities (perhaps that Mortal Strike/Bloodthirst combo once they're not on the same cooldown calm down and put the pitchforks away it was a joke sheesh people).

Next week, hopefully I will have been able to sit in front of my computer for more than 20 minutes without hurling so that I can talk about gearing a new Arms warrior at 80 like I promised two columns ago.

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