So the Mists of Pandaria are nearly upon us, and Warriors in general are going to see some huge changes once again. While I’m not expecting these to be set in stone, I will say that what I’m seeing so far has some very interesting potential, as well as a few new twists that will really shake up how Arms operates. First, let’s look at the general skill changes (my comments in italics).
- Battle Shout: Now grants 10% increased attack power, not Strength and Agility. Now also generates 20 rage.¬† Not altogether a surprising change. I’d expected Battle Shout to go to a raw attack power number for Cataclysm, and it didn’t.
- Battle Stance: Now increases damage done by 10%.¬† So we’re gaining an overall buff here, essentially getting the Berserker Stance values, since Berserker is getting something else entirely. I like this one – a 5% damage reduction was a very disappointing “bonus” for losing 5% damage output.
- Berserker Rage: Duration reduced to 6 sec, down from 10 sec. No longer grants extra rage generation from taking damage.¬† Also not a surprising change. I’ve never used Berserker Rage outside of a fear break, so I have no complaints here.
- Berserker Stance: Increases damage done by Whirlwind and Cleave by 20%. Doesn’t affect us at all. Fury Warriors might cry havoc a bit with this one, but maybe not. It seems like one of their major abilities is getting a massive boost.
- Bladestorm: Renamed from Whirlwind. You become a whirling storm of destructive force, striking all nearby targets with your main hand weapon for 75% weapon damage. Also does 75% weapon damage for off-hand. This one I’m not too clear on. Has Bladestorm, then, been removed from our talent list? According to the WoW site it’s still a level 60 talent option, but maybe they’re just behind on an update.
- Charge: No longer requires Battle Stance. Cooldown increased to 20 sec, up from 15. Now can be used in combat and generates 20 rage, up from 15. Also an expected change, with the complete restructuring of talents. A lot of the old Arms talents are getting rolled in here, and the increased rage generation will be very helpful. Not too sure how happy I am about the increase in cooldown time, but I suspect I’ll be picking up the 12-second cooldown talent anyway, as it’s the best PVE option, unless they decide to make it so that we can charge at very close range. Time will tell.
- Cleave: Now has a 1.5 sec cooldown, down from 3 sec. Now does 75% weapon damage. This isn’t a big contender for Arms damage, so I’m not terribly disappointed by this. Sweeping Strikes and Cleave is always handy for AoE fights you don’t have a Bladestorm ready for, but it’s still low damage by comparison. This makes me wonder how baseline rage generation will function, because a lot of our abilities are getting rage cost increases.
- Commanding Shout: Now increases Stamina by 10%. Percentages seem to be the flavor of the expansion. Works for me.
- Deep Wounds: New. Your Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst and Devastate cause the target to bleed for 1090 over 15 sec. The loss of Rend as an ability forced this one a bit. It’s good that every spec is getting something out of it, and for Arms, the cooldown on Mortal Strike will keep this rolling pretty constantly. I’m pretty sure the damage values given here will scale with level… otherwise this might be a bit disappointing.
- Demoralizing Banner: New. Throw down a war banner that decreases the damage dealt by all enemies within 30 yards of the banner by 10%. You can Intervene to your war banner. Lasts 15 sec. 30 yd range, 3 min cooldown, Instant cast. The banner seems like an interesting mechanic. Healers need some help keeping melee alive during a close blast? Throw this baby down. Being able to intervene to it… I guess it’s a handy way to be able to leapfrog into battle faster? Heroic Leap -> Banner -> Intervene -> Charge or some variation thereof? Hmm.
- Disarm: No longer requires Defensive Stance. No longer costs rage. No longer disarms the ranged weapon. My god, it’s about time. Not being able to disarm ranged weapons kiiiiiiiinda tilts a PVP battle in favor of hunters, but every hunter I talk to tells me that Arms Warriors are their bane, so I dunno. I haven’t done a lot of serious PVP lately.
- Enrage: Critical strikes with special abilities and critical blocks Enrage you, increasing the rage you generate from normal melee attacks by 25% for 6 sec. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is where a lot of our rage generation is going to come from, but let’s face it, 6 seconds is NOT a lot of time! At best, you’ll get two normal swings during the duration unless you’ve got some serious crit value and can chain a few of these in a row. I’ll have to reserve judgment for testing.
- Execute: Now costs 30 rage. No longer has a stance requirement. No longer consumes additional rage to do more damage. Probably a wise move. They’re looking to streamline rotations/priorities for all classes, and waiting until you’ve got lots of bonus rage for an Execute was always a little iffy. 30 rage baseline puts this on the same level as many of our other standard abilities, and it makes me concerned about whether Execute will remain the beneficial attack at the Execute phase. I’m sure that it will be, of course, otherwise this would be a really stupid change.
- Hamstring: No longer has a stance requirement. Keen.
- Heroic Strike: Now has a 1.5 sec cooldown, down from 3 sec. Now deals 160% weapon damage plus 796.8 (224% plus 1116 if a one-handed weapon is equipped). This is part of an effort to get us to use Heroic Strike more often, I think. It really was a poor ability for Arms even through Cataclysm (Slam did more base damage despite the meager critical chance boost, and the only real value from Heroic Strike came from Incite), and it’s never been a popular attack for bleeding off extra rage in my book. You’ll see what I mean a little later.
- Heroic Throw: Now has a 30 sec cooldown, down from 1 min. Now does 50% weapon damage and no longer causes high threat. Didn’t really find myself using this in combat either, except as a lead-in to a Charge most times.
- Incite: Reworked: Your Heroic Strike criticals cause the next Heroic Strike to also be a critical. These guaranteed criticals cannot re-trigger the Incite effect. This is now a passive baseline ability, once again an effort to make Heroic Strike more “regular.”
- Intervene: No longer has a stance requirement or rage cost. Now only takes the next hit while the target remains within 10 yards. So now Arms Warriors can try to save a healer in a pinch. Where am I going to find a place to put the damn ability?
- Intimidating Shout: No longer has a rage cost. Now has a 1 min cooldown, down from 2 min. This has some very interesting PVP implications.
- Mocking Banner: New. Throw down a war banner that forces all enemies within 15 yards of the banner to focus attacks on the warrior for 6 sec. Lasts 30 sec. You can Intervene to your war banner. 30 yd range, 3 min cooldown, Instant cast. More of a Protection ability, obviously, but could be handy for kiting. Heroic Leap and some rocket boots, perhaps?
- Pummel: Now has a 15 sec cooldown, up from 10 sec. No longer has a rage cost. We’ve traditionally had one of the longest cooldowns on any of our interrupt abilities, and this has always bothered me a little. Now we’re increasing a cooldown on a rarely-used PVE ability, and a crucial PVP ability? We’ve gone from being good to have around in an Arena to the red-headed stepchild of PVP. Interestingly enough, we’re now actually really useful in PVE, where up through Wrath, you could get more DPS by swinging a dead cat in the direction of your monitor.
- Shattering Throw: No longer has a stance requirement and no longer does damage based on attack power. Um..¬† okay.
- Skull Banner: New. Throw down a war banner that increases the critical chance of party or raid members within 30 yards of the banner by 30%. Lasts 10 sec. You can Intervene to your war banner. 30 yd range, 3 min cooldown, Instant cast. I like this one, obviously. 10 seconds of 30% bonus crit? Really good for heavy healing needs or a point where you need more burst on a boss. I’m still reserving judgment on how I feel about these banners, though. I need to use them a while. Where’s my beta access, Blizzard?¬† /shakefist
- Spell Reflection: No longer has a stance requirement or rage cost. …Huh. Guess I’ll have more reason to carry a shield around, unless they remove that requirement from the ability. I’d have less of a problem using something like this consistently if it didn’t turn my spec into such a gimmick. “Oh, hey, I can spell reflect, but I’ve got to trigger three whole global cooldowns to make the switch, use the ability, and then make the switch back to a weapon that actually does damage!” Call me selfish if you want, but it seems like this is just lazy design.
- Sunder Armor: No longer causes a large amount of threat. Yeah, didn’t really use this a lot anyway. I raid with Rogues and Druids.
- Taunt: No longer has a stance requirement. Hmm. This will be nice, actually. No more stance changes for fights with mechanics like Beth’tilac.
- Thunder Clap: No longer has a stance requirement. Now reduces target’s physical damage done by 10%, down from 20%. Damage no longer increased by attack power. This one becomes our AoE bread and butter, I think. You’ll see why a little bit further down.
So overall, we’ve got some really good changes, I think. Some things are a little confusing (the cooldown extension on Pummel, for instance), and a lot of things look like they’ve really got some potential. So let’s look at the stuff that’s going to be just for us Arms types.
- Blood and Thunder: Your Thunder Clap now also applies Deep Wounds. This is why Thunder Clap becomes our bread and butter ability. Stomp, make everything bleed, then go to town.
- Colossus Smash: No longer has a stance requirement. Now costs 30 rage, up from 20. Smashes a target for 175% weapon damage plus 221 and weakens their defenses, allowing your attacks to entirely bypass 100% of their armor for 6 sec, and causes the Physical Vulnerability effect on the target. Bypasses less armor on players. Weakens the constitution of an enemy target, increasing their physical damage taken by 4% for 30 sec.¬† The rage cost increase is something we’re going to see a lot of, and I hope that the changes to rage generation are really going to be able to balance it out. There are a couple things that will help – one that we’ve already seen (Enrage), and one that’s coming up a little further down the list.
- Die by the Sword: New. Increases your parry chance by 100% and reduces damage taken by 20% for 5 sec. 2 min cooldown.¬† I suspect this is what Retaliation is becoming, if it hasn’t already. Good potential in both PVP and PVE, I think.
- Mortal Strike: Now generates 10 rage. Now has a 6 sec cooldown, up from 4.5 sec. A vicious strike that deals 125% weapon damage plus 1282 and causes Mortal Wounds on the target.¬† The idea of Mortal Strike being a rage generator is just WEIRD to me. Don’t get me wrong – I like it. I have a feeling we’ll need the generation. The extended cooldown sucks a little bit, though, and it feels like they’re trying to give us more GCDs in between abilities (probably to use more Heroic Strike).
- Overpower: No longer has a stance requirement or rage cost. Now does 140% weapon damage, up from 125%.¬† These rage-free abilities are very interesting, especially something as explosive as Overpower, and especially for its synergy with Taste for Blood coming up a little further down.
- Seasoned Soldier: While wielding a two-handed melee weapon, your Physical damage dealt is increased by 20%, up from 12%.¬† This has been long overdue in returning. This actually gives us a respectable chance to keep up with most other DPS classes. Right now, we’re HEAVILY outdistanced by Rogues and Hunters and most casters who make more use of huge haste benefits from buffs like Heroism/Bloodlust.
- Slam: Now costs 30 rage, up from 15. Now is instant cast, down from 1.5 sec. Now does 150% weapon damage, up from 145%.¬† Hallelujah. No more “cast time” on an ability that should never have had it in the first place. The increase in rage cost makes this automatically inferior to Heroic Strike going forward, however, and if they’re both at 30 rage each, unless our rage generation is HUGE, I just don’t see using Slam all that often anymore. Again, this is one of those things that I need to be able to TEST.
- Sudden Death: No longer allows you to keep 10 rage after using Execute.¬† I’ll miss that part of the ability, but at least it still allows Mortal Strike to reset the cooldown on Colossus Smash.
- Sweeping Strikes: No longer has a stance requirement. Erm…¬† yay?
- Taste for Blood: You have a 100% chance for Mortal Strike to enable the use of Overpower, and a 30% chance for Overpower to enable the use of an additional Overpower.¬† If this is actually operating as it reads, this could provide some interesting burst, and also explains why the rage cost was removed from Overpower. I like the fact that they’ve finally tied these two spec-defining abilities together, and I think it’s got some good potential for some serious damage output. I can’t wait.
As you can see, there’s a lot of neat stuff going on here! The changes to Mortal Strike, Slam, Heroic Strike, and Overpower are absolutely key to making Arms work going forward. Now that Rend is gone and Mortal Strike and Overpower are synergistic, the original Cataclysm priority makes a few changes based on exceptions. The current priority is as follows:
(Rend->)Colossus Smash->Overpower->Mortal Strike->Slam(Heroic Strike>70 rage)
The changes to the abilities, however, make for some interesting possibilities between Overpower and Mortal Strike:
Colossus Smash->Mortal Strike(Overpower)->
Overpower(Mortal Strike)->?(Slam/Heroic Strike>70 rage)
This, of course, means that so long as you have Overpower continuing to activate new Overpowers, you’d utilize it over any other ability.¬† Zero rage cost for big damage? You betcha. When it stops triggering new Overpower usages, you go back to Mortal Strike. What I’m not so sure about is the last part of that priority. Heroic Strike and Slam will both have the same rage cost in Mists, and a 1.5 second cooldown is just a GCD. Why would we even use Slam anymore? Does this mean Slam becomes the rage bleeder when you’re above 70 rage, or is Heroic Strike still off the GCD and would it allow you to use both at once?
I sorely need to test this. Blizzard, where is my beta invite?