The latest beta changes actually have quite a significant impact on warriors of the Protection variety. Though some of the changes appear largely innocuous, they do provide an interesting insight into how the developers see the class evolving over the course of the beta and into Mists of Pandaria.
For the sake of clarity, I’m not going to go through the changes one by one; this is because some of the changes appear to be flat, savage nerfs when not viewed in accordance with other things. Other than a couple of tweaks and some pretty random jiggery-pokery, there’s a lot to love here.
All told, however, I think Protection warriors have been buffed a little in general, with one significant change for the better.
Let’s get at it.
First off, stance roles have changed but not really for tanks. Battle Stance now doubles the rage you receive from white attacks, while Berserker Stance generates rage from damage taken. Looking at this from a developer point of view, I think they want the DPS stances to be a bit more of a grey area and infer a bit more thought. Previously, Battle Stance was the option for single-target damage and ‘zerker was for specific AoE attacks, but there’s no compelling gameplay in that. At worst, players will macro Bladestorm to ‘zerker and, at best, they’ll not bother with ‘zerker at all because “trash is pointless”. With this change, damage doesn’t come into it and it’s about what nets you the most rage; with the added bonus of this differing throughout encounter phases, the content you’re playing, or even the role you’re currently performing.
The second reason for this change appears to be a realisation that rage starvation isn’t fun for DPS specs. Damage itself can be toned up or down, but if players feel they can’t use their attacks then they’re going to enjoy the game far less. Other changes seem to mete this out. Berserker Rage now increases your rage generated by 50%, while Enrage itself now also benefits from white attacks while having its rage contribution doubled.
All in all, it’s pretty obvious the developers want rage to be easier to come by for DPS warriors and make stances actual choices. I reckon these are good changes.
However, for us shield-bearers, Defensive Stance has really gotten the goody bag.
Decreases damage taken by 15%. Reduces the chance you will be critically hit by melee attacks by 6%.
Not only is the awkward level with which our critical strike immunity arrives at being made far more sensible; we’re getting another 5% base damage reduction from Defensive Stance. That’s a pretty massive buff for warriors and something that goes quite a distance to solving a few problems. Another nice buff is that Spell Reflection is returning to its 15-second cooldown, something that’s very welcome for tanks but probably more welcome for Arms warriors in arena.
That’s the baseline changes for all warriors, and our talents have only seen a couple of tweaks. Enraged Regeneration has now had its duration reduced to 10 seconds for the same healing (making it more powerful) and Piercing Howl has had its duration increased to 15 seconds. While that is very “meh” for tanks, it’s a wonderful buff for warrior PvP due to the sheer number of GCD’s it’s going to save. I shouldn’t need to mention its battleground potential.
So our talents have essentially been buffed, but they’re still due a significant overhaul because they’re still garbage. Whether we get it or not is up for grabs, but I really think we need it.
So let’s talk about Protection and the changes there.
Bastion of Defense now increases block chance by 10%, which is a 5% nerf in basic terms. This seems to be the cost of the 5% base damage reduction and, in my opinion, is fair enough. I’d rather have the flat DR which will affect everything than a 5% higher chance to block. The talent has, however, lost its 10% armour contribution from equipped gear but the spec hasn’t lost it; it’s just been moved to Unwavering Sentinel which now increases armour by 10% rather than reducing the chance to be critically hit. It doesn’t look like this is any more compelling than just spreading the love which, frankly, doesn’t make much sense to me. Why not just put the goodies into two talents and ditch one rather than trying to prop up three? The difference will only be felt while levelling and it’s hardly a big difference, so I really don’t see the point.
Revenge has also seen a buff, however, having its cooldown reduced to 4.5 seconds. Not only will this net more damage (particularly with the cleave), it will speed up our rage generation by introducing more opportunities for Sword and Board to proc. There’s nothing to dislike here.
Finally, however, we approach the showstopper of these patch notes – the change to Shield Barrier. I’ll quote it for the sake of being thorough:
Raise your shield, absorbing (1% of 10000% of AP) damage for the next 6 sec. Absorption amount increases with attack power.
So, rather than flat magical damage reduction, Shield Barrier is becoming an absorption that scales with attack power.
The implications for this are really very important. First of all, an absorption makes the ability actually compete with Shield Block depending on the situation. Secondly, it allows warriors to plan for physical nukes that are otherwise unblockable without necessarily needing a major cooldown. Finally, the ability scales with attack power; presumably including Vengeance!
This is actually a very clever way to do several things; it gives a point to Vengeance being in a game where threat doesn’t matter. Rather than propping up damage for no objective reason, Vengeance now has a direct part to play in our defence. Not only that, but Shield Barrier will rise and fall in strength depending on how much damage we’re actually taking. Should we be getting hammered hard enough for Vengeance to be high, the shield will reflect that and help more. Should damage be relatively low, the comparatively lacklustre Shield Block will become competitive because of its duration and guaranteed block.
Perhaps most importantly, Shield Barrier now has a role when damage is physical. On content with no magical damage, Shield Barrier may as well not be on your bar for all the good it does. Yet, as an absorption, it has a place depending on your Vengeance level and the situation at hand. If you’re about to be hit by something like an Impale or Hagara’s Focused Assault, you now have an option outside of Shield Wall with which to deal with it.
Honestly, I cannot be any happier about this change and I can’t say enough about it. Assuming they get it right, it’s a game-changer for a fundamental problem warriors have been wrestling with since Wrath of the Lich King.
The last point I want to make about Protection warriors in the new changes is about the Glyph of Incite. Here’s the text:
Your Devastate hits cause your next Heroic Strike or Cleave to hit for 100% more damage.
Pretty cut and dry, really, to the point where this is likely to become cookie-cutter for Protection warriors. There’s no down side to it thanks to the Ultimatum talent guaranteeing use of Heroic Strike (aside from when you’re offtanking), and our other glyph choices don’t exactly reek of awesomeness. Assuming the Ultimatum tooltip is cleaned up to include Cleave, this is an unambiguous damage upgrade under all circumstances.
So, that’s it for my Protection rundown. Arms wise, there’s not a lot else to report; Mortal Strike has been buffed while Overpower has been nerfed, and the cooldown has been removed from Sweeping Strikes, presumably because of its restrictive rage cost. If you’re playing Fury, your single-target damage is coming down, particularly if you’re playing Single-Minded Fury, at a price of increased AoE prowess (SMF, Bloodthirst, Raging Blow and Wild Strike have all been nerfed; Whirlwind has been substantially buffed, and had its cooldown removed for a slight increase in its cost).
Finally, with regards to glyphs, there are a few changes but they’re largely cosmetic and still keep them within the realms of “choice”.
And that’s it for this post. While Protection warriors are still pretty far from the finished article, these changes are a step in the right direction; as far as Shield Barrier is concerned, it’s a HUGE step in the right direction.
I’m looking forward to the next set of notes.