It’s no secret.
What’s also no secret is that the developers are really struggling to find a solution. They know that warrior players, particularly long term ones, are heart sick of this routine because it’s no fun to become competitive and then be hit time after time. “Rage normalisation” has been the touted solution more than once, but more than once it hasn’t worked. Cataclysm probably saw the most savage nerfs ever applied to the class from a DPS perspective, to the point where Fury simply became unviable for tier 13 progression. Of course, Colossus Smash played its part in this expansion but, traditionally, the problem has been rage income and what warriors end up doing with it – naturally, then, nailing a way of managing rage effectively is the development holy grail which all scaling will forevermore hang off of.
But is there another solution?
So, where are we coming from?
Here’s the latest commentary from Mr. Street himself:
”I agree with that, but here's the thing: we don't want warriors to scale linearly. What I mean by that is that as you increase gear, you'll be hitting harder and critting more often. Both of those are fun, don't get me wrong, but after you get over the thrill of BIG NUMBERS you start to see behind the curtain a little. Fundamentally, there isn't a huge difference between hitting a bad guy for 3000 or 30,000, especially when the bad guy's health has probably increased by ten as well.
What feels cooler is if you actually feel different with great gear. Instead of just hitting harder, you are hitting different buttons. For warriors, that means having enough rage to use Heroic Strike frequently instead of rarely. But that means we need to start warriors in quest greens at the "rarely" side of the dial, so that when you're in epics in the final tier, you're now at "frequently."
Historically, what has happened is that warriors start at "never" and then grow into "always." Rage scaling with gear was too good. It needs to scale, and a little bit of exponential scaling is ideal, but the end of the curve can't rocket up towards the sun.”
The reasons for rage scaling aren’t important. They’ve been discussed to death and need no repetition. What’s important is that there are two major points to take away from this comment and they both deserve discussion.
1) In the latter part of his post, Ghostcrawler talks about breaking the never ending cycle of warriors scaling far too well with gear thanks to rage inflation. Time will tell on this.
2) In the first part of the post, it’s explained precisely why the potentially more challenging route is being taken.
It might strike you as small news, but it’s pretty far-reaching for the Lead Systems Designer to make a comment like his first; that the amount of damage you do isn’t important. What’s more important is that you, as a player, FEEL like you’re doing more damage. The rotation changes, your buttons change and you get to use more attacks. The way you play the class at the start of the expansion should feel different to the way you play it at the end, but not totally unfamiliar. In the past this has simply translated to “use Heroic Strike more”, but that’s not compelling and isn’t really giving warriors any room to grow. This is the reason why rage has taken a hammering in the MoP beta and why you won’t have the rage to fill GCD’s with Slam or Wild Strike all the time; if you’re GCD-capped, the only growth you have is via Heroic Strike, and that’s a very finite amount of room for said growth.
The fact it’s leading to some pretty ugly circumstances for the Arms rotation isn’t really the point for the moment, that’s down to Taste for Blood. It’s by design intent that the rotational gaps are there because it’s the only way to stop warriors from simply macroing Heroic Strike to everything once they’re in great gear, and gives the class room to grow. I’m assuming that the plan is for warriors to look like this (assuming three tiers of content):
Start of tier 14: GCD’s not all filled.
Start of tier 15: GCD’s all filled.
Start of tier 16: GCD’s all filled, lots of Heroic Strike.
I’m also working from the viewpoint that talent choices will change for PvE, as Shockwave becomes Dragon Roar and Stormbolt becomes Bloodbath. Now naturally, this is in direct opposition to what we’ve seen in the past. In general, talent trees have remained the same throughout an expansion once the cookie-cutter was found and the raiding tier breakdown looked a bit like this:
Start of first tier: GCD’s all filled, lots of Heroic Strike by the end.
Start of second tier: Nerf. GCD’s all filled, lots of Heroic Strike by the end.
Start of third tier: Nerf. GCD’s all filled, lots of Heroic Strike by the end.
We all know that this is a gross oversimplification, but essentially we’re talking about warriors using the same talents and rotation throughout an expansion, but being “reset” with a nerf at the start of every tier. This is neither fun nor effective for progression, but it’s almost the only way the issue could be reasonably handled to keep warriors competitive. Oh, by competitive I mean “not consistently overpowered”.
But is there another way?
While I can see the design intent behind all of this, and understand (I hope!) what the developers are trying to do, it doesn’t alter an immutable fact that Ghostcrawler just doesn’t seem to be getting:
GCD gaps in a rotation are NOT fun.
I see why they may be utilised as a means of growth throughout an expansion, but that means that “balance” is coming before “fun” when playing a class and that’s an absolute tragedy. Another problem is that the numbers are very hard to get right, but that’s not my concern. My concern is that I’m being forced to live with rotational gaps that are clunky and frustrating, while also feeling as if I’m playing badly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m down with the way Ghostcrawler is approaching this and happen to agree that bigger numbers don’t make me feel like my gear is improving my output. But the fact is that I don’t want to be reliant on gear before I can start playing in the fast-paced way I’ve always enjoyed. I mean, come on, how does standing around with nothing to press make you feel “furious”, a frothing and raging berserker?
I don’t get it.
One thing I’ve noticed, however, is how healers tend to grow through an expansion and how their spell choices change. I also play a priest and, despite the group being terrible enough to wipe four times in Blackrock Caverns, I noticed that I’d started to use Greater Heal in the same way I had previously used Heal. Now sure, much of this was due to abnormally poor play (seriously, wtf is wrong with these people?) but when you see raid videos from a healing PoV, their use of bigger heals as the expansion wears on is noticeable. When Heal was once the maintenance cast, bigger health pools and better regen mean that Greater Heal can be slotted into that role fairly painlessly. It’s actually quite sophisticated, and implies that Blizzard were right about healers all along. It implies something else, though:
Could this work for DPS rotations, particularly warriors?
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it can. The implementation could be awkward, achieve nothing but the addition of bloat, and hopelessly complicate the starting rotation for new players. But on the other hand, I like the idea of using an attack in lower gear because I can’t afford the better attack, then growing into the better attack as the expansion wears on. Think of a weak version of Slam that has a low rage cost, but lets you fill up your GCD’s and prop up your damage prior to gearing up to using Slam. Clearly it would be weaker than Slam and would need to be tuned around Heroic Strike to avoid Slam being replaced completely, but I hope you can see what I’m trying to say.
A lowest level attack in the priority queue, but one that’s constantly available in low rage situations. It could break down like this:
Mortal Strike: 150% weapon damage. Builds 10 rage.
Overpower: 125% weapon damage. Free.
Diet-Slam: 125% weapon damage. Costs 5 rage.
Slam: 200% weapon damage. Costs 25 rage.
Heroic Strike: 75% weapon damage. Costs 30 rage.
In this example, I’m using dreamed-up numbers. But what I’m trying to illustrate is that for every Mortal Strike rotation you’re guaranteed the rage to Diet-Slam twice, and marrying up a Diet-Slam with a Heroic Strike will never be a better use of your rage than Slam will. Remember; the idea is to grow into Slam and more consistent Heroic Strike use as the expansion wears on, with skilled players able to get the most out of the system for the highest performance.
Could it work?
Would it be worth it?
Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t think the current model is hopelessly flawed and, truthfully, is pretty near the mark once the silly integration of Taste for Blood is fixed and Heroic Strike stops directly competing with Slam for rage. I’m also a big fan of Matt Rossi’s recent commentary that seeks to embrace rage rather than curtailing it, similar to the barbarian class of Diablo 3. But at the moment, the only role in the game that reliably changes up their rotation as an expansion wears on is the healing role, so I’m just wondering if there’s something to be learned from that.