[Cataclysm] Rage changes, and the beginning of the end

Blizzard picked the Easter Weekend to begin dribbling out the hard information about class changes for Cataclysm.

We know that there will be many changes, and that talent trees are being completely reworked. We also know that some classes will change more than others, and that the design team want to take the opportunity to make some large, far reaching changes/ fixes.

But we also all know that this really means the beginning of the end. From here on in, it’s going to be all about Cataclysm (with a brief pause when the next patch drops for some ruby sanctum and echo isles saving fun)

So what does the future have in store for warriors and bear druids?

The major design announcements this weekend were all about the future plans for Rage and for Heroic Strike/ Maul.

As usual this expansion, Blizzard have been very forthcoming about listing exactly what issues they are trying to address:

  • Warriors/druids in the lowest levels of gear can be Rage-starved.
  • Warriors/druids in the highest levels of gear no longer have to manage their Rage when it becomes infinite.
  • Warrior/druid tanks lose Rage income as they improve their gear and take less damage.
  • The gameplay of warrior and druid tanks loses a lot of depth when massive boss hits means never having to manage Rage.
  • Heroic Strike and Maul are effective, but tedious abilities for using up extra Rage.
  • In general, warriors and druids don’t have enough control over their Rage.
  • To resolve these issues, Rage will be normalized in Cataclysm. This will make the Rage gained by characters more consistent and avoid drastic differences between low-end and high-end gear.

This is going to be a great change. All of those issues? They are all true right now. We’ve experienced them and they make the game less fun than it could be. They’re going to be addressed, and I can’t wait to try out the new design!

The other big issue is that DPS warriors currently get nerfed several times per expansion due to the way gearing up affects both their rage and damage output. (It’s the opposite of a vicious cycle; when you hit harder you get  more rage, so you can spam more attacks, which means you get more rage …)

Also, it sucks when you are unlucky with getting tanking weapons (yes I’m still using the one from Flame Leviathan when I don’t just sub in a DPS  1 hander), because your damage directly affects your rage and a weapon from a later instance will do more damage, regardless of the defensive stats on it. I’m hoping that Cataclysm will eliminate tanking swords which will both save us some hassle and stop people whining quite so much when 1 handed swords drop.

Anyway, the great thing about rage normalisation is that it will no longer dependent be on your damage output(or how much damage is done to you). So both a new DPS warrior and an overgeared Prot Warrior will no longer have to worry about being rage starved, although +hit (being able to hit the target) will still be important.

Warriors and Bear Druids will both also get more sources of instant rage – so if you really need to pick up some adds quickly or throw down some burst dps, you’ll be able to grab a dose of emergency rage.

There are some risks with the new rage normalisation scheme:

  1. Tanks left unbalanced while Blizzard tweak the new scheme. We know that DKs and Paladins are both strong tanks and that all of us Bears and Warriors want to try to stay competitive. We also know that when Blizzard tried to normalise rage at the beginning of TBC, warriors got shafted. If it happens again, there will be very few warriors/ bears tanking in Cataclysm because they’ll see the writing on the wall and switch to a different tank class.
  2. Tanking rotations get too complex. Whatever happens, tanks need to be able to keep up some threat output whilst dragging bosses around the room in a complex pattern, avoiding fire, and still being ready to use an interrupt/ cooldown as needed. If there are too many other variables to watch at the same time, it could all get a bit too stressful.
  3. One size fits all. Is there really a model for rage that will work for prot warriors, bear tanks AND two different dps warrior specs without leaving one over or under powered?
  4. Class in general gets too fiddly/ less fun. The temptation to just switch to paladin (or death knight) with its more forgiving model and similar functionality for the next expansion is going to be high. For example, I already find DK DPS rotations to be smoother and more fun than the warrior equivalent, plus DKs get much more utility while in DPS mode.
  5. The change is too great. This is more likely to apply to druids, who notoriously have a fairly dull tanking rotation. Some players probably love it the way it is right now and don’t want a ‘more engaging experience’.

Bornakk also comments, wisely:

We understand this change may be scary for many players, but keep in mind that the constants in the formulas for gaining Rage will give us the ability to make quick adjustments if we feel Rage generation is too low.

So they will be looking to make quick adjustments if this needs more tuning. Pre-expansion class changes in the past have always been patched in about a month or so before a new expansion drops. So that means we should have a chance to both play with the new normalised rage AND for Blizzard to tweak it appropriately before Cataclysm goes live.

Call me a glass half full person but I’m looking forwards to seeing how this plays out. And if we all hate it, then we all just reroll paladins or death knights (if we don’t have them already).

On next swing abilities – Maul and Heroic Strike

These on next swing abilities have been a quality of life issue for a long time. Many warriors and druids just use macros to basically smash this thing into the keyboard on every autoattack. (e.g. every ability is macroed to include Heroic Strike, such as: /cast Revenge /cast Heroic Strike and then you can just mash the buttons normally and the next swing ability should be constantly queued.)

There is currently some rage management involved, but not a lot. I see it mostly when playing Fury, which is the only warrior spec that uses a rotation. So it’s important to keep enough rage back to allow you to use the full rotation.

In future, this will change.

To clarify on Heroic Strike, it costs a third of your rage bar when you hit the button, but you can’t hit it unless you have 10 rage and it will only ever take a max of 30 (since that’s essentially a third of your full bar). The intent is that when you don’t have a lot of rage, it’s not an attractive button. When you are gaining too much rage, then you want to start pushing it.

No longer will you be required to spam it on every attack, and you won’t have the infinite rage that would allow you to do so in any case. Blizzard also comment that they have plans which will allow tanks to keep tank damage and threat high – we just don’t yet know what they are.

This is going to have a much greater effect on Bears than on Warriors, since they depend far more heavily on Maul for their threat. I also think Bears stand to gain much more from a more interesting play style and rotation. They have complained plenty about spamming Swipe and Maul, so hopefully this will be more fun.

The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Orange (well, red maybe)

I am really looking forwards to trying out these new changes, and hope we’ll get a chance to do so before Cataclysm drops. I always enjoyed Rage as a mechanic on my warrior and I do feel that these changes keep the general feel of it — you will still gain rage both from attacking AND from being attacked.

Unlike some others, I don’t think warriors have been broken this expansion. I don’t think Protection has ever been as fun to play as it is right now, and I’m seeing designers looking at our current issues and finding ways to make it even more fun and less annoying.

But we can’t look at tanks in a vacuum.  If we aren’t happy with our warrior/ bear changes, we will simply switch class for the next expansion. (Other tank classes are unlikely to receive such sweeping changes as this rage redesign, because they don’t need it as much.) That’s the risk.