[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.

14 thoughts on “[Cataclysm] Rage changes, and the beginning of the end

  1. “We also know that when Blizzard tried to normalise rage at the beginning of TBC, warriors got shafted. ”

    Bah humbug!

    Warriors lost their monopoly on raid tanking. They went from 99.9% of raid tank spots to 80% and screamed until Bears got nerfed.

    Forum game design at its worst.

    • Did you try playing a warrior at the beginning of TBC?

      edited to add: Also, need to check this but my memory is that bears got nerfed due to PvP.

      • Yes.

        No, it was due to Warriors losing tank spots. It was inevitable that people would get upset, Warriors had an almost total monopoly on raid tanking and it was taken away from them.

        The whole thing was a complete mess.

        They opened the door to Druids and reset the gear so some veteran tanks were astonished to see “healers” soaking damage better and keeping aggro better. This mainly happened when the Druids came out of the blocks faster, working harder on gear, hitting 70 faster and so on. Regardless people who had tanked for guilds for 2 years were told “sorry dude, we’d rather heal him”.

        Then a massive Druid nerf was announced, I actually ragequit at that point. Within hours of the patch (which gutted Bear tanking) threat was hotfixed back onto Bears. I imagine the developers panicked a bit as a slew of Druid players cancelled.

        It was an utter mess and unfair on everyone.

      • I’m not entirely sure what you’re saying here. All druids came out of the starting blocks faster and worked harder, and then the evil warrior forum mob had them nerfed?

        But I remember being frustrated to tears trying to tank heroics on my warrior and being teased that bears could do the same content easily. I remember working my arse off trying to gear up to tank Karazhan (and paladins had it even worse) when bears in my guild could get the stats just using crafted gear.

        And even though you dismiss it, I do remember bears being absolute monsters in PvP, to the extent that their damage had to be nerfed.

        It really doesn’t matter now, since it was years ago. But really I wish people would stop blaming warriors any time another tank gets nerfed. Blizzard really doesn’t nerf based on forum whines.

  2. I played a Tank Paladin in Classic, so believe me if I say, that it was a hard time, when the only tank by design was a Warrior.
    Therefore I brought my Warrior Twink just over the level 60 border, a month before TBC.

    I am definitely not a Spinknatic, in some cases I even think her, observations miss the bigger picture, but in this case, she is absolutely right.

    Yes, Warriors lost their tank privilege in TBC, but that was not related to Rage normalisation. But rather to a philosophies change in general class design (Taunt and Manarestoration from a Paladins Perspective for instance).

    The rage normalisation however had a severe impact on the warriors general balance. This problem was the inverse parallel to the actual “vicious cycle” that Spinks described.
    In TBC rage was balanced around End-Level gear, so before having access to higher gear, Warriors were starving for rage.
    In WotLK, the developers chose the other way around, and balanced rage on regular gear, with the consequence, that they had to reduce the rage generation with every increase of Item-Level.

    So the “rage problem” does exist since classic, and has never been successfully solved. With Cataclysm they will try to bring this drama to an end.

  3. The description of how prot warriors will gain rage seems really broken and they will have to chacnge it before it goes live.

    Rage from damage taken will be based on a percentage of your health (it says). Well what about going back and tanking heroics now. I have 50k health in heroics, and get hit for 0-4k typically. As announced, this will result in virtually zero rage meaning that I have to generate all of my rage from damage done and/or shield specialisation (5 rage per attack avoided).

    They’ll need to put some kind of minimum rage per hit received in there, or rage starvation in farm content will get worse rather than better. This will make the system even more complicated than it already is.

    Also – what’s with heroic strike then? If it is on the GCD then it will need to be more attractive than say devastate, mortal strike or bloodthirst (depending on spec). I can either see it being dropped altogether, off the GCD (awesome!) or warrior rotations being unbalanced and broken when 4.0 hits.

  4. I don’t feel your “fear”, from the looks of things Warriors and Druids are going to get several “fixes” and buffs, for example no rage-starvation and maybe with the overhaul of heroic strike they’ll stop doing so much aggro as dps, it’s virtually impossible to hold aggro in heroics on multiple mobs against an icc25 geared warrior and I get some of those, I just let mobs on their face in hope their plate saves them.

    Actually I’m worried Paladins are going to be nerfed badly because people complained a lot about their popularity and “easiness”. Actually, Death Knight’s resource management was the most balanced, independent from taking damage or not and how much damage is he doing (he won’t get more resource for hitting harder). Paladin’s mana management isn’t the best, spiritual attunement is tied to taking damage and is even in worse state than Warrior’s rage since the “not getting rage when power word shielded” was fixed.

    Death Knights have their own problems, as tanking cooldowns being tied to resources and breaking rotation or not available when you’re trying to press them. As far as I know, no other tank class has resource cost on their big tank cooldowns, the cooldown length on itself is the only limiting factor.

  5. My thoughts are that Blizz apear to be be mostly talking the right talk. They do seem to be acknowledging some concerns and saying they’ll be addressed. Certainly it will be a challenge to get all the tanking classses equal without being boring. I’m a bit worried that what blizz are simplifying on one hand (Armour Pen going etc) they’re re-introducing in spades elsewhere (floating hit cap depending on tier of content, haste soft caps for rage geberation). Time will tell.

    In the end though its the dollar vote. I will be buying Cata. I will be leveling to Cap, playing a Worgen and a Goblin to explore new leveling content. Will I be raiding and continuing on past the 2-3 months that will take me? I hope so, if its fun, and if it is Blizz get my hard earned. If its not they wont.

    • I think it is way too early to worry about stuff like fury warriors possibly needing haste. We just don’t know enough about what they are planning with these instant rage generators, shouts generating rage, and other mechanisms.

      We know rage is tricky to model, and one of the big questions will be how you balance rage generation for a fury warrior wielding two slow two-handers vs a cat druid which hits much more quickly. There will be a hit cap regardless, and I like the idea of haste being more useful to warriors than it is right now (ie. barely at all).

      • Oh yeah I agree with most of what Blizz are muttering about. I’m a leeetle worried that some of the stuff on the fringes looks waaaaaaaaay more complex. But hey Jurys out till its live…

  6. I’m… cautiously hopeful.

    Warriors are in a unique position as the only class that starts out empty in every encounter. Even Death Knights, who have a similar fill-and-empty mechanic with Runic Power, can at least do something until their magic happy bar goes live. Warriors are stuck with nothing.

    Normalizing rage to a standard amount based on weapon speed instead of damage isn’t bad, but… until we see more hard numbers and actual gameplay, it’s a broadcast straight from Theoryland. Anything to cut out the problems of low-gear or high-gear warriors is good, but whether or not this will actually accomplish that goal is another story. Removing Heroic Strike from constant rotation is also good, but at the same time it doesn’t sound quite like it’s going to be ridding us of the fundamental irritation of the ability.

    I suppose I’ll find out on release with the rest of us. But I’m hopeful, cautiously.

  7. The rage mechanic has always been rather wonky. It’s always had scaling problems, making warriors extra gear dependent. If they normalize it enough, rage will end up essentially being equivalent to energy. I’m not sure if I like that or not, but the old “Rogue in Plate” label for Fury warriors will be a bit more true.

  8. As I understand in addition to Bloodrage, warriors will also gain rage from their shouts. A on use rage boost to keep the machine rolling. Is this true for Druids as well? We don’t have a shout, but adding a rage boost to Demo Roar would be welcome.
    Also rage will come in at a set amount regardless of damage just on every hit dealt and received. So is the warrior better off in the fact he will have a choice in weapon speeds (an option), while bears are rooted (hehe) into the 2.5 attack speed from dire bear form? If anything druid tanks will want haste to maximize the number of attacks going out.

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