Checking out the Warrior Q&A

I’m a big fan of Blizzard’s recent series of class Q&A (question and answer) articles. I like that the devs are willing to come out and chat about the design of each class, mechanics, unique aspects, and design issues that they’d like to highlight more in future. I’m finding the articles very interesting, even when I’d probably already guessed most of it.

I don’t really expect to be surprised by anything in a Q&A about a class I’ve been playing for awhile. Hopefully by that point I should have figured out what the unique parts are and what’s most fun about it — but it’s nice to see that those things are there by design (or at least that they’re well understood).

I know it shouldn’t surprise me when the bboards erupt with pent up aggression in the wake of each Q&A, complaining that they didn’t say enough, talked about the wrong things, or failed to give a detailed point by point prediction of all the buffs that are due to that class in the next year or so. I just think they’re missing the point. I guess people are just so desperate to engage with the developers (and talk about their character from a me-first point of view) that they aren’t that interested in the wider picture. I had a friend who went to GenCon once with a T-Shirt that said ‘Don’t tell me about your character’ … but I digress.

Anyway, onto the Warrior Q&A. Most of this won’t be surprising to anyone who knows the class. A lot of basic warrior issues are because the design goals the class was first created with became outmoded by either later design decisions or other classes.

It’s fine to have a class with one tanking talent tree, but how can you compare with death knights or druids (who can switch very fluidly from tanking to dps)? And paladins share many of the warrior issues, but because they were designed as a utility class first they bring a ton of extra utility and buffs. So we’re all roughly equivalent tanks (at least that’s the intention) but all the other tanks just …. do more as well.

Warriors are, however, still considered by the player base to be one of the most fun classes in the game. Any time you look at a bboard thread asking which is the most fun tank, a lot of people will still point to the warrior. And I know I find mine to be one of the most fun melee classes I’ve played in any game.

And in the Q&A, they discuss why the class is fun and what makes it unique. Lots of situational abilities, being able to switch stances as necessary, and rage (which is not actually unique but counts as warrior-specific because druids only have it to mimic warriors … ok then.)

I change my stances like I change my shoes

See, I’ve had this pair of Doc Martins that I’ve worn with jeans for the last year or so. Then there’s this one favourite pair of sandals that come out in the Summertime, as well as the obligatory espadrilles, and cute ankle boots in the Winter. Plus smart shoes in various colours when I’m dressed up for the evening. And so on.

But what I don’t do is change my shoes several times a minute. Unless I’m in a shoe shop trying on some new footwear.

The purpose of stances is for warriors to have to make decisions in combat. How badly do I want to Intercept now? Should I pay the cost of Spell Reflect? Ideally, we want warriors to switch stances in combat — not every few seconds, but a few times over the course of a battle. Now we realize it’s going to be harder to enforce this in raid fights unless you have a battle with a lot of movement or other unusual circumstances.

This did surprise me because Blizzard have made changes in Wrath that actually make it easier to stay in one stance for the whole time. I no longer have to switch stances to break fear or use charge, for example. Protection Warriors basically live in Defensive Stance these days, even for soloing. So I had thought they were moving away from this idea.

I can only assume that he’s mostly talking about PvP here. I don’t disagree in principle, it is fun to be switching stances as needed and to be able to show off your stance dancing skills. I like situational abilities too, being able to react to what is happening around me makes me feel more engaged with the game world. It’s the main reason I don’t much enjoy playing dps — too much sitting there and just hitting your rotation, not enough responding to the rest of the fight.

It would be a lot more fun if each stance had different attack animations though. That’s the one thing I was most sad about when I first started to use them. I’d played MUDs which had a stance mechanic and always tried to imagine my character standing and moving differently. That’s what a stance means, right?

We like macros (obviously, or we wouldn’t have them in the game), but we like for them to simplify chains of things that you have to do often without making decisions in between point A and B.

I freaking hate macros. I particularly don’t want to feel forced to write macros to play my class as well as another class that doesn’t need them. Pointless chains of button pressing are pointless.

And this is the big problem with using stances to lock off abilities. An arms warrior can only interrupt by either equipping a shield and hitting shield bash, or switching to berserk stance and hitting pummel. Compare that to a death knight or rogue who has ONE BUTTON to use for an interrupt and can use it whenever they want. What exactly is the point of adding redundant chains of button pressing there? If the ability was unique, then fine (like the fear breaking). If not, it’s just going to make you think ‘why am I having to press these pointless buttons, oh wait I’ll write some macros and then I won’t have to do that any more’ — in which case, why force people to write the macros at all?

So I think stance switching to access abilities is cool, but there has to be more to it. If it’s just a case of macroing ‘stance switch – use ability – switch stance back again’ then is there really a point?

Repurposing the Arms and Fury Trees

We also need to make some decisions about the difference between Arms and Fury. Traditionally, Arms was the PvP tree and Fury was the PvE tree. We understand some players prefer that model, but we don’t like the way it cuts off such a big chunk of the class from players who might not have much interest in the PvP or PvE parts of the game. However, we would like to reinforce a little more the kits of Arms and Fury. Everyone (I hope) gets the difference between Frost and Fire mages. Arms is supposed to be about weapons and martial training and feel “soldierly.” Fury is supposed to be about screaming barbarians in woad.

I think this one is a lost cause.

Sure, we all get the difference between Frost and Fire mages. Frost mages use frost spells and it’s the most popular PvP tree. Fire mages use fire spells and it’s a PvE tree. That actually sounds quite similar to Arms and Fury at the moment (Fury uses dual wield and is a PvE tree, Arms uses one two-hander and is the most popular PvP tree).

Still, the class is stuck with two dps talent trees and the devs would like to give them more identity. I can’t help feeling that this involves fixing something that isn’t really broken. Having said that, if they want to cut loose and find ways to make arms and fury more fun and focussed, I’ll happily try them out.

So how is the damage looking

Warrior damage should look like that of Feral druids, Enhancement shamans, Retribution paladins, and death knights. If their damage isn’t at that level, then it’s possible our numbers need some tweaking. However don’t always assume that you can’t possibly improve your gear or your button mashing either. =)

People should really stop whining about this (yes our dps warriors are way behind the ferals and death knights at the moment), he actually said that if the damage isn’t at that level then there will be some tweaking.

But there is another issue here and it’s connected with the gear, and the rage mechanic. Rage is a closed loop, you get more rage when you do more damage. So as gear level increases, warriors also get more resources to hammer out higher dps rotations. You end up with a highly gear dependent class, so if devs take their dps checks from the hardmode guilds, it doesn’t necessarily apply for people who aren’t at that end of the gear curve.

Warriors need to become less gear dependent. It’s the one major design issue with the class. Yes, it’s fun to see how your performance increases with gear but the class can never be balanced as long as the hardcore guys are overpowered and the new 80s are underpowered. All they can really do is make it easier to get the gear — which would be massively easier if Blizzard would relent and put more weapons on the badge vendors.

There is some evidence that Fury may overtake Arms dps once you get really good weapons. Dual-wield yet again shows its propensity to scale very well.

Firstly the really good weapons need to drop in the first place. Then you need to fight off all the other two handed users to get two of the dratted things. And if you want them for offspec … it isn’t going to happen. But feel free to keep telling us how great life might be in that mirror universe.

(I would love to know what proportion of fury warriors might ever get good enough gear for this to apply to them.)

Still, the game is what it is. Hopefully the next generation of games will have figured out a way to do non gear dependent progression in a happier way.

Everquest 2: Dragons vs Fae

This week, Arbitrary and I were determined to get our dragon ladies to level 20. I’m not sure if level 20 means anything really significant in EQ2 but when we first created the characters, we were given a quest that gave out a title if you made 20 within a limited amount of time. So it seemed like a good waypoint.

In practice, with the various levelling bonuses and recruit-a-friend bonuses, the actual levelling side was very quick and easy. And since we’d paused at around level 18 last week (OK, maybe we did sneak an extra session in over the weekend) we knew it wasn’t going to be overly traumatic to pick up the last two levels.

Gorowyn: City of Falling off Ledges

Gorowyn is the Sarnak city, and we’d wound up near one of the entrances so it seemed a shame not to go and explore. It is built inside a huge cave with different tiers of the city on ledges. You get around using lifts and pulleys and moving gondola-type things.

It wasn’t really a very convincing city. Seemed more like one of each sort of ‘necessary’ NPC (ie. class trainers, profession trainers, vendors, quest people, guards) laid out in standard pattern. And a pub, which I liked. I just think it lacks any sense that NPCs actually live there, and I wasn’t picking up much of a racial flavour to it either.

One thing we did like was that when you talk to the guards, you can ask directions to people by name. So if you are looking for a quest NPC, you can type in their name and the guard will illuminate a glowy trail leading you towards them.

There was also a certain amount of falling off ledges. I’ll come back to this as it seems to be a theme in EQ2 cities.

How are the dragons shaping up?

After our brief encounter with dragon civilisation, we decided to go on to the next quest hub and do what we do best – mass genocide.

Now when we created these characters, we picked them because we thought they looked cool. We noted that Sarnak were listed as evil (races in EQ2 are divided into good races, evil races, and neutral ones) but in the starting area we hadn’t seen much evidence of this. Sure, we were wandering around and decimating the local ecology but that’s just what characters do in these games, right? I hadn’t seen anything that tipped the Sarnak onto the evil side of the scale.

I think our genocide expeditions, where we were sent out to exterminate the opposing race via slaughter, biological warfare, and starving them to death kind of righted the balance on that one. I was almost disappointed when one of the NPCs stopped us and told us to go back to the city for more orders but it turned out to be OK. We were just being asked to halt the genocide because our dragon lords had decided these bird guys might (just might) be more useful alive.

I do like the writing so far. The quest NPCs don’t come across as being stupid, and don’t treat you as if you were stupid. It’s all very businesslike.

This particular quest hub was much more old school than the previous one. You know the setup where there’s a load of mobs out in the field, and a quest hub. And you get sent out to the same place on five different occasions, each time going a little bit further into the mob area, until finally you get to kill a named mob and they let you move somewhere more interesting?

It was that.

So at level 20, I’m quite liking the Fury. I’m not loving it, but there’s an element of ‘been there, seen that’ involved. Also, it’s a bit off-putting that anytime anyone asks in trade chat what classes are good, everyone tells them to play a Fury.  I’m also figuring out roughly how the buffs work – I think buffing characters have a concentration stat that controls how many buffs you can have active at any time. Some of the buffs are more like auras (ie. you put them up, they stay up until you cancel them, and they affect your whole group), others are timed buffs that need to be recast. There’s a runspeed group buff which has been a particular favourite.

I also get my first shapeshift at level 20. I can turn into a lioness. Rar! It’s a form with some melee combat bonuses (hadn’t thought the Fury was a melee class but what do I know) and more amusingly you can also cast spells in lion form and it has a silly cast animation.

I was amused that on one occasion, Arb ran in somewhere and pulled a ton of mobs by accident (or so she claimed!), I was healing, it was all a bit chaotic. When it calmed down we looked around and noticed that we were still alive and the mobs weren’t.

And I was like, “I don’t think my heals are all that good.” *facepalm* They’re fine, evidently.

She’s not all that thrilled with the Shadowknight, and part of that is not really grooving on the look of the class. At level 20, I look way better in my leathers than she does in her plate, and that’s not really inspiring. It may be that high level plate looks better but it’s hard to say from where we are now.

Checking out other classes

So the dragon duo was working well, we’d seen the dragon city and killed lots of stuff. But somehow we didn’t really love the characters. It seemed a good time to explore alternatives. EQ2 has tons of classes, and it was easy to make a list of other options that we both thought were interesting. Then we had to figure out which combination could end up with the same faction and starting area.

I am very impressed with at least one aspect of the class design. It feels as though you can get a good sense for how a class plays from very early on. I’m not sure if it’s an accurate sense but from scanning forums and talking to people, I think it could be. So the Fury is a healer/nuker with lots of buffs who relies heavily on DoTs/HoTs. The Shadowknight is a solid AE tank with some magical effects and buffs thrown in.

The next combination we decided to try out was Monk (unarmed fighter, it is tankish in nature but not really, if that makes sense) and Dirge (rogue type support class with lots of buffs). Both these classes are further in concept from types we have played before, which is part of the appeal I think.

Arb is still keen to try tanking, but hated the look of the plate armour. So the Monk, with its cool animations and ability names seemed like a good fit. I was bored of casting and wanted to hit stuff – didn’t really fancy the Warden so I picked on one of the other melee support classes.

The Dirge does remind me a bit of my burglar in LOTRO although I think I prefer the Dirge so far. You get to move around a lot in combat, and there are positional attacks and various stuns and debuffs that are set off by your melee moves. In addition, it has a ton of useful buffs. So more of a buffing than a debuffing class I think. Not sure how much of a problem it will be to not have a healer but there’s only two of us and not a full group, and the Dirge’s melee-oriented buffs might work out well.

We ended up picking Fae for our race which meant we got to check out the Fae starting area. I think Fae as a race may be a bit thick. They name their local landmarks things like ‘Drippy Cave’ and ‘Orc Hill’ and the NPCs act like idiots. I suspect the writers were going for a childlike gleeful view on life. We rolled our eyes and got on with it.

The best thing about playing Fae is the wings, which look awesome and also mean that when you (inevitably) fall off ledges, you actually glide gently to the ground instead of crashing down like a brick.

We did notice that this duo was more fragile than the tank/healer combo, but that just meant that we had to be more careful with the pulls. Drippy Cave (I can’t believe I walked into a place called Drippy Cave) was a trial by fire. We picked ourselves up and went back there about three times before perseverance and ‘not acting like bloodcrazed lunatics’ won out and we finally cleared our quests there.

I’m finding the area much more charming than the dragon starting area. I’m sure this is intentional but the introduction to the Fae city is also simply more engaging than the dragon equivalent.

So what’s next?

I think the aim now will be to get the Fae alts to 20 also and then decide which we feel like playing. The nice thing about playing as a duo is that we don’t feel any pressure to hurry to endgame so it doesn’t really matter if we futz around at low levels and try to work out what we want to play.

I still haven’t had much of a chance to look at tradeskills or the EQ2 cardgame, both of which I’m curious to try.

One thing I do feel about the game is that they throw a lot of complexity at you deliberately. There are mechanics which are simply more awkward than they need to be. The skill system is one of them. As I understand it, you get to learn two versions of every spell – and they’re both on the same cooldown. You can upgrade them separately so every time you either go up a  level or upgrade a spell, you’re supposed to check your spellbook to make sure you have the current best version of everything on your hotbar. But I could be entirely wrong, there’s just a lot going on that I don’t really comprehend.

I’m thinking that they’re aiming at players who love the idea of being thrown into an incomprehensible world and trying to figure it out. And I say this with no irony intended. It is quite an engrossing experience and a lot of players adore the challenge of complexity.

It just feels very … old school sometimes.


Since learning that dual specs were coming in patch 3.1, I’ve been very reluctant to respec. I think — oh man, if I can just wait a couple more weeks I’ll be doing this as much as I want, do I really need to spend this 50g on respecs right now?

Actually it’s down to 45g at the moment (note for non-WoW players, the costs of respecs go up by 5g every time you do it until it reaches a max of 50g,  then for every month you don’t respec the costs start to go down again.) I know this because I respecced to Fury for Monday’s Malygos raid, which was our fastest 25 man raid in history. It was a quick and easy one-shot.

I have missed my occasional Fury respecs, dammit. There is something about clicking on those talents and then having to manually equip two 2-handed weapons because my wardrobe addon won’t do those for me that says YES! UNLEASH THE BEAST!


I was also amused that I’d been teasing our tankadin about the relative uselessness of block value gear, and he’d made some comment about  5-figure shield slam values. If that ever happens for me, it’ll be in some gimmick fight like Thaddius where everyone’s damage is crazy buffed … and I wouldn’t be using block value gear. Or if someone accidentally blows up a spore on me at Loatheb. But I  did see some some 5-figure crits pop up when I was swinging away on Malygos in my Fury gear. RAR!!

When I talk about my experience with Fury I want to TYPE EVERYTHING IN CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS!! Fury spec is just that metal. I don’t find it as involving as tanking and I’d get bored fast if I was a full time dps warrior but damn if it isn’t fun. It’s the only spec on any class  I have played that makes me giggle. Usually when those 10k+ crits come up.

Big numbers are fun numbers. My next project will be to write an addon to work out how many prime number crits I get as Fury. I’ll call it something like … FURY PRIME! (See, how metal does that sound? That could totally be the title of a Metallica album.)

Great things come from 10 man raids

I’m going to talk more about 10 man raids later this week but one of the great things about them is being able to pick up off-spec gear easily. I do this without really thinking about it, if dps plate drops and no one else wants it, I just hoover it up. And I always stick some sort of enchant/ gems on new gear, even if it is just something cheap. It’s the perfectionist in me, I can’t stand leaving the gear ‘naked’.

So my off-spec gear is really not bad at all. I had about 200 hit, 17 expertise, 4k attack power, 34% crit. It’s just that most of the time the off-spec gear stays in my bags, and I’d never actually put it all together like that before.

And this was all without ever ‘stealing’ gear from a primary dps.

What about the actual cool part of that Malygos fight

OK, OK, I’m just coming to that. Well, apart from the bit where I got 10k cri— oh yeah I said that already.

When the dragon was dead and we checked the loot, there was a collective oooooo on voice chat. Reins of the Azure Drake were waiting enticingly in the loot chest. This is a rare flying mount, and one of the prettiest. You can just about see the head armour in the screenshot below, it is the only armoured drake in the game.

There was much excitement. I didn’t win it, but here’s a picture of the beast in the capable hands of the lucky warlock who did!