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The Warrior’s Charge: Warrior performance in the Emerald Nightmare raid

Okay, now I’ve raided Emerald Nightmare and killed enough bosses (plus seen bosses I haven’t killed yet) as both a tank and as DPS. So this column will be discussing my experiences therein. But as a round-up, here are my initial thoughts on state of Warriors in the game’s latest raid: Protection still feels pretty good, but DPS is lackluster.

Protection’s Shield Slam nerf was reverted, but Ignore Pain took the hit instead, with a 33% whack to it at max absorption. But raid tanking still seems fine. I jumped in to fill a gap and tanked three bosses — Nythendra, Renferal, and Dragons of Nightmare — I felt like the healers kept me up okay and that my overall threat was solid enough, so no real complaints here. However, this is a big soloing hit for Prot.

On the DPS side, Arms is the clear leader, although Fury does have pretty solid AOE, to the point where I usually do trash packs as Fury and then switch to Arms (although I did Ursoc and Il’gynoth as Fury) for bosses. Fury saw some single target buffs but they didn’t go far enough, in my opinion — the spec needs help. By comparison, Arms is solid, if unremarkable.

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The good

I found that even post nerf, Protection works very well. Ignore Pain took a beating — losing 33% of its max absorption should quiet every Paladin who complained it was OP right the heck down. A lot of flaws in Protection after the nerf to Ignore Pain aren’t really as noticeable when tanking in a raid. That said, a 33% nerf was pretty excessive. I really think that was a bit much.

It’s been a long time since Prot was the most mobile tanking spec, but Heroic Leap is still nice. I took Bounding Stride because I wanted to make sure I could gather up Renferal’s adds faster, but Crackling Thunder is attractive on that tier as well. I’d argue that Protection is definitely a spec where you can take whatever talent you like the most and you’re rarely wrong. I was using a fairly weak Protection Artifact — only item level 820 and nowhere near fully invested with much Artifact Power — and we still did fine overall. Even though I intend to primarily play DPS this expansion, once my Artifact Knowledge gets high enough to make it really count I’ll likely drop a fair bit of AP into the Scale of the Earth Warder.

Honestly I’m not sure what to say about Prot Warriors. It really feels like a Jack of All Trades tanking spec. Not as mobile as DH’s or Monks, but solid. Lower AOE DPS than DK’s or Paladins, but solid. Very strong mitigation and good to really good threat. There are also that can let you customize how you go about tanking. Would you rather have a big Impending Victory heal every 30 seconds, or are you happier with healing everyone in your raid over time with Inspiring Presence? Are you more into Ultimatum or would you rather get Renewed Fury?

I never felt envious of other tanks or like I was holding the raid back.

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Arms wins the DPS race

As a DPS spec, Arms is better than Fury right now. I don’t know what’ll happen once we’re running Nighthold and our gear is approaching ilevel 900, but at 84o to 850, Arms is your winner. It gets better at higher ilevels as well. My DPS set is approaching ilevel 850 but it’s got more Crit than you want for Arms — Mastery, Haste, and Versatility are all better for Arms than Crit right now — so I’m a bit behind. Still, I have no complaints: it’s nothing that time and better itemized, higher ilevel gear won’t fix. Talent-wise, I vacillate between In For The Kill and Focused Rage — I like having the DPS increase during an Execute phase on Ursoc, for example, but I generally like having Focused Rage for bosses with longer periods of time before you get to Execute.

If you like Arms, then I’d say definitely raid as Arms. It’s the spec to use. Of course, I therefore went Fury and am now in the process of leveling a second Artifact to DPS in raids… and as we’re about to see, Fury isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire DPS wise.

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Fury DPS plummets in raids

Right now it’s a neck and neck race between Fury Warriors and Frost Death Knights for who’s doing the worst as melee in raids. Both are being soundly thrashed by Survival Hunters, who just became a melee spec in Legion. Fury gets better in better gear but it’s always well below Arms and in general stays near the bottom no matter how well-geared it gets.

Now, as I mentioned, Fury saw some hotfixes that buffed Bloodthirst and Rampage damage by 12%, Furious Slash, Raging Blow and Execute damage by 5% — but this barely even moved Fury damage. Just looking at the last week of Emerald Nightmare DPS, Fury is still in the basement post buff. Clearly these buffs didn’t do the trick. What would?

Well, quite frankly, Rampage costs too much rage. It’s something you almost need to talent both Carnage and Reckless Abandon if you hope to use the ability enough to actually get some good damage out of it. Even then you’ll spend a lot of time hitting Bloodthirst and Furious Slash waiting for that button to light up. Rampage and its free Enrage are too important to the Fury DPS picture for it to be 85 rage baseline — it makes it so you have absolutely no choice but to take two specific talents just to hit that button enough to be meaningful. Even at sixty rage Rampage isn’t up enough to dig us out of the hole we’re in, DPS wise.

Failing a significant drop in Rampage’s rage cost (I’d drop it to 60 baseline, 45 with Carnage) then everything is going to need to do more damage. And I think that’s kind of risky. Fury Warriors are already really strong in Mythic dungeons because they can hit Whirlwind and supplement that with Raging Blow and Rampage to do very solid AOE damage. Baseline percentage DPS buffs seem risky to me and I’d rather see a solution that makes Rampage easier to use while keeping everything else more or less where it is now.

So how are Warriors doing?

Overall, I feel like Prot is okay, Arms is okay, and Fury needs help in raiding. But raiding isn’t the whole game anymore — there are Mythic dungeons and lots of World Quests. So how do Warriors stack up outside of the raid environment?

We’ll talk about that next column.

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