Patch 4.0 has hit and with it a lot of grumbling, moans and rage-quit comments. Myself? I am usually dead excited by changes like this as the slate has (sort of) been wiped clean. Protection Warrior knowledge as it stands seems to be very limited right now, full of conjecture and guesses until someone can actually work up the numbers. This post is my own rumination over the changes inherent in 4.0 and an idea after hearing all sorts of comments from around the Interwebs. Just to point out, I have yet not been able to fully experiment with the changes so at the moment this is kind of a guess post which I will follow up on with an actual “battle test” report for those interested. So bear with me as I go through my musing and attempt a bit of backseat theorycrafting.

Defense Rating

This is gone. If you want to be crit-immune this is even easier than trying to stack Defense Rating. All you need to do is hit up two talent points. And if you don’t take the full two points out of Bastion of Defense, then you’re an idiot. This is as close as it comes to a compulsory talent selection as there is in any tanking spec. In fact, all tanking specs now have the same talent option for becoming uncrittable, albeit with different names for each class.

What Blizzard have done with Defense Rating in your gems, enchants and gear is convert it into dodge or parry. Which brings about another interesting change. Dodge and Parry now both provide the same amount of mitigation. Before, dodge was preferred over parry to a certain point. Now both seem to have the same avoidance abilities.

Mastery and Block

Now this is very interesting. A Protection Warrior’s Mastery is additional block, regular or critical block. Block has also been changed so that Block Value now only affects how often you block and not how much. Every block has a base mitigation value of 30%. In other words, if you block (affected by block value), you will prevent at least 30% of that damage from affecting your HP.

If you happen to reforge into some Mastery, however, you can increase how often you block. But should you? The guys over at Elitist Jerks seem to favour Dodge and Parry above Mastery. But I think something that I have heard a lot in blog and forum posts recently might indicate, at least for us Warriors, that this isn’t as simple as it seems…

Rage Issues

There has been a lot of complaints by Warriors (not me personally, as I said I have yet to test the changes) about being rage capped a lot. It could simply be a side-effect of using Herioc Strike and/or Cleave too often as pre-4.0 you would pretty much queue the two abilities to consume every “white” hit. With the change Blizzard have made to the Heroic Strike and Cleave mechanic (it no longer is an on-next-hit ability but an ability off the Global Cooldown with a very short cooldown itself and double the rage), if Warriors are continuing to try and use either ability as before, you will definitely rage-cap yourself.

If, however, this isn’t the case, and even judicious use of HS and Cleave is still causing rage issues, perhaps the problem can be layed directly at the preference for Dodge and Parry before Mastery.

See, rage is a rather unique energy source. Warriors need to get hit. If we don’t, we can’t hit back. The more often we get hit the better for our rage. But, this needs to be balanced quite finely with not getting hit too much or … well … we die. Best case scenario, you turn your healer that now OOMs much faster into a raging Warrior hater, and I have a Priest so we really don’t want me hating me now do we?

Personally I am interested in seeing if using the Mastery might help that balance. By removing some Dodge or Parry through reforging into Mastery, you are allowing yourself to get hit more often, and therefore generating some more rage. But by moving that into Mastery, you are reducing the impact of those hits by blocking more often.

Basically, my thought is that instead of totally avoiding hits, which doesn’t allow you to build rage, let yourself get hit but mitigating those hits instead, so you get rage but you don’t get all the damage. And the one advantage is that even if you reforged every item with Dodge or Parry on it, you can only reforge 40%, meaning you will never get rid of all avoidance stats just some.

I am not suggesting that Dodge or Parry is useless, far from it. But with all defense rating being automatically converted into Dodge and Parry, and current theorycrafting suggesting Dodge and Parry are preferred over Mastery, most warriors might be far to slippery a target for the big bads to clobber on. And, like I said before, we no get clobber, we no give clobber. Mastery just seems like an interesting way to make building rage while hiding behind our big walls of metal a better tactic at avoiding Rage capping.

So whats next?

I think I will experiment a bit with this setup. After fixing my Warrior for 4.0 I will tank with some members of the guild with no Mastery whatsoever and watch my health, rage and threat generation. Then reforge as much as I can into Mastery and see the difference. Undoing a reforge is free so that won’t be an issue if I need to roll back some changes.