Possibly the most widely contested class in all of WoW, the Warrior has gotten some pretty interesting changes that should make for a completely new, and welcome, experience. Among them are changes to the rage system, the removal of "on next swing" timers, and interesting take on dual wielding, and some very intriguing new abilities.
Let's start by taking a look at the 3 new abilities Blizzard has planned for us Warriors:
1. Inner Rage (trained at 81)
Once the warrior reaches 100% rage he enters into an enraged state causing all attacks to cost an additional 50% rage but also do an additional 15% damage for an undisclosed period of time (I imagine it will be rather short, probably less than 10 seconds). Think of it as a "Limit Break" (Final Fantasy 7 style) where if you let your rage buildup you can unleash some very nasty attacks. Unfortunately with the current rage model (the system in which warriors gain rage to attack), players with lower tier gear will probably never find themselves taking advantage of this ability. Personally as a Fury Warrior myself, I think this definitely adds another level of strategy rather than mindless rotation mashing, however I'm a little nervous at the increased rage cost at 50% while the increased damage is only 15%, to me it almost doesn't seem worth it.
2. Gushing Wound (trained at 83)
Think Rend on steroids. For those of you who aren't familiar with warrior abilities, Rend is just simply a warriors go-to DOT (damage over time) ability. Gushing Wound is set to replace Rend by allowing it to gain up to 3 stacks, which would increase both it's damage output and longevity. Interestingly though is how you cause it to gain stacks. Traditionally you would just have to keep mashing the ability (think Sunder Armor) but with Gushing Wound you get stacks whenever the target moves, and the duration also refreshes. With that in mind it will be curious to see if kiting a boss will now be an effective way to dps (damage per second) or if the traditional tank and spank will still take prevalence in which case Gushing Wound will unfortunately be a PvP only ability.
3. Heroic Leap (trained at 85)
I'm not entirely sure what Blizzard is thinking with this one, and really all I want to do is /facepalm. The ability causes the warrior to leap in the air at a targeted area (not sure yet if it is targeted by the user like a mage's Blizzard, or if it will be using an enemy target as the center of the effective area) dealing massive damage and applying the thunderclap debuff to anything caught in the effective area. This isn't the first time Blizzard has attempted to bring back "Leap Attack" from Diablo 2 and while it sounds interesting and "fun" I believe that it's an ability that is very lacking in practicality. I would assume like all "ranged" abilities that it will have a min distance so warriors will only ever be able to use it to begin an encounter or to escape from the fire in PvE environments. So that leaves PvP, where even then it would only be beneficial to use it in a large group of enemies, and I don't think I remember the last time I saw a mage doing Blizzard in a Battleground...
Abilities and Mechanic Changes
Unlike other classes, many of the coming mechanic changes have a significant impact on warriors. First and foremost is the removal of "On next melee swing" timers, so abilities like Heroic Strike and Cleave will now be instant and will most likely be tweaked in both damage and rage cost accordingly. This is a pretty huge change on it's own as it will throw a wrench in the warrior DPS rotation. Normally the Fury priority rotation goes roughly along the lines of Bloodthirst > Whirlwind > Slam (if it's up) > Heroic strike always up (providing you have the rage... also this is a rough rotation on a single target, for a detailed rotation just send me a message and I'll be glad to assist). That rotation however hinges on the fact that Heroic strike doesn't eat up a GCD (global cooldown) as it's a swing alteration ability. With the upcoming change though warriors will have to fit it into the rotation, same with cleave.
Another huge change for warriors is that shouts (Battle Shout, Commanding Shout, Demoralizing Shout etc...) will now cost no rage and in fact will generate rage but will last for a shorter duration of time. Working much like that of a Death Knight's Horn of Winter where you will get a buff and a burst of resources allowing you to kick start your attack. This will work great for newer less geared warriors who have problems generating rage but for higher geared players this change will most likely have little effect unless the changes to rage generation are extremely drastic.
Lastly are some of the ability tweaks that will be rolled out in Cataclysm. For all you Arms PvP warriors out there unfortunately your Mortal Strike healing debuff is being reduced to 20% as the healing in Cataclysm is not going to be as ridiculously high as it is now. For all the Fury PvE warriors out there, Whirlwind will now be hitting an unlimited amount of targets, however it will only hit for 50% of weapon damage now. So expect to only use Whirlwind in big packs of mobs and remove it from your single target rotation. For the tanks (and the unlucky dps warriors who don't raid with a protection warrior) Sunder Armor is being changed to a maximum of 3 stacks down from 5 so it's less of a punishment to get them originally up there, and easier to get back if they fall off during the encounter.
Talent Changes and Additions
With the new talent changes being rolled out the lines blurring Arms and Fury are finally being completely dissolved. Whereas at the beginning of Wrath of the Lich King, Arms was the most viable DPS spec as it gave the best return on the lower tier gear. Now Arms is being tailored specifically towards PvP with changes such as Disarming Nature, a new talent that causes successful disarms to fear the target for 5-10 seconds and Blitz which causes Charge to do increased damage depending on the duration of your Charge. Fury will now become the go-to PvE DPS spec with talent changes like Furious Sundering which will allow Fury warriors to apply the sunder armor debuff while still causing 50% weapon damage and reducing threat generated by 100%. This is a huge talent as previously warriors had no aggro dump and only one talent that reduced threat, so this talent is a very welcome change indeed. Also to be noted is Improved Pummel which will cause successful Pummel's to generate 20 rage, a pretty good incentive for warriors to start paying attention to boss cast timers. Other smaller changes include the removal of any weapon specialization talents and that any talents that deal with rage reduction of abilities will now focus on increasing the damage of those abilities instead.
Mastery Stat Preview
New in Cataclysm is the Mastery stat. This stat will quite simply make you better at your current mastery, basically meaning if you spec with most points in Fury the Mastery stat will make you better at being Fury in a variety of ways. Each spec will provide the areas of improvement that the Mastery stat will govern. For Arms it will be overall melee damage, armor penetration and Bonus Swings (this will work similarly to the Sword Specialization talent of old where your melee swings have a chance to deal a second attack for 50% of weapon damage. Fury warriors will notice increased melee damage, melee haste, and Enraged Intensity which will buff abilities like Death Wish, Enrage, Berserker Rage, Enraged Regeneration and Bloodrage. Protection warriors will notice more damage reduction, Vengeance (this is an interesting ability that increased damage the warrior deals the more he gets beat on by a boss, ensuring that threat will never be a problem even when all your DPS is decked out and dealing ridiculous damage) and Critical Blocking which simply allows your blocks to crit (block for more, not hit back).
This concludes the preview for Warriors, I hope all you warriors out there are as excited as I am and I will see you shortly with the Paladin class preview.