Van Cleef: Drop. Your. Sword.
So a funny thing happened to me on the way to the Deadmines.
I was pretty down on level 19 Warrior twinks in my review of the 4.0.1 changes. The loss of so many abilities was pretty daunting, and struggling in areas where I previously excelled was downright depressing. Going from a tank with unshakable aggro to one where everyone pulled off me was a humbling experience, even if I was running with twinked DPS. PvP was painful, with casters and rogues running roughshod over me, feral cats jumping on me from the shadows, and paladins refusing to die, no matter how much damage I did.
I took a few days off to regroup. I stopped trying to farm the AGM, since several guilds were gearing up twinks and competition for the trinkets was getting too fierce. I rolled a bunch of alts.
Then one day I said, “let’s solo Deadmines, ‘block.”
And we did.
And it was hugely fun. Why?
- Damage is up across the board on all abilities in PvE. As Prot, Shield Slam hits like an absolute truck.
- I made sure to take Shield Specialization, and with multi-mob pulls I never had Rage issues.
- Not only did I not have Rage issues, but I never had to worry about aggro.
- The additional health, armor, and block chance means you’re taking very little damage from pull to pull.
- The self-healing of Victory Rush changes the entire style of play, allowing you to maintain your health by killing things. And since you’re not in a group, you can be sure it procs every single time.
- Execute is a huge finisher.
- Having Victory Rush and Sunder Armor available in both Battle and Defensive Stances meant that I didn’t have to sit in Defensive Stance or stance dance; I ended up staying in Battle Stance since I wasn’t worried about aggro, and wanted Charge and Execute.
I’d soloed RFC and most of Wailing Caverns before this patch dropped, so I knew it was possible to solo these instances at level. But while RFC was a bit of a multi-mob faceroll in 3.3.5, WC required a lot of caution and care with each pull. It was slow, careful going, and after a while I got pretty darn bored of the whole thing.
Deadmines, on the other hand, was a riot, with miners running all over, elites and normal mobs mixing with impunity. It was a blast. I started off cautiously, but by the time I saw how much damage I was throwing around, how I could use Victory Rush to keep myself healed up, and how little damage I was taking anyways, it was soon a romp over the Defias.
My second run (I was already hooked), the Cruel Barb finally dropped for me. With the nerfs to Shadowfang, Cruel Barb is now the highest DPS 1-hander available at level 19. You sacrifice stats for raw Attack Power, but if you have the Stamina from other places it’s awesome. +12 AP is equivalent to +6 Str for Warriors, and the next highest stat weapon is Butcher’s Slicer, with +4 Str/+3 Stam. The Barb already has higher raw DPS than the Slicer (15.8 vs. 15.2), and with the additional AP it is the clear choice for raw DPS.
So I’m sitting there, looking at my new toy, and it strikes me: I should go Fury, and wield two of these monsters.
I prefer Crusader, because when you get simultaneous procs, really great things happen.
I’ve never really played Fury before, though I do have a Combat rogue in her mid-40s. I grabbed a bunch of weapons out of my bank to try out offhands, eventually settling on the trusty Venerable Mass of McGowan for my OH weapon. The Mass and the Sacred Charge both received some slight changes in the latest patch, with the Charge now brought up to being a very good alternative to the Mass. Basically, they both give you Agility and Stamina (for tanking); the DSC gives you a lot of Crit, while the Mass gives you Crit and Haste. I grabbed the Slicer as well to try it out, though I think the Mass helped me out more in the earlier runs.
It took me a few times to get used to soloing Deadmines as a Fury warrior. Fury plays a lot like I remember playing a Blood DK; as long as you can keep your self healing going, you’re unstoppable, but you take a lot of damage in the process. If I pulled too big, especially with elites, then I’d wipe.
Victory Rush is really the key to Fury soloing right now. You’re putting out so much damage that your goal is to burn though a mob, any mob, and kill it to offset the damage you’re taking with another Victory Rush. As long as you can repeat that process, you’re fine – but if the damage overwhelms your kill rate, then you’re going down. I found that I’d start off a big pull losing a lot of health, but once the mobs started dropping I’d go right back up to full.
Bloodthirst is the other tool in your Fury aresenal to help out with this kind of fighting. It gives you a small heal back while attacking, and doesn’t suck up much of your Rage while doing it. It does respectable damage, but can be hit more often than Shield Slam. I found in high-Rage situations I’d alternate between Bloodthirst and Heroic Strike while waiting for Victory Rush (and Execute) to proc.
Blood Craze helps out with the self-healing, giving back more than Bloodthirst but less than Victory Rush.
And, while I’d been farming the Arena Grand Master trinket, I’m glad I didn’t rely on it while soloing. Dual Swift Hands of Justice provided increased DPS on top of healing on Killing Blows, giving a lot of small heals to offset the incoming damage.
The Cruel Barb refused to drop for me for a long time, so I spent a lot of time practicing how to solo Van Cleef as a Fury warrior. I made a video on one of the early attempts that shows how the spec plays as a solo artist.
Yes, it is totally as much fun as it looks.
(I did speed up the video, because even a run with no wipes is about 30 minutes long. It’s not RFC. You can play Yakity Sax in the background for full comedic effect.)
I kept running it, and what kept impressing me was how out-of-whack damage seemed. I was able to 1-shot normal mobs with regularity, and elites were lucky if they lasted 5 seconds. I know that I’m twinked for maximum damage, but there were times that I’d pull off a 1513 Execute crit and know that levels were out of whack. (The 700-800 Victory Rush crits were even better, to be honest – most of Execute’s damage comes as overkill.) I fully agree with Zarhym’s assessment that combat times in the lower levels are too short, and that it’s not PvP we’re talking about here. PvE is totally unbalanced at the lower levels right now.
Anyhow, after a dozen runs or so, the second Barb finally dropped. By then I was ready for something different, so I took Cynderblock back out into the wide world and picked up questing in those areas that are going to be changed in a few weeks. Most notably: Darkshore and Ashenvale.
"So, they sell insurance in this tower? I don't think they get a lot of foot traffic out here..."
Aside from wanting to complete as many quests as possible with Cynderblock, there was one quest chain in particular I wanted to finish – The Tower of Althalaxx, which I remember being a total PITA trying to do at level 30. I admit, I’m juvenile, and I’ve refused to call that tower by its proper name ever since I got there – this is the Tower of Aflac, and I quack “AFLAC!” at it every time I have to deal with it.
Well, the Tower of AFLAC has a pretty nice quest reward, Seraph’s Strike, a sword with good DPS and Spirit, useful for health regeneration. I figured I’d pick it up before it vanished in the Cataclysm, and bang out the Darkshore/Ashenvale quests while I’m at it. (You have gotten your Furbolg wand, right?)
Only… wait a minute.
Lower level items have had their stats rearranged, and… woah.
Did all that Spirit get converted into Hit? Like, are you kidding me? +10 Hit on a 2-hander?
Having that much Hit (4.72% at level 19) is huge for DPS. Huge. It knocks off nearly the entire Miss column for at-level targets, and makes hitting higher-level mobs much, much easier. Good for twinks, good for levelers… this is a good sword. A really good sword.
How good is it?
Well, I pulled out my DPS spreadsheet (not ready for primetime, that’s another post) and plugged in the new numbers. Wow.
Pre-Crit, Seraph’s Strike has a white DPS of 22.54, greater than Glacial Stone (22.25) and Smite’s Mighty Hammer (21.29). The Hammer might make more sense for boosting attack power, and the Stone puts out solid DPS numbers, but the Strike now gives a great blend of both.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m enjoying the heck out of Fury, but I may have to go Arms and try out a 2-Handed build just to see how this sword performs before the damage nerfs come in.
Anyhow. Warriors are still doing fine. PvP is broken as a whole right now, don’t worry about it. Aggro is hard because damage is too high. We’ve lost some tools, but gained new ones.
And Cynderblock has her groove back.