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Spam, thinly-Cleaved

March 20, 2010

Pretty much every Protection Warrior has been in the current situation at some point in their tanking career: Tab-targeting is just not cutting it anymore, any pull with more than three mobs is starting to get a bit harder to control when people are going all-out. So what do they do? They buy the Glyph of Cleaving (easily found in your neighborhood’s Auction House!), macro Cleave to a frequently-used move like Revenge or Thunderclap and go to town with it!

That usually does the trick, and then our little Warrior Tank That Could find out how invaluable Cleave is to a healthy and satisfying trash tanking experience, just like Heroic Strike is the key to keeping Bosses looking at you instead of at that juicy Mage just beyond his range. There’s only one problem with that, of course: Cleave is spammy.

Beloved Wikipedia, our Lord and Savior says:

Spamming, in the context of computer games, refers to the rapid, repeated use of the same item or action.

Such a definition fits Cleave (and his single-target, high-threat brother Heroic Strike) like a glove. Since Cleave is a next-melee attack and not on the Global Cooldown, and tanking weapons are generally pretty damn fast, you’ll need to hit Cleave pretty much every single time it’s available to be able to make the most of it. To give an example, Rimefang’s Claw, the best entry-level tanking weapon I can think of, is a Speed 1.7 weapon. Meaning it swings every one-point-seven seconds. That’s about as often you’ll have to hit the Cleave key to make it as useful as it can be. It basically means you have to hit one ability plus Cleave (or Heroic Strike) pretty much every Global Cooldown. Now that is some curry-flavored spam!

The issue that affects Cleave the most, however, is the target limit on it. While Heroic Strike is a single-target attack that adds extra damage and threat on that single target and is therefore perfectly adjusted to its function, Cleave is a multi-mob attack that only hits 2-3 mobs at a time for extra damage and no extra threat. Compared to off-GCD tools such as Glyphed Maul plus Swipe and Seal of Command plus Hammer of the Righteous, Cleave ends up doing less damage and less threat over the same amount of time.

So, what to do about it, you ask? For now, we have to learn to stop worrying and love the spam. Macro Cleave to different attacks until you feel comfortable with it. I’m currently working on some macros that will help put Cleave and Heroic Strike where they should go when you need them, but that will still take some time. Right now, I want to talk about possible developer-based solutions for it.

Every now and then, we get Ghostcrawler talking about how much Blizzard is interested in changing Heroic Strike (and Maul!). Right now, you don’t have an option about whether you should use them or not: you just use them whenever you have the chance. There isn’t even the “should I use a GCD for it?” internal monologue, you just push those buttons as fast as they come up again. Or you macro them to pretty much everything else you do (the Druid solution). Blizz is not happy with that, a lot of players aren’t happy with that. Cleave is in the exact same boat, so let’s bring some ideas to the table, focusing on Warrior AoE tanking:

The Spam Solution

This one is really, really simple: make one of the mandatory deep-Prot talents such as Warbringer or Shockwave remove the target limit on Cleave. If it’s in front of you and within 8 yards, it gets a nice green swath to the face and a number over its head. It doesn’t take care of the spam issue, but at least it makes Cleave scale up like Thunderclap and Shockwave for those big trash pulls where a Paladin could just lay down the Consecration and Hammer and Holy Shield his way out. Making it deep into the Protection tree makes it impossible for DPS warriors to pick it up and blow the top off Recount in AoE fights. Side effects would include turning Protection Warriors into green streaks of death.

The Lobster Thermidor Solution

This one is a little more complex in execution and balance, but simple in concept with a few variants: give Protection Warriors another deep-tree talent that makes it so whenever the Warrior parries, dodges or blocks, whatever mob just got fooled has a chance of eating an instant free attack from the Warrior. It could be an auto-attack at 50% chance to make things simple, or maybe a free Heroic Strike or Cleave 25% of the time.

Of course, some balancing would be needed to make it work. Charging into a big pack and popping Shield Block would make a ton of damage numbers (and consequently threat) start wafting off the mobs unless some sort of internal cooldown was added. My personal favorite is: give Prot Warriors a free Cleave 25% of the time the Warrior avoids and attack with a 1.5 second internal cooldown. If you want to minimize Cleave spam completely, give Cleave a 1.5 second cooldown once triggered by an avoided attack. Of course, those numbers were pulled out of nowhere, but I think the basic concept could bring Warriors in line with other classes’ AoE threat per click.

Of course, both ideas I presented are pretty much just wishful thinking I wanted to put down on electronic paper and hear comments on. I’ll come back with some ideas on Macros to save up on bar space and keyboard-replacement bills later on!

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