Content of the article: "Shout Spam + Imp Expose Armor – The New Meta For Classic Raiding"
There is a new meta coming for Classic Wow Raiding. It has already started to happen in the min/max community, and I expect it will arrive to your local semi-hardcore guild by AQ (
). Imp. Expose Armor + Shout Spam.
This new strategy has been used by the record holders in BWL, and it reliably increases your tank's threat (in single target encounters), as well as your raid's MDPS by 5% (which is a big number given how much damage rogues and warriors do).
The TLDR is this: Your tanks switch their “filler” spell from sunder armor to Battle Shout – and by doing so your tanks will generate more threat (up to three times more threat come AQ). At the same time, since sunder armor isn’t being used, rogues can now use improved expose armor, which should increase physical damage done to the boss by ~5%.
If you want to get into the weeds, I've broken down how the math works on both the Shout Spam, and the Imp. Expose Armor side of things.
The Math: Shout Spam
Current Phase Math:
For the threat calculations, we need to know the following bits of information: 1) the threat generated by a warriors spells, and 2) the rage cost of the spells. From there we can calculate the Threat Per Rage (TPR). The following is a list of spells currently available to warriors in phase 4, with their threat generated, rage cost and TPR:
- Revenge Rank 5 – 381, 5, 76
- Sunder Armor Rank 5 – 261, 15, 17
- Battle shout Rank 6 – 56 per target, 10, 5.6 per target (divided amongst all enemies in combat)
As you can see, the best TPR spell available to warriors is revenge, however it has a cooldown and can only be used following a block, dodge or parry.
After revenge, the answer is unclear. Sunder Armor generates 17 TPR, and Battle Shout 5.6 per target. This means that today, Battle Shout is better TPR than Sunder Armor if it hits at least 4 targets (on a single target fight). Note that this is TPR, not total threat. Part of the reason why Battle Shout with 4 targets is better than Sunder Armor is that it only costs 10 rage, instead of sunder armor's 15. In a situation where rage is infinite (and that often is the case for main tanks especially), Battle Shout will need to hit 5 targets (the whole party) in order to generate more threat per GCD than Sunder Armor will.
Additionally, although Sunder Armor does not deal damage, it can proc weapon effects and chance on hits. This is particularly relevant for horde tanks, tanks with Thunderfury (and to a lesser extent crusader, HOJ and 5 piece wrath). However, Sunder Armor can also be dodged/parried (which should happen to tanks 6%/13.5% of the time, respectively, assuming 305 weapon skill), while battle shout cannot. This basically shakes out to Battle Shout being better threat than Sunder Armor if you can hit 5 targets.
Heroic Strike and Bloodthirst are also used by tanks. Bloodthirst’s threat is all from damage, and it costs 30 rage, so for it to be more TPR than Sunder Armor it needs to on average hit for more than 510 damage (roughly 1133 AP, which is easily attainable by any raid tank). Heroic Strike generates threat from damage (your weapon swing damage plus a static 138) PLUS an extra 145 threat, and costs 12-15 rage. It also has an opportunity cost as an attack that uses heroic strike cannot generate rage. Generally speaking a well geared (wbuffed) tank will get better TPR from Heroic Strike than Sunder Armor.
So, in summary, in phase 4, a tank’s optimal rotation from a TPR perspective is Revenge>Bloodthirst>HS, with battle shout being used to prevent rage capping if you can hit at least 5 targets, and Sunder Armor being better if you cannot (and SA likely being better if you are rage capped and care about rage per GCD not TPR). However, the difference between the two is slim, and coordinating your raid group to change their whole tanking META (especially the tank group, who must all be close together to make sure the battle shout hits) for this is hard. The gap between the two grows dramatically in Phase 5.
Phase 5 Math:
In phase 5 warriors get 3 new ranks of abilities that are relevant to tanks, they are as follows (with threat, rage and TPR):
- Revenge Rank 6 – 439, 5, 88
- Battle Shout Rank 7 – 70 per target, 10, 7 per target (divided amongst all enemies in combat)
- Heroic Strike Rank 9, ???,??,??
Heroic strike threat will still depend on your weapon damage, but now it adds 157 damage per swing AND adds an extra 175 threat. Sunder armor does not get a new rank.
Essentially what this means is Heroic Strike, Revenge and Battle Shout all produce significantly more TPR, while Sunder Armor stays the same. The new Battle Shout rank is very impactful, it generates 25% more threat in Phase 5. Remembering that Sunder Armor generates 261 threat for a TPR of 17, now all you need is to hit 3 people with your battle shout for it to produce better TPR than Sunder Armor. If you hit 5, you will generate 34% more threat per GCD shouting v.s. using Sunder Armor, and 106% more TPR (remembering Battle Shout’s rage cost is 10, and Sunder Armor’s is 15). The gap has become a canyon. This is also with limiting your party to 5. To really cheese threat, you could load your MT’s party with hunters (or warlocks), as their pets can also be buffed with battle shout. Theoretically a single battle shout could produce 630 threat and 97 TPR, but I don’t believe that is realistic in most contexts (having an unphased imp providing blood pact and adding threat to Battle Shout is totally possible for many fights however).
FURTHERMORE, the 2.5 warrior set’s 3 piece bonus reduces the rage cost of all warrior shouts by 35%. This has no effect on the total threat of Battle Shout (each shout will produce the same threat, your rage per GCD will be the same), but makes them even better from a TPR perspective – a 5 person battle shout with the 2.5 3 piece is an absolutely bonkers 54 TPR (218% better than sunder armor). The 2.5 warrior set is also coincidentally amazing for tanks, and most will likely want to wear at least 3 pieces anyways – irrespective of the 3 piece bonus.
Finally, in Phase 5 we are getting a new threat API. This is very impactful for Battle Shout tanking, as right now addons don’t calculate its threat properly. It is also hard to tell if you are “missing” someone with your battle shout mid-fight, the new threat APIs should make it possible to flash warnings when your Battle Shouts aren’t generating the threat you are expecting, allowing tanks to call out instructions for people to move in range.
So, in summary, on single target fights in phase 5 tanks will still want to use Revenge>Bloodthirst (depending on gear/buffs)>Heroic Strike (again depending on gear/buffs) with Battle Shout to prevent rage capping if you can hit at least 3 targets. The gulf between Sunder and Battle Shout is huge (between 34% and 218%). Battle shout is 218% better than Sunder if you are 1) hitting at least 5 party members, 2) you have the 2.5 3 set and 3) you aren’t rage capped (if you are rage capped you don’t care about TPR, you care about threat per GCD).
The Math: Improved Expose Armor
Bosses right now almost all have 3731 armor. If your guild currently uses all the normal armor reduction spells (Faerie Fire, Curse of Recklessness, Sunder Armor) that number is reduced down to 336. This is still a significant amount of armor, and it is important to point out that armor suffers from diminishing returns. This means that taking a boss from 336 to 0 armor is far more impactful than taking a boss from 3731 to 3395. That is why many hardcore guilds used Annihilator, a weapon with a chance on hit to reduce the boss’s armor by 200, stacking up to 3 times. A single proc of that weapon could cut a boss’s armor from 336 to 136, increasing physical DPS by ~5%. It is a huge buff, but it is very unreliable – it’s just a 3% proc rate with a 17% chance of being resisted, and expensive, so most guilds don’t use it.
However, another source of armor reduction is available in the game – expose armor. When talented, a 5 point expose armor reduces the target’s armor by 2550. For comparison, a 5 stack sunder reduces armor by 2250. This is a 300 difference, even larger than Annihilator, and would bring a boss’s armor down to 36, increasing physical damage by 5%. Unfortunately, when expose armor is on a boss you cannot use sunder armor on it (the game won’t let you cast it), and most guilds rely on that spell for their tanks to hold threat, so improved expose armor isn’t a thing in the current raiding meta. If you read the above, however, you will see that Sunder Armor is not necessary for tanks to hold threat now, and is actually suboptimal threat in single target encounters come phase 5. Therefore, we should see way more guilds running improved expose armor/battle shout tanking setups heading into AQ40 (at least as soon as the tanks are able to get their Battle Shout books).
The Conclusion – What Does This Mean?
The above math means that there should be a large meta shift soon, especially come AQ. Expose Armor and Battle Shout should be the go to set up for single target encounters, while multi-target encounters revert to the old style of tanking (or the expose armor is still used and the tanks just deal with their reduced threat, either by still battle shout spamming at a reduced effect, or switching to demo shout, which is not nearly as good). Specs will need to change, Booming Voice may actually become optimal for tanking warriors, and raids will need one rogue in their raids speced into IEA. Tanks will need to be more flexible, adjusting their rotations based on how many mobs they are fighting, how close their party members are, and if IEA is up on a boss.
Some people might say more threat is not necessary, especially for alliance who have a 30% buffer to begin with. I disagree – a tank has two roles in a raid, #1 keeping threat and #2 not dying. If your DPS are threat capped, more threat means faster kill times which means less chances to die. If your DPS are not threat capped, more threat means you can wear more defensive gear, which will again mean less chances to die (you may be able to wear a shield, for example, which is a massive buff to survivability). Of course, threat is only one half of the benefit of this strat, the other is 5% more physical damage which you will want even if you don't care about threat.
As far as specific boss encounters go, in AQ this new strat will be very useful on Ouro, Huhu and Cthun (huhu is single target, as is Ouro before the first submerge and cthun we don’t care about aggro, just the improved Expose Armor). These are coincidentally the three arguably hardest bosses in the instance, AND the three we care about killing the most quickly. 5% more physical damage could easily be the difference in making your zerg strat work on Huhu, or avoiding multiple vulnerability stages on C’thun. Beyond AQ, the strat will be incredible for basically all of BWL, Rag, and a TON of bosses in Naxx, including KT (maybe) and Sapph, the two hardest encounters in that raid.
- Iron Horse Raid Boss 4 Guide – Morozova
- Molten Strike DPS with Slower Projectiles test
- Battlerager Revisited
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