Your big beautiful beefy bulwark of badass.

To bleed or not to bleed


One of the more interesting discussions that pops up from time to time over on the Blizzard WoW warrior and tanking role forums is regarding shifting some points from the Protection tree over to the Arms tree to pick up two DPS talents in Arms–Impale, and Deep Wounds.

Impale:  Increases the critical strike damage bonus of your abilities by 10% per point.  Two points.

Deep Wounds:  Your critical strikes cause your opponent to bleed, dealing (16% per point) of your melee weapon’s average damage over 6 seconds.  Three points.  Requires 2/2 Impale.

Now, for reference, this is Lin’s current spec as of this post.  It’s a 15/5/51 Impale/Deep Wounds prot spec; basically, it’s designed to be a DPS-oriented tank spec.  In order to get the points to go 15 deep into Arms, I had to give up a few things over in Prot and Fury; namely, three points of Shield Specialization, all three points of Puncture, and (in Fury) three points of Cruelty.

At first glance, this looks kind of crazy.  Impale, OK, that’s easy enough to see as a good talent.  +20% to critical damage bonus on “abilities”–translation, yellow damage–is pretty handy, because the new post-3.0 way of doing things as prot means you’re getting the vast majority of your damage from yellow damage, not white swings.  This basically gives you +120% damage on yellow crits instead of +100%.  Add in the +15% crit chance on Heroic Strike, Thunder Clap and Cleave from Incite, the +15% crit chance on Devastate from Sword and Board, and the +15% crit chance on Shield Slam from Critical Block, and it should be obvious that Impale is extremely useful.  But why would you spend three precious talent points on something that only adds half the damage of a white hit, especially considering that tanks generally swing fast weapons with low raw damage numbers?

Two reasons:

1.  Deep Wounds activates off any crit.  Anything.  White damage, Heroic Strike, Shield Slam, Revenge, Thunder Clap…even Damage Shield.  Yep, that’s right, if you put all 3 points into it, Deep Wounds will activate if somebody crits themselves on your Damage Shield.  Right now, 2/3 Deep Wounds is not proccing on Damage Shield, but 3/3 is.  Either 2/3 should be proccing on Damage Shield, or 3/3 shouldn’t.  We don’t know which is correct, Blizzard hasn’t said anything.  But anyway, think about this.  Warriors throw out a lot of attacks, between passive Damage Shield hits, white swings, special attacks, etc.  That’s a lot of chances to get crits…and five of those attacks have +15% crit chances on them in most prot warrior builds.  With 3/3 Deep Wounds, every time you crit, WoW takes 48% of the average white damage on your mainhand weapon, mitigates it by the target’s armor since it’s physical damage, and applies it to the target in three ticks, two seconds apart.

2.  Deep Wounds “rolls.”   Basically, it stacks.  If the target has Deep Wounds on, and you crit again, the timer refreshes to 6 seconds and the 48% damage is added onto the existing Deep Wounds ticks.  And there’s no limit to how high it can stack.

Now you can start to see how a talent originally balanced around 3.50+ speed two-handers can become useful in the hands of a prot warrior.  If we chain lots of crits together, even with a low-damage weapon, those Deep Wounds ticks start to pile up into significant damage.  How significant?  Well, my only recorded data point so far was tanking a normal Culling of Stratholme run a few days ago–I’m terrible about forgetting to check my Recount before clearing it after an instance.  In that run, Deep Wounds was 5.9% of my total damage.  That’s not inconsiderable.  And, considering it procs off Damage Shield crits?  I can stick a bleed on a mob without ever swinging at it.  That may have some negative implications for crowd control, but it’s a short duration, and who CCs nowadays anyhow?

The only downside is that if we really wanted to push this even further, and take 5/5 Cruelty, it would require giving up all three points in Armored to the Teeth.  Considering that AttT is going to boost your average warrior tank by 300 to 400 attack power, I wouldn’t do it.  I’ll gladly take 350 AP over 3% crit, even with a DW build.  And, 15/8/48 isn’t an option, because it costs us Shockwave and either Damage Shield (which removes most of the reason to even take DW in the first place) or 2/3 Sword and Board.

So at the expense of a little bit of mitigation, we pick up a surprising amount of damage.  As a tank, our primary job isn’t leet DPS, that’s true.  But in this brave new world of WotLK tanking, DPS is how we generate most of our threat.  More DPS, more threat, stuff dies faster.  Personally, for raiding, I am leaning toward a 12/5/54 build, dropping Deep Wounds and transferring those three points to fill out Shield Specialization for the +3% block and guaranteed rage gain.  Right now, though, I’m a Deep Wounds prot build fan.

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