Bladestorm has been a signature ability within the Warcraft universe for as long as it has existed. In Warcraft III, it was the very powerful ultimate ability of the Blademaster hero unit. In World of Warcraft, it was introduced as the 51 point talent in the Arms tree and remained just as powerful as its Warcraft III form. Mists of Pandaria made the ability available as a talent for all Warrior specializations, and the class has had a tumultuous relationship with the ability ever since. Today I want to speak on how this powerful ability has affected Fury and Arms in the raiding environment and its place going into Legion.
To begin, I would like to clarify that I do love this ability, and I’m sure many other Warriors do as well. The ability is fun just from a conceptual point of view; it deals massive damage relatively quickly, it makes you immune to all crowd control, and the animation combined with the sound effect makes you feel like a destructive beyblade. Bladestorm is also quite fun in practice because a Warrior can dominate the DPS meters on many fights where the talent is viable. The ability overall has had a positive impact on the class in my opinion, but WoD has shown us that the problems with the ability have become fully realized and are not entirely going away in Legion.
The primary problems with Bladestorm in WoD are as follows: it is weak in Arms spec for several reasons, yet it is monstrously strong for Fury, due to dual-wielding two-handed weapons and being affected entirely by Enrage. Bladestorm negates any other choice in the same talent row and must also be accommodated within your rotation, simply because it is so strong. Arms’s mastery was changed to now actually offer a tune-able knob, but it only affected three core abilities and not talents. It is ironic that Bladestorm, a previously Arms-exclusive ability, became useless for its parent specialization, but with Arms now having a much stronger cleave niche, not having Bladestorm be viable was not a huge deal at the time. Fury had the duration of Enrage increased to 6 seconds, allowing their already strong Bladestorm to be boosted for its entire duration. The resulting power allowed Fury to dominate fights such as Xhul’Horac, Beastlord Darmac, Mannoroth, or any other hectic add spawning fight regardless of player skill. Thusly, Warlords of Draenor saw Arms forsake Bladestorm as its niche was steered to Cleave, and Fury accept its new role as Bladestorm bot.
Legion is bringing many changes to the DPS Warrior dynamic, set up by Warlords, and not all of it is good. Arms’s new mastery, Colossal Might, now allows for broad scaling, and this is good news in regards to talented abilities for Arms, such as Bladestorm. The news gets even better with the introduction of Strom’kar the Warbreaker and its baseline ability, Warbreaker, as Bladestorm will grow even stronger for Arms due to Colossus Smash being able to be applied in an AoE every time Bladestorm is up.
Fury, on the other hand, has seen nothing but terrible changes that make Bladestorm worse and worse for the spec. Enrage‘s duration was reduced from 6 seconds to a short 4 that inversely scales with Haste (meaning its duration is shortened the more Haste you have), and Berserker Rage no longer Enrages you baseline (you have to now give up a talent choice for this functionality). Dragon Roar, in its new incarnation meant to compliment and enhance Fury’s AoE rotation, buffs your damage dealt for 6 sec but is on the global cooldown, meaning Bladestorm will never gain full 6 second benefit from the buff. In WoW, stacking as many throughput cooldowns together for big damage windows is the key to doing big DPS, but Bladestorm becomes so much weaker for Fury because you will never have a Bladestorm that fully benefits from both Enrage and Dragon Roar.
So in an ironic twist of fate, Bladestorm has become godlike for Arms (as of right now, anyway) and absolutely crippled for Fury. Blizzard has recently tried to help Bladestorm ease itself into the new rotations for both specs by allowing the talent to have its duration reduced with Haste, exactly how Barrage works, but for Fury it is completely irrelevant due to Enrage’s duration scaling down with Haste and Arms will soon have a similar treatment on Colossus Smash. With all these changes that directly impact Bladestorm’s usefulness for both specs, where will Bladestorm fit in?
Bladestorm’s overarching problem is how strong it is, because it is so strong that it greatly overshadows both specs’ baseline AoE rotation and must be accommodated wherever possible and bolstered in whatever way possible. The problem became realized for Fury in WoD, but the problem has also spread to Arms going into Legion. Blizzard wants to make changes such as the enrage and colossus smash duration change to shift the specs into something new, but Bladestorm is simply not transitioning well alongside these other changes. Sadly, the ability is all or nothing; it is either supported greatly by the spec (ex. WoD Fury) and becomes your biggest priority over all else where usable, or it becomes depressingly weak with its usage coming into question.
Making sure that Bladestorm retains its relevance in the face of changes to both Arms and Fury has simply become too big of a burden for Blizzard, in my opinion. I hoped early on into the Alpha that the changes would go in a different direction that allowed Bladestorm to stay relevant, but all the evidence has suggested we are going in the opposite direction. At this point, I would love to see just one spec get Bladestorm and have its playstyle adjusted to accommodate Bladestorm comfortably. If we stay the course we are on now, Bladestorm will feel horrible to use as Fury due to never being able to fully prop it up with your other abilities and only slightly better as Arms since you can prop it up for most of its duration. I hope Blizzard pulls back from some of these hairbrained changes that are being made and save Bladestorm before it loses all of its teeth. Let’s see where hope gets us.