Commanding the Cleavage

Guest post at BigHitBox on 03 march 2009.

I know what you’re thinking. Enjoy those thoughts for a moment. Enjoy them, until I tell you that this is about the -other- cleavage…the one with the capital C, like so: Improved Cleav(ag)e. More to the point, Improved Cleave versus Commanding Presence. Two of those early talents that you have to take on your way through the tree.

Improved Cleave is a highly situational talent, usable only in fights where you have multiple mobs. Apart from trash, this is only true for some current raid bosses. Improved Cleave can furthermore be glyphed to include a third target, making it more of a lesser whirlwind. Like Heroic Strike, it doesn’t consume a GCD, however it does take up an otherwise ragegiving swing. Essentially, it gives you a small bonus to the melee damage you wouldve done anyway, while eating up rage instead of giving it. On the other hand, it does hit an extra mob, which Heroic Strike doesn’t.

In the other corner, we have Commanding Presence. It’s a flat boost to your AP, so it affects basically anything you do. It will also affect your party or raid members, so its utility value is higher than Improved Cleave.

There are four options we can spec our way into:

  1. 5/5 Commanding Presence
  2. 2/5 Commanding Presence, 3/3 Improved Cleave
  3. 3/3 Improved Cleave
  4. None of the above, i.e. you’ve put your talent points elsewhere

The last possibility is mainly for reference, even though it is theoretically possible to avoid both talents, for example by speccing into Improved Demo. Shout, Blood Craze or Unbridled Wrath. Possibility 3 is a similar situation. For raiders, possibilities 1 and 2 will no doubt be the most interesting (unless you’re positively sure you have an Improved Blessing of Might in your raid). Put bluntly, option 2 is for the person who cares less about the wellbeing of their raid, or who is lazy and has another warrior to keep up the better Shout.

Unimproved Battle Shout is 548AP, so a 5/5 spec will net us 685AP and a 2/5 gives us 603AP. Cleave does 222 bonus damage, and a 3/3 Improved Cleave does 488 bonus damage. In the following, I’ll assume an AP of 3500, and an average weapon damage of 653. With those numbers, we get the following:

  1. 1921 damage
  2. 2166 damage
  3. 2022 damage
  4. 1756 damage

So, Improved Cleave outperforms the gains from Commanding Presence in both cases. What can we conclude? Sadly not a whole lot. Taken in isolation, Improved Cleave offers a larger damage increase per talent point than Commanding Presence. Compared to Heroic Strike, Cleave suffers from a highly situational nature. Heroic Strike, if you are facing only one mob, hits harder for less rage used. With 5/5 CP up, a Heroic Strike will deal 2194 damage, so its damge/rage ratio is far better where single mobs are concerned. With 2/5 CP we get 2173 damage, compared to the 2166 for an Improved Cleave. Heroic Strike wins out again.

Saying that Improved Cleave is useless is also wrong though. It does come into its own in multimob situations, especially if Glyphed. For grinding and soloing, and for instance trash, Improved Cleave is definitely a useful tool to have in your arsenal. Simply put, Improved Cleave brings you instant gratification, in some situations, while Commanding Presence brings overall zen and wellbeing. There is no strictly right or strictly wrong way, since it depends entirely on the situations you face.

So in which situation would Improved Cleave give an overall damage increase? That will happen when the bonus damage from Improved Cleave overshadows the overall contribution from the extra 15% bonus to Commanding Presence. A rough estimate would say that unless your overall Cleave damage, in all situations, is about 12-14% of total damage, it is a net DPS loss compared to 5/5 Commanding Presence.


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