Back in the day (in this case, back in the day was just before Naxx 40 came out) Arms as a DPS spec was, frankly, pretty simple. Not that you could actually get away with DPSing in Wrath, mind you, but it did look cool with Ashkandi didn't it? No, to DPS as arms, you did have to wear DPS gear which had the sometimes unfortunate consequence of making you look like you had giant insect butts on your shoulders. But the rotation itself back then was pretty simple. You hit everything you could with Mortal Strike and Whirlwind because you were DPSing in Berserker Stance anyway.
Those days? They're long since gone. They're as gone as that Ashkandi.
The current state of arms DPS involves a suite of abilities that in order to work properly requires you to be in Battle Stance. The tradeoff from losing 3% crit is 10% armor penetration and the ability to use overpower. With Taste for Blood, which we'll be talking about as we discuss arms talents, overpower becomes usable every 9 seconds with a 6 second internal cooldown. Since TfB requires Rend to deal damage to become active, you're basically putting rend on a target, using overpower, and then refreshing rend as it runs out for another overpower. You don't want to clip your rends if you can avoid it, since if you can keep it on for the full duration and then refresh the six second cooldown will expire and you'll get another overpower. After the TfB procced overpower, rend is your priority if it's about to fall off (again, you don't want to clip it) followed by Mortal Strike, which takes priority if rend is not about to fall off. After that, execute and slam in that order. Heroic Strike really only becomes an issue if you're above 75 rage (in my estimation) but should be used as a filler at that point.
Basically, always be doing something. Overpower if it's up, MS, execute, slam, just be using abilities and keeping your global cooldown active. Doing something is DPS. The reason this 'rotation' works (and I put that in quotes because I've stripped it down, there are situations where you'll use Bladestorm for example) is because the current arms tree includes talents that take baseline situational warrior abilities like overpower (normally useful when fighting someone who dodges a lot) or execute (useful when an enemy drops below 20% health) and makes them part of the standard suite of abilities via chance to proc, or 'light up' (called this because the abilities become lighter on the standard attack bar).
6. Talents and Talent Specs
This is a pretty standard level 80 PvE arms spec that can also serve in PvP. Replace poleaxe specialization with whatever the best weapon available to you is. You could drop Second Wind (it's more of a PvP talent) for Improved Slam to move further away from PvP if you wanted to. Likewise, over in fury you could drop Blood Craze and Piercing Howl (both very useful for PvP and for heavy add or splash damage PvE fights) for Commanding Presence if your raid needs.
There's also a variant that goes 55 points in arms (taking Improved Heroic Strike), 8 in fury (just Armored to the Teeth and Cruelty) and picks up Incite in prot in order to rely on higher than normal Heroic Strike and Cleave critical hit chance. I don't recommend a 55/8/8 build for anyone who is reading an arms 101 guide since the gear and skill level required to get good DPS out of it probably means you'd find little reason to read it.
Arms talents in general are either aimed at enhancing the warrior's ability with a weapon via precision and mastery or aim to allow for more varied attacks. We'll look at the standouts now.
- Deflection: this is a must have tanking talent, but you'll probably take it for soloing and grinding and keep it for those off-tank emergency moments. You need at least five points to get to second tier arms talents, and Improved Rend only has two ranks to buy.
- Improved Rend: very valuable considering you'll be using rend every time it's up thanks to Taste for Blood.
- Improved Charge: with Juggernaut, if you PvP you'll want this, and even for PvE it's two points you don't have to waste on Imp HS.
- Iron Will: very nice for PvP, useful if you're expecting a lot of stuns or charms otherwise. Gets you further down the tree.
- Tactical Mastery: not a talent anyone likes, but you'll usually end up taking points in it. Useful when you need to switch to defensive and slap on a shield for a panic shield wall.
- Impale: 20% more damage from all your critical strikes. Yes, please.
- Deep Wounds: a staple of any DPS warrior's rotation, it becomes even more valuable to an arms warrior thanks to bleed specific abilities like Trauma and Blood Frenzy.
- Improved Overpower: basically with this ability you should basically have 100% chance to critically hit with an overpower when raid buffed, and easily 75% chance otherwise. Since you'll be using overpower as a staple of your DPS, there's no reason you'd skip this.
- Two-Handed Weapon Specialization. Kind of a no brainer here.
- Taste for Blood: lashes rend and overpower together, when it debuted last year warriors everywhere said 'what, I'm going to want to use rend a lot?" - thankfully rend also got a nice buff and is worth using. This is a must have for modern arms.
- The various weapon specializations: whichever one you pick depends on what your best available weapon is. My personal feeling is, if you can get an axe or polearm with a 3.6 or slower speed, do. But if not, a sword or mace that's clearly superior to what you're using now shouldn't be passed up on.
- Weapon Mastery: a flat 2% chance to avoid being dodged, this ability is another reason why you don't need to worry as much about expertise as an arms warrior. This talent is equivalent to 8 expertise at level 80.
- Trauma: if you crit, your bleeds (rend and deep wounds) do up to 30% more damage. There's really no down side, since you're going to stack bleeds anyway.
- Second Wind: really great for PvP, it's also useful for PvE fights with a stun or root mechanic.
- Sweeping Strikes: you need it to get MS anyway, and it's pretty solid for any AoE situation.
- Mortal Strike: the original 31 point talent that defined the tree right up to the end of Burning Crusade, this is still a must have instant with a great debuff for PvP and solid damage for both PvP and PvE.
- Strength of Arms: 4% more strength for DPS and stamina for living, plus another 4 expertise (putting you up to the equivalent of 12 expertise out of a 26 expertise dodge cap) which helps devalue exp on gear even more.
- Juggernaut: charge in combat, good for any situation really. It unfortunately increases charge's cooldown, but also adds 25% crit for MS or slam after a charge. You're gonna take it, so don't pretend otherwise.
- Improved Mortal Strike: more MS damage and a lower cooldown. Another 'yes please' ability.
- Unrelenting Assault: the revenge benefit is there for when you're offtanking (part of Blizzard's attempt to get arms warriors to tank five mans) but the benefit in terms of a shorter cooldown for overpower, more damage, and a reverse mortal strike that lowers spell power makes it hot for both PvP and PvE.
- Sudden Death: making execute a part of an arms warrior's DPS rotation. Much more random than overpower, but still good enough to spend the points.
- Endless Rage: 1 talent point, 25% more rage generation from damage you deal. Yes another 'yes please'.
- Blood Frenzy: makes you hit faster and gives your raid more damage on any target you put a bleed on.
- Wrecking Crew: a better enrage than enrage, basically, depending not on you taking damage but instead dealing it.
- Bladestorm: a candidate for 'most iconic PvP warrior ability' possibly displacing even the mighty mortal strike. It's solid damage when it's up (especially on big AoE pulls) and can help an arms warrior avoid all sorts of status conditions that would prevent him or her from acting. However, you really want to be sure your tank has aggro locked down before you pop this. If you know there won't be any big AoE pulls during a fight, just use Bladestorm on cooldown.
The glyphs of Bladestorm, Mortal Strike and Sweeping Strikes are probably your best (or at least safest) bets. For minors, charge is a pretty popular one due to juggernaut, while command and/or battle are good for group utility and bloodrage will get you more rage without costing you health. As for gemming, it's not that different from fury, you'll probably gem for strength until you're very close to a cap and then switch over until you make either that soft or hard cap depending on what your target is.
Again, your meta gem will probably be the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond, with a Nightmare's Tear and one of the purple or green gems with stamina and a desirable stat (again, most likely ArP or crit) to make the meta's requirements. You may prefer the Relentless Earthsiege Diamond if you find its meta requirements easier (one Nightmare's Tear will satisfy it, in fact, leaving you free to stack whatever stat you prefer).
Next week, the long promised Warrior Enchant/Gem/Glyph 101 guide which will go over all of this in more detail, of course.