Hello, suddenly viable PvE DPS spec! I remember you! You were notable from such raids as Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, AQ and Naxx 40. Also, I recall your performances in Karazhan, Gruul's Lair, Magtheridon, Tempest Keep, SSC, ZA, Black Temple and even the Sunwell.
Arms was up and down throughout the life cycle of Wrath of the Lich King. Decent in Naxx and competitive in Ulduar, it really fell by the wayside again once fury got access to i245 and better gear. And when patch 4.0.1 launched, it wasn't kind of any warrior DPS spec. But when last week's rebalancing came down the pike, I decided to finally get serious about my arms warrior alt and see what kind of damage he could actually do in PvE, as well as taking him for a ride in PvP.
Frankly, not only am I having fun, I'm actually doing surprisingly solid damage.
While I recommended last week picking up Blood and Thunder, this week, I'll emphatically repeat that recommendation for PvE. For PvP, it's relatively small potatoes damage-wise. (The only real benefit is that you can refresh Rend with a simple TC, keeping it on multiple targets and thus not having to reapply it to keep Overpower ready to go.) But for PvE, I saw that in add-heavy situations, Rend was shaping up to be close to 14 percent of my damage, just behind MS and Overpower. I'm still using this spec for PvE. What I'm noticing is that with B&T, Sweeping Strikes, and Bladestorm in the arms arsenal, putting a significant hurt on a plethora of mobs is pretty simple.
However, single-target DPS is pretty solid too. With the coefficient and base buff to warrior DPS abilities, MS actually hits pretty hard. I'm still not sold on Slam as a filler (and that means I'm considering moving those points out of Improved Slam and to a more PvP viable build), because so far, if I have the rage, a HS fills that void pretty effectively, has no cast time at all and is off the GCD. Basically (and I'd love to hear from other arms warriors), Cleave and HS are doing a better job filling that "nothing is ready to go" void than Slam is right now. Since Colossus Smash is a level 81 ability, keeping 10 rage after using Execute doesn't seem worth the points for Sudden Death. This paradoxically allows me to pick up some PvP viability in a PvE-oriented spec, which I have to say I enjoyed.
Rending players asunder
Throwdown is beautiful. It's good if you find yourself suddenly pulling aggro on a mob, because it can keep them from doing anything while the tank works on picking up threat. It works in PvE or PvP as an interrupt (and considering we can Pummel in Battle Stance now, arms has two interrupts), and it can also help us keep a kill target from running away before we can slap a Hamstring on it. I'm enjoying being a complete jerk in PvP, in fact. I'm still terrible in arena (I have no resilience gear; I'm basically a free kill in an arena), but I've been honing my BG play in preparation for rated BGs. I have to say I have the fine art of not letting people get very far down to a science. Charge - Hamstring - Throwdown ... and you can really just irritate the heck out of people. Moreso when you kill them. Arms still seems to have some burst RNG issues; you can hit very very hard if all your ducks line up.
With Lambs to the Slaughter, I've seen personal Overpower crits easily around the 14k mark and MS crits in the same neighborhood. But if you don't get those crits or aren't able to keep in range (although I find that as time goes by and I adapt to arms in the BGs, it becomes easier, if not actually easy, to keep folks in range long enough to apply some pressure), then you're still basically boil-in-the-can corned beef, product of Azeroth.
As a PvE spec, arms has a lot to recommend it right now. With the hit needed so much lower, it's easier to find room on gear to use reforging and bump up your mastery rating. Strikes of Opportunity is a fairly solid mastery -- a lot better than I suspected when I was first playing with mastery back in the beta -- and it's not hard to get jacked up pretty high, with ratings being fairly forgiving at level 80 right now. I'm closing in on a 34 percent chance to proc an extra swing right now, just from turning hit or haste into mastery rating. I played around with haste for a while but still don't feel like it's as rewarding for an arms warrior as mastery right now.
The overall picture
Since I had a fair mix of ArP and str gems before 4.0.1 hit, I ended up with some crit gems I've since replaced with strength. I don't see much need to gem for mastery or hit, at present. At least until Cataclysm ships, gemming for strength and reforging for mastery for bigger SoO procs seems the most efficient. What I really like about the arms spec right now is the feeling that I can go into a BG, a raid, or a 5-man with one spec and it will perform well.
Will it rule the meters? That depends. Probably not in a raid with competent pure DPS -- but I've pulled an easy 9k in a heroic when I had time to ramp up my damage and spread Rend around properly. Damage does seem somewhat inconsistent in PvE and very dependent on that ramp-up time.
In PvP, arms finally has the interrupts it needed to keep from being boiled in seconds. It can throw out some very respectable damage, even with the reduction to the MS debuff. Glyph choices are pretty boring at the moment, with primes being almost always the MS and Overpower glyphs (and either Slam or Bladestorm, depending on your inclination); gemming should most likely be strength or mastery. I really miss the Glyph of Rending, boy howdy.
Next week, we'll cover fury. Is SMF competitive? Is TG worthwhile? Did the rebalancing help lift warrior DPS out of the pit? And can you actually PvP with it?
Check out more strategies and tips for warriors of all specs in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column, The Care and Feeding of Warriors.