Sometimes, writing these columns, I struggle to find a way to encapsulate the experience I'm having in game. With the Mists of Pandaria beta, I've sat down and detailed how fury and protection warriors have played out, how they've changed and how they're the same. And so I wanted to do the same for arms warriors. For one thing, arms is the spec I'm currently playing on live, in heroic Dragon Soul, so I'm fairly intimate with the spec and its demands. For another, arms is right now probably the most played warrior spec in terms of its representation in heroic level raiding. So what of arms in the beta?
Arms in Mists of Pandaria is arms now, but simpler and more variable.
That's it. The changes to arms are the changes to all warriors. Rend's being gone and Mortal Strike's automatically applying Deep Wounds means that all you have to do to light up Overpower in Mists is use your main attack that generates rage, which you would be a crazy mad insane fool not to use.
The arms priority system in Mists now no longer requires you to even apply a secondary attack like Rend, since Rend no longer exists. You Charge, Colossus Smash if you have the rage or Mortal Strike for the rage if you do not, then Overpower and Slam in between Mortal Strikes and Colossus Smashes. Slam being an instant, arms-only attack now means you'll almost never hit Heroic Strike unless you're just plain swimming in rage, and you won't miss it.
Arms in Mists is flat-out beautiful. If you like current arms gameplay, it's all there. Blood and Thunder is baseline; you don't have to make any choices about picking it up. Slam is a lovely rage dump that keeps arms from playing like a metronome.
Has arms changed? Yes, but mainly it's changed because it is a warrior spec, and warriors have changed. Of all the warrior specs, arms is the easiest to pick up and play in Mists.
We talked before (in our fury post) about the weapon damage increases, and we've covered that we're not yet at the point where damage is fully balanced. That being said, arms is killing very efficiently. Without raw numbers, I feel like I can't judge the spec in terms of how it will play on live, but right now I find the priority system easy to execute. Things die, and since I usually take either Second Wind or Enduring Victory, I have very minimal downtime. Temple of the Jade Serpent has plenty of opportunity to use AoE like Whirlwind (which is now fully usable for us arms warriors) and Blood and Thunder's Deep Wounds spread. Sweeping Strikes is still there, and with stance dancing to Berserker costing absolutely no rage, it's easy to go into full-on AoE mode when you need to.
Honestly, playing arms on the beta feels like I have been playing arms on live with a pair of lead weights strapped to my legs, their weight so omnipresent that I had completely forgotten about them until they were removed. It's not substantially different -- it's just plain better.
This has actually led to an interesting decision for me. As arms, I'm unable to decide yet if I prefer Bladestorm, Shockwave or Dragon Roar. They all feel comparable. Shockwave's real beauty as an AoE DPS move is that you can use it every 20 seconds, as opposed to Dragon Roar's minute and Bladestorm's minute and a half. The upside of the other two abilities is significantly higher damage, very useful for limited duration burns instead of continuous streams of adds. I'd much rather have Bladestorm for dragonhawk boss in ZA, for instance -- but at the same time, being able to stun all those mobs would be nice as well, and Dragon Roar is great for when you get threat and want to damage, stun and knock them all away from you. (Tanks are probably going to hate it when you do that.) Right now, as an arms purist, Bladestorm still has the edge in my heart, but it's a tough call.
I honestly feel like arms may be the best platform for exploring the new talents, as it's harder to feel secure as a tank in experimenting to find out what you like best. Since most of what makes the current arms playstyle work is now baked into the tree, talents become a means for you to discover how you prefer to play. Do you want Juggernaut's lower charge cooldown, or Double Tap's on demand second charge, or Warbringer's 3-second charge stun (effectively Throwdown in charge form)? I won't lie: I miss Throwdown, its being a stun on par with the paladin hammer, but its loss is hardly crippling with the potential for two different AoE stuns at level 60.
Frankly, I always feel uncomfortable being happy with or supportive of how a spec is working out. First off, I sort of have a reputation to maintain as an angry old curmudgeon. But also, I'm aware that no two warriors feel the same way about anything, and I don't like to feel like I'm letting people down. I want to aggressively campaign for improvements, because I'm aware that arms at present has flaws (our lack of a real burst DPS cooldown outside of recklessness, for instance).
But I'm having real trouble coming up with any complaints about arms right now. Skull Banner gives us a second cooldown we can stack with Recklessness or space out if we want to have a cooldown every minute and a half (say, on burning tendons on heroic Spine), and at level 90, we'll be ale to take Avatar or Bloodbath for a third cooldown. And it's a real choice, too, between a 3-minute, seriously beefed-up cooldown or a 1-minute one you can use rotationally.
I love being able to make decisions. How mobile do I want to be? Do I want more stuns or more raw damage? Do I want an active or passive self-heal? Do I want to slow, snare or silence the area around me? The new talents work very well in the established arms framework, which is itself simply a more streamlined and yet more flexible version of arms on live. Within one spec, you can choose to be a pinball of death, a dervish, or a screaming explosion. Arms can be almost anything, and I'm ecstatic at the idea of this much flexibility going live.
I apologize for not being grumpy at all this week. Frankly, this ridiculous grin and pile of corpses in my wake makes grumping very difficult for me. Next week, I'll try and get back to it with a discussion of where I don't like the Mists of Pandaria talent system.
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, from hot issues for today's warriors to Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors and our guide to reputation gear for warriors.