We're not doing gear again this week. Sorry, but with Patch 5.2 freshly out, and the warrior class review posted by Blizzard, there's other stuff to discuss and one of them is the arms warrior spec. I've switched to arms for my DPS spec right now because, frankly, it's astonishingly improved in my opinion. My initial test run with the spec this week saw me putting out very solid numbers near the top of the meter, even when I was making target switch calls on Council. Part of this was a strat that favored arms - we parked some DPS on Sul full time and I got to be one of those, and then we parked Sul right next to whichever boss was possessed so that I could use Sweeping Strikes liberally. But part of it was the redesigned Taste for Blood, and another part of it was the redesigned Recklessness.
Changing up cooldowns and abilities
Frankly, I didn't know what to make of Recklessness being changed. It definitely feels like a somewhat weak cooldown now but with the Tier 14 set bonus and the Glyph, it's become a cooldown I can use every 1.5 minutes that lasts for 18 seconds and adds an additional 18% chance to crit to an already high chance to crit for the four Overpowers I'm almost guaranteed to get off per a Colossus Smash in that time. Frankly, 18 seconds of higher crit means you get a lot of Overpowers off. Also, the change to Sudden Death gives you a good reason to hit Overpower during the Execute phase, because that Overpower is free which lets you bank rage for a bigger Execute. Even nerfed, Execute still hits pretty hard, so its nice to have Overpower not cost you some rage.
So what's good and what's bad about arms right now? Well, the good would be damage output, and the bad would be robotic repetitiveness, if played wrong.
The dangers of the metronome
A lot of players complained that arms was becoming overly metronomic between Cataclysm and Mists, and if you're one of those players Patch 5.2 isn't going to make you any happier with the spec. The new Taste for Blood and Sudden Death lead to the following priority system. Colosuss Smash over all, Mortal Strike, Overpower, Overpower again, and either a Slam or another Mortal Strike depending on how fast you got those two Overpowers off. Let me be clear about this. If you are not prepared to be an Overpower-hitting machine, you will not like arms. I actually got keyboard cramp a few times getting adjusted to the spec. Basically, the thing to learn is when to ignore your instinct and hit Slam instead of Overpower. With the buff in 5.2, Slam can hit surprisingly hard on a crit. I find that using Slam during the Colossus Smash window works best, or when I've just hit all my cooldowns (which is often pretty close to CS).
Using Slam properly alleviates some of that drinky-bird feeling of arms DPS. You're still going to feel an awful lot like you are a robot designed to dispense Overpower, but trust me, it's okay to be more liberal with your Slam use. Experiment with it, see if you can get two Slams off between Mortal Strikes, learn what works best for you.
All that being said, arms works, and it works well. It can produce solid single target damage (I'd give the lead to SMF for right now, but arms is competitive) and its very nice for any sort of cleave or AoE situation. I prefer Bloodbath to Avatar or the new and improved Storm Bolt for AoE situations, as it's nice to line up a bunch of cooldowns and hit Sweeping Strikes for more overall DPS and I like Bloodbath's short cooldown. But you could make arms work with just about any talent choice, the base is pretty strong right now. The rise of Slam as a rage dump has helped our single target, and our AoE is as strong as ever.
A more reliable taste for blood
Whatever your thoughts about losing the potentially huge burst of a three or higher stack Taste for Blood Heroic Strike, the new TfB is a lot easier to use. I admit, with the loss of Deadly Calm and the rise of Slam, I don't find myself using Heroic Strike much at all. If Blizzard wants HS to be a button arms warriors use in any meaningful way, they're going to need to do some thinking about why we'd use it. Right now I only use it if I feel like I'm in danger of capping out rage and Slam/Overpower x2 won't bleed enough away, and that's a vanishingly small concern. It does happen, just not very often. Perhaps it's okay that arms doesn't use HS much, it helps differentiate the spec from fury more.
Now we move the discussion topic to haste. After 5.2 dropped, I experimented with an extremely high haste reforge/regemming, and found that my damage didn't improve much at all as a result. Rage generation wasn't much better, and I missed the damage from critting too much, so I went with a str/crit gemming strategy (complete with actually using some Bold Primordial Rubies) and reforged for crit and mastery after getting hit and expertise to the 7.5% ballpark. This seems to be the most rewarding strategy for my gear, and it's the one I'm currently recommending for arms warriors until I get more Throne of Thunder gear. (Instead of, say, gold. Seriously, Mogu Rune of Fate, you vex me.) All the haste changes really did was make it less likely that I'll throw my haste trinkets out - I'm even wearing one now. So far the idea that haste has been improved for arms seems to be true, in that it isn't a lie or a falsehood, but relative in that haste is still not as good as crit, mastery or even pure str gemming.
I ran some BG's last night. My PvP gear is terrible, and I don't have Shockwave in my spec, so I can only say that I didn't die as much as I expected and that arms will probably be okay in the hands of a skilled PvPer. Even in the hands of a ludicrous person like myself, it performed adequately. I do like Warbringer's new snare, but I don't know that I can afford to use it over Double Time. I did find it useful to pair Warbringer up with Staggering Shout. I absolutely wrecked a couple of people with that combo. And I do like Bladestorm not being disarmable anymore, although I expect serious arena or rBG players to keep Shockwave for an on-demand stun.
Next week, either I'll look at another warrior spec or I'll get back to the gear columns.
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.