The changes to arms in patch 5.4 are good if viewed from the lens that the fury warrior DPS model is one that arms should be emulating - namely, more AoE than burst or single target. Quite frankly, when discussing warrior DPS, I think the emphasis on our damage isn't where it should be. Fury does good to very good AoE damage, especially with the right talents, but our single target burst and sustained damage lags far behind other classes. Fury simple doesn't hit as hard, especially not on fights where rage gets interrupted for any reason, and arms adopting the same shotgun blast AoE damage model has problems. Yes, it will bring arms up on the charts. But it could also cement warriors as the trash DPS - bring them to clear to the boss or kill a lot of adds, but if you need someone to put sustained high damage on a single target, you may want to switch them out.
This isn't to say that fury is terrible at single-target. It isn't. It's simply a concern of mine that fury, which underperforms compared to other melee in that regard, should perhaps not be the model for how arms is designed. If the two specs are functionally both concerned with AoE DPS, they come dangerously close to feeling homogenized. But for now, we have to deal with the spec we have, not the spec we might think we would rather have. So what will be happening with arms in patch 5.4?
Looking at the most recent datamined spell changes, and of course keeping in mind that they are datamined, nothing is final yet - we see that arms has several changes aimed at increasing its AoE output. The first is the change to Blood and Thunder. This will buff both protection and arms' AoE DPS by making Thunder Clap hit for 50% more as well as applying Deep Wounds, it's a basic damage buff. But what gets interesting is the change to Seasoned Soldier reducing the rage cost of Thunder Clap by 10, making Thunder Clap a much easier to use part of the rotation. Interestingly, Sweeping Strikes gets a nerf, now hitting additional targets for 75% damage. This indicates that the buff to Blood and Thunder is a concern for balance, and it also indicates that the developers are afraid arms warriors are leaning too heavily on Sweeping Strikes for their AoE.
Then there's Slam. Frankly, the change to Slam that causes all targets in range to take 35% of Slam's damage to its target is unusual. It will encourage warriors to keep thinking of Slam as a rage dump, but frankly when I'm AoEing I usually spend all of my rage on AoE attacks anyway - I'd still rather hit Whirldwind, Sweeping Strikes or Thunder Clap than Slam in an AoE pull. It could be useful in a more 'Boss plus one or two adds' situation, or to reward warriors who just have Slam hardwired into their reflexes or macros now. Now, if it was 50% of that initial hit to all targets, then I'd be impressed. Of course, this also matters because we saw in the patch notes for 5.4 that Slam will do an extra 10% damage to targets afflicted with Colossus Smash - does that increased damage get shared?
It seems clear that there's not just an effort to increase arms AoE damage, but rather to redistribute it - it is in fact possible (though doubtful, to my eyes) that all of these changes will end up canceling each other out. Thunder Clap's 50% increased damage and Slam's 35% damage splash might just make up the loss of 25% from each Sweeping Strikes hit. It comes down to how often are you going to hit Thunder Clap? Are you going to use it rotationally, or just to apply Deep Wounds to your targets? If the latter, if TC damage isn't worth using the ability more freely, then this could end up lowering arms' AoE DPS, which would make them even less likely to be brought along in PvE content already dominated by fury.
This leads me back to my initial concern - do warriors do enough single target? All of this playing with AoE seems like a lot of effort to fix a problem warriors don't really have right now - while it's true that most arms warriors rely heavily on Sweeping Stikes for their AoE, was this a design that required significant rebalancing? Is it purely because the Blood and Thunder change (which affects prot as well, and was clearly intended for prot, since they use Thunder Clap much more rotationally) adds more AoE DPS and a rebalancing was necessary to adjust for it? It seems that this will be a more active design for arms AoE DPS, and if balanced correctly it could lead to increased AoE damage, or at least AoE damage that isn't quite as reliant on hoarding rage for Sweeping Strikes. Being able to hit TC for 10 rage vs. 30 rage for SS, you suddenly have variety in your playstyle.
I do definitely think, while we're making all these changes, we might want to take a look at warrior single target DPS. Especially considering that arms in particular is so rarely represented in PvE content at the moment. As for PvP, these changes won't matter all that much - none of them are as useful for PvP as the Shield Wall/Spell Reflection changes that freed us from the tyranny of macros. Hamstring's 1 second cooldown is aimed at keeping us from just spamming it the second we get into melee range, which means we're going to get kited even more than we already do, making it long past time that charge got better at keeping us in melee range. Then again, it's hardly fun to have to spam Hamstring. Since we're tinkering, why not dump that rage cost? We can't spam it anymore, why keep the rage cost that served to prevent that spamming in the first place? It would be nice if Staggering Shout got a revamp as well, gave us something we sorely need, a reliable way to control ranged once we get in range of them.
Okay, next week, either we'll talk about fury or something else from the PTR.
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.