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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: To Arms

Matthew Rossi

The endless respeccing continues. Oh, dual specs, why won't you arrive? Why?

Last week we talked about protection, which I said (and stand by) was the the best leveling spec in the game for warriors, being fast, fun and powerful. A lot of people took umbrage, saying that I was ignoring how strong Arms was as a leveling spec. I'm not going to take back my statement about prot... it's a wonderful, versatile, almost unkillable leveling spec that can do a lot of damage to groups and takes a beating and a half. I'm in love with how Blizzard has revamped the spec, making it strong for solo as well as tanking. But fair is fair, and since I have plenty of warriors, it's not like respeccing one to arms and testing it out is going to kill me.

Well, arms partisans, I admit it. The spec may have been overshadowed by the sheer coolness factor of a TG build, but in terms of power and effectiveness grinding your way through mobs to get your quests done, it's a solid spec. It's so solid that I even respecced my 80 warrior for the holiday weekend and picked up an Argent Skeleton Crusher to replace my De-Raged Waraxe. What it lacks in prot's pure refusal to die it gains in the excellent, underrated (by me) spectacle of unleashing a bladestorm in the middle of a three mob pull. I'm now eyeing that titansteel I have in the bank and mulling over the merits of making myself a Destroyer.

A caveat: if you do not like watching for procs, you won't like the new arms. I leveled back in vanilla WoW as an arms warrior when MS was the top of the tree and you could raid tank in the spec. It still bears the stamp of that time (and MS is still the heart of the tree) but you'll find overpower and execute have moved up to be equal damage dealing instants once they proper talents allow their use.

Arms is good enough now that, at 80 in tanking gear I was doing significant damage with it. Once I grabbed a few DPS pieces and got them properly enchanted, well, I became just as enchanted with the spec as all the commenters from last week: it requires a more focused attention on your abilities but if you can get that overpower or execute off on time, you'll benefit greatly. Improved Rend not only does reasonable damage now, but with talents like Deep Wounds, Taste for Blood, Trauma, Unrelenting Assault and Blood Frenzy, arms is all about a cascade effect, as your bleeds not only do more damage but give you more instant attacks for more chances to crit and increase how much damage your bleed effects can do, while simultaneously increasing how much damage your targets can take from physical attacks and increasing your attack speed. Arms actually feels like you're a slow burn, a juggernaut who just does more and more damage the longer the fight goes and your abilities all come into play.

Okay, let's look first at the build I tested out on my draenei warrior. Technically he's level 73 now and this is a level 70 build, so just pretend he forgot to spend two talent points I guess. It's intended as a leveling build and assumes you may want to do some tanking with it, hence the inclusion of full Tactical Mastery.

This is a heavy arms build, going over into fury for the two must-have DPS talents Armored to the Teeth and Cruelty. Improved Overpower is a must for any arms build that aims to take advantage of Taste for Blood - if Rend is going to let you proc a low rage cost, high damage instant attack, you want to have an extra 50% chance to crit with that attack, especially with talents like Unrelenting Assault lowering your overpower cooldowns and Wrecking Crew enraging you on any successful melee critical. I won't lie to you: I only put that point in Improved Intercept out of habit. I don't think I shifted out of battle stance very often at all while grinding in Storm Peaks, there just was no reason to when I saw Overpower lighting up all the time. I specced axes for this build because both my human and my draenei have good axes, but you could use any weapon you like. Axe spec is pretty strong for this particular build, though, with both additional critical hit chance and damage. For PvE axe spec is hard to say no to, frankly, with all the synergy it has with Wrecking Crew and Trauma.

I then decided to play around on my tauren with a slightly more advanced version of the spec. Since he's just level 74, you'll have to pretend he had an extra point. Frankly, at this point I was kind of at a loss as to what to spend points in arms on. I don't like Imp Slam for a soloing/questing build because I'm rarely ever going to be casting slam, especially with Overpower and Execute procs and Mortal Strike already using up so much of my rage (even with that extra 10 rage after every execute) so I took points in Second Wind (always good for when some annoying mob has a stun) but I really feel like the points in Improved Intercept are almost wasted now, and would have been better in Imp Charge or Imp HS. I stance dance for the occasional intercept, but it's not as important in a leveling build as it would be for a dedicated PvP build, which this isn't. The two points in Unbridled Wrath are in preperation for where the spec will be in another five points, plus it never hurts to get rage back.

Finally, the spec I used at 80. This is still intended for soloing/questing/occasional instancing, it's not aimed at sustained raid damage dealing or dedicated PvP. It's solid for grinding rep to get better armor and weapons and can clutch tank if needed as well. Again, I'm not sold on Imp Intercept, but it's in the spec as I have it so I'm keeping it here for you to look at and consider how you'd better spend the points. (If I were doing a lot of instances as DPS, I'd almost assuredly dump it for Imp Slam or Imp HS, or even consider trying to move those points over to Commanding Presence.) I was surprised by how much I loved Sudden Death, to be honest. Execute 'spam' (it's hard to really spam an ability with a 9% proc chance) saved my bacon on at least two bad pulls up around Dun Niffleheim, and combined with the raw damage output of Bladestorm (thankfully, mobs are too stupid to run away) and judicious use of the new Retaliation and Recklessness (pop reck and then bladestorm back to back, it's hilarious) I was easily able to grind my daily quests with almost ridiculous ease. Sweeping Strikes, Bladestorm and Improved Cleave give this spec a solid amount of area damage when it becomes necessary to break it out.

There's probably lots of ways to improve this spec... like I said, just looking at it now I thought about dumping Imp Intercept for Commanding Shout, as more AP is always good and I'm just not shifting into zerk enough to benefit from the intercept cooldown. Honestly, with all the changes, I'd almost suggest putting Imp Intercept back into fury, but I'm sure if I was PvP arms I'd hate that idea. I leave it to our dedicated arms warriors to come and explain how to improve it in more detail: I know from testing that these specs can serve their desired function (as my squidface is now 73 because I was testing this spec) and you can use them as a base to design your own spec. Just please, don't forget to include Wrecking Crew as nothing is more embarrassing than having to go back to the trainer as everyone else is waiting at the stone for you.

Next week, underwater basketweaving. Or maybe fury specs for leveling. I'm sure we're all on tenterhooks waiting to see which.

Check out more strategies, tips and leveling guides for Warriors in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column: The Care and Feeding of Warriors.

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