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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: PTR Arms

Matthew Rossi

I wanted to do an April Fool's column. The fact that this column is being posted three days after April Fool's isn't the reason I decided not to do it, though. No, I ended up not doing it because I couldn't think of anything particularly funny to say about the class. Not that it isn't a funny class at times, because it is. Any class where you spend a lot of time trying to get trolls to give you teeth, elementals to give you lucky charms (they weren't Marshmallowy Delicious, either) and finally get a fine 2h weapon just in time for everyone to get mad that you're not a tank is comedy, of a kind.

Anyone who remembers when warriors were rage starved due to us being bugged so that we were being given way too many misses, or when a missed execute ate all of your rage, can attest to the warrior class being really funny sometimes. My wife used to laugh and say that Blizzard had done a wonderful job of transferring the sensation of building rage to the player. Your character might be rage starved, but you? Oh, you'd be screaming at the computer as if you could yell your rage bar into red.

That's why I've decided to move away from talking about fury in 3.1 and to spend the next two or three columns discussing tanking and arms spec, especially as they're going to be. This week, we'll talk about Arms as PvE and PvP.

Part of the reason I wanted to test Arms on the PTR is that I finally have the gear to test out certain presumptions I've had since I looked at the changes for arms. The armor penetration on Battle Stance combines extremely well with Mace Specialization. (For reference, the build I'm playing with is this one. As always, I know it could be better.) With Mace Spec and the new and improved Battle Stance combined I'm rocking 25% armor penetration before gear: when Grim Toll procs I'm approaching 65%. Keeping in mind that I don't have any of the new Ulduar gear on my cow, I'm loaded with more expertise than I need (I passed on Weapon Mastery, for example, because I have 30 expertise just from Strength of Arms and my gear). I'm not even counting the Shattering Throw armor reduction because frankly I often forget to use it in PvE.

As you can see from my stats, I'm lower on attack power than I would want to be to really get the most DPS out of the arms spec, but even with these stats, I was pleasantly surprised with what I could do. These are not intended to be taken as true benchmarks, just examples.

This is an unbuffed (save for Battle Shout) run at a boss training dummy. Its hardly earth-shattering, but for the gear level I have (a mix of Naxx 10 and 25 epics, a Jawbone) it's reasonably solid. A later run capped out at about 1800 DPS before I moved away from the dummy, and gave me the following graphs.

Things to keep in mind: I have no swing timer of any kind on test, I'm purely just trying to find a solid rotation for these attacks, I'm still without one (For this experiment I tried to prioritize Execute - Overpower - Slam - MS but as you can see I got a lot more overpowers than executes on this particular run - I'm now thinking Overpower should be priority over Execute). Rend and Deep Wounds are still a very large part of my DPS but Vverpower was definitely providing a great deal of my raw damage here. I was pleasantly surprised that MS managed to come close to Rend, frankly. If I'd worked Slam more and gotten luckier with Sudden Death procs, I think I could have easily pushed 2200 DPS on this spec. Again, that's unbuffed.

This means that the developers have at least succeeded at one thing: they have brought Arms much, much closer to a viable DPS spec as compared to fury. Right now, with a human fury warrior dual wielding maces on live I can hit 2200 to 2600 DPS on a dummy. On test, it's lower, but still with familiarity I'm capable of hitting about 2000 DPS unbuffed, which is right about where Arms is ending up. Were I a better arms warrior with a swing timer and more experience with the spec? Arms is indisputably better on test than it is on live. In the past I've complained about the pace of change for Arms on test, but as far as Arms DPS on test is concerned right now, I have nothing to complain about. These changes have absolutely improved the spec for PvE.

Unrelenting Assault
in particular is the most felt change to the spec, I believe. The armor penetration is nice, yes, and I'm definitely much more of a fan of Mace Spec for PvE now, but I think even a cursory examination of my fumbling attempts on the dummy prove that Overpower is much improved with the talent.

My personal gear level meant that I have plenty of hit and expertise, but what I found most interesting was the fact that between Weapon Mastery and Strength of Arms an up and coming arms warrior in blues will be easily able to move dodge chance entirely out of play, making Arms probably the more gear-friendly DPS spec. While still improving as gear improves, it will be easier for a new 80 going into PvE to be sure he won't be dodged while attacking from behind (important because melee is still a big source of arms DPS) while also not worrying about losing his or her overpowers thanks to Taste for Blood.

I wasn't able to get an Arena match in on test, but I did run around Wintergrasp making a nuisance of myself. Right now I can say that Juggernaut is, by itself, a positive boon. I didn't have PvP gear on, so in general I had the same problem any warrior is going to have when focus fired in PvP, I died fast. But when I got lucky enough to pick up a pocket healer the added mobility of Juggernaut makes keeping casters in range much easier, and the one-two punch of the MS debuff and the Overpower casting debuff makes healers miserable: pop a paladin's shield with Shattering Throw, then charge and MS/rend/overpower and you can hamper him a lot more effectively than warriors have ever been able to. Since we're the class with almost no real way to outlast healing, it's nice to see some viability in our old role as spoilers.

In short, Arms feels much more viable for both PvP and PvE on test. It's not perfect yet: the rotation feels ridiculously tight to me, you have to be on top of it constantly watching for procs and not missing anything, you can find youself entirely rage starved even with over 300 hit due to the fact that all of your rage generation depends on a big, slow 2h weapon. But man, it's so much better, even a middling arms warrior like myself can do reasonable damage with it. Imagine how good it will be with someone who's used to the playstyle.

Next week, we'll talk prot in 3.1. Does the change to Defensive Stance and Improved Defensive Stance mean much? Does more damage from all attacks and more damage from Thunder Clap and Shockwave produce measureable increases in threat?

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