The Care and Feeding of Warriors: A Cataclysm 101 guide for DPS warriors

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, Old Gods and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

In short, if you remember our Arms and Fury 101 posts from earlier this year, we're going to do a roundup for the changes Cataclysm has brought to each spec. Since the changes have actually debuted before Cataclysm has, we've already had a chance to get familiar with what we're going to be seeing in the next few weeks.

So let's go over what a DPS warrior is and isn't. Specifically, a DPS warrior is not a tank. This does not mean that the warrior class does not have a fully functional tanking spec. It does; it's called protection, and we'll be talking about it next week. But while DPS warriors (be they arms or fury) probably think tanking is great and love tanks to death, they would much rather be unleashing bloody murder on things, if that's all right with you.

So let's talk about what the DPS warrior specs are, how they work in Cataclysm, and what you're signing up for when you sign up as a warrior to murder things and take their stuff.

What are the warrior DPS specs?

This one's fairly easy. When you hit level 10 or selected your talent points after the Shattering, did you choose protection as your primary spec? Yes? Then you're not a DPS warrior. You're a tank. Thank you for your interest in DPS warriors; please do not show up for an instance with a sword and board and 31 points in protection and try to DPS in defensive stance. You'll give the tank fits, generate little to no DPS, and confuse everyone.

If you chose arms or fury, however, congratulations. You're a DPS warrior. That's right, two out of the three warrior specs are all about hurting things. Whether you like hitting things with a big two-hander, two smaller one-handers, or two big two-handers, it all comes back to hitting things.

Arms is, in a nutshell, the finesse spec. You're still interested in picking up a colossal sword, axe, mace or polearm and ruining someone's day, but you do so with an eye towards efficiency and precise, debilitating strikes. Arms warriors deal their enemies small wounds to cause them to bleed and crippling wounds that inhibit magical healing. They take advantage of their opponent's tendency to duck out of the way to deal strikes that overpower their defenses entirely. Arms warriors are specialists, tacticians on the battleground. They can even weave their weapon into a storm of strikes at higher levels.

At its heart, fury is about grabbing a couple of weapons and smashing everything hostile with them until everything is dead ... and then probably hitting them a few more times. In the words of Théoden, "Fell deeds awake, fire and slaughter! Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered, a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises! Ride now, ride now! Ride to ruin, and the world's ending!" Or as that notable fury warrior the Incredible Hulk might put it, "Hulk smash." Leveling fury warriors will use two weapons that are designed to be used in one hand, but the talent Titan's Grip will allow a fury warrior to dual wield two-handers if desired. (If you'd rather not, Single-Minded Fury allows you to continue using one-handers while boosting damage to compensate for losing the higher damage of two-handers.)

What are their benefits?

If you prefer offense to defense, these are the specs for you. Either DPS spec can generally produce much higher damage output than a tanking warrior. If you want to dual wield, fury is required (it's one of the specialization bonuses for fury), while arms gets significant bonuses to two-handed weapon use. Most PvP (player vs. player) warriors are arms warriors, due to the talent spec's combination of debuffs, offensive power and mobility. Fury warriors are generally more popular for PvE (player vs. environment) content such as dungeons and raids, but each spec sees use in each context.

If you want to be one of the ones doing the direct killing, these are the specs for you.

What are their drawbacks?

Warriors are intended to be a hybrid class, one that can fulfill more than one role in the game. The roles are defined as tanking, DPS and healing. Since warriors can specialize their talents to either tank or DPS, they are designed to be inferior DPSers than classes that can only DPS. (Crowd control abilities, such as are possessed by most pure DPS classes, are not considered a role in this case.) Warriors do not have any significant CC (not counting the Glyph of Intimidating Shout) and so cannot fulfill that role in an instance group or raid. In essence, if a warrior is there to deal damage, that's all he's going to be able to do, save for perhaps emergency tanking for a few seconds.

What stats do I want as a DPS warrior?

Each DPS spec uses the same stats but has different targets for each. One of the nice changes Cataclysm has in store for you as a warrior is that the game automatically does the math for rating conversion on your character pane as you level, so you won't need to worry about exactly how much hit rating you'll need; it will tell you.

  • Hit Rating Arms has an easier time hitting its target than fury, but for either spec, hit is possibly the best DPS stat until you hit the cap. When looking at your character panel, you'll see exactly what your chance to miss an attack is with your current hit. You can adjust it via gemming, enchanting and gearing. In general, you should at least aim for the minimum amount of hit necessary to not miss special attacks, which is 8 percent. As we level to 85, boss-level mobs will go from level 83 to level 88, but the percentage of hit we'll need to hit them will remain fixed at 8 percent, unmodified by talents or racial abilities. The rating needed to get that much hit will increase with every level. As you can see in the screenshot above, hitting the 8 percent hit you'd need to be completely hit-capped on an arms warrior will be doable by the first tier of Cataclysm raiding. Fury hit capping will be much, much more difficult.

  • Strength With the removal of ArP, strength is your go-to red gem of choice when socketing your gear; it is the main source of raw damage output for a warrior. While you definitely want to make sure your attacks hit, you also want to make sure they do some damage.

  • Expertise You need exactly 26 expertise to push a raid boss' chance to dodge your attacks off of the table. The parry cap is not worth considering, since it's fairly high and you aren't supposed to be attacking your target from in front, where it does all those nasty cleaves and special horrible attacks that we let the tanks soak up. Frankly, hitting the 26 expertise cap is not going to be much of a problem by the time you're in the first raid tier of gear. You may even have to start reforging it off at that point. I suggest hit, if you're a fury warrior. Arms will most likely move it to crit.

  • Haste With the changes to the rage mechanic (as discussed here and in numerous other places), haste, expertise and hit rating are now the only stats that increase a DPS warrior's rage generation. Expertise and hit work by reducing dodges and misses, since an attack that doesn't connect doesn't generate rage. Haste works by increasing the speed of your white swings, thus getting more swings in to generate more rage with. Since haste doesn't work on arms warrior's DoT damage, it's still a fairly lackluster stat for arms, but in tests I've run as fury, it can provide a fairly significant DPS boost. I'd rate it below the "must cap" stats and strength, but it is surprisingly close to critical strike rating in some situations for fury.

  • Critical strike rating Even in raid gear, your critical strike chance is going to plummet in Cataclysm. With stats that just have to be capped and agility almost useless for us (while it generates both attack power and crit for agility classes), you're going to most likely end up with much lower crit at 85 than at 80 for a good long while. Gear has to scale somehow. I'd prioritize crit below hit and around the same as haste or expertise, depending on your spec.

  • Mastery We've recently discussed mastery in detail. It's the "do whatever you do better" stat added just for Cataclysm. While it's a very good stat, it will probably benefit arms faster than fury, due to arms' having less punishing hit caps to reach.

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