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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Cultivating single-minded fury

Matthew Rossi

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.

I tend to fill whatever role our raid needs, from raid leading to tanking to DPSing. As a result, I don't tend to be able to get very comfortable in any one role right now at this point in the expansion's early life cycle. In part, this is why I spent the last four columns talking about tanking -- because frankly, I can tank in my sleep in a high wind on a greased pole in the middle of a rhino stampede. DPSing as a warrior has always taken more work for me. One of the reasons is that I tend towards fairly heterodox ideas when it comes to warrior DPS, and the other reason is because in the back of my head, that tanking voice is always screaming at me to watch my threat.

Seriously, that guy will not shut up about threat. He's always in there, yelling at me every time I start to get comfortable as DPS. It has taken me the past several months to simply get to a place as a DPS warrior where I feel comfortable and able to get in there and cut loose and trust the tanks to keep aggro. That's their job. My job is to kill things.

In the last two weeks, I've been experimenting with both Titan's Grip and Single-Minded Fury builds. The TG build has the benefit of better weapons (we see 2H weapon drops like demented candy), but on the whole, they do fairly comparable DPS. Since some folks on Twitter asked for my take on the viability of SMF; here's the short answer, followed by hundreds of words of me going on and on about it.

SMF is viable. In some cases, it even pulls ahead on DPS. You should use whichever talent most fits your gear options and playstyle.

And now for the hundreds of words.

Whither the single-mindedness of thine fury?

The first caveat I really want to stress about SMF is that it is far, far easier to accumulate stats with two big two-handed weapons. They just have more of whatever they have -- more strength, more hit, exp, crit or mastery. The damage buff of SMF and its using both weapons to calculate Slam damage does compensate for this to some degree, but it's much, much easier to cap out on expertise or hit with TG than with SMF. (Well, okay, you're not going to cap out on hit unless you get very lucky. But its much easier to hit the 10% and 16% targets people debate constantly for current hit target thresholds with TG.)

The second caveat to raiding or running heroic instances as a SMF warrior is do not settle for agility weapons unless they are sincerely better than your available strength options. In one case (the Claws of Torment), there's a significant set bonus for wearing these agility claws alongside their strength-based counterparts, the Claws of Agony. And I'd still be tempted to use a strength-based weapon like the Soul Blade or Lava Spine instead of the Claws of Torment.

For an SMF build, I would at least get my hit up to 10%, cap expertise at 26, and then shift my focus on crit and mastery. After 4.1, the hideous mauling the fury mastery starting level takes may make you want to shift your hit back up to 16% or higher if possible, or you may stay at 10% and put more emphasis on crit. Either way, I tend toward emphasizing Incite over Deep Wounds in my SMF builds since the average damage of a SMF weapon is less than that of a TG weapon, but otherwise, the specs don't differ greatly. This is the SMF build I usually make use of. As you can tell, with SMF weapons hitting more often for less damage, I feel strongly about keeping as much mobility as possible with SMF.

For SMF, I tend to weight Bloodsurge Slam slightly behind Bloodthirst and ahead of Raging Blow, entirely due to Slam's hitting with both weapons.

The SMF pros and cons report

What I really like about an SMF build is it feels a lot less streaky than TG and much less bursty than arms PvE. For myself, it feels harder to gear for -- but not prohibitively so -- and the fact that on average, most weapons I'd use for SMF (strength-based one- and off-handers) tend to all clock in around 2.6 speed means they all hit about the same and generally make rage generation a lot smoother than on TG fury. We've all been standing around after having to move out of a fire trail or dodging sound bombs or what have you, waiting for rage to build back up so we can make some decent attacks. With two 3.6 speed weapons, that can seem like an eternity. If you hit an HS because everything else was on cooldown and then you get a sudden Bloodsurge or Raging Blow proc, it's a lot easier to get the rage back with SMF than with TG.

SMF doesn't have the AoE damage output of TG, though. Not even close. While it's exceedingly competitive (even superior to TG in some cases) when properly geared for on single target, your Cleave/WW combo is always going to hit harder with two two-handed weapons. On big trash pulls in Bastion, I never feel as happy doing the Heroic Leap/WW/Cleave combo when I'm specced SMF.

At least with SMF, it can be easier to gear up. There are several strength-based weapons in heroics that will get you up to 346 blue speed; you can buy an off-hand for a trivial amount of JPs, you can get one from Tol Barad, and there are several candidates in raids (one of the best, the Soul Blade mentioned above, dropping from Bastion trash, and another good alternative on Magmaw, the Lava Spine). There are fewer options in heroics for two-handed weapons. You can't get one for JPs, the Tol Barad one is significantly more expensive than the one-handed option, and the only two-handed weapon for warriors before Cho'gall/Nefarian is the one off of Magmaw.

I can usually hit about 18-22k DPS in a usual 10-man with either spec, and I'm nowhere near the top of my raid (pretty comfortably in third most nights) nor geared as well as the best fury warriors. TG provides me with more DPS entirely because I have two epics and make my caps without having to sacrifice my Fury of Angerforge to do it. The difference is about 1k DPS, depending on the fights, and frankly, I'm willing to accept that as an issue of my own skill and preference (I love TG, we all know I do) combined with gear issues.

The final tally

I honestly think the SMF/TG debate comes down to a quantum finish. I'm sure you could run sims and eventually come out with a decision between the two, but in the end, your own play, your available gear, and your preferences will affect the results in actual use the way observing a quantum event can change the outcome. Blizzard has, much to my personal surprise, managed to more or less balance SMF with TG to the point that it is personal preference and availability of supporting gear that should make your choice here.

I like TG for a lot of reasons. I like its solid AoE damage, I like how it looks, and I like the feeling of swinging big two-handers around. But SMF, outside of these very subjective issues, is absolutely raid-viable. You can use it, and it will perform so closely when used correctly that you're not at all hurting your raid to use it. I doubt they'll even notice the difference, so long as you're a competent SMF player.

At the center of the dury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, including Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors, a guide to new reputation gear for warriors, and a look back at six years of warrior trends.

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