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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Arms in PvE

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.

Still haven't gotten a good offhand to test Single-Minded Fury, and so the past week I decided to switch to arms for my raiding spec. Yeah, I'm raiding as DPS at the start of an expansion again. I'd be shocked if it hadn't happened at the beginning of BC, the beginning of Wrath and the beginning of Cata. I just seem to have an absolute gift for showing up to the party as DPS and leaving it as a tank.

Now, conventional wisdom would tell you that fury is king of warrior DPS, and I'm not exactly arguing with that wisdom. Arms is certainly lower in PvE than I would like, but it's got its respectable moments, and it's a lot easier to gear for. To be fair, for my gear level I'm doing fairly well with arms - with the proper talents it's fairly beastly for certain heavy add fights, and if you get a nice addon like SlamAndAwe you can track your Taste for Blood procs and take care of the single most annoying aspect of the spec. I tend to prefer Bladestorm for trash and Dragon Roar for bosses, and I'm still using Bloodbath due to its being up every minute, which is just to my personal tastes.

Raiding arms means playing with a lot more predictability than fury. The only random proc ability is Sudden Death, while pretty much everything else is almost metronomic in its precision. CS to open, MS then Overpower, CS when SD lights up and otherwise Slam unless your rage bar is totally full even with Slams or if you stack TfB to 3 or higher, then try and time a Colossus Smash to be followed by a three-stack Heroic Strike. If TfB is going to fall off if you don't use it now, and it's below 3, let it. Not very hard to use.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Arms in PvE SatSun
You still want hit and expertise around 7.5% (I'll allow some wiggle room on those) but the real stats to stack are Crit and then Mastery. Just raiding normal modes and running LFR you'll eventually see your gear climb significantly and with it, you'll be at roughly 23% crit and 43% mastery (that's non-heroic Best In Slot gear) and with those you'll see a signficant jump in PDS output. It's not going to match up with fury's scaling, but it's still very noticeable - arms warriors are just as gear dependent as fury, or very close to it. I'm sad to report that yet again, haste is an absolute dump stat for us, but at least that makes it easier to pick our stats we want on gear. That being said, it's not always easy to find gear with those stats on it. I'm suffering right now from all the haste on my gear, since that's what's been dropping.

One general all-purpose DPS warrior piece of advice based on my own experience is, pay attention to which fights are high player damage. If you're going to need to use personal cooldowns to survive, or you know a boss is going to throw around tons of damage (like Heroic Feng) then it's worthwhile to switch to Berserker Stance. I really like Zerk for the Execute phase on H Feng or Elegon.

Arms no longer has the edge over its cousin in terms of DPS mobility, but it's still a very mobile spec and can use Die by the Sword to good effect. On fights like Grand Empress Shek'zeer arms can be configured to great effect, especially when she ports out and summons adds. Indeed, adds in general almost seem like an arms warrior's best friend with the ability to use Sweeping Strikes, spread Deep Wounds with Blood and Thunder, and pick a solid AoE ability (on Feng heroic, for instance, I often spec into Bladestorm in order to do damage to multiple adds at once, and it's also very nice for the Protectors of the Endless since we keep all three of them stacked together for the start of the fight).

I recommend Dragon Roar as the only real choice for a single target DPS build, of course, but I'm not sure my bias towards Bloodbath is the right one. Icy Veins agrees with me (but points out that the difference is extremely small) so it comes down to whether you want a button you push every minute or every three minutes. This is my current spec I use for arms with glyphs included. You could argue for the glyph of Colossus Smash instead of Sweeping Strikes, but I like the extra rage on trash pulls. I like Blitz for fights like Will of the Emperor or Tsulong where I'm often charging into adds that start off fairly close to one another.

If I had a real problem with arms it would be one that I've already stated, that it feels like my DPS is fairly middling until I get into Execute phase unless there are adds around. Now, some of that is because I'm still gearing up and I'm not getting the benefit of set bonus or high mastery yet. Another problem is how Taste for Blood works in PvE. Quite frankly, this is a very frustrating ability. I've had nights where I can't get it to climb above two stacks, and nights where it routinely builds to four or even five. It's important not to get so excited at the idea of a high Taste for Blood stack that you forget to MS on cooldown, which is something I've done on occasion. A five stack TfB Heroic Strike, especially if you can time a Colossus Smash before it or hit it with DPS cooldowns (or both) is very nice, but you'll end up having to chose between using Heroic Strike with three stacks up or losing the buff quite often, it's simply not going to stack to four or five most of the time. I don't like that because it feels like the ability is punishing you for trying to use it properly. Considering the hue and cry from PvPers about the ability, I wonder if we'd be better off reducing it to a 3 stack cap, but increasing the chance to stack it to 40% to make it more reliable?
The Care and Feeding of Warriors Arms in PvE SatSun

Let's be honest - arms has fallen a bit from its Dragon Soul heights. It's gone from the king of warrior DPS to a spec that still hits fairly hard but suffers in comparison not only to fury, but other strength melee who can make use of haste. since arms is basically forced to reforge away a whole lot of not useful stat to try and get its crit and mastery up. This means that, while we've seen rage heavily modified, we're right back to being extremely gear dependent. But it's certainly a lot closer than it ever got during the days of Wrath of the Lich King or most of Cataclysm before Dragon Soul. It's definitely true that it suffers compared to other DPS specs until it hits that BiS threshold, but that's nothing new for warriors.

Next week, I really hope SMF but we'll see what the loot gods decide.

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.

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