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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Arms, the destroyer

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.

Okay, this will be a bit of a departure for me. So far, I'm half-way through Siege of Orgrimmar, and the following has happened:

  • I've switched to raiding as arms.
  • I've enjoyed myself.
  • I've done solid to very solid damage, especially on any fight with an AoE component. So for the Fallen Protectors, Sha of Pride, Galakras and Kor'kron Dark Shaman, fights where you can at the least cleave if not outright AoE, DPS as arms is good. Okay, on Galakras it's very good. So very good. I love Galakras, is what I'm saying.
  • I miss fury for the coolness factor of carrying around two weapons, but I've been SMF the last month or so anyway, and frankly I find SMF personally unsatisfying. If you like it, I'm glad, and I'm very glad it's been good for the past couple of patches, but man I just don't feel right DPS with 1h weapons. So for me, if I can't be TG, I'm happier arms anyway.
  • Arms is very raid viable right now. It's awesome AoE, but it's solid to very solid for single target. Slam (especially with the Colossus Smash debuff) and the buff to Mortal Strike make our single target rotation hit a lot harder than it did. You will never touch HS. You'll barely ever hit Cleave, although you absolutely will be cleaving. You'll just do it with Sweeping Strikes and Slam. Slam is, finally, a good and fun button to hit.
  • This is the DPS spec we've been waiting for - one that works, that does good raid damage, that requires you to actually be awake and pay some attention but which isn't absolutely crippled by missing a button push. Arms is fun right now.
So let's talk more about arms in 5.4 and how surprisingly good it is without being an overpowered monster.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Arms, the destroyer

The reason I say arms isn't overpowered right now is simple - you're absolutely never going to top the meters on any fight that lacks a sustained AoE component. We hit harder, but not that much harder. Furthermore, you really have to get into a groove of husbanding enough rage that you're sure to be able to Slam at least twice in a CS debuff period (six seconds) and even then, it's not as high as what other classes can put out. But it is much higher than what arms could manage before 5.4, and combined with the buff to Deep Wounds, the rage discount on Thunder Clap, the damage boost to TC, and the new Sweeping Strikes/Slam interaction it means that we're respectable single target and exceptional AoE.

Warriors have been an AoE DPS class for a while now - whatever DPS spec you were using, you were better for multiple mobs. But what arms in 5.4 has become is a master of AoE. For steady streams of three or four mobs at a time, we have TC and Deep Wounds and Sweeping Strikes/Slam. For bigger packs we have either Dragon Roar or Bladestorm (and with the buffs to Bladestorm damage for arms and the lowering of its cooldown, I'd always take Bladestorm if I expected to be doing AoE) as well as Whirlwind to fill in the gaps. You can even get the new Glyph of the Raging Whirlwind if you intend to use Whirlwind more often, but that's more of a fury glyph in my opinion - arms simply doesn't need to use Whirlwind except to fill in gaps.

Frankly, though, at least some of my enjoyment of arms as a DPS spec isn't arms at all - it's the change to Shield Wall and Spell Reflection, because at last, warriors have decent damage reduction usable as DPS for when bosses drop a huge pile of "now you die" right on top of you. During our Kor'kron Dark Shaman pulls, as the area in front of Grommash Hold filled up with poison tornadoes and waves of green oozes and all sorts of nastiness, my new macro which links Shield Wall and Enraged Regeneration worked like a charm and kept me upright. Sure, I still died quite a bit - I'm a warrior the first week into new content, of course I died - but I no longer felt helpless in the face of imminent bad stuff. Cleaving adds on Galakras? Hit Swall/ER and stay alive. It doesn't make up for not moving, but it does save you from not having moved quite fast enough.

As for arms as a spec, the playstyle hasn't changed since 5.2, or at least not very much - you might as well take Heroic Strike off of your bars, you'll never use it, but I didn't use it much before anyway. It's basically MS on cooldown for rage, Overpower as your filler between CS procs, then CS - Slam x2 (or x3 if you can fit that many in six seconds) and then MS again for rage. I don't spam a lot of Overpowers or try frantically to use all my Taste for Blood stack up between MS cooldowns. It's okay to let it stack up a bit because Overpower is so cheap that when you're low on rage between CS it's nice to have a few Overpowers to use, and more importantly, considering that Slam (which already hits harder now) gets an extra 10% damage per Colossus Smash, it's helpful to let yourself at least build to 50 rage so you can dump it as soon as you hit CS. Slam is your rage dump - thou shalt have no other rage dump than Slam. Especially not if you just hit CS, unless you're just starved on rage and can't throw a Mortal Strike off before Colossus Smash runs out. During the CS debuff, you should always be thinking Slam if you have the rage, Mortal Strike if you don't, and Overpower if you can't hit either for some reason.
The Care and Feeding of Warriors Arms, the destroyer

I have a couple of concerns with all this, of course. The first is that I'm worried that we'll fall behind once everyone is in full SoO gear and going into heroics, the way we did in Tier 15 - fury DPS was a lot more competitive when the tier started than it was by the time 5.3 dropped. I don't want to see this new arms spec go from a strong contender to down around number 12 again. Secondly, I remember back in Cataclysm when we went into Dragon Soul and arms was our leading DPS spec suddenly, and a lot of players that weren't particularly interested in playing arms felt forced to do so. I don't think that's going to happen this time. Based on what I'm hearing from other players, fury is still fairly powerful and outpaces arms on single target fights like Iron Juggernaut.

In general, however, I've been having a lot of fun with this raid. I wasn't sick of DPSing as fury, and I wasn't sick of Throne of Thunder (I think it's one of the better raids Blizzard has done, and at six months lasted just about as long as it needed to) but the change of pace has definitely done me some good, and I have to admit that while I still think fury could have used some more attention, I'm surprised and pleased by the changes overall to arms. It's a good spec for PvE now. I hope to get some PvP in this week and see if I like it there as well - I think a Colossus Smash/Slam combo will be a lot tamer in PvP with CS only reducing player armor by 50% and resilience being baked in, but it's still something I want to test out.

Oh, and pick up an Evil Eye of Galakras. Trust me. It's freaking sweet. 42 seconds on Bladestorm, Dragon Roar and Bloodbath? Yes, please. It makes Avatar useable for PvE.
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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