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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Mists of Pandaria Arms 101

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 doesn't want to tame your animal style.

If there had been any way in the world that I believed it possible that ye olde editors would have let me name this post "Shooting at the walls of heartache," that's exactly what it would have been called. However, since this is week four of our 101 guides to Mists of Pandaria for warriors, I felt constrained by the already established naming convention. Nevertheless, what is true is true, and heart to heart you'll win, if you survive. Bang bang.

Anyway, I really have to stop referencing that song and give you an article about arms in Mists.

Arms is one of two DPS specs the warrior class will have available in Mists of Pandaria, and it's a storied specialization with a lot of history. The arms spec was the premier PvP and PvE spec in vanilla World of Warcraft. It was not only the most-played spec for PvP, it was the most-played spec for both DPSing in raids and for tanking. The 31/5/15 arms/fury/protection spec ruled the class.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Mists of Pandaria Arms 101
The arms spec you'll be playing in Mists is heir to every change, development and progression the spec has undergone from The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King and the spec's current form in Cataclysm. Arms as a spec is designed around the idea of perfect control of one single weapon, of discipline mastering one's rage rather than the berserk style of fury or the weapon and shield of protection.

What has changed for arms in Mists of Pandaria

In some ways, not nearly as much has changed for arms, compared to fury or protection.
  • Stance penalties being gone means that arms can now use Whirlwind in battle stance and thus has a class-wide AoE available to it.
  • Bladestorm, formerly the signature talent of the spec ever since The Burning Crusade introduced it, is no longer spec-specific.
  • Throwdown is gone. You can talent for a weaker version of it at level 15, the new version of Warbringer.
  • Rend is gone. Arms warriors now automatically apply Deep Wounds when they use Mortal Strike. Mortal Strike now automatically then procs Overpower, thanks to Taste for Blood.
  • Slam is now a baseline arms ability and is instant-cast.
  • Stances have been changed. Arms will most likely use Battle Stance, which generates increased rage from damage dealt (white hits) for the vast majority of the time. Berserker Stance may see some use in PvP or when taking extremely high environmental damage in specific dungeon or raid boss fights.
  • Rage generation has been changed. Arms warriors will generate rage from Mortal Strike in addition to charge (which can be used in combat untalented now), Battle or Commanding Shout and white attacks. Entering into an enrage will also generate 10 rage. For arms, enrage can be entered into via a Mortal Strike or Colossus Smash critical hit or forced by using Berserker Rage.
  • Blood and Thunder still works. However, it no longer matters to your Overpower procs at all. You simply put Deep Wounds on everyone you hit with Thunder Clap. Taste for Blood no longer needs an active bleed on a target; it simply activates Overpower every time you hit Mortal Strike.
As far as an arms rotation goes, it's not terribly different. Colossus Smash is your priority, especially if it's about to fall off of a target and Sudden Death resets its cooldown. Then you'll hit Mortal Strike both to generate rage and to activate Overpower, which you'll hit while Mortal Strike is on cooldown. If you have rage to bleed, you'll hit Slam unless you have Taste for Blood stacked fully; then you'll hit Heroic Strike. You'll hit Battle Shout or Commanding Shout on cooldown for rage, and you'll charge whenever feasible for the same reason. For AoE pulls, you'll use Cleave instead of Heroic Strike and Whirlwind, plus whatever AoE talent you selected.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Mists of Pandaria Arms 101
Some have complained that the arms rotation in Mists feels extremely metronomic and predictable, and they have a point. Aside from Sudden Death procs, you pretty much always know exactly what you're going to do next, no surprises. CS over MS over Overpower over Slam/HS. I veer back and forth between thinking arms has gotten a trifle overly simplistic and that it's just streamlined out the annoying need to apply Rend in the first place. While I do miss being able to float my Overpower around more, the rotation works, and it seems to generate much more fluid rage than fury does at the moment.

Statistics for arms in Mists of Pandaria

Arms as a warrior DPS spec has some similarities to fury, but the weights of the stats it wants are different.
  • Strength This is your primary damage-dealing stat. You want strength and almost never agility unless it's a weapon upgrade that's so significantly better that you can afford the lost strength. Strength is where your damage comes from, ultimately. All those big slow, two-handed weapon swings not only have to connect, they have to hurt.
  • Critical strike rating After strength, just before mastery and then haste.
  • Hit and expertise Arms wants 7.5% hit and 7.5% expertise as of patch 5.0.4, no more and no less. While Overpower can't be dodged, blocked or parried, everything else can be, including your big rage generator, Mortal Strike. Arms is far more fortunate than fury in this regard and can completely cap all white hits with 7.5% hit. There's no reason not to aim for these caps. With arms warriors swinging so slow (see haste, below), you really can't afford to miss or be dodged.
  • Mastery Strikes of Opportunity isn't as good as it is now, but it's still pretty good, and mastery still seems better than haste. Maybe.
  • Haste It's better than it has been for arms ever, but it's still behind everything else. Still, with rage being tied to white hits and haste increasing the frequency of your white hits, this stat is not to be shunned and avoided as it once was. I'm even debating it vs. mastery, what with the really savage beating that Strikes of Opportunity took.
Basically, since strength is going to be on your gear anyway, you're going to look for crit, then mastery. You're probably going to gem strength unless socket bonuses are insanely compelling. You'd almost always be better off with more strength.

Arms and talent choice in Mists of Pandaria

Much of what we said about these talents in our fury post is worth considering here. However, since arms only uses one weapon instead of two, some things change.

The level 15 talents are Juggernaut, Double Time, and Warbringer. This one really comes down to playstyle. For me as an arms warrior, I find Warbringer's stun useful for PvP, and for PvE I like Double Time and the freedom it gives me to charge twice immediately when I need it.

Level 30's self-heals are Enraged Regeneration, Impending Victory and Second Wind. Second Wind is shaping up really well for PvP (especially one-on-one fights, which admittedly isn't all that important in PvP), and Enraged Regeneration's 1-minute cooldown makes it pretty useful for boss fights with high damage. Impending Victory is another attack in a fairly crowded rotation, but it does heal decently and does damage as well.

Level 45 is still the yelling tier. Piercing Howl, Disrupting Shout, and Staggering Shout are your choices. Every time I look at Piercing Howl and Staggering Shout, I wish I could either take them both or start two boxing so I can have one arms warrior with Piercing Howl and Bladestorm and another with Staggering Shout and Dragon Roar. I'll probably take Disrupting Shout for PvE, since a big AoE interrupt is pretty nice.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Mists of Pandaria Arms 101
Bladestorm, Shockwave and Dragon Roar are, at least to me, as if someone decided to make me choose between which finger I got to keep. I want all three of these abilities. As of right now, though, I bet Dragon Roar is going to come out ahead on pure damage, at least for the first few weeks. I love Shockwave, but adding a 20-second cooldown AoE cone to it seems overly fussy compared to Dragon Roar's 1-minute blast of raw damage, which is a guaranteed critical strike and which ignores armor as well as acting like an AoE Throwdown. Bladestorm is, well -- it's Bladestorm, and we all love Bladestorm. But since you can't be disarmed out of being able to use Dragon Roar, I'm giving it the thumbs up for PvP and PvE.

Level 75 is the tanky abilities Mass Spell Reflection, Safeguard and Vigilance. For me as an arms warrior, I'd probably take Vigilance since most boss effects aren't reflectable, but having a warrior version of Hand of Sacrifice is pretty cool.

Level 90 gives us Avatar, Bloodbath and Storm Bolt, and for arms I'm really stuck on Avatar. Avatar is especially good for PvP because it removes all movement-impairing effects and increases damage dealt and rage generation. It's also good for PvP for these reasons, especially if combined with Recklessness and Skull Banner. Bloodbath has a potential for an AoE snare, however, which would work well with Staggering Shout (hit Bloodbath, hit Whirlwind, toss off a Staggering to root everyone) if the Bloodbath slow is considered a snare. It's also a 1-minute DPS cooldown, making it compelling. Storm Bolt's not bad, but it's a 30-second attack; the increased damage to stun immune mobs makes it a nice boss damage ability, though.

Next week, we're rounding up all the non-specialization specific stuff for warriors in Mists of Pandaria. We'll be feeding on hungry eyes and not being so civilized and everything.

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.

Filed under: Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors, Mists of Pandaria

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