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.
For most of 2012 and 2013 I was simply unable to test SMF out myself. It was simming to be the best DPS spec for warriors as early as normal Mogu'shan Vaults. but like all warrior specs it's ludicrously gear dependent and arms was simply easier for me to gear up - you can completely hit cap arms, it's not so shackled to crit as the only worthwhile DPS stat, and most importantly I had a two handed weapons. One handers were a myth told to me in a dream by ghostly apparitions, not items I actually saw drop. Even my tanking weapon was in fact an agi weapon that would have gotten disenchanted if I hadn't picked it up.
Then I found myself in a situation with three other DPS warriors, and again getting 1h DPS weapons seemed absolutely impossible because I was constantly competing with two other players for them. But the funny thing is, eventually everyone else gets geared up, and then? Then the drops are yours to rescue from the disenchant pile. When a thunderforged Qon's Flaming Scimitar dropped and no one wanted it (saving their points for heroic drops, no doubt) I decided I'd snap that up and go SMF for a week. What did I learn?
Well, one thing that immediately jumps to mind is this - no one ever talks about the stamina drop going from TG to SMF, but it's real, and it will kill you. Going through three heroic fights this week, I noticed that my reflexes are tuned to the higher stamina I had dual-wielding Uroe, and I simply was too slow to hit Enraged Regen, Die by the Sword or my healthstone. I lost count of the times I went splat on Ji-Kun because I was simply used to having more health than I do. It's not even a huge drop, but it is noticeable, and it definitely threw me off. If you're planning to switch to SMF from TG, make sure you familiarize yourself with your new health amount.
But what about the damage, you're saying. Is it really better than TG?
Of course it is. Literally everyone has been saying that for months. Yes, in a perfect scenario, SMF does more damage than TG. I personally got an extra 5 or 6k DPS doing dummy tests. But in practical terms, on fights it comes down to what you're used to, what you're comfortable with, and to a degree the AoE situation. SMF is a clear winner on Iron Qon, for instance, because there's no AoE on the fight (plenty of AoE on the huge trash packs leading up to the fight) and in many cases you can stand there and, as long as your avoiding the many, many annoying moving parts of the fight, just hit your rotation on him.
On any fight with a high AoE component, like Tortos, SMF and TG are effectively even. SMF's higher single target DPS (again, it's higher, but it's not much higher) will be balanced out by TG's higher AoE. This isn't to say that SMF doesn't have good AoE, just that TG is better.
I found SMF a little easier to use effectively on high movement fights if only because you generate rage a little faster with two 2.6 speed weapons than with two 3.6 speed weapons. I actually find myself missing the days of fast 1h so I could use one weapon to generate rage faster and the other to unload it (the pre-SMF days of fury in BC, before TG even existed, often rewarded this style) but rage generation really isn't that much faster.
In fact, this is basically the difficulty I have - in BiS gear in every slot, on a perfect fight, I have no doubt that I could squeeze an extra 10k or so DPS out of SMF over TG or arms. Those conditions do not exist for most warriors. If you already have BiS gear, you'll use whatever you have that's best, and as for fight conditions, this tier of raiding is possibly the single most unfriendly tier in terms of warrior DPS that we've yet seen in two full expansions of unfriendly fights. The only thing that saved warrior DPS in previous expansions was the way rage scaled exponentially, and that's been fixed. As we've discussed, warrior DPS isn't setting the world on fire nowadays. Playing SMF is playing the theoretical maximum of a bad bunch, but theory and reality don't always line up.
I feel like I'm not doing a good job listing the positives of SMF. So let's try and do that now. What did I like about the spec?
- It feels significantly faster than TG. Haste seems to interact with it in a more meaningful way, because with haste the weapon swings can get close to 2 seconds, and that's a significant advantage for rage generation. Even if I went nuts with haste, I can't get my TG weapons speeds below 3 seconds.
- It's a lot easier to fit in Heroic Strike spam during the Colossus Smash debuff (the only time you should be doing that) and still have enough rage for Raging Blow. In general, SMF just seems better at dealing with rage troughs and smooths everything out. While mobility fights are still brutal as a warrior, they're less brutal as SMF.
- Wild Strike feels like less of a waste of time.
Also, SMF does allow me to use a healing axe as my transmog, so there's that.
After a week of raiding with SMF, I'd have to say I get why people like it. It's really not the spec for me - I love lumbering around with two big weapons - but it's fast and fun and once you're above 25% crit it starts to deliver. I'd definitely always use Bloodbath over Avatar and Dragon Roar over Bladestorm for the spec, unless you're absolutely certain you'll need to do huge AoE damage on a three minute cycle. For anything else, definitely Dragon Roar and Bloodbath.
Next week, the disappointing lack of changes in 5.4 for warriors.
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.