The sensation I’m describing is optimism.
I have an unerring feeling that things just might not end up quite so bad after all, and that much of the worry that’s spawned from bad design choices can be waylaid by standing outside of the box and viewing things from a sunnier angle. Now, I’m making no promises here; I can’t guarantee that you’re going to like the way Arms PvE is shaping up after reading this, and it still has a large number of problems. All I’m saying is that there’s a lot of potential for Arms warriors in Mists of Pandaria endgame assuming nothing too drastic is done to change that.
Let’s have a look over it.
A quick overview.
As far as raiding goes, Arms warriors are looking like a dependable and resilient DPS class with strong mobility, a widely varied toolkit and an obscene amount of available control. Single-target damage will always remain competitive, and our AoE potential looks to be above average depending on talents and encounter. In short, Arms warriors are going to be valued raid members assuming they’re handled by skilled players with solid judgement.
The current cost of this new found utility is twofold:
1) An overly clunky rotation and bloated repertoire of damage cooldowns.
2) An apparent lack of legitimate PvP viability for at least another season.
But with that said, if raiding is your thing and performance is your main criteria, there is no reason whatsoever why you can’t be playing Arms. Naturally, it has to be added, that we’re still in beta – the flaws are still subject to change and, hopefully, they’ll see their due attention.
But let’s get to it.
First of all, our damage will be fine. Seriously, it will. There’s a lot of concern about damage sources and how certain attacks hit like wet noodles, but I see no reason for the very good DPS alignment of Cataclysm to discontinue. For the most part, playing Arms hasn’t changed all that much. Colossus Smash, Mortal Strike, Slam, Overpower and Heroic Strike all have their spaces on your hotbars and all work roughly the same way they do now. That said, Mortal Strike is now where the vast majority of your rage comes from, meaning that there is absolutely no debate about it being your number one priority. Colossus Smash comes in a comfortable second, almost regardless of situation. Slam and Overpower are a little awkward due to the secondary proc on Overpower and the rage cost of Slam though, technically, Slam is the better button. Even were Overpower to critically strike 100% of the time, Slam would still be better and that makes it your rage spender.
The real key to Arms DPS at the moment, however, is the utility. Both in single target and AoE, talents allow for a variety of approach that is utterly alien to anyone who’s played the spec previously. For single targets, things like Shockwave and Stormbolt are probably going to take priority in lower gear levels thanks to them filling up GCD’s; that said, as gear improves and rage comes in more freely, those GCD’s will be filled up by Slam and that’ll allow the warrior to start looking at talents like Dragon Roar or Bloodbath. For AoE, the spec has options between sustained DPS (Shockwave), burst AoE (Bladestorm) or a relatively accessible AoE nuke in Dragon Roar. Add this to Sweeping Strikes, Whirlwind and Thunderclap and our potential for valid and reliable AoE damage, regardless of encounter, is really quite high.
Mobility, always a fabled part of the warrior toolkit, remains very strong if slightly laboured compared to past incarnations. Charge remains our stalwart friend for getting about, but the loss of stance-restriction on Intervene allows it to be used far more freely than before. With us also running glyph options to lower the cooldown on Heroic Leap, warriors will remain capable of getting into position at a faster rate than most other classes.
But then, there’s our available control. Juggernaut is close to mandatory, but a 20-second Charge that stuns from Warbringer could be situationally powerful depending on the encounter. But it doesn’t stop there; Pummel remains baseline and our primary interrupt, but Disrupting Shout is our likely choice from its tier for PvE which is a powerful AoE silence. We can choose from Shockwave or Dragon Roar, both powerful stuns and potentially more useful in different situations, but we also have the option of using Stormbolt if we really want to nail casting mobs to the floor. Piercing Howl or Bloodbath gives us the ability to kite very effectively, and a 60 second cooldown on (a buffed) Intimidating Shout is another little benefit to toss into the bag.
Lastly for what’s good about Arms warriors (and DPS warriors in general), there’s our raid utility; and it’s taken something of a power infusion for Mists of Pandaria. We’ve retained Rallying Cry which, though often scoffed at, has allowed raids to work through encounters and get them down reliably. But more than that, we’ve also picked up a DPS raid cooldown in the form of the Skull Banner, something that will stack nicely with Bloodlust for even more pew pew from your raid mates. The thing is, that’s not all. In our fifth tier, we’ve netted ourselves powerful tank externals in the form of Safeguard or Vigilance, and these could easily be used to save lives that would otherwise be lost or as part of an overarching encounter strategy.
We’ve often worried about our raid utility, and come the expansion we’re going to have a defensive raid cooldown, an offensive raid cooldown and a tank external in amongst our other traditional tools. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but no DPS class can make such an in-combat boast, save warriors.
The tide has quite possibly turned.
As is to be expected, it ain’t all roses.
Many talents remain either obvious picks, or really obvious kippers. Juggernaut is by far and away the best talent in the first tier, Enraged Regeneration is far stronger than its counterparts and Disrupting Shout is close to mandatory for PvE. Second Wind, Mass Spell Reflection and Avatar are all heavily leaning toward PvP, while Doube-Time (particularly) and Staggering Shout are simply too weak and/or situational to be considered. There isn’t a tier with nothing of use in it for an Arms warrior, but there are some tiers where decisions are made for you and that’s a real shame.
Secondly, our baseline DPS cooldowns remain individually weak. Recklessness is nowhere near strong enough to justify a five-minute absence after use, while Deadly Calm is just… I don’t even know. It’s a rage-saver masquerading as a cooldown, and that’s just not a compelling place to be. Reducing the cooldown on Recklessness to three minutes so that it lines up with other major talents properly, and removing Deadly Calm altogether, would be the simplest and most effective way of sorting this out in my opinion. Berserker Rage is practically a DPS cooldown in and of itself in the latest build, so adding a level 90 talent into the mix means Deadly Calm simply isn’t needed.
Our third bad point is Heroic Strike and/or Cleave; there simply isn’t a decent place for them yet and, worse, they’re messing with design intent. If we’re prioritizing Slam, as we should be, there’s never going to be the rage for Heroic Strike use. Even in an AoE situation, Thunderclap and Whirlwind will be a better use of rage than Cleave, and in a two-mob situation we have Sweeping Strikes. It’s starting to get a little silly when talents such as Taste for Blood or cooldowns like Deadly Calm need to be reworked for the sole purpose of keeping around these attacks.
Honestly, it’s time to retire them. Other rage spenders have taken their place for all three specs and it’s time to move on. I suppose we could rework ‘zerker stance to be “the AoE” stance, similar to the paladin seal of cleave, but that still leaves no room for Heroic Strike.
It’s a tragedy that there had to be an ugly in all of this, particularly the source of it; it’s the Arms rotation.
I’ll need to try out the latest build to see how it feels with rage, but we’re currently sat in a place where every Mortal Strike needs three GCD’s to follow it or we end up with gaps. I’m comfortable with talents changing in value as an expansion moves on, I really am, but I’m not comfortable with talents such as Shockwave or Stormbolt feeling mandatory just to plug holes. Hell, I recently started to consider the glyph of Hoarse Voice mandatory purely because it allowed me to fill more GCD’s with Battle Shout.
But that’s only half of the problem.
The other half is the interplay between Slam and Taste for Blood. At the moment, all it takes is one proc of this talent, which you can fish for, and Heroic Strike becomes a better use of your rage than Slam does. This assumes you have something else to hit, invariably Overpower, but it doesn’t alter the fact that it relegates Slam to being superfluous. Unfortunately, Slam fills a GCD while Heroic Strike doesn’t… Meaning that playing optimally makes the rotation even more ugly and clunky than it is otherwise. If Slam is supposed to be the primary rage burner, which it is, this dynamic is going to have to change otherwise it’s going to make Arms extraordinarily frustrating to play, and probably far too punitive.
A tenuous conclusion.
Ultimately, this post is an attempt to highlight where Arms actually has a lot of potential for the upcoming expansion. Of course, much of this post is talent-talk; Fury will be equally capable of pulling off the things I’ve been speaking about. But the point I’m trying to make is that the doom and gloom isn’t necessarily a fair representation of how Arms is coming along. Yes, there remain some problems (some of which, like Taste for Blood, are significant) with the spec and that’s likely always going to be the case.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope. And if I, a player with a habit of moaning endlessly, can see the light at the end of the tunnel, there’s hope for anyone.
The time for quiet optimism is here.