So you wanna be an Arms Warrior? Not sure? Need to know what roles do they play in a party? What spec should you choose? Is it good for solo'ing? Can you raid? Can you PvP? Can I get through the game without people spitting on me???
In this first part I'm gonna give out all the advice I have about why you should spec Arms. Take it with a large grain of salt. I'm definitely not expert, so all this is based on my experience, what I've read, and what I've talked about with other Warriors. But if you really wanna know, read on.
[Note: This got a LOT longer than I planned. It will probably be revised numerous times. I just wanna move on to Fury and Protection, so here goes...]
Most players probably know that Warriors serious about PvP spec Arms. Well, mostly Arms. There's some Fury and, usually, Protection thrown in there as well. The main reason, though, is in the Arms talent tree.
Anyone who's ever played a casual BG knows there's nothing more intimidating that seeing that HUGE Tauren Warrior with the giant glow-in-the-dark sword and massive shoulders come lumbering up. It's an imposing sight. Intentionally. What's worse, it's not just looks. Suddenly this beast is looming over you, you're stunned, he swings and a quarter of your health bar disappears. That's white damage from a powerful and enchanted 2-hander. It's the warm-up. He's just building up a bit more Rage.
The stun from his Charge ends and you turn to run as the second swing comes down . . . and find yourself in black and white and staring at the Spirit Guide. Yah, you just got 2-shotted. That second swing was the main event, also known as Improved Mortal Strike. That's an MS Warrior.
He's spec'd Arms. He's spec'd specifically to do massive amounts of top-end burst damage. Since most PvP encounters are over in a few seconds, all that matters is how much damage he can get out right up front. And it's a LOT. Enemy healers hate these guys because keeping someone on their feet with this guy smacking 'em around sucks the mana right out. Mortal Strike also has a nasty side effect that cuts healing in half. Ouchie.
He's also geared to the gills with Resilience. Not only can he dish it out, hard core style, he can take it too. And if he's got a competent healer standing behind him, he's damn near invincible. If you like to spank the opposing faction in PvP, you won't go wrong as an MS Warrior.
Sound appealing? Then MS Warrior might be just the thing for you. MS Warrior is the king of the battlefield, and some players will insist there's nothing else. But there's a lot more to Arms than MS Warriors (though, honestly, these guys and gals tend to be the best at what they do).
Are You An Arms Warrior?
Arms warriors have a reputation for being top-end damage dealers. They are also, arguably, the most versatile style of Warrior. All the weapon specializations are in the Arms talent tree. So you can get bonuses for wielding a two-hander AND get a bonus for sword, mace, axe or polearm, depending on what strikes your fancy. Anyone can "Grab a sword and fight the Horde" but Arms Warriors do it particularly well and, I like to think, with a certain amount of style. I might be a little biased. :)
On the battlefield the Arms Warrior is center stage. Everyone on your side is relying on you to dish out death and take heaping spoonfuls of every type of damage. Every enemy player is studiously figuring out how to take you down. But it's not a rock star position.
On and off the battlegrounds you're the calm, cool, unassuming master. You know what's going on around you all the time. You never let them see you sweat. Taunts, insults, spitting and the occasional tea-bag don't bother you in the least. You're cool. You're in control. You take everything in stride and do your job quietly and unassuming. And you're a killing machine because of it. You are truly a Zen master of death and, in your disciplined paws, your weapon is a living instrument of destruction.
That you? You're an Arms Warrior.
The Good Stuff
* Arms is, obviously, an excellent PvP spec. Massive top-end damage and high survivability are the keys. The ability to take focus and live through it, while doing something useful at the same time, are the hallmarks of an Arms talent build.
* Arms is all about enhancing a Warrior's ability to fight head-to-head and at close range. You can do damage, you can take damage (with the right resilience gear), and you can debuff or slow opponents when necessary.
* Arms Warriors can fill multiple roles in a party and switch roles in the middle of battle very effectively. In a dungeon, you might be DPSing a mob, then suddenly need to slow one down, then switch into a temporary off-tank role, then quickly back to DPSing. This is child's play for an Arms Warrior and they're very effective at it.
* So far, in WotLK, it looks like Arms will at least be seeing the return of Sweeping Strikes. This ability moved to Fury awhile back. Prior, it was always an excellent talent for Arms because it built extra dps and gave the Warrior a little aggro boost on multiple targets. Bringing it back means an Arms Warrior that can dish out substantial damage against multiple mobs becomes viable again. Very Good Thing.
The Bad Stuff
* Arms does not do sustained DPS as effectively as Fury. The DPS is strong and consistent, but it's not quite as much and takes a little longer to get it going. This takes effect particularly at higher levels and with proper gearing. Under 60 there's not a huge difference. Some but not terrible. Over 70, past Kara, and properly geared, the difference is definitely there. So much that it could be a contributing factor in a particularly long and tough fight.
* Arms can tank most mobs, but not all. They just don't have the damage mitigation and threat generation tools that a proper Protection Warrior has. Resilience (protection against critical hits) is great for taking spell fire from multiple casters at once, and for staying upright while you Overpower some ADHD Rogue, but it's not as effective against mobs that'll squash you like a tin can on the first shot. Carry a good shield and some +DEF/+STAM Armor and tank when necessary, but you'll need to respec for the big fights.
* Like all Warriors, you have limited crowd control. You Ccan upgrade your abilities through Arms talents, specially mace specialization, Improved Hamstring and Improved Charge. But they are not really an effective form of cc because of the short duration. They can certainly help a fight when used properly, though.
* Like all Warriors, you also have limited Damage Over Time ability. The hope is this will be fixed, via Improved Rend and some add-on talents, in WotLK, but so far nothing terribly promising.
Leveling an Arms Warrior is pretty easy. No, it's not nearly as fast or easy as some other classes. You want effortless leveling? Then Warrior isn't for you, anyway. We work for a living, soldier! You have to pick your fights somewhat. Or at least approach them with some thought. Mostly you can go in there and smack things around, but you'll need to use your brain a bit, too.
Early on you'll want to switch to a 2-hander (if you don't start with one) and start leveling that skill as soon as possible. You have to keep up with your 1-hander skill as well, because you'll want to be able to switch to sword and board when needed. At this point it won't matter which 2-hander. If you like Axes, get an axe. Swords, Polearms, and Maces are available, so choose something you groove on. Many times it'll be whatever you can afford or drops first. You can change later, so no worries.
For damage output you'll start off with Improved Heroic Strike for 3 points. This is your main attack. After that, fill out Deflection which will greatly increase your ability to parry attacks. This is your first primary damage mitigation talent. It takes 5 points, which brings you up to Level 17.
Next you should fill in Iron Will on that second tier. This will let you resist Charm and Stun effects, which helps tremendously against... well, just about every other class because they can cc the crap out of us. Any mob that can stun or charm you will also be thwarted occasionally.
After the initial talents, you'll look at a general direction you want to go. I just find these, in particular, help early on. They kind of form a base to build the rest of your Talents.
On tier three, you want all of 'em. I recommend Anger Management first, because the extra rage is a nice luxury to have and the talent is only one point. Tier 4, the same. You need both 2-hander specialization (first) and then Impale. The latter is your first step toward that nasty burst damage. After that you'll pick your weapon specialization. Whatever strikes your fancy.
Then take Deathwish (soon to be Sweeping Strikes, which is better) followed up by Mortal Strike. This will bring you to Level 42 and you're now a real, honest to goodness Arms Warrior. Gratz!
By this point, you should also have completed the quests for Defensive Stance (at Level 10) and Berserker Stance (at Level 30). You should be practicing your stance dancing as much as possible. (Note: The link primarily refers to Prot Warriors. Dancing as Arms or Fury is a whole other post, but definitely worth learning, particularly for PvP. The abilities listed in the linked article are NOT the only reason you would want to switch stances. You'll want to switch stances to increase DPS or to mitigate damage in many situations.)
Take a look at the specs (see below) and pick one that you like. I generally take either Improved Intercept, which is very nice in PvP, or Second Wind which will save your ass in PvE frequently. Then I fill out Improved Mortal Strike. At Level 50, I start looking at the Fury talent tree starting with Cruelty.
Spec to your choice as you go. Don't worry if the early spec doesn't quite jive with the chosen spec. You can respec and clean it up a bit at Level 60 if you need too. The first respec is only 1g, but it goes up fast after that. So pick your spec carefully at 60 because you're probably going to use it until 70 and a bit after that. (Once you hit 70 and have a little gear, respec'ing is a half hour running daily quests to earn the g. No big.)
Arms is a great solo spec. Nice damage output, solid survivability. You'll need to learn, early on, to stance dance. Like all Warriors, once you're in the fight your chances of escape are pretty low. It's stand and win, or stand and die. Arms has many tools to help the former. And occasionally, even offers the opportunity for some creative escapes. For example, slap Hamstring on 'em, pop into Defensive Stance, and run like hell!
To solo well you'll want to take a ranged weapon as early as possible. Guns, crossbows and thrown weapons are available to Warriors. I like guns. Big guns. :) Engineers may want to take guns because you can make your own weapon and the ammunition for it. Blacksmith's will probably like thrown weapons early on because you can a) make some nice ones, and b) they don't run out of ammo. You'll need the ranged weapon to pull mobs to a safe place to dispatch them in an efficient manner. Without dying a lot. No you're not a Hunter or a Shammy, so you can't charge in and take out 20 mobs at once. Sorry. Warrior is not Easy Mode. (I exaggerate, of course. Hunters and Shammy can't really take 20 mobs at once. It's more like 18 or something.)
Beyond Level 50 the Arms Warrior becomes a wicked solo killing machine. At 70, it's about improving your stats to be an even better killing machine. At some point (probably around 1000 AP and 75 Hit) you start mowing down any regular mob you come across while looking around for more. You start chain pulling the mobs, just to move things along. And of course, your PvP adventures are just loads of laughs as you watch other classes scramble to get away from you. It's fun! :D
Arms is excellent if you group a lot. The ability to DPS and tank is a nice balance. If you like the balance, then this spec is better than the other two. If you prefer one or the other, then you'll want to look at Fury or Prot. Arms Warriors, however, offer many advantages to groups, so don't be afraid to offer up your services for dungeon runs and group questing.
For questing, there's not much an Arms Warrior can't do in a group. Slap on a shield and dance into Def if you need to hold aggro a bit. Break out the 2-hander or dual wield if you need some extra DPS. Stay flexible and practice switching roles in combat. Use a stance macro or add-on to switch weapons/shield in mid-fight.
In a dungeon, you'll usually be tasked as either DPS or Tank. OT (Off Tank) roles for warriors in 5-mans isn't used much any more, but MA (Main Assist) is and this is a great role for an Arms Warrior. If you're MT (Main Tank) you'll need a very good Healer. A good healer is one that understands threat and how to time their heals for best effect. Spam healing won't work with a Protection Warrior or Feral Druid bear, it certainly won't work with an Arms Warrior, so avoid healers that do that. You'll also have to have DPS that understands threat and how to fight with a Warrior Tank. (That's whole other post.) Basically, your threat generation is going to be slower than a Prot Warrior or bear, and the party needs to understand how to deal with that.
Not a lot for an Arms Warrior here the way things stand. Fury or Protection for Raid level encounters, alas. An Arms Warrior can make a decent OT or MA in a Raid, but there's so many other options for those roles (Prot Warrior, Druid, Shaman, Palladin, Hunter, Rogue) that the slots in the Raid will be few, if not entirely non-existent. Arms Warriors may, potentially, find some use in the new 10-man and 25-man raids in WotLK, but that remains to be seen.
As said, there's no better Warrior spec for PvP. If you want to squash other players face-to-face, welcome to Arms. World PvP, Battlegrounds, or Arena, spec'ing Arms is the definition of Pwnage. :)
The "Types" of Arms
I'm a big believer in "the spec how you want" way of playing WoW. It's a shame that the talent trees are set up the way they are. It would be nice if there was no "perfect" spec. So the following, as I see it, are suggestions. Like I said in the first post in this series, there is a "top optimal spec" for Arms specifically for PvP and primarily for Arena combat. If you want to get on an Arena team, you have to spec to this or one of its close variants. Otherwise, have fun with it.
No matter what spec you choose, you DO have to practice it. You have to use what talents you've taken to best advantage. I've thrown in a few thoughts on each specialization based on my experience. Because this post isn't long enough . . .
Arena: Mortal Strike (45/5/11)
This is the standard spec for an MS Warrior. There's a few variations, but this is the cookie-cutter version. The whole point of this build is massive damage and reduced healing to the target with Improved Mortal Strike. You simply build up 50 points of Rage and smack the living crap out of someone. The other idea behind this spec is survivability. It includes Toughness and Last Stand from the Protection tree. For versatility, it also includes Tactical Mastery which enhances Mortal Strike and reduces the Rage loss from changing stances. MS Warriors can dance like John Travolta on Saturday night. This is all necessary because they are focused most of the time in Arena play and cc'd constantly. The bad part? Sustaining DPS is tough because some abilities are on long cooldowns. You also don't get the consistent burst of damage from Flurry that some builds get.
The Standard: Arms/Fury Hybrid (31/30) (AKA Arms Max)
While it's completely fallen out of favor with top-tier players, this is probably the best "do it all" Arms spec. It's still considered Arms because of Mortal Strike. You use your two-handed weapon of choice, so it's modified depending on what weapon you favor. (The example is Poleaxe, but anything works.) The main feature is Mortal Strike combined with Flurry. When it procs, you get extra rage from the extra attack when you use a big, slow two-handed weapon. Take Sword Specialization and you can proc yet another extra attack. If you're just starting out in Arms and mixing up PvP and PvE, questing, and running 5-mans, this is an excellent spec that can be customized for your preference. There's plenty of room to move some things around to make it yours.
Fun: DW Arms (31/30)
Dual Wield Arms use to be a fairly popular build, but has fallen out of favor for the most part. It's still a blast to play, though. And it's my personal favorite Arms spec. :) This is considered an Arms build (technically it's a hybrid) because it digs down into Mortal Strike instead of Blood Thirst. Thus, MS becomes this build's main attack, combined with Whirlwind and Improved Heroic Strike. Pre-Kara the difference in DPS between this and DW Furry is there but slight. This build tends to have more burst damage when everything procs, DW Fury tends to have better sustained DPS over time. This is a perfectly fine and fun build for questing and casual 5-man dungeon running. Other features include Improved Overpower (useful against those dodgy opponents and jumpy Rogues) and Death Wish, which is handy for escaping Fears in a pinch or for a nice damage boost when you're not focused. The downsides? Not nearly the top-end damage of some Arms builds, although the burst damage is certainly respectable. Survivability is lower because you don't take any of the Protection tree and you spend a lot of time in Zerker stance. You do NOT want to get caught in this stance when you're focused or have aggro! If you get cc'd while in Zerker stance with Death Wish up, you might as well be wearing cloth.
A Challenge: The Slammer (36/25)
If you really, really want to high DPS instances, here you go. I"ve tried this spec twice now and I hate it. :) It revolves around using a two-hander and Improved Slam/Mortal Strike to generate big, consistent damage. And it does it well. The problem is the rotation is very precise. Miss a Slam it throws the whole damage/rage generation off and dps goes to hell fast. To use this spec, you'll need to have battle text on and a swing meter installed. Then practice, practice, practice. This is the hardest spec to use, but it's also very effective when done right. If you like a challenge and are handy getting timing down, this is the spec for you.
Big Stick: The Stunner (35/5/21)
Finally, we have the stunner. Even with the recent nerf to Mace Specialization, this still works pretty well. The idea is to use your Mace to stun the crap out of opponents so they can't get away. I've never tried this one, but have seen it's effect. Pre-nerf it sucked bad to be on the receiving end of this attack, and it was customary to avoid any Warrior carrying a mace. Now it's not as bad, but it's still pretty devastating when the stun procs at the right time. This build is also a useful off-tank or light tanking build with several key Protection tree talents. If you like the idea of having your opponents cc'd long enough to smack 'em hard, this is a good way to go.
These are just examples, of course. Most of the builds above have at least a little room for customization. And you may decide after messing with them to use something completely different! Don't be afraid to try different things to see what works for you. Sure, there's plenty of theory out there that shows this spec is better than that spec. But in normal every day play, it really doesn't make much difference, as long as you use what you've got to best advantage. Yes, spec for specific roles when you need to do them. But outside of those roles, spec for you!
Arms is all about having some fun AND being a great Warrior. It's flexible, customizable and very effective. This is the "I enjoy being a warrior" spec. Enjoy it.