Sunday, April 19

Arms, Lords and Ladies of the Battlefield

Arms, Lords and Ladies of the Battlefield
Revisited for WoW 3.x (Wrath of the Lich King)

Revised: 4/16/09, 4/19/09

Intro: What Kind of Warrior Shall I Be?
Part 1. Arms, Lords and Ladies of the Battlefield
Part 2. Fury, The Fast and the Furyious
Part 3. Protection, The Rock and the Hard Place

[Note: A special thanks to Pix and everyone else who has commented on these posts. I love the interactive nature of blogging and hope comments and suggestions of this series keep coming. My goal is to improve and update these entries continuously. Suggestions are always welcome. That, and well, I get it wrong a lot. :)]

So you wanna be an Arms Warrior? Need to know what roles they play in a party? What spec should you choose? Is it good for soloing? Can you raid? Can you PvP? Can I get through the game without people spitting on me???

The only time you'll get spit on is when you gank three enemy players in a row, or kill every mob in the area all at once. That's livable. :)

In part one of this "What Kind of Warrior Shall I Be?" series, we're going to take a look at Arms Warriors in World of Warcraft 3.x. Please take what I say here with a large grain of salt. I'm definitely not an expert, so all this is based on my experience, what I've read, and what I've talked about with other Warriors. There's plenty more to it than what's written here. I recommend reading the introduction to this series, first.

Anyone who's ever played a little PvP in World of Warcraft knows there's nothing more intimidating that seeing that HUGE Tauren Warrior with the giant glow-in-the-dark sword and massive shoulders come rushing out of the bushes. 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 he starts spinning around like some demented top . . . and find yourself in black and white and staring at the Spirit Guide. Yah, you just got ganked hard. That second swing was the main event, also known as Improved Mortal Strike, followed up by a devastating Bladestorm. That's an MS Warrior.

And he's spec'd Arms.

Are You An Arms Warrior?

Arms warriors have a reputation for being top-end damage dealers. They are also 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. :)

In a fight the Arms Warrior is often 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 is studiously figuring out how to take you down.

But it's not a rock star position.

In and out of the fight 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. A pile of mobs that would make a clothie wet themselves is nothing to you. 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 damage spec. Massive top-end damage and 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 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.

* Arms warriors are the best multiple target melee dps class in the game right now. You can heap damage on 2-4 mobs at a time with awesome abilities like Sweeping Strikes, Cleave, Whirlwind and Bladestorm. You can slow and debuff multiple targets at once, as well.

* Arms Warriors are masters of their chosen weapon and know just where to strike for maximum effect. As such, they have the choice to apply a huge bleed debuff. While you're killing those multiple mobs at once you're also bleeding them out. Gruesome, but effective.
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, and properly geared, the difference is definitely there. While Wrath has certainly fixed this somewhat, it could be a contributing factor in some fights, specially where you have to move a lot.

(Aside: At the start of Patch 3.1, Arms warriors are definitely closing this gap. It'll be difficult to tell for a bit, at the writing. It will scale up with gear. Whether it will scale down, as well, is unknown at the moment.)

* Arms can tank most mobs, but not all. They just don't have the damage mitigation and threat generation tools like a proper Protection Warrior. 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.

* Arms Warriors are almost constantly in flux as Blizzard tweaks their abilities. This is probably true of most classes, but for Warriors, Arms and Fury get the most. This leads to many different tweaks you have to make to specific rotations and abilities, but also opens up plenty of new opportunities. For example, as I write this there's a bit of excitement about and Arms tanking build going around. Fun! Regardless, the basic flavor stays the same. Versatile and tough!

* Like all Warriors, you have limited crowd control. You can upgrade your crowd control abilities through Arms talents. 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. An Arms Warrior's best form of cc is their body and their ability to put damage up on multiple targets.


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-hand 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-hand weapon. 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.

So, you're running through the forest and you see the lovely Night Elf girl, jumping and traipsing her way among the trees. She looks a little odd, she's lithe and agile but she has a huge sword strapped to her back. Suddenly, a pack of ugly dog men jump out and attack. You run to help, but before you get a few steps the elf shifts slightly and two of the mobs fall over dead. Another three seconds and two more are dead. Then she starts spinning around in a circle, that huge blade held before her, chopping through the dog boys like butter. When she stops, there's a nice, neat semi-circle of bodies laying at her feet. There's still two of the dog men left, but the elf continues on her happy little way. A few seconds later the remaining monsters clutch their throats and fall over dead, while you stand there gaping.

That's multiple target dps and those nasty bleed effects doing their work.

The most useful abilities you will use while leveling are the ones that let you increase damage against multiple targets. It's much easier to level when you can round up two or three mobs, mow them down and move on to the next batch.

I do recommend skipping the bleed effects at early levels. To me, the first priority is getting, enhancing and learning to use those base skills, including the multi-target abilities. You can always spec down to Bladestorm and then go back and enhance your specializations with bleed debuffs.

As, research and learn more about Arms, however, your mileage may vary. At some point, after level 60, you definitely want to take the bleeds unless there's a specific reason not too.


Arms is a great solo spec. Nice damage output, solid survivability. 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!

Okay, so that's not terribly creative... but it'll save ya a repair bill and a bone run. :)

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.

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.

Groups (Questing/5-Mans)

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 Protection. 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 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 DPS. 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 a whole other post.) Basically, your threat generation is going to be slower than a Prot Warrior, Prot Pally or Bear, and the party needs to understand how to deal with that.


For raiding, it's really a toss up for Arms Warriors. You bring a lot of utility to a raid. The bleed debuffs alone can significantly increase the entire raid's dps on a boss, for example. You can also pump out respectably high dps. Whether you get into your raid group or not will largely depend on what your raid leader needs and what other classes are available. Which is pretty much true for any class/spec outside of dedicated healers and tanks.

The downside is that an Arms Warrior's main abilities can be handled by other classes. For example, it's true that an Arms Warrior is the best muti-mob dps'er available. But why bother with a melee dps'er that will need another raid member to heal them, when you can just tank those mobs and have ranged dps burn them down without taking any damage at all. Both techniques work, but the former is (as of this writing) easier to pull off than the latter. (The answer is that the Arms Warrior tanks and does dps at the same time. But that concept isn't quite there yet.)

That said, since Wrath of the Lich King, Arms Warriors are slowly gaining acceptance as a vital and important component in a raid. It's not a confidence thing. If you're chosen to go into a 10 or 25 man raid, get in there and show off. I think most raids will appreciate how useful an Arms Warrior is these days. :)


While Wrath changed PvP significantly, Arms is still a very powerful PvP spec. While it was terribly important back pre-Wrath, it's even more important now: You. Must. Dance. Being able to switch stances and weapons quickly and at the right time is now no longer optional for Arms Warriors (if it ever was). To be good in PvP, you'll have to work hard for it.

This is just commentary, of course, but I also think that Arms Warriors have been forced to think outside the box a bit now. You can't just run up to another player and smack 'em until they're dead. (I know - over simplification, but you get the idea.) You really have to set up situations to your advantage, which means being an even better player. For example, you can't just pop Bladestorm and expect to win. Your opponent will just step out of it. You have to get your opponent to burn cooldowns, stun 'em, and keep them from running first. Then Don't Panic! When everything's right, push the "I Win!" button.

While that sort of thing has always been true, and distinguishes the good from the truly great players, it really is forced on Arms Warriors. It requires brains and brawn. This is a thinking girl's kind of Warrior.

The "Types" of Arms

I'm a big believer in "the spec how you want" way of playing WoW, though you'll want to read the first post in this series about how I qualify that belief. Shop around for some of the "top" specs and study them when you're ready to get serious. All I'm going to talk about here are some general themes for Arms. I'll leave the math and perfect specs for those more qualified. No matter what spec you choose, you DO have to practice it. You have to use what talents you've taken to best advantage.

Each of the two spec's here are just demonstrations to show the idea, as well as give a general feel for what playing an Arms Warrior is like, and not optimal builds! Big. Grain. Of. Salt. Yum.

I'll add that, as of WoW 3.1, these build are slightly out of date. Again, just getting the flavor. Research for what's more current. And then research again, cause it'll change. Because of this, I've removed the build links to the post temporarily until things stabilize a bit and just throwing out some general theory.

The Swiss Army Knife with Teeth - This one focuses on utility first. The main focus is getting to Mortal Strike, Sudden Death, and Bladestorm as quickly as possible and then pick up enhancements to the core abilities. Take your Overpower enhancements. Go back, after hitting the big stuff, and pick up Rend, Impale and Deep Wounds. You might even pop a little in Defense if you find yourself in the GY a lot, though you sacrifice a lot to get to Anticipation, Last Stand, and Toughness. Probably too much unless you're tanking a lot. It makes a good all around leveling concept. You'll gear for Strength (AP), Hit and Crit, but you won't completely ignore Armor Penetration and Stamina.

Blood and Guts - This buildis a kind of a staple of Arms Warriors. The focus is on damage, primarily. It sacrifices survivability, but when you can bleed a target to death and chop 'em into little pieces before they barely get started, who cares? :) The main idea, though is to use Arms and Fury talents to increase Deep Wounds, Overpower, straight damage (STR, AP, Expertise, Hit, Armor Pen, anything that makes you hit better), and Crit.

You will notice that the main components of any Arms build are Improved Mortal Strike, Sudden Death, and Bladestorm. I'll also throw in Rend (though not necessarily Improved Rend), Improved Overpower, and Taste for Blood. Overpower is just too yummy to ignore, so grab it and enhance it early.

To Arms!

To be blunt about it, Arms is not particularly easy to play well. Yes, you can use the Arms abilities by just pushing buttons randomly (/faceroll) and do fairly well. To be truly good at it, though, requires a huge amount of practice and awareness. Playing an Arms Warrior will force you to be a much better player. The reason is, more than any other Warrior specialization, an Arms Warrior is played in a situational mode. You use the abilities that best suit the situation. I can't say enough that Arms is about utility.

Being able to calmly assess the situation and react accordingly is what Arms Warriors are all about, and they can adapt to just about any situation. On the Battlefield, in the Dungeon, or in the field, and Arms warrior is literally a master of each situation. No other melee class can switch roles and do it very well like an Arms Warrior. This is the specialization for the player that not only likes to do it all, but can do it all.


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