Okay, some things to get out of the way first:
- Arms is really stupidly good in Arena PvP right now. Like, ridiculously good at it. You don’t have to take my word for it – 12.2% of players at 1800 or better are arms warriors. Considering that arms warriors only make up 3.6% of players, that’s kind of insane. Arms had solid burst damage, can put out stupidly high AoE or go with a double stun approach (Shockwave and Storm Bolt) and is resistant to kiting. Fury and protection combined don’t match arms representation in PvP (hell, they don’t even come close), and in fact, arms is the most played warrior spec right now.
- According to World of Wargraphs again, arms is 3.6% of the total playerbase, fury is 2.7% and protection is 3.1% – I don’t know if they’re counting all warriors or warriors at 90, but I think they’re counting all warriors because that would put warriors at 9.4%, which matches Realmpop’s 9.6% 1-90 estimate. This means that purely on the basis of PvP strength arms is number 1, because the presence of the arms warrior in PvE is vanishingly small. World of Wargraphs pegs it at less than 0.3% in heroic raiding right now.
- Keeping in mind that there are probably a lot more arms warriors in non-heroic raiding, what’s keeping arms out of progression raiding? And is it possible to do anything about it without making them even more ridiculous in PvP than they are now? And what is it that makes arms so good at PvP?
To answer that very last question first, it’s fairly simple – arms can maintain pressure. Even in random, non-rated battleground play you can see it – other melee (especially strength melee like DK’s and paladins) are a lot more easily kited and kept locked down. Monks have high mobility in PvP, as do rogues, but they lack the patented Colossus Smash followed by apeshit burst on a temporarily armorless target that arms warriors bring, and especially on casters this is effective. Casters hate arms warriors because casters can’t escape arms warriors, between their stuns (up to three if they take the right talent choices), their charges, Hamstring, and Heroic Leap a warrior can sit on a caster for a very long time. In an arena an arms warrior can also usually put out very solid AoE if they decide for Bladestorm as a talent over Shockwave.
Now, you won’t get a lot of sympathy out of me for casters not being able to kite us to death. There needs to be a balance between casters (and hunters) being able to turret a melee down and melee being able to get into range, and I’ll say this – I believe the arms warrior is exactly where he should be in terms of mobility in PvP. Yes, whining boomkin, we should be able to get up in your faces. However, I’l agree to this much – arms has way too much stun potential. We know it’s being addressed at level 100 with the changes to talents, but for right now, admit it. Three stuns is probably two too many.
This PvP dominance makes PvE balance problematic. Arms was briefly on par or even slightly ahead of fury at the beginning of patch 5.4, which made me happy because I really enjoy arms as a spec. It’s got a lot of engaging gameplay to it – I like being able to choose between AoE and single target and have the choices feel meaningful – hitting Sweeping Strikes, timing the occasional Thunder Clap, using a Bloodbath/Bladestorm combination (and boy, and I going to miss that at 100) it’s all a lot of fun for me. And I liked that they buffed Slam, but I didn’t like that it kind of made Overpower feel useless – if you’re in an AoE situation, you should always hit Slam over Overpower because Slam gets its AoE buffed by SS, and if you’re in a Colossus Smash window you should always hit Slam because Slam’s damage is buffed by Colossus Smash over and above the armor debuff, so the only time you really end up using Overpower is when CS is on cooldown and there’s nobody to AoE. The issue is, arms doesn’t need three (potentially four) rage dumps. But it’s got them – arms has Slam, Overpower, Heroic Strike and Cleave for an AoE rage dump. I really don’t see the point of this many rage dump moves – it’s not like arms generates that much rage without the 2 piece tier 16 bonus that you can’t dump it without resorting to HS/Cleave.
No, this isn’t old man Rossi picking on HS again – while I’m certainly glad that the days of HS spam are behind us, I do think it’s weird that the oldest strike warriors have and the one we get earliest ends up so attenuated for arms. But facts are facts – if you’re an arms warrior, you’ll hit Slam or Overpower (both of which cost rage) before you hit HS, and if you’re going to AoE you’ll hit Sweeping Strikes, Slam, or even Whirlwind before you hit Cleave. Now, HS and Cleave are both off the GCD, so you could hit them with Slam, but they both cost 30 rage apiece, and with Sudden Death making Colossus Smash unpredictable it’s hard to have enough rage to hit both repeatedly. Even on a full 120 rage with the 2 piece set bonus, getting off more than one HS while hitting the four Slams you can fit into a CS period seems very pricey. I don’t see arms as having that kind of rage generation. (If you’re somehow pulling this off, I’m curious as to how. Do you just add in one HS? Or do you actually get in three or four while Slamming?)
In fact, as I intimated above, even Overpower is feeling a bit like an appendix nowadays, what with so much emphasis going towards Slam. Slam tends to hit a lot harder, it makes crit on your gear good again because it lacks Overpower’s inflated crit chance, and it gets buffed by both Sweeping Strikes and Colossus Smash – all Overpower has going for it is that it can be stacked up so you could hit it multiple times in a row and it’s a lot cheaper at 10 rage than Slam’s 25 rage cost. But to hit it instead of Slam during either of those periods is madness, and Sudden Death procs enough that Overpower gets a lot less use in 5.4 than it did after 5.2. Overpower’s nice in that it has a much higher crit rate, but since it doesn’t enrage you, it’s not really that great – you want the crits on your Mortal Strike hits, and those are sitting at your normal crit rate.
In general I see arms having three problems in PvE.
One – it doesn’t get enough from Enrage. Without fury’s mastery making Enrage damage ever better, and without the inflated crit rate of Bloodthirst, arms is much less likely to get enraged during any particular Colossus Smash period – that is to say, it’s harder for Arms to be enraged when it counts most, and even when they are enraged they get less damage out of it.
Two – arms is an outlier in terms of gearing. Arms actually likes haste to an extent This is the reason that arms likes haste more than fury or protection – getting faster swings is pretty much arms’ only means of increase rage generation. Since arms doesn’t have fury’s mastery and thus isn’t enraged as often (I find myself hitting Berserker Rage a lot more as arms – as fury, I’m almost always enraged since my raid buffed crit is 46 to 47%, making my Bloodthirst crit rate above 92%) either you swing faster, or you don’t get more rage. I’ve seen sims that argue that mastery is still better than haste, and crit is still better than either (and I’m dubious of the 32% crit rule – with Slam being so strong now, I see no reason to not get more crit) so in the end, it ends up being a confusing muddle. With fury, you know you want crit first, mastery second, and haste if you’re forced to.
Three – not enough sustained damage. Even with Sudden Death extending the life of your Colossus Smash debuff, arms simply doesn’t have the punch fury does outside of an AoE situation, and even then fury has outpaced it save for specific fights like Galakras (and to be honest, I just use arms on Galakras because I’m stubborn – I could probably do more damage as fury there, too) because as fury gear improves, Unshackled Fury just gets better and better. So fury enters Enrage more often, and gets more damage from it when it does. Strikes of Opportunity just doesn’t keep up in comparison. Raiding fury warriors can easily get between 25 to 35% extra damage while Enraged, which is effectively always up. Fury also benefits from having double weapon enchants (which can both proc, and which both stack) and that extra stat stick for TG fury. It all ends up with arms simply not getting as much out of its secondary stats, not even the all-important crit, and falling behind.
So, how do we fix all this without making arms even more ridiculous in PvP? Well, with arms losing two stuns in Warlords I don’t see it as a real problem. We don’t know how arms will scale with readiness and/or multistrike, but the creation of a stat that is basically arms’ mastery makes me think a good place to start would be a redesigned mastery, removing Strikes of Opportunity. They’re likely to decide half way through the expansion that arms shouldn’t get to double dip on the Strikes/Multistrike front (since it means our mastery will basically be just like multistrike) and so, I’d like to see a mastery that directly buffed all damage arms does the same way that Unshackled Fury buffs all fury damage. It doesn’t have to be via enrage, but that seems the easiest route – maybe it could affect how much rage we generate while Enraged, or extend the enrage period, if they don’t want to just copy-paste Unshackled Fury over. Something like “Peerless Discipline – You generate an additional X Rage/Second when Enraged” and go from there.
I also think Overpower needs to do something else to differentiate it from Slam – perhaps it could be our second Enrage proccing attack, to distinguish it from Slam. Or it could have the 10 rage cost removed – that was added in 5.1 because we had a big overhaul to Taste for Blood, but I think it’s overstayed its necessity at this point. We really don’t need three rage dumps. Letting Overpower be free again would free us up to use it more freely and give it a purpose besides “Well, I need to dump a little rage, but not too much in case Colossus Smash comes back up and I want to spam Slam again” which could, in turn, allow us to use Heroic Strike more often during CS periods in addition to Slam.
Third, the DPS warrior 2 piece set bonus is propping up all warrior rage generation right now.Either fix that, or bake that in.
In general I don’t think arms plays bad – and I hope the playstyle is preserved as much as possible in Warlords. I just think it needs to be given a means to get better with gear on par with other specs, not just fury but other classes as well.