Arms DPS 201: Warrior Hit Stuff, Make Stuff Hurt

Welcome back, Constant Readers. Today we conclude my less-than-popular series on how to play an unpopular World of Warcraft class and specialization. I am nothing if not iconoclastic.

In Last Week’s guide, we examined the basics of gearing and statistics for the Arms Warrior. This week we’ll examine talent builds and the rotation, completing what the average WoW player will need to raid as Arms.

Talent builds, in World of Warcraft, are 61-point allocations of talents, like Feats in Dungeons and Dragons or similar systems. Each class has three “trees” of specialization, and most trees contain talents that are useful in several situations. As Arms is also the player-versus-player tree, some of the talents are useful for the Arms raider and some are not.

The basic focus of the Arms tree is on “strikes,” or special moves that apply certain status conditions to the enemy known as “bleeds” or “debuffs” that tick off damage over a specified interval of time.

This is the Arms Talent Tree
The basic talents of all Arms warriors come from this talent tree.

The two basic Arms builds are:

    1. 54/17/00, or the Execute Build
    2. 55/8/8, or the Incite Build

The differences between these specs will be examined in the talent build discussion of tier-by-tier in the trees.

Tier 1 Arms

The first tier of the Arms Tree has two mandatory talents and one that is useful only for tanking. Heroic Strike and Rend are both basic attacks of Arms DPS rotations, and so their “Improved” versions are mandatory and must be maxed out. Both builds will take it.

Tier 2 Arms

Since Charge is the basic opener of all Arms rotations, the improved version is also mandatory for both builds, as it increases the amount of Rage (your resource) as the fight opens. It also allows you to close distance on enemies very quickly.

The other two talents are a wash, both more oriented toward PVP play than raiding, as such, maxing either one out will do about as much for you as the other.

Tier 3 Arms

Overpower is one of the signature moves of endgame Arms DPS. It is a very high-damage strike, and its improved version increases the chance that a critical strike will happen.

Anger Management, on the other hand, is not a terribly useful talent. For the Execute Build, it is not taken. It is taken as filler in the Incite Build.

Impale is another mandatory talent for both builds, for two reasons. One, it opens up Deep Wounds, which is the primary damage-over-time bleed debuff Arms Warriors apply. Second, it increases the bonus damage of your critical strikes. A raiding Arms warrior can expect half to more of her strikes as being critical strikes, so this is free damage. Similarly, Deep Wounds is another mandatory talent for almost every Warrior build in existence.

Tier 4 Arms

Both talents in the fourth tier of Arms are mandatory for both builds. Two-Handed Weapon Specialization passively increases damage done with two-handed weapons, and all Arms builds will use a single two-handed weapon. Taste for Blood also allows you to use Overpower as much as once every 6 seconds, since as long as you have the Rend effect applied to the target, and Overpower is not on cooldown, you can expect a Taste for Blood proc that will allow you to use Overpower.

Tier 5 Arms

Tier 5 contains your weapon specialization: as we saw last time, you should choose the weapon spec for the best weapon you have, with priority given to Axes and Polearms over Maces, and Maces over Swords. Both builds will take a Weapon Specialization.

Sweeping Strikes is another key component of Arms DPS. Sweeping Strikes is the primary way by which Arms Warriors will attack large groups at once via an area-of-effect melee attack.

Tier 6 Arms

This build contains only one mandatory talent for both builds, Trauma. This is the secondary Arms debuff, but it provides extraordinary raid utility. By applying Trauma yourself, other classes that rely on bleeds like Druid tanks and DPS, rogues, and some types of hunters will all see their damage increase.

The talent Weapon Mastery is less useful at level 80 than many Warriors once believed, because capping Expertise can hamper our DPS. Take this talent only if your Expertise is extremely low (below 15).

Tier 7 Arms

This is where the tree gets interesting. You will want to pick up Mortal Strike, the signature Arms strike. This will become the keystone of your rotation.

Strength of Arms and Slam‘s improved version are also worthwhile additions as they will boost your passive damage and provide you a convenient “dump” move to use when nothing else is available. However, only the Incite build will take a full Improved Slam, because it will be using Slam more often.

Tier 8 Arms

Both builds will take everything in this tree. Juggernaut allows you to charge while in combat, which is essential for movement-oriented fights. It also provides a chance for your Charge to give you an instant Mortal Strike critical strike. Improved Mortal Strike is a no-brainer, and Unrelenting Assault is useful to the raider only in that it increases the damage of Overpower.

Tier 9 Arms

This tier contains another three mandatory talents for all builds: Sudden Death allows instant use of Execute, the final main rotation move of Arms. Endless Rage aids with resource regeneration, which in turn allows you to use more special moves. Blood Frenzy is Arms’ tertiary raid buff, increasing all melee damage on the target. It also increases the player’s melee attack speed.

Tier 10 Arms

A single talent, but a worthwhile one: Wrecking Crew will increase your damage for 12 seconds when you gain the “Enrage” self-buff.

Tier 11 Arms

This is the 51-point talent of Arms, the ultimate move, the ougi of Arms-jutsu: Bladestorm. Known affectionately by the silly names of “Brostorm” and “Lawlstorm,” it is the Warrior’s answer to everything that hurts us. When activated, your damage will skyrocket for the duration of your massive whirlwind chain. None may stand against your might.

The builds really only start to diverge as we escape the Arms Tree.

Tier 1 Fury

Both builds will pick up the basic self-buffs of the Fury tree, common to almost all Warrior builds, Armored to the Teeth (which grants a bonus to wearing plate armor) and Cruelty, which is a passive critical strike rating buff.

Execute Builders will want to take Booming Voice, that will increase the range and duration of the Warrior “shout” buffs. Incite Builders will skip any further talents in the Fury Tree.

Tier 2 Fury

If a raiding Fury Warrior is responsible for the Demoralizing Shout debuff, then its Improved version is required. But for most raiders, this debuff will come from other classes, and it can be skipped for a Tier 3 talent.

Tier 3 Fury

The only talent worth taking here for Execute Builders is Commanding Presence, which increases the shout buffs.

Tier 4 Fury

Finally, the talent that gives the Execute Build its name: Improved Execute. Fairly simple reason to take it, right? Sure — it increases your Rage retained after using an Execute from a Sudden Death proc.

What the Incite Build eschews in the Fury Tree, it picks up from the Protection Tree. This is a counter-intuitive choice, as Protection is the tanking, rather than damage-dealing, tree. However, at high levels of gear, the Incite Build results in better Rage management and therefore higher damage.

Tier 1 Protection

Improved Bloodrage increases the Rage generated by the Bloodrage ability, which is the second ability that should be used after a Charge.

Improved Thunderclap functions as a convenient filler. Thunderclap can be used to apply its attack speed debuff, but only if another class or player is not applying the debuff, which in all actuality, they will be.

Tier 2 Protection

Incite is the talent that gives the build its name: it increases the critical strike chance of Heroic Strike and Cleave (an AOE version of Heroic Strike).

Glyphs for the two specs are one and the same: major glyphs will be Rending, which adds a free Overpower proc by extending the duration of Rend by six seconds. Mortal Strike passively increases the damage of your basic attack, and Bladestorm reduces the cooldown of your major sustained-damage ability. Minor glyphs will be Battle, Charge and Bloodrage.

I have been upgraded
Amrytale returns, now with the "Legplates of Painful Death." Yep. Painful death baked right into the steel. Like that crust from Pizza Hut. But with death.


The Arms “rotation” is not so much a static set of abilities the Warrior rotates through as it is a priority system. The fight is opened with a Charge, followed by a Bloodrage to gain resources.

After that, Rend must be immediately applied to the target, and will not be reapplied until it has had time to fully tick off. “Clipping” and reapplying Rend early cheats you out of Overpowers.

Once Rend is applied, Mortal Strike must be used to take advantage of the likely free critical strike from Charge. Mortal Strike will always be kept on cooldown.

After that, you will have a choice. If Overpower is usable due to a dodged strike, or a Taste for Blood proc, then you will use Overpower. If Sudden Death allows you to use Execute, you will use Execute unless there are less than 4 seconds left before your Overpower use goes away. If there are less than 4 seconds left, Overpower must be used.

If both Overpower and Execute are unusable, then you will use a Slam to fill the gap. Arms is “global cooldown-locked,” meaning that it is a waste of time and resources to not use an attack every 1.5 seconds, or the global amount of time that a special ability use will require.

This is why using Bloodrage every time it is off cooldown is important to Rage management.

However, if your Rage is above 80, however, your next strike will likely send you over 100 Rage. Since any Rage over 100 is worthless, you will need a “Rage vent” to successfully manage your resources. This is where Cleave and Heroic Strike come in to play. At lower levels of gear, using the Execution Build, this will almost never happen because your Rage will rarely climb that high without being bled off by Execution, which is spammable when the boss is below 20% health and otherwise usable on each Sudden Death proc.

With the Execution Build, however, above-80 Rage management is more necessary and Heroic Strike/Cleave will be an essential part of the rotation. This is why the Incite talent is so important: it increase the damage of your Rage vent, and therefore, your overall DPS.

Situational abilities come in to play as well. The Shattering Throw ability is necessary to reduce target armor to provide a large, raid-wide damage increase. This should be used at key phases when extra DPS is needed. Bladestorm can only be used when the tanks have established a large amount threat and there are more than two targets. Otherwise, for two targets, Sweeping Strikes and Cleave are better choices. Additionally, your raid may require application of the Sunder Armor debuff, or to use a Shout to increase attack power, total health, or to decrease enemy attack power. These can be worked in as long as Mortal Strike, Overpower and Execute are all on cooldown.

Now, armed with proper gear, a proper talent setup, the right glyphs, and knowledge of what you should do, it is time to PRACTICE. That means going out, getting into heroics and raids, and practicing to get the gear you need to perform at the top of your game.

Tune in next week when I have a real post and not this meaningless filler meant to attract the attention of theorycrafters.


  1. It’s required reading for my Arms raiders. If you don’t have at least one Arms warrior, I’d recruit one. The raid buffs are excellent.

  2. That’s why there is Fury, where the rotation is: Bloodthirst, Whirlwind, repeat. For, you know, people that find six buttons difficult to manage. But Fury’s raid buff doesn’t stack with that provided by Kitties, and raiding Combat Rogues (who have a similar raid buff to Arms Warriors) are very hard to find. Ergo, at least one person in the raid needs to be an Arms Warrior.

Comments are closed.