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Arms Warrior DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoW 4.3.4)

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In this article, we list your Arms Warrior (WoW 4.3) core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation). We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that playing an Arms Warrior will face you with. The other articles of our Arms Warrior guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the left.

1. Basic Single Target Rotation↑top

  1. Apply and maintain Rend Icon Rend
  2. Use Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike on cooldown.
  3. Use Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash and fit damaging abilities in the 6 seconds window.
  4. Use Overpower Icon Overpower, only available after a Taste for Blood Icon Taste for Blood proc.
  5. Use Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike whenever
    • you have a Battle Trance Icon Battle Trance proc or
    • you are unable to avoid being at maximum rage.
  6. Use Slam Icon Slam as a filler or to dump rage when Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike is on cooldown.

When your target is below 20% health, simply replace Slam Icon Slam with Execute Icon Execute in the rotation.

Note that there are many ways in which you can optimise this rotation. We advise you to read our section on the single-target rotation subtleties.

2. Basic Multiple Target Rotation↑top

This depends greatly on the amount of targets you are facing, how long they will be alive for and how much of your single target DPS you should sacrifice in favour of AoE DPS (based on the urgency with which these adds must die).

When facing two enemies, you should:

  1. Use Sweeping Strikes Icon Sweeping Strikes and execute a single target rotation.
  2. If the enemies are still alive when Sweeping Strikes wears out, execute a single target rotation (on the boss, or one of the adds), replacing Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike with Cleave Icon Cleave.

When facing three enemies, you should:

  1. Apply Rend Icon Rend and spread it with Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap (through Blood and Thunder Icon Blood and Thunder).
  2. Use Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm (use Recklessness Icon Recklessness before Bladestorm if the adds need to die extremely quickly).
  3. After Bladestorm is over, use Sweeping Strikes Icon Sweeping Strikes.
  4. Use Thunder Clap on cooldown and, after Sweeping Strikes has worn off, execute a normal rotation (on the boss, or one of the adds), replacing Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike with Cleave Icon Cleave.

When facing four or more enemies, you should:

  1. Apply Rend Icon Rend and spread it with Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap (through Blood and Thunder Icon Blood and Thunder).
  2. Use Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm (use Recklessness Icon Recklessness before Bladestorm if the adds adds need to die extremely quickly).
  3. After Bladestorm is over, use Sweeping Strikes Icon Sweeping Strikes.
  4. Use Thunder Clap on cooldown, and modify your normal rotation as follows: replace Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash with Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind and replace Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike with Cleave Icon Cleave.

3. Cooldown Usage↑top

You have two main DPS cooldowns: Deadly Calm Icon Deadly Calm and Recklessness Icon Recklessness. These two abilities should be used as often as possible. Keep in mind that using Deadly Calm triggers a 15 second cooldown on Recklessness, and using Recklessness triggers a 12 second cooldown on Deadly Calm, so they cannot be used together.

Using Deadly Calm Icon Deadly Calm and Recklessness Icon Recklessness optimally is covered in a subsequent section.

You have three additional cooldowns, the use of which is rather situational:

4. Stance↑top

Traditionally, Battle Stance Icon Battle Stance has been the default stance for the Arms specialisation. It is possible, however, to maximise your DPS by constantly switching between Battle Stance and Berserker Stance Icon Berserker Stance. More details are provided at the end of this article.

5. Mastering Your Arms Warrior↑top

The guidelines given above will enable you to play your Arms Warrior with good results. If you want to push things further and master your character, then we advise you to continue reading.

5.1. Rage Generation

Warriors use a resource called Rage (Feral Druid tanks are the only other class in the game to use it). For you to properly master your Warrior, you must understand how Rage works.

The Rage bar has a maximum capacity of 100, and is empty by default. Rage decays at a rate of 1 per second when out of combat. In combat, Rage does not decay.

Rage is generated through three sources: dealing damage (only white attacks), taking damage (all sources, except for fall damage) and through the use of certain talents and abilities.

Dealing damage generates rage, depending on your base weapon speed. Rage is only generated from white attacks, so not from special abilities (yellow attacks). The formula for this is simple: 6.5 * the base weapon speed.

The other factors which affect offensive rage generation are attack speed and chance to hit (only up to the point where you are guaranteed to hit, so 8% chance to hit). This is because the more you attack, the more times you will generate rage. For more details on white (normal) and yellow (special) attacks, and how they are influenced by Hit and Expertise Rating, you can check our guide on the mechanics of melee attacks.

Rage is also generated through a variety of talents and abilities, as we will see in this article.

Finally, taking damage generates rage. The amount of rage generated depends on your health pool and the amount of damage you take. If your healers are able to cope with it, it is possible to purposefully take extra damage in order to generate extra rage (such as standing in something harmful). Note, however, that you should be extremely careful while doing this, and that more often than not it is better to do less DPS than to put a strain on your healers.

You should know that Arms Warriors are more likely to run out of global cooldowns to use their rage on than they are to run out of rage to use. For this reason, rage generated by taking damage is not of great concern to you.

5.2. Important Abilities and Mechanics

Arms Warriors have a vast number of abilities which can be useful to raids, including various buffs and debuffs which they can apply. Here, we will only discuss those abilities which play a part in your DPS priority.

  • Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike: this is your most important ability. It deals a high amount of damage, stacks your Slaughter Icon Slaughter self-buff and refreshes your Rend Icon Rend on the target.
  • Rend Icon Rend: this is your main bleed effect. This not only deals damage, but also regularly enables the use of Overpower Icon Overpower.
  • Overpower Icon Overpower: deals a high amount of damage, has a high chance to critically hit and has a very low rage cost.
  • Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash: deals a moderate amount of damage and debuffs the target for the next 6 seconds, causing it to take greatly increased damage from all your other abilities.
  • Slam Icon Slam: mostly a filler and rage-dump ability. It is important to note that, while Slam is casting (it has a 0.5 second cast time), your swing timer is suspended.
  • Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike: a high rage cost ability, the only real benefit of which is that it allows further rage-dumping when you are at maximum rage and Slam does not provide a sufficient dump.
  • Execute Icon Execute: extremely hard hitting ability, available only when the target is under 20% health. Also stacks the Executioner Icon Executioner self-buff on you.
  • Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm: a powerful AoE ability.
  • Sweeping Strikes Icon Sweeping Strikes: allows you to mirror the damage dealt to your main target onto a second, nearby target. It is free of rage cost with the appropriate glyph.
  • Cleave Icon Cleave: an alternative to Heroic Strike which hits 2 enemies (3 with the glyph).
  • Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap: deals a small amount of damage to all enemies around you. If Blood and Thunder Icon Blood and Thunder is talented, it also spreads Rend to them.
  • Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind: deals small amount of damage to each enemy within 8 yards of the Warrior. Useful against large groups of enemies.

In addition to these damaging abilities, Arms Warriors should also make use of the following cooldowns:

  • Deadly Calm Icon Deadly Calm: makes all your abilities cost no rage while it is active. During Deadly Calm, rage is generated in the same manner as when Deadly Calm is not active, guaranteeing you to end up with 100 rage when the Deadly Calm runs out.
  • Recklessness Icon Recklessness: increases your critical strike chance by 50%, but also increases your damage taken by 20%.
  • Inner Rage Icon Inner Rage: reduces the cooldown of your Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike and Cleave Icon Cleave by 50% for 15 seconds.

In the sections below, we will detail each of your important mechanics and ability interactions.

5.2.1. Colossus Smash

Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash should be used, primarily, for the debuff which it applies, and not for its damage. In the 6 seconds after using Colossus Smash, all of your abilities deal significantly more damage.

You should also keep in mind that your Sudden Death Icon Sudden Death talent provides you with a small chance to reset the cooldown on your Colossus Smash each time you perform an auto attack. Because this effect does not have an internal cooldown, you should use Colossus Smash as soon as possible, when it becomes available, to avoid wasting Sudden Death Icon Sudden Death procs.

Finally, you should always wait for the 6 second debuff to wear off before using Colossus Smash again (assuming its cooldown was reset shortly after using it), so that the debuffs applied by your subsequent Colossus Smashes do not overlap.

Therefore, you should use Colossus Smash following these guidelines:

  • Use as many abilities as possible in the time that the debuff is active (for example: Overpower Icon Overpower x2, Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike, Slam Icon Slam and Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike).
  • Do not use Colossus Smash while the debuff from the previous Colossus Smash is still active.
  • Use Colossus Smash as soon as it is available (provided that the debuff from the previous one has worn off). You can delay it for a few seconds so that abilities like Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike come off cooldown or you have a lot of rage.

5.2.2. Overpower and Taste for Blood

Your Overpower Icon Overpower ability is normally only usable after one of your attacks is dodged. Fortunately, thanks to Taste for Blood Icon Taste for Blood, each time your Rend Icon Rend deals damage, your Overpower is enabled. Note that this effect cannot occur more often than once every 5 seconds (despite the fact that Rend deals damage more often than that). Also note that each Taste for Blood proc only enables a single use of Overpower.

Therefore, when you use Overpower Icon Overpower, the effect is consumed. The effect also fades after 9 seconds, even if you do not use Overpower Icon Overpower.

Essentially, this means that if you do not use Overpower within 5 seconds of a Taste for Blood proc, you are going to waste procs of this effect. Within the 5 second window, however, it makes very little difference when you use your Overpower.

5.2.3. Battle Trance

Battle Trance Icon Battle Trance grants your Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strikes a 15% chance to cause your next ability that costs more than 5 rage be free of cost. Naturally, it is ideal to use this proc on an ability which costs a lot of rage.

You should have a means to track this proc (through an add-on such as Power Auras) and you should aim to use this proc on a Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike, as this is your most expensive ability.

Indeed, using it on Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike is ideal and should not be a problem, as it is off the global cooldown.

5.2.4. Execute and Executioner

When your target's health drops below 20%, your Execute Icon Execute ability becomes usable. The damage dealt by this ability varies, in part, based on how much rage you have when you cast it. Execute has a base cost of 10 rage, but if you have additional rage when you use it, up to a total of 20 additional rage, this extra rage will be consumed, and your Execute will deal more damage depending on how much rage you had.

As such, with low rage, it may cause less damage than other abilities, such as Overpower Icon Overpower and Slam Icon Slam. Your gear level also affects the damage Execute does, relative to your other abilities.

As a result, you should experiment and see when it is worth using Execute in favor of another ability.

Each time you use Execute Icon Execute, you gain a stack of Executioner Icon Executioner, a self-buff which increases your attack speed by 5% per stack, up to a total of 25%.

When the target first reaches 20% health and Execute becomes available, you should NOT abandon your normal rotation in order to stack this to 5 stacks quickly. Instead, you should continue using Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash and Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike (and Overpower or Slam, if their damage surpasses that of Execute), while weaving in Executes.

After this time, you should normally never be in danger of dropping the buff, as it lasts 9 seconds and Execute is a high priority move. Even so, you should pay close attention not to drop this buff.

5.3. Single Target Rotation Subtleties

As we explained, at the beginning of this article, the rotation of an Arms Warrior must follow this priority list:

  1. Apply and maintain Rend Icon Rend
  2. Use Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike on cooldown.
  3. Use Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash and fit damaging abilities in the 6 seconds window.
  4. Use Overpower Icon Overpower, only available after a Taste for Blood Icon Taste for Blood proc.
  5. Use Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike whenever
    • you have a Battle Trance Icon Battle Trance proc or
    • you are unable to avoid being at maximum rage.
  6. Use Slam Icon Slam as a filler or to dump rage when Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike is on cooldown.

5.3.1. Colossus Smash and Overpower

A few mentions must be made on Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash and Overpower Icon Overpower. When using Colossus Smash, you should use the 6-second window to cast as many damaging abilities as possible (Overpower Icon Overpower, Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike, Slam Icon Slam, and Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike). In particular, you should try to fit 2 Overpower Icon Overpower in these 6 seconds. To do so, simply try to already have a proc of Taste for Blood Icon Taste for Blood before you cast Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash. After casting Colossus Smash, immediately use Overpower and hope for another proc of Taste for Blood Icon Taste for Blood before the 6 seconds are over.

5.3.2. Execute and Overpower

Below 20% health, Execute Icon Execute takes the place of Slam Icon Slam as your filler ability. Because the damage dealt by Execute increases with the amount of rage you have, Overpower Icon Overpower should only be used when you are very low on rage. In any other situation, you should prefer using Execute Icon Execute, as it will deal more damage, even if you have a proc of Taste for Blood Icon Taste for Blood.

5.4. More on Deadly Calm and Recklessness

5.4.1. Deadly Calm

Deadly Calm Icon Deadly Calm should be used as many times as possible during an encounter. Keep in mind that using Deadly Calm triggers a 15 second cooldown on Recklessness Icon Recklessness, and using Recklessness triggers a 12 second cooldown on Deadly Calm, so they cannot be used together. Use these guidelines, and follow your own experiences, in order to determine the best times to use Deadly Calm Icon Deadly Calm:

5.4.2. Recklessness

Recklessness Icon Recklessness should be used as many times as possible during an encounter (this will most often be twice). Try to time it so that you can use as many abilities in its duration as possible, including as many of them as possible while Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash is active.

Keep in mind that Recklessness increases the damage you take by 20%, so do not use it during a time when you are taking heavy damage if you risk dying.

5.5. Stance Dancing

5.5.1. Introduction

Stance dancing is a term which refers to the practice of repeatedly switching between stances during combat.

Stances are a Warrior-only mechanic. A stance is, essentially, a state in which the Warrior places him/herself, which offers some benefits and allows the use of certain abilities. Most Warrior abilities are conditioned by one or two stances.

Switching between different stances causes the Warrior to lose all but 25 of the rage which they had at the time of the switch (the Tactical Mastery Icon Tactical Mastery talent allows you to retain 75 rage, instead of 25). Stances are on a different global cooldown than other Warrior abilities, so switching stances does not interfere with the DPS rotation.

Warriors have the following three stances:

5.5.2. Advantages and Disadvantages

Traditionally, the stance associated with the Arms specialisation has been Battle Stance. However, after countless changes, Battle Stance is only needed for Arms Warriors for the use of 4 abilities (and only one regularly used ability):

  • Rend Icon Rend: once, at the start of the fight (because, normally, Rend will be refreshed by Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike);
  • Shattering Throw Icon Shattering Throw: once per fight, in most cases;
  • Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap: in heavy AoE situations or when wishing to spread Rend to multiple targets;
  • Overpower Icon Overpower: roughly every 5 seconds.

Being in Berserker Stance provides Arms Warriors with a 5% damage increase over Battle Stance, but comes at the price of having to switch to Battle Stance each time you want to use Overpower. For someone interested in optimising and maximising their character, stance dancing is required.

There is some confusion among Warriors whether or not there is any real benefit to "stance dancing". In short, stance dancing will provide a minor, but noticeable (3-4%) DPS increase if done correctly. If done poorly, however, it will end up being a DPS loss compared to simply staying in Battle Stance at all times.

Do not be mistaken, however. It is very possible to play an Arms Warrior extremely well, without ever leaving Battle Stance.

While it may seem that switching stances will be a rather large DPS loss, with only 25 rage being retained for each switch, this is not so. Thanks to the Tactical Mastery Icon Tactical Mastery talent, up to 75 rage is retained when switching stances.

The easiest way to switch stances efficiently is to make use of macros for your most used abilities. We will provide you with some useful macros in the section below. Keep in mind that you can further customise these, to suit your own preferences.

5.5.3. Overpower and Stance Dancing

In regards to using Taste for Blood Icon Taste for Blood procs, it is ideal to delay using Overpower Icon Overpower until the end of the window (so, within 5 seconds of the proc), so that you can switch to Battle Stance Icon Battle Stance and use two Overpowers in quick succession, after which you can spend 9 or so seconds in Berserker Stance Icon Berserker Stance.

5.5.4. Stance Macros

The most efficient way to switch stances is to use macros. Your aim is to have all the abilities that require you to be in Battle Stance Icon Battle Stance have a macro which first puts you in Battle Stance.

To ensure that you do not linger needlessly in Battle Stance, you should have macros which put you in Berserker Stance attached to all of the other regularly used abilities.

We propose the following macros:

  • Overpower:
    • #showtooltip Overpower
    • /cast Battle Stance
    • /cast Overpower
  • Rend:
    • #showtooltip Rend
    • /cast Battle Stance
    • /cast Rend
  • Thunder Clap:
    • #showtooltip Thunder Clap
    • /cast Battle Stance
    • /cast Thunder Clap
  • Shattering Throw:
    • #showtooltip Shattering Throw
    • /cast Battle Stance
    • /cast Shattering Throw
  • Mortal Strike:
    • #showtooltip Mortal Strike
    • /cast Berserker Stance
    • /cast Mortal Strike
  • Colossus Smash:
    • #showtooltip Colossus Smash
    • /cast Berserker Stance
    • /cast Colossus Smash
  • Slam:
    • #showtooltip Slam
    • /cast Berserker Stance
    • /cast Slam
  • Heroic Strike:
    • #showtooltip Heroic Strike
    • /cast Berserker Stance
    • /cast Heroic Strike
  • Cleave:
    • #showtooltip Cleave
    • /cast Berserker Stance
    • /cast Cleave
  • Execute:
    • #showtooltip Execute
    • /cast Berserker Stance
    • /cast Execute
  • Bladestorm
    • #showtooltip Bladestorm
    • /cast Berserker Stance
    • /cast Bladestorm
    • /cancelaura Bladestorm
  • Whirlwind:
    • #showtooltip Whirlwind
    • /cast Berserker Stance
    • /cast Whirlwind

There are a few important notes about the use of macros to switch stances:

  • Using a macro when you are already in the correct stance will simply cast the ability (for instance, the Rend macro when you are already in Battle Stance).
  • Using a macro which can be used in both stances, when you are in the wrong stance, will switch your stance and cast the ability from the new stance (for instance, the Mortal Strike macro when you are in Battle Stance).
  • Using a macro which can only be used in one stance, when you are in the wrong stance for instance, the Rend macro when you are in Berserker Stance), will switch your stance but fail to cast the ability. A second use of the macro is required for the ability to be the cast (from the new stance).

The last case mentioned above, which only happens when switching to Battle Stance to cast a Battle Stance only ability, or to Berserker Stance to cast Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind, has an unfortunate interaction with your latency. Using such macros, when your latency exceeds roughly 150 milliseconds, can stop being a DPS gain and, in some cases, may even be a DPS loss.

In the case where stance dancing stops being a DPS gain to you, for reasons related to your latency, you should simply remain in Battle Stance.




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