Arms is the second Warrior spec I tested in-depth on the Legion alpha, and since it followed my Fury testing, my Arms feedback is somewhat colored by that experience. I immediately noticed how much smoother and fluid the Arms rotation felt when compared to Fury, and that is basically the overarching theme of my entire Arms review. I will apologize in advance for short feedback on the single-target and AoE rotations, but the Arms spec is basically 50% baseline with the other 50% tied-up in Artifact traits, so bear with me.
The single-target rotation consists of Mortal Strike, Colossus Smash, Slam, and then Execute for when targets are below 20% health. In Warlords of Draenor, Blizzard stated their intent to bring Arms fantasy to be that of a precise Warrior wielding big strikes and making thought-out decisions. The theme of big strikes still exists; Mortal Strike and Colossus Smash both hit like trucks and all of your damage is affected by the Colossus Smash debuff, but the thought-out decisions part seems to be missing. Current Arms feels like Lich King-era Retribution Paladins, just pressing buttons on cooldown or whatever lights up. Setting up your Execute phase is the only part of Arms that demands any real decision-making since it is still required to save cooldowns and pool rage going into Execute. I am concerned about the place of abilities like Overpower, Heroic Strike, and Storm Bolt because Slam has a higher priority than them, despite dealing less damage, simply because it can reset Colossus Smash via Tactician. As I voiced in an article when HFC came out, I feel the Colossus Smash reset mechanic is taking Arms into a direction that is opposite of what Blizzard had in mind for the spec, and ultimately the playstyle I enjoyed most. Many people hated the playstyle of pooling rage and saving cooldowns for Colossus Smash every 20 sec, but I loved it because it was the opposite of Fury and really carved out a distinct identity for Arms. Colossus Smash dictating your actions had pros and cons, but making it reset completely throws all semblance of forethought out the window. I’ve beaten this horse to death, resurrected it, and beaten it again so I’ll leave it alone for good, but I pay my respects to the Arms that should have been. Overall, the new Arms single-target rotation is simple yet fun in its own way, but really comes alive when many if its artifact traits are introduced, but more on that later.
The Arms AoE rotation retains that same simplistic theme the single target rotation did, introducing only two new abilities to the mix: Cleave and Whirlwind. Cleave is brand new and now interacts directly with Whirlwind by boosting its damage. Whirlwind pretty much stayed the same as it did from WoD, but is now reserved solely for AoE usage. The two do enough with each other to make you believe you have a real AoE rotation, but in reality, Whirlwind is going to be your end-all-be-all. Not to say the rotation is completely boring, it is just very bare bones right now. I would love to see an ability like Demon Hunter’s Blade Dance added to Arms, something with a decent 12 to 15-second cooldown that was used in both single target and AoE rotation to really spice up both of them. I am concerned that one of Arms’s specialties in WoD, its high consistent cleave damage, has been lost due to Sweeping Strikes being nerfed and then made a talent. However, now that Colossus Smash affects all damage, this concern may turn out to be for nothing once we start seeing more theorycrafting. Overall, quite shallow but it will suffice for the moment while Blizzard fills out their new direction for the spec going into the future.
Overall, I liked the Arms talents much more than Fury’s because the rows are constructed better, even if there are way too many passive abilities for a spec that already has so few abilities. However, just like my Fury review, I’ll go over my feedback on the talents row by row for simplicity’s sake.
First Row: Shockwave and Storm Bolt are the weakest choices here in my opinion, even if Sweeping Strikes exists in a very nerfed form. Shockwave’s damage is tuned with the stun effect in mind. It will only be taken for its crowd control capabilities and never for its damage, so I do not understand why it exists here. Storm Bolt could provide a decent single target button, but dedicating a global CD to this instead of Slam for single-target would be very inefficient since Storm Bolt cannot proc Tactician. I would love to see Sweeping Strikes made into an active ability again, but made with a new interesting twist since Arms’s AoE rotation is too simplistic. Overall, a somewhat disappointing tier and I hope they do some more work to it.
Second Row: This row has kept the same ‘defensive’ theme as its Fury counterpart had, but still somewhat dull. Impending Victory is currently not working, but I would be willing to wager this will be the choice most Warriors go for since you are constantly spamming Slam while questing, doing dungeons, or even raiding. Die by the Sword currently replaces Defensive Stance for Arms, which I hope is a bug because the former cannot compete with the latter. Being able to take 25% less damage on demand with no cooldown is an incredible defensive tool for raiding, so you will never give up Defensive Stance. If you could take both, then I believe Die by the Sword would have its moments to shine in dungeon or raid encounters with phases of really heavy damage. Kind of a boring tier, but it serves a purpose.
Third Row: Not really happy with this row. Dauntless is fairly forgettable and feels like a worse version of Endless Rage, even if the talent turns out to be good once theorycrafting has been done. Cooldown stacking will be stronger than ever for Arms due to the new Colossus Smash. For this reason, Avatar will probably win out in every single case for Arms whether it be for Execute cheesing or stacking with Bladestorm. Overpower has zero AoE usage, and once again faces the same problem Storm Bolt did – it has to compete with Slam for a global cooldown, and like Storm Bolt, Overpower cannot proc Tactician. Maybe if Avatar was made baseline the row could be freed up some, but I hope they work on it.
Fourth Row: The same row that Fury had, so I have the same feedback: Give Second Wind an active that forces the regen to start; Double Time is already good; Imposing Roar could be great for some raid fights.
Fifth Row: This is my favorite tier because I feel like it has the greatest potential for having the most choices. Each talent has a use: Fervor of Battle for frequent add-spawning; Rend for long-lived add cleave; and Bladestorm for spaced-out burst AoE. Bladestorm may overtake the other two for all situations because of its stacking ability with Corrupted Rage and Recklessness, but I feel like this problem could be fixed with number tuning on Colossus Smash and buffing Fervor of Battle and Rend some. Currently, in Alpha, the CS debuff is grossly overtuned so Bladestorm reigns supreme, but I have hope for this tier once numbers start being tuned. Awesome tier!
Sixth Row: An interesting row that I feel has some neat choices. While I hated the new Heroic Strike for Fury, I actually think the current version could have been a neat choice for Arms if not for two things – saving your Mortal Strike for a Colossus Smash is not viable anymore since CS could proc at any moment off of Slam (or Mortal Strike from an artifact trait); and wasting rage on Heroic Strike is rage NOT going to Slam, which can reset Colossus Smash. This talent could be cool if it was made for, say, pre-HFC Arms where pooling rage and delaying Mortal Strike usage for an upcoming Colossus Smash was viable, but sadly those days are dead and gone. Mortal Combo is the breakout star here and I absolutely love it. With this talent, you are guaranteed to always have at least two Mortal Strikes for each Colossus Smash usage since you can sit on one charge while always using the other. This is great because it nets you a decent DPS increase and adds some thought to your play, even if it is just making a conscious decision to not press a button an extra time. Titanic Might is 100% useless and I hate it. It is useless because an artifact trait allows you to extend the duration of your Colossus Smash reliably and Colossus Smash can reset at any time from Tactician. There is literally no reason why you should reduce the effectiveness of an ability that will be up on an average of every 10 to 15 seconds or so. Overall, Mortal Combo is great; the other two suck.
Seventh Row: First off, I hate Ravager and I was happy to see that Fury did not keep it, but I was angry to see that Arms did. Ravager’s strength still comes in any AoE situation that can constantly hit adds for its full duration, but that just means it is a really bad Bladestorm. This is even more boring because Ravager is a fire-and-forget ability that doesn’t boast a large amount of damage. It will have its niche uses in raiding, but will suck everywhere else. Opportunity Strikes is a return of Arms’s initial Mastery, but a much more improved version. The damage may be low, but it’s consistent and basically amounts to a free auto attack every so often. While I feel whether or not you take this talent will come down to a spreadsheet, I am worried that this talent will funnel even more of Arms’s overall damage into the Execute phase since its highest chance to proc is at low health percentages. Aside from that concern, I took this talent most of the time and had no problems with it. Anger Management seems like a neat talent in theory, but in practice, it plays out like a worse version of Reckless Abandon and even then it is only useful for single target. For AoE, you want to stack Battle Cry with Bladestorm and Corrupted Rage, so reducing the cooldown is a complete waste. The talent might be better if it affected your talents like the WoD version, but I honestly think I would rather just see it removed for something cooler. Overall, disappointing for our final tier of talents. All of the choices will boil down to spreadsheet decisions due to their passive nature. I’d rather see more cool, active abilities with damage or effects that leave a big impression.
Strom’Kar, the Warbreaker‘s artifact traits are really where Arms comes into its own as a fun spec. The key to all the traits is that the most important ones sync so well with each other and enhance the rotation in place rather than add to it. The black sheep of the bunch is the weapon’s baseline ability, Shadow Slash, seems kind of tacked on with no synergy with anything despite so many of the other traits working together. Shadow Slash will be nice for cleave and AoE, but like its distant cousin, Discordant Chorus, it will eventually become irrelevant.
The other traits, however, are very much relevant and greatly enhance the spec. The traits that really define the single target rotation are Exploit the Weakness (rank 1 of 3), Shattered Defenses, Deathblow (rank 1 of 3), Precise Strikes (rank 1 of 3) and the most important trait, Focus in Battle. I know that is most of the traits, but that just goes to show how good the artifact is! What is so good about these traits is that they support or enable one another, creating great synergy despite only being circular synergy. For example: You Charge to your target and use Colossus Smash, now your next Mortal Strike or Execute (this is important, as these traits stay active even during Execute phase) costs up to 45% less from Precise Strikes. Then, that same Mortal Strike or Execute deals 50% more damage and has at the least a bonus 50% chance to crit, increased by Deathblow for Execute. Any crits you get as a result of Shattered Defenses then proc Exploit the Weakness, allowing you to increase the duration of Colossus Smash by 3 seconds (max rank). That’s not even counting Battle Cry, which guarantees those Mortal Strikes and Executes will critically strike, and is also buffed by Corrupted Blood of Zakajz.Now those fat 40 rage Executes are dealing an additional 50% damage. Add Focus in Battle to the situation and now every single one of your baseline special attacks has a chance to reset the cooldown of Colossus Smash, except for Cleave. After a reset, the fun begins again, starting with Shattered Defenses and Precise Strikes.
The entire process is why Arms looks so fun to play. The base kit of Arms is simple yet works and the artifact simply enhances it in all the most fun areas of the spec. The big strikes are enhanced and you get Colossus Smash more. What is even better is the AoE rotation, although not as supported, still benefits greatly from the artifact. Corrupted Rage, the first trait you get, deals damage, has no global cooldown, and applies the Colossus Smash debuff to everything around you. This makes it very easy to combine it with Battle Cry (combined with the Corrupted Blood of Zakajz trait), Avatar, and Bladestorm, allowing you to deal absolutely insane amounts of damage. What I like even more about the artifact is that it gives help to Cleave rather than Whirlwind for the AoE rotation. Whirlwind already deals more damage than Slam and that damage is increased further by Cleave, so it did not need the help. But Cleave’s damage is pretty bad. To elevate Cleave from simply a supportive role, you have Void Cleave to give you a reason to look forward to using Cleave besides boosting your next Whirlwind. Or, if you just prefer to look forward to your next Whirlwind, then One Against Many (rank 1 of 3) is there to make your fat Whirlwinds even fatter.
Blizzard did such a great job with the Arms artifact traits that it gives me so much hope, even if I do miss the WoD style of Arms. Arms has always been a simple spec, but the Devs have shown that a spec does not have to be complex to feel fun and impactful. Some naysayers might point out that the entire artifact is basically just damage modifiers and other things attached to abilities you would already be using anyway, and that the design is lazy. To that I would say that Blizzard focused on the most fun parts of a simple but well-working spec, similar to greasing the gears of a motor. If being hyped about the fun of a simple spec makes me dumb, then give me a dunce cap.