The wily Arms warrior is a master of dealing punishing damage and using battle tactics to overwhelm enemies. Excelling at single target damage, Arms warriors can also unleash ferocious area burst damage and inflict wounds of such severity, opponents will struggle to recover from them.
Overpower: A no-nonsense melee ability that batters the target for moderate damage whilst buffing your next Mortal Strike. Overpower also has the added perk of smashing through blocks, dodges and parries. This provides Arms Warriors with a useful baseline tool when facing off against other classes, as the protection offered by abilities such as Evasion or Blur is completely negated.
Mortal Strike: One of the big hitters for Arms. Mortal Strike deals heavy damage and when buffed with Overpower, forms a powerful one-two combo as part of the Arms ability rotation. In addition, Mortal Strike wounds the target so grievously that any incoming healing is reduced by 25% for a short duration. This makes Mortal Strike highly effective in a PvP environments and the bane of healers everywhere.
Execute: The second big-hitter, Execute allows Arms Warriors to deal heavy damage to foes who are near death, the damage increasing the more rage you have. As the Arms version also refunds rage if your enemy doesn’t co-operate and die, Execute can be used fairly continuously as your opponent nears their demise. In PvP environments, Execute has natural synergy with the Massacre and Death Sentence talents, increasing uptime, threat and damage on your enemies when their health is low.
Slam: A basic melee ability that deals low damage, Slam is a filler ability whose primary function is to fill in the gaps when your other abilities are on cooldown. I’d like to elaborate but there isn’t anything else to say about this one!
Colossus Smash: The third big-hitter in the Arms toolkit, Colossus Smash does more base damage than Mortal Strike. However, its primary function is increasing your damage dealt to the target by 30% for 10 seconds. Colossus Smash is on a 45 second cooldown so you won’t be spamming this one. Instead, you’ll want to use it at key moments to provide a noticeable burst of damage. An additional bonus is that its cooldown lines up well with Bladestorm, enabling some hefty area effect damage when the Warbreaker talent is taken.
Bladestorm: The iconic Bladestorm is one of those quintessential ‘Warrior’ abilities. It deals heavy area effect damage and provides immunity to all impairing effects as well as breaking all roots and snares. Bladestorm is effective for on-demand burst damage against both groups and against single targets if you are able to catch them in its gyre of destruction for its full duration.
Sweeping Strikes: Re-introduced as a baseline ability in Battle for Azeroth, Sweeping Strikes spreads the damage of your single target abilities onto a nearby target for 75% of their damage. Useful in dungeons for taking down small groups or demolishing bosses with sporadic adds, it can also add considerable pressure on enemy teams when used in arenas.
Die by the Sword: For Arms, Die by the Sword is its baseline defensive ability. Providing a flat damage reduction and 100% parry chance for its duration, it can save your skin in a tight spot or be used to briefly take the heat in a boss fight. Beware of those who try and flank you though, as parries are only effective against frontal assaults.
Mastery: Deep Wounds: The mastery effect for Arms Warriors is Deep Wounds which causes Mortal Strike, Bladestorm and Execute to inflict gushing wounds on their enemies. Compared with previous masteries, Deep Wounds offers a welcome departure as it doesn’t dominate the spec like Colossal Might did in Legion. That being said, it’s not something that should be ignored either; the bleed effect should be maintained as much as possible in order to maximise your damage output.
Tier 1 – War Machine / Sudden Death / Skullsplitter
The main thrust of Tier 1 is rage generation although Sudden Death differs slightly as it doesn’t generate rage, but provides a free Execute proc instead. It’s pleasing to find that rather than having one stand-out or one dud choice, all three options on Tier 1 can be effectively employed in different situations.
With its 10% rage generation increase and kill-dependent movement speed boost, War Machine speeds up levelling and world content considerably. It also provides a useful and sustainable buff for mob-heavy dungeons and frenetic battlegrounds as you don’t have to land the killing blow to activate the buff.
Sudden Death adds some variety to the Arms rotation through full power Execute procs that gives generous (if unpredictable) bursts of damage. These spikes in output are competitive in the majority of content at the expense of consistency; Sudden Death is great when it triggers, but you have no control over when it does.
Skullsplitter is an active ability that deals moderate damage and generates 20 Rage. It adds some periodic damage to the Arms rotation but more importantly, adds a much-needed burst of Rage. Rage-starvation has been a perennial problem for Arms due to the constant demand on its resource pool in combat. Having to wait on slow weapon swings to restore some momentum is frustrating but Skullsplitter goes some way to rectify this issue, guaranteeing a periodic dose of rage.
Tier 2 – Double Time / Impending Victory / Stormbolt
Utility is the name of the game for Tier 2, offering mobility, more frequent healing and a middling stun as its choice. Tier 2 also has the dubious honour of being one of the most disliked parts of the Arms talent tree, namely the forced choice between talents that many players believe should be baseline abilities.
Double Time has tremendous applicability in all content. The double usage of Charge and reduction in its cooldown allows greater uptime and pressure on targets. Whether you are fighting mobs, bosses or other players, Double Time is always useful.
Impending Victory is a formerly Protection-only talent that essentially makes Victory Rush an active ability on a 30 second cooldown. I find this talent to be an unappealing choice as it comes at the expense of greater mobility or a stun. It does boost survivability which has benefits in more difficult world content, but for me, it simply isn’t strong enough to be a contender in raiding or PvP.
The last choice on Tier 2 is Stormbolt, the only stun available to Arms. As stuns go, it’s distinctly average. It is ranged which helps enormously when chasing down targets, but with only a 4 second duration it pales in comparison to more powerful ranged stuns like Hammer of Justice, Strangulate and Between the Eyes. However, if you consider how awful an upwards standardisation of stuns would be, perhaps Stormbolt warrants more praise; it’s certainly indispensable for random PvP.
Tier 3 – Massacre / Fervor for Battle / Rend
This tier offers a mix of talents designed to enhance damage output. Similar to Tier 1, all of the choices on Tier 3 have their strengths, although Rend is perhaps not as broadly useful as Massacre and Fervor for Battle.
Massacre is a direct increase to the Execute threshold from 20% to 35%. This makes an already powerful phase for Arms even stronger by broadening the Execute window, enabling a surge of damage in the later stages of combat. Although well-suited to boss fights, it’s not terribly exciting to chop away them lumberjack-style for the closing minutes of an encounter.
In PvP, Massacre really shines. The larger Execute window increases pressure on opponents but this is taken to a whole new level when paired with the Death Sentence PvP talent. Bringing this combo to bear on low-health enemies means both a deadly burst of damage from Massacre and an onslaught of mini-charges from Death Sentence, substantially impairing a player’s ability to escape.
Fervor for Battle beefs up the damage of Whirlwind by 10% and throws in a free cast of Slam as part of the ability. If chosen, Fervor for Battle makes Slam effectively redundant as a rotation filler as Fervor for Battle Whirlwinds out-damage it. As well as simplifying the Arms rotation, Fervor for Battle also increases area effect potential outside of Bladestorm. This makes the talent a natural fit for densely populated dungeons.
Rend is a single target bleed ability that delivers strong direct damage and damage over time. Opting for Rend adds more variety to the Arms rotation although this comes with the obligation of managing a bleed effect in addition to other abilities. There is also a thematic clash with Deep Wounds that I find jarring; both are essentially a savage injury that causes profuse bleeding yet it feels odd to inflict ‘Deep Wounds’ and then ‘Rend’ a target, as if you are somehow making them bleed in two different ways!
Tier 4 – Second Wind / Bounding Stride / Defensive Stance
The options on Tier 4 affect survivability and mobility, offering ways of recovering health, mitigating damage and moving around the battlefield quicker.
Second Wind is a self-heal of 6% health per second when you’ve been out of combat for longer than 5 seconds. This is a valuable talent when questing as you don’t need to rely on food or potions in order to recover from a fight. Out of combat, Second Wind can heal an Arms warrior on the brink of death back to full health in around 17 seconds. However in PvP, it’s often difficult to find sufficient time and space to allow trigger Second Wind in the first place making it a less desirable pick in battlegrounds and arenas.
Bounding Stride lowers the cooldown of Heroic Leap and provides a short burst of speed after using it. The ability to traverse distances at greater speed is beneficial in the majority of content. In particular, Bounding Stride proves valuable in dungeons and raids that require positional shifts and rapid response to new or randomised threats that are often encountered within them.
As the name suggests, Defensive Stance is a solid defensive talent that reduces damage taken by 20% at the expense of a reduction in damage dealt of 10%. In PvE content, Defensive Stance can be utilised to protect the warrior against excessive damage dealt by an enemy. For the most part, it is best used proactively but its 6 second cooldown means a period of damage loss even against a momentary burst of damage.
In PvP, Defensive Stance operates in the same manner but the damage dealt is reduced further to 20%. This discourages keeping Defensive Stance active constantly as doing so will severely hamper your ability to take down enemies. Despite this additional damage reduction, Defensive Stance remains an essential pick for Arms warriors in PvP due to their overall lack of attack mitigation and self-sufficiency.
Tier 5 – Collateral Damage / Warbreaker / Cleave
Tier 5 offers utility, enhancement and a new ability as its talent choices. Similar to Tier 3, all have situations where they can shine but Collateral Damage seems to be the weakest of the 3.
Collateral Damage refunds 20% of rage costs for each ability that strikes a second target when Sweeping Strikes is active. In situations where there are two targets that need eliminating, Collateral Damage can help maintain a steady rage income. Unfortunately, outside of that particular scenario Collateral Damage is of diminished effectiveness when compared to the other choices on this tier.
Warbreaker is the old artefact ability from Legion made into a talent that operates in exactly the same way (minus the old eruption of purple spikes) It replaces Colossus Smash and converts it into an area effect ability whilst retaining its damage and cooldown. Warbreaker has a natural synergy with Bladestorm and can be paired to devastating effect against groups of enemies. This combo also works well in PvP, notably at choke points in battlegrounds where it can cause some serious damage to opposing players.
Cleave has made an odd transition from baseline ability to talent. It functions in a same way as the ability of old did with the addition of hitting 3 or more targets with Cleave inflicts Deep Wounds. Although an inferior option to Warbreaker in PvP, in PvE environments where there are plenty of enemies to slay, Cleave can inflict some heavy damage with its Deep Wounds component as long as the bleed effect can be reliably maintained.
Tier 6 – In for the Kill / Avatar / Deadly Calm
This tier concerns damage and offers two active abilities and a passive effect. Despite their differences, all 3 have the effect of increasing your damage output through direct and indirect means.
In for the Kill is a straightforward talent that boosts Haste by 10% when Colossus Smash is used and increases that bonus to 20% if the target is at low health. By increasing attack speed and reducing cooldowns, In for the Kill results in an increase to the damage output during the Colossus Smash window. As an augmentation to the primary Arms burst cooldown, In for the Kill has great potential across the majority of content although may be overlooked in favour of Avatar.
Avatar serves as a direct damage boost, increasing damage dealt by 20% and removing all roots and snares currently affecting the warrior. With a duration of 20 seconds, Avatar suffers negligible uptime loss from the global cooldown and can be used proactively for upcoming burst windows.
In PvP, the 20% damage boost is an excellent way to maximise the effectiveness of Colossus Smash and capitalise on a well-placed Stormbolt. The root and snare break can also be helpful, however usage for this purpose requires careful consideration; it’s often better to wait out a root or snare rather than break it with Avatar then not be in a position to benefit from the damage boost.
Deadly Calm is an Arms-specific talent that removes the rage component from abilities for 6 seconds. Immediately this conjures up images of an untrammelled assault that devastates a target but keep in mind that Deadly Calm only removes rages costs, not cooldowns. Even with a high percentage of Haste, 6 seconds only affords time enough for a single run of the staple Arms abilities.
When rage-starved, Deadly Calm can help maintain a flagging rotation that would otherwise have ground to a halt. It can also be combined with the Execute phase of a fight to facilitate an onslaught of strikes. However despite its particular uses, Deadly Calm is more of a situational tool when compared to In for the Kill or Avatar.
Tier 7 – Anger Management / Dreadnaught / Ravager
The final tier for Arms warriors is a mixed bag of passive utility and ability modification. Both Anger Management and Dreadnaught can be considered general purpose choices whereas Ravager occupies more of a niche role.
Anger Management reduces the cooldown on Colossus Smash and Bladestorm by 1 sec per 20 rage spent. In practice, this talent indirectly increases overall damage output by reducing the time between uses of heavy burst abilities. Virtually every button press will chip away at their remaining cooldowns, compressing them to around 30 to 35 seconds for Colossus Smash and just over a minute for Bladestorm. Overall, Anger Management is effective in most environments but especially PvE where the reduction mechanic really comes into its own.
Dreadnaught is a direct buff to Overpower and Mortal Strike, granting an extra use of the former and a 10% damage increase to the latter after Overpower is used. The additional use of Overpower adds a little extra to the Arms rotation and the boost to Mortal Strike ramps up those damage numbers, something that is always welcome.
In PvP, Dreadnaught has great tactical benefits when faced with those pesky foes who dodge, block or parry, offering an additional opportunity to smash through their defences. Yet in instanced PvE, Dreadnaught falls behind Anger Management. The added charge of Overpower and Mortal Strike damage doesn’t add enough raw power to the Arms rotation for it to pull ahead.
Ravager replaces Bladestorm as the primary area effect ability for Arms, creating a gyre of destruction at the target location. The principal difference between Ravager and Bladestorm is that Ravager is a point target ‘spell’ rather than a player-centred ability, allowing the warrior to move elsewhere and use other offensive abilities whilst Ravager does its damage. The trade-off is that Ravager does less damage than Bladestorm. Although the freedom to use other abilities whilst it’s active serves to make up the difference, it’s difficult to imagine scenarios where it would be detrimental just using Bladestorm.
The Arms warrior is a class whose crushing blows and well-timed strikes can decimate any who stand against them. What they lack in defensive capabilities, they make up for in physical power and they have the tools to inflict sustained heavy damage on their target. Although more suited to fighting single-targets, their abilities allow them to dish out some respectable area damage. In particular, their two-target damage via Sweeping Strikes is second-to-none.
In PvP, an Arms warrior can be an effective addition to any team. Although their survivability is somewhat lacking, with the right support and approach, they can wreak havoc against opposing players. Their ability to reduce healing through the Mortal Wounds effect is invaluable and the pressure they can impose on most other classes is considerable.
The Arms warrior is a fairly easy class to get to grips with. Natural synergies in their skill set create a steady combat pace and their abilities connect with a gratifying thump. Mastering Arms takes some work, but when you become proficient, Arms proves itself to be a highly rewarding and competitive specialisation.