Currently, Arms is in a very good spot, both in terms of gameplay and it's competitiveness within raids/Mythic+. It has a versatile toolkit that can adapt to many situations; it rarely feels "weak" or like it's lacking something during a particular encounter. Arms gameplay does lack a bit of depth and can be boring at times. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as how good a spec “feels” is personal preference. Talent variety/choice is lacking; we run the same build in almost every situation. We have some interesting Azerite traits and many have a decent impact on how the spec is played. Overall, Arms is a fun and competitive spec and we don’t think it needs any significant changes.
One of Arms' strengths is our versatile toolkit and ability to adapt to many situations. We have a powerful raid cooldown with Rallying Cry, an AoE crowd control with Intimidating Shout, and the ability to talent into a good defensive with Defensive Stance as well as a single-target stun in Storm Bolt. Arms performs very well in almost all competitive PvE content. We have powerful burst AoE, good single-target and strong cleave/two-target DPS, and a strong execute phase that requires no ramp up.
There are not many negative aspects of Arms' gameplay. It's definitely on the simpler side, and as a result can be a bit boring/slow (mainly due to it not being GCD-locked), but it has plenty of ways for a skilled player to distinguish themselves.
The Value and Scaling of Strength
One concern is the direction Strength seems to be heading with regards to how much its valued as item level keeps increasing. Strength has very little interaction with Arms' toolkit/Azerite traits, whereas secondaries do. While Strength is an average stat now, as item level increases the value of secondary stats will increase, while the value of Strength will not. As such, Strength will get "left behind", and the importance of item level decreases. We'd like to see this addressed so item level in the future still remains important.
Talents are the primary concern for Arms. There is very little variety and choice when it comes to talent builds; the "utility rows" offer good choice, but many talents simply aren't competitive and as such we're locked into a single talent for a given row.
- Currently Skullsplitter is taken in almost every situation in game due to how much rage it supplies the rotation.
- War Machine seems like the go to AoE choice, but due to its design, it has a bit of anti-synergy with itself. Often times you will burst down a bunch of adds and lose much of War Machine’s benefit due to out of combat degen.
- Sudden Death is generally weaker than Skullsplitter without proper support. The proc rate scales with haste and has great synergy with Executioner’s Precision.
SD still has a place either later in the expansion or with enough EP traits, so the only talent that isn't appealing here is War Machine. It has too small of a niche due to overcapping on rage, as well as a lot of wasted rage outside of combat in M+.
- Double Time is a great mobility option and is a minor DPS increase if used properly.
- Storm Bolt is a powerful stun at a moderate range. It's very useful in Mythic+.
- Impending Victory replaces Victory Rush and adds a rage cost, making the talent fairly unappealing.
Impending Victory is the only weak talent here. The rage cost really turns off most players for such a small survivabilty gain.
Massacre is currently the go to option in all content, not only is it a strong option by itself, but many fights in Uldir benefit the execute phase through either elongated phases, damage buffs, or just the fact that the later phases are the toughest. It also has strong synergy with Executioner’s Precision.
Fervor of Battle doesn’t compete on single-target or low target cleave. One redeeming quality is that it spends a lot of rage quite efficiently, so perhaps later on with more secondaries it will have a place.
Rend has a similar problem to Fervor in that it spends a lot of rage that we don’t really have yet, it is also much easier to misplay compared to Massacre.
With Whirlwind being so weak and the rage cost so high, it's hard to justify taking Fervor. Rend has a similar issue of having a high rage cost. Both talents are inferior to Massacre even in their respective niches.
- Defensive Stance is invaluable on progression, an on demand 20% damage reduction with a fairly small opportunity cost is not something you give up easily.
- Bounding Stride is a strong mobility option, however it doesn’t always get used to full effect.
- Second Wind has almost no value in most situations. Generally, it's during leveling or to help your healers out with Grievous.
Unavoidable damage is too common in raids and M+ to make any use of Second Wind. Defensive Stance's on demand DR is vastly superior.
- Collateral Damage is a powerful option for 2 target cleave fights, however it relies on the cooldown of Sweeping Strikes.
- Warbreaker is the most universal option in this row, and the best option for burst AoE.
- Cleave is reserved for sustained AoE or sustained 3 target cleave. Losing the ability to apply Colossus Smash on 3 targets is often not worth the trade off.
Collateral Damage and Cleave's niche are too extreme. Warbreaker has amazing synergy with Lord of War and too broad of a pick to warrant talenting out of.
- In for the Kill is the go to option for this row. This talent has great synergy with Anger Management and Test of Might.
- Avatar is generally weaker than In For The Kill, however it does provide higher burst potential and can be powerful in Mythic+ if used properly.
- Deadly Calm is currently far too undertuned and has anti-synergy with Anger Management and Test of Might, coupled with the potential for misplay and to waste a lot of rage.
Deadly Calm's anti-synergy with other strong talents/traits makes it a non-contender for any situation. Avatar fits and performs in its niche pretty well.
- Anger Management does a lot of heavy lifting. It has synergy with In for the Kill and some minor synergy with Skullsplitter and Massacre. It also pairs very well with most of our Azerite traits, especially Test of Might and Lord of War.
- Dreadnaught offers a smoother rotation, but the DPS is not impressive. Even when we ran Seismic Wave before the heavy nerfs, Anger Management dominated.
- Ravager feels very underwhelming right now. Not only does it not compete with Anger Management, but also having a 1 minute cooldown causes it to desyncs itself from Colossus Smash. Possibly changing something so that Ravager is able to align with cooldowns would help its viability.
Anger Management is too good in every situation. Ravager doesn't line up with cooldowns nicely and Dreadnaught is just not impactful enough to be a viable option.
Azerite traits are one of the shining stars for Arms in terms of their design. For the most part they offer powerful and impactful additions that you can truly feel in both the rotation and Arms' performance. Executioner’s Precision and Test of Might are the true breakouts here in terms of design. Both of these traits not only are very powerful in terms of damage but they each offer their own meaningful change to the rotation that adds a bit of nuance to the spec’s normally straightforward rotation. Traits such as Lord of War and Crushing Assault, although not as fancy, still have noticeable gameplay impacts.
The only real disappointing trait is Gathering Storm. This trait doesn’t change your rotation at all as all it really offers is damage to a single spell and it isn’t tuned high enough to be good. Thankfully it is already being looked at in the latest PTR build.
Currently the only changes slated for Arms in 8.1 are a new Azerite trait called Striking the Anvil and a change to Gathering Storm. The change to Gathering Storm definitely seems to be an improvement as it moves to a design more similar to that of the Legion Arms Legendary Helmet, The Great Storm’s Eye. Striking the Anvil reads as follows: "The Tactician effect improves your next Overpower, causing it to deal 964 additional damage and reduce the remaining cooldown of Mortal Strike by 1.5 sec."
This trait gives more impact to Tactician procs, similar to Legion in a way. The trait has the potential to impact gameplay quite a bit depending on how it scales in damage, where it could be worth using Overpower over Mortal Strike even if it's not on CD. This trait is pretty useless in execute without Executioner's Precision. Even with EP you're quite hungry for rage, so you might be sitting on Mortal Strike's CD for longer than usual. Dreadnaught also has some synergy with Strike the Anvil, but still not enough to warrant taking it over Anger Management.