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Arms Warrior DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.3.5)

Last updated on Jan 06, 2018 at 10:30 by Wordup 262 comments

Table of Contents

General Information

On this page, we list your Arms Warrior core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft Legion 7.3.5. We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that you will need to know if you want to excel at playing an Arms Warrior.

The other pages of our Arms Warrior guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Author and Reviewer

This guide has been written by Wordup, a frequent theorycrafter involved in a number of class communities. He is also an experienced player who has been in the world top 100 since the days of Sunwell, currently raiding in Echoes. You can also follow him on Twitter.

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Archimtiros, one of the best DPS Warriors in the world, who raids in Infinity. You can follow him on Twitter.

1. Single-Target Rotation

The core of Arms revolves around maximising your use of Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash and your use of powerful abilities within the debuff window, so whilst the rotation is quite skinny, there is room to push more damage with heads up play.

1.1. Single Target

  • Rend
  • Overpower
  • Fervor of Battle

Note that this rotation focuses on the period above 20% health; when your target reaches the Execute Icon Execute threshold this changes, as noted below.

  1. Cast Charge Icon Charge if you are out of range of your target.
  2. Cast Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash if available and  Icon Shattered Defenses is not active.
  3. Cast  Icon Warbreaker if Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash is absent from the target and  Icon Shattered Defenses is not active, and Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike is on cooldown.
  4. Cast Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm with the Tier 20 4-piece bonus and Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry is active.
  5. Cast Execute Icon Execute with Ayala's Stone Heart Icon Ayala's Stone Heart procs.
  6. Cast Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike.
  7. Cast Slam Icon Slam.
  8. Cast Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm if out of Rage and nothing else available.

If Fervor of Battle Icon Fervor of Battle is talented, Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind replaces Slam Icon Slam at all times. If Rend Icon Rend is talented refresh the debuff whenever it has less than 2.4 seconds remaining, aiming to keep it applied as much as possible above 20%. During the Execute period, this changes however which is addressed below.

The core is to make sure to keep applying Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash when resets happen, and then consume the  Icon Shattered Defenses effect with a subsequent Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike. Outside of this, filling with either Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind or Slam Icon Slam to trigger Tactician Icon Tactician forms the core.

1.2. Execute Usage

Execute Icon Execute deals extremely high damage and refunds part of the Rage spent if your target does not die, allowing you to cast it much more frequently during the Execute phase. You should be casting Execute twice to stack the Executioner's Precision Icon Executioner's Precision debuff to two, and then consuming those with Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike with  Icon Shattered Defenses active if possible. With Rend Icon Rend taken, it is not maintained during the Execute phase, and is replaced by funneling Rage into Execute casts themselves.

  1. Cast Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind if at 3 stacks of Weighted Blade Icon Weighted Blade and Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash is present on the target.
  2. Cast Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash if  Icon Shattered Defenses is not active,  Icon Warbreaker can replace this if you do not need it for incoming AoE.
  3. Cast Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike at 2 stacks of Executioner's Precision Icon Executioner's Precision, and with  Icon Shattered Defenses active.
  4. Cast Execute Icon Execute.

1.3. Opening Rotation

Arms opens very similar to the standard rotation, so begin with Charge Icon Charge and proceed along the Cooldown + Priority list, there is nothing extra that needs to be accounted for.

1.4. Cooldown Rotation

  1. Cast Rend Icon Rend if not active or less than 5 seconds remaining, if taken.
  2. Cast Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash or  Icon Warbreaker before Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry.
  3. Cast Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry.
  4. Cast Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm with the Tier 20 4-piece bonus.
  5. Cast Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike with  Icon Shattered Defenses active.
  6. Cast Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash if  Icon Shattered Defenses is not active.
  7. Cast Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind.
  8. Follow normal rotation.

The note at the top regarding Rend Icon Rend is to refresh it if you are about to use Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry, and allow it to gain the full effect over the duration.

2. Multiple-Target Rotation

At 2-3 targets, the rotation remains the same, but switching talents to Sweeping Strikes Icon Sweeping Strikes is highly recommended. You also replace Slam Icon Slam with Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind at all times, even without Fervor of Battle Icon Fervor of Battle.

Against multiple targets, Arms favours using Cleave Icon Cleave to empower Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind in place of Single Target filler skills.

2.1. 4+ Target AoE (assuming Sweeping Strikes)

  1. Cast  Icon Warbreaker.
  2. Cast Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm / Ravager Icon Ravager with  Icon Warbreaker active.
  3. Cast Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike
  4. Cast Cleave Icon Cleave.
  5. Cast Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind.

Try to stack all available cooldowns with Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm as frequently as possible alongside the  Icon Warbreaker effect for high bursts of damage.

3. Important Notes

3.1. Tier 4 Talents

Tier 4 provides two different options when it comes to different encounter types and how you want to approach them, and picking the appropriate talent for the situation can augment your ability to react to them.

Bounding Stride Icon Bounding Stride provides a powerful increase to the distance you can cover with Heroic Leap Icon Heroic Leap uses, whilst also increasing its availability by reducing its cooldown by 15 seconds, allowing for more flexibility. Given that Heroic Leap Icon Heroic Leap has no restrictions, unlike Charge Icon Charge that requires a target, this is a great choice on high mobility encounters.

Whilst Defensive Stance Icon Defensive Stance does hit damage output due to it requiring Global Cooldowns to activate alongside a flat reduction to damage dealt, having a very short 10-second cooldown allows for extremely high flexibility when dealing with frequent dangerous mechanics.

3.2. Focused Rage

Although this is the most powerful talent when taking a built to complement it, it is significantly harder to capitalise on and should only be considered if you feel comfortable with the spec already. Using this wisely is important as it requires you to identify situations in which you can safely siphon off additional Rage into it, to empower future Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strikes. The downside is if you over-use this, you will be unable to actively fill Global Cooldowns with Slam Icon Slam casts, and miss out on potential Tactician Icon Tactician resets and damage.

3.3. Cooldowns

Arms comes with two baseline cooldowns with variable uses in Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry, for general use, and Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm, for AoE situations. It also has a number of talents that either provide additional tools such as Avatar Icon Avatar or augments to existing abilities like Deadly Calm Icon Deadly Calm, and stacking as many effects that scale with each other is key to pushing as much out of Arms as you can.

3.3.1. Battle Cry

Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry is a short 5-second duration ability that grants a 100% increase to critical strike chance on a 1-minute cooldown. Due to its short duration coupled with its frequent availability, using it as often as possible with high damage periods is crucial to pushing high damage in short windows. This also synergises very well with Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash in single-target situations, or with Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm due to them both being short duration, high impact effects. Your last uses of your cooldowns stacked up with Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry should be saved for the Execute Icon Execute phase, as it contributes a great deal to the overall Arms output. Also note if using Avatar Icon Avatar, you should always delay Avatar Icon Avatar for the next Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry, and not vice versa.

3.3.2. Bladestorm/Ravager

Making the most out of Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm in AoE situations is a huge benefit to the versatility of the Arms toolkit. Stacking other cooldowns such as Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry can create a huge surge of damage very quickly, just be aware that you cannot cast anything else during the channel. If burst AoE is required more frequently than Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm would allow, consider taking Ravager Icon Ravager instead to maximise your use, and place it just before enemies spawn, use all cooldowns currently available, and cast Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind during its duration.

3.3.3. Colossus Smash and Warbreaker

Try to line up cooldowns with your Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash as frequently as possible, due to the significant damage boost during the debuff.  Icon Warbreaker is used as a filler to maintain the effect during downtime. Try to always line up with Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm uses for maximum effect. Also note that, due to being a debuff on targets hit, you cannot pre-cast it before enemies spawn, and instead must actually hit targets as they reach you before Bladestorming.

4. Mastering your Arms Warrior

The notes above provide an outline for general Arms play, below are some more in depth mechanical breakdowns of concepts vital to Master if you want to squeeze out the best performance possible.

4.1. Rage Management

Arms generates Rage purely from auto-attack swings and Charge Icon Charge casts, and all abilities cost Rage to use, other than Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash which is free, alongside auto-attack Critical Strikes generating additional Rage. Having enough Rage to keep Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike on cooldown is important, and over-committing Rage to Slam Icon Slam can sometimes be punishing due to Tactician Icon Tactician resets. Holding too much Rage however can punish you by limiting the amount of Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash resets generated, so a balance must be maintained where you are not empty but still making use of your Global Cooldowns.

4.2. Colossus Smash

The crux of the Arms specialization is Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash, with both the Tactician Icon Tactician effect and Mastery: Colossal Might Icon Mastery: Colossal Might. Whilst maximising the impact of the debuff is useful, the damage that the initial strike deals on top of being free means that playing around it is not important. Instead keep it on cooldown for a free, high damage hit as frequently as available to allow room for extra resets will give the most benefit to your output. Do make sure however to expend your  Icon Shattered Defenses buff before re-casting it.

4.3. Movement and Mobility

Warriors have a great deal of active tools through Charge Icon Charge and Heroic Leap Icon Heroic Leap that allow for instant movement across large distances. Finding ways to maximise your uptime on a target through intelligent use of these is crucial, as downtime is extremely detrimental to the Arms rotation, as losing auto-attack swings has a severe impact on Rage available, and limits opportunities to reset Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash. Consider talents such as Double Time Icon Double Time and Bounding Stride Icon Bounding Stride if an encounter requires higher than usual movement.

4.4. Advanced: Heroic Charge

A small optimisation you can do is use Heroic Leap Icon Heroic Leap in conjunction with Charge Icon Charge to get back to your target for a surge of free Rage. This can also be done by simply running out of range, but is much less efficient. This should however be limited to use only during Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash downtime with no short term damage buffs active, and when under 50 Rage just before an important burn phase.

4.5. Defense

Arm's primary tool for survivability comes in the form of Die by the Sword Icon Die by the Sword, reducing all damage taken by 30% and increasing Parry chance by 100% for 8 seconds, on a 3-minute cooldown. Whilst this has a very high cooldown, it can be very impactful if used correctly. If you feel your survivability does not cover your needs however in encounters, consider taking Defensive Stance Icon Defensive Stance if the damage dealt penalty is not a concern.

Warriors also have access to Commanding Shout Icon Commanding Shout, granting all party and raid members 15% increased maximum health for 10 seconds, on a 3 minute cooldown. This is a great additional tool for not only your defense but your group as well, and should be used appropriately to co-ordinate additional survivability against key mechanics.

5. Tier 19 Set Bonuses

Arms Tier 19 set bonuses are very powerful, the 2-piece set bonus is quite marginal due to the relatively low amount of Critical Strike available to Arms, but the 4-piece has a solid impact increasing the Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry window which can be powerful.

The 2-piece again is inconsequential and will not increase your output significantly. The 4-piece has been reduced by 1 second with Patch 7.2.5, and due to the new Tier 20 4-piece bonus being easier to obtain and having more versatility, is not desirable to maintain in Tomb of Sargeras.

6. Tier 20 Set Bonuses

Arms Tier 20 set bonuses both are focused around boosting Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm and bringing it into the single-target rotation, and powerful in tandem.

The 2-piece bonus heavily leans toward Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm over Ravager Icon Ravager, as the cooldown reduction has no benefit for Ravager, due to it desyncing it from Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry.

The 4-piece rounds out the bonuses with an effect that opens up using Bladestorm Icon Bladestorm during your Battle Cry Icon Battle Cry in single-target, dealing additional burst damage over its course and is useful.

6.1. Tier 20 Trinket Optimization

Unstable Arcanocrystal Icon Unstable Arcanocrystal and any Mastery stat stick are ideally the most desirable options to aim for if you have access to high item level versions. However, Tomb provides some unusual options that can still be considered.

Specter of Betrayal Icon Specter of Betrayal theoretically provides the highest raw damage, but it has such a significant requirement with predictive enemy positioning that it is simply not worth the effect in many cases. This also clashes a lot with the cooldown reduction from either Anger Management Icon Anger Management or Convergence of Fates Icon Convergence of Fates.

6.2. Tier 21 Set Bonuses

The Tier 21 bonuses for arms lean further toward a Fervor of Battle Icon Fervor of Battle build, focusing on filler spells such as Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind and Slam Icon Slam, amplifying the strength of that talent.

  • 2-piece: When you cast Colossus Smash Icon Colossus Smash, your critical strike damage is increased by 7% for 8 seconds.
  • 4-piece: Mortal Strike Icon Mortal Strike increases the damage and critical strike chance of your next Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind or Slam Icon Slam cast by 12% within the next 12 seconds, stacking up to 3 times.

These bonuses do a lot to increase the value of your filler spell of choice (though it heavily leans toward a Fervor of Battle Icon Fervor of Battle / Whirlwind Icon Whirlwind build) whilst granting some free secondary scaling to them with your Mortal Strike casts. They synergise well with each other, and are a priority pick up despite how strong the Tier 20 bonuses were. When using this, you should ideally switch to using Archavon's Heavy Hand Icon Archavon's Heavy Hand as a legendary choice.

7. ChangeLog

+ show all entries - show only 10 entries
  • 06 Jan. 2017: Updated Mortal Strike vs. Whirlwind priority and noted non-Execute aspect.
  • 28 Nov. 2017: Updated for Antorus release.
  • 28 Aug. 2017: No changes needed for Patch 7.3.
  • 18 Jun. 2017: Updated to reflect the importance of Rend in some situations, now that Fervor of Battle is less dominant.
  • 16 Jun. 2017: Updated notes for T20 4-piece bonus following nerf.
  • 14 Jun. 2017: Updated with significant changes for 7.2.5, including rotational alterations and notes on Tier 20.
  • 27 Mar. 2017: No changes needed for Patch 7.2.
  • 29 Jan. 2017: Updated for Draught of Souls being on the GCD.
  • 10 Jan. 2017: Removed standard rotation and changed to Focused Rage as the standard. Added Tier and Trinket sections for Nighthold.
  • 16 Nov. 2016: Improved wording in many places.
  • 30 Sep. 2016: Rotation and Execute usage update.
  • 24 Sep. 2016: Colossus Smash update, following hotfixes.
  • 02 Sep. 2016: Added a clarification to the single-target rotation regarding Warbreaker. It should be cast if Colossus Smash is absent from the target.
  • 29 Aug. 2016: Updated for Legion's launch.
  • 21 Jul. 2016: Updated mentions of Fervor of Battle to reflect the fact that it is now the recommended Level 45 talent.
  • 19 Jul. 2016: Fixed Tier 18 Set Bonuses section.
  • 19 Jul. 2016: Updated for the Legion pre-patch.
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