We've covered getting your new warrior up and running, and we've covered getting her or him through the mid-level game. Now it's time to talk about the time before you can go to Outland, when you're finally wearing plate, running some of the most well designed instances in the game (hopefully, anyway) and finally getting access to the highest tiers of talents.
I've been asked in previous posts to tell people what talents to pick for the fastest leveling. I haven't done that because it really depends on if you're playing solo or grouping often. If you're running groups with a pack of like-minded, same level friends, then Protection is the strongest talent tree for leveling. Running instances and doing instance quests will get you to 58 faster than soloing, and Protection is probably the most useful spec for a single warrior in a five man group. If, however, you're going to be spending a lot of time solo, then Arms is probably the easiest spec to level in. Get some decent 'of the bear' or 'of the tiger' greens, keep them updated every couple of levels, get the biggest, meanest two hand weapon you can and go to town. I personally leveled my most recent warrior (draenei) to 55 in Fury just because I'd used arms for my human, my tauren and my orc (my night elf was all over the place) and while it can be more difficult, it's not as bad as you'll often be told it is if you have the right gear. Patch 2.3 has actually gone a long way towards fixing itemization for the leveling fury warrior. Either way, Arms or Fury are better for leveling than Protection if you are spending the majority of your time soloing. If you're running a lot of instances, go Prot.
These are the levels where you can actually feel your spec. Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst and Shield Slam are in your grasp, the former kings of their respective talent trees. You'll be able to go 41 points in a tree, should you so desire, by level 50. So it is in this band that you'll be able to say 'I'm a Prot Warrior' and really be accurate.
Unlike previous posts in the series, this one is going to focus on talent trees because, frankly, you only get one ability between 41 and 58. It's a good one, though. At level 50, you get Recklessness. The cooldown is another atrociously long 30 minute shared cooldown (quite frankly, these three abilities either need to have their cooldown reduced to ten minutes or be delinked from each other so that using one doesn't lock the other two out for half an hour - just make them like the 20 minute shaman totems in that using one sets the other two on a cooldown so that you can't chain all three at once) but once used, you have fifteen seconds of almost assured critical hits, unless the target has some specific way to neutralize them. You also can't crit people if, say, you pop Recklessness and they root you and run away, or sheep you, or whatever. So make sure you're okay with possibly wasting the ability if you do use it. With those conditions kept in mind, Recklessness is an excellent ability for PvE DPS (especially on boss fights - how many times has a DPSing warrior seen a boss heading towards 20% health and begun hoarding rage for that big recked execute? fifteen seconds of guaranteed crits from more than one DPSing warrior when the boss is at 19% is a beautiful thing, if your tank is ready for it) and for PvP as well. You'll very rarely use it while tanking, as it increases the damage you take as well. I have used it once or twice as an emergency fear break when it was essential that I break a fear and I hadn't gotten my stance switched in time, but it hurts losing Shield Wall for that, so you'll try and get stance switching down instead.
Since you're now done reading about abilities you'll gain in this level range without considering talents, it's time to consider those abilities that are talent related, as they'll be the majority of new abilities you'll train. While levels 1 - 20 didn't really change much based on spec, and levels 21 - 40 were only starting to feel different from warrior to warrior based on spec, these levels are where you will be able to easily spot warriors of various specs.
We'll begin with Protection talented abilities. At 31 points in Protection, meaning level 40 at the earliest (and usually later) you can train one of the single best tanking aggro talents in the game, Shield Slam. For some reason, hitting things in the face with a shield really, really irritates them. It does nice damage (no one's going to mistake you for a DPS class using it, but it can deliver a solid punch) and also dispels magic effects about half of the time, making it very useful for when taking a mob with annoying magical abilities. And if you're planning on being a dedicated tanking warrior, at level 50 you can get the best of the three warrior 41 point abilities, Devastate. I say best because, to my mind, now that the sunder armor effect is built right into Devastate, it's the best realized and most indispensable for its planned role of the three talents. Arms warriors will often avoid their 40 point talent entirely, while Fury warriors are less likely to do so with theirs. But Devastate now does exactly what it should do, and I unabashedly recommend it for any protection warrior. (I was not as big a fan of the ability when I last discussed tanking, but I really like the changes to it.)
I'm going to take a moment and editorialize here. Both Arms and Fury are often more popular than Protection, but frankly Prot is the best designed talent tree. Spending 48 points or more in Prot to become a dedicated tank is, in my opinion, the best results for investment in the game. A Fury warrior may go as high as 41 points to get Rampage, and an Arms warrior usually stops at 31 or so (I always go higher because I love Second Wind) but very few tanks will stop so low in Prot. If the folks at Blizzard who designed the world's single best-selling and most played MMO in the entire history of the genre for some reason decided to seek the advice of some dude whose main claim to fame was writing a really weird book that has nothing to do with gaming, I would tell them that they should redesign Arms and Fury so that people were less willing to forgo their higher tier talents, but Protection for the most part I would leave alone. It really is the dedicated tanking tree, and it does exactly what it should do.
Don't worry, I still hate static threat as it is currently implemented. But Protection just works to increase warrior tanking survivability and help them increase their aggro generation. It makes a man want to create a host of little shield babies.
Now that I've had my fanboy gush over Prot, let's talk about Arms, the spec I usually end up in. While it's generally thought of as the PvP spec, it's also a nice spec for leveling as the burst damage is high enough to finish off most mobs, it's not as gear dependent as Fury and it has low tier abilities like Deflection and Improved Thunder Clap that help mitigate damage coming in. However, can I talk about Arms warriors without talking about Mortal Strike? Yes, I could, just as I could swim in piranha infested waters or insult an extremely large and violent man's mother, but just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.
Things to keep in mind: Mortal Strike does not cause people to fall over dead the second you use it. Amazingly enough, based on what other people will tell you, Mortal Strike is a reasonably high damage instant attack (it's nice when it crits) but at the levels we're discussing, you will fail to get what all the hype is about. (Hint: the hype is about PvP, my friends). Don't make the mistake of growing overconfident just because you have a great big sword, axe, mace or polearm and you can whack things mortally with it. The ability really shines when you have a higher crit rate and more attack power, so for the 41 - 58 warrior it's more of a nice utility than the dedicated damage ability it will become. Use it, just don't expect too much of it. It doesn't one shot warlocks, cause rogues in the area to destealth immediately, or call a host of a thousand Spartans to your side. If you're fighting mobs that you know cast a heal, try and keep it in reserve for when you can't interrupt their heals for whatever reason.
If you're intending to PvP, this is the tree for you. Most PvP specced warriors will go with some variation of a 31 point Arms/ 30 point Fury build. For leveling, I don't recommend that because you won't be able to spend that many points in two trees anyway. But you may want to stop at MS and cherry pick the excellent lower tier Fury abilities like Cruelty, Booming Voice, Commanding Presence and Piercing Howl. I always get 5 points in Cruelty no matter what I'm doing. However, there are some excellent higher tier Arms abilities for leveling, even if they're not as well regarded by most for PvP - Blood Frenzy is an efficient talent for increasing your damage especially if you'll be causing bleeds to your targets already, Second Wind helps with a small chunk of health regeneration and a nice dollop of rage when you're stunned meaning that you'll be able to use offensive abilities immediately after breaking out of the stun (Second Wind keeps ticking even after you're not stunned anymore, so you can use a stunbreak and still tick some rage) and if you feel starved for rage, Endless Rage is the 41 point talent. I like it, but you won't see a lot of PvP warriors going anywhere near it.
Finally, for our leveling Fury warriors, the first ability of note is Bloodthirst. (If you've gotten to 41 as a Fury warrior, you most likely already have Enrage and Flurry.) I used to hate Bloodthirst, and it's been through more changes than almost any other ability. (I'm sure several other abilities were changed more and I'm equally sure you'll be letting me know which ones in the comments, I trust you guys) - it now deals damage based on 45% of your current attack power (Battle Shouted if you have it up) and gives the next five strikes you land a chance to heal you for 20 points. Okay, so the heal isn't really anything to sing about, but the ability itself is nice damage, it can be used even when you're unarmed, and it's a better instant attack than Mortal Strike if you're dual wielding, as it will be hitting those next five attacks while the Bloodthirst buff is up. Bloodthirst directly benefits from the 41 point Fury talent, Rampage. The attack power boost of Rampage, combined with the attack speed buff of Flurry, can reach critical mass if your crit rating is high enough to cause 'perma-flurry', the state where you crit often enough that almost all of your melee attacks are receiving the attack speed buff of flurry. You'll also, therefore, be critting enough that almost all of your attacks are under the attack power buff of Rampage, making each Bloodthirst hit harder. To ensure that the damage of your white hits isn't wasted during all this, you'll most likely want to take Precision as well. The top tier Fury talents have a nice PvE DPS synergy, but they do require a bit more in gearing yourself up than does Arms. You want attack power (Strength), crit rating (+crit and/or agi, with +crit being more efficient for the purpose as Agility adds to other stats as well), as much staying power as you can get (Stamina) and enough +hit to keep from missing all the time while dual wielding. It's a little easier to itemize since many pieces of gear have been updated, making them better for up and coming Fury warriors.
Finally, there is the level 50 class quest to consider. It begins by sending you to the Blasted Lands to talk to the Fallen Hero of the Horde, who after making you jump through the usual 'kill x of y' quest hoops sends you into the Sunken Temple to collect Voodoo Feathers from the trolls in there. No, I don't know why a ghost needs feathers from voodoo trolls, I'm just trying to do a quest over here. The quest rewards are the Fury Visor, the Razorsteel Shoulders, and the Diamond Flask. It's a shame you can't get all three, although it needs to be said that all three of them are more DPS than tanking oriented. I'm just saying, a nice +def or high stam tanking weapon wouldn't be amiss here.
Since we've already covered a novel's worth here, I'll leave it up to you commenters: should next week be an instance and gear guide for these levels, or should we move on to Outland? For now, I'm leaning towards Outland, but I can be convinced to spend more time here.