The game's history shows us that racial abilities have always been a subject of contention. Since warriors are at present the only class that all 13 races can play (pandaren can't be DK's, worgen and goblins can't be monks) we're the only class that has to consider all racials. Some racials are stronger in PvE than PvP, and the inverse is also true. Still others (Arcane Torrent, Stoneform) are fairly good for both. I have over the years race changed between various options, usually for purely aesthetic reasons, but at least twice I became a night elf entirely for the night elf racial Quickness, which is astonishingly good for a tanking warrior.
Now, does that mean you can't tank on anything but a night elf? No, not at all. For one thing, in our active mitigation system, hit and expertise racials are also fairly solid, but more to the point, no racial ability is so good that it must be chosen for any role. This isn't to say that some racials aren't fairly dominant in PvE or PvP, especially the latter - Every Man For Himself is always going to have a high representation among PvPing warriors. It would be foolishness to argue otherwise. My point is don't treat racials as must haves and force yourself to play a human if you'd rather play a gnome, or a forsaken when you want to play a troll.
Let's take a look at all the racials and see where we end up.
There are various ways we could do this, but I've decided to simplify it by covering each race in turn, in alphabetical order. I'll discuss their various racial abilities, how they work with warrior abilities, and their uses in PvP and PvE content. I'm not going to mention racials like Gemcutting that have no real effect on playstyle, however.
- Blood Elves - The Arcane Resistance racial flat out reduces how much arcane damage blood elf warriors take by 1%. Since this is purely based on arcane damage, it's not as widely useful as some other racials, however. The real winner among blood elf racials is Arcane Torrent. It's an AoE silence that affects everyone within 8 yards for 2 seconds and gives you a free 15 rage when you use it. It's a racial Disrupting Shout with a shorter range and duration, but with free rage on top of it. The two minute cooldown hurts a little, but not enough to make this a bad racial ability, especially for PvP. I would ultimately give blood elves the nod in PvP over PvE, as the Arcane Resistance racial just isn't as good for either role, and Arcane Torrent (while nice for PvE where interrupts are needed) just really shines in PvP.
- Draenei - Shadow Resistance is identical to Arcane Resistance save that it protects against shadow damage instead of arcane damage, still 1% less damage taken. If you want to skew your warrior to fight warlocks and shadow priests it's something, I guess. Heroic Presence is a real winner, flat out giving you a free 1% hit, nice for active mitigation tanking and fury DPS. It's still nice for arms, but since arms is less onerous to gear for it's not as overwhelming. Gift of the Naaru isn't an overwhelming self heal but it's not terrible, either, and it can even be used on someone else if they're being focused in PvP. It's also a decent mini-cooldown for a tank. In the end draenei racials feel slightly more PvE oriented, although any bit of healing can help while being focused and getting some free hit is always nice.
- Dwarves - The short and stout get some surprisingly good racial abilities. Crack Shot is useless to a warrior, of course, but Frost Resistance is actually pretty good for us consider what a bane of our existences frost mages can be in PvP. It's not worth rerolling or anything, but it's decent enough. Stoneform is a delightful mini-cooldown that reduces all damage taken for 8 seconds by 10% as well as clearing bleeds, poisons and diseases. All of them. It's great for PvP or PvE, especially tanking. Used with Die by the Sword, it can reduce incoming damage by 30%, take all sorts of annoying poisons and diseases off, and keep any melee attacks from connecting. For tanks, it's another cooldown, and that's always nice. Mace specialization is a trifle limited in terms of what weapons it works with (maces) but it does add a flat 1% expertise, which is nice. Dwarves are a solid choice for either PvE or PvP based on racials, ultimately.
- Goblins - First off we'll talk about Time is Money, one of the better and least discussed racials for DPS warriors. Yes, it's haste. No one likes haste. but it's free haste, and it stacks with other haste on gear. It's straight up 1% haste. Haste you don't have to itemize for or even think about. You will attack faster, generate more rage, with this ability. We can argue about whether it's as good for warriors as other passive 1% abilities, but in the end it's at least in the same league as those abilities. Rocket Barrage is pretty good in PvP at low levels but the damage rapidly drops for us so that by the time you're max level it's more just a neat button to press and less anything meaningful in either PvE or PvP. And since I'm told it shares a cooldown with Rocket Jump, which is a very solid distance closer in PvP (also good for running the flag) I don't know how much use you'll get out of the Rocket Barrage. I'd say goblins are good for either PvP or PvE, but probably better for PvP with Rocket Jump.
- Gnomes - We covered Arcane Resistance under the blood elf entry. Expansive Mind is absolutely useless to a warrior. Shortblade Specialization isn't terrible, but we don't use daggers much, so it's not awesome either. Decent for SMF and prot warriors, although the Wowhead commenters report that it was bugged as of patch 5.0.4 - I just rolled a gnome warrior on the PTR and the racial is working correctly there, applying expertise and not hit to swords. At least in terms of PvP, Escape Artist is the best racial gnomes have, and it's very strong there. I would argue that in terms purely of racial abilities, gnomes are aimed more towards PvP than PvE just because of Escape Artist.
- Humans - With all the rep grinding that we had to to in Mists of Pandaria, Diplomacy is a disproportianately powerful racial. I would argue that it actually does affect our playstyle, because it makes acquiring reputation gear much easier. While The Human Spirit is essentially of no use to warriors whatsoever, humans have both Sword and Mace Specialization, giving them 1% expertise with one and two handed swords and maces, not shabby for PvE and even useful in PvP (reducing dodges and parries isn't bad in PvP, especially if it's free). However, the real reason you see so many PvP human warriors is Every Man For Himself and we all know it. It's even better than Escape Artist, essentially being a PvP trinket built right into the human warrior, and it's why so many Pvping warriors choose to PvP as human. Still, the free expertise on a fairly wide variety of weapons isn't at all bad for PvE for warriors.
- Night Elves - I mentioned Quickness before. It's a very good racial, a full 2% chance to dodge melee or ranged physical attacks. Nature Resistance follows the standard resistance model of 1% less damage to the particular school of magic. Shadowmeld has a lot of versatility for BG PvP as well as use both in soloing and questing but also as a threat drop in PvE. Keep in mind that Shadowmeld does not actually dump threat, it simply takes you off the threat table while you're melded. Still, if you get agg, melding for a couple seconds can help your tank get it back. Quickness is probably more a tank racial than even a PvP racial (it does nothing against magic, after all, which is our real bane) and so I'd say nelves are really best for PvE, in terms of racial abilities.
- Orcs - It's time for me to admit that orcs are really solid. The Command racial is of no use to us, but Hardiness is a very solid racial for PvP (although I do think it should also have an active stun breaking componen of some sort) and both Axe Specialization and Blood Fury make me happy. Orcs are a very solid choice for either PvE DPS or PvP, although none of their racials really mean much for tanking.
- Pandaren - The pandaren racials are deceptive, because at first they don't look particularly good, certainly not as flashy or potent as other races. But Epicurean is a surprisingly good racial and one that will only get stronger with each level of food released. As things stand, a pandaren warrior gets an extra 250 to 275 strength out of buff food when he or she eats at a banquet. Getting twice the strength or stamina from buff food is a very solid racial for a tank or DPS player. And Quaking Palm is surprisingly solid in PvP, it's like a cheap racial Gouge. If a rogue gouges you, you can give it back. Not imblanced for either but fun and surprisingly useful. Also, Bouncy is sometimes better than you think it is for PvP.
- Tauren - Nature Resistance we covered under night elves. Endurance isn't terrible, but it feels weak for PvE compared to Quickness. It's actually pretty solid for PvP, where everyone else will have basically the same health due to gear and you'll sometimes rather have health over dodge (can't dodge magic, after all). War Stomp is an AoE stun, which is lovely for PvP and can be handly in PvE as a tank, even with the .5 second cast time. Just make it instant already. I'd say tauren were good for either PvP or PvE, but their sheer size makes them very easy targets in PvP. If you've ever been attacked as a tauren by half the map, you know what I mean.
- Trolls - Trolls don't get nearly the respect that other races do, and it's a shame. The troll Beast Slaying racial is very powerful (a full five percent more damage against beasts) which is somewhat balanced by the fact that not terribly many raid bosses or things you'd fight in PvP are beasts. But against hunter pets, druids in animal forms, and suchlike as well as for leveling it's an extraordinary racial. Also, those rare few bosses like Beth'tilac that are beasts will hate the very sight of you. Regeneration isn't OP, but healing faster and maintaining 10% health restoration in combat certainly isn't bad - every little bit helps, after all. Da Voodoo Shuffle has a terrible name, but 15% reduced duration on snares isn't bad at all either. And Berserking is like a little Bloodlust for 10 seconds, very nice to macro into your other DPS cooldowns. Ultimately trolls are pretty good for either PvE DPS or PvP - nothing they have specifically says tank, but nothing would be bad for tanking either.
- Undead - the forsaken have Will of the Forsaken, a very solid PvP racial that's also useful for any PvE situation where Sleep, Charm or Fear might be cast on you. They also have Touch of the Grave, a very nice racial ability that's good for tanking, DPS or PvP. And Cannibalize is good for PvP after a close fight to get healed up fast, or for leveling, but it's not much for PvE otherwise. Undead racials end up being balanced for either PvP or PvE.
- Worgen - Worgen have the best resistance racial, Aberration, which gives 1% less damage from both Nature and Shadow magic. I'm not terribly impressed with any of the resistance racials, but Aberration is the best of them. Warriors are already very mobile, but Darkflight adds a sprint-style fast movement ability, nice when charge is on cooldown and you need to catch up to apply a hamstring, or you have to get out of a spell or some other condition in PvE. Finally, with Crit being so big for DPS warriors right now, Viciousness is pretty attractive. In the end, I'd give worgen racials the edge for PvE, especially DPS roles.
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, from hot issues for today's warriors to Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors and our guide to reputation gear for warriors.