It's easy to forget what it's like to hit max level for the first time on a given class and have no idea what you're supposed to be doing. After months of playing your main at 90, you get a kind of muscle memory as to what to do - you hit the buttons without thinking about what they are or what they do, it's nearly instinctive due to the familiarity you have with the class. It is this inherent understanding that gets in the way of explaining to new players (new to the class, that is, not necessarily new to the game) how the class actually works. Not that the ideas under the hood aren't interesting - I've written entire columns about rage generation, why haste isn't meaningful for warriors, about the decline or lack of players for the class is an important issue, how the design of the class is in many ways antiquated - but in the end, sometimes it's worthwhile to go over basics again.
So if you're an old hand at the class and are about to bail, thinking "I can't possible get anything out of an article about the basics" I'm going to ask you to stop. Divert yourself to the comments sections and share some of that knowledge. I doubt seriously I'm going to cover everything a fresh warrior at 90 would want or need to know - dole out some of that hard-earned wisdom to our newer friends. Playing a warrior is the essence of solidarity, after all - you become a member of a group that eschews petty rivalries between spec or role, a class that has no need to trumpet itself. Those of us who remain warriors have been through the vagaries of Blizzard's redesigns and the ups and downs of the buff/nerf cycle, gear dependency, and the slings and arrows of PvP performance. Help your brothers and sisters be the best warriors they can be.
And so, we turn to you, the fresh 90. You've finally climbed that last hill, and stand at the top, surrounded by dead things. You did it. And now you realize, looking at your dungeon blues and quest greens, your haphazard action bars and your empty level 90 talent choice that you're not sure what to do now. Have no fear - we were all you once. For the next few weeks, I'll be talking about how to pick up the basics of playing the class at 90.
How to arms
Okay, truth time. A lot of people hitting 90 on a warrior right now are doing it as arms, because they want to PvP on it, and are discovering that they have to do all sorts of things to get ready to PvP competitively as fast as possible... and some of that stuff is PvE content. Farming rares, getting Timeless Isle gear to make honor farming less painful, running scenarios and instances for JP to convert to honor - even if you intend to PvP, you still need the basics. There are some specifically PvP oriented tips for all warriors to come in a future post.
For arms, the priority system is fairly simple in practice. You hit Mortal Strike on cooldown to generate rage and stack your Taste for Blood buff, which allows two uses of Overpower. You hit Colossus Smash when it lights up, preferably when you have some rage pooled. I recommend you keep at least half a bar of rage pooled for the Colossus Smash period, although this can be difficult to arrange when you're just reaching level 90. The reason you want to do this is, when the Colossus Smash debuff is up on your target, you want to hit Slam as many times as possible (since Slam is instant cast, if you have the proper glyph and a full rage bar you can hit Slam four times during the six second Colossus Smash debuff - we'll cover that in a bit) due to the fact that Colossus Smash buffs Slam's already high damage output. When you are waiting for Colossus Smash to either cool down or Sudden Death to proc and reset CS's cooldown for you, you'll use Overpower as your rage dump.
For a fresh 90 arms warrior, Heroic Strike is your enemy. There will almost never be a good time to use it - don't use it on single target because either Overpower or Slam will serve you better as a rage dump, especially during the Colossus Smash window. And if you have the Colossus Smash debuff on a target, don't hit Colossus Smash again until it's about to run out - you want to maximize the time the debuff is on your target, and in some cases it's worth letting it fall off entirely in order to generate some rage so that when you reapply it you can hit Slam as many times as possible.
In terms of your cooldowns, when in a dungeon, you probably don't need to use them on trash (unless you took the Bloodbath talent, which should be up fairly often and you should feel free to use it on AoE pulls, which we'll cover below) - on a boss, line them up during a Colossus Smash window to maximize their effectiveness. Remember, Overpower already has a higher than average critical strike chance (60% higher, in fact) so if you're using that instead of Slam, don't use Recklessness - save Reck for when you know you'll be hitting a lot of Slams.
Hitting all the things
For AoE, your will want to hit Thunder Clap to put your Deep Wounds on as many targets as possible. You'll only need to refresh it if there are new adds streaming in or every fifteen seconds (to reapply the Deep Wounds) if for some reason adds are staying alive that long. Since TC has a six second cooldown, it'll be up when you want/need to use it - the easiest way to work this if you don't have addons that track abilities for you is to simply use Thunder Clap when you've finished up with everything else you're going to want to do. Blood and Thunder also buffs Thunder Clap's overall damage, so it's not a waste of 20 rage to use it this way. After you get your Deep Wounds on as many targets as possible, you'll want to hit Sweeping Strikes and use Slam, because Slam splashes 35% of its damage to any adjacent targets within two yards when SS is active. You can use Cleave and Whirlwind if you're flush on rage, but for most new 90's, that's not the case.
Your level 60 talent will be an AoE oriented talent, most likely either Dragon Roar or Bladestorm - whichever it is, you'll know to use it by the amount of adds present. Dragon Roar is actually worth using whenever it's up, even during a single target rotation - use it outside of your Colossus Smash period as a means to avoid spending rage and still do some damage. Don't use Bladestorm unless there are multiple mobs to hit with it - it's rubbish on single target. If you're using Shockwave, also never use it unless there are three or more mobs available to hit. It's biggest benefit is the 20 second cooldown, which becomes a 40 second cooldown if you use it to hit less than three mobs.
For arms, the best glyphs for a new 90 are (in my opinion anyway) the Glyph of Sweeping Strikes (because more rage is always good), the Glyph of Unending Rage (makes pooling up rage for that Colossus Smash period a little easier) and the Glyph of Colossus Smash (it's very solid for soloing and is useful in dungeons, although usually a tank will be applying the Sunder effect anyway).
Next week we're going to talk about protection - how to tank and how to solo as a fresh 90 looking to pick up the shield.
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.