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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Leveling Up 21 - 40

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is focusing again on getting new warriors up to speed. Matthew Rossi has done this quite a few times (at present, all of his warrior alts are at least level 45 except for the tauren on Zangamarsh, poor neglected tauren) and he's not always done it very well, so at least we can all point and laugh and learn from his mistakes. It's fortunate he makes so many of them for us to learn from, really. We're blessed by his unique way of finding the pitfalls in our path by blundering straight into them.

So now you're a newly trained level 20 warrior. You've definitely decided you're not going to twink for the 19 WSG bracket, you're geared up and looking forward to the next twenty levels and finally getting a freaking mount so that you can keep up with all the Aspects of the Pack, Cheetahs, Spirit Wolves and Blinks out there. You're not at all bitter about your lack of a travel form, especially is this is your fourth or even fifth warrior and you're saying to yourself 'man, I forgot how much it sucks to have to run all over the freaking place'.

Oh, sorry. That might just be me.

Anyway, time to talk about the warrior specific quests, class abilities and other aspects of the class you'll be picking up in this swatch of the class. 20 to 40 is when warriors really start to feel distinctive based on their spec. It's when you can actually start to seriously tank anything and when you'll be getting your final stance and a nice warrior specific weapon. (If you like two handers, anyway.)

Oh, and the image with today's column doesn't really reflect any of this. I was just mad that they shrank my hat, and I wanted to show you what they did.

The general advice from last week still holds true and always will for a warrior. Get the best gear you can, and keep it updated as best you can. Keep yourself in bandages and food and pots. Use these resources, especially potions, as they can keep you alive longer and minimize those rather horrifying repair bills. If anything will ever truly bring warriors and paladins together, it will be standing together and laughing as the clothies gripe about their repair costs. Embrace this fact now, and learn to see the humor in it. And be grateful that this has been reduced, my first two warriors shelled out a lot more on repairs and learned to hate everyone else as they complained about the cost of a wipe with the white hot fury of a thousand rabid wolverines who have awoken to find themselves in pink, frilly dresses in a dollhouse being made to play tea party with a Raggedy Ann doll.

Well, I just assume they would hate that. I mean, wolverines aren't very social animals. And they don't look good in pink.

We covered the general class abilities gained at 20 last time, so now I'll just cover the wide variety of abilities, more or less the bulk of abilities gained, now. These are the non-talented ones everyone in the class can get, as this is more a general guide, but we'll cover some talents later. First up is one of the best abilities you'll ever get, Intimidating Shout. You'll use this every single time it's up in PvP, hurling yourself into crowds and sending several of the enemy running away until they hit their trinket a second or two later rendering it meaningless and putting the shout on cooldown, but even with those issues it's a powerful means of interrupting several people at once and helping to disrupt a mass of enemy players. It can also be used in various ways in PvE, from interrupting a single target to bandage yourself (you have to be fast on the bandage after you use the shout so as to not hit the mob you're using it on, but you'll get used to that fairly quickly), a means to get rid of an add long enough to finish off your first target, a minor panic button to give yourself a chance to run away and I'm sure there are other uses I'm forgetting. Intimidating Shout remains one of our best abilities even after the maximum number of targets it works on was reduced to the current level.

At level 24 comes Execute, a standout ability for a great many situations. Well, a great many situations wherein something you're trying to kill is at 19% health or less, anyway. Execute, it's not just for Vael fights anymore! Never really was. You'll use Execute when grinding or soloing/questing, you'll use it instances (especially if you're DPS), you'll use it in PvP whenever it is up, especially if you happen to have a lot of rage and you see that magical little icon come to life while trying to catch that warlock who has dotted you to death three times in a row outside of Icewing Bunker. The limits of execute are its dependency on how much rage you yourself have... it's possible for a full rage bar execute crit to approach obscene numbers, but you won't get the chance to do that very often at all outside of a boss fight, and even then you'll probably only get to do it once at the absolute most. The ability consumes all the rage you have when you use it, so you'll be autoattacking for a while after you do, so if you're using it on someone who can survive it you're in a catchup phase afterwards. Still, it's not really possible for me as warrior to say anything bad about execute.

Level 26 brings us Challenging Shout. A very limited ability, you'll rarely use it and be glad you have it when you do. It's basically a 6 second AoE taunt. it's got the sizable limitations of only lasting a few seconds, not adding any threat (so after the time is up, if you haven't done anything to add threat to you the mobs go right back to killing everyone else) and it has a whopping ten minute cooldown. This column isn't about what I would change about warriors if I could, so I'll just say that you need to be really sure that everything is going south when you use this, and be aware that it's not going to magically fix everything when you do. Some people hit this button as soon as taunt fails, but I say don't be one of those people. Switch over and use Mocking Blow first, save CS for a last resort. You don't want to not have it later because you blew it saving one person. This is a pure tanking talent, make no mistake.

At level 28 you get another tanking talent, one of the absolute best in the game, Shield Wall. It has other applications as well... if you absolutely have to return a flag in WSG or EoTS, or are trying to run away to the safety of some friendly town guards while being beaten on by many, many mobs it can be used then, but for my money you want to save Shield Wall for when you're tanking on a boss. It's not a pally or priest bubble. It doesn't eat a specific amount of damage and then fail, or just make you immune until its time is up, it reduces all incoming damage by 75% for the duration. (It can be improved in duration with talents.) With a long linked cooldown, it's not going to be used on every fight, but when you need it there's very few abilities that will make you smile like a nice shield wall, especially when combined with other tanking abilites or items.

Level 30 brings you a present in the form of a quest to gain Berserker Stance. The quest chain begins with The Islander, leading you to The Affray, a gauntlet style quest that will grant you zerk stance once you complete it. You can bring help (a healer is nice) or solo it, although it's not super-easy to solo (it's not impossible, either, you'll just need to be on the ball and have a couple of consumables to use). It's also at level 30 that you begin the quest chain that leads to the Cyclonian. While that quest is a huge part of the 30 to 40 game, we've already discussed it in detail in a previous post, so I'll leave that link to speak for itself. Level 30 is also when you gain Intercept and Slam. Intercept's utility in PvP is obvious and it serves as a useful spell interrupt in PvE, especially when soloing. I also often used it before the ability Intervene was introduced to the game to help me chase down a mob that was going after a healer, and before 70 you may find use for it in that fashion as well. Slam is an ability you'll primarily use to dump rage without generating as much threat as other abilities like Heroic Strike, but I really recommend (and this is one of the few times I will recommend this, as I hate math) checking out the WoWwiki link and really taking a look at the math of the ability. Slam is a very situational ability, but when it is called for, it can be extremely powerful.

At level 32 you'll be rewarded with your first fear break (non-talented, anyway, and I don't think you'll have Death Wish with 23 talent points) as well as a means to generate more rage from being hit, Berserker Rage. This ability, usable only in berserker stance, is one of the reasons you will need to learn to stance dance as a tank. Even with the changes to fear and targeting in 2.3, having a fear break available so that you can snap out of the fear and work to keep aggro while those outside of fear range can continue to DPS or heal is one of a warrior's real strengths, learn to maximize it. Also, while tanking, getting more rage for being hit is never a bad thing. In PvP you'll primarily use it to break fears since you'll probably be in zerk stance a lot anyway. Level 36 brings Whirlwind, an ability often used as a rage dump which can hit up to four targets anywhere around you. You'll need to be careful not to break CC with this, but it has many uses besides straight damage and rage dumping. A warrior tanking can use it in conjunction with Thunderclap as an AoE tanking ability if she or he is skilled enough at stance dancing, it now hits with both weapons so it's a nice DPS ability for fury warriors, and an arms warrior will still use it despite normalization because he'll usually be using a weapon with nice top-end damage.

The last non-talented ability you'll gain in this level range is Pummel. It's a spell interrupt. Learn it, love it, use it, it doesn't take a lot of discussion or explanation. Pummel spellcasters in PvP, pummel them in PvE. Really, I think we all know what we're doing with this one.

Levels 20 to 40 bring you a wide variety of talent options. Quite frankly, they bring you such a wide variety of talent options that I think it likely that will have to be a post of its own - you will have 31 talent points to have spent by level 40, enough to get Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst or Shield Slam, the keystone spec defining abilities even now and the former pinnacles of each spec before The Burning Crusade. These abilities are what I like to call the tipping points for a warrior - it's impossible to spend as many points in any other spec once you have them, so even if you're a 31 arms/ 30 fury warrior for PvP, you're an arms warrior. Everyone approaches the idea of spending talents differently. I personally always spend my first five point in Cruelty, so unless I'm going for fury early, I never have a 31 point talent by 40. Without writing another post as long as this one, I'll just say that you should evaluate what you intend to do with your warrior in the future as you spend points in talents now. Do you intend to twink at 29 or 39? Are you trying to get to 70 and tank for a bunch of friends as fast as you can? (Personally, if you're trying to shoot for 70 as fast as possible, a prot spec may be the worst move unless you have a group of friends you know you'll be running a lot of instances with. Then it's fine for leveling.) Try and keep from respeccing now if you possibly can, you'll want to save gold on respec costs when you're 70 and trying to settle into a final spec. (You may want to respec once at 60 for the last ten levels, but we'll cover that when we get to leveling in TBC.)

Instances to run in this level zone overlap a little with the previous ones: You'll probably still get some nice gear out of Wailing Caverns and Shadowfang Keep as you hit 20. Keep in mind that the drops have been improved in 2.3 and the instance levels tightened up. I really enjoy Blackfathom Deeps for a level 20 warrior looking to gear up for the later dungeons, and both Gnomeregan and Razorfen Kraul will get you ready for the 30's. Between 30 and 40 you will probably run Scarlet Monastery the most, especially with the winged design you'll see again later in Outland dungeons. You'll also have Razorfen Downs and even Uldaman in the late 30's as you get ready for the 40's and beyond.

Of course, we can't spend all our time in instances. The zones available for us to quest in are many, and just got better with the new patch and the introduction of a major quest hub in Dustwallow Marsh. While some are Horde or Alliance specific, most can be quested in by a warrior of either faction and include Redridge, Duskwood, Hillsbrad, the Wetlands, the Alterac Mountains, Arathi Highlands, the Badlands, the Swamp of Sorrows and Stranglethorn Vale on the Eastern continent and Ashenvale, the Stonetalon Mountains, Thousand Needles, Desolace and Dustwallow Marsh on Kalimdor. I especially recommend Arathi as an alternative to the early 30's range in STV as the quests are now all soloable with smart play, the elites having been demoted in patch 2.3. Warrior questing, especially solo questing, still requires careful pulling and use of food and bandages but with those caveats at these levels your talents and abilities mean that you can start to feel more secure in your soloing and can make a steady grind with minimal downtime. Some zones, like Ashenvale, are at times frustrating for a warrior on foot, but with Forest Song and Splintertree Post as useful quest hubs for Alliance and Horde respectively, there's a lot to do there. Also, please don't neglect Thousand Needles and Desolace; there are a lot more quests there than usually appear on the surface (even for Alliance there's the Shimmering Flats quests) and if you're leveling on a PvP server you can avoid a lot of ganking by skipping STV until you're nearer to 40 by using these zones judiciously.

That seems like a reasonably comprehensive overview, all limitations considered. Now I'll throw the comments open to you all to help correct those inevitable errors, provide tips and suggestions for your fellow warriors, and otherwise discuss what else we should keep in mind for these 20 or so levels. What gear shouldn't we miss? What dungeons don't you think worth the effort? Where's the best questing?

Next week we'll either cover leveling up to get ready for Outland, or discuss talents in more detail. We'll see which way the hawk isn't a handsaw.

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