First off, this column is written assuming that it will be used by both first time players and people starting a warrior alt. If you have access to heirloom gear, I heartily recommend it, but it's not necessary. However, it does neatly compensate for the one big weakness of the warrior while leveling, namely our gear dependency.
Getting heirloom gear not only means you'll level faster (if you get the heirloom hat, cape, chestplate, shoulders and pants you'll get 45% more experience from kills) but it also means you'll be much less likely to end up dead because you'll have overall higher health and damage output than the average character of your level who, especially at the earliest levels, will almost certainly not have gear in every one of those slots. Even if a character at levels 1 to 20 does somehow have gear in every slot, it will on average be of lesser quality than the heirlooms, which improve as you level. If you can get them you absolutely should do so. While they are not necessary (especially with so many quest rewards itemized in a far superior way for the leveling warrior) they are very helpful.
The things you learn
The first ten levels of warrior play opens up fairly quickly. You start with Battle Stance and Heroic Strike, which is your main attack until level 10. At level 3, you gain Charge, followed by Victory Rush at level 5 and Execute at level 7. These two abilities make it much easier to deal with multiple attackers while you work on the staring zone quests of whichever race you've chosen. At level 9, you gain Defensive Stance, which makes tanking possible, although it's at level 10 that you gain the ability to choose your specialization. Arms warriors gain Mortal Strike (their rage generating attack) and Seasoned Soldier, fury warriors gain Bloodthirst and Crazed Berserker, and protection warriors gain Shield Slam and Unwavering Sentinel.
My advice to you in these levels is to get through them as quickly as possible, but they're really not painful anymore and pass quickly, especially if you have heirlooms. The easiest way to accomplish this is simply to do the quests given you, as at these levels you can't queue for dungeons or PvP yet. Dungeon Finder unlocks at level 15, and you can start PvPing at level 10 (Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin). So by level 15, you can choose entirely between dungeons, PvP and questing to determine how you level up. I personally find PvP to be slower than the other two, if only because it can be utterly unpredictable (you may get luck and win often, or end up on losing teams) whereas quests and dungeons (especially dungeons with quests you can complete) are reliable, but it comes down to what you most enjoy doing. However, I should also point out that certain classes, especially in heirlooms or otherwise twinked gear from dungeons, can absolutely destroy you in Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin at these levels. Sadly, warriors are not really one of these classes in these levels.
The ways you grow
At level 12 you gain access to Taunt, useful at these low levels as both a ranged pull and for tanking. Level 14 gives you Enrage, which will allow you to deal more damage when you critically hit with Bloodthirst or Mortal Strike or critically block an incoming attack. Enrage also gives you an extra 10 rage when you enter it. Level 15 is the first tier of warrior talents, allowing you to choose between Double Time, Juggernaut, and Warbringer. At these levels I find the flexibility of Double Time superior to Juggernaut's shorter cooldown or Warbringer's longer stun, but that's something you'll decide for yourself ultimately. All warriors get Sunder Armor at level 16 (useful if you intend to tank), protection warriors get Shield Block at level 18, while arms warriors get Slam and fury warriors gain Wild Strike. These levels are the ones where you move from a generic warrior to one with a chosen role and a path to fulfilling that goal. It should be pointed out that fury warriors at these levels are expected to use two one-handed weapons, as both SMF and Titan's Grip aren't gained until level 38.
Levels 20 to 30 present you with several iconic warrior abilities. Thunder Clap, a staple of warrior tanking for years, is gained at 20. Level 22 gives us Heroic Throw, a ranged attack, and level 24 we gain Pummel, our interrupt. At level 26 protection warriors gain Devastate, a weapon strike that replaces Sunder Armor for them, while arms and fury warriors gain Whirlwind. Level 28 sees the addition of Disarm to the warrior toolkit. Level 30 not only sees us choosing between one of three talents in the self-healing/survivability tier (Enraged Regeneration
, Impending Victory
and Second Wind
) but each warrior class specialization also gains a special attack. Arms gains Overpower, fury Raging Blow, and protection adds Revenge to its tanking abilities. As you can see, by level 30 your warrior will have gained a fair amount of customization via two talents as well as specific abilities for its chosen role.
Before we close this week's post on leveling, some general advice for any warrior at these levels:
- If you do not have heirlooms, do your best to keep your gear current. Pay attention to drops from Dungeon Finder reward bags and instance drops, look carefully at what you get from quests.
- If you're playing your first warrior and don't have money from another character, stay away from the auction house. You will end up broke.
- Absolutely get your first mount at level 20. It makes everything much easier, especially if you're doing quests, because even with the Cataclysm zone updates you'll have to travel from quest hub to quest hub and sometimes from the hub out to where the quest objectives are. Mobility makes it far easier, especially for warriors who have no significant fast movement ability at these levels.
- It is my opinion that, for pure speed of leveling, questing or questing/dungeon finder is the fastest way to level. For maximum effect, you should either tank in dungeon finder and chain dungeons, or only run dungeons once or twice as DPS to complete their quests and focus primarily on questing as you level through zones. Pure PvP leveling is possible, but hard to ensure at a reasonable speed.
- Taking Impending Victory at these levels makes it very easy to constantly pull new mobs for quests without worrying about dying. It gives you an extra attack, heals you, and allows for chain pulling.
- Learn profession skills like first aid, fishing (if you can stand it) and cooking, and keep them current. While it's much easier to level a warrior now, it can still be helpful to have a stack of bandages and/or some food for the aftermath of a close pull. Always try and keep your health up.
Next week, we hit 60.
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.