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The topic of the "best" tactics for a Warrior seems to generate more heat than other WoW debates. As is usual when this happens, a lot of the heat is thrown between people who are not always talking about the same thing. You can't really have the "best" warrior until you answer the question, "Best at what?"
As with other classes, the only "correct' path for a warrior is the one most enjoyed by the player; though in high level (endgame) instances and in raids the warrior's teammates will have particular expectations.
- 1 A word about equipment
- 2 Warrior Roles
- 3 General tactics
- 4 Skills
- 5 Talent Strategies
- 6 General Solo PvE Tactics
A word about equipment
The importance of good equipment for a warrior cannot be overstated.
Other damage-dealing classes will often outdamage warriors. This is especially true as players approach higher levels near 60 and 70. The warrior does not gain significant damage output as he or she advances in level. This is not to say a warrior is not a dangerous opponent, and indeed the warrior talent tree has many damage-enhancing options, but warriors do not have "super abilities" like the rogue's Cold Blood + Eviscerate or a mage's powerful area effect spells. However, there are certain warriors who masterfully match or surpass the damage capabilities of other classes- this takes intense involvement in all aspects of acquiring gear, from running high level dungeons many times in a row to purchasing and maintaining tradeskills (especially blacksmithing.)
Offsetting the warrior's difficulty in achieving damage is the wide spectrum of gear from which they can choose, the widest in the game. This allows them to move between specialties more effectively than other classes. It is common for high-level warriors to maintain different sets of gear, e.g. one specifically for tanking and another for PvP (often along with macros to switch between them). By selecting equipment carefully the warrior can more than compensate for the lack of super-DPS abilities enjoyed by other classes. Plate equipment in particular can offer the most armor, the highest bonuses to traits (Strength, Agility, Stamina, etc.), and the best bonuses to combat skills -- often simultaneously on a single item.
Since gear is so important, many warriors try to build a full armor set to take advantage of the extra set bonuses. The set bonuses can be generic, or be specific to a particular type of activity. The Battlegear of Wrath, the Field Marshal's Battlegear and the Conqueror's Battlegear are examples of desirable level 60+ sets.
The heavy reliance on good equipment also means that the warrior is one of the most expensive and time-consuming classes to equip. The adage that "warriors are only as good as their gear" is not entirely correct, but there is more than a kernel of truth there. You may end up buying much of your equipment as you level in the auction house as well as spending a lot of time grinding for gear in instances. At level 60 and above, the problem only compounds as needs increase, as tanks usually need not only high stats and armor, but also defense and resistances, and often many sets of armor for different raiding situations. Since warriors can learn many different kinds of weapons, it benefits a warrior to skill up as many weapons as possible, because one never knows what will drop in an instance. This means keeping and swapping out a large number of weapons as well as having the best armor available. Ultimately your equipment should be chosen to best suit the role your warrior intends to fill.
Warriors can be roughly divided into at least four basic concepts, each of which requires a different approach:
For more information, see Warriors as Tanks.
In group quests and in elite instances, enemies are generally much stronger or more numerous than in normal situations. A group of players must work as a whole to defeat these powerful opponents, which best be done through players each taking a specific role in the group. Many player characters are unable to take the immense amount of damage these enemies deal out without dying rapidly, but it is here that a tank excels.
A well-outfitted Warrior can certainly deal out a great amount of damage, but if you are the group's tank it is not your job to deal the most damage. Rather, your role is to take damage for your party members, and to reduce this damage as much as possible. There are two main reasons for this.
- First of all, a Protection-specced warrior is better able than any damage dealer or healer to withstand and mitigate the immense amount of damage that is dealt in instances, with only tanking-specialized Death Knights, Protection-specced Paladins and Bear/Dire Bear-specialized Feral Druids able to reach the same level with proper gear and talent choices. Although often considered to be a well-rounded and capable tanking class, Warriors do have their limits, particularly when there are a large number of mobs to deal with, as a tanking warrior's AoE threat is largely limited to Thunderclap and Shockwave. (In particular, for groups of 3 or more mobs, Paladins or Death Knights have become the preferred class as they are more effective at multi-tanking.) The strength of a warrior tank comes from being able to hold down aggro on one or two heavy-hitting targets extremely well at the cost of reduced damage output. Damage dealt to a tanking Warrior is damage that is not dealt to the rest of the group.
- As importantly, taking this immense amount of damage allows a tanking Warrior to generate huge amounts of Rage – and Rage is the key for a Warrior to being able to keep enemies focused on themselves. The more damage a tanking Warrior takes, the more Rage the Warrior builds up, and the more Rage a Warrior has, the more threat-creating abilities the Warrior will be able to use.
Given the warrior's ability to wear extremely tough armor, to build up a huge amount of health, and large array of abilities that allow them to build up a lot of threat, a Warrior is an ideal tank. Warriors choosing to play this role in a group should focus on equipment and talents that emphasize defense rating, mitigation such as armor or block, and avoidance (dodge and parry ratings), Stamina and to a lesser extent Strength and Agility, and threat generation (generally through weapon DPS rating). Warriors will generally need to use a shield and a one-handed weapon when they tank. Get the best you have available to you. Some weapons are especially designed with tanking in mind – they may have extra armor, agility, defense and/or dodge rating, etc. when equipped. Fast one-handed weapons are generally considered superior for a tanking Warrior due to the threat output of Heroic Strike and Cleave when there is an abundance of Rage.
In some ways, tanking can be thought of as a form of Crowd Control. The primary responsibility of a tank is to remain the target of the enemy while the others in the group kill it or heal the group. However, it may also be necessary for the tank to move the enemy, by kiting it towards a specific position, or to turn it in a certain direction, to keep certain attacks from affecting other members in the group. A Warrior tank can also prevent the enemy from casting spells, or at higher levels reflect them back toward the mob that is casting them.
Warriors who tank generally use Defensive stance, and dedicated tanks emphasize the Protection talent tree, particularly in endgame PvE. This combination helps the Warrior generate more threat and tolerate more punishment. The Protection talent tree also provides invaluable abilities and bonuses necessary for tanking endgame instances and bosses, some of whom deal many thousands of damage in a few seconds.
The descriptions of many of Warrior abilities and talents refer to an increased amount of threat generated. A tank will normally attempt to generate as much threat as possible with all the enemies that the group faces. The higher the tank is on an enemy's "threat list," the less likely it is that enemy will run off to attack someone else. In particular you will want to watch the group's healer(s). When the group's healers die it is potentially a sign that you may have (or are) a poor tank. Using a wide camera angle can help provide the necessary situational awareness to react to a changing situation as warrior
If you are a group's main tank, don't try to compete with other classes in your group as a damage dealer. Instead concentrate on keeping the enemies focused on you. It is your responsibility to make sure each enemy considers you a serious threat as quickly as possible. This means switching targets, if necessary, to deliver threat-producing blows. A warrior will often switch to each enemy in turn at the start of a fight, building up threat with each (usually with abilities like Devastate or Sunder Armor), before finally settling on one for the kill. Area-of-effect threat generation abilities such as Thunder Clap and Shockwave are also quite useful. Demoralizing Shout has had its threat generation heavily reduced and should be used as a damage reducing debuff rather than a threat generation ability. Producing threat on all enemies in combat with the group is important due to the game mechanics of healing threat generation.
Finally, tanking is a concept that has meaning only in PvE groups. Since tanking depends on the game mechanics of threat, it has no meaning in solo play and practically none in PvP.
- See also: Off tank
Off-tanking usually happens when a party is attempting kill a group of enemies with more than one serious threat. While the main tank is busy holding aggro on the main threat, the off tank makes sure any secondary threats don't attack the healers and casters. For practical purposes, an Off-Tanking Warrior has exactly similar itemization needs as a Main Tank Warrior; in fact, a Warrior Off-Tank will generally be a Warrior who has inferior gear compared to the group's Main Tank. Raiding Off-Tanks will be well-advised to carry a set of DPS gear and have a secondary DPS spec (preferably not a PvP spec) for fights in which either a secondary tank is impractical or DPS is of paramount importance (e.g. Prince Malchezaar).
Depending on the particular fight, an off-tank may hold a weaker enemy or enemies that the group as a whole focuses on killing quickly while the Main Tank holds aggro on a more dangerous enemy, or they may pull weaker enemies off healers, casters, etc. that the Main Tank has lost aggro on (common when large groups of mobs are pulled, or a bad pull is made). During modern raids, these secondary targets often require gear on par with a Main Tank's, and so the role of part time off-tank is rare due to fight mechanics either requiring no extra tank or a well-equipped one.
Warriors that spec deep into the Arms or Fury talent trees can be formidable damage-dealers in PvE content. With proper skill, gear, and talents, Warriors can DPS as effectively as Rogues or any other DPS class. Also, in Patch 2.3 Warriors gained a 10% threat reduction while in Berserker Stance, raising the DPS ceiling for Fury Warriors in PvE content. However, although DPS itemization is better post-Burning Crusade, DPS warriors may still find themselves competing with enhancement shamans and rogues for mail or leather DPS gear.
Fury Warriors tend to dual-wield two one-handed weapons or two two-handed weapons when they have the Titan's Grip talent, while Arms Warriors generally use a slow two-handed weapon. Although historically the Fury tree has been the premiere damage-dealing Warrior tree, Arms has achieved a rough parity. Itemization is similar for both, emphasizing Strength, Agility, and Critical Strike Rating, and to a lesser degree Stamina, but a Fury Warrior will require more Hit Rating than a similarly-geared Arms Warrior, due to the lower hit % from dual-wielding.
- Main article: Warrior PvP
Generally speaking, a Warrior's role in player versus player is to engage and destroy the enemy in melee combat, ideally with a healer on hand to assist. Properly backed up with a healer (or two) a Warrior can become a fearsome killing machine – as the enemy attacks the Warrior, the Warrior takes damage, but also gains Rage. The damage may be healed, but the Rage remains, allowing the Warrior to perform more powerful attacks and do more damage. Without a friendly healer nearby, however, warriors are often at a disadvantage, especially versus ranged damage types. Thus an excellent tactic in group player versus player combat is to stay with friendly casters and healers and protect them from melee types like Rogues and other Warriors.
Arms and Fury Warriors again are both popular in PvP. (However, a Protection-specced Warrior can also be useful in battlegrounds such as Alterac Valley.) Itemization is similar to that of the DPS Warrior, however Stamina gains a much increased role among PvP Warriors. Mortal Strike-specced Arms Warriors are extremely popular in the Arena PvP system.
Melee range and movement
- Stun abilities prevent you from doing anything at all. Can't Move, Attack, Cast spells.
- Root abilities are things that keep you from moving only.
- Snare abilities are things that slow your movement speed.
Anti-Root: Warriors must be particularly ready to prevent root actions, which can effectively prevent melee combat, taking away the primary means by which the warrior inflicts both effects and damage to the opponent. Common Root Abilities:
Common Root Counters:
- Gnome Ability: Escape Artist
Gnome escape artist is very useful if you are trapped or rooted. This does not work when you are frozen though. Free Action Potions are the best -- 30 seconds with the user immune to both root AND snare. However, the potions do not dispel effects that are already active. Drawbacks include cost (1 gold each?) as they are consumable, shared potion cooldown with rage/heal potions. (Note: as of game patch 1.7, Free Action Potions will be able to be dispelled, and their reagents easier to find, which may lower costs as well. - Solaerl) Spider Belt and Ornate Mithril Boots must be equipped before the battle begins, as you cannot change armor while in combat. On the positive side, these provide you with 5 seconds of immune to root only (not snare). The cooldown timers are not shared, but they are each long – 30 minutes of cooldown before the next usage. Other drawbacks include a 30-second delay from the time that you first equip these to when their ability can be used, and bonuses that you are giving up (additional armor, or +stats) as trade off for the ability. If you have closed to within melee range on a druid, it may be better to use your anti-root effect before you become rooted, because if it takes you 0.5 seconds to react to the root (plus perhaps 0.5 seconds from server lag), that will typically be enough time for the enemy to get out of melee range (even snared). Druids may have nature's grasp, which is an ability that causes anyone who hits them to have a chance of becoming rooted (doesn't apply if your 5-second immunity to root is active). Managing melee distance falls into two categories – obtaining melee distance when not in range, and keeping melee range once you've got it. Other than simply running to an opponent, a warrior has only these abilities to affect combat distance/maneuvering:
- Charge (Battle Stance, generates Rage, can not be used while in combat, except if you are heavily spected into Arms tree , which allows you to use Charge while in combat , or if you spected even deeper into Protection tree , which allows you to use Charge any time , regardless of stance or combat state)
- Intercept (Berserker Stance, 30 second cooldown, up to 2 talent points can be used to reduce cooldown by 5 seconds per point , can also be used in any stance , if you are a Protection-speced warrior)
- Intervene (Defensive Stance, 30 seoncd cooldown, will only charge to a friendly target)
- Hamstring (Reduces target's move speed by 50 percent for 15 seconds, up to 3 talent points can be use to give a 5 percent chance to root your opponent for 5 seconds per talent point)
- Piercing Howl (Fury tree talent, dazes all nearby enemies reducing their move speed by 50 percent. Lasts 6 seconds. Has a relatively small range. In PvE it is mostly used only when trying to escape from a crowd of mobs, although in PvP it has similar utility to a Shaman's Earthbind Totem or a Hunter's Frost Trap.)
In most cases, Warriors will use Intercept when outside of melee range, and Hamstring when inside it. In Pvp, if you are close enough, an enemy should always be afflicted with Hamstring. An opponent should be Hamstringed before Disarm or other debuffs, to help ensure melee range is maintained while the warrior has an advantage. (Rogues are the exception, as you can possibly avoid their slowing poisons by disarming them first, and it is wise to Rend them to prevent against a Vanish.)
Intercept is to be used to re-engage once the Warrior is out of melee range. It has a significantly large cooldown, and requires a minimum opponent distance. Intercept causes a three-second stun which is enough time for the warrior to use an ability or two after melee range has been re-established. Hamstring should almost always be used immediately after an Intercept to ensure that the opponent does not get away, or at least doesn't get away quickly, in these situation. Intercept is often used when a spellcaster is casting spell that is worth interrupting, as the stun from Intercept also interrupts spellcasting. Healing classes like Priests, Druids, and Paladins should have healing spells interrupted, while damage-dealing classes like Mages and Warlocks should have their largest attack spells interrupted. Against most spellcasters, the warrior must become aware of what spells are being cast by the motions and colors of the caster. Be sure you have checked the box in Interface Options labeled "Show Enemy Cast Bars on Portrait". This will display a bar that will be labelled with what spell your target is casting. Try to save your interrupt cooldown for a healing spell, or a large, powerful damage spell such as a Mage's Pyroblast or a Warlock's Shadow Bolt.
Counterattacks or Opportunistic Abilities
Warriors are a "reactive" class. Their most powerful abilities are enabled by situational or chance happenings of combat, and since these opportunities have several requirements such as stance, weapon, melee range, time window, and rage, correct usage of a warrior is complex. Given the time-constraints to react, pre-planning (macro setup and strategy) are required for success. The first 4 abilities are critical for all warriors, but by far, overpower is a warrior's greatest ability. It should be used whenever it is enabled by an opponent's dodge. Overpower is so good that it is often worthwhile to dual wield in order to gain more opportunities for the opponent to dodge. Its +50% chance to crit (with 2 talent points) means that at level 60, a warrior overpower will deal a pessimistic damage of 300 damage against a plate wearer when it doesn't crit, but 600-800 when it does, which is quite often. Execute also regularly does huge damage and is next in line for should be used whenever possible. This hits normally for 500-700 damage. In the table below, stances are B=Battle, D=Defensive, Z=Berserker.
|Ability Name||Stance||Rage||Why This Ability is Good||Requirements|
|Overpower||B||5||Best Damage (Weapon Dmg + 35) per Rage, Can't be blocked, dodged, or parried||Opponent Dodge, best with big damage weapon (speed doesn't matter). Talent points (1,2) can give additional chance to crit (+25%, +50%)|
|Execute||B Z||15||Big Damage per Rage (600+ dmg)||Only when opponent within 20% of death, drains 15-30 rage|
|Hamstring||B Z||10||Slows Enemy|
|Intercept||Z||15||3-second Stun, brings enemy into melee||Opponent far enough away|
|Disarm||D||20||10-sec disarm of enemy , +5\+10% damage on disarmed target with 2 talent points.||Useful against any class , with 2 talent points spent , thanks to bonus damage. Otherwise useful only against melee targets|
|Revenge||D||5||Decent Damage, Low Rage. 30/60% damage increased, and hits an additional target for 50/100% with 1,2 talent points. Excellent hate generation.||Warrior Dodge/Parry/Block.|
|Shield Block||D||10||Blocks melee damage, enables Revenge||Requires Shield, only useful against melee|
|Shield Bash||BD||10||interrupt & prevent spellcasting||Requires Shield, best if enemy casting|
|Concussion Blow||BDZ||15||5-second Stun, interrupt spell||Talent Points needed to gain this ability (21 min)|
|Mortal Strike||BDZ||30||Big Damage, reduces enemy healing by 50%||Talent Points needed to gain this ability (31 min)|
|Shield Slam||BDZ||30||Nice Damage, nice agro generation||Requires Shield|
It should be noted that melee spell interruption abilities Pummel and Shield Bash share a common cooldown. Therefore, it is not possible to prevent a caster from casting one class of spells, since the prevention portion of the ability lasts 6 seconds, but the ability to interrupt has a cooldown of 12 seconds (assuming the warrior has enough rage to perform the action). This is where the warriors secondary interrupts become very important. These secondary interrupts include intimidating shout (you'll need to re-target), intercept, concussion blow, and revenge. The Tauren special ability War Stomp is also an excellent spell breaker. Keeping a spellcasting class locked out of a particular class of spellcasting is a key to winning.
For discussions, advice and strategies relating to the many and diverse individual Warrior Abilities, see the entries listed from the Abilities page, here.
In addition to choosing a talent mix that matches your main role (see above), there are a few general things to know about specific talents: Last Stand: You lose the full amount of health you gain from it afterwards (it will NOT kill you but it will drop you to one hit point as it wears off). An additional use for Last Stand is to give healers an extra few seconds to catch up on healing while grouping, or have enough time to defeat your enemy.
Mortal Strike: This talent causes and instant strike for weapon damage plus a static modifier. It also causes a debuff that reduces healing by 50%. This talent is especially useful in PvP areas such as the arena where healing is a large part of the strategy of many teams.
General Solo PvE Tactics
The warrior is designed to take a lot of punishment from mobs while dealing decent amounts of damage. At the beginning, the warrior is limited to a few abilities, namely Heroic Strike, rend, and charge. In the beginning, a warrior will usually be confined to charging, rending, casting shouts, then heroic striking to death with the occasional overpower thrown in when it becomes available. However, at level 40, the warrior will gain access to their 31-point talents Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst, and Shield Slam. These abilities drastically increase a warrior's soloing ability. Endgame, any of the three trees are viable soloing specs, given the right gear. Arms specialization is good for warriors who lack a lot of +hit (necessary for duel wielding fury), and block value (necessary for shield slams as protection spec).
Arms warriors fight in Battle Stance for most of their ability procs. Warriors should always open with a Charge to gain rage. If the mob is among other patrolling mobs, Warriors should always pull with their ranged weapon or Heroic Throw and use Beserker Rage to gain the rage from charge. In Patch 4.0.1, Bloodrage has been removed, and replaced by rage generation from Booming Voice and Glyph of Berserker Rage.
When the enemy is on the warrior, open with Rend. Then hit them with Mortal Strike for damage and the healing debuff. Overpower should always be used whenever it becomes active on an enemy dodge (parry with Glyph of Overpower, Rend tick with Taste for Blood. Slam becomes useful in between Overpower procs, and Mortal Strike cooldowns, even more so with Improved Slam. If the warrior has invested points in Sudden Death, then Execute is also useful in between Overpower and Mortal Strike.
Bladestorm is usually saved for multiple mobs, but has shown use against single mobs and raid bosses. Many warriors will be left with a full rage bar when Bladestorm expires, making it a viable way to stack rage while simultaniously dealing damage.
Warriors who do have the Unrelenting Assault talent have an additional panic button at their disposal. The warrior can switch to a 1H Weapon and a shield, use Shield Block and spam Revenge until the effect expires for massive burst damage. This tactic has proven effective in PVP, but is not effective without the Unrelenting Assault talent, making it less popular against other specs.
Near end game, a typical Arms warrior's ability rotation will look something like this:
- Bloodrage/Berserker Rage
- Mortal Strike
- Overpower (Whenever procs)
- Execute (Whenever procs)
- Refresh Rend whenever it expires
- Refresh Mortal Strike whenever it's off Cooldown
By dual-weilding 2H weapons with Titan's Grip, Fury warriors will rarely find themselves without rage. Fury Warriors will almost always be in Berserker Stance, meaning the lack a normal opener. With points in Improved Bloodrage, and Improved Berserker Rage, Fury warrior do have the ability to open a fight with a whopping 50 rage. Whenever you open with this tactic, allow both your weapons to strike before throwing out abilities so you have a near full rage bar.
Strike with Bloodthirst and Whirlwind as your opener, combining these abilities with Heroic Strike to maximize damage. Due to dual wielding 2H Weapons, Fury warriors can often spare the rage to use Heroic Strike several times in a fight. If you have points in Bloodsurge, then it is even more incentive to use Heroic Strike. Keep an eye out for the buff (or install an addon to warn you when it procs) to apply an instant Slam. With this talent, Slam becomes much like an Arms warrior's Overpower.
Against multiple mobs, Cleave can be spammed in replacement of Heroic Strike (made more effective with the Glyph of Cleaving). Whirlwind is even more effective against multiple mobs, as you will strike with both weapons rather than one.
At the end game, a Fury Warrior's ability rotation will look something like this:
- Bloodrage/Berserker Rage (Can be macroed to cast simultaneously.)
- Slam (When procs.)
- Heroic Strike or Cleave (When Rage is above 50)
- Repeat when cooldowns expire.
Protection warriors may start with a charge and alternate between revenge and shield block, using shield slam to burn excess rage. While not the fastest way to kill mobs, the warrior can round up mobs and unleash Thunderclap followed by a Shockwave. The warriors health loss is mitigated by shield block and the extra damage from revenge. Even while soloing, shield slam is a very large part of a prot warrior's DPS.
Also worth mentioning since it is vastly underrated by most, is that when grinding solo the spirit stat actually comes to have some use. No class gains as much health regeneration as a warrior from spirit so having some spirit will in fact cut down on your time wasted eating to an extent that is useful (troll and human warriors especially should look into this). Bear in mind that the health you regenerate stated in the tooltip is easy to disregard since it's in health points per 1 second instead of per 5 seconds for mana.
With the changes in several classes and increased itemization for formerly 'off-trees,' many formerly shunned talent specs are now considered viable. With a rise in the number of druid and paladin tanks, there is more room for warriors to play a DPS role in groups. Often, Karazhan raids will have one main tank, and one off-tank. The main-tank will typically be specced deep into protection to get the necessary Shield slam, and the helpful attack Devastate. The off-tank often uses a more DPS oriented build such as 31/30/0 in order to contribute to the amount of DPS done to a target and not being dead weight for the group except in a few certain areas. In 25 man raids, all tanks will usually be specced deep into prot, though this does not prevent warriors from DPSing.
Warriors can also fulfill the role of pure DPS. By speccing deep into the fury or more rarely arms tree, a warrior can be just as powerful as a rogue or mage in terms of DPS. Also, warriors scale better with gear than most classes, so DPS warriors in SSC or The Eye can be incredibly powerful. However, due to fury itemization being incomplete and many of the tier pieces not being fantastic, many warriors will find themselves competing with rogues, or enhancement shamans for DPS gear such as trinkets, weapons, rings, etc.