June 19, 2011

WoW Warriors: How to level in Cataclysm

One of the things I get asked to do is explain not how talents and abilities work, but rather how best to level a warrior. I'm always taken aback by these kinds of questions, because I feel that leveling (whether it be a warrior or another class) in WoW has never been easier than it is in Cataclysm. But, since the question comes up a lot between emails and Twitter, I feel like I should spend some time discussing it. I expect to be doing a lot of discussion of wow patch 4.2 in the weeks ahead, so now is probably as good timing as it gets to cover the leveling game.

Let's discuss leveling. For purposes of the discussion I went and rolled a tauren warrior on Sisters of Elune. Yes, I have a problem. Still, I managed to level out of the tauren starting area without any heirlooms in one night, so it should serve as a useful tool for discussion.

Starting Out

For starters, having recently leveled a druid, a rogue, a shaman and a hunter past level 20 (the druid is level 77, the shaman max level, the rogue level 32 and the hunter level 19) I can tell you that leveling a warrior is no longer harder than leveling any other class. Between level 1 and 10, you lack the power of picking a talent specialization, but you still have all the tools you need as the 1 to 10 content is designed around your character and his slowly growing toolkit. Really, what's most important to keep in mind for a leveling warrior is how to focus on one target when questing. With Victory Rush as powerful as it is for soloing and questing, you simply need to maximize your one-at-a-time killing rate so as to pop up another Victory Rush in order to heal you while fighting more than one mob.

Your best bet as a warrior of those levels is to quest. Do not grind unless there's a quest that rewards grinding. Pick up as many quests as you can, especially ones that can be completed in close proximity to each other. Once you get access to Victory Rush at level five, you now have an ability that counteracts the greatest of warrior leveling weaknesses from the first four years of the game -- namely that warriors couldn't survive more than one mob adding on them. VR means that you, as a low level warrior, now have even odds of surviving when more than one quest mob adds. It makes it possible to grind quest mobs with little to no downtime. I can't praise VR enough as a leveling tool. The only ability that has more of an effect is Charge at level 3 because it gives you an opening move that guarantees you'll have some rage to hit Strike with. Strike is actually a fairly lackluster ability and you'll happily replace it with whatever your talent specialization attack is at level 10.

Once you reach level 13 or so, instances open up. Running an instance or two a day while questing in zones between them is probably the fastest way to level up, especially if you have heirlooms. Even if you don't (this article is written assuming you don't need them, because frankly, you do not) you can easily clear a zone in a few hours. As it stands right now, you can successfully level in any talent specialization, can level via tanking, can level through PVP, or mix in all these types of activity. I personally prefer to run one instance and do a few battlegrounds during a play session, then focus on clearing out a zone's quests. This usually nets me between five and seven levels for a few hours of play, depending on what level I am and how abundant the zones are in quests. PVP is probably slower than either questing or instancing, but it's still quite possible to gain four or five levels in three or four hours of PVP.

Try everything

As a warrior, you can tank in instances. Dual Talent Specialization is available at level 30 for a mere 10 gold, and if you have any interest in leveling more quickly and growing to understand the tank role, I recommend getting a second spec and speccing protection. At least until level 50, however, it's not necessary to spec prot to tank in the leveling instances. Any warrior can equip a shield and use Sunder Armor (gained at level 18) and their main attacks to hold threat in most situations. I myself have tanked up to Sunken Temple (an early 50's instance) as arms with a shield and one-hander. There's no reason not to try out protection as early as possible to gain access to talents and abilities that help with both threat and survival, but keep it in mind. Tanking is probably the fastest way to level a warrior right now, as you can queue pretty much instantly from the moment instances become available all the way to level 85.

After tanking, clearing a zone's quests is probably the fastest way to level, and is quite possible in any spec for a warrior. Gone are the days where tank specs couldn't kill anything, or fury simply didn't have the oomph under max level. Arms remains one of my favorite leveling specs simply because leveling as arms helps you grow into an understanding of one of the games more complicated melee DPS priority systems. Arms also works well as a tanking spec at lower levels and is, of course, a solid PVP spec pretty much from level 20 on. Fury really comes into its own at level 69 when you gain Titan's Grip or Single-Minded Fury, but arms and protection are always good from 10 to 85, and can easily be used to level through any zone, run instances, and PVP in battlegrounds. I found that PVP is very strong for buying gear at level 60 and 70 that will surpass what you could get in same level instances. The 60 PVP set and epic weapon will last you almost through to the next expansion's content, so if you're not using heirlooms please keep PVP purchases in mind. Frankly, even though I admit I'm hardly the best PVP warrior around (not even close) I found the rewards definitely worth running a few battlegrounds a day, and I even had fun doing it.

To sum it all up, I spent a little over week working on this toon, running instances, questing, and doing PVP between them. I got in maybe two to three hours a day, more on weekends, and without heirlooms I'm well into level 64. I'm wearing a full set of level 60 PVP epics simply because I could (I gathered the honor fairly easily). It's on par with Outland gear, although I expect I'll be replacing all of it soon with Northrend instance gear. It doesn't take long at all to level with the improved questing in the 1-60 zones, tanking is easy in any spec up to level 50, and I keep a prot offspec handy for when I feel like tanking now that I'm into more complicated content. Leveling a warrior has absolutely never been easier, and if you're one of the people asking me about it, I recommend giving it a try.

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