So you want to be a prot warrior: The First 10 Levels
So. Now that certain people are actually taking me seriously (oh, the silly, silly geese!), I’m under a bit of pressure to actually deliver some good stuff here. No worries. I am, after all, der Panzercow. Compared to the horrors of getting teabagged by an Eredar for months on end, this whole writing-a-guide thing should be easysauce, right?
With your shiny new warrior at level 1 and standing in front of their first little yellow exclamation point in their newbie zone, it’s time to take those first few tentative steps down the path toward saronite-covered studliness in a mere 79 levels. These first few steps are, in fact, not a whole heck of a lot different than the first few steps that any new character takes, of course. You don’t have to start thinking too much until level 10 when your talents open up (which is next post). But even in the single digits, there’s a few things you can do to prepare, and things that you can start doing now so you’ll engrain them as habits as you move forward.
One of the things you’ll have to get used to is the rage mechanic. Rage is our mana. Without rage, we stand there and auto-attack (much like paladins). Rage starts at zero and goes to 100, no more, and decays fairly quickly out of combat. Rage is generated from normal auto-attacks through a complex formula that I can’t even hope to accurately quantify–basically, the harder you hit, the more rage you get, and crits give you even more. You also gain rage from being hit. Rage management is key, especially for Prot warriors, because of the three warrior types, we generate the least because we have far and away the lowest “white” auto-attack damage. You’ll get a feel for it as you work through your newbie quests. Too little rage in the bank is bad because it limits what you can do; too much is bad because it’s wasted. If you find yourself consistently with 80-100 rage, it’s time to throw in more special attacks to burn it off, called “rage dumping.”
Another thing I would emphasize strongly is keeping a broad spectrum of weapon skills leveled as you level up. Don’t just pick one thing and stick with it. Yes, orcs love them some axes and get benefits with them. What happens if you’re using the [Axe of Crap] and you get a nice [Hammer of Pwnliness] off some mob…but the icon’s red because you haven’t trained maces? Bad warrior, no biscuit. If you are able to pass your baby warrior a few gold from your other characters, do so, and then visit the weapon trainers in your faction capitals and train everything. Yes, daggers and crossbows and thrown weapons too, everything. I’m a firm believer that a true warrior needs to be able to kick ass with whatever’s to hand, be it a sword, a mace, an axe, or a gnome. (They make decent clubs if they’re armored.)
If you are a race that doesn’t start with a shield, like Tauren, that’s OK. You’ll loot one soon enough. Keep it, and get a 1H weapon (you’ll get those soon enough too) and start using them early on. Get used to the lower rage generation of 1H + shield versus 2H weapons. Always have your best weapon handy for tougher quests, but if you get some quests that are easier, swap your less-used weapons in and level your skills. And, even if you’re planning to be a tank, level those 2H weapon skills too. You may decide to go DPS instead for a while, and that’s OK. Again, flexibility is the key. I’m a big booster of it.
It goes without saying–buy your baby warrior some bags. If I twink nothing else on my alts, I at least go and get them some store-bought 8- or 10-slot bags if I can’t get my wife’s tailor character to whip them up some nicer ones. We don’t have the bag space problems hunters do, but still, more bag slots = less trips back to town = more time pwning face and getting xp.
You’ll start to get your first warrior skills in these first 10 levels, and they will serve you from now on. This is building-block stuff; you’ll be friends with these skills for 80 levels and beyond. They are:
Battle Shout (level 2): Increases your attack power. You yell, you hit harder. Just imagine your troll making Bruce Lee noises as he whomps on things. Keep this up as much as you can, it only lasts 2 minutes. This is one of the very few short-duration abilities (like Blessings, Seals, etc.) that Blizzard has never extended the duration on and has no plans to.
Heroic Strike (level 2): Hitting this will cause your next attack to do extra damage and generate extra threat, but instead of generating rage, it will cost 15 rage. A rule of thumb is to use this if you’ve got more than about 30 rage in the bank. Remember that Heroic Strike does not activate instantly, it’s an “on-next-attack” spell. You hit it, it lights up, and your next swing makes a “whump” noise and gains the bonus damage and costs you the rage. If you do something in the meantime to get below 15 rage, you get a “not enough rage” message and the melee swing is just a normal “white damage” swing.
Charge (level 4): You charge the target, generate rage, and stun it for 1 second. This should be your opener whenever possible. Generating rage is ALWAYS a good thing.
Rend (level 4): A damage-over-time bleed effect. It used to be a complete joke and useless after about level 20 except to keep rogues from stealthing in PvP. 3.0 changed it so that it does reasonable damage all the way up. Not something you’ll be using a whole lot as a tank; Arms warriors, however, use the heck out of it now.
Thunder Clap (level 6): This is a meat-and-potatoes move for any tank. You slam the ground with your dainty little foot (or hoof, if you’re a Draenei/Tauren), causing all enemies in about 8 yards to lose 10% off their attack speed and doing damage to them as well. Do this. A lot. It’s not rage-effective in terms of damage on a single target, but the slow effect reduces your incoming damage, and against multiple targets, it’s reasonably hurty. Plus, it’s good practice for when you start actually tanking, because on multi-mob pulls, this is one of your primary abilities.
Hamstring (level 8): Doesn’t do any damage, but it slows the mob down. Since you have very little ranged capability, this is how you stop runners from going to get their friends.
Bloodrage (level 10): Takes a percentage of your base health and gives you 10 rage, with one additional rage each second for 10 seconds. It’s a way to build rage on those fights where you can’t use Charge.
At level 10 you’ll get a quest from your friendly local warrior trainer. Do it immediately. This will give you Defensive Stance, which is your tanking stance (and your leveling stance at the higher levels). For now, when grinding, stay in Battle Stance (the default). Defensive Stance reduces your incoming damage by 10% and increases your threat generated by 45%, at the cost of reducing the damage you do by 10% (possibly to be 5% in 3.1). Certain of your abilities can only be used in certain stances.
During these early levels, being a warrior is simple. Charge your enemy or enemies, build up enough rage, then Thunder Clap. Rend for the extra damage, and then once you have extra rage, work in a Heroic Strike every now and then. If the mob you’re fighting is a runner, Hamstring it when it gets to about 30-40% health. Loot, lather, rinse, repeat.
Next time, we’ll look at levels 10-30, including the first 20 points of talents, and how to level with them if you decide to go hardcore Prot. It used to be crazy to do it, but now, it’s quite viable. Have fun!