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WoWOct 9, 2015 5:00 pm CT

The Warrior’s Charge: Leveling without heirlooms

This past month, I’ve been leveling three Warriors from 1 to around 20 or so (one with my wife, two solo) and I’ve been doing several things to make it interesting. One is that I haven’t been using a single heirloom at all. No weapons, no trinkets, nothing. The other is that I’ve played one of these characters as Protection, another Fury, and the third as Arms. They’re all in their 20’s as of this writing and I have a few things to point out about the experience:

  1. As a gear-dependent class, going without heirlooms does make some things a little hairy. I didn’t die a lot, but occasionally I had to run my nelfy butt off to stay alive.
  2. Leveling is still very fast even without heirlooms.
  3. Shield Slam is anemic at these levels. Blizz, buff it. I get that it hits hard at max level with all the proper gear and stuff, but at low levels it’s terrible. Leveling as Prot now lacks severely in comparison to the days of old.


The vagaries of Protection

I’ll talk about the third point first. While it’s possible that Prot still works fine with heirlooms, without them it feels seriously unpleasant below level 20. You don’t even get Devastate until level 26, so you’re stuck with Shield Slam and Heroic Strike as your attacks — and of course auto attacks. There’s no way to reset the cooldown on Shield Slam without Devastate, and no Revenge means your entire AOE is Thunder Clap, which also doesn’t hit very impressively at this level.

I’m not arguing that Warriors should start with every ability. I think the order is a little messed up, that’s all. I’d have put Devastate in as soon as you specced Prot so you have a button to hit when Shield Slam is on its absurdly long cooldown. Six seconds for an ability that simply does not hit very hard — it’s not even noticeably harder than an auto attack when you’re devoid of heirloom gear — seems wrong to me.

Prot’s still kind of fun, though. You can tank low level dungeons with it fine, although let’s be honest, tanking in a leveling dungeon without heirlooms is asking for a nightmare. I have yet to get a group that didn’t have at least three people with looms on, and man, holding aggro on those guys is a nightmare. Even if you want to try and level without them, I suggest keeping a set handy and swapping to them any time you intend to run a dungeons. Your sanity will thank you.

I’m leveling this Warrior with a pocket healer who also throws in damage. I can’t even imagine how it would feel to be entirely solo.


The furious ones

Okay, so Prot feels weak. How about Fury?

Fury does not feel weak.

Fury completely devoid of heirlooms (I’m rocking a pair of Polished Zweihanders in the above picture, both dropped during my Blackfathom Deeps run, though no Strike of the Hydra) sees things die very quickly. Granted, the rotation is a tedious one — Bloodthirst, hit Wild Strike once you have enough rage, then wait for Execute. Often things die in two hits. I haven’t had to worry much about dying, if I pull too many Victory Rush is enough to keep me up until everything is dead. I miss certain signature moves like Whirlwind (which I just got at level 26) or Raging Blow, but overall Fury feels not only stronger but generally less stripped down. That might attest to how simplistic Fury ultimately is, but I choose to be a glass half full type here.

Overall, whether it’s running around solo or hitting up dungeons, Fury sans heirlooms is certainly weaker than Fury with them — it’s a noticeable difference when you equip them for a few pulls and mobs start to evaporate — but it definitely doesn’t feel nearly as anemic as Protection does. For the spec that is often described as the absolute most gear dependent spec, it’s really not bad at all.


Arms and the middle

Arms starts off feeling like Protection, but once you get Rend things open up a bit, and even without ‘looms Mortal Strike hits much harder than Shield Slam. The advantage of Arms for the heirloomless player is that you only need to keep up on one weapon, and usually you’ll get something decent along the way. It’s a good combination of mobility, solid AOE with Thunder Clap, and good offense with MS and Rend. It’s a good solid meat and potatoes spec. It doesn’t end up feeling nearly as stripped down as Protection does when you go without heirlooms, but neither do things die as quickly as Fury.

I did try some PVP without heirlooms and I don’t recommend this. None of these specs is even remotely capable of standing up to a player decked out in heirlooms. If you’re going to PVP and you don’t have heirlooms you’re in for a world of hurt. While you can certainly do this, you’re going to die often.

Should you try heirloomless leveling?

In general, I found the heirloomless experience positive in many ways. The occasional feeling of danger crept back into leveling — I had to actually pay attention to pulls from time to time and not just charge into every group no matter how large it was. The Warrior class, surprisingly, does function at these levels without heirlooms, although Protection needs rebalancing.

It’s not much good for tanking without heirlooms if only because so many other players have them, and as far as leveling without them is concerned it’s definitely much slower and weaker than it has been in previous expansions. Arms works fine, and Fury is quite good bordering on great. The quirks of the redesign from Warlords remain — certain abilities are gone or don’t show up until much later — but on the whole, the class feels like it works without gear that levels as you do.

And if you have a main on the same server, finally, a use for all those Giant Growths from Garrison missions.

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