Roles: Using the Sword
SpoilerPrimary Melee - This is you. You excel at melee combat; whether you’re a dervish of whirling blades or a crashing, maul-wielding juggernaut, it’s your job to always be out there on the front line.
Mobility - You have the potential to become an extraordinarily mobile combatant. Many Diamond Mind and Tiger Claw maneuvers enhance mobility, and you’ll probably have a high Jump score if you’re using the latter (which you usually should, at least to some degree). It’s also a fair bet that you’re wearing light (or at least medium) armor – and hey, if you need to spend a round getting into position, no biggie. You can just use that round to refresh your maneuvers.
Tank - You likely won’t be able to match the stickiness of, say, a crusader, but nonetheless you’re a formidable target. D12 HD, medium armor proficiency, and, very likely (due to Diamond Mind counters) good saves mean you won’t be going down any time soon.
Battlefield Control - Pick up some tripping-related feats, enlarge yourself, and go to town; or heck, just get a reach weapon. Once again, you’re no crusader – and definitely no caster - but with the right tools you can become quite adept at manipulating the battlefield.
Debuffing - Many strikes incur debilitating status effects on your enemies. But don’t kid yourself; you’re no match for casters when it comes to debuffing. These debuffs should be augmenting your abilities rather than becoming an end in their own right.
Ranged Combat - Sorry, no. Always keep a ranged weapon on hand, just in case, but be aware that you're a pretty mediocre archer. No disciplines enhance ranged combat (unless homebrew is allowed), though full BAB and a decent Dex mean you can still function.
But ranged combat should be a last resort.
Class Features: Crux of the Sword
SpoilerD12 hit die - Excellent. With your role as a front line combatant, you need a lot of hit points.
Full BAB - You could probably still function with something less – but it would be tough.
Good Fortitude save - Every melee class gets it, but let’s be honest: every melee class needs it.
Bad Reflex and Will saves - Always the warrior’s Achilles heel, these are of less concern to you; Battle Clarity helps make up for the former, and Moment of Perfect Mind helps compensate for the latter.
4 Skill Points/level - You can always use more skill points, but 4/level is pretty decent for a melee class. Better than a fighter’s, anyway, and unless you dump Int (not a good idea) it should be enough to cover all your basic needs.
SpoilerManeuvers - This is what makes a warblade a warblade. Without them, you’re even worse than a fighter – and that, my friend, is a low bar indeed.
Stances - See above. Stances are perhaps less essential, but they’re still a defining aspect of the class.
Battle Clarity - This helps make up for your low Reflex save. You may want to pick up the counter that replaces this with a skill check eventually, but at the low levels it’s pretty useful.
Weapon Aptitude - This feature’s use is limited, as its main purpose seems to be qualifying for the lackluster Weapon Focus/Specialization lines. However, there’s potential use here, especially when it’s combined with Exotic Weapon Proficiency.
Uncanny Dodge - Retain your Dex bonus to AC even when flat-footed? Can’t argue with that.
Battle Ardor - Quite good, especially on those double-kukri crit fisher builds. There’s little as disappointing as threatening a critical and then failing to confirm it.
Bonus Feats - At first glance, the list to choose from doesn’t seem great – and while they may not be fantastic, there are a lot of ‘gateway’ feats available. And at worst, hey, free feats are free feats.
Battle Cunning - Just another incentive to catch your opponents flat-footed. Nice.
Battle Skill - Hm. The bonus is nice, but at this point the extra couple of points from your Int isn’t going to help much – high-level monsters have mean modifiers. And unlike when you’re attacking, those extra points don’t have the potential to become more damage via Power Attack.
Battle Mastery - If you’re making use of Karmic Strike/Robilar’s Gambit, this is great. Even if you’re not, it’s bound to come in handy.
Improved Uncanny Dodge - Unfortunately, this isn’t much. Flanking doesn’t happen all that often, unless you’re up against a bunch of rogues.
Stance Mastery - Can someone say 'capstone'? This is just amazing, and it's one of main reasons to stay in warblade until the end.
Skills: Sheathing the Sword
SpoilerBalance - It's the key skill for both Iron Heart and Stone Dragon, and it helps you avoid those pesky Grease spells. Almost always worth taking five ranks in it; after that, it becomes much less enticing.
Climb - You simply don't have enough skill points for this. Climb can be useful, but it's a very, very low priority.
Concentration - The biggest priority on the list. This is Diamond Mind's key skill, and Diamond Mind has the save-replacing and Nightmare Blade maneuver lines - both lifesavers, and both keyed on Concentration rolls.
Craft - If you have your heart set on being a master smith or forging warheart weapons, well, indulge yourself. Otherwise, give it a miss.
Diplomacy - It's White Raven's key skill, and pretty dang useful besides. Definitely worth it if you have the points to spare.
Intimidate - Who doesn't want people to quiver in fear at the sight of them? A very nice skill.
Intimidate is also used in Duels of Wills, a new feature introduced in the ToB, and the skill really shines when utilized in an Imperious Command build.
Jump - Tiger Claw is a great discipline, and I'd advise nearly every warblade to make at least some use of it. Many Tiger Claw maneuvers hinge off Jump...so, there we go. But if you're not making any use of Tiger Claw, skip it.
Knowledge (History) - It can be useful. Not great, though.
Knowledge (Local) - Same as above, but history is often more useful.
Martial Lore - Knowing your military history can be important, and combat is sort of your schtick. Martial Lore's other function - identifying maneuvers being used against you and the maneuvers in other adept's repertoires - is not as great, but still handy on occasion. Overall, a pretty decent Knowledge skill; if you have skill points to spare, it can be worth taking a few ranks, especially if you're in a game heavy in martial adepts.
Swim - As with Climb, you just have too many other priorities.
Tumble - Acrobatics and avoiding AoOs are pretty darn nice. Unless you're a retaliation build, in which case, not quite so nice.
SpoilerListen and Spot - Perception skills are always useful. If you have extra skill points, they're a reasonable investment.
Search - In my experience, Search is generally less useful. But maybe that's just me.