As a warblade, you have access to five different disciplines - Diamond Mind, Iron Heart, Stone Dragon, Tiger Claw, and White Raven.
One of the hardest choices any warblade makes is what disciplines to specialize in. Remember that it's always a tradeoff, and you probably can't get everything you'd like.
If you're primarily a warblade, it's often best to choose a primary discipline, a secondary discipline, and a tertiary discipline. If you're something like half warblade, leave off the tertiary; if you're only dabbling, just pick a primary and scavenge off everything else.
Here's a brief list of the warblade disciplines and their merits.
Diamond Mind - This is a fantastic discipline, and there's no reason at all not to take at least a few maneuvers from it. It's really not geared towards any particular type of character, being simply chock-full of melee goodness.
Iron Heart - See above. The main difference is that, while some maneuvers are geared towards particular combat styles, the discipline as a whole isn't. Really, you can't go wrong with either this or Diamond Mind.
Stone Dragon - This is likely the weakest discipline available to you. Besides the annoying 'must be standing on the ground' clause, its maneuvers simply don't offer as much as other disciplines'.
The exceptions being, of course, the Mountain Hammer line and Mountain Tombstone Strike. The former provide excellent ways to overcome DR, and the latter is a capstone maneuver - yes, a 9th level strike - with no prerequisites. Even if you skip Mountain Hammer, grab Mountain Tombstone Strike and run.
Tiger Claw - Tiger Claw is geared towards TWFers, and it shows. But THFers, chargers especially, gain lots of benefits as well. It doesn't have any counters at all, but it's famed for its boosts. They really pack a punch.
White Raven - If you want to play a marshal-type character, this is for you. However, White Raven's effectiveness depends heavily on your party's makeup: if you have lots of other meleers, it really comes into its own. If you don't, it's not that great.
This is a really nice level. There are loads of different options, and quite a few gems sprinkled about. My personal favorites are Charging Minotaur, Moment of Perfect Mind, Steel Wind, and Sudden Leap.
Moment of Perfect Mind - It's the best maneuver in the Moment of X line, and just level 1. You really want this.
Sapphire Nightmare Blade - This one is good, but quickly loses steam. If you're playing in a low-level game, it might be a good choice; otherwise, skip it.
However, if you have sneak attack (probably from multiclassing), this becomes much better. As it renders your opponent flat-footed, you can use it to set up sneak attacks.
Steel Wind - Excellent. While it only works when you're facing two foes, at the low levels you're often squared against gangs of mooks - situations in which Steel Wind can double your effectiveness. However, it's probably wise to trade it away before too long.
Steely Strike - Quite good for solo fights, as the AC penalty applies only to foes other than the one you attacked. And at the low levels, +4 attack greatly increases your chance of hitting. While awesome at the beginning of your career, it ages quickly.
Charging Minotaur - Now this is a nice maneuver. Charging Minotaur does become relatively obsolete before too long, but you'll have a lot of fun playing with the thing.
Stone Bones - At first level, DR5 is plain awesome, and can mean near invulnerability for a round. But by 2nd or 3rd it's already starting to age - and by level 5, the thing is history. It's much like Steely Strike in this regard.
Sudden Leap - Niice. This is an excellent mobility enhancer, and provides benefits well after most 1st-level maneuvers' have expired.
However, it's worth noting that it has a prerequisite of 1 Tiger Claw maneuver - you'll need to either take a Tiger Claw stance or Wolf Fang Strike to qualify for this at 1st level.
Wolf Fang Strike - Sounds good to me. Why not? Especially nice because it allows feat-less TWFing, as its penalties supersede those of two-weapon fighting.
Douse the Flames - In the right situation, this is a great tool, letting you cover for an ally (or allies) while they escape or run past. And it completely shuts down reach/lockdown/Stand Still builds for a turn.
Leading the Attack - If you have a party with lots of melee firepower, this is a good one. Otherwise, not so good.
No matter what your build, you're in for a treat this level. Even better than first; the best are Action Before Thought, Emerald Razor, Mountain Hammer, and Wall of Blades.
Action Before Thought – Like all of the save-replacing maneuvers, this is great. Reflex is your second weakest save, so pick this up if you can afford it; however, your Ref is usually at least decent, and there are lots of goof maneuvers this level. Plus, Ref saves tend not to be SoL/SoDs the way Will saves do.
Emerald Razor – Touch attacks are incredibly easy to make, so this maneuver is great when you’re up against a heavily armored foe. It only allows a single attack, but that’s no problem at level 3 – and the fact that you can Power Attack to your heart’s content makes up for that, anyway. As a rule of thumb, all the gem maneuvers (except for Sapphire) are worth taking.
Disarming Strike – It’s good, definitely, and brings use to a generally maligned combat action. But when compared to the other 2nd level maneuvers you have available, I think it comes up wanting.
Wall of Blades – Superb. The perennial weakness of the charger is a pitifully low AC. Pick up this maneuver and you can forget about that (and even if you’re not Shock Trooper-ing, your AC will generally be lower than your attack). This is a maneuver that never ages.
Saph's favorite use of Wall of Blades is to use it against touch and ranged touch spells, which generally have a much lower bonus than melee attacks. Plus, deflecting rays with your sword is awesome.
Mountain Hammer – Remember how I said that the Mountain Hammer line was one of the best things about Stone Dragon? This is the most basic of them, and while the bonus damage soon becomes mediocre, its main function – ignoring all DR and hardness – never ages. Even better, it's free of prereqs.
Stone Vise – Look at the average monster’s Fortitude save, and you’ll realize that the DC for this maneuver is just awfully low. If it were a Will save, maybe, but as it is, this is just awful.
Claw at the Moon – The bonus damage is good at this level, but it ages quickly. This isn’t terrible, but with all the other great 2nd level maneuvers available it’s not really worth taking, especially since many others also provide bonus damage in the same range.
However, as Draz notes,
Claw at the Moon is awesome for characters who multiclass into warblade at later levels. A Jump check that will beat AC is not hard to get for most characters. Hunter's Sense is often the most useful Level 1 stance for such a multiclasser, and to take it, first you have to take Wolf Fang Strike, Claw at the Moon, or Rabid Wolf Strike. Some characters never TWF and aren't particularly reckless, but have ranks in Jump, so CatM is their best option. YMMV though.
Rabid Wolf Strike – Your classic ditch-it-all, KO strike. Not bad at all if you plan on going Shock Trooper; combine with Wall of Blades for extra fun.
Battle Leader’s Charge – +10 damage at level 3 is fantastic, and this allows you to get into the thick of things without trouble. Just make sure not to get in over your head. A very worthwhile choice if you’re focusing on White Raven.
Tactical Strike – Nice bonus damage, and if you’re fighting in a cluster with your teammates it allows you to close on nearby foes or flee. Sadly, it doesn’t allow them to avoid full attacks, though.
There’s no question at all as to the best maneuvers this level. The standouts are Iron Heart Surge and White Raven Tactics, hands down.
Insightful Strike – The Insightful Strike line is really nice, and though this one has the least oomph of the bunch, it’s still excellent. At around the level you get this, with maxed Concentration and a masterwork tool, it’ll sport an average of something like 23 damage – and the damage scales naturally as long as you keep improving Concentration.
Mind Over Body – Fortitude is your best save, and as such this isn’t a very good choice. Sure, a Concentration check might be higher, but you’ll generally have Fort high enough already. It does stop you from failing on a natural 1, which is nice, but Mind Over Body isn’t generally worth learning.
Exorcism of Steel – Not bad at all. The save’s low, but it’s Will, which for melee enemies is usually weak, and the long duration ensures it’ll be in effect for the whole battle, at least most of the time. The downside is that it only works against manufactured weapons, but Exorcism of Steel is a very solid debuff to begin a fight with.
Iron Heart Surge – IRON HEART SUUURGE! C’mon, you really can’t get more badass than that. IHS is an absolute must as long as you have its prereqs; it will save your life countless times, I guarantee it. If it doesn’t, your money back, no questions asked.
Bonecrusher – It’s fairly straightforward, and not bad at all, with a nice dose of bonus damage. Unfortunately, by now you’re nearing the point where the bonus damage ages, and the Fort save for the extra effect is really low (though when you do sink the bonus to crit confirms, your resident crit fisher will love you). All in all, it’s pretty decent – but eclipsed by the level’s other choices.
Stone Dragon’s Fury – So…you can take this maneuver and get +4d6 damage against objects and constructs…or you can take Bonecrusher and get +4d6 damage against everything. Your choice.
Flesh Ripper – This maneuver is a prime example of ‘meh’. The effects are negated by a Fort save with a low DC, and even if they hit last for just one round. Skip it.
Soaring Raptor Strike – Quite nice, as you’ll be certain to run into larger enemies sooner or later. A load of extra damage and a bonus to hit; who can argue?
Lion’s Roar – All right, especially if you have a melee-heavy party. But you shouldn’t usually take it, because it lies far, far in the shadow cast by White Raven Tactics.
White Raven Tactics – Wow. The most valuable currency in D&D is that of the action economy, and this is quite a large check. It essentially lets you trade a swift action of yours for a full turn of an ally’s – and by RAW you can even use it on yourself!
There's no excuse not to take WRT if you can afford it.
This is a level dominated by Diamond Mind and Iron Heart. The best picks are Bounding Assault, Ruby Nightmare Blade, and Lightning Recovery.
Bounding Assault – A lifesaver. It lets you close on a faraway enemy or change places on the battlefield easily, being basically a charge that lets you move freely. If you’re a charger, especially one with Pounce, this is really good.
Mind Strike – Nice. Ability damage is always good, and Mind Strike lets you soften up targets for Will SoD/SoL spells, or, if you’re up against divine casters, rob them of spells.
Ruby Nightmare Blade – Double damage. How can you misread that?
Lightning Recovery – One of the classic Iron Heart counters. Missing is one of the most annoying and frequent setbacks a melee character faces, and rerolls can be priceless.
Mithral Tornado – Just like Whirlwind Attack, but it requires no feat investment and gives a bonus to attacks. Sounds good to me.
Bonesplitting Strike – Boils down to an attack that does bonus damage equal to your enemy’s HD. Nice, and it scales naturally as you face tougher monsters. The only downside's that it doesn't work against foes immune to Con damage.
Boulder Roll – Just say NO to overrunning.
Overwhelming Mountain Strike – 2d6 bonus damage may not be exactly as overwhelming as the maneuver implies, but denying your enemy a move action can be quite useful. Overall, a solid choice.
Death From Above – The Jump check is easy to make, the bonus damage is yummy, the target is flat-footed, rendering them vulnerable to Sneak Attacks and the like, plus it allows you to maneuver around into another square.
Fountain of Blood – If you’re facing a bunch of mooks, this can be quite nice. Ensures the foe you kill is dead and the save is against Will, which makes it more palatable. Plus, the effects last a long time
Covering Strike – An upgraded version of Douse the Flames, this deprives your foe of AoOs for three whole rounds, allowing you and your allies a lot of freedom to get into position or get out of there.
White Raven Strike – Excellent for setting up sneak attacks.
This is Tiger Claw’s time to shine: it has two splendid maneuvers this level, Dancing Mongoose and Pouncing Charge. But Iron Heart Focus is very good as well.
Disrupting Blow – Awesome for shutting down tough opponents, especially brute types with low Will saves. The save is reasonably tough, and denying opponents actions is fantastic.
Rapid Counter – An extra AoO never goes amiss, and can be used to feed Channel the Storm; this is a strong choice.
Dazing Strike – There’s no point taking this when you could take Disrupting Blow instead. Even if you don’t qualify for Disrupting Blow, the Fort save will be easily made by most monsters at this level.
Iron Heart Focus – Rerolls are priceless, and a single bad saving throw can put you out of the fight. Extremely useful.
Elder Mountain Hammer – The second Mountain Hammer maneuver, this is similar to its predecessor but with 4d6 more bonus damage. It requires a heavier investment in Stone Dragon, though, which can be problematic. If you qualify for it, it’s an obvious pick, but if you don’t then you can feel fine skipping it. The real point – avoiding hardness and DR – is just as intact in Mountain Hammer.
Mountain Avalanche – Quite decent. If your specialty is Stone Dragon, it’s a fine pick, though there are better choices at this level.
Dancing Mongoose – Awesome for TWFers, and great even for others. You really can’t go wrong with extra attacks, and since this is a boost you can even use a strike in the same round.
Pouncing Charge – Pounce. Is. Fantastic. You want this a lot. Unless you already have Pounce, in which case, you don’t.
Flanking Maneuver – As with so many White Raven maneuvers, this maneuver’s effectiveness depends heavily on party composition. It’s best used when there are sneak attackers present, as it allows them another sneak attack.
There are no enormous standouts this level, but on the flip side nearly everything is pretty solid. Manticore Parry, Greater Insightful Strike, and Moment of Alacrity are likely top, with honorable mention going to Rabid Bear Strike and Order Forged from Chaos.
Greater Insightful Strike – Just like its predecessor, Greater Insightful Strike is excellent. At 11th level, this will net you something like 2d20+40 damage, an average of 61: +4 or so from Con, +14 skill ranks, +2 masterwork tool, all doubled. It might not be as impressive as an ubercharger’s damage, but that’s all in one standard action attack.
Moment of Alacrity – Moving when you want to is good. Sometimes, really good.
Iron Heart Endurance – When stamina is a virtue, it can be a big plus never to start a battle with less than half hit points. Still usually a good idea to full heal via wands of lesser vigor or similar after every battle, though.
Manticore Parry – It’s very hard to go amiss with not only dodging an attack, but redirecting it at an enemy. And even if you're in a fight against a solo enemy, well...empty squares have 5 AC.
Unfortunately, though, this maneuver functions only against armed attacks. If you see a lot of armed opponents, it's fantastic; if you don't, it loses a fair bit of use.
Crushing Vise – It can be useful, but the downside’s that melee brutes (who increasingly become some of the only land-based foes) often have large reach that partially negates the downside of not being able to move. And if you’re in melee range, they’re likely to full attack in any case.
Iron Bones – At first level, DR 5/Adamantine for a round was incredible. At eleventh, DR 10/Adamantine for a round is nearly useless.
Irresistible Mountain Strike – What have I said about maneuvers with Fortitude saves? In case you missed it, here’s a recap: No, no, and no. The again, on a failed save this one carries a pretty nasty effect, so that serves as a partial salvation.
Rabid Bear Strike – Like most Tiger Claw maneuvers, this one is pretty straightforward. +4 attack and +10d6 damage in exchange for -4 AC: a worthwhile trade by anyone’s standards.
Wolf Climbs the Mountain – At the very least quite cool. I’d usually choose Rabid Bear Strike over it, but if you want to take this it’s a solid choice. Defensive bonuses and extra damage are always nice to have.
Order Forged from Chaos – The perfect tactical retreat or regroup, and it can be used very effectively to charge if your allies delay until after your turn; this way it can get everyone in position to full attack.
War Leader’s Charge – An upgraded Battle Leader’s Charge, this one’s identical but carries 25 more bonus damage. That’s never unwelcome, and because you’re likely to have traded the earlier version away by now, this is an excellent pick for chargers.
Similarly to last level, seventh is pretty hard to screw up. Avalanche of Blades, Quicksilver Motion, Finishing Move, Swooping Dragon Strike, and Swarming Assault are all stellar.
Avalanche of Blades – Very nice. It’s best used against foes who you’re sure to make at least a couple attacks against, though, because unlike a normal full attack, you stop as soon as you miss. Because of this, you probably won’t be able to Power Attack as much, but it's useful for a Combat Rhythm warmup.
Quicksilver Motion – An extra move action is superb. Not much more to say, really, except reiterating that bit about the action economy ruling D&D. Then again, there are other ways to accomplish this.
Finishing Move – Needless to say, you’ll never want to use this maneuver unless your target has less than half health, a point which you’ll find up will come up surprisingly often (who’d have guessed?). And 14d6 is quite a lot of bonus damage.
Scything Blade – An extra attack as a swift action is good, but this maneuver's use is limited. Dancing Mongoose is strictly better.
Ancient Mountain Hammer – At this point, you’ll only qualify for the last Mountain Hammer maneuver if you have a heavy investment in Stone Dragon, in which case you should take it without a thought. But otherwise…well, you won’t qualify for it anyway, so it doesn’t much matter.
Colossus Strike – At level thirteen, expect your opponents to make the save regularly. But if you’re standing on the edge of a cliff or over a pit of lava…well, you know you want to.
Hamstring Attack – 1d8 Dex damage is nothing to laugh about, and even better if it’s complementing Dex draining from the party caster.
Penalty to movement speed is just gravy.
Swooping Dragon Strike – A simply stunning maneuver. (Get it? Stunning? Heh.)
Normally, I know, I wail on every maneuver that allows a save. But in this case it’s not a measly Xteen-plus-Strength DC: the DC is actually equal to your Jump check. And if you’re picking out 7th level Tiger Claw maneuvers, your Jump modifier better be pretty high.
Clarion Call – Extra actions are what high level White Raven is all about; Clarion Call is a prime example (and therefore a prime pick). ‘Specially because, quite often, ‘allies within 60ft’ means the whole party.
Swarming Assault – Whoa! If you have a melee-heavy party, this is a primer pick yet. Ganging up on a foe like this is especially useful in a boss fight.
Too much goodness. The best are White Raven Hammer, Diamond Nightmare Blade, Adamantine Hurricane, and Raging Mongoose.
Diamond Defense – This is a real disappointment, overshadowed by the save-replacing line. With so many great maneuvers this level, you just can’t afford to take it.
Diamond Nightmare Blade – Like the rest of the Nightmare Blade maneuvers, this doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation. Times four damage. Seriously.
Adamantine Hurricane – If you’re adjacent to two or more foes, this is better than a full attack. And since you’ll often be in the thick of melee, that should come about quite frequently: this is a superb maneuver.
Lightning Throw – If cutting through hordes with impunity is your shtick, you can’t get much better than this.
Adamantine Bones – DR 20/adamantine is pretty awesome, but if you think that’s going to stop CR 15 monsters, you’re mistaken. Nonetheless, the fact that it stops a whole lot of Power Attack does make this better than its predecessors.
Earthstrike Quake – First of all, am I the only one who saw this and thought it was a typo? Really, it does look a lot like ‘Earthquake Strike’.
Anyway, this one’s pretty decent. While yes, the save is usually going to be made, if you’re surrounded by casters it can help. But on the other hand, no caster in their right mind is going to be within 20ft of you.
Girallon Windmill Flesh Rip – It’s rend-o-mania, and an obvious choice for TWFers. Take it and go to town (though of course, since it requires that you’re TWFing, non-TWFers shouldn’t touch it). Something to consider, though: Feral Death Blow is much better, and so it’s wise to trade this away.
Raging Mongoose – Nice! I was sold at ‘two extra attacks’.
White Raven Hammer – Automatic stunning for a round is insanely brutal, especially on solo encounters where you can gang up on it or sling around debuffs. An amazing choice.
This is what you’ve been waiting for. You’ve finally racked up seventeen Initiator Levels. You’re near the BBEG’s doorstep. So, what are the best?
Well, the thing is, you basically want to take whatever you qualify for. They’re all amazing. But the gold medal has to go to Time Stands Still, and silver perhaps to War Master’s Charge (though most of the time you’ll want Mountain Tombstone Strike as well).
Time Stands Still – Come on. It’s Time Stands Still. If you qualify for this, you’re taking it. Period.
Strike of Perfect Clarity – 100 extra damage is great. If you have the prerequisites, SoPC is an excellent choice, especially as it requires only a standard action and functions fine against enemies immune to crits. It's usable in pretty much every situation.
Mountain Tombstone Strike – Luckily for you, now that 3.5 is out of print there’s no chance of the prereqs being errata’d. In case you missed them: there aren’t any. Take it, for the love of the gods.
Feral Death Blow – The save is sort of low, and crit-immune creatures (read: a whole lot) are immune as well - plus it's a full-round action. But then again, it’s a SoD, and 20d6 damage even if they succeed.
War Master’s Charge – Amazing for a melee-focused party? This is the dream of every White Raven warblade, and if you qualify for it there’s no question as to whether you should take it.
There are, however, a few caveats to be aware of: it takes a full round action to initiate, sucks up an immediate action from your allies, and perhaps most importantly, allows an attack only against a single foe.