Great Axe Guide and Builds for New World

Last updated on Oct 22, 2023 at 12:30 by Lemoni 2 comments
General Information

Welcome to our guide for Great Axe, a weapon in New World. Within these pages, you will find everything required to understand how best to play with this weapon in both PvE and PvP.


Great Axe Overview

The Great Axe is one of the most popular PvP weapons, and can be seen frequently in PvE. It will almost always be paired with the War Hammer because of the complementary nature of these weapons, they are a great pair. The Great Axe will be seen as a primary damage weapon that is equipped with some of the strongest abilities, like Gravity Well Gravity Well, to help with crowd-control and stacking enemies on top of one another. In both light and medium loadouts it will have fantastic damage potential, and it is loaded with defensive passives and self healing. This is one of the easier weapons to use in New World and it is a nice option when just starting out. It can be used to level quickly, go through PvE content, and reigns as one of the top PvP options.


Great Axe Strengths and Weaknesses

V Strengths
  • +High damage output in PvP and PvE
  • +Best abilities in the game for CC and damage
  • +Easy to learn and very forgiving
  • +Great defensiveness and self-healing
  • +Can be used in any armor weight
X Weaknesses
  • -Is typically only seen with a War Hammer
  • -One of the most common weapons in New World
  • -Struggles if cooldowns are misused
  • -Mobility can be difficult due to collision
  • -Can be difficult to find War slots due to its popularity

Great Axe Builds

When it comes to Great Axe builds all three armor weights can play any option. Traditionally, light will be focused on mobility and lockdown, but there are situations that can be beneficial for heavier armor weights.

Typically, Maelstrom Maelstrom will be better for those staying in combat and playing in clumps. This does have great burst damage still and adds survivability.

Reap Reap will play with Blood Lust Blood Lust making it easier to chase down targets and keep them close so that you can lock down single targets. This is typically played in a light build. Tanky heavy armor builds may also use this to add CC in clump fights.


Maelstrom Mauler

  • Charge Charge — This is an extremely fast option for mobility to escape a fight or chase down a target. It does have collision, even with allies, so it has to be used with no obstacles in your way. This can also be a way to provide a quick burst of damage if used at close range immediately after finishing a light or heavy attack.
  • Maelstrom Maelstrom — This ability offers single-target and AoE burst. It then deflects all incoming projectiles, and it pulls enemies within its range. It will also apply a weaken with its perk. Prioritize using it in a clump fight, or if you have setup a War Hammer combo on a single target you can use it to quickly burst them down.
  • Gravity Well Gravity Well — This is the best crowd-control ability in New World. Much of the PvP META revolves around gathering up targets with this ability and pairing up crowd-control combos. This will pull targets, do great damage, and heal you with its perk. Avoid using it on a single target unless they are prioritized and the cooldown would otherwise be unused for a significant duration.

This is general standard build with this weapon combination. Use this build if you are wanting to stay in clumps and continue fighting. You will be focused on increasing damage by stacking Mauler's Fury Mauler's Fury.


Reap Bloodlust

  • Reap Reap — This will pull your target from a very far distance away. It is great for enemies who are escaping or to keep several targets in a clump and keep them close. It also offers some quick healing potential through its own passive in combinattion with the various other healing passives. Its perk will also add a slowing effect that makes it difficult to get away after being pulled in.

Use this while in light armor build when playing in a dive team, or a heavier setup where you are wanting more crowd-control. This is best for applying pressure to a single target.


Whirlwind Mobility

  • Whirlwind Whirlwind — In medium and heavy loadouts it can be beneficial to use this ability as a means of repositioning. It has a stacking fortify with its perk, deals good AoE damage, and has no problems with collision. It can be used to escape more easily in heavier weight builds that lack a roll.

Use this build if you are in heavy or medium and do not want to use Charge Charge for mobility. This will help apply a bit more AoE damage, add stacks of Fortifying Whirlwind Fortifying Whirlwind, and build Mauler's Fury Mauler's Fury. It can quickly build stacks, but you do not have the instant escape potential. This can be used as a repositioning technique. Think of Whirlwind Whirlwind as a boomerang and you use it to get out of a fight and reposition around to another spot within a clump fight.


PvE Options


Damage Crowd-Control

This can be used with a Hatchet or Greatsword in PvE to group enemies together and deal fantastic AoE damage.


Execute Damage

This is optimal for single-target damage if you choose to use a Great Axe as your primary weapon, which typically will not happen. But, if you enjoy this playstyle this can be a competitive build.


Second Weapon


War Hammer

For more detailed information on War Hammer usage and other aspects of its gameplay, please refer to our War Hammer guide.

The War Hammer is the main complement to the Great Axe. In light armor, it is perfect for setting up potent burst damage combos. In medium armor, you can play a defensive frontline bruiser equipped with all of the fantastic crowd-control options of the War Hammer, and still have high damage output. Every ability, especially Shockwave Shockwave and Wrecking Ball Wrecking Ball offer massive AoE stun and crowd-control pressure. On top of that Path Of Destiny Path Of Destiny also staggers and interrupts enemies, and applies a slowing debuff. No matter what ability hits a target they will always be affected by Aftershock Aftershock on top of the crowd-control effect.



For a thorough breakdown on the Hatchet and how it can be used, please refer to our Hatchet guide.



This is the standard build option in PvP. It provides survivability and CC escape with Berserk Berserk and Social Distancing Social Distancing. It also has single-target CC with Feral Rush Feral Rush and Social Distancing Social Distancing to lockdown players who are trying to escape. This is commonly seen as a utility secondary in PvP that is only used for its abilities.



This will act as a primary PvE DPS weapon that comes with an incredible amount of damage. You should never heavy attack, this is a DPS loss when comparing the time it takes to heavy attack with the damage it does compared to two light attacks. You will want to maintain Berserk Berserk, use three light attacks, then use abilities like Raging Torrent Raging Torrent for single-target or AoE. You will also maintain Rending Throw Rending Throw to increase damage output.





This is an uncommon pairing in PvP, but it does have some great viability when using a Great Axe build with Reap Reap and Blood Lust Blood Lust. Your Greatsword will function as your primary weapon and have incredble burst damage potential. The Great Axe just provides more mobility and more ways to CC your target.


PvE Damage



The tank role is one that will always be taking a Sword and Shield, but its secondary choice is up to the tank's preference. At times it can be beneficial to use a Great Axe

Tanks will have the ability to flex into many builds, but here is a great build that can be played in a heavy or light tanking setup.




Traditional Strength builds playing on points with medium armor will use this split. This is the standard bruiser setup in New World. In a light build you can switch to 150 Constitution if you want more damage, but it is not needed.

In PvE you want to play with as little Constitution as possible. As such, it is best to play around 100 Constitution, but you can go as low as 50.


Season One Bruiser

While many will still play the traditional bruiser attribute setup. It is also a great option to play at 300 Constitution to maintain constant grit and 200 Strength. You may have less damage, but you will have more survivability and can maintain clump fights.


Important Perks


Ability Perks

  • Insatiable Gravity Well Insatiable Gravity Well — (Armor) In any War Hammer build it is crucial to have this on your weapon. It will apply a large rend to anyone it hits, making them extremely vulnerable. This is necessary in PvP and PvE.
  • Enfeebling Maelstrom Enfeebling Maelstrom — (Armor) This is fantastic self-sustain. It is a great utility option if you can fit it into your gear.
  • Fortifying Whirlwind Fortifying Whirlwind — (Armor) When using a Whirlwind Whirlwind build this can be a viable defensive option.

Weapon Perks

  • Refreshing Move Refreshing Move — Great Axe abilities are incredibly strong, and because its attacks easily hit more than one target, this can be used to quickly reset abilities.
  • Thwarting Strikes Thwarting Strikes — This will apply bonus damage to all Great Axe attacks, making it one of the best perks available.
  • Attunement Perks — This can be used for a free damage addition on any hit, including abilities.

PvP Perks

  • Health Health — This provides free damage reduction against all sources and is one of the most beneficial PvP options.
  • Shirking Heals Shirking Heals — Incredible source of self-healing and allows for great survivability regardless of build.
  • Shirking Fortification Shirking Fortification — Can be a great complement to Shirking Heals Shirking Heals. Will add increased armor to improve overall defensiveness.
  • Freedom Freedom — This will allow you to play more aggressively by reducing the duration of crowd-control. You should play with either 3 or 5 stacks.
  • Elemental Aversion Elemental Aversion — Use this perk for elemental damage reduction from weapons like the Fire Staff.
  • Refreshing Refreshing — This can be an optional third perk when you want a source of cooldown reduction in your build.
  • Harnessing Perks — Stack these for increased damage if you chose to forgo defensive options.

Mortal Empowerment vs. Invigorated Punishment

In most light armor builds, or ranged builds, it can be very strong to snowball kills with Mortal Empowerment Mortal Empowerment, and drastically increase your damage potential. With that being said, it is important to note that this will not stack if a the weapons have persistent damage source, or DoT, deal the final blow. This means if Attunement or any Runeglass gem secure the kill, you will not receive a stack. This makes it inconsistent and not worth using in some builds.

When making this decision you also have to think about your likliness to be killed. If you are playing a light armor build, or one that is frequently diving into melee, you have high chances of dying. At that point if you lose your stacks, it is a wasted perk, especially if this happens multiple times, or in the middle of building stacks. As such, it may be more advantageous to use Invigorated Punishment Invigorated Punishment.

TLDR: If you are medium armor, want more consistent damage, or you have a high chance of death, Invigorated Punishment Invigorated Punishment is the better option. If you want to snowball and have insanely high damage, you have a pocket healer, you are a dedicated ranged build, or you simply do not care and want to gamble, Mortal Empowerment Mortal Empowerment is the better option.


PvE Perks

  • Elemental Aversion Elemental Aversion — This perk is a viable alternative in PvP as well, but is overshadowed by other PvP options. It provides great defensein mutated expeditions to help mitigate magical effects.
  • Physical Aversion Physical Aversion — Only projectiles that do physical damage will be mitigated by this perk. As such, it can be useful in PvE as another potential option. It alsoprovides a small amount of PvP value, but Elemental Aversion Elemental Aversion and enemy Ward perks are certainly more defensive options.

Jewelry Perks



  • Health Health — This is the standard pick for all builds, it is free health that will add to the defensiveness of your kit.
  • Stamina Recovery Stamina Recovery — This is a backpocket save when being focused and taking heavy damage. You will receive a burst of stamina that will allow you to potentially get a quick dodge that can save your iife and continue the fight.
  • Slash Protection Slash Protection — This acts as a third perk slot that provides more defensiveness against Greatswords, Great Axes, Hatchets, and Swords.














Minor Heartrune of Detonate Minor Heartrune of Detonate should be used for light armor builds where you are prioritizing burst damage or for medium Bruisers who are able to stay in AoE clump fights.

There are two viable upgrade options:

Brutal Heartrune of Detonate Brutal Heartrune of Detonate makes you more vulnerable, but will result in a massive AoE burst of damage. This is the preferred option.

Cunning Heartrune of Detonate Cunning Heartrune of Detonate is an interesting choice that can be taken. It will result in less detonate burst. But you will not be as vulnerable and can deal more damage with your melee weapons.

If you are looking for a more defensive option, Stalwart Heartrune of Stoneform Stalwart Heartrune of Stoneform will be best. The choice is up to player preference of more defensive buffs or self-healing. This will be typically used by medium armor players looking to push through chokepoints into the Fort in Wars, or just to be able to hold points more effectively.


Heartrune Usage Tips

Try to avoid using Brutal Heartrune of Detonate Brutal Heartrune of Detonate while you have low health or are being focused on. The goal is to start the ability and wait a short duration and attempt to dive in right as the ability detonates so you can catch enemies off guard and not be bursted down.

You can activate your Detonate and then use Charge Charge to "deliver" your explosion and time it right as you meet a clump of players. This will catch them off guard and will not be dodged in many cases.

Save your Detonate for when there are multiple targets stacked on top of one another. Preferably the targets will already be under some kind of CC effect, or exhausted and unable to dodge out of them. It is best paired with something like Gravity Well Gravity Well or Shockwave Shockwave.

When using Detonate try to time it right as you hit an enemy with another burst damage weapon ability, or something that will CC the target, like Shockwave Shockwave or Wrecking Ball Wrecking Ball. When pairing this with a Great Axe, use something to again burst the target, or pull them toward you, like Maelstrom Maelstrom or Reap Reap. This can result in a kill even when the target is full health.

When using Stalwart Heartrune of Stoneform Stalwart Heartrune of Stoneform, or other variants, you should save this for times where you are stunned or affected by other forms of CC. Alternatively, you can use this right before pushing through a doorway or chokepoint to negate the potential of being affected by CC.

Take advantage of down time to charge your heartrune. For instance if you are far away you might as well continue to try hitting targets or structures to build charge.

Your heartrune will charge fast. While it is obviously beneficial to hold for times where there are large clusters of enemies. Do not wait too long and continue to waste your cooldown when you would have had the time to get another one recharged. Get familiar with how quickly you can get it back online and do not hesitate to use it to secure high priority kills.

A Heartrune in PvE is significantly different than PvP. This will charge incredibly fast due to the sustained damage output on single targets. When using something like Brutal Heartrune of Detonate Brutal Heartrune of Detonate this is best used on large numbers of enemies instead of single target. With that being said, use this as many times as possible in a boss fight since it will be available and otherwise wasted.


Gems and Consumables

For more information on how to manage your cooldown hotbar, what consumables to use, what foods should be eaten, or tips on how to be more effective with your consumables in PvP and PvE, please refer to Great Axe Consumables guide.



Remember, Runeglass can only be slotted into armor pieces that are not jewelry items, and weapons.

Runeglass gems WILL NOT be the most optimal or efficient in the armor of a strict bruiser build . Please reference the FAQ section below as to why.


Weapon Gems

For any type of bruiser build it will be best to use any Runeglass variant of Cut Pristine Opal Cut Pristine Opal that applies a damage over time effect. For example : Runeglass of Arboreal Opal Runeglass of Arboreal Opal

In PvE it will be best to use Cut Pristine Diamond Cut Pristine Diamond for maximum damage output.


PvP Gems

In PvP combat your optimal resistance distribution is going to prioritize Slash resistance, then Physical, and lastly Elemental. This is the standard for any build where you will frequently be in melee range.

To hit a 22.5 (Slash)/12.5 (Physical)/7.5 (Elemental) resistance setup you will need:

Runeglass of Punishing Onyx Runeglass of Punishing Onyx results in marginal offensive gains for a bruiser build because of hidden internal cooldown effects. As such, it is preferred to take the defensive gains instead.


PvE Gems

In PvE combat, more specifically mutators, elemental resistance is the main concern.

You can use the following gems in your gear:

  • Elemental Resistance Gem x8 + Amulet Protection Perk (Based on mutator elemental effect)

Maximum Damage

In PvP and PvE you can still use Punishing Runeglass variants of your gems if you only care about raw damage, and not effective damage based on survivability. For example, you would use Runeglass of Punishing Onyx Runeglass of Punishing Onyx x5 in PvP

The age old saying: "A dead DPS does no DPS.", should come to mind when making this decision.



For more information on how to manage your cooldown hotbar, what consumables to use, what foods should be eaten, or tips on how to be more effective with your consumables in PvP and PvE, please refer to our War Hammer Gems Guide.


Rotation and Gameplay


Ability Priority List



  • Use Gravity Well Gravity Well on clumps of enemies, or on a priority target.
  • Use Maelstrom Maelstrom to pull enemies toward you and provide burst damage. It also can be used for defensive purposes.
  • Use Charge Charge to escape or to secure a kill and chase targets.
  • Consistently light attack targets in between abilities to maintain Mauler's Fury Mauler's Fury stacks or deal damage.
  • On players who are unaware, CC'd, or exhausted, it can be beneficial to use a heavy attack.

Secondary Weapon Priority List and Build Rotation

To learn how to use your second weapon properly, and complete rotation, please refer to our PvE and PvP build pages:


Gameplay Tips



You can feint attacks with melee weapons, such as the War Hammer or Great Axe, to try and bait an enemy into dodging and wasting their stamina. This can be done to try an exhaust enemies so that you can get free hits in. To do so, charge a heavy attack and block before the attack is initiated. This will make it look like you are swinging, and then you cancel the attack until you can strike at the correct opportunity.


Ability Weaving

With many melee weapons it is advantageous to weave abilities with other abilities or with light and heavy attacks. For example, it can be advantageous to hit a target with a light attack and quickly use Charge Charge to deal a large burst of damage to secure a kill. This same concept can be applied to Maelstrom Maelstrom to sneak in extra damage. If you choose to use a War Hammer, you can use Wrecking Ball Wrecking Ball and immediately follow that up with Shockwave Shockwave in most situations. Then, swap back to the Great Axe and begin dealing damage.

It is important to try and sneak in as much free damage as possible, especially in medium armor.

In all builds, especially when playing as a bruiser, it is important to synergize your abilities and attacks to setup lethal combos.


Charge Usage

Charge Charge is a great escape ability that will allow you to clear a considerable amount of distance at a high speed. The problem with it is that you can be "body-blocked". If you have an ally, or an enemy, anywhere near your path while using it, your charge will be stopped. This can result in a quick death in some cases, or the inability to chase down an enemy. So be aware of your surroundings when using this ability.

This can be a great ability to execute a target when they are low health. If you use a light attack, and immediately follow it up with Charge Charge while in melee range, you will perform to quick swings that deal significant damage and are hard to avoid.


Gravity Well Usage

This ability is one of the most important ones in all of New World. It is what begins fights, clumps targets, and can be the difference maker in many battles. Be sure to not waste this on a single target unless it is a healer or other priority target, and it is absolutely necessary. Do your best to gather as many targets as possible.

Gravity Well Gravity Well will pull targets back to the center of the Well. This can be used to pull back an enemy who is running away. Additionally, if placed properly, this can pull enemies off of walls or ramparts and allow for easy priority kills.


Maelstrom Usage

This is an incredibly potent source of AoE or single target damage. It should be used on as many targets as possible to build Mauler's Fury Mauler's Fury stacks, and deal high damage.

It can also be used for its utility. It will deflect all incoming projectiles and abilities, even Ice Spikes Ice Spikes, and could potentially save your life. Also, it will pull enemies toward you which can be the difference maker when someone is escaping. If you choose to use Enfeebling Maelstrom Enfeebling Maelstrom, this is a very strong defensive tool and should be prioritized on as many targets as possible.


Proper Cooldown Management

Great Axe cooldowns are very impactful, so a player needs to recognize when they have a window of opportunity, perhaps when there are several targets stacked on top of one another. With that being said, you also need to be cognizant of how to reduce your cooldowns. Thankfully, this is very easy with this weapon--either hit enemies, or be hit by enemies.

Refreshing Move Refreshing Move is free cooldown reduction from swinging light and heavy attacks, and it can quickly reset cooldowns when hitting multiple targets at once.

Refreshing Ward Refreshing Ward will provide cooldown reduction while staying in clump fights. When you have multiple stacks on your gear this will reward you from receiving hits, not from DoTs or persistent damage, and will allow you to frequently use abilities, especially when combined with Refreshing Move Refreshing Move.



Effective movement is incredibly important in a build like this, especially when playing in medium. Do not panic and use your entire stamina bar and exhaust yourself, as it may result in death. You can take advantage of jumping, diving (going prone while moving), and changing direction by quickly moving your mouse or taking advantage of quick inputs on your movement keys.

There are many movements in New World that will stagger you in place for a moment when quickly changing direction. If you move left and right or if you jump left and right you will notice there is a momentwhere you will be standing still. To prevent this you will need to use a key input while your character is in the animation. For example, if you hold your left directional key and jump then right before you land you hit your right directional key and jump, you will quickly jump left and right. If you simply run left and right using your directional keys your character will respond similarly. To avoid this you can move left and then right before you pivot to go right, hit the backward directional key and instantly follow up with your right directional key. If you continue doing this back and forth you will avoid the sliding animation.


War Hammer Usage

The War Hammer is the perfect secondary complement. It has endless crowd-control potential that will allow the Great Axe to shine by locking down several targets at a time, and providing self-sustain through its defensiveness and healing.

To learn more about ability usage and the intracies of the War Hammer, please refer to our War Hammer guide.


Hatchet Usage

When deciding to use a Hatchet with your Great Axe, this will either be for PvP survival and utility, or PvE damage output.

Please refer to our Hatchet tips for more on this playstyle.


FAQ - Great Axe


What Should I Use For Cooldown Reduction?

Generally, in any bruiser build where you are consistently fighting in melee clumps, your best perk for cooldown reduction will be Refreshing Ward Refreshing Ward. When stacked on multiple pieces of gear, this will result in large amounts of cooldown reduction and allow you to use more abilities. The bruiser melee META consists of primarily medium armor Great Axe and War Hammer builds. Since you are more defensive and can take far more hits than a light armor player, especially with a healer in your group, the difference between a perk like Refreshing Refreshing versus Refreshing Ward Refreshing Ward will be very noticeable.

  • Refreshing Refreshing — Reduces max cooldowns by 2.9% per stack.
  • Refreshing Ward Refreshing Ward — Reduces active cooldowns by 1.9% after being hit 4 times. Does not trigger off persistent damage, DoT effects or blocked attacks.

What Gems Do I Put In My Gear?

When playing a bruiser build it will be tempting to use Runeglass of Punishing Onyx Runeglass of Punishing Onyx. While this will provide a damage increase, there is an internal cooldown when using something like a Great Axe, which is your primary damage in these types of builds, which will only allow it to proc every other hit. So, this will not actually be as much of a damage increase as it was thought to be. In most cases, just use regular gems for more defensiveness. The marginal damage loss will be made up for by survivability.


What Magic Damage Should I Use For Runeglass, Attunement, and Chain Damage?

It is best practice to use a magic damage type that is the least likely to be countered. While most players tend not to focus on a specific magic damage type like they do for physical damage, it is still possible. In most cases, players may use extra Ice damage protection due to the Ice Gauntlet, or Fire due to the Fire Staff or Blunderbuss. As such, Nature, Arcane, or Lightning damage can be beneficial options. Nature specifically is beneficial because it will always work in PvE environments because it is never weak to any enemy types.



  • 22 Oct. 2023 (PvP builds page): Guide updated for expansion.
  • 22 Oct. 2023 (PvE builds page): Guide updated for expansion.
  • 22 Oct. 2023 (gems page): Guide updated for expansion.
  • 22 Oct. 2023 (perks page): Guide updated for expansion.
  • 22 Oct. 2023 (abilities page): Guide updated for expansion.
  • 22 Oct. 2023 (this page): Guide updated for expansion.
  • 28 Mar. 2023 (gems page): Updated PvE gems.
  • 28 Mar. 2023 (perks page): Updated perk tiers for Season One.
  • 28 Mar. 2023 (this page): Updated perks, gems, and heartrune.
  • 09 Feb. 2023 (PvP builds page): Guide added.
  • 09 Feb. 2023 (PvE builds page): Guide added.
  • 09 Feb. 2023 (gems page): Guide added.
  • 09 Feb. 2023 (perks page): Guide added.
  • 09 Feb. 2023 (abilities page): Guide added.
  • 09 Feb. 2023 (this page): Guide added.
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