Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Raiders' Guide to Leveling in Cataclysm

The future is just over that horizon. No, the other one... to the right.

Here is some advice about the progression to level 85 that I think will be good for raiders to keep in mind for the way we play.

1. Run Dungeons
Raiders do this anyway, but the dungeon paradigm has changed so much from what it was in Wrath of the Lich King, and we have had no real opportunity to test ourselves in five-man content for some time. Learn all these fights on normal for when we come back on heroic. Besides, you want the drops. You can also accrue Justice Points for lvl 85 gear. The 4000 JP cap in place now will let you buy about a piece and a half of gear, so I seriously hope it will be removed or raised when leveling starts.

2. Hit your cooking/fishing/JC dailies from the start.
You'll need special currencies to advance your skills here, so try to get started collecting that stuff as soon as possible. All three of these quest givers lurk out on the canals in Stormwind. Admittedly, I don't think you'll get raid buff goodies out of fishing, however, I'm not sure I have found a recipe for anything other than fish. And you'll get skill points for completing that daily, at least.

3. Mind your leveling path.
On Dec. 7, you will choose to go to Vash'jir or to Mt. Hyjal. (see the comments about factions below to help you choose) Both of these zones have narratives that you sort of have to start from the beginning. And it seems to me that those narratives are meant to take you through level 82 or so. So, imagine that you go to Hyjal for a while and then get tired of it and go to Vash'jir, it's like you are starting over on your gear acquisition. Sooner than not, you'll find exactly the same chestpiece you picked up in the other zone, or the same sword, maybe with haste rating instead of crit. This is not worth your leet effort. You'll also bump into green quests that don't give you as much experience fairly soon. After doing one of these two zones, head for Deepholm.

4. Locate the instance entrances right away.
You will not be eligible to enter a dungeon until you have found the entrance for yourself in the greater world. The new Blackrock dungeon is easy to find, and there is a quest giver easily spotted who will take you right to it. Getting to the Throne of Tides, will be more difficult however. I strongly, strongly recommend playing through the first 12-15 quests in Vash'jir, even if you head off to Mt Hyjal after that, so you can get Sea Legs and an Abyssal Sea Horse. Without those, I'm not even sure if you could reach the Throne of Tides. You'll need an invitation to The Maelstrom before you can find the Stonecore, but it's right there when you do. Flying into Uldum or the Twilight Highlands and finding those instances should be no problem. Again, if you don't find these entrances on your own, you can't even queue for them in LFG, or your friends will have to summon you there. Don't be the douche bag waiting for the summon.

5. Get cracking on your faction reputations.
Head enchants are scattered all over. Figure out which ones you need and then get a tabard and wear it as soon as possible. If the Earthen Ring has your head enchant, then you'll need to go questing in Vash'jir right away. If you need Guardians of Hyjal rep, then you need to go there first. Therazane rep in Deepholm works much the same as the Sons of Hodir did in the Storm Peaks. At first, they hate your guts, but eventually you quest for them and finally you can get some shoulder enchants. You need shoulder enchants.

(Actually, this is one of my conditions for raiding that I always check out when somebody new comes along. If you haven't made the effort to get your shoulders enchanted, I will doubt your commitment to making a worthy raid effort and probably tell you to take a hike. There are plenty of shortcuts to leet gear but only one way to get your shoulders enchanted. Yeah, it's a little arbitrary, but then, so is Gearscore. My system measures attitude, not an easily confused e-peen number.)

And don't ignore Tol Barad! Although it is the PvP zone somewhat similar to Wintergrasp, the faction rewards there are not PvP. There are trinkets and level 85 weapons you will need, so check those out.

6. Don't overreach.
Back in Lich King, you could easily jump into a lvl 80 dungeon when you were 78, and unless your whole group was a bunch of spazzes, you could take care of business and get the job done. In the Cataclysm, you could jump into an 85 dungeon when you are 83, but to quote that sage, Illidan Stormrage, "You are not prepared!" It was kind of fun, this past summer, when they first opened those high level dungeons and the wail went up among beta testers. "Too hard!" they said. And finally, a clearly amused Ghostcrawler wrote back saying that trying to do 85 dungeons in 83 gear was never meant to be possible. It would sort of be like running Utgaarde Pinnacle if you were level 75. It's certainly conceivable to do this, but would be more trouble than its worth.

7. Have fun!
The content is only new once! Don't forget to read your quests!!

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