Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Priest Levelling Spec, or "Discipline Means Spankings"

Having so many alts, I have a little experience with all the classes. Except warriors. I've never gotten a warrior past level 10. However, I feel confident in stating that priests are probably the toughest class to level. I love playing my priest - standing at the back of the group, trying to keep everyone alive, is a fun (depending on the group, of course) challenge, and the priest certainly has the bells and whistles needed for healing. Levelling one, though, makes me sad (my paladin wasn't the only character I nearly deleted at 20 and used as a bank for awhile).

I talked about how specs are important for levelling speed in a previous post. I don't know if you'll find a better example of that than the priest class. I suspect most people start levelling a priest because they want to play a healer, so there's some resistance to speccing any other way than Holy. I can confirm that it's a long, hard slog if you're going to level that way, though. Stuff takes forever to die, and so it's easy to run out of mana between smiting your mob and keeping yourself healed. So unless you're levelling with a group or by pugging instances, I think you should steer clear of a holy build.

Shadow has been the talent tree traditionally used by levelling priests. Mobs die quickly, there's a fair bit of mana regen, and mind flay is the most mana-efficient damage spell you'll ever wield as a priest (especially in shadow form). Elysaa, my priest, levelled most of the way from 20 to 70 as shadow. It worked pretty well, especially in the high 40s, but after that, survivability started to suffer somewhat. I turned back to shadow once I decided my dual-boxing experiment was over (I had been levelling her as holy alongside my affliction warlock), and was very happy with the damage. I did find that I was dying a lot, though. If I picked up a second mob, I'd start running into mana problems as I fought them and kept myself healed up. Keeping myself healed would take me out of shadow form, losing me a lot of mitigation and damage unless I could expend the mana to pop back into shadow form again. If a third mob showed up, I was probably going to die.

Other priests in our guild suggested I go discipline. I had looked at discipline, and have always liked the tree (I started playing months after Burning Crusade, so I don't know what it was like earlier). Our earliest discipline advocate had switched over last summer because it was the best PvP tree, and he spent most of his time in battlegrounds. A later addition, who only started playing after Wrath launched, had levelled to 80 mostly as discipline, and found it to be very good. After playing with shadow for a day, I respecced to discipline.

Here's the discipline priest levelling spec I'm using right now. Unlike shadow, a build like this is good for levelling and healing instances. There are a few points that could probably be moved around to suit another playstyle, but I think this is an all-round good levelling/healing spec. Now, don't get the idea that I'm jumping on the discipline bandwagon. I still prefer holy for healing instances, and will go back to it at 80. In the meantime, discipline combines damage and survivability in one tree like no other.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More Levelling Tips From An Altoholic

As promised (threatened) last week, I'm continuing with my basic levelling tips. While some of them may seem straightforward or common sense, I seem to encounter a lot of people who aren't doing some or all of these things. I'll continue with my three questing-related tips.

Green Means Go, Red Means Stop: A lot of people try to do yellow, orange or red quests because they are worth more experience than green quests. That's true, but a little misleading. A quest gives the same amount of XP whether it's red, orange, yellow or green to you. Quests do give significantly less experience when they turn gray, of course. While it would be nice to do the higher level quests, it would only be beneficial to you if you could complete them as quickly as the green quests. It usually works the other way, however - you can complete green quests a lot more quickly than orange or red quests, or even yellow quests. Even with the "kill x mobs" quests where you do receive less XP per mob because they're green rather than yellow, the speed increase is usually worth it, especially since green mobs die a lot faster than yellow ones.

Coordinate Your Quest Paths:
One thing I see fairly often is people grabbing a quest or two, running halfway across the map to do them, then running back for more, or even worse, getting another quest that takes them the rest of the way around the world. Twenty minutes of travel to do ten minutes of questing just isn't efficient. It's also often the case that if you're doing a quest in an area, there are other quests that can be completed nearby. There are plenty of places that offer lots of quests at once, and a little reading or research can suggest efficient quest circuits to complete them. Whether you have an epic mount or are running, travel still slows you down, so cutting down on unnecessary travel is nothing but a time saver.

Feel Free to Move About the Country: The last tip is to move around. Yes, I just said that unnecessary travel is a waste of time. Travelling from one level-appropriate quest hub to another is ultimately going to be a time saver. Let's face it - you can start questing in Stranglethorn Vale at level 30, but there's no way you're going to gain fourteen levels by questing there so that you can complete all the quests there. In the 30 to 45 range, though, there are clusters of quests available in Stranglethorn, Hillsbrad Foothills, Thousand Needles, Dustwallow Marsh, and the Badlands, for both Horde and Alliance. There are also quest chains that involve several of those zones. Travelling between zones, doing the quest chains, and doing a bunch of green and yellow quests while you're there makes for a much more efficient levelling experience.

Ok, so now that we've got all that covered, how do you know where to quest? Sites like WoWwiki and Wowhead have lots of quest and zone information available. Addons like QuestHelper and Tourguide can also help. Levelling guides can also be helpful, especially with making sure you're as prepared as possible for quests that have prerequisites or materials that can be gathered beforehand. I've tried a couple of levelling guides, both pay and free. I have to say that I recommend Jame's levelling guide and some of the other guides at wow-pro. I've said it before, anyway. They're free, and there's a community there contributing guides and feedback. They also have an addon (there's one for the Horde, too) based on Tourguide that I'm really liking right now. Just a warning that the addon version of the guides are still under development, so there may be issues. I sometimes hear people say that levelling guides take the fun and exploration value out of the game. That may be, but I also found as a first-time player that a guide was helpful in at least identifying zones that I should be questing in, and which order to try.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mea Culpa

Ok, I said I'd finish my post on levelling tips today. I'm a filthy liar.

Totem? Darn Near Killed 'em

As I alluded to in my first post, I'm pretty new to shamaning and shamaninity in general. I never really "got" the class in the same way I did the others. That has changed. At least for enhancement, and I think I have a grip on the other specs as well. Not that I feel like I can explain it coherently, but after grappling with it, it fits snugly in the brain in the same way calculus was difficult to grasp until it just snapped in place one day.

Shamalamabam is now flying through the levels faster than any other character I've had, not counting the granted levels I admitted to in the aforementioned first post. She is able to solo mobs I haven't been able to with other classes ("Hello, Drillmaster! Goodbye, Drillmaster!") at the same levels, and is doubling my XP/hour rate that I had achieved with my first couple of characters. Not that this is terribly difficult, but still....

To me, as a levelling shaman, the secret is that the shaman truly is the jack of all trades, master of none. I don't need to be master of any, though. Wearing mail, I can take a beating better than most other classes. Drop a magma totem and throw out the odd chain lightning, and I'm an AoE class. Smack me too hard, I can toss out the heals. Add in 5 stacks of Maelstrom Weapon and my heals are instant-cast but full-strength. So I can't take a beating like a warrior, can't AoE like a paladin or mage, heal like a holy or resto character, or DPS like a rogue or warlock. Who cares? Having the whole bag of tools is sometimes better than having the world's best hammer, or saw, or whatever.

I now ride around, pull mobs like my paladin did, and ask them to gather round while I slow fry them with my magma totem. With windfury on one weapon and flametongue on the offhand, I start smacking the biggest mob, or the caster. Whenever I get my stack of Maelstrom, I check my health. If it's getting too low, I cast a heal on myself. The fact that it's instant keeps it from getting interrupted, and allows me to move while healing if necessary. If I don't need a heal, I'll use it for an instant chain lightning. Most mobs go down in a few seconds, and I switch to the next mob that looks like the most trouble. Drop another magma totem as necessary, and four or five mobs are gone in 30-40 seconds. Not as good as my paladin, who can handle 5 or 10 pretty easily, but a heckuva lot faster.

All in all, the process feels much like it did with my paladin - the higher my level, the more interesting the levelling. I can't wait to see what it's like for me in Northrend.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Levelling Tips From an Altoholic

So I hit level 70 the other night on my Paladin, Amildelais. This is a remarkable milestone when you consider I was going to delete her at level 20 and spared her simply for bag space. Time played to 70 was an unremarkable 11 days, 23 hours and 50+ minutes, but that is a record for me. I do have a tendency to stay logged in while my attention is elsewhere; obviously I have a concentration problem that contributes to my altaholicism. My first character to 70 was a rogue with just under 30 days played, and my second was a priest with almost 20, so I am learning. I thought this to be an opportune time to relate some of the things I've learned about levelling.

Always log out in an inn or major city

I don't have specific numbers, but did notice that when I had rested bonus, I'd do about 50% more XP per hour on my rogue than when I didn't. Every 8 hours you're logged out in an inn or capital gives you another bubble of rested bonus, up to a maximum of 30 bubbles (or 1.5 levels worth). I can see not doing so if the travel time to where you're questing is very long, and your time logged out will be fairly short. Otherwise, you're just hurting your levelling speed for no good reason.

Spec is important

Yes, I know, you plan on being a healer. Great. But unless you're constantly grouped with a friend or levelling in instances, your healing spec is going to take you a lot longer to level than your damage spec. I tried levelling my priest as holy for a level in the 30s, again in the 40s, and one more time in the 50s. It's true, there was a lot of survivability, but every fight was taking 1-2 minutes, and I was having to stop and drink a lot. As shadow, I found that I was killing mobs in 20-30 seconds on average, and my healing was good enough for instances into the 60s. Tanking specs can be slower to level, too, but I have to say that Amildelais was protection all the way through, and levelling just got faster and easier the higher she went. You may have to experiment to find the right mix of talents and gear for your own character, but don't deliberately cripple yourself when it isn't necessary. Having said that, I'm levelling a druid with a friend right now. He's gone resto, and I'm feral. We're doing quite well with a healer/bear combo. Stuff takes forever to die, but we can pull 5-10 mobs at a time so we make up for it.

Trade skills can be time sinks

When you play only one character, it may be important to level professions and tradeskills. Be mindful of the time you spend working on them, though. I already have 2 characters with cooking skills approaching 400, and one with a fishing skill above 400. I don't need every character to have a fishing skill of 400, since I can only fish with one character at a time. Same holds with cooking. Most crafting skills can be powerlevelled fairly quickly at high levels, so why bother spending time at low levels working on them? The items you can make and use while levelling are usually sold at a loss in the auction house by others who are working on their own crafting skills. Gathering skills are nice, but they also take a lot of time to develop. You may find it faster to level once you have an epic mount. I like having a couple of gatherers, and levelled characters while working on mining and herbalism, but I won't be working on any more. Why have yet another character mining copper for a couple of gold per stack when I can log in for a few minutes on my warlock and make much more money picking some herbs in Northrend? I do think every character should level their first aid, but in most cases you should easily gather enough materials simply from questing. The only spot where I run into trouble is mageweave, and grinding some extra ogres while questing in Tanaris will solve that pretty quickly.

These are just a few tips. I'll follow up on Thursday with more.