• Bares mostly like the taste of fase!

Leveling

Hey, everyone.  Long time, no post.  I started leveling another Druid so I could pick up writing a Guardian leveling guide for LFD junkies.  Instead I was quickly sidetracked with how nearly unplayable it felt when first entering dungeons at 15.  As in, worse-than-swipe-at-32, unplayable.

This is my feedback and my rant.

Weird rage quirks – I spoke with someone on this, and they suggested it was akin to low level spells having smaller cast times and/or cooldowns because of the limited amount of abilities provided in total.  But, Rage per Auto Attack (RpAA) will go down as you gain levels until it plateaus at level 21.  That is, when we gain bear form at level 8, we get 27 rage per auto.  At level 9, 24 RpAA.  Level 10, 21 RpAA.  Level 11, 20 RpAA.  It then goes down 1 rage per level until 21 when we get the 10 RpAA that we are supposed to.  This is problematic for various reasons and I will describe most of them below.

Abilities – At level 15, we have two damaging abilities.  One with a 6 second cooldown (mangle), and one with a 3 second cooldown and a hefty cost of 30 rage(maul).  Both of them hit pretty soft.  Maul hardly hits for more than an auto attack.  Savage Defense has its large 60 rage cost, making it largely unusable, and Growl is just Growl.  At level 18, we gain Bear Hug – which is mostly useless and only mildly useful in certain situations.  At level 22 we gain Swipe.

That’s 7 levels without an AoE.  I’m not alone when I say that I believe all tanks, not just Guardians, all tanks, should have at least 1 AoE button to use upon entering LFD at 15.  It just makes life easier.

Instead for 7 levels, this is what we experience: Mangle, wait, wait, wait, Maul, Mangle, wait, wait, maul, wait mangle, wait wait wait, mangle, maul, wait, wait, maul.  That’s the sugar coated version.  What’s really happening during those waits is: Growl, no wait, chase that one down, no wait, mangle missed (EXPLETIVE), oh, maul missed too?  Word.  Lost threat here, don’t have enough rage there… Why does my face hurt?  Oh god oh god oh god, 60 Rage for Savage Defense, WHERE ARE YOU.  Get 60 rage – oh, look, mobs are at 10% health or there’s 1 left and it’s a caster, GREAT.  *thumbs up*

. . .

To be quite honest, at 15, rage isn’t too much of a problem.  Why?  Because you’re getting 14 RpAA.  Two autos and a Mangle gives you enough for a Maul, and it’s not that bad of a wait to be able to hit SD if you plan (way, way) ahead.  As you go forward, however, you’re getting less and less rage.  It is 100% noticeable.  You may not know that you’re getting less RpAA at higher levels, but you certainly notice being unable to hit Maul or SD as much as you started out being able to.  That is massively frustrating.  We go from having a certain amount of rage generation to less rage generation with the same amount of abilities, and getting and keeping AoE threat actually gets worse the closer you get to 22.

This was my typical rotation for a pack of 3 or more.  Run in and Growl #1 on the way in, auto attack #2, Mangle #3, Maul #1 if I lost it, whirl back around and auto attack #4, mangle #2 before I lose it again, maul #4…  For 7 levels.  For 7 levels I frantically switched targets, mashing Maul, mashing mangle, tab auto attacking, keeping growl almost on CD, praying neither of my physical abilities got parried, dodged, or missed, and bemoaning my inability to hit SD as my health seesaws back and forth because I need to use my rage on Maul.  Occasionally I’d be able to shift out and Moonfire 2 or 3 mobs on the pull, but if I had any amount of rage I’d stick in bear form because I know I’d need it sooner rather than later.

It’s also quite ironic that the one scenario where Thorns would actually have been helpful… and it was removed from the game.

And Bear Hug?  1 minute CD.  We can hit it and switch targets as a form of AoE opener, but it is really nothing special.  At level 18, we don’t want a stun on a 1 minute CD that we can kind of use for threat or kind of use for an interrupt.  At level 18 we want our AoE abilities because 3 levels of hell just happened.  Bear Hug just adds insult to injury at that point.

18-22 was the same rotation as above with Bear Hug sprinkled in out of complete necessity, not out of wanting to use the ability.  I only used it because I needed to, not because I wanted to.  It is a very lackluster ability and to be quite honest, we can do without getting it so early on.

Level 22 and we finally get swipe.  Oh my god, a breather from the hectic need to grab AoE threat with limited abilities and resources.

Except…

Swipe, Mangle, Swipe, wait….. wait…. Swipe, Mangle, Swipe, wait…. wait…. Swipe, Mangle, Swipe, wait….

We just went from frantically running around to: “oh… my-god… this is so painfully boring.  What… I can’t even…”

Why not add in Maul for a bit more flavor?  Well… Because Maul is a trap.

See… I know I should be saving my rage for Savage Defense.  Say what you will about low level dungeons but it’s still easily possible to drop dead if your healer is only half paying attention.  Especially if you have those swell DPS that like to run ahead of you and “accidentally” pull more packs of mobs as though the large pack you have now is beneath them to kill first.  DPS must flow…

Maul… hardly does more damage than an auto attack with a cost that’s too great for the damage it does.  And, I’m sorry, since when did MAUL go from “OH GOD MY FACE” to “heh heh… hey, that tickles… ^.^”?  Not cool.  Not.  Cool.

The average new Guardian isn’t going to know that, however.  They will have just spent 7 levels (perhaps more if they quested in Bear form) using Rage on Maul and probably ignoring Savage Defense because it wasn’t damage.  And they needed damage because the damage output is woefully slow and small that every bit was necessary.  It’s also teaching Guardians how to play incorrectly.  It’s teaching them the wrong priorities.  It can’t be helped because of the poor ability spread (I’ll get into that too, don’t you worry), but nevertheless, it’s teaching them to do it wrong.  They will get to higher levels, still be hitting maul, get asked why they’re not using SD and answer “lol, because I need rage for damage and SD costs too much”. (note: I am not saying that SD’s rage cost is too high)

Well… life gets a bit better at level 28 when we finally receive abilities that reset the CD on Mangle: Thrash and Faerie Fire.  In addition to that, Thrash will buff the damage of Swipe.  AoE ceases to be an issue and Rage flows a bit more freely – getting even better at 30 with the addition of Primal Fury.

But, that’s 15 levels of suffering in order to get the point to where it’s comfortable to tank and not feel awful about it.  Is that really necessary?  We’re back to the days of “just don’t tank until level 32 when you get swipe.”  There’s nothing fun about Guardian LFD leveling 15-28.  Nothing.  It’s awful, it’s mundane, it’s painful, there’s no synergy between abilities, there’s hardly anything to press, it’s frustrating, and if I was a new player I’d be completely turned off from Guardian until much later, if not forever.

That’s not Okay.  It was not Okay to tell Bears to wait until 32 to tank in Wrath, and it’s certainly not Okay to tell bears to wait until 28 or 30 to tank again.  Wrath was doable – we had thorns, maul hit really hard and rage was not in short supply.  This?  MoP?  It’s almost unbearable (no pun intended).  It nearly made me give up on it.  Never enough rage, abilities hitting for very small amounts because of the low base damage which was caused by unlimited Vengeance – which you don’t see very much of in low level dungeons.  I get, maybe, 50 extra AP?  That’s not enough to make a difference, even with chain pulling.

___

Moving on to the ability spread.  It’s… terrible.  Again.

  • AoE at 22, when it should be at level 14, 15, or 16
  • Bear Hug at 18, when it should be much later, allowing for something else to be moved down
  • Thrash and FFF at level 28.  2 abilities that reset Mangle, when 1 of them should be moved down (FFF to 18?) much earlier to get used to the synergy.
  • Ranged pull ability at level 28.  Compared to 20 for Warriors, 10 for Paladins and 10 for Monks.  Again, FFF to 18.
  • Lacerate is fine as is, though moving it lower wouldn’t hurt.
  • Barkskin: level 44. Availability feels a bit high still.  The SM dungeons hurt a bit more and the lack of cooldown is no fun.  It’s an improvement from getting it at 58, however.
  • Enrage: Level. Seventy. Six.  Is this for real?  Seventy-six?  Warriors get theirs at level 18 and they certainly have an easier time tanking – and do more damage.  What the hell?  What?  Oh, no.  No, no, no… I don’t want my resource generating ability until WELL AFTER I have very few problems generating it.  You must have me confused for someone that NEEDS it.  I can’t even talk about this without wanting to swear, so I’m just going to say: Lower the level we get Enrage.  By a lot.  Soon.  In 5.1.  Please.  Do it for Baby Cenarius.  Move like… Bear hug to 76.  I can live without Bear Hug until that point.  Really, I can.  I can live without Bear Hug until 90.
  • Seriously, take Bear Hug out of the level 18 slot.
  • … no really.

 

Low Level Guardians need a ton of help.  I took no enjoyment away from leveling my new one.  It wasn’t fun, it was tedious.  I did it because I had to, and the only “wanting” to was for the purpose of experience in order to give this feedback.

All I can do is provide this feedback and hope that they will be looked at, else we will be telling other guardians not to bother with tanking until 30 levels in again.

4, 3, 2, 1…. Launch!

December 6, 2010

It is Cataclysm release night, as you all know.  Since I am highly distracted at this time, I’ll just get right down to it.

I made a sort of checklist for the Launch, just to make sure I’m prepped to level as quickly as possible and so won’t feel horrible after the grind.  Now, I am going to a friend’s house for Launch and having a bit of a LAN party.  Should be fun. ;)

One of the first things I did was make sure I had an entire quest log full of quests and dailies to turn in once it hit 12:01 PST (3:01 EST, QQ).  These quests included all of the Argent Tournament dailies, all of the Icecrown Gunship dailies, and Ebon Hold dailies.  I also managed to get my hands on the 10 and 25 man Malygos key quests from Sapphiron.  So technically… I have 27 quests available to turn in.  Yay me.

In an effort to ease travel time, I decided it was a good idea to front the gold on a Kirin Tor ring and get the Argent Tournament tabard.  Quite frankly, this is the fastest way around when turning in Dailies.  There are a few different start points.  One is starting in Dalaran to get the flight training for Azeroth, then porting to the Tournament grounds and flying from there.

The other is logging out at the Hodir dailies and then Flying/Porting to Argent Tournament, then Flying/Porting to Dalaran for training.  Me?  I’m logged out at Wyrmrest Temple, next to the daily quest guy there (it’s not that much xp, but I used it anyway).  Turning in that quest, accepting one key quest, turning it in, accepting the other key quest, turning it in, then warping to the Tournament and going from there.

Another thing I did to prepare, was cut gems and get enchants to turn all of my tank gear into DPS gear for leveling.  Since I am doing at least one BRC before any questing, I didn’t want to convert everything into DPS gear right away.

As you can see, I also have a lot of consumables.  I stocked up on health potions, bandages, speed potions, flasks, and agility and hit(leftover) food.  I also nabbed a second Berserking enchant scroll for the inevitable weapon replace in Deepholm.

I should also note that I’m going to be turning off a lot of “pretty” addons for slightly faster load times.  If you have any kind of memory hog addons (I’m looking at you Recount), I recommend turning them off for the time being.

The Real Life Thing:

Now, I’m all for not sleeping for however long in order to get to 85.  Am I trying for realm first?  I’ll try.  I won’t be mad if I don’t get it, because I’ll still be one of the top regardless.  However, this kind of extended play has its health hazards.  I know a lot of you will just grab like chips and mountain dew or something to wolf down as you’re playing.  Gotta say, not the best idea and you’ll end up feeling like complete shit when all is said and done.

Those of you not sleeping, honestly, don’t be stupid about it.  Drink water and drink juice.  Eat small portions of food when you do eat (overeating makes you sleepy!), and generally stick to fruits, nuts, granola and pasta for energy.  I’ll probably be precooking some food so I can have something quick and easy to reheat when I’m hungry.

I recommend stretching at least once every hour (though I know how easy it is to lose track of time).  Sitting hunched next to a computer for hours on end will definitely cause your nerves and joints to hate you.

My leveling plan is this:

Turn in all of my dailies and get to Hyjal (Moonglade port; screw trying to find NPCs in a massive crowd).  Once at hyjal, skip the very first area and fly to the second, where I will get the breadcrumb quest for BRC.  Take mole machine next to that little gnome (who is quite near to Baron Geddon) to discover the entrance to BRC, then take the mole machine back and queue for the instance with my pre-made group.  Since I know the zone, I can probably get them to push through quickly enough.

After BRC, I’ll start questing in Hyjal with my leveling buddy Dasmaul.  The instant we both hit 82, we’re going to Deepholm.  The instant we hit 83, it’s on to Uldum.  Now, Uldum is pretty long and some of the quests are pretty grind-y.  It helps to have a leveling buddy for them, for sure.  At 84, we’re going to Twilight Highlands.  They upped the experience needed to go from 84-85.  You should still only need to do TH for that level, but it should also take you through most of the zone (I was barely into it when I dinged).

The good thing about having Beta is, I know which quests to poach from to get ahead of the pack and screw others into falling behind.  I’m pretty bad like that.  I’m sorry, I’m not going to share. :)

I should also note that I will be streaming the entirety of my sleep-deprived leveling.  Good times.  Second post to come once I get all set up at my buddy’s house for LAN and Cataclysm shenanigans.

Low Level Bear Tanking

November 28, 2010

With so many of our skills just out of reach at higher levels, low level bear tanking has become quite the pain-filled challenge.  That does not mean it is impossible. And while I realize the extra effort required to tank well may discourage people from playing bears, I, for one, enjoy the challenge.

For talent choices, please view Lissanna’s Feral Tank Leveling guide.  There are some kinks in the spec to be worked out (mostly what to take in tier 2 first), but I agree with everything there.

Have a read through the comments, as well.  Helpful suggestions surfaced quite rapidly after I made this post. :)

If you want to do this successfully 90% of the time, you will most likely need the outside help from a few mods and macros.

These include:

Tidy Plates and Tidy Plates: Threat Plates, or any name plate mod.  Threat Plates is absolutely amazing for tanking.  Mobs name plates that are attacking you shrink down, and those that aren’t grow in size, making them easier to target.

Omen

Any unit frame mod or hud that lets you see your rage easily (I use Shadowed Unit Frames positioned near the bottom-middle of my screen.)

Any unit frame mod that lets you see your healer’s mana easily (I use Grid + TipTac mouseover tooltips)

OmniCC or a mod that tracks your cooldowns.

A growl mouseover macro that will also taunt your current target if you have no mouseover.

#showtooltip
/cast [target=mouseover, exists] Growl; Growl

or

/cast [@mouseover, exists] [] Growl

And last, but not least, a very thick skin.

___

In order to tank well at low levels, there are a few things you need to keep track of, and the above mods will help with that.  With everything we have being on a cooldown until Lacerate at 66, you need to plan ahead and maintain a good amount of situational awareness.  That means zooming out and moving your camera around a bit while fighting to make sure you’ve got everything covered, monitoring your ability cooldowns and monitoring your rage bar.

Additionally, it really helps to keep your main abilities in an easy-to-reach place.

Within the first few pulls, you should have an idea of what your group will be like.  If they follow along behind you and only attack when you do, you will have a very smooth run.  If they go ahead and pull for you and lay down everything they possibly can before you’ve established a lead, you’re going to have a “fun” time keeping the mobs in line.

You are going to be hugging your growl button.  DPS that pull threat and pull for you may deserve to die, but it’s a part of tanking and still your job to get threat back.  There is a point, though, where growling off a DPS isn’t worth it.  If you’ve asked them to stop and they antagonize you or ignore it, it’s not worth your time to stress out over it.  Let them hit what they want to, and keep the rest of the mobs off the others and your healer.

That brings me to my next point:  Don’t stress out while tanking.  If things are rough because the group is being impossible, don’t let it get to you.  Harder than it sounds, I know, but if you keep calm you’ll be able to tank that much better.

One last point before I get into specifics.  I know a lot of people say “just tab target and you’ll be fine.”  I say it as well, and it’s true… to a point.  The point is: Blizzard’s tabbing system sucks.  It’s not a “smart” tab and it will target whatever the hell it wants.  I actually don’t tab target most times.  I click target.  With threat plates, it’s easier to click target a mob not on me and way more reliable than “tab and hope it gets the right one”.  With the mouseover growl macro, you can grab something without switching targets.

Pulling -

There are a few ways to pull that will get mobs on you from the start.  Before you get FFF (level 26), you have 1 option for ranged pulling: Growl.  It’s not that effective and can be a pain if you need it early on, but it gets the job done.

Most of your pulls will only be about 1-4 mobs.  The easiest way to go about this is to growl one, switch targets, mangle that one, switch targets, maul one and then go back to the original target.

With pulls that are large groups (the gnome groups in Gnomregan spring to mind), there is almost nothing you can do to effectively get all of them on you.  You would do the same method as above (plus FFF if you have it), but as soon as they’re in melee range, you will want to hit Demoralizing Roar to at least keep them on you for the first second.  Now, Demo Roar is really terrible threat.  It’s a set amount that gets divided amongst the number of mobs it hits.  But, with pulls like these, get the elites on you if there are any, then methodically go through and get the other little ones.  Don’t pull your fur out trying to do this.

Another option for huge packs is, if you have Enrage available, use Thorns on yourself, go bear, enrage, run in and demo roar.  This should get them all to hit you at least once and give you slightly more time to get them under control.  As always, change targets as often as possible.

When you get Feral Faerie Fire, threat will get easier.  At low levels, FFF’s threat is amazingly good.  However, there is an oddity with FFF and Feral Aggression.  If you use FFF to pull and are not already in combat, you will not receive the bonus threat of the extra stacks of the armor debuff.  You need to be in combat to receive this bonus threat, so I still recommend pulling with growl, and then hitting your next target with FFF.

Threat in Combat -

Now, you’re done with pulling, more or less, and your DPS decide it’s “happy aoe fun time”, or “always attack a different target time”.  If you focus on one target, you will lose the others.  To keep mobs on you, there are a few things you need to do.

1.  As always, switch your targets constantly.  Use a different spell on each target.

2.  Pay attention to Omen as you’re switching through.  If you have a high threat lead on a mob you can leave it and go to the next.

2a.  There will be times when a DPS is focusing everything into one mob.  If you have a threat lead on the others, start focusing on that one mob.  The easiest way to tell this is happening (outside of seeing “losing threat” all the time), is to watch the health bars of the mobs.  If one is going down quicker than the others, that’s the one you want to focus on.  If you don’t have a threat lead on the others (all the DPS attacking different things), then just go back to using your highest threat abilities on the one most likely to pull threat and switching to the next likely.

3.  Try to primarily use growl to bring mobs back to you instead of throwing all your abilities into it.  When you use growl, yes, you want to use another ability on the mob to bring your threat higher.

Dealing with Adds -

It’s going to happen.  Even if it doesn’t happen, you need to expect that it’s coming anyway.  This is where situational awareness and multitasking is key.  You can’t tunnel-vision and expect everything to fall in line.

If you notice adds are closing in, or a DPS face-pulls, or anyone pulls additional mobs for that matter, your job is to temporarily stop all threat on the mobs you’re currently tanking.  If you don’t, nothing will come off cooldown in time and you’ll be stuck.  Most add pulls are 2-3 extra, and given your arsenal, you have Mangle, Maul, Growl, and FFF.  Plenty to deal with everything.

Getting adds on you is the same as an initial pull (minus thorns, obviously).  In the process, chances are you will lose threat on your original pack or on one of the new adds.  If growl is on cooldown, don’t sweat it.  Just keep switching targets until growl is off CD, then use growl on CD afterward if you need to.  Your healer will probably not be pleased, but it is what it is.

Rage Management -

Rage, that I’ve noticed, doesn’t seem to be much of an issue (because damage intake is so high, ouch!).  However, you should still be monitoring your usage of it.  With Maul costing 30 rage, it’s not a good idea to use it if you have under 40 rage.  If you have a threat lead on the mobs your tanking, you can afford to just white attack and use FFF on cooldown to fill up your bar for the next pull.

Getting caught with no rage is rough.  Pay attention to it!

Healer Mana and Chain Pulling -

Now, when I say chain pulling, I don’t mean pull as much stuff as possible.  I mean maintaining a certain speed that allows you to immediately pull another group after one has died.  Pulling this way depends on how competent your healer is and how much mana they have.  It doesn’t hurt to tell your healer that if they need to drink, they should tell you and ask you to stop.

If DPS run off and pull more things while your healer is drinking, ignore it until the healer runs to save them or lets them die.

Adding in Swipe -

At the moment, Swipe is severely bugged and is doing very little damage at the moment.  At most, it’s best used for initial pick up and not much else beyond that.  Even with Swipe, you will still need to change targets often.  Obviously you should be using it when you can, but don’t rely on it to keep threat off AoEing DPS as well as target switching does.

Single Target Threat -

Use everything you have all the time (except maul if you’re low on rage).  If anyone gets even close to you it’s because you got RNG gibbed and had a streak of misses, dodges, and parries.  Single target threat is ridiculously good.

Survivability -

Let’s be honest here: Bears are fucking squishy until they get Thick Hide, and again when they get Savage Defense.  You don’t have any kind of cooldown until level 49 when you can talent Survival Instincts (Wtf is that Blizzard?).  I personally think it’s bull, but this post isn’t about what I think… It’s about how to tank effectively. :)

Use Demo Roar.  Keep it up at all times.  It won’t shave off much, but it will shave off damage.

If you have to, warn your healers that you will take a silly amount of damage on bosses so they’re ready for it. (pre-hot, shielding, already casting when you pull, etc)

If you’re running with a class that can stun, ask them to stun as often as possible.  Oddly enough, most early bosses aren’t immune to them.  If your group is accommodating, ask them to CC, or use roots to pull.  Just about every boss can be pulled alone, so make sure you do that.

___

That about wraps it up.  If I’ve forgotten anything, let me know and I will add more information.  My success with lowbie tanking stems from my experience, so it’s easy to forget some points.  And by success, I mean almost being able to handle this:

“Hay Reesi, I made friends for you!”

(For my UI info , visit this post.)

I was unable to complete Uldum and TH in full, but I got enough experience (and 85) out of it to write up a few paragraphs.

There are a few corrections and clarifications I need to make from my previous post.  You do not have to do all of Vash’jir to get into the instances there. Apparently I failed at going down the vortex when I tried last weekend.  Just swim into the sides of it and it’ll take you down.  I recommend getting sea legs first, at least, because the swim down takes a long time otherwise, heh.

There will be no rested experience available on launch.  It will all get reset.

If you can complete BRC in less than 20 minutes a run, it could yield better results when compared to Hyjal.  Especially if your server is very populated.  According to a few posts on EJ, the BRC option is really only good for 1 level.  Experience pretty much gets gutted when you hit 81.

If you are able to quest in a small group (1-2 other people), I really recommend doing so.  Mob XP is insignificant when you compare it to quest XP, and since mobs start to take a long time to kill past Hyjal(though there are a few mobs that take time to kill as well), the more fire power you have, the better.  Plus, splitting up for kill x number of mob quests is fairly ideal when faced with competition.

One last tip: There are a lot of cutscenes while leveling.  If you don’t want to spare the time, hit escape to exit out of them.

Moving on…

Uldum (83-84) – About 4 1/2 – 5 hr to complete (guessing)

Uldum is the second longest questing zone in Cata, so the sooner you get out of it into Twilight Highlands, the better.  That said, Uldum is about the zone where you’ll start replacing your gear with greens and blues (few quests in Deepholm will do the same – I replaced my 284 weapon with a blue from there… and cried a little.  It was very dramatic).

A lot of the quests in Uldum felt very grind-y to me.  There were the usual kill x number quests, but there were also the lovely loot quests with a medium drop-rate on said items you need to loot… and what seemed to be a limited number of mobs.

Oh, and an amazing Katamari quest:  Gnomebliteration!

I was admittedly singing this song while doing it.

(If you’ve never played Katamari… it is ridiculously addicting.)

Anyway… Again, the quest chains and breadcrumbs are fairly straight forward.  There was only one quest that had me hung up on progressing through the zone: On to Something Really it was just a case of “I didn’t read the quest” and got completely blocked because of it since it didn’t show up on the map quest tracker.  I’m so good at this game. :)

I only got about halfway through Uldum.

Twilight Highlands (84-85) – About 4 hours (guessing – possibly less to hit 85)

TH is the end zone.  You will be replacing all your gear with this zone, no questions.  I was only about 1/3 of the way in when I got 85 (starting from 84 1/4 or so), but TH just plain hits hard.  Pulling more than 1 mob at a time is dangerous.  TH is one of those zones where it’s good to be in a group.

I will say this: Horde have the better entrance quests/event into TH.  Much more epic than Alliance.  Lucky bastards.

Alliance have a quest called Dropping the Hammer.  Again, with a case of I-didn’t-read-the-quest-itis, I foolishly tried to go up to the floating rocks and kill off the guys I needed to.  They knockback.  Repeatedly.  Resulting in a dead druid.  Repeatedly.  Although one time I did get Going Down? Hop on the gryphon.  It saves lives.

TH also has its very own Ring of Blood, called The Crucible of Carnage.  You can’t solo this and doing it with less than 5 people is rough.  I’d most definitely have a full group for this.  The quests reward 100k+ XP per quest, and it nets you a large chunk of a level.  I have to say, the last quest for this is pretty damn well done.  The fight is easily better than any Wrath heroic boss ever was.

Unfortunately, there is no feral weapon reward .  The quest that has a good item is this one: Narkall, The Drake-Tamer. For the Staff of Draconic Pacification.

Even after you ding 85 in TH, I’d still complete it for the quest rewards.  I’m not sure how soon after dinging you can do Heroics safely.

And that’s that.  Cata leveling is fairly quick and, if you’re that kinda person, can be done in well under a day.  I believe it took me about 16-17 hours or so.

Okay, okay.  I told myself I’d start writing this stuff up this weekend (and should be 85 tonight to finish it off) and I’d like to start getting these posts out so I can work on EVERYTHINGELSE™ I said I would (which include another stats posts, racials posts, and finally going through all the available heroics gear and compiling a BiS pre-raid list.)

Leveling Tips:

Turn on the name option that shows you NPCs and Mob names based on quest status.  This is on by default (Interface Options > Names > Dropdown Menu > Select “Quest NPCs”) and it makes it super awesome for questing because you are able to see the mobs you need to kill from far away without needing to mouseover or wait for a health bar.

If you’re directionally challenged like me, or just plain don’t want to read the quests, Blizzard’s quest interface is actually fairly good.  Clicking on a number on your map will bring up the general area of where quests happen.

If you’re interested in leveling as fast as possible, do not be nice.  You are a druid.  That item on the ground that some guy is fighting a mob to get to?  Flight form and take it from him.  It’s an asshole thing to do, and that’s exactly what I will be doing(and it’s exactly what other people will be doing), but to get ahead it’s what needs to happen. :P  If some guy is clearing his way to a mob that you need to kill, sprint and get there first, or stealth and get there first.  You could probably group up if you don’t want to be THAT big of an ass.  There are a few mobs that are a pain waiting for a respawn for.  Assholery will pay off.

As a feral druid, you have several gap closers and ways to pull quickly.  Growl, FFF (glyphed), Feral Charge (cat and bear – though they share a CD – glyphed), and do not forget that Skull Bash also acts as a charge.  Additionally, you could probably moonfire spam pull.  Try to pull a bunch if you have Berserk up and go bear form.   Bear Berserk + large group of mobs = dead really, really, really fast.

Things to do before servers go down:

Clear your bags.  If you can, get at least 20-slot bags.

If you like to get an experience lead, fill your quest logs with dailies (argent tourney and hodir) and turn them in before going to Hyjal or BRC.  If you can, get quests like Algalon’s Reply Code Alpha, the Malygos Key quests (from Sapph – I think 10 and 25 are separate?) and the last part of the Battered Hilt chain(need to confirm that one), do so as those net a large chunk of XP.  The faster you can get out of the starter zones, the better.

Set your Hearth to Stormwind.  If you’re turning in Northrend quests, log out where those quests are.  You can hearth to SW and pick up Hero’s Call: Hyjal (or, I think – need to check – you can just straight Teleport: Moonglade and skip SW all together)

Set up a Leveling spec.  I set up my cat bars last night in Deepholm and I was getting crit left and right in cat spec.  After about 4 mobs, I was below half health with LotP and with NI.  Cat technically should be able to kill faster, but bear is sturdier and allows you to pull large groups and AoE them down with or without Berserk.  Having a hybrid spec that caters to that is best.

What I’m considering: 0/31/5 I may go 2/3 furor and 1/2 Pred Strikes; That’s preference. (Note on my glyph choices: Thorns can be substituted out for Ferocious Bite, depending on your play preference.  I personally forget thorns even exists, so I will likely change that to Bite or Maul.)

Level 81 – Master Shapeshifter

Level 82-83 – Survival Instincts and Nurturing Instinct – either or depending on preference

Level 84-85 – Endless Carnage

Plan of Attack:

Levels 80-82 – Hyjal (Completed)
Levels 82-83 – Deepholm (Completed)
Levels 83-84 – Uldum (Incomplete)
Levels 84-85 – Twilight Highlands (Incomplete)
Optional: Vash’jir (Completed)
Optional: Blackrock Caverns Grinding – still need to test this (Incomplete)

The Leveling:

As a note: Leveling times were estimated and done with little-to-no competition for mobs.

Hyjal (80-82) About 3 hours to complete

Hyjal will get you to 82.  We should have experience bars available with 4.0.3a, so there will be rested involved as well.  All of the quest zones have been greatly streamlined.  Each hub gives you breadcrumbs to a new one.  If you run out of quests, you missed a trail somewhere.  Occasionally Ysera will appear before you to give you more options.  One of the easier missed trails is just after you complete the quest The Bears Up There.  You get a follow-up, but there is also a breadcrumb that appears from a mounted NPC standing just outside the Grove of Aessina that allows you to progress into the Shrine of Aviana quest hub.

The above is the first quest hub split of Hyjal.  You can either go south into the Flamewake or east to the Shrine of Aviana.  I recommend going to the Shrine first.  One of the quest lines of the shrine sends you very near to the quest hub in the Flamewake, so once you get the quest Fact-Finding Mission, you can finally go start Smashing Through Ashes and work your way through Flamewake.  Or you can go do the quests at Sethria’s Roost and then Flamewake.  Either or. :)

The very last quest line for Aviana can either be really fun for you or monstrously frustrating.  I’ve leaned more towards monstrously frustrating.  The quests are a tribute to the old arcade game Joust.  The controls for the hippogryph are, in my opinion, very awkward.  Turning and gaining altitude are a chore if you’re not used to it.  At the end of all the frustration, you receive a non-combat mini jouster.  Either blue or gold.  I chose blue:

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If you can manage to hit 82 without doing that chain… don’t do that chain until 85 if you want the pet.

There is also a quest, very early on, that allows you to take a Mole Machine to the Blackrock Caverns instance portal.  The NPC is right near Baron Geddon.  You can take the machine there, discover it, take the machine back and continue questing.  If you zone in and turn the quest in, you cannot use the mole machine to return to Hyjal.  It disappears. That’s probably the best way to discover BRC to be able to queue for it.

One last thing that I found amusing… When you’re doing the Shrine of Goldrinn quests, you’ll come across this fellow in a cave:

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If you’re not in a hurry, click on the dialog bubbles.  He gets hilariously angry at you when you stall.

Deepholm (82-83) About 4-4 1/2 hours to complete

Hearth to SW, train (Druid trainer is in a house by the lake north of the dwarven district.  And a Worgen), and get the quests to lead into Deepholm.  There are two.  One to go to the Vortex, the other to scry and view what’s going on at the Vortex.  Scry first.  Trust me.  You won’t be able to go to the Vortex otherwise.  The entrance to Deepholm is nothing short of epic.

The quest lines are very straight forward and I only have a few things worth mentioning.  Mobs started to hit a lot harder around here and you will either spend more time in bear or more time healing yourself.

There are at least 2 quests that have NPCs you can’t seem to find to kill.  This is because they are on floating rocks above you.  So if you’re flying around where the skull is on your minimap and you can’t find the stupid thing… Look up. :)

The quest On Second Thought, Take One Prisoner has the potential to be annoying and time consuming.  When you’re on an alliance gunship (there’s only one), be ready for this one.  You have to subdue the Ogre Mor’norokk the Hateful.  Once he’s down to about 10%, he’ll become friendly.  At this point, people can poach the quest complete (and so can you) and you’ll have to wait for the respawn to try again.  It doesn’t matter who brings him down, it matters who talks to him first after he’s friendly. If you want this done fast… right-click fast.

Lastly, the quest Wrath of the Fungalmancer is a bit confusing on where to start.  If you enter the cave and there is no NPC there, chance are someone else is doing it.  Wait just inside the entrance of it for Earthmender Norsala to appear to start the quest event.  Again, this quest can be poached if you aren’t quick.

Vash’jir (Optional) About 5-6 hours to complete

The reason Vash’jir is optional is because of the time it takes to complete the zone compared to the others.  I only gained about a level and a half, which I would do in deepholm for an hour or so less time.  The zone itself is huge(and beautiful), and being underwater makes it a bit more difficult to move around.  However, you will have to complete Vash’jir at some point.  Vash’jir houses the Earthen Ring quartermaster who appears about 1/3 of the way through.

Once you’re past the first quest hub, you are able to obtain a seahorse mount through a short series of quests.  Once you learn the mount, you can then use Aquatic Form for the same speed.  I have no idea if this was intentional, but it rocked.

There are a few quests in the beginning two quest hubs that are hidden.  You’ll forgive me if I don’t list the names right away.  Kill any eel to unlock a quest to kill more eels.  Kill a red crab (you kill yellow-skinned crabs for a quest) and loot to unlock a treasure chest quest.  Kill a muckcrawler (the man-like crab things) and loot to get a quest.  Kill a goblin treasure horder and loot to get a quest.

Vash’jir basically just keeps on going and going and going…  The lore is quite good, but like I said if you want to level quickly, avoid this zone.

Also:

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Sealmonster!

I should be finishing up Twilight Highlands and Uldum this weekend.  The BRC test will happen later, probably right before beta closes, as that’s going to be more accurate information on the experience gain.