Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Levelling’ Category

Maybe you’re like me; totally psyched for Cataclysm, starting to be a bit bored with current content, wanting one last run through Old Azeroth before it becomes New And Improved Azeroth (Now with 500% more Lava!). And you’ve rolled, or are thinking of rolling, a class that can heal. Let’s say you’ve never healed before. Does the prospect seem daunting?

It definitely can, especially at low levels when you don’t have as many healing abilities. Team that up with low level tanks not having all their mitigation abilities and low level dps being no better than top level ones at not getting face stomped and a pug of RFC or Stockades suddenly approaches the difficulty and pain of a Blood Princes encounter.

The first thing you have to do is start thinking like a healer, and I think the most important skill there is triage. It’s a term referring to what battlefield medics or ER staff do; assess the injury status of patients in such a way as to save as many lives as possible.

For triage in WoW to work, you need to know what your abilities are and what they do. Even at low levels most healing classes will have at least a long slow big heal and a short fast small heal. Some classes already have hots or shields or other ways of preventing or healing damage. Make a mental inventory of all these.

Next, assess your party makeup. I’ll assume a classic five man group; fewer than five man and the problem gets easier. Our imaginary party will be a young Warrior tank, a hunter and his pet turtle Bessy, a frost mage, a rogue, and you, a priest (translate this to whatever healing class is appropriate; the priest is a good one for this scenario).

Notice that I set up this party so that other than the hunter’s Mend Pet ability, nobody else has healing spells. We’ll assume the rogue can bandage and likes to do so. Everything else is up to you.

Now set up a priority queue in your mind. It goes like this:

You
Tank
Whatever DPS has done the least to make your life miserable or you are romantically involved with
The other dps
The pet
The DPSer you are romantically involved with if he forgot that your birthday was last week

This is the “keep them alive” priority and not the “heal them” priority. What’s the difference? The “keep them alive” priority stays static the whole time; it doesn’t change unless someone annoys you enough to move down the ladder, or brings you chocolate and wine and moves up the queue. The “Heal them” priority queue changes every second of the fight. Here’s how it work.

You engage a small patrol. The tank picks up aggro and starts taking damage. You throw him a Power Word: Shield and a Renew and he stops taking damage while the shield is up. When it wears off, he starts taking some damage again. The Renew is a Heal Over Time spell and mends some of that damage, but he’s down about a quarter of his hit points and the mobs are still hitting him, so you start casting a Heal. (Assume you don’t yet have Greater Heal). Now he’s got his health back. You refresh the Renew, the mobs die, and everyone’s happy.

That one was easy! Only the tank needed healing. You adjusted your heals based on what he needed to keep his health bar full, didn’t waste mana, and nothing got scary.

Now on to the next pull. This one has more mobs and some of them are ranged. As you throw a Renew and Shield on the tank, it causes you to get aggro from one of the casters, who starts throwing ice bolts at you. You immediately put a shield on yourself and since you don’t have much damage, a Renew. Then the mage gets attention from one of the mobs, who wanders over and starts hitting him. The mage panics and runs over to you and then frost novas and runs away, leaving the mob right next to you. The mob decides that you look tasty and starts biting you. Meanwhile the tank just got critted and is at 50% health and falling.

Summary: You and the tank are both being actively hit
The mage is not being actively hit
You are at 70% life. The tank is at 50% life. The mage is at 30% life.
What do you do?

Well, whatever you do, you’ve got to get the mob off you. Take a few steps toward the tank. While the frost nova holds the mob can’t bite you. When it wears off, it will have to come toward the tank to get you. At the same time, refresh the Renew that’s on yourself. Now pay attention to the tank! If you can shield him again, do that. If the Renew is gone, refresh it. Then cast your fast quick heal, Flash Heal. It doesn’t do as much, but your tank is hurting bad and you need to get some breathing room. Often a couple of quick fast heals will get you enough breathing room to have time to cast your long slow top-them-up heal.

Now the tank is at 70%, you’re at 85%, and the mage is still hurting. If you can spare time, drop a Renew on him and let him stew. If you eventually have the time and mana, Flash Heal him to about 80%. More than that is a waste of your global cool downs and mana. He should have learned his lesson and not pull the mobs again this fight. A few missing health points is a good lesson.

Oops, mobs still not dead. The tank has them all now, but the hunter, who has been afk, finally wakes up and sends in his pet, who growls at one mob and gets it to turn and fight him. Bossy the Turtle takes some damage. You can choose to heal it, or not; the hunter ought to Mend Pet on it and he was stupid to have its Growl on, but the pet is doing good dps and if you can spare the mana, give it some love.

And the rogue is taking a little aoe damage. He bandaged himself earlier when things were messy, so now you drop a shield and a Renew on him, and then turn your attention back to the tank who is in need of more Flash Heals.

Oh, dear – you guys just aggroed the boss who was wandering around, and he runs in and throws a big AOE that damages you all pretty badly. What do you do now?

Throw a shield on yourself and the tank (if you were a druid you’d be dropping more HOTs on you both here) and then cast your AOE heal. Sorry paladins, you don’t have an AOE heal, but the other three classes do and this is where to use them; you’ve got at least three people hurt and the tank is not taking so much damage that your heal can’t keep up.

Now you’re all at manageable health. Go back to the tank, keep him alive, and – oh dear. You’re out of mana. This will be fun.

Warn everyone “OOM!” and hope they get the message. No matter how much damage is flying around, do not spend mana on heals for anyone except you and the tank, and mostly the tank. If he drops you’re all dead, whereas if you keep him alive you might survive this.

Every time you have enough mana, cast your Flash Heal. It’s the fastest cast you have and so will get you back into mana regen mode as fast as possible (takes five seconds after the end of your last cast for your mana regen to start actually doing much).

Now let’s talk about what happens when things really go haywire; multiple groups of mobs, aggro everywhere, tank getting low, mage getting squishy, and your own special set of ravenous admirers.

First off, don’t panic. Easier said than done, but don’t panic. If you do, things will get worse. The worst outcome here is a wipe. Nothing can be worse than that. Your goal, once things start going turnip-shaped, is to keep yourself alive at the end. Everyone else is a means to that end. Remember, you have the magic res fingers!

If you are to stay alive, that means someone has to kill the mobs that want to eat you. Probably that means keep the tank and some dps alive. Sometimes it means all the dps die really fast and you and the tank slug it out slowly with the last few mobs.

start with keeping yourself alive. That might mean moving instead of healing; go over to the tank and hope he pulls the mobs off rather than trying to heal through the bites. You are not the tank. Don’t act like one. If you have damage mitigation cooldowns, use them. A druid should throw a hot on herself, throw Barkskin, and go to the tank. A priest should shield herself. A Paladin can use Hand of Salvation or Divine Protection (use HoS on yourself, Divine Protection on the tank, and gain some breathing room).

Next, if the tank is getting low, throw heals at him while you scan everyone else. Is there someone who is very low but not actively taking damage? Throw a hot or shield or Flash of Flight/Flash Heal at him to give him more breathing room. Someone who is low and actively taking damage, and not the tank, is probably going to die no matter what in a “ah crap” situation. Don’t waste mana and GCDs on a mage who has three mobs on him. He will die and his friends will come eat you next. It is his job to ice block at this point and avoid death, not your job to save him.

Heal the most likely to survive; this is why it’s triage. You decide who lives, who dies. Who is stable or could be stable with minimal intervention? Did the hunter just have his pet growl mobs off of you? Heal that pet, unless the hunter is about to die, in which cast that’s wasted mana.

Keep an eye out for environmental issues that affect you; fire on the ground, curses. Moving cuts down on your heals but so does being dead. Some curses can be ignored or healed through. If you have a curse that makes your casts take 50% longer and it can be removed, remove it! The one GCD and minimal mana you spend there pays for itself almost instantly. On the other hand, if it’s a curse that makes you have 100 less skill at Bows, like in SFK sometimes, ignore it.

Avoid tunnel vision at all costs. I think this is the number one cause of healer death; you’re too busy staring at the health bars to notice the gnolls eating your spleen. One of the best tools for preventing tunnel vision (and sometimes for causing it) is a good raid healing frame mod. Healbot and Grid + clique are both popular setups; my personal favorite is Vuhdo which I think combines the flexibility of Grid with the ease of setup of Healbot. Other sites have done far better rundowns of how to install and tweak these; if you’re stuck for ideas, I recommend visiting the http://www.PlusHeal.com forums and their UI and Mods subforum to see screenshots and suggestions of Healer UIs. Sometimes though healing frames can make tunnel vision worse, when all you focus on is the part of your screen with little boxes and icons. I suggest moving the frames somewhere near the middle of your screen and forcing yourself to see other areas.

Other than that it’s about practice, practice, practice. Going into battlegrounds can be good practice at getting a UI with raid frames set up to where you can concentrate on the frames but still watch your environment. Pug some dungeons – and please don’t wait til you’re 80 to start. It is harder to jump in at top level because your gear will be lagging compared to what people expect. But if you did just dual spec to Holy and you’re 80, go ahead and start! Don’t take stupid comments personally, just have fun.

Read Full Post »

The secret to getting the most out of leveling with someone else is in understanding exactly what your class brings to the duo. For a pure dps class, one with no pet and the survivability of a cloth-wearing snowball in hell, the mage can be a powerful addition to a pair.

First, the obvious utility spells. Conjured food and water mean you can avoid spending gold on these. Time between fights is reduced when you can recharge your mana-batteries quickly and easily. The portals you won’t get until 40, at which point you can get from Kalimdor to the Eastern Kingdoms a lot faster than a group with no mage, making Fedex quests a breeze. Dampen and Amplify Magic are almost totally useless spells – unless you’re leveling with a warrior and receiving no healing anyway, in which case reducing the magical damage you might take is great. And Feather Fall is situationally useful.

Second, crowd control. These days nobody uses it at high levels but you can and should use it as you level up. Convince your partner to let you sheep things at the start of a pull. Frost nova and blink away from mobs. Use frost bolts to slow things down. You’re more likely to survive when one of the six gnolls that want your spleen is suddenly a fluffy sheep and the rest are struggling across frozen ground while pelted with shards of ice.

Third, sheer firepower. It’s hard to match a mage for damage as you’re leveling up, and if you’re leveling with someone specced into healing especially you’re going to be doing the lion’s share of the killing. Just remember that especially in the first fifteen levels you are going to pull aggro off your partner even if you’re teamed up with a tank class, and be ready for it.

Tips for Leveling

First, do not spec Arcane. Arcane is not viable until you get Arcane Blast at level 64. Your choices are to level Fire or Frost. A mage who is planning to do a lot of soloing should level Frost. This is also a good spec if you are leveling with a healer or with some other squishy dps class. You can slow things down and kite them while taking little damage yourself.

However, if you’re leveling with a tanky class, you might spec Fire instead. Let your meat shield pick up aggro while you lob balls of fire at the kobolds’ heads. There are plenty of sites out there with leveling mage builds and I won’t replicate that here, but here’s a fire and here’s a frost that are pretty cookie cutter.

You and Your Partner

If you are paired with a warrior, hunter, enhancement shaman, ret paladin (at early levels, or prot later) or feral druid: Spec fire, let your partner or partner’s pet keep aggro on the mobs. Kill things. Don’t pull aggro; cast fireballs and pyroblasts at one mob as a time as long as the tank isn’t dying. This can work with a warlock with a voidwalker out too but warlocks and mages are bad pairs. One second you’re questing, the next second you’ve destroyed two or three countries and your hair is missing.

If you are paired with a priest, balance/resto druid, some sort of shaman that isn’t enhancement (I don’t think they’re doing it right. Unless she’s a resto shaman and you’re doing a lot of LFD), holy pally, or rogue: Spec frost. Plan your pulls carefully. Sheep things, then use frost nova to trap them, empowered blizzard to slow them. Kite ‘em, shoot frostbolts, don’t let them near your partner if he’s healing you.

Either way, things are now dead. Sit down and have some conjured bread and water. Steal the kobold’s candle. Profit.

Other things to consider: Try to get your partner to role a class that does not wear cloth. If you’re teamed with a warlock or shadow priest, you’ll be fighting over gear. You aren’t likely to find a wand until level 15 or so, unless you get lucky, so you might have an enchanter make you a low level wand (the mats are pretty darn cheap). You’ll want a wand; at low levels your mana can disappear fast and leave you no way to kill the mostly-burned-to-death boar that suddenly isn’t dying. Do a little research as you level up to learn real details; this is supposed to give you a feel for the flavor and fun that a mage brings to a pair.

Read Full Post »

Did a lot of different stuff in WoW this weekend, mostly on my 60 Draeni priest and my 25 Tauren shaman. Healing on both, even though the shaman is supposedly leveling Enhancement. More on her another time, this is about Hellfire and damnation. Or death knights, anyway.

Anyone who’s run dungeons in the low 60s level range know how many dks seem to be lurking there just waiting for you. I needed two levels on Verdandi, the priest, to catch up to Reversion’s warrior gnome so I queued her up and got Hellfire Ramparts. The good news is that you have a pretty fast queue as a healer; all the dks waiting to be healed make things snappy.

This group had two dks, a mage, and a balance druid. DK tank starts out by overpulling and I heal like crazy, then sit and drink (this group was very good about letting me drink and the mage thoughtfully made me water that was better than the stuff my still 59 priest was forced to use). Meanwhile I checked the dk tank… level 59, wearing the starter gear, all the points in frost, in frost presence. I mentioned that if he put a couple points in the other trees he could get really nice talents that would make him a little less fragile. No response.

Another pull and we barely survive, thanks to the druid going bear and growling things off the mage and the dps dk tanking two creatures.  We asked why the tank wasn’t using Death and Decay. “Dont have it”, he said, and I later looked up and saw that you train it at level 60. Which means he was trying to keep aggro with… not much of anything for tools.

The next pull we wipe. We run back in, I rez the dps dk who has been making suggestions to the tank dk. The mage has been complaining about how bad dk tanks are at this level and how you should level a warrior or paladin as a tank first, not switch right from hunter.  It probably annoyed the tank dk but since he said nothing, I don’t know.

We wipe again, and again, and we kick the tank. Sorry, maybe you didn’t have all the tools yet but that’s a good reason not to queue as a tank. The other dk offers to try tanking for a while and we get a rogue. All goes well up to the first boss. We down him – and then the rogue stealths forward and manages to pull three packs of mobs. We wipe, the rogue drops group. Now we get another dk, this one level 64 when the rest of us are barely 60, so we ask him to tank since our tank dk can’t hold threat off him. He launches into a lecture to our dk about not queueing as tank if you’re not willing to tank – we cut him off with agreement but add a “Dude, you have no clue what we’ve been through”. We finish the place off and drop group with relief.

Now Reversion gets on and will tank for me, we get Hellfire again and this time a dps dk of the “Death Grip is leet funz!” type. First four pulls he grips a mob out of the pack to him and stands there and dpses it. Reversion gives him the “You yank it you tank it” warning after pull 1.  The first few times, the other dpsers help him. Then I think they noticed that he wasn’t getting heals and the tank wasn’t taunting it off him, and realized what we were doing. The next time he came close to dying. “I’m not taunting it off you if you Death Grip it over there,” Reversion says, and I add “and I don’t heal anyone who is making the tank’s life harder.”

Oddly, he got the message… and I didn’t even have to let him die. He slipped up once or twice but his health bar going to 30% seemed to keep him on the straight and narrow.

The next three dks we got all knocked our socks off! Every one showed knowledge of when to use DG. They’d pull casters into the melee and let Reversion get them, and one even pulled back a runner that was about to aggro the patrolling boss! We gave each of them kudos. Is there something in the water?

Read Full Post »

I love heirlooms. They make leveling alts so much more fun, I considered the chest and shoulders mandatory for an alt and a weapon almost mandatory, until we rolled alts over on Argent Dawn to join Single Abstract Noun. Now I know that heirlooms are threatening the game and need nerfing, fast.

Why do I say that? It’s not the XP boost, actually; I miss it dreadfully but I can live with the only-slightly-less breakneck pace of leveling that we have these days. Let me relate a little story first.

Analogue the Druid went into Deadmines with three others from SAN; Reversion the Rogue, and a warlock and druid. The other druid wanted to heal so in the interest of a fast queue, I signed in as a tank. I had never bear tanked before (except dropping into bear to growl quest mobs off other people) but I’m a pretty good tank these days, so I didn’t think it would be too hard.

As expected, we wiped a lot; we were low level for the instance and lost three random dpsers before we finally decided to just to finish 4 man. I kept aggro, mostly, things died, mostly, I stayed alive, mostly. All four of us were on a pretty similar level for gear and power, and we had fun. It ended with most of us dead, Van Cleef dead, and too many respawns to run back for his head, but oh well.

After that I got on Annalogue the Paladin, who like Analogue the Druid was 17, and queued up to tank. The first run was a Ragefire Chasm ten minute affair that left a bad taste in my mouth due to a jerk of a hunter who tried to wipe us twice and then took the tank sword from the boss, so I queued again and got Wailing Caverns and the Twinks of Doom.

A Rogue and a Priest (the healer) both four levels higher than me and wearing at least five heirlooms each (priest had both trinkets, rogue had two daggers). And so began my hour and a half of being useless.

It didn’t help that I don’t know that instance; I had to let the priest take the lead. But even when it came to fights, I could not hold or get aggo. The rogue did – literally – close to three times as much damage as I did. I didn’t have any aoes yet, which was bad enough, but the priest kept running over and aggroing more groups and bringing them to us to kill. And I couldn’t call the pair out over this behavior, because their gear allowed them to act with impunity. The healer stopped to drink twice. We wiped once, when someone else aggroed a group and we got too many sleeps cast on the healer. The rogue ended up doing over 50% of the overall damage. I relegated myself to keeping whatever mobs he wasn’t killing off the healer, occasionally taunting off him just to keep my hand in.

If I didn’t already have a max level paladin it would have been even worse. Those two could probably have two-manned the instance alone, and they knew it, and they let us know they knew it. The rest of us, dressed in quest rewards and random drops, were peons to their royalty.

If we could mail heirlooms across servers, I wouldn’t have had that problem, but what about brand new players, or anyone without a max level character to grind badges on? I don’t even remember what the other two players in that pug were, because they mattered so little. We were frustrated, useless, and bored. It’s not a good thing.

Blizzard needs to reduce the stats on heirlooms a lot. They should be fractionally better than the gear you’d naturally have at that level, not 3 times as good. Doing 10% more damage than anyone else? Fine. Doing triple damage? Not so good.

I will add that the level ranges for those dungeons doesn’t help; I was 17 and one of the other guys there was, I think, 25; hard to keep aggro off him at the best of times. But even so, it was the level 21 rogue in heirlooms that made life impossible for me.

This is not QQ; this is to point out a flaw that will only get worse as the game ages more. If Blizzard has given up on getting real new subscriptions, then it’s fine. Otherwise I think heirlooms may become a serious problem..

Read Full Post »

As mentioned previously, Reversion and I have rolled alts on Argent Dawn to be part of Single Abstract Noun, the blogger guild. I started a druid, and he started a gnome rogue, and as we levelled 1-10 in separate zones, we  started having similar complaints.

“Where’s the quests? I’m level 6 and all the mobs are level 8.”

“I know I need to go here next, but there’s no quest telling me that.”

“All the quest stuff is filling up my one bag”

“Wow, you die easy without heirlooms.”

It had been a while since we had levelled without heirlooms, or not together, or not as draeni, and while it was not really difficult, it got us talking. So this morning I rolled a draeni paladin and compared the experiences I had with my night elf druid and my draeni paladin.

Parameters:

Classes I know well

No heirlooms, no help beyond my addons (no quest help beside the built in quest helper)

Same level range

Darnassus versus Azuremyst Isle

Experience:

Both zones start off with a “kill some of these critters” quest. Nice and easy – the critters are right there and Blizzard puts your abilities right on the action bar. After that you get a few more quests. I found the Azuremyst quests very nicely sequence, where I could complete all the quests I could pick up at the same time. On the other hand, the Darnassus quests often had me covering the same ground three or more times.

Equipment: in the first five levels, my draeni quests gave me a four slot bag and a fishing pole. I know they’ve increased the drop rate on small bags, and in fact both my alts have full sets of 6 slot bags, but awarding one as a quest reward is a nice touch, and the fishing pole was awesome.

Where to go next:  Azuremyst led me by the hand. Darnassus took figuring out.

Mobs: All critters in the 1-5 area are now yellow.  The first red mob for my draeni was at the fishing quest when a murloc popped out! I could see a complete newbiew being very surprised by this. Darnassus has several spots where the mob respawn rate seemed bugged and I was hard pressed to get out.

The Cave: All the 1-10 zones seem to have one or two cave complexes where you’ll go in, kill a named guy,  and come out. In Darnassus you have a cave full of demons where you kill a guy who turns into a cat, and a barrow where you wander around for eight years looking for four relics. In Azuremyst you have  a  cave full of nagas where you kill the boss, and a cave full of furbolgs where you kill the named boss, 9 others, and the Kraken hound. The Azuremyst versions were considerably easier and less frustrating. I never did finish the Darnassus version.

Quest rewards: About the same, slightly better (and better named!) gear in Azuremyst

Professions: Most professions could be learned at Azure Watch. About the same for the Darnassus hub, There’s no ore in Darnassus of course, while you can learn anything at Azure Watch.

Summing up:  a brand new player is going to have a much easier time in the draeni area compared to old world zones. I had some guild members talk about Azuremyst being “hand holding” or “spoonfeeding” and they’re right, but I think Blizzard has realized just how many players come to the game with NO previous MMO experience, heck, often no game experience at all. Before WoW, my major game experience was in Civ II. Not hardly the same. I’d have had a much easier time if the draeni area had been there.

In fact I think they need to make the first ten levels even more user friendly. If you’re still getting used to cameras, looting, and using your abilities, there are a number of things that can be annoying. Even experienced players can miss things when they roll a new class. For instance, we ran with a player last night who didn’t have her paladin res; there’s a quest you have to do at 12 to get it, and if you don’t know that, it’s easy to miss the quest.

After I get to 20 on both alts, I’m going to come back and finish comparing the two sequences. I don’t think it’s as drastic but I do have some really nasty things to say about Loch Modan, designers, and getting eaten by many many mobs at once.

(My two alts are Analogue the druid, and Annalogue the paladin, both on Argent Dawn-US)

Read Full Post »

Need More Alts!

Or something. Like my last brief post, Rev and I rolled on Argent Dawn (US) to join Single Abstract Noun and after some pondering, I rolled a druid. I’ve levelled enough classes since my druid that it’s really interesting to be a lowbie druid again. I’m managing some stuff I could never have done the first time because I know what my abilities do, cold.

Rev and I did our first ten levels separate; he rolled a gnome rogue and I was in night elf land, and we both discovered that those zones have some really bad cases where you just aren’t sure where to be questing next; you’re level 7 and all the quest mobs are level 10 and want to eat your brain. And then you randomly wander across some dude on the mountain with a quest to kill a yeti in a cave. Our recent alts have either been run as pairs, where you don’t notice that it’s sort of hard to level a new character when the mobs are three levels higher than you and you only have two abilities, or we were in the draeni zone which is far better organized and laid out. Hopefully Blizz will clean up the early leveling experience even more in Cataclysm, because I can see why some people give up after five levels.

We’ve grabbed gather professions and I have a goal of getting all riding skills on time and being able to buy dual spec at the point where I can actually use it, without having to spend hardly any time grinding.  I’m personally convinced that buying gold is stupid and absolutely unnecessary and I want to demonstrate it yet again. We have no high level alts on this server. I have already accepted one “help” though; the guild’s bank vault had a number of 6 and 8 slot bags there for new members to take. Since they don’t soulbind, you can put them back as soon as you’ve got better ones, and I’ve already picked up one random pouch to add back, but it makes carrying stacks of herbs and fur much easier.

Haven’t seen any RP yet but I have been told to avoid Goldshire in the evenings…

Read Full Post »

Pairs Leveling: The Druid

After doing the warrior post I decided it would be better to focus on the characters I know best. My top level Warrior is languishing at 59, whereas I have two max level druids.

Druids are outstanding pairs leveling characters.  I highly recommend them. They are survivable, have good dps, and have multiple ways they can be leveled. They stand with paladins as the only classes that can be all three roles: dps, healing and tank. They stand alone as the only class that can play all FOUR roles: healing, tank, melee dps and ranged dps.

They make a good choice for if your partner has their heart set on leveling a particular class. Because they are so adaptable you can tailor your play style and spec to match the person you are leveling with.

Overview

Druids are in touch with nature and use its power to obliterate their foes, or smash them in the face, or sneak up and rip their guts out, or, for the nicer druids, to nurture and restore their allies. At level 10 they get Bear form and turn into a baby tank. At 20 we get cat and can do mad crazy dps. Around 50 we can become a tree or boomkin, and either have uber heals or good ranged casting. Because we don’t get to pick those paths right from the start, we adapt our play style over time. This might require respeccing at key points. It also might mean saving a few pieces of gear for an upcoming spec change. How you handle all that will depend on who you are leveling with.

I am going to further break things down into level ranges.

1-10. In this range there is not much variety. Just Wrath things to death with some staff ‘thumping’ thrown in until you hit 10. You will basically be a ranged caster with some melee ability (easier if you have the BOA weapon).

Levels 10-20

At 10 things start to diverge. Not a lot, but they do. You get bear form once you do the level 10 quest. It is about now you have to ask yourself ‘am I going to tank?’The answer to that lies partly in who you are partnered with. You have the choice in this level range of spending most of your time as a bear or as a humanoid caster doing ranged damage and/or healing. You have to decide what you want to do if you are going to run an instance. If you want a fast queue you can chose to tank or heal. You can make that decision in advance and practice the play style by questing mostly as a bear or a caster.

A Bear plays like a warrior. It uses rage is its fuel and the major abilities are all analogous to warrior skills. If you are familiar with warrior tanking a bear will either be comfortably similar or boringly the same. Of course since a druid has an extended bag of tricks you might still love it.

Caster druid, 10-20

One strategy in this level range is to stay humanoid and throw spells around. This is versatile since you can cast or heal as needed. You will not have a large pool of spells but you will have a nice variety.

If you are planning to run instances later as a healer you should probably be getting familiar with your healing spells at this time.

In the future playing as a caster could mutate into Tree or Boomkin (or you can respec completely). If you want to be pure dps and want to be a cat but don’t like bear form, you can stay in a caster spec until you get cat form and then respec. If you plan to do this don’t forget to hang on to a few pieces of agility gear as you level up.

Staying in caster mode is very good if you are paired with a pure melee class. This is even truer if your partner is a tanking class. Casting alongside a warrior or Paladin (or a bear druid) is a very good combo. The pair will be durable as heck and able to take on many foes at once.

Druids are durable enough that you can even distract things while a rogue backstabs them.

With a warlock or hunter partners you can let their pet tank while both burn things down.

Mages are soft and have little ability to keep things off them. They focus mostly on killing things fast, before they kill them. You can both burn things down pretty fast and not have to worry about taking a lot of damage. If you pair with one as a caster you will want to get familiar with your ‘root’ skill and the mage will want to be using frost abilities to slow things up. This will be a pretty soft pair however, so if you get in trouble you might be doomed.

Comboing with a warlock that does not like tanking with their voidwalker will be much like pairing with a mage.

Comboing a caster druid with a priest gives you redundant healing but not a lot more durability. This pair will require more finesse to play.

Comboing with another caster Druid will be similar to the mage and priest.

Comboing with a Shaman will be a little of everything.

Bear druid, 10-20

The main reasons to go bear at this level are to practice tanking or to keep things off a softer partner.

Bear is going to have a little lower dps, so if you are not trying to do one of the above things you might not want to level 10-20 as a bear. One other reason might be so you will be ready when you get cat form. It is not really necessary though, because you can always respec when you get to 20.

One of the nice things about being bear (or later cat) is that you almost always have full mana at the end of a fight. This lets you heal yourself and your partner up for the next round.

One final reason to go bear would be to have both partners have the same range. If you are paired with a melee class it can be frustrating to have everything be half dead by the time your partner gets over to it. Keep this in mind if you are playing a bear and paired up with a ranged dpser. This consideration (and the heals after fights one) makes a rogue+bear pair a good choice.

Basically bear is a good choice to match an melee class played as dps or a soft caster. It is a bad choice for any melee class played as another tank

Recommended pairings: 10-20

Pally + caster druid

Hunter + caster druid

Mage + either

Warlock + either

Warrior + caster druid

Shaman +caster druid

Priest + Bear

Rogue + Bear

Pairs druid, Levels 20-40

Feral druids, 20-40

At level 20 the druid learns how to be catty. Or at least how to turn into a cat. A cat is a baby rogue. It uses energy and is all about combo points and finishing moves. It has a lot fewer abilities than a real rogue so if you are a hard core rogue addict those missing bits might drive you nuts (no vanish, no sap, no fan of knives, etc.). But, if you love all the versatility a druid offers then you are going to love having ‘cat’ in your bag of tricks.

If you leveled up as a bear so far you might want to opt for a cat/bear hybrid. Such a hybrid is viable for either tanking or DPS up until high end lvl 80 instances and raids. I leveled my first druid this way. For most fights you are going to want to be cat. Cats do a large amount of single target damage. But, unlike rogues, they can pop into bear form at any time. If you are leveling with a caster or other soft DPSer you will want to get good at dropping into bear on demand. Even if you don’t get good with bear form it will do you good to know have to work the basics. At a minimum you will need to know how to work your taunt (growl) and some swipe for aoe threat and damage. With just those abilities (and maybe a couple more) you will be able to not die on demand.  Going Bear is not like a pally bubble, but it is fast and effective for either pulling a mob off your softer friend, or being able to take more hits while your friend heals you or dpses the pack down. You CAN live without learning your bear as a feral druid… but it is well worth it to set up its hot bar and learn your way around a few of its moves.

Caster druids 20-40

As you start getting up to 20 and 30 talent points you will, as a caster druid, get pretty far down one of your trees, balance or resto. So you will need to decide how you are mostly playing the druid and take as much healing or dps as your pair needs. Play it by ear and don’t be afraid to respec. You probably will respec at 40 anyway so don’t sweat it. In the past, leveling resto, even in a pair, was annoyingly slow and not really worth it. Today, with LFG, you can level mostly in dungeons where a dedicated healing spec will speed things up, not slow them down.

Recommended pairings: 10-20

Pally + either

Hunter + caster druid

Mage + either

Warlock + either

Warrior + either

Shaman +either

Priest + Feral druid

Rogue + Feral druid

Notice most say either? Here is why… as a hybrid class any druid can heal, and with instant cast hots you can throw at least some healing around very fast. Additionally, unless you put all your points into resto you will still do decent DPS. What this all means is that you don’t want to over specialize while leveling in certain pairs. For example if you are leveling as a caster with a priest you can get away with almost no healing ability. But if you are leveling feral with a warrior you would be well served to get good at dropping out of cat and throwing some heals at your friend. Again, play it by ear. If your pairs keeps dying, practice dropping out and throwing heals.

We’ll talk about post-level-40 in another post.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.