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[Cataclysm Beta] Levelling in Cataclysm

Posted by Malevica on September - 17 - 2010

I wanted to post about this a while ago, but with testing as much of the game as possible (which is the point of the beta, after all) I’m still not quite 85 yet, but I have now done most of the levelling content.

I’ve levelled exclusively as Discipline, to see if it’s possible, and because I didn’t fancy resetting a Shadow and healing spec every time a new build gets pushed out.

How long will it take to get to 85?

The big question everyone will ask. Here’s my response.

First, a caveat: all I can offer here is an estimate. Everyone will level at a different pace depending on how focused you are, how efficient you are, how quickly you kill mobs, how much competition there is for spawns, and so on. Plus, numbers are the one thing that you cannot count on in a beta, so this all might change.
And remember I’m levelling as a non-DPS spec in partially unfinished zones without level-appropriate gear, so take all that into account too.

Just don’t complain if I’m miles out, that’s all I’m saying!

On the beta I levelled from 80-82 over two evenings, so it took maybe 4-5 hours per level. Level 82-83 was a lot slower because the XP per level jumped from around 1.7 million to around 6 million (if I’m remembering those numbers correctly), so it took me about 3 evenings to reach 83. Levels 83-84 and 84-85 require relatively similar amounts of XP as 82-83, and thus roughly the same time, although it’s taken me longer because of incomplete zones and other things being introduced into the game that I’ve been testing instead.

Overall, I’d estimate that level 85 will be within reach within about 40-50 hours of /played, which means roughly 2 weeks of real time, and you could shorten that quite a lot if you played more on the weekends, played a more suitable “levelling” spec or ignored professions, for example.

Levelling as a healing spec

I’ve got Malevica to 84½ as Discipline and I’ve not had any problems at all until Twilight Highlands, which is because on the beta these zones aren’t itemised, so I’m behind the curve in gear; I’m still wearing quite a bit of my T10 gear. This won’t be a problem when Cataclysm goes live.
You do still need to pay attention to your HP and weave healing spells in though, which is no bad thing.

Choice of spec
I spent most of my time as a standard Disc healing spec, but I switched to a specific levelling spec as the content got harder and I haven’t been running many instances since queues are pretty horrific even as a healer.

For the levelling spec I picked up Reflective Shield, Focused Will and Atonement, as well as Evangelism and Archangel.

It looks something like this at 85. You can take your pick about which of the extra talents in Holy or Shadow to take first. I personally pushed points into Holy to speed up my Smites before putting points into Shadow, and left the Shadowfiend points for last as my mana regen started to tank at higher levels. I didn’t theorycraft the decision much though, just went with what felt right.

The foundation of levelling as Discipline is Evangelism, since every Smite you cast grants you a 4% increase to the damage of your Smite, Holy Fire and Penance (and reduces the cost by 6% per stack) so getting it stacked to 5 is vital. Holy Fire is also still powerful, so keep that on cooldown as much as possible.

You get 15s from your last Smite before Evangelism fades, so you’ll need to pull again fairly quickly if you want to avoid having to restack it.
I’ve generally tended to keep Evangelism stacked from pull to pull rather than consuming it with Archangel. It means I have to drink from time to time if I’ve needed to heal myself as well, but you could always put those points into the Shadowfiend cooldown earlier.
If you’re not going to be able to refresh your stack in time, remember to hit Archangel so you don’t waste the mana.

The other thing to bear in mind is that Power Word: Shield will proc Borrowed Time for a 15% haste increase until you cast a spell with a cast time, which means it will lower the GCD on your DoTs. So once I’ve got Evangelism’s stack refreshed, I tend to cast Power Word: Shield on myself followed by Shadow Word: Pain and Devouring Plague and finishing up with a Penance.
From there, it’s a case of throwing out a Holy Fire and Smiting until the mob is dead.

You may or may not need to use your DoTs if the mobs die fast enough. In the gear I’m in the mobs are dying as the DoTs are fading, but if you’re killing faster you could just drop the DoTs from the rotation.

Extra tips

A few more things to remember:

  • For Atonement to work, you need to be within 8 yards of the mob you’re Smiting, in order to get healed. Just bear it in mind when attacking casters!
  • Glyph of Smite
  • is really good to switch in while levelling. I also have the Divine Accuracy glyph, which helps too.

What about Holy?
I tried levelling a little as Holy on my other Priest, although she’s not got very far yet. I do like the Chakra system so far though.

The way it currently works is that you cast Chakra on yourself and then Smite your opponent, which gives you a buff that grants you 15% increased Shadow and Holy damage for 30 seconds, refreshed every time you Smite. This lets you maintain a pretty much 100% uptime if you want to.

The cooldown on Chakra is currently 1 minute though, so you can’t change your Chakra state any more often than that.

The questing experience in general

The first thing is that the zones are big. You definitely won’t be short of questing locations.

Vashj’ir and Hyjal are at roughly the same level so you can pick either one to begin with (just like Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord in WotLK). I’d recommend doing the other zone afterwards as well, because they’re both pretty cool, but you might be able to skip straight to Deepholm instead. Uldum and Twilight Highlands are the 83-85 zones, and seem to be at roughly equal level (like Storm Peaks and Icecrown in WotLK), so you have another choice of destination here.

The quest progression within the new zones is a lot more linear than it was in most of WotLK was. It’s much more like the kind of progression you got in Icecrown with the phasing, only every zone is like that.

I love this because it makes for much better story-telling, but it does mean that there are occasional bottlenecks where low respawn rates or tricky quests can hold you up (which is again why we have a beta, so we can catch these things early).
Hyjal in particular is a great use of story-telling as you work your way through the zone helping out the Earthen Ring, and it’s combined with some great use of phasing to make you feel that you’re really making a difference as you quest through the zone.

Thumbs up from me!

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Categories: Cataclysm Beta

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