A few months ago when I first took over writing Blood Pact, one of the first things that I wrote was a leveling guide for new warlocks. While the vast majority of what was written there still holds true today (and I certainly am not about to rewrite history), I've realized that the scheme of how to level, or at least how to proceed once you first reach the level cap, is different from what it was then. As an MMO, WoW is constantly changing. There are times when these changes alter the way in which we do things.
Old news as it might be by now, 4.2 had a drastic impact on more than you think at first glance. This week, we'll be going into detail on those changes, looking at the new way of handling your first time at the level cap. It's a brand new world out there; get ready to dive in head first.
The pre-85 stage
Before going into the nitty-gritty of the details, I want to take a little bit of time to talk about what to do before you actually hit the level cap. Prior to patch 4.2, how one leveled wasn't of much concern. While the basic principle of farming gear from heroic dungeons and the need for justice points hasn't changed much since the launch of Cataclysm, the significance of JPs has. Originally, JP rewards were merely nice. They filled some slots, but overall they weren't that significant; they merely acted for replacements of normal heroic gear in certain slots, nothing more. All that has changed. Now, JPs offer tons of epic gear along with three pieces of T11.
The new importance that JPs hold is insurmountable. A new 85 character lives and breathes through JPs; they're the ticket to newer and better gear -- the best gear players can get outside of actually raiding, in fact.
Yet there is a glaring disparity in the leveling process that often goes overlooked. Honor converts to JP. A level 15 character cannot earn JPs in any method. There are no quests, no instance rewards, no dungeon bosses that they can kill in order to earn this currency. And why should they? JPs are designed for players to spend on some pretty good max-level gear. A level 15 character, however, can earn honor -- honor that can then be converted into JPs.
Leveling by doing battlegrounds is far superior then any other method. In terms of speed, it is approximately the same, if perhaps a bit slower in the early brackets but actually faster once you hit the higher brackets. You do earn far less gold while leveling, but the spare 500 or so gold is rather meaningless and can actually be earned over by going back and questing at the level cap. The biggest difference is that by leveling through PVP, you can have ridiculous amounts of JP for the moment that you hit 85.
I recent leveled up a protection paladin so that I could have a tanking character. Given that I absolutely abhor leveling in Northrend, I spent levels 70 to 80 doing nothing but battlegrounds. Just those 10 levels of PVP earned me enough honor, which I then converted to JPs, that I was able to buy all three pieces of T11 once I dinged 85. That's huge. For a tanking character, it may have been slightly trivial -- I have instant queues into anything I want to farm -- but for DPSers who often have to wait up to half an hour or longer for a single instance, having access to that much JP is massive.
Even at 85, for a DPS character, it is far faster to farm honor for JPs than it is to actually run dungeons in order to get JPs. Again, dungeon queues are horribly long for DPS classes because there are so many DPSers trying to get in, yet PVP doesn't care about your role, and those queues are generally rather short. Whether you like PVP or not, I honestly feel that not PVPing for JPs, particularly as you level, is doing yourself a disservice.
Getting the essentials out of Hyjal
Right. So you've hit level 85 -- what to do? Your very first act should be to head over to Hyjal. With the release of patch 4.2, this is the center for all your various initial gearing needs, and later updates made it that much better. Start off with doing the Elemental Bonds quest chain, which begins through the Nordrassil Summit quest. Saving Thrall earns you a rather awesome cloak that's better than anything else that you can get at this moment. Who can complain about what's essentially free gear? I'm not.
Cloak in hand, it's time to start helping those pesky little druids in their battle against Ragnaros. If you didn't quest your way through Cataclysm (and that's the only time I do suggest that you quest because of the gear), then you'll first have to do the initial releasing the ancient's quests all throughout Hyjal. There aren't that many in total; the entire process should only take probably about an hour or so to reach the end.
Once you can begin with your Hyjal dailies, it's time to get started. Whether or not you have any interest in keeping on with doing the dailies, it will take about a month in order to get all of the item rewards offered by unlocking all of the vendors, the first day of dailies is all that you need. Blizzard changed it so that you are no longer stuck doing phase 1 for two or three days; instead, it only takes a single day now. Doing this unlocks a vendor who sells you the Nightweaver Amulet. After snagging that, not else really matters. If you're interested in it, then keep doing your dailies -- but honestly, that's the most important score from that place.
Spending JPs in all the right places
Now, the goal of any new level 85 player is to be able to cap out valor points for the week. Outside of raiding, the only way to do this is doing the troll dungeons, but the only way to actually get into the troll dungeons is to have raiding gear or full heroic gear in every single piece, plus a little something extra. You need a gear level of i346 or i347 in order to even queue up for these dungeons.
That's where JPs comes in. While it would take quite a few weeks (or perhaps merely a few days if you're super-dedicated or have a tanking friend to help you along) to get the gear that you'll need, the JP rewards skyrocket your ilevel score rather well, as does the aforementioned cloak and necklace.
You'll want to start off by getting at least two pieces of your tier gear (although really you'll want all three pieces, so you might as well get them all as your first JP purchases). After that, it really is just a matter of upgrading those slots that are your weakest in terms of ilevel. Most likely, this is going to be trinkets and possibly rings, with your wand and weapon making out the last bit.
It will be these slots that hold you back the most in terms of pushing your ilevel high enough to reach troll dungeons. If you PVPed your way to 85, then being able to get the remaining JP items shouldn't be an issue at all. The list follows as thus:
Finishing that out should net you a single trinket and a single ring, which is an awesome step. You can get the boots, but remember that they're BOE, so you can have another character that with an excess of JPs to buy them and send them over instead of getting them yourself. Depending how your other slots have turned out from random drops, you should be relatively close at this point to reaching your goal.
One of your weak points is probably going to be your weapon. Even if it's not, you can inflate your weapon's ilevel in order to make up for any other weaker slots. By now, many people have unlocked the blacksmithing rewards from their Hyjal dailies. I would strongly suggest getting a Masterwork Elementium Spellblade. By this point, most of the prices on these daggers should have dropped a more reasonable level -- and this is actually a very good dagger to begin with, particularly for a non-raider. To go with that dagger, I'd suggest spending any excess JPs that you may have on hand on a Hermit Lamp. In fact, I'd get one of those whether you get the dagger or not; no one truly understands how awesome a nice lamp is until they're stuck in a dark, dank cave without one.
By this point, you should have more than enough of an ilevel to reach troll dungeons! From there, it's just a matter of grinding those until your eyes start to bleed out. Fun, fun, fun, fun. Like cereal. If, for some reason, you aren't able to reach the troll dungeons at this point, then you have a few options that you can take, depending on the level of effort you're willing to put in.
First, you can buy your way into troll heroics relatively easily. There should be a large number of people now who are selling off VP bracers, which, if you have everything else on the list so far, will easily push you over the limit. You might also be able to find a tailor willing to sell you a Dreamless Belt. Along with all the other items, this would mean that only your helm, shoulders, one ring, and one trinket could even possibly be below the requirement. That's not possibly enough to prevent you from getting in unless you're still wearing level 20 equipment.
Second, you can farm normal heroics for the gear you need. At this point, you may want to stop going into randoms and do the specific dungeons that offer the loot you need, but know that will generally increase your queue time. This is perhaps the slowest method, but it still should only take a few days worth of doing heroics. Really, you only need to have decent, level-appropriate items in those missing slots, and you'll be fine.
Last, you can PVP for the slots. This isn't uncommon, though it always seriously irks me when I see people do it. PVP items are quick to get for any player, and it isn't stats that the game cares about but rather the raw ilevel of the items. It's fairly trivial to abuse PVP gear in order to meet the ilevel requirements to get into PVE stuff. At least try to reforge some of the resilience off if you plan on doing this.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through encounters such as Blackwing Descent and The Bastion of Twilight.