Late this evening I finally achieved the goal I had in mind from the moment I started this blog: I now have a level-capped healer of each class! Welcome Hamera of the Four Winds, Mistweaver Monk!
This isn’t really a big deal to most of you – I’m sure there are plenty of people with all five healing classes at max level – but it’s a huge accomplishment for me. I didn’t realise it was going to be so painful in this expansion to level and maintain alts. If I had known in advance, I might not even have started this Healiocentric project! This post is going to be a little bit of a reminiscence of what it took to get there for each character, and a bit of a leveling review for my Monk.
Dayani – Restoration Shaman
“It’s a race! Race, race, race!”
As you’ll recall if you read any of my off-topic-ish posts before, I joined a new guild slightly before Mists of Pandaria dropped. It was a daunting process, a big leap forward in progression and expected competency, and like many people who spend most of their lives online, I am not very comfortable in changing social climes. The new guild intended to raid from the very moment it was possible, so we were all expected to level as quickly as possible so we could get started on reputations, and valor gear, and charms, and gathering up all the consumables we’d need for our first forays into raids. Soon, on our private forums, guildmates began organising leveling squads and mapping out optimal XP per hour plans. And I didn’t know anybody.
I posted in the organising thread, highlighting what I felt to be my most beneficial attribute – I live “in the future”, so MoP would launch at 5pm local time, and I’d be energised and prepared and ready to pull ridiculous hours to get things done. Several groups formed after I had posted, and I was starting to get nervous, and then I was claimed for a “not trying for realm firsts” group by delightful guildie, and fellow blogger, Anafielle (of Sacred Duty). We ended up with a crack squad of Ana (Paladin tank), myself (Resto Shaman), a Shadow Priest, a Warlock, and vacillating between a guildie Mage and my boyfriend, a Feral Druid, when the Mage’s internet was being spotty.
So claimed, I settled in for a long, long leveling trip. I made banana blueberry muffins and zucchini muffins, I sliced some fresh veggies and laid them out on little snack platters with nuts and crackers and salami and cheese cubes, and I made some individual-sized lasagnas that could be heated up quickly throughout the week. (We can’t have an off-topic post without some food porn, right?) Four hours before launch, I sat down with Wowhead‘s Beta database and made a list of all the things I’d need to do once I hit 90; what reputations to focus on, what gear to buy first, and what dungeons to spam. This got me super-psyched!
The crack team assembled on Mumble about an hour before the expansion was supposed to launch, getting an idea of how we were going to progress. We decided on queuing for non-stop dungeons for the first two levels to get away from the deluge of players questing in Jade Forest, and then parting ways, so as not to have to struggle with group questing and individual drop rates. And then, at T-minus-five-minutes, Blizzard surprised us by opening the content early!
We individually did the starting quest to lead us to Pandaria, then grouped up for a mind-numbing seven hours of Temple of the Jade Serpent and Stormstout Brewery spam. Oh my goodness, it was soul-crushing. But each run got a little faster, and we quickly settled into a rhythm. I must have disenchanted the Waterburst Helm 30 times, which apparently left Wise Mari out of stock for that particular item, since I was never able to get it on Heroic 😦
After we emerged from our Groundhog Day-like trial of mental endurance, having triumphantly reached level 87, I made the wisest choice I would make that entire week, and respecced Elemental so I didn’t have to quest as Resto. (I had two Resto specs, one for each dungeon, to save time and consumables. Why yes, I am insane.) Long after my boyfriend had sanely gone to sleep, I was still there, at my computer, plugging away, microsleeping through flight paths and lolChainLightninging my way through 50-million-whatever XP, punctuated by a few runs of Mogu’shan Palace and Shado-Pan Monastery as Resto via LFD. And 23 hours after my journey began, I finally arrived at level 90!
And quickly found myself in a Sha of Anger group. I won 496 tier gloves right off the bat, which was certainly an auspicious start to a very enjoyable and personally rewarding tier of raiding. I pretty much equipped the gloves, wrote that post, and then passed out for a solid 16 hours of sleep 🙂
Marjaneh – Holy Paladin
“Dear God, what was I thinking?!”
I still had one foot in my old guild, well, more like a toe, or perhaps a sliver of the back of my heel. They had asked me if I could help them out if they didn’t recruit another healer before Mists of Pandaria raids became available, and because I can’t say “No” to any request that doesn’t involve spiders or onions, I had agreed.
As it turns out, they didn’t need me, but I didn’t get that memo in time, so in the very brief window between gearing Dayani enough for Something Wicked raids and the opening of Mogu’shan Vaults, I heroically leveled my Holy Paladin to 90, and got her up to an iLevel of 458.
As Holy. The entire way. You see, I had no Ret gear at all, and no Ret experience – I hadn’t been a Retribution Paladin since freakin’ Zul’Farrak during Wrath. I had a tricked-out DS Heroic Protection set, but I leveled as Protection on the Beta, and it was sooooo awful I just couldn’t do it. So I thought, what the hell, let’s try Shockadin!
I pretty much followed the exact plan I had used for my Shaman, except that I did not have a set leveling group to queue for Dungeons with, so I was doing them random queue. I ran two Holy specs – one for actually healing, and one for dealing damage, equipped with the Harsh Words Glyph and the Glyph of Denounce. Just … just thinking about it makes me feel a little queasy. Having no AoE made me just want to /wrists.
I reiterate: Dear God, what was I thinking?!
In Townlong Steppes, it was taking around 15 Denounces to kill a target; in Dread Wastes, 20. It started out as a “fun experiment”, twisted into “a nightmarish hell from which I shall never escape”, and then eventually – thanks, I’m sure, to sleep deprivation and a high blood caffeine level – morphed into “f*ck it, this is hilarious”. I laughed my way through the final 75% of level 89, the kind of laugh that heralds the complete dissolution of one’s sanity.
But my goodness, I died a lot. A lot a lot. I specced into Sacred Shield to help me out with that, and it did help – it cut my deaths per level down by approximately 30% – but it certainly didn’t fix the problem. Whether it was just dulled senses from playing so much WoW so intensely, or whether I just suck at Paladin, I still can’t say. I finished up as level 90 about 12 hours before my old guild was meant to raid, and spent the intervening time gradually building up to a high enough iLevel to be able to contribute, then, when I found out they didn’t need me, I logged off, and did not touch that character again for a week.
I logged back in for a pretty good purpose, though. Some friends of mine needed a fill-in for their Heroic Stone Guard progression. So I hopped in to their raid, shared some tips I’d learned in Dayani’s Heroic Stone Guard kill, and eventually we went on to get the kill for my friends’ guild. I was still ilvl 458.
Peshka – Discipline Priest
With only six bosses in Mogu’shan Vaults for the entire first month of the expansion, I was starting to get a little antsy. You see, I got used to completing the current raid on each of my max-level characters every week during Cataclysm, so going back to raiding on only one character was a bit excruciating for me. I wanted to heal all the things, but I was spending most of my time on Dayani in Elemental spec, doing dailies, farming my farm, running dungeons with friends who already had a healer, etc. And I had all but abandoned my Paladin, only raiding occasionally to fill in spots in friends’ guilds as needed. So I was looking for another way to heal more.
My guild started talking about resuming their Alt Raid, and that was the impetus I needed. I transferred my Priest to Whisperwind and started the tedious leveling process again – two weeks after finishing Dayani. This time I opted to take a Shadow off-spec, and then ironically, hardly used it. I simply would forget to spec back out of Disc after getting out of a dungeon queue, and hardly noticed the reduced throughput since it came along with nigh invincibility via self-healing. I did notice the lack of interrupt – at the risk of inciting a PvP backlash, I’d really love it if healing Priest specs could get some sort of interrupt! – but in comparison to Holy Paladin leveling, well, it couldn’t be more night-and-day.
This was a much more relaxed adventure. I had a couple of weeks to be ready for the alt raid, and I was able to take my time and not feel so rushed and stressed out, which was excellent, because I was definitely feeling stressed out and overwhelmed on my Shaman. I wouldn’t call it “enjoyable”, this experience, but it was certainly mellow. And being viable in Disc spec was a huge boon. I love leveling as the spec I intend to raid with – I feel that it gives me a lot of experience in knowing when to DPS vs when to heal, using all my utility buttons, and just gets me immersed more deeply in my class in general.
My Priest did not go on to greatness, sadly. The alt raid I leveled it for fizzled shortly after it started, due to the growing demands of preparing main characters for raids. I mostly used my Priest to annoy the official forum’s posters with crazy Prayer of Healing theories, and took a brief dip into Challenge Modes before deciding I needed more practice with the class in order to achieve anything there. So, desolate she sits, alone, waiting; the knowledge that I favour her over my Paladin offering little comfort.
Aiea – Restoration Druid
As much as I hated leveling my Paladin as Holy spec, I actually hate the new healing style more. Eternal Flame blanketing is not fun to me – it’s like being a Druid, but every Rejuvenation takes at least 2 globals. While I was helping my boyfriend’s guild out by providing some Paladin heals one night, I kind of realised – hey, if I feel like this is a Druid-but-annoying, maybe I should level my Druid and use that class instead!
About 20 minutes of Balance DPSing later, I decided I did not want. I leveled my Druid almost entirely in Dungeons, only questing if I had a partner, which was pretty rare because hardly anyone I knew on that server was leveling alts.
It took ages, but I was much happier. My biggest complaint while leveling my Druid was that I don’t feel like Wrath spam is compelling during low-damage periods where healing isn’t needed. Somehow, it just felt incredibly unsatisfying. But hey, if that’s my biggest complaint, it must be going all right, yeah?
I kind of hit a brick wall when I got to level 90, though. I simply couldn’t be bothered to commit to another set of dailies and farming, ugh. And I wanted to raid, but it’s pretty hard to find a raid group that would let me in, with my 453 iLvl and no hope of getting Valor gear any time soon, no gold to buy BoEs off the AH, and no coins to spend on bosses. Fortunately, another former guild of mine needed some warm bodies for their alt raid, and since they already knew I knew my stuff, they invited me along despite my atrocious gear.
I ended up clearing all of t14 normals with that group, which was sometimes quite a struggle. My low spellpower and their alt-ness led to a pretty rough time on Sha of Fear, for example, where keeping tanks alive through Thrash became my first experience with tank-healing Wild Mushrooms. And it was in their raid that I began formulating my Tsulong strategy, a strategy that allowed me at ilvl 453 to beat appropriately-geared healers on Tsulong healing, something I will be eternally proud of 😉
Hamera – Mistweaver Monk
“I do everything as a healer.”
Each new patch that comes out brings a bunch of Mistweaver changes. I mean, that’s not very surprising, because they are the new class, with mechanics untested by time, so they’re going to need adjustments. I am determined to keep my information up to date, but without a Monk of my own, this meant pestering friends and friends-of-friends to test for me and report back. And they were very gracious, and eager, and quite willing to help, but the scientist in me was starting to get annoyed with the lack of direct control over the data.
Now, you may remember that I am not particularly enamoured of the Monk healing style. So I have been far, far too reticent to level my Monk. But that was written back in the hectic days just before MoP was released, and a lot has changed since then. Plus, when patch 5.3 made the change to levels 85-90 to make them fly by a little faster, I took that as a sign: time to level!
Well, the short and long of it is, I still don’t enjoy Monk healing. But this leveling experience has been the most enjoyable leveling experience I have had. A lot of that is due to Enlightenment shortening even the insanely short “Vanilla” levels, admittedly. However, there’s another factor at play here:
Mistweaver is an incredibly smooth spec for leveling. The buffs to Mistweaver DPS in 5.2 make a huge difference in the enjoyability factor for questing in this spec. Tiger Palm hits pretty hard even before you get Muscle Memory (at the surprisingly low Level 20), and once you get Teachings of the Monastery at Level 34, AoE pulls become quite simple. Blackout Kick’s cleave is insanely powerful, and of course the self-healing from additional targets helps mitigate the damage those additional targets do. Except for those few levels where Heirloom gear hasn’t quite caught up to the new content, which happens every time you breech a former level cap, I was pretty much killing everything in 3 globals.
I sat in the dungeon queue and quested while I waited for the queue to pop. I didn’t have any troubles in dungeons at all; at low levels, Eminence healing was enough to keep everyone healthy, and I hardly leant upon Soothing Mist at all. Once I got Muscle Memory and Teachings of the Monastery, healing became easy for a new reason: I killed enemies so fast they didn’t get to deal any damage! And I felt pretty near invincible. I remember a pack in Scarlet Monastery where the tank LoSed me, and I was too dopey to find him before he died, but I was able to tank the rest of the giant trash pack myself and keep everyone else alive without breaking a sweat.
Things started to break apart a little when I reached Cataclysm content. That first level, 80-81, where my Heirloom gear was still in Wrath mode, was so painful. If I could do it all over again, I’d go to the AH and buy a bunch of higher-iLvl greens to carry, so I could queue for dungeons and do that entire level in the safety of instanced zones. 81-85 was better, but it was taking, I don’t know, 5-7 globals to kill things instead of 3.
The breakdown only got worse in MoP zones. I of course purchased 372 gear from the Adventurer Supplier dude in Pearlfin Village before doing much of anything else, and it wasn’t too bad in Jade Forest and Valley of the Four Winds, but my goodness, Kun-Lai Summit and Townlong Steppes mobs took so long to kill. Let’s not even get started on Dread Wastes.
It was still about twice as fast as my Shockadin experience, though, and of course, Monks have AoE abilities, so it was infinitely less frustrating. Plus I think I died a total of … four? … times in my entire leveling adventure; twice in dungeons, once to a rare I couldn’t kill in Ingkill Mere thanks to respawning pats, and once when I walked away from my keyboard in Townlong Steppes.
Honestly, I think leveling as Mistweaver was the best thing I could possibly have done to learn this spec. There were hairy soloing moments where I had to use all the tools I have in order to survive. I had ample opportunity to perfect my keybinds for the blend of damage and healing spells the spec requires. Now that they revamped the spellbook and let you gain access to your spells sooner, weaving each new ability into your rotation as you learn it is seamless and logical. I have a great idea of what information I need to collate and organise in my UI – which I’ll write more about later. And once I got into Wrath and Cata content, dungeons started to pose enough of a challenge – through undergeared or inexperienced LFD-partners – that I was forced to break away from pure Eminence healing and really get comfortable with the ReM/Uplift/Soothing/Thunder Focus Brew paradigm, while still finding ways to throw DPS in during down times to make sure I was generating Mana Tea for later regen needs.
I wholeheartedly recommend leveling as Mistweaver until 85. Then, since you can buy a full set of gear, you should probably switch to Brewmaster or Windwalker for the last 5 levels. But make sure to heal the dungeons! And have a blast – that’s the most important thing.
So that’s my journey to Q(uintessential) Q(uintet). It’s been a great ride, and I’m looking forward to being able to provide more accurate and timely Monk information. But before I do, I should probably sleep. Anyone want to tell me a bedtime story about their experiences leveling as a healer? 🙂