Unconventional leveling, post #2: Guardian druid plans for levels 85-90 in Mists of Pandaria

With Mists of Pandaria just a few weeks away, it’s time to stop holding out on you all, and write about one of the fun plans I have for the launch.

As I’ve written before, I plan to start the leveling fun with my hunter, Mushan. And I plan on having a blast doing so. However, it doesn’t end there. I have three toons that I am particularly excited about leveling, and one of them is my druid.

Throughout the course of Cataclysm, Anacrusa morphed – er, shapesifted, I suppose – from a cat DPS-er to a cat PvP-er to a moonkin DPS-er to a bear tank. By June, I had gotten very comfortable with tanking the Hour of Twilight heroics, and also enjoyed questing as a bear, although I did not have much reason to quest other than to farm – I’ve been exalted with every Cata reputation for a while.

At any rate, a plan that I had been cultivating for a while really started to come together around this time.


Here it is:

I plan to level my druid through Mists of Pandaria without substituting any gear until I reach max level.

Now, I know that this may not seem like a very hardcore plan. It’s not realm-first-ing it to 90, nor is it questing naked, or anything like that. It won’t be an Ironman, and it won’t even be a mini-Ironman. However, I expect that it will be much more challenging than leveling conventionally, as the gear typically tends to improve dramatically as we begin replacing it after a level or two (depending on end-of-expansion gear levels).

Anacrusa has an equipped ilevel of 387. It’s all PvE gear with the exception of the Cataclysmic gloves, which have the 66% cost reduction to Skull Bash. I have almost no Dragon Soul normal raid gear, as I stopped raiding on her – due to lack of interest on the parts of other guildies – before I picked up tanking again, so all of that raid gear is balance gear.

I did not participate in the beta, but based on how Cataclysm went, I would imagine that a questing toon would be between 412 and 425 at level 90, and with that would come significant stat upgrades: in my case, Agility, Stamina, Armor, Hit/Exp, Mastery and Crit. I will be foregoing those until I finish, if I can.


I see several benefits to giving this a try.

With the changes to how mitigation works in MoP – active mitigation, as opposed to relying almost solely on stats to reach immunities or at least to minimize damage passively – the DPS-minded bear tank can easily forget about, or neglect to learn, new abilities. I’m finding this out on my less-geared warrior, as I quest for guild rep. I can still take on seven or eight enemies at once on Tol Barad Peninsula without too much trouble, but I’m having to learn to apportion my rage resources properly in order to stay away from coming close to dying.

In a plan to level without gear upgrades, skill must become a factor. Now, my gear is none too shabby, and we will of course gain things like stamina and attack power as we level, but we also encounter the idea of stat devaluation. Each point of Hit Rating will provide much less Hit percentage per level gained, and each point of Agility will provide less Dodge, and so on. As the levels go up, with gear providing static and finite amounts of key stats, I’m going to be taking much more damage (and doing less damage, of course) against at-level mobs.

This is where the active mitigation becomes key, along with crowd control, interrupting, and so on. The tribulations that I expect to deal with as I level will force me to make use of my talents and abilities, and I should come out of the leveling process a much better Guardian druid than I am right now.

Aside from that – more skill needed to survive and progress during leveling – there is the concept of providing myself with a somewhat unique set of challenges by doing this.

Leveling is too easy from 1-60 now – at least that’s a common complaint now, and it’s one I share. I haven’t had much of a challenge leveling my druid for several years now (not that there’s been an awful lot of leveling going on, but…), and leveling of alts has become easier with the introduction of the guild-reward heirlooms that work through level 85.

By leveling this way, I hope that at least the latter part of the leveling process on my druid will present me with some truly epic gameplay situations that require me to draw from both my wits and my skill progression to get through the process without making too much of a bloody, furry mess of myself.

Since I reached the point where I became satisfied that my hunter is my main, my raider, I don’t feel the need to race to the finish on this toon. Keep in mind, I don’t plan on taking weeks to level her. However, I do expect that encounters with mobs (and groups of mobs) will begin to take a bit more time to complete, allowing me to use more of my abilities, test my skills, and be more considerate of strategy while questing. And that is something that I am desperate to experience, and I feel that the Guardian is the perfect druid spec for me to attempt this with.

Closing thoughts

The one thing I worry about is that this challenge could be a let-down, diffculty-wise. I’ve heard people in past betas say that they don’t start replacing gear from the final tier of a previous expansion until about two levels from max, and that gnaws at me, because if this is too easy, I won’t be satisfied with the challenge.* Then again, I’m ilvl 387, which is a significant difference from 397 when it all comes down to it. And the people I heard saying these things were in heroic gear. So I don’t know if I have anything to worry about. I guess that’s part of the fun: the whole “we’ll see!” aspect of it.

*Then again, if it turns out to be too easy, I can give it a second try with my Prot warrior, since his gear is not as good…

As MoP gets closer to being a reality in everyone’s lives, I’ll finish setting her up with everything she needs (UI, bag space, consumables, and so on – the staples of the somewhat-prepared leveler), and then once I’m well on my way with Mushan, I’ll give this thing a try.

Oh, and that’s the other great thing about this challenge: I’m going into it almost blind. Yes, I’ve seen pictures of the zones. They look stunning, and I’m excited to see them. But that’s just it: I haven’t been in the beta, so I haven’t done any of this before. I know nothing about the quests, the mobs, the general consensus on leveling difficulty, the lay of the land, and so on. Yes, I’ll do them once on my hunter – at a rapid pace, with incrementally better gear – but once through won’t prepare me for every challenge that I could face. And he’ll likely be doing some dungeons along the way, as well. I’ll just be questing on the druid.

As such, that’s why I said I would be a “somewhat-prepared leveler” in a previous paragraph. I’ll be ready, but I won’t be ready to be a star. I’ll be ready to survive, to come out scarred but victorious, and better for the experiences.

So the potential is there for this to be a true and epic adventure. I’ll let you know how it goes down the road, once I’m there (or when I’ve finished)!

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


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