Leveling the new-xpac playing field via self-nerf

In Tallhide garb with Keepers of Time tabard: a potential throwback transmog.

In Tallhide garb with Keepers of Time tabard: a potential throwback transmog.

Late last month, I mentioned a plan to abandon my recent “habit” of reaching the level cap with all deliberate speed at the beginning of an expansion, when Warlords of Draenor arrives. Since then, I’ve been putting more thought into this idea.

In previous expansions, the “race to max-level” generally involved playing through a zone until I reached the next level and could go on to the next zone, skipping the rest of the content until a later date. Higher-level zones equal more experience, after all. My first toon through the leveling gauntlet has historically been geared to the teeth (to whatever extent that toon had raided in the previous expansion), blew through the opening levels, and powered through the final zones in order to get started on daily quests and heroic dungeons. Later on, in moments of down time, those other zones were finished in order to complete achievements or get started on reputation grinds.

Having done just that in Mists of Pandaria, I found myself with plenty to do, but no reason to have done it so quickly. It took my guild more than a month after I reached 90 to start raiding, and that left me with LFR, dailies, the legendary quest grind, and so on. I spent way too much time being antsy to raid, frustrated with guild-mates and fretting over our inability to get ten people together in what I considered to be a reasonable amount of time.

With what has happened over the past year-plus, my perspective on the experience has changed. While I’m looking forward to WoD, I’m not going to hold my breath that people will come together quickly at level 100 – nor will I race to be first to that point myself.

. . .

With that changed perspective, I find myself looking forward to jumping into WoD with more of an interest in the story taking place on the ground. I used to be guildmates with a couple who level together at the beginning of each xpac, completing each zone as they go. While that approach didn’t resonate with me at the time – not because I didn’t understand the attraction of leveling that way, but because it seemed like a less efficient way to gear for raiding* – I find myself looking back with envy and regret that I didn’t approach things that way at the beginning of Mists. So this time I’ll probably go about it that way.

*And there’s my old tunnel vision, coming back to repeatedly bite me in the ass…

The old way: geared to the teeth, overpower early content, build to better gear, power through the end zones. Gear up. Raid.

The new (for me) way: Play the story. Enjoy the journey, because once it’s over, it’s over for that toon – and that first toon gets to see it when it’s brand new. Take your time, read the quests, relax and have fun. Worry about raiding when you get to that point, and not before.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

. . .

But what about the gear?

As it stands, if I never raided SoO again, my ilvl going into The Squish would be 563**, including the Legendary cloak, great weapon (not the Garrosh heirloom – more on that later – but still very good), CD-reducing trinket, and so on. Even if I hit the ground walking, so to speak, I’m still going to be able to handle enemy mobs with little thought in such gear. This, of course, contributes to blowing through quests, which contributes to faster leveling and forgetting why I’m there.

**Note: 563 is a full 100 ilvls above launch-period heroic dungeon gear. Holy crap! And I have… let’s see… exactly zero heroic SoO pieces to my name. The gap is massive.

But what if I didn’t have that gear, to start with?

I’m actually considering downgrading my gear for Warlords of Draenor, in order to somewhat level the playing field between Mushan and Mushan’s enemies (which will presumably be numerous…).

At first, I thought about replacing it with gear one can purchase from the likes of Trader Zambeezi, but that gear is ilvl 372, which is essentially level 85 gear, so that’s out of the picture. I don’t really feel like hitting level-91 mobs with level 85 gear – this route I’m considering isn’t intended to be a semi-Ironman, extreme soloing adventure. So then I thought, what if I spend the next few months farming heroic dungeon gear? If I could put a full set of that gold-ish looking stuff together (and transmog the crap out of it, of course, because, seriously… that gear does not look becoming on a night elf), it would make WoD a real adventure at the beginning, methinks. And I already have Tempestuous Longbow in the bank, so worrying about a weapon would be a non-issue.

Then again, despite my earlier professions of love for the dungeons we can choose to run nowadays, I am getting pretty sick of them, in all honesty. I’m not sure I could stomach farming them for some hare-brained scheme now that the flow of new gear has stopped and I haven’t needed Valor Points in a while.

My other thought was something a little more interesting and easy: a full set of gear from the Timeless Isle. I made a set for transmog purposes a while ago (although I don’t think I can wear it in all seriousness… I was just checking it out at the time), and of those pieces there are two that have two whole secondary stats per item. However, I have a bunch of unmade pieces sitting on an alt, and I figure that since I’ll probably farm Ordon b-holes at some point until I get to Exalted with Shaohao on Mushan, I’m likely to get more.

Once 6.0 drops pre-xpac, with The Squish and stat/gear/enchant/gem changes in effect, I can make all the pieces until I get serviceable ones (“or die tryin'”). I can combine 496 Discipline of Xuen with my Darkmoon Trinket – 484 Relic of Xuen*** – to fill the trinket slots with all kinds of Xuen… and I can use my 491 Sha-touched weapon. I have an absolutely sick number of Timeless cloak tokens, and a few rings, so I think I can make do with this kind of strategy. I just don’t know if it’s enough… ah, who am I kidding? All things being relative, this set would be way weaker than what I’m wearing now, but would still be “last-xpac-current” enough that I would feel competent.

***Due to bag space concerns, I’ve deleted so much gear this xpac… it’s kind of sad. But I did keep the Relic. For some reason, I have a hard time deleting Darkmoon trinkets. I didn’t delete Greatness for a long time, and kept Hurricane until sometime after I was deeply involved in the Pandaria campaign.

This is, of course, assuming that The Squish won’t diminish the relative power gap between SoO gear and Timeless gear. I’m assuming that it won’t.

. . .

You may ask, And what about that heirloom bow?

In all honesty, at this point, if I never get the bow, I don’t think I’ll care. In addition to the fact that I feel less and less inclined to care much about killing Garrosh, the heirloom bow would work against what I’m thinking of doing anyway.

OK, how about the Legendary cloak?

This is where I pause…

…because one of the things that interests me is how far I’ll go into the mid-90s or later before my first and only legendary becomes irrelevant. I’ve never, ever had one before. So I’m torn. I may just keep the cloak equipped, for fun and for pride. Removing all set bonuses/CD-reduction gear and the rest of the current raid gear will be a massive self-nerf as it is, and would likely put me exactly where I want to be, which is not overpowered vs. the first couple levels of mobs on Draenor.

. . .

As shown in the screenshot at the top, I’m also looking at going in with a nostalgic look via transmog. I’ve spent so much time leveling alts through places like Nagrand that I thought it might be fun to wear this simple Tallhide Mail set for that throwback feeling. I wore the Gryphon Mail set for most of MoP, although for the past several weeks I’ve been rocking a T7 Cryptstalker set, which reflects my (recent) darker mood regarding the game while also looking like I mean business.

A small part of me thinks that going into Draenor wearing something that looks badass would be more appropriate in the larger scheme, given that we’re chasing after a warmonger who doesn’t know when to quit. However, on a personal level, I’m intentionally entering WoD not as an end-game raider, but as (possibly) a Timeless Isle-equipped adventurer who will get caught up in events that, as usual, I wasn’t (supposed to be) expecting. Thus, a simple transmog like this – tied to so many memories of picking up Tallhide BoEs in Nagrand – lends somewhat to the immersion level, given what I’m going for.

. . .

So, what do you think? Full Timeless? Heroic dungeon gear? Is there a better idea that would make what I’m aiming for more interesting?

Or do you think the whole notion is preposterous and stupid? I think it could be fun and challenging, but maybe you think I’m off my rocker.

One thing that I’m well aware of is that, like previous expansions, it’s likely that I’ll replace this gear as I go through the campaign in WoD. That’s ok. Like I said, I don’t necessarily want to make this into an Ironman thing, where I’m fighting a constant uphill battle while being massively undergeared. I’m just looking for a different experience, and upgrading from, say, a Timeless-dominated set with quest greens and dungeon blues from Draenor will be a more natural extension of that, as opposed to wearing all of my current gear until 94 or so (and wondering if I’ll ever really be challenged).

Anyway, let me know what you think!

. . .

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc.

8 Comments on “Leveling the new-xpac playing field via self-nerf”

  1. Bruce Baugh says:

    You could embrace the rainbow of diversity and do it in suitably leveled PVP gear! :)

  2. R says:

    Heh. Yeah, that was my first thought as well for a retro set of gear, craft the i477 or whatever PvP gear… but the TI gear might be a better idea since those tokens will likely go to waste anyway.

    I approve of the idea in general if that’s how you want to tackle it. My rogue legendaries made it all the way to 90 but at later levels I think they were holding me back… even legendaries age pretty quickly in new expansions. Personally, I don’t turf my raid gear prior to leveling but I go with the bandaid rip whenever I get new gear from quests… even if they’re technically a downgrade, I immediately swap them in. Trying to compare two pieces of gear when one’s gemmed, enchanted and reforged when all you’re doing is questing is pointless so I just replace at the first opportunity and save myself the grief of having to think… or feel. Do it, done. You’ll have done that in advance with your plan, though, so that may be smarter. :)

  3. Quelys says:

    I love the idea of taking it slow, only with MoP did I play from launch (all other expacs I was a couple of weeks behind), and I tried the realm first ach. Although I got it, I don’t think I would make it a habit.
    Following the story and taking time to appreciate the ‘new’ is great – and would be pretty refreshing. Although, I don’t know if downgrading your gear is the way to go (at least not to a massive extent). If anything, I would aim for t14 gear if you were really going for this, and just replace gear via quest rewards as you go.
    Even with much lower ilvl gear, your amazing sexy hunter-ness would overpower your foes, all that will change is they will take x amount of seconds longer to eat dirt :P
    good luck with it! I look forward to reading more on what you aim to do!

  4. Jaeger says:

    I’ll keep my epics for leveling. :)

    However, I’m a Loremaster through and through, so I’ll do the full zone before going to the next. I level a little slower but in both Cata and MoP I was still one of the first few people to max level in my guild.

    In WoD, who knows, since my guild xfer’d before SoO started; there are only a couple active people left. Waiting for my realm to get connected (or for a better game to come out).

  5. Twenty20 says:

    I will level in whatever gear I’m wearing at the time, but I do intend to finish as many zones as I can as I play through them. When I hit 90, the only zone I hadn’t touched was Krasarang, and I didn’t finish Kun Lai because it was so freakin’ big…but Jade Forest and Valley got completed on the way, I certainly wasn’t rushing to top level to raid; most of my guild took hiatuses about 4 months in to MoP and I was left largely alone. I like just finding what feels like a good pace and trying to stay with it. If I get bogged down in a zone, I will usually change scenery and go do something different, but I’m not planning the fastest route to top level.

  6. Laeleiweyn says:

    Timeless gear or crafted PVP-gear sounds ok.

    I’ll be leveling in my raiding gear, but I expext to start replacing pieces aound lvl 93-95. I wanna take it slow and enjoy the full story as well. MOP was a bit too hectic; having two 90’s after a week, with one of them being a monk that started at level 80. I will probably play equally much the first week of WOD, but hopefully it will be more of fun quality time. :-)

    I also want a BC-transmog to go into the next expansion with, and I can’t wait to see the cool new gear we’ll be getting. :-)

  7. Delirium says:

    I leveled once in the beta with a premade character, who I think was in 500 gear to start with. And I leveled once copying over my main hunter, in 585ish gear. I can’t say I remember much difference. I mean, I did the premade character first, since they didn’t have the character copy for a while, or maybe they just didn’t when I started. But still, in 500 gear I felt pretty OP, just because hunters are so ridiculously amazing at leveling. I’m curious to hear how it’ll be in the beginning with 463 gear. I bet you’ll still be fairly untouchable, though some of the early rares will eat through your pet and require a little bit of kiting.

    This sounds kind of fun. Maybe I’ll do this with a different hunter. You should start a competition. Most things completed before turning 100.

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