A few more days before Cataclysm -- and I don't know about you, but I'm excited! I've already got my plans and strategies in place. I'll try to answer a few frenzied questions for leveling healers as well ... questions such as the following:
- Where should I go level?
- Should I bury myself in dungeons and chain heal (not the spell) that sucker until I fall over?
- When do I replace my gear?
- Do I power my professions as I go?
- What consumables should I stack up on?
Do I hardcore quest grind or lock myself in dungeons?
Personally, I'm going to hit up the quests. I find that the stories in all the new zones and quests just shouldn't be missed. There's so much to see and to do.
Players on PvP servers may wish to evaluate this carefully. My theory is that if you level hard fast and early enough ahead of "the curve," you won't encounter as much PvP opposition. Why is this? Because there's a subset of the gaming population that wants to get to 85 as soon as possible. I'm one of them. It goes against my interest to get tangled in a PvP battle, because what's going to happen is if a player engages the opposing faction, eventually, more players will get involved and try to slow down the other players or get revenge on them.
The short answer is everybody loses. If your goal is to progress to 85 fast, tangoing with the opposing faction is against your interests.
(What is "the curve"? Picture a standard bell curve. The front part of the curve consists of the elite players who are willing to sit for hours on end and push themselves to the limit to get to max level. They're on the front line when it comes to new content and are willing to throw themselves at it until they achieve that goal. The middle of the curve consists of the majority of players who don't have the time or dedication to the game compared to those at the front but will get to 85 eventually at some point. And the tail end of the curve? Players like me who have final exams right around the release date of the game.)
For you dungeon runners out there, that is another method you could use. You'll need to discover the locations of the dungeons first before using the dungeon finder. You can log right out in Blackrock Mountain and trigger the discovery of Blackrock Caverns. I strongly recommend going in with a team of players you trust, at least initially. I think some of the early opening instances like Blackrock Caverns will be fairly easy for a skilled and well equipped group. The challenges in some of the later ones will be mastering and understanding encounter mechanics. Running chain instances (the upper level ones, at least) is a great way to develop practice for endgame healing at 85, since health will be dramatically going up.
What about the zones?
I think ranged players may have a slight advantage in Vashj'ir against opposing players (at least, opposing melee players, due to the swimming and stuff). But questing in Mount Hyjal allows the use of flying mounts, potentially with 310 percent mount speed. You won't be too terribly handcuffed in Vashj'ir, at least. A few quests in, you'll get a slight boost to speed along with an Abyssal Seahorse to help you get under way.
You ever try PvP combat in a Z environment? It certainly adds an extra dimension! On a side note, I wonder if we'll come across an underwater battleground. Now there'd be an interesting PvP battleground.
What about professions?
Unless you're a miner, skinner or herbalist, I wouldn't worry about professions. The players with gathering professions will get a slight boost to experience when they find the appropriate resources. But for players who craft or augment stuff, I'd hold off until level 85 before trying to "get there."
... Unless, of course, you're trying to shoot for a server-first profession of some sort. I have the dubious pleasure of being the primary enchanter and tailor for my guild. I need to find me some Enchanting Vellums.
How about consumables?
I'm arming myself with Flask of the Frost Wyrm. I think 30 to 40 should do the trick. I suppose Flask of Pure Mojo might work if you don't have access to the Frost Wyrms (or if you're like me, with stockpiles of them in bags). Arm yourself with some water to replenish your mana. Use your mana regeneration cooldowns when you need them, of course. But don't be afraid to sit down and chug some much-needed water. Keep several stacks of Runic Mana Potions on you. There have been times where I just didn't have enough mana left to finish off a mob and died.
If you have any leftover Fish Feasts, gobble up on those; otherwise, you can use some of the other single food buffs. As long as you benefit from it somehow, it doesn't matter which. The point is that you have a food buff.
Can I level as a healer or should I switch to a DPS spec?
In my experience, I've found going straight DPS is the fastest way to do it. Unless you want to keep yourself grouped up with a consistent group to run dungeons, knocking out quests as DPS just makes it easier. The new talent changes we received in recent patches have helped "narrow" the gap between DPS and healer. It won't be optimal leveling as a pure healer out in the world, but you're not completely dead in the water. I managed to get from 80 to 84 as a discipline priest before tapping out and switching to a shadow specialization instead.
Other preparation tips?
- Empty out your bags of greys or any useless items. Feel free to keep both a healing and DPS set in your bags.
- Consider banking your PvP gear
- Either bank or vendor any gear that you won't be using. At all. Yes, this includes your RP gear.
Need advice on working with the healers in your guild? Raid Rx has you covered. Send your questions about raid healing to firstname.lastname@example.org. For less healer-centric raiding advice, visit Ready Check, and don't miss our strategy guides to Icecrown Citadel and Halion/the Ruby Sanctum.