In less than two months, Mists of Pandaria comes out. If you followed my guide from last week, you'll have all the stuff you need to level -- but that still leaves you with a brand new class with a bunch of buttons that you don't recognize. Yay.
Don't worry, I'm here to help. This week and next, I'll give you the leveling lowdown so you know exactly what abilities you'll need and what you won't. After that, I'll bring you a series of 101 articles on how to play your chosen specialization of monk at level 90. Excited? Good. Bow, and let's begin.
First Steps: Levels 1 to 10
Like all classes, you don't start out with much. Your only usable ability will be Jab, which is your basic attack that generates chi. Your basic auto-attacks will likely do a lot more damage than Jab at first; don't fret. You'll also have Stance of the Fierce Tiger, which will cause your Jab to generate extra chi, which you won't have any use for at first. Finally, you'll have several passive abilities, the most noticeable being Tiger Strikes. This proc gives you (essentially) +50% melee attack speed and +100% melee damage for your next four swings, which means whatever you're fighting will die very quickly.
So jab, jab, and jab some more until you hit level 3, when you will learn Tiger Palm. (You don't have to visit trainers to learn abilities anymore; they just pop right into your spellbook. Hooray for progress!) This is your first chi-consuming ability, hitting about twice as hard as Jab for 1 chi. This sets up your first rotation: Jab, Tiger Palm, Tiger Palm, repeat. The armor penetration buff you gain from Tiger Palm is helpful but not overly significant, so don't worry about it too much. Keep punching away, until you get to level 5 and learn Roll. (Whee!)
You'll likely be using Roll a lot, so stick it somewhere easy to hit. This tosses you forward about 20 yards in the direction you're moving (or facing, if standing still) and has two charges, so it can be used twice in succession. It's good for travel from point A to point B or as a quick escape from a bad situation.
At level 7, you'll unlock Blackout Kick, which costs 2 chi but hits more than twice as hard as Tiger Palm. I dropped Tiger Palm completely off my bars at this point. A few more levels, and you'll reach level 10 and your big decision -- specialization. (If you're not sure which specialization you'd like to pursue, check out my "So you'd like to play ..." guides for brewmasters, mistweavers, and windwalkers.) For ease of questing, I'd recommend windwalker, and that'll be the spec I follow for the rest of this guide.
Selecting windwalker will immediately grant you Fists of Fury, a very powerful channeled attack. From here on out, you'll want to Jab twice and immediately launch into FoF, which will typically be enough to kill most quest mobs by itself. It's got a cooldown, though, so you'll still need to use Blackout Kick in between to kill stuff.
Levels 11 to 20
For this tier, you'll still have lots of baseline abilities to get. At level 14, you'll receive Provoke, which is the monk's taunt ability. Even though all specs receive it, you'll likely only use this in desperate situations as a non-brewmaster, since the increased speed the enemy receives makes "taunt kiting" very difficult. Then at 15, you'll have your first talent choice, all of which involve movement in some way. For leveling, my personal preference is Momentum to shorten walk times, but Celerity is good as well.
Next up are two utility spells, Resuscitate and Detox. Resuscitate allows you to bring dead players back to life when out of combat (always handy), and Detox allows you to remove harmful poison and disease effects from yourself or other players. (A mistweaver Detox will also remove magical effects.) With the new 8-second cooldown on all dispels across the board, it's very likely that windwalkers and brewmasters will be pressed into service for dispel-heavy encounters, but you won't have to worry about that while leveling.
While most of the abilities you receive early on are baseline, there are several windwalker exclusives as well. At level 18, you get Flying Serpent Kick, which is quite possibly my most favorite ability in the entire game. Click the button, and you go zooming off at epic flying mount speed. Click it again, and you land with a great animation, doing a little damage as well. (True story: I was competing with a couple other players in Valley of the Four Winds for quest mob spawns when one spawned off in the distance. They started mounting up; I hit Flying Serpent Kick. Five seconds later, they'd barely covered half the distance on their ground mounts and I was already launching into my Fists of Fury.)
At level 20, you get a really sweet teleport called Zen Pilgrimage. This ability teleports you to the Peak of Serenity in Pandaria, an area that has class trainers, profession trainers, and a new class quest every 10 levels. It's like a death knight's Death Gate -- but livelier. You'll also pick up Combat Conditioning, another windwalker exclusive that causes your Blackout Kick to do extra damage or healing, depending on your orientation. (It can be glyphed to just have the extra damage, if you prefer.) Oh, and don't forget to get your mount!
Levels 21 to 30
First up, you'll receive two more baseline abilities, Legacy of the Emperor, which is a buff identical to a paladin's Blessing of Kings, and Touch of Death. ToD is very cool because it allows you to instakill an enemy with lower health than you; the downside is it requires 3 chi, which typically means you'll have already half-killed an enemy by the time you can use it. Still fun, though, especially because it also interacts with your level 24 ability, Fortifying Brew. While Fortifying Brew is designed to be used as an "oh, crap" damage reduction ability, its 20% health buff pushes the Touch of Death threshold just a bit higher.
You'll also get another Touch ability here that's a windwalker exclusive, Touch of Karma. This is sort of like warriors' Spell Reflection, but way better; this reflects all damage you take for 10 seconds. Now, good PvPers will quickly learn to recognize the spell effect and back off, but you're about to ruin XxPwnYrFcexX's day, which is perfectly fine with me.
Rounding out the baseline abilities, you'll pick up Expel Harm at level 26. This ability should instantly hit your bars, because it heals you for a decent amount, does that amount of damage to an enemy target, and generates chi. One thing to note, though, is that it has to heal you to do damage, but it will still generate chi regardless. You'll also pick up Afterlife here, a simple passive that causes healing or chi spheres to occasionally proc when you kill an enemy. Finally, you get Disable at level 28, which is essentially the monk's version of Hamstring. (Yes, they stole Improved Hamstring from warriors, too.)
At last, you'll reach level 30. You'll get dual spec here, so if windwalker's getting boring, feel free to try one of the other specs for a while. While this milestone doesn't come with any new abilities, you'll open up your second tier of talents, which are all skills that combine damage and healing. While I love Chi Burst's visual effect, Zen Sphere is your best bet for solo questing, since it lets you turn excess chi into healing on the move.
Next week, we'll cover the rest of the path to 90. Keep on kicking!
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!