They are not welcoming, they are not particularly friendly, and to be perfectly honest the majority of them are pretty angry that we've shown up on Pandaria. Now perhaps it says something about me, but that fact in and of itself made me want to grind out this reputation. I mean, here I am, hero of Azeroth, killed Deathwing and interrupted what was going to be the end of the world and these guys are treating me like a total scrub? Oh it's on, guys.
Not to mention the absolutely fantastic taste these guys have in hats. Have you seen the hats? I knew I needed one of those hats the moment I laid eyes on it.
Story and layout
Honestly, the Shado-Pan have every right to be angry with all these new people tromping around on Pandaria's soil. The Shado-Pan were originally established by the last Emperor of Pandaria, Shaohao. Although Emperor Shaohao had bested his own anger, hatred and violence to imprison the Sha, he knew that the Sha would continue to be a threat to the pandaren if they were simply allowed to fester beneath the land. And so he tasked the greatest warriors of Pandaria with restraining and controlling the Sha. This was ten thousand years ago.
So for ten thousand years, these guys have been watching over the Sha, making sure they didn't break free. They've been keeping track of mantid swarms, and they know the mantid cycle well enough that they can have defenses in place like clockwork when the mantid show up. Everything has been running smooth as silk with no problems at all, for ten thousand years. And then we showed up. Suddenly, the Sha are all over the place, the mogu are trying to stage an uprising, the mantid are swarming early, and the yaungol are breaching the Serpent's Spine and spilling out into the rest of Pandaria because the mantid are forcing them out of their normal stomping grounds.
Basically, it's mass hysteria all over Pandaria, and we are the sole cause for the majority of it. It's our fault. That's why these guys are angry with us -- it's like being assigned to watch a house of cards for ten thousand years, and then suddenly having someone flounder into the room and bump into the table because they simply aren't paying attention to where they are going.
This is why the layout of the Shado-Pan dailies makes perfect sense. Because all this stuff is your fault, you have to help clean it up and earn the respect of the Shado-Pan in the process. You can get companions to accompany you on your travels, and some of these companions are incredibly handy. But in order to get the really good ones to tag along with you, you have to defeat them in combat first, and prove that you're worth helping out. That's the whole backbone behind the Shado-Pan rep grind -- you are proving yourself to them. Proving that you aren't just some clumsy idiot that can't see that card table sitting right in front of them.
Blizzard did a good job making sure you never have to travel too far out of the way to complete these dailies. The yaungol quests are relatively nearby, and during the course of the first daily quests you create a portal to one of the outlying islands. The dailies themselves rotate on a fairly regular basis, although I found that I didn't really get many days of yaungol-stomping during the grind. Even though you're sent to the islands fairly regularly, what you have to do while on those islands rotates. Again, these quests seem to rotate with enough frequency that you aren't doing the exact same thing every day.
And you really couldn't ask for better rewards. Not only do the Shado-Pan offer some pretty nice valor point gear, they have tiger mounts available for purchase. And if that isn't enough, when you hit exalted you are treated to a fairly epic conclusion with a storyline that nets you a free black cloud serpent mount as a reward. On top of that, you can purchase one of the distinctive hats that the Shado-Pan wear for transmogrification.
As far as the daily quests go, some are far, far better than others. Remember that amazing moment in the Storm Peaks during Wrath of the Lich King, when you fought your way from dragon to dragon up the tallest peak while participating in the Drakkensyrd? You get to do that as a daily out on the island, using hooks to fling yourself from dragon to dragon and literally beating some sense into them. I remember wishing that event had been a daily back in Wrath, and now it is -- in a slightly different form, mind you.
The various NPCs of the Shado-Pan are written just as well as the rest of the pandaren NPCs you'll encounter throughout the various reputation grinds. They've all got personality, and they're perfectly willing to help you, provided you prove you're worth helping. It's that sense of proving your character's worth that, to me, ultimately made the grind worth it -- at the end of the grind these guys are treating you like an old friend.
There are two issues I have a problem with in regards to the Shado-Pan. The biggest one right off the bat is that these guys are locked behind the Golden Lotus. You cannot even begin the daily quests for the Shado-Pan until you are revered with the Golden Lotus, and that makes absolutely no sense. I understand the gating mechanism from the standpoint of trying not to overwhelm players with too many dailies. I get that. But when you place gear behind that reputation wall, it only serves to irritate players. However, there's another reason why this irritates me, and it ties into the second problem I have with the Shado-Pan.
You first assist the Shado-Pan in Valley of the Four Winds, you see them again in Kun-Lai Summit, in Shado-Pan Monastery, and all throughout Townlong Steppes. Yet after doing all of this, the Shado-Pan are still only friendly to you. When you compare this to the Klaxxi, who you help in one zone and come out halfway through honored, this seems kind of cheap in comparison. It makes no sense at all, and it makes the rep grind take even longer as a result. Worse yet, the Shado-Pan are locked behind the Golden Lotus -- so you're stuck with that friendly reputation until you're revered and can move on.
Logically speaking, why would these guys need your help, want your help, get your help, and then refuse to speak to you until you've proven yourself with the Golden Lotus, too? Taran Zhu, leader of the Shado-Pan was possessed by the Sha of Hatred until you and your buddies set him free -- and yet you're not good enough to do dailies and errands until you're revered with someone else? It just doesn't make sense at all.
And while the end of the Shado-Pan storyline was suitably epic, it was also incredibly open-ended. While this irritated me on one level, on another I suspect we'll see more about the events that played out at some point later in the expansion.
Why do it?
Regardless of the gating mechanism and the weird quibbles in storyline and motivation, are the Shado-Pan worth the grind? Of course they are. You can certainly stop at revered reputation, cash in on the valor rewards and call it a day if you like, but the additional bonuses to being exalted make it well worth the extra climb.
The only other place you're going to get a free cloud serpent in Pandaria is the Order of the Cloud Serpent -- which should also be completed if you want to ride that sweet mount the Shado-Pan have bestowed upon you. The Shado-Pan tiger mounts are the first time that tigers have been available on a vendor to anyone in the Horde -- previously, the only options were the long-gone tiger from the original Zul'Gurub, or the astronomically priced spectral tigers from the WoW TCG.
While it has its bumps along the way, the Shado-Pan is a really well designed daily hub. The quests rotate frequently enough that you shouldn't find yourself doing the same thing day in and day out, and the personalites you encounter along the way are amusing enough to keep you entertained. If you've hit revered and you're trying to decide whether or not to continue to exalted, I'd encourage you to keep up the grind -- after all, you are a hero of Azeroth, and you totally deserve that snazzy hat.
Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.