There are three others in Pandaria; Chi-ji the Red Crane to the south, Xuen the White Tiger to the North, and Niuzao the Black Ox to the west. It's not clear if these three follow the same cycle as Yu'lon, but all three share the same sparkling, ethereal appearance. We don't know where they came from. We don't know what they are. We don't know exactly how long they've been on Pandaria, although there is mention of Yu'lon in tales from the last Pandaren Emperor. We don't know what their ultimate purpose on Pandaria is, except to guard and watch over the world.
And one would think that a reputation grind dedicated to these ethereal creatures would answer at least a few of these questions.
Story and layout
The August Celestials are creatures of untold mystery who have been watching over the world for an unknown number of centuries. They don't exactly trust us -- and honestly, that's probably a smart move on their part. We encounter the first August Celestial, Yu'lon, at a pivotal moment in her lifespan. The pandaren of the Jade Forest have been working on creating a life-sized statue of Yu'lon in the center of the Jade Forest for many years, long before we arrived on Pandaria's shores.
But this isn't just a statue of tribute -- it's a key part of Yu'lon's life cycle. Much as the priests at the Temple of the Jade Serpent hate to admit it, Yu'lon is growing old, and she is dying. When she dies, her life's essence will be breathed into the statue at the center of the forest, and she will be reborn. It is the cycle of the Jade Serpent, and it's been going on for longer than we know, and possibly longer than even the pandaren know.
And all across Pandaria, the Sha are unleashed, creating a chain reaction of events that effects all four of the August Celestials, some more dire than others. As we travel across Pandaria, we encounter each of the Celestials in turn, leading up to the moment where all four agree that we should be allowed entry into the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. But it doesn't mean that the Celestials trust us implicitly, not after what happened in the Jade Forest.
In order to gain favor with the August Celestials, we much prove ourselves to each of them in turn. This means that the dailies for the Celestials rotate between the four temples that are located all across Pandaria. Luckily, there is a quest available at the shrines in the Vale that will point players in the correct direction every day. Each area has its own vastly different set of quests that will grant players reputation.
I do like variety in my dailies, and the August Celestials offers that in spades. If you're sent to the Temple of the White Tiger, you'll be proving yourself with various tests of strength, fighting a variety of NPCs in one on one, two on one, or even three on one combat. They range from NPCs you've encountered while traveling the world, to the incredibly funny, like Lun-Chi "The Streetfighter," to the trio Tankiss, Healiss and Hackiss, who spout some of the funniest lines during their encounter.
At the Temple of the Jade Serpent, it's time to help clean up the horror of the Sha that you inadvertently unleashed on that fateful day in Pandaria. This means murdering a lot of Sha -- but it also means occasionally riding a cloud serpent to put out Sha fire, and fighting a massive Sha with the assistance of a curious bell that will stun the attacker. At Niuzao Temple, the mantid are attacking with a vengeance, and the defenders need your help to keep them at bay. Occasionally, Niuzao himself will help you out indirectly by charging around the Temple and gleefully stomping anything in his path.
But perhaps the most interesting are the quests for the Temple of Chi-Ji. These quests don't take place at the temple at all -- they are to the south on a mysterious island called the Cradle of Chi-Ji. It's a training ground for pandaren fighters, but they have non-pandaren combatants as well. And over the course of the dailies, a storyline plays out between you and your self-proclaimed rival, Ellia Ravenmane. As you progress through these dailies, NPCs will send you bits of mail regarding your growing prowess and status at the Cradle, which makes the quests all the more intriguing as time goes on.
It was the Cradle of Chi-Ji that fascinated me during the beta. I couldn't wait to see it play out on live servers, and actually complete the storyline that progressed as I beat the snot out of combatants on the isle. And because of this, I really looked forward to the August Celestial reputation grind most of all, even over the Tillers or the Klaxxi, both of whom I loved on live.
And it's probably because of this that I was so incredibly disappointed and continue to be disappointed as time goes on.
When you begin your reputation grind with the August Celestials, you'll find yourself still at neutral reputation. This is baffling to me, because you spend a good chunk of your time interacting and assisting the Celestials as you're leveling up to 90, and even beyond. The Shado-Pan culmination involves Niuzao directly, yet you gain no favor for your efforts. The Golden Lotus culminates with all four Celestials helping you in their own unique fashion -- yet again, you get no reputation for your efforts.
The world tells the story that you've been proving yourself to these guys to the point where they will allow you into their most sacred of places, the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, but you still begin at neutral reputation. This makes the August Celestials grind the single longest grind out of them all. You must be revered with the Golden Lotus before you can begin with the Celestials and the Shado-Pan. And if you decide to do both Shado-Pan and Celestials at the same time, you will be exalted with the Shado-Pan several days before you hit exalted with the Celestials.
But you know what? It doesn't matter.
Out of all of the varied creatures on Pandaria, the Celestials were one of those intriguing mysteries I couldn't wait to figure out. And as I nabbed exalted with all of the other factions in Pandaria and watched those amazing final events of the grind play out, I couldn't wait to see what the Celestials had in store. What kind of history would we uncover? What sort of final event would we see? What kind of quest would there be at the end of this, the longest and most excruciating grind in Mists of Pandaria?
Now some may say that I shouldn't feel entitled to a final payoff, but the problem with that assessment is that given every other reputation grind I had been through so far, it seemed obvious that there would be a payoff. The Klaxxi, the Golden Lotus, the Shado-Pan, the Tillers, the Order of the Cloud Serpent, all had some sort of story chain or cinematic at the end that made that grind feel worth it. That made it feel like I'd accomplished something. Because of this, I expected the same out of the Celestials.
And because this was easily the longest reputation grind, because this reputation involved some of the most mysterious figures in Pandaria, I figured it would be something especially dramatic. I was wrong. What I was left with was the option to buy a tabard, a mount, and the feeling that all that work I'd put into this wasn't worth the effort.
Why do it?
I wish I could tell you this reputation grind was worth doing. I fervently wish I could tell you that the story pays off, that there's some intriguing and wonderful bit of lore available at the end that makes it all worth it. But at the present time, I cannot. I don't know if the Cradle of Chi-Ji will play out into something spectacular. I just know that it's there and I cannot continue doing it unless the RNG gods smile on me and say "Yes, Anne. Today you get to actually see something entertaining."
If you are a tailor and you would like to make the largest bag available in game currently, you'll have to hit exalted with the August Celestials to do it. And I am incredibly sorry that you'll have to do so. I wish they'd made the recipe BoE, but instead it is bound to the person that purchases it, which is useless on my engineer/jewelcrafter. I wish they'd made the pattern BoA so that you could do the grind with the character of your choice, instead of forcing you to do it with your tailor.
If you are a mount collector and you have an excess amount of gold, you can do the rep grind for the Reins of the Thundering August Cloud Serpent, a gold cloud serpent that crackles with lightning. And I do mean excess amount of gold, because the mount set me back 9,000 gold with reputation and guild discounts taken into consideration. If you're a tabard collector, you can get the August Celestials Tabard at exalted for a few gold.
In fact, I would suggest that unless you are really gunning to get the patterns, mount or tabard, don't take the August Celestials daily unless they are sending you to someplace you like to go. If you don't care for the Jade Serpent dailies, don't bother going there. If you'd rather do the White Tiger temple over anything else, just head to the Temple on the days that are available, and ignore the other days.
But I would recommend that people go do the Cradle of Chi-Ji when it's up. Despite the overwhelming disappointment of the August Celestials as a whole, the Cradle of Chi-Ji is interesting enough that it's a welcome alternative to the other daily quests out there. I like fighting NPCs, I like having a rival, I like seeing a storyline play out. But for something I was looking forward to the most in the beta, the August Celestials turned out to be the least reward for effort. That's an incredible shame.
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.