First, you need to have a level 90 character. If you don't have one yet, it's okay: the experience required to level from 1-85 was significantly reduced when Mists of Pandaria was released, so you'll be able to catch up quickly. Once you reach 85, hop over to Pandaria and enjoy the new quests. You'll gain a level for each zone you clear, more or less. You can also run some normal mode 5-man dungeons if you'd like, though go easy; you'll be running the heroic versions quite frequently at 90.
Second, you'll want a DPS spec and a good set of starter gear for it. Completing the Dread Wastes or Townlong Steppes quests will get you outfitted; if you don't have DPS gear laying around to actually complete the quests, Len of Arms will happily sell you a set of 408's to get going. You can also search the auction house; many blue BoE's in the ilvl 430-450 range are listed frequently, for pretty reasonable prices. Finally, there are three things every character should do as soon they hit level 90, so knock them out first. First, go train flying in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. (If you missed it while leveling, there's a short pre-requsite quest chain in Kun-Lai Summit that opens the gates to the Vale.) While you're there, make sure you find the Elder Charm questgiver for your faction; you'll be visiting them like clockwork at the beginning of every week if you want a chance at additional loot drops. Second, go see Wrathion at the tavern in the Veiled Stair to begin the process of accumulating reputation for the legendary questline. Finally, make sure you train your level 90 talent. (Yes, it took me a week to remember to train it on my monk.)
It's time for dailies! Luckily, you don't have to do them all at once. Patch 5.1 introduced two new reputations (Operation Shieldwall for Alliance, Dominance Offensive for Horde) that have rewards significantly better than those offered by the Patch 5.0 reputations. In order to get those rewards, you need valor points (VP's) and reputation; conveniently, the daily quests offered by these factions provide both. You'll have to do a short intro questline, but the quests themselves are quite easy to do, and every few days you'll get a non-daily quest mixed in that'll increase your rep significantly. Knock these out every day; you'll get 25 VP and 900 rep for each day's completion.
While you're completing the dailies, keep an eye out for your three faction's rare enemies. Alliance will be looking for Kar Warmaker, Muerta, and Ubunti the Shade, while the Horde will be killing Dalan Nightbreaker, Disha Fearwarden, and Mavis Harms. They spawn roughly every hour, and they're fairly easy to kill solo once you learn how to avoid their abilities. Killing them nets you a small chance at a Brawler's Guild invitation and some other goodies, but more importantly, a 30% chance at one of three epic PvP trinkets, which will significantly help boost your average item level.
Dailies done for the day? Good. It's time to queue. Hopefully, you've completed enough Dread Wastes/Townlong Steppes quests to push your item level to 435; if not, you'll want to finish those out or grab crafted ilvl 450 gear off the Auction House to plug any gaps. You can choose whether to run scenarios, 5-man heroic instances, or a mix of both.
Scenarios are quick (typically 10-15 minutes) and extremely tolerant; there's essentially no way to fail, just slower and faster ways to finish. The queue time for each is very short, usually a minute or less. Each scenario rewards 20 VP's (40 for the first each day), 30 justice points (JP's), and a roughly 15% chance at a random gear piece, which is typically a ilvl 463 blue.
5-man heroics are slower (usually 20-30 minutes, though they can go much faster with a well-geared group) and usually have a 5-10 minute wait. While they're significantly easier then they were in Cataclysm, there is still a chance of failure as well. The upside is the better rewards; each heroic rewards 40 VP's (80 for the first each day), 35 JP's per boss killed, and a guaranteed 463 drop from each boss. Of course, those 463's aren't necessarily going to match your spec, and you occasionally will have other group members vying for the same drop. In general, it works out to about one item every two runs or so.
Personally, I prefer to do both. I'll queue for a scenario and a 5-man instance at the same time; you accumulate queue time while in the scenario, so as soon as you finish, your 5-man will typically be ready to start. I can knock out a daily quest hub, a scenario, and a 5-man instance in about an hour; do this every day of the week, and you'll have capped your VP, which is critical for this plan.
Finally, you'll want to get in a Sha of Anger run. This world boss is the equivalent to the Baradin Hold bosses of Cataclysm, or the Vault of Archavon bosses of Wrath of the Lich King; an easy kill if you can find a group. You have a small chance at some ilvl 496 epic gear, but on your first kill you're guaranteed to receive the Claw of Anger, which can be turned in for some ilvl 476 boots.
Got all that? Here's where you should be at the end of Week 1:
- Average Item Level around 450
- 1,000 Valor Points acquired
- At least 4,000/6,000 Friendly with Shieldwall/Dominance
- Sha of Anger killed/ilvl 476 boots received
- Optionally, 3 Elder Charms of Good Fortune (requires 90 Lesser Charms of Good Fortune, which means at least 45 dailies completed for the week; you'll need to supplement Shieldwall/Dominance dailies with dailies from another faction, such as Klaxxi).
This week, you'll begin exhausting the rewards from heroics and scenarios; luckily, other rewards will kick in. A few days into the week, you'll hit two milestones right around the same time: 1,250 VP's and Honored with Operation Shieldwall/Dominance Offensive. Now's a great time to grab one of those shiny ilvl 496 rings, eh? This, plus your continued acquisition of ilvl 463 gear, should bump your average item level above 460, which qualifies you to queue for the Raid Finder version of Mogu'shan Vaults!
Unlike the normal version of the raid, the Raid Finder version is split into two groups of three bosses. Killing the final boss in each wing will reward you with 90 Valor Points (45 for subsequent kills), and each boss has a chance to drop an epic lvl 476 item for you and you alone. If you chose to do enough dailies to get Elder Charms, you can use one for each boss kill and get a second shot as receiving loot.
As with heroics and scenarios, you can queue for Raid Finder alongside something else. Seeing as the wait times can sometimes exceed 45 minutes, I highly recommend starting your play session by queuing for Raid Finder, then doing whatever else you want to do that day.
End of Week 2 checklist:
- Average Item Level around 460
- 2,000 Valor Points acquired (750 remaining if 1,250 VP ring purchased)
- At least 6,000/12,000 Honored with Shieldwall/Dominance
- Sha of Anger killed, if not killed in Week 1 (or kill him again if you want the chance at the 496 drop).
- Elder Charms as desired
Week 3: A Spring Fling
This is it. We're going to push into Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring, and wipe out that Sha of Fear once and for all (well, until the next reset). To do that, though, you'll have to pass your toughest test to date: getting an average item level of 470. Prior to patch 4.1, this required you to raid normal mode Mogu'shan Vaults, spend a lot of gold crafting (or purchasing) epics off the AH, or steadily grind multiple reputations to unlock reputation rewards. Now, though, things are much easier. By the end of this week, you'll have reached another set of paired milestones: 1,750 VP's and Revered with Operation Shieldwall/Dominance Offensive. This will enable you to buy a second piece of ilvl 496 gear from them. You'll also have another chance to run Mogu'shan Vaults and the Sha of Anger for more chances at drops.
Let's do some quick math. Assuming you're rocking an ilvl 463 item in each slot at this point (If you're not, go queue for the specific heroic you need, then come back), you need roughly 105 item level points from items above that to get to 470. If you've followed my guide to this point, you'll already have 79 locked in: 66 from the two ilvl 496 reputation items, and 13 from the boots off Sha of Anger. That means you simply need 26 more points to get there, which gives you three easy options:
- JP upgrades If you haven't spent any JP to this point, you probably have quite a bit banked. You can spend 1500 JP to get a 8 point ilvl upgrade to one of your blue items. You'll need four upgrades to get to 470 from this alone, though, so this is best used as a supplement.
- Raid Finder drops Get two ilvl 476 drops from Mogu'shan Vaults, or 1 ilvl 496 from Sha of Anger. Hope you have better luck than I did! You can also combine one 476 with two JP upgrades.
- PvP trinkets Get one of the three ilvl 483 PvP trinkets that drop off the PvP rares (mentioned above) in Krasarang Wilds, plus a JP upgrade to put you over the top. (This is the approach my lovely mismatched Monk has depicted above.)
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.