It's dangerous to go alone; here, take this ...
While leveling through content is traditionally the domain of questing, as healers, we have often relied on group questing and group play to reach our end goal. We do, however, get to take advantage of something pretty nice in the upcoming expansion. In Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard introduced the Looking for Dungeon system. Players have been able to queue up based on their chosen role in order to be assigned a random group for dungeons chosen from players among the battlegroup your server belongs to. Players get to choose between specific and random dungeons.
Traditionally, healers are lucky enough to have very short waiting times in those queues. Cataclysm will likely be no different here, and the system will still be in place. While players should continue to quest and explore the zones for quest rewards and experience, healers will undoubtedly be taking advantage of this system to earn extra experience and some pretty choice loot.
Now, whether you are playing in a group or going it alone, you should take stock of the consumables you have at the ready for your adventures. In the week before Cataclysm, the auction houses are flooded with people trying to clear their inventory to make room for new items, and you can more often than not use this to your advantage.
Flask of Pure Mojo was one of the best-used shaman flasks early in Wrath. It stayed in constant use pretty much right up until Icecrown Citadel was released. It is once again insanely useful at the beginning of the new expansion for two reasons. First of all, it adds to your spirit total by 90 and persists throughout death. Second, on most servers, it is absolutely dirt cheap. I've checked a few servers that I have alts on, and in each case, the flasks were selling for less than 10 gold a piece. My suggestion to anyone who plans on chaining dungeons at the start of Cataclysm is to stock up on these now so that you can use them until the new alchemical goodies become available on your server for a reasonable price.
Flask of the Frost Wyrm is also good for the same reasons that pure mojo is -- mainly that right about now, it is pretty darn cheap. If you plan on questing, you are going to be throwing Lightning Bolts, Chain Lightning and all manner of different shocks, and you may find it useful to have a little extra oomph behind your spell-flinging. With this flask persisting through death, it will be a little cheaper than elixirs for now. I've been finding it for less than 10g on most servers.
Getting your food together for the leveling ahead can also be quite helpful. Pickled Fangtooth and Spicy Fried Herring offer some cheap spirit buffs for early dungeoning, while Very Burnt Worg and Imperial Manta Steak offer some additional haste for leveling. Now really is the time to stock up, as everything is at bargain basement prices. Having them handy and in plentiful supply can really help make those first levels go by a little faster and help give you a little extra boost. Don't go overboard on them, because you will eventually be using the new consumables, but you can definitely use them to hit the ground running in Cataclysm.
What's the plan, Stan?
As with Wrath, you will have a choice of two starter zones. In Cataclysm, this will be either Mount Hyjal or Vashj'ir. Both zones offer unique quests, flavor and feel. Both also offer a plethora of quest gear upgrades. In my travels through the beta, I found more luck questing through Hyjal, as far as upgrades go. By the end of the zone, I had replaced my tier 10 shoulders and gotten a new weapon and off-hand and at least one trinket. That said, both zones are well worth the time to go through if you get the chance, and they offer very different but compelling stories.
Now is the time, though, to start making a plan. Decide which zone you want to start in now, and get ready. Plan on how you want to level. Do you want to jump right into dungeons and heal all the way to 85, or do you want to quest, exploring each zone fully, forsaking the dungeons until you get to level 85? The most effective way will be combining the two, but no matter what your choice is, there is no wrong way to do it.
If you can, find a buddy or several to quest and instance with. If you plan on leveling as restoration, having a group of people you can call on to help with group quests and to run dungeons with can go a long way to make your leveling experience faster and more enjoyable. It will let you play to your strength as a healer without having to worry about seriously DPSing.
With a week's time between you and the new content, make one final check through your list. Are your bags empty to accommodate the massive amounts of loot you will get? Do you have your gold set aside for old world flying? Are you up to date on your class changes and the new spells? Do you know the stats, spells and numbers at level 85? Do you have any last-minute questions that you need answered before the big day arrives? Probably the most important thing is: Are you prepared to have large amounts of fun? Get ready to explore completely new zones and enjoy the new content! If you've been waiting for it as long as I have, I know you'll have a blast. In the weeks that follow we will be going over gear from leveling in dungeons and questing, healing strategies for the various instances, and much much more.
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