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Shifting Perspectives: Rolling a new bear or restoration druid in Cataclysm

Allison Robert

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This Tuesday, there can never be enough druids in the world.

Our editors have asked us to write a column or two about leveling new characters in Cataclysm, as we've been getting lots of requests and, uh, we haven't updated our leveling guides in a while. I was horrified to learn that my own were written two years ago.

So, without further ado, here's my comprehensive guide to druid leveling in Cataclysm:
  1. Go anywhere.
  2. Do anything.
  3. Ding!
  4. Go anywhere.
  5. Do anything.
  6. Ding!
I suspect this is not going to pass the laugh test with our editors, so let's see if I can rustle up some slightly more useful advice past the cut.

Update: A few hours after this column was submitted on Monday morning, Blizzard went live with its class feedback series on the forums, seeking input from players on potential changes to their classes. The last time they did this was around the time they were tossing around ideas on class updates that later appeared in the Cataclysm beta, so this is your chance to weigh your experiences in this expansion and write suggestions. The druid threads are here (US version) and here (EU version), and we'll talk about this next week.

If you're interested in a historical artifact, this is the comprehensive druid leveling guide written between July and September 2009, at the midpoint of Wrath of the Lich King:
This was back when each ability had lots of different ranks and players had 61 talent points available, so it made more sense to examine the leveling process in chunks of 10. That's pretty much overkill in the modern game, and I'm going to take the Cataclysm guides in a much broader sweep as a result.

For today's article, I'm going to assume you're preparing to roll a new druid without having played one before, regardless of whether you're a new or experienced player.

Picking a race

For lore junkies, anyone looking to incorporate a bit of roleplay into their leveling experience, or anyone still trying to decide which of the four druidic races to play, you may find the following articles helpful or fun to read:If you're not big on lore and just want to roll the race best suited to your in-game interests:
  • Dedicated tank players will get the most from Night Elves' Quickness. The Tauren Endurance is a shadow of its former self, but it's the only Horde-side racial bonus that affects tanking.
  • Dedicated DPS players will get the most from the Worgen Viciousness. The Trolls' Berserking is the only Horde-side racial that provides a damage bonus.
  • As with their DPS counterparts, dedicated healers will probably get the most from Viciousness. Again, Berserking can also be helpful during a raid fight's tougher moments, but it won't do as much for you as a passive 1% crit bonus does.
  • For dedicated PVP players, there no longer seems to be any broad consensus on which race has the most helpful bonuses, and what you pick will probably depend more on your spec. The most consistently successful druid PVP spec is restoration, and resto players usually get the most from Night Elves' Shadowmeld. However, War Stomp has always had its fans. Many PVP cats swear by Darkflight (which gives feral Worgen access to three speed boosts with Darkflight, Dash, and Stampeding Roar), or at least they did before the shifting nerf made Da Voodoo Shuffle marginally better.
Which raises an interesting question: Are there any PVP ferals left?

Heirloom gear for bear and restoration druids

Heirlooms are by no means necessary, but if you're looking to get to level 85 as quickly as possible, they're the way to go. They're also the safest possible picks if you want to be assured of having level-appropriate gear in important slots without having to depend on quest rewards or unpredictable dungeon drops.

For bears:For trees, a lot of players simply buy the cloth heirlooms so they won't have to purchase two sets of heirlooms for their druid and cloth-class alts, but Leather Specialization at level 50 is an attractive prospect. That said, I don't think it's worth your time to farm up another set of heirlooms if you've already got the cloth stuff lying around, but if you're determined to get the most from your armor:
  • Weapon Neither of the two caster heirloom weapons has spirit, but the Dignified Headmaster's Charge will save you the trouble of having to keep upgrading an off-hand weapon. It's also more easily transferable to other caster classes than the Devout Aurastone Hammer, unless you're planning on making your next alt a paladin. However, the Hammer is the less expensive of the two options at 2,725 justice points or 60 Champions' Seals; the Charge will run you 3,500 justice points or 95 Champions' Seals.
  • Helm Preened Tribal War Feathers Purchased from a guild vendor and only available if your guild is level 20+; 1,350 gold.
  • Shoulders Preened Ironfeather Shoulders 2,175 justice points or 60 Champions' Seals.
  • Cloak Ancient Bloodmoon Cloak Purchased from a guild vendor and only available if your guild is level 10+;1,200 gold.
  • Chest Preened Ironfeather Breastplate 2,175 justice points or 60 Champions' Seals.
  • Ring Dread Pirate Ring Won from the Kal'uak Fishing Derby.
  • Trinket Using two Discerning Eye of the Beast is more helpful to a leveling restoration player than using one in tandem with a Swift Eye.
If you're a completely new player without access to heirlooms, fear not -- they're just helpful bonuses to players who have already leveled another toon. I've been leveling a Goblin priest without heirlooms on a different server from my main, and I can personally attest to the fact that the revamped zones and dungeons of Cataclysm will give you access to tons of great gear. Don't sweat it if you're starting from scratch.

And on that note ...

Questing vs. dungeon leveling

A lot of folks leveling tanks and healers to 85 will do so largely through the Dungeon Finder, and the Tuesday edition of Shifting just so happens to cover the two druid specs concerned with both roles. As someone who's leveled a healer almost entirely through 5-mans for the low-level tank project (more on this in a future column), you can absolutely do this, and it's both convenient and a great way to learn how your character plays in group content. However, it also means missing out on the extraordinary job that Blizzard did with Cataclysm questing, and that's kind of sad.

On other toons, I've seen and/or finished questing through Mulgore, the Northern Barrens, Duskwood, the Stonetalon Mountains, Gilneas, Silverpine Forest, the Badlands, the Redridge Mountains, Kezan, the Lost Isles, the Blasted Lands, and Northern and Southern Stranglethorn (on top of the Cataclysm zones added to the original continents for levels 80 to 85). Without exception, they have all been excellent, with interesting storylines and great drops. Seeing players skip past them simply because the Dungeon Finder is convenient gives me hives.

If you want to pick up Dual Talent Specialization as quickly as possible (level 30) and have a DPS spec in addition to a tanking or healing spec, it's been my experience that leveling DPS characters don't wait anywhere near the time they do at level 85 for a queue to pop. If you want to combine questing with a more limited set of dungeons, it's often helpful to pop a DPS character into the queue and enjoy questing while you wait. If you're a tank/healer, the queue usually pops immediately (or within 2 minutes), so that's tougher to do, and questing on a restoration spec is significantly less efficient than questing as a balance or feral player.

Shifting Perspectives helps you gear your bear druid, breaks down the facts about haste for trees, and then digs into the restoration mastery. You might also enjoy our look at the disappearance of the bear.

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