Choose My Adventure: World of Warcraft and the shadowy priest

It's been one week since Choose My Adventure's voters sent me on the path of darkness in World of Warcraft, daring me to cast off my healing roots and adventure forward as a Priest who deals only in shadow. I've gained a couple of levels, tinkered with my garrison, and killed hundreds and hundreds of orcs. I've even managed to work out some of last week's confusion, finding a spell rotation that works for me and laying waste to any PvE enemies that cross my path.

I've also completed about a million quests, Warlords of Draenor-style.

Quest, quest quest

World of Warcraft has always been a quest-based MMORPG. If you want to level in WoW, you'd better get to questing. Warlords of Draenor is no different, offering hundreds of quests that slowly fill your experience bar and push you ever closer to endgame. The quests in WoD all follow the expansion's story line, which as we established last week has something to do with orcs and portals and fighting. They also all fit into one or more of the existing World of Warcraft Custom Quest Generator 3000 templates, which ask you to "kill blank" or "collect blank" or "find blank" or "gather blank."

I'm not the right person to rate quest quality since I see quests only as annoying to-do lists instead of integral narrative delivery mechanisms (I usually run dungeons to level). I can't tell you whether these are the worst or best quests Blizzard Entertainment has ever designed because I don't think I've read any quest text since I first installed WoW in 2005. What I can say is that the quests in Warlords of Draenor are delivered in a very engaging manner, with quests popping up as you go and quest givers that charge into battle and update you with new quests along the way. You spend a lot more time doing things than you spend running back and forth to update NPCs on your adventures. It's good, I think.

Warlords of Draenor does have some archaic weirdness in its quest design. I would never have imagined playing an MMO in 2014 and having to stand around waiting for a quest NPC to spawn because I arrived just after another quester. Some of the quests are absurdly grindy, requiring kill counts in the 20s for completion. Most interestingly, Blizzard's efforts to fix some of these weird elements have created problems of their own; increased spawn rates on necessary bad guys means you'll sometimes fight the same named NPC four or five times just trying to get another quest done.

Overall, though, I can understand why so many WoW fans are happy with the state of WoD questing. There's a lot to do, very little downtime, and a big focus on keeping the experience feeling epic and important. It's new paint on the same house, but damn if that paint isn't nice.

What the heck are shadow orbs?

When I leveled my very first WoW character in the summer of '05, it was a Dwarf Priest. I picked Priest because I heard they were good for raiding, I picked Dwarf for Fear Ward, and I picked shadow because I thought Shadowform was cool (and leveling as not-shadow was a Rogue-fueled nightmare). Thus, I experienced immense relief on seeing the result of last week's specialization poll. "A shadow Priest? I can play one of those." Or so I thought.

As it turns out, Priests have changed a lot in the nine years since I last played one. Shadow Priests have a ton of new abilities with more dots, a summonable monster thing, and immense burst damage spells. Also added was the shadow orb system, which works quite a bit like the Death Knight rune system. Basically, you use certain abilities to generate shadow orbs, and those shadow orbs unlock other, more powerful abilities. Though my initial research into ideal shadow Priest rotations yielded recommendations that sounded like they were written in JavaScript, I eventually got it figured out enough to start smashing foes into oblivion.

Shadow Priest is fun. Way fun. With my Vanilla WoW pedigree, I'm almost astounded to see how much damage a Priest can generate. I still feel pretty squishy and I have to be careful about aggroing too many enemies at once, but when dealing with single targets, I'm often finished killing them before they realize we're fighting. And that's just with a mix of Warlords quest gear and the starter instant level 90 set. I shudder to think of what shadow Priests are doing in endgame, though I'm certain their class forums are filled with complaints about how it's not enough.

Shadow Priest today feels a lot to me like affliction Warlock did in Burning Crusade: tons of abilities that require delicate micromanagement and do not have one set rotation. It's more complicated than I expected, but I'm definitely enjoying figuring it out. I'm especially excited to check out some of WoD's new dungeons as a DPS character. I haven't DPSed in a dungeon since Vanilla (on a Mage), and doing it with a Priest will be even more strange. Hopefully the queues aren't too bad.

Moving on

Now that our options have opened a bit, this week's polls should be a little more fun. First, let's decide how we spend the next week. Tell me what you want to hear about next Wednesday:
Next, I thought it might be fun to revisit an old dungeon just for nostalgia's sake. I'll let you choose from a list of my favorites, even though some of them have been overhauled or changed:
And finally, I'm going to let you throw me to the wolves. Because WoW's not WoW without getting stunlocked:
Get your votes in by Friday, December 19th, at 11:59 p.m. and stay tuned to the Stream Team schedule to catch your votes in action. I'll see you in Draenor! Again, we're on Kil'Jaeden.

Mike Foster is putting you in the driving seat of Choose My Adventure, the Massively column in which you make the rules, call the shots, and take the blame when things go horribly awry. Stop by every Wednesday to help Mike as he explores the ins and outs of games big and small and to see what happens when one man tries to take on a world of online games armed only with a solar keyboard and the power of spellcheck.