WoW: Level 80 Endgame Play
It gives me great pleasure to present davew's Guide to Life At Level 80 in World of Warcraft. I reckon it's one of the best WoW articles I've seen on the web, let alone published here, and I'm sure you'll agree.
So I hit level 80. What now?
First, congratulations! That's a long way to come. Welcome to the second half of the game.
What happens now is that there is no longer one single, overriding element that determines how powerful your character is. Until now, if you found yourself not quite powerful enough to do something, there were lots of things that you could do about it, but the quickest and easiest was almost always gaining more XP. With that gone, how do you progress?
Well, if you want to make your character more powerful, to see parts of the game you haven't reached yet, then that is still possible - but with XP out of the way, a number of other avenues have opened up to do that.
Now... you can stop now if you like, you can stick to polishing off the remaining quests, do a few instances, do some herbing or mining, or become rich through crafting or speculating on the auction house. These are all open to you, as they have been to some extent or another as you levelled up. If the question you have though is "how do I become more powerful now that I've hit the level cap", then the answer is gear. And how do you get better gear...?
The good news is that while there a pretty wide number of fairly intimidating options at this point, the difficulty curve in Wrath is considerably shallower than it has been in previous endgames. You get to follow some or all of these paths, depending on what suits you and your mood on the day. Some are solo play, some have an emphasis on teamwork, and most will be considerably easier if you're in a good, supportive guild - guilds really come into their own at the level cap.
Like any part of the game, there are addons that will help. You probably won't be able to avoid buying some things (even raw gems or crafting materials) on the AH from time to time, even if you have a really good guild. So it's worth installing Auctioneer (www.auctioneeraddon.com) and doing a fast scan from time to time, even if just to keep you up to date on reasonable market values.
Choose your specialisation
Even the way you play the game could be very different at level 80. If you want to be a healer or a tank, then you were probably encouraged to hold off at least taking those talents while you were levelling up, and concentrate on DPS so that you push that XP bar all the quicker. If you're interested in tanking or healing, then this is your hour, but it'll likely take a while to get used to the new playstyle.
Your talent choice is one of the first potential sources of bewilderment. You get your first respec cheap (and even after that, the cost never rises above a couple of quests' worth of gold) and suddenly you're faced with changing all your talents. Wowwiki is an excellent source for inspiration here, with many sample builds for all classes. If you want to maximise your DPS (or healing, or threat) then you can lift one of those straight out of the page - and you can of course customise to taste as and when you feel like it. (Very often you'll encounter partial specs, which show some recommended minimum set of talents for a given role, leaving some to personal taste.)
Then, get playing with it. Particularly if you're trying a tanking or healing role, it's time to find a group who are prepared to test out your new spec with you in a reasonably cautious setting, like a non-heroic instance, or even the five man group quests in Grizzly Hills, Zul'drak and Icecrown.
Make a list
If endgame is intimidating, it's because it's much more oriented around group play than the levelling grind was - but also because it's not immediately obvious which way to turn. It's not the case anymore that yellow mobs give you a bigger boost than green ones. But if you're on the lookout for better gear, it's surprisingly easy to make a list - doesn't have to be bang-on accurate - of some likely targets.
Don't break out the spreadsheets yet. If you're starting out, there are some good lists of accessible pre-raid gear out there. From these you can take your pick of what quests to do, what to get crafted, instances to try to get groups for, and on what to spend the badges you accumulate.
Elitist Jerks have some lists. You can get deep into the mathematics if you want, but the important information is all in the top post.
(other contributions welcome)
As you gear up, you can get a more fine-tuned opinion from a number of tools. For DPS characters with a "cookie-cutter" spec, the Gear Wishlist is astonishingly easy to use. For something a bit more complex, check out MaxDPS, or for real customisation, the windows application Rawr.
Gems and Enchants
A very handy quick overview of all your enchantments and gems, with suggestions for upgrades and an idea of where you can operate well in your gear, is the forte of be.imba.hu.
For more complexity on how you can use gems and enchantments to boost your character, you need to find out which stats are most appropriate to your class and spec. The wowwiki pages on your class are probably the best place to start, and you may see reference to "hit caps" or other such caps there or on various forums. (For example, for a frostfire mage, hit is point for point their most valuable stat up until it reaches 368, where it becomes capped and further increases have no effect.)
Learn to fly
If you haven't got your flying mount, cold weather flying training, and epic flying mount, in that order - then these are first on your list. 5000g for the epic flyer is pretty hefty, so no doubt you'll want to do this in parallel with getting on with the rest of the game, but it makes such a difference to your speed of questing that it's unreal. Worth every penny. And because of that, it pays for itself, so it's well worth accepting a loan from another player given that you'll pay it off quicker than you would save for it.
You know the way leatherworking has been a millstone around your neck for the past 75 levels? How you could have taken all that lovely leather you skinned and sold it and be rich on the proceeds, but put it toward today's 18th pair of Nightscape Pants in the hope of one more skillup? It's payback time. In Tailoring, Leatherworking and Blacksmithing, once you get into the 400s skill range, you start to get access to some fairly powerful items that are likely to be upgrades from the quest rewards you're wearing now. Best of all, since Wrath these items are usually Bind on Equip, so you can make them for and sell them to others who have recently hit level 80 - or get them from a crafter if you didn't take that trade.
If you've just hit 80, then there'll probably be a bunch of blues that you can get crafted for a reasonably inexpensive set of mats. Take a look down the tailoring, leatherworking or blacksmithing northrend training recipes, and indeed the accessible gear lists at forums like Elitistjerks. (There are some very good items, notably the Deathchill Cloak, which aren't easily trainable, but once someone has the recipe the mats aren't too onerous.)
And of course there's the three secondary professions - Cooking, Fishing and First Aid - none of which are to be sneezed at. Cooking can be especially lucrative now that the best buff food, which is extremely popular among raiders, requires spices, the only source for which is the Cooking daily quest in Dalaran.
This one is mercifully simple to prepare for - a lot of the factions have their rewards listed on one page. So have a look down and check out which items you can add to your list. Some of this will include crafting recipes, or item enhancements (like purchasable shoulder enchants) that are appropriate to your class and spec.
Many of the factions will let you buy a tabard at Friendly reputation, and then by wearing that tabard in level 80 and Heroic instances you increase your reputation with them. (If you wear no tabard, the reputation gain goes to the Horde Expedition or alliance equivalent.) Barring that, most factions have a set of normal quests which lead to unlocking daily quests, and if those factions take your fancy then it's worth including at least some of those quests in your routine - dailies also being an excellent source of gold.
Daily quests weren't even introduced until well into the Burning Crusade, but they've become the large part of the solo play endgame in WoW. Well, it makes a change from grinding Felstone Field.
If you're out to maximise your rep with a particular faction, check the faction's entry on Wowwiki. If you're in it to maximise your gold and rep across the board, Thron's circle of rep is a good roundup from which you can pick and choose your dailies of choice.
Since they first appeared in patch 2.1, Blizzard has consistently introduced new daily quests with each patch, the biggest burst (Wrath itself aside) coming with the Isle of Quel'Danas in patch 2.4. If the current dailies aren't setting you alight, it's likely that there'll be more to come (and new rep to grind) in future content patches.
Maybe you've gotten to do some instances while levelling up, but maybe you've just respecced and are getting to grips with a new style of playing, or maybe you've just not gotten to do instances (bar maybe some zergs) while on the lonely journey to 80.
There's a world of difference between solo play and combat in a group in an instance. You now have a specific role, and some of those buffs or abilities which were never much use to you while levelling become very valuable to the group as a whole. With the challenges, the rep and the loot, they're a perfectly good end to themselves; if you have an eye on raiding, then this is where you learn how to handle your class in a bossfight.
It's very easy to become intimidated at this point. Don't panic! It's true that in many fights, if you get it wrong, you impact the rest of the party, perhaps cause a wipe. Let he who has never caused a wipe cast the first stone. :-)
Wowwiki has a very well laid out list of instances and raids in a rough (rough!) order of difficulty. If you can persuade your guildmates to bring you through some of the instances on your way from 70 to 80, then that will be a big help - if they're already 80, then it'll hopefully give you some more leeway in learning how to handle your class (though if you're a budding tank, mind out for aggro-stealing DPS ;-) ) and will hopefully fit you out in some nice blue quality gear that will last you well into the endgame. But don't feel hard done by if you don't get to do that. Once you hit 80, the rep and shards that you get from the level 80 instances (and, additionally, badges from heroics) are a very good incentive for guildmates to run with you - quite aside from the support that they're giving to someone gearing up to join them.
At the end of the day, this is where the best PvE gear hangs out, and it's the part of the game that takes the most outside coordination.
All raids now come in 10 and 25 man versions. Like heroics, the instances have a reset, usually on Wednesday mornings - so neither you nor any of your raid can run a new copy of the same dungeon before Wednesday.
There is a realistic minimum gear level for participating in raids. It's not hard and fast - it depends quite strongly on the make up of the group, and the particular fight you're in. Some fights, with a lot of pan-raid damage, just require you to have a certain level of health in order to avoid being one-shotted. Some are a DPS race (so the DPS power must be high, but so must the tank's threat) and others are especially challenging to healers. There's also a certain dependence on the make up of the raid, particularly in ten mans.
All that said, if you can reach for the good quest gear and crafted gear, and run a couple of heroics, you'll be very well set for running Naxxramas for the first time.
If you're trying to leap straight to Ulduar or later - that's no mean feat, but patch 3.2 made it a lot easier. There's renewed interest in heroics, high level emblems are now much easier to get, and the gear that drops from the Trial of the Champion 5 man instance is a huge boost.
PvP in WoW is an entirely optional experience, but don't be put off if your only experience is accidentally getting flagged and repeatedly ganked near Crossroads. It's possible to dip in and out of PvP as easily as any other part of the game.
There are two ways to gain gear in PvP. The first is through battlegrounds, which are instances in which roughly evenly matched teams of horde and alliance fight over goals. They are:
Because these are, in essence, random instance PuGs, they're not to everyone's taste - but the good news is that death in battlegrounds (or in any PvP) doesn't cause durability damage, and it's possible to pick up some decent honour by joining in a good battle.
An excellent source of honour is Wintergrasp, which isn't instanced and has battles out in real world every couple of hours but, as of patch 3.2, does have a queue. You can join it at a battlemaster, or just by landing in the zone before a battle. Don't forget to pick up the weekly quests there at your faction's flight point.
The honour you accumulate can then be spent on gear in the Hall of Legends in Orgrimmar, or the Champion's Hall in Stormwind. Formerly this gear also required marks from a particular battleground, so you may have had to run your least favourite battleground to get your hands on a particular item - but this is no longer the case. Make no mistake, it still takes a while. A good battleground will last at least ten or fifteen minutes, perhaps considerably longer, and reward you with a few hundred or maybe a thousand honour. Items cost around 38,000 honour for the non-set stuff, rising to about 50-60k for the PvP sets. That said, even if you don't plan to run battlegrounds routinely, it's worth having a look in the Hall of Legends as there might be one or two items, achievable in reasonably short order, that can very nicely fill a gap in your gear.
If you really enjoy PvP, consider forming or joining an Arena Team. This does require more of a commitment - teams gain points based on their ranking, and they have to fight a number of battles per week to get those points. If it's to your taste, though, this is where to find the best gear outside of raids.
Posted by Drew Shiel at August 14, 2009 11:55 AM