10×85 Analysis, Part 2: The Hybrids
In beginning the analysis of leveling the ten different classes, I figured I’d start with what turned out to by my two most “main” toons: my paladin and my druid. Throughout BC and later Cataclysm, my human prot paladin was my main, and I did a lot more than just level him. During Wrath, my tauren resto druid was my main, and again, I raided, grinded rep, and did a variety of achievements with him, too. I point this out because it’s harder for me to accurately report the challenges and benefits of leveling these two classes; I’ve likely spent more than triple the time raiding with them than leveling, and that doesn’t include all the other end-game activities. So take my analysis worth a grain of salt, which of course you should anyway.
Of course, leveling has changed a lot since then, too. My paladin was leveled under the original system, having begun playing before BC came out but not reaching max level until after. It was a long, arduous process that included many inaccessible group quests, skipped dungeons while leveling, and painful itemization along the way. I leveled mostly as ret, because all I knew was dps specs were “good” for leveling. I had been told that prot was “too slow” for leveling, and having played a holy priest to around 40 with my wife before switching to the paladin, I knew that holy wasn’t a good leveling spec.
I didn’t particularly like it. I don’t remember exactly what abilities I had when, but there wasn’t a lot of reflexive healing. Blessings were 2 minutes, not 30, and seals were 30 seconds. It was a lot to keep up with for a new-ish player who was also, of course, trying to dps down mobs at the same time.
Around Terrokar forest, so 64-65, I figured that if I wanted to be prot in the end game, I should get some practice now. I switched to prot (which took a lot of my money) and loved it. I should have been prot the whole time. Sure, it was “slower,” but when you could pull 5 or 6 mobs, the time at least evened out if not went even faster. The last few levels seemed to fly by with virtually no deaths (compared to dying easily to a mispull before in ret spec), and I finished out loving prot. My paladin has been prot since, with holy as his off spec once dual specs became available.
My druid was also leveled in “prot” spec, feral, but I stuck with cat form a vast majority of the time. I learned what is one of the most important pieces of information for people who want “easy” leveling: stealth rules. I’ll discuss that in greater detail when we get to the pure dps post (mages and rogues), but suffice it to say that I first fell in love with stealth when leveling my druid. On top of that, I first started to at least understand world PvP, as well. I took great pleasure in killing killers. Probably at least once or twice in every contested zone I’d stumble across a helpless hordie being viciously murdered by an honorless alliance member and return the favor. Cat form is and always has been a very powerful PvP spec, and it was the first character I enjoyed PvP of any type on.
Stealth adds a very subtle element to game play: time. You don’t really think about it, but a lot of PvP has to do with time budgeting. When you can either dps OR try to heal yourself OR call an inc in a bg, you can never get done everything you want. With stealth, you have a few more seconds that can make a lot of difference. You can more carefully choose your target, decide on your battle location, and start with a stun, giving yourself even more time.
Additionally, stealth allows you to avoid combat. In any good Pen and Paper RPG, avoiding combat should frequently be an option. Yes, there are “bosses” that are going to have to be dealt with, but for the most part, people try to avoid conflict in the real world, and there’s no reason the game world can’t mimic that. Doing quests that require you to go back in and out of the same area 3 or 4 times (think the old Kurzen quests in STV) were made trivial by the ability to just walk past the mobs you didn’t need any more.
I remember hearing about (IIRC) the first official “leveling” contest in WoW, at one of the early Blizzcons. Contestants could pick their race and class and had 1 hour to gain the most possible levels. A rogue won – blew the competition out of the water – because he just stealthed past all the trash mobs to do double the amount of quests. With no rested bonus, the xp difference was significant, and that’s what stealthing allows. If you’ve never leveled a rogue or druid, I suggest you give it a try for a truly different leveling experience.
In less specific terms, what the hybrids allowed was the ability to do what needed to be done. Both paladins and druids can heal, can tank, and can dps, druids at the press of a button. They were both very survivable classes (once I got away from ret) because of their versatility. I put off leveling a rogue and warrior as long as I did because they didn’t have a self-heal, and I’d never played a class that couldn’t self-heal. Now, of course, every class can to some extent (and now I’ve leveled a rogue and warrior), so it’s less of a consideration, but I still feel that the two hybrids are extremely survivable classes.
So overall, on a difficulty scale that’s basically worthless since each class was leveled at different times under old builds of the game, I’d give a paladin a 5 on the difficulty scale for leveling and a druid a 4. The druid is “easier” because of it’s more immediate versatility due to its wild forms. Only really hunters I think are easier (maybe warlocks, but easier does not equal more fun). For the fun scale, I’d give paladins another 5 – they’re not that great or that boring – and a the druids a 7, because form switching and stealth are the very essence of fun.
Stubborn (and measuring)