A Guide To Twinking In Cataclysm

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TWINKING

In the World of Warcraft, twinking is the act of making your character as absolutely as good as they could be, usually by turning off experience gain, and usually at low levels.

Twinking has a storied and not entirely savory history within WoW. The name itself is taken from derogatory slang for young-looking, attractive homosexual men, as the characters in question were almost universally not playing at the endgame. Twinks used to exist almost entirely for PvP, existing to completely dominate lower-level battlegrounds when such BGs did not award experience. These twinks would slaughter lesser-geared and enchanted opponents, to the point where low-level PvP was not a good idea for leveling characters. This is why, even though this situation has not been in place for over a year, twinks remain hated by many long-term WoW players.

There were two dominant motivations in the twink community; one that was pursuing excellence at a given level, in a given arena, and the other which pursued dominance over other players at any cost. The former motivation was often cited, but the latter one was more often on display against non-twinks. I think that both motivations were present in most twinks who played before patch 3.2; I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I enjoyed taking my level 59 Death Knight twink (which is almost an oxymoron) and totally stomping through a battleground after a hard day of work.

But things completely changed for twinks in Patch 3.2 with three related developments.

  • Battlegrounds would now award experience points for participation, effectively ending the ability for players to park a twink in a city and PvP without gaining any levels.
  • Characters could turn off and on their experience gain at will, making twinking vastly more accessible to players.
  • Characters who had their XP gain turned off would be placed into a separate battleground bracket from those who were gaining XP, guaranteeing that twinks would fight only twinks.

These changes had dramatic effects upon the battlegrounds, bringing many new players into the BGs as a viable alternate leveling route – Alterac Valley in the 50s was especially popular – but also made it possible to consider entirely different kinds of twinks, as well as changing the entire environment in which they lived in. Twinks, formerly spread out among the general population, found themselves forced to relocate to destination battlegroups to provide a sufficient concentration of players to “pop” a battleground.

For much of the twinking community, these changes were completely embraced. The battles that began to take shape were of characters in nearly equal gear, so that skill and tactics became paramount. No longer were battlegrounds about racking up HKs on unsuspecting leveling players; no, battles became longer, strategic matches between roughly equal forces – just what many twink players had maintained they wanted.

However, other twinks were not so satisfied with this state of affairs, and found that if they entered regular battlegrounds, but left before the first flag capture, they could engage in the darker side of twinking, completely dominating an unsuspecting leveling bracket and racking up HKs while bullying the other side into submission. A special kind of twink – an expansion twink, one limited by the account not having Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King on it, thrived in this situation, as they could run as much older content and battlegrounds as they desired without leveling and without turning off XP. Expansion twinks began to dominate the 51-60 Alterac Valley bracket in many battlegroups, outfitted with MC epics and BC enchants.

It would be nice to pretend that this didn’t happen, but it did.

There were other, smaller changes in the recent past: changes in gear and enchants, with minimum levels being applied to many enchants that previously lacked them. Mounts were lowered in level, making them accessible to all but the level 19 pvp bracket. Titles became available that were previously lacking. Faction changes allowed you to get the best in slot gear from both sides. The lack of XP gain allowed for twinks to become PvE specialists in addition to PvP players, letting people solo dungeons or run them repeatedly at-level for gear.

This is how it stood for much of Wrath of the Lich King.

CATACLYSMIC CHANGES

The Sundering (4.0.1) and Cataclysm (4.0.3) patches turned twinking upside down. Gear was completely reitemized at early levels to make for a better leveling experience. Gear that may have been substandard was now Best in Slot, and vice versa. Enchants were rearranged, sometimes dramatically. Some gear was changed, some moved up out of different brackets, others removed completely.

But there were three changes that overshadowed all the others.

The first was the introduction of the revised talent trees in 4.0.1, which gave class-defining abilities to characters at level 10 which were formerly reserved for much higher level characters. The changes in each class’s talents and abilities were extensive, but gaining this signature ability at level 10 was the most visible of the changes. These changes dramatically affected how classes played at various levels, and helped redefine roles in each battleground.

The second change was to the brackets themselves. Formerly, each bracket was from levels ending in 0 to 9, so 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, etc.. Patch 4.0.3 brought a massive change to this structure, splitting each bracket in two and redistributing the battlegrounds so players could experience more battlegrounds earlier on in the leveling process. The new brackets were 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, etc., making entirely new brackets available for twinking. Arathi Basin joined Warsong Gulch at level 10, and Eye of the Storm became available before most characters had even glimpsed Outland, at level 35. Exciting stuff.

A third change was implemented not as part of a patch, but as part of the server infrastructure improvements in preparation for Cataclysm. This was merging all the PvP battlegroups into region-wide battlegroups. Players from all North American battlegroups were joined over the course of a few weeks into a single, large pool of players to pop battlegrounds, effectively ending the need for the destination battlegroups that patch 3.2 created. No longer do you need to roll on a foreign server to twink and get a queue – now you can do it on the same server as your main.

All of these were fantastic changes to leveling characters, and they open up a whole new set of possibilities for twinks, too. They combine to make Cataclysm the perfect time to start twinking if you’ve been considering it.

STARTING A TWINK

Twinking is a little bit of an odd activity in the World of Warcraft. It’s arbitrarily setting a limit on your character and then trying to excel within that limit. Doing so is a challenge, but a rewarding one – for at the end of it all, you will have a character which requires little maintenance or grinding, and which you can hop on at will for your chosen activity.

It is a lot of fun, when you get down to it.

First thing you’ll want to do is settle on what you want your character to be. My best suggestion here is to level a class and find a time when you had a huge amount of fun playing them, and then go and capture that. Try to figure out what kinds of things you want to do – PvP, run dungeons with friends, solo content, try for Loremaster – and start from there.

Next, you’ll need to pick your level. WoW is built to drive you to level, so each level you pick up will be translated into more abilities, more power, and more freedom. Some things to keep in mind here about picking levels:

  • If you are PvPing, you will likely want to stop at a level ending in 4 or 9 to maximize the gear and abilities available to you. The only exception, and this is an important one, is level 10.
  • Level 10 characters benefit from the generous ability translation and combat rating conversion that starts tapering off once you hit level 11. This benefit to levels 1-10 helps make starting any new character more fun, but also means that level 10 characters can (and do) take out level 19s. Yes, even twinked 19s. They also benefit from increased health and mana regeneration out of combat, so don’t let a level 10 get out of combat!
  • The x9 PvP brackets are generally established. You’ll be up against players who have had a lot of time to gear up, and often have several expansions worth of gear available to them. The x4 brackets are completely new, and are probably more friendly to newcomers.
  • Some brackets which were previously dead should come back to life. Expansion twinks will have a tougher time in the new bracket system, as level 64 Outland gear will outclass level 60 Vanilla gear. So the 59s might come back soon.
  • If you are considering PvE, look at the dungeons you’d like access to and plan your level accordingly. Level 20 gives you a lot of options and abilities that are denied to strict level 19 PvPers, like mounts.
  • Level 1 twinks are another option if you enjoy world PvP or want your banker to be a serious badass. A well-geared level 1 twink can take out a level 15-20 leveling character due to favorable game mechanics.

Once you’ve decided what environment you’re twinking for, you need to choose your class and race.

Generally speaking, lower levels favor Agility-based classes due to the exceptional Agility enchants you can put on level 1-34 gear. Intellect- and Strength-based classes do okay at the lower levels, but Agility has the best enchants, and enchants are vital to your success. After you get BC-era enchants and level 35+ gear, this levels out a bit and class balance becomes more even.

Consider what role you want to play in your chosen field – are you going to be a damage dealer in Warsong Gulch, or a flag carrier? Are you going to tank Wailing Caverns and Shadowfang Keep like a boss, or do you want to heal the worst PuG tank LFD throws at you with ease? Generally, what you want to do will determine your class more than anything else.

Then, consider the races available to you. Racial abilities do matter. If you are going to be a melee fighter, consider the racial benefits available to you. Look at the stats and see if you can get an edge with one race over another. Every race brings something good to the table; look them over carefully.

Once you’ve rolled your twink and gotten him or her to the desired level, you’ll want to visit an Experience Eliminator in either Stormwind or Orgrimmar to turn off your XP. It will cost 10 gold, but once it’s turned off, gearing up and skilling up become easy.

GEARING UP YOUR TWINK

Now comes the fun part.

Once your XP is turned off, you’re going to need gear, and you’re going to need professions. Sure, there are some essentials every twink needs.

But more important than someone on the internet providing you a gear list, you need to know how to build your own. Don’t blindly follow a gear list, no matter how detailed it is. Choosing the best gear for your twink means learning what is going to work best for you and your playstyle. Gear lists are the starting point, not the end.

I have 4  different gear sets for my warrior twink Cynderblock, with some variations on each. I have a tanking set, with variations for  trash pulls and boss fights. I have sets for Arms, Fury, and Protection PvP. I have a questing set for low level areas, and a questing set for high level areas where I need more Hit. I have an Agility set for high Dodge.

And I have a set for looking awesome around town. Oh! And an Intellect set for pretending to be a Mage. But they don’t count.

I bring up my gear obsession for a reason: you can’t consider something to be Best in Slot until you consider the situation in which it’s going to be used. And that’s what you have to learn to do when gearing up your twink.

I’m not going to provide gear lists. Not only am I not qualified for the vast majority of classes and levels, but Cataclysm has wiped out all previous lists.  No, instead, you need to learn how to make your own gear list, and go after it.

  • Learn how to use Wowhead’s search filters to limit items to those available to a specific level. Their stat weighting can be good, but don’t lean on them too heavily – you may miss some great gear that perhaps still gives Attack Power instead of Agility, for instance.
  • Find twink forums, like TwinkInfo.com and WoW-Twink.com, and use them for ideas and inspiration.
  • Look at items you find on other toons while questing with an eye towards your twink. Sometimes, you’ll discover an out of the way quest reward that you hadn’t considered.

I find the forums helpful because you learn things there that you might otherwise miss. Especially with all the new gear out there, they’re a nice shortcut to find out what people are really doing out there.

HAVE FUN WITH IT

Making a twink is a different sort of challenge than many of the others you’ll find in the World of Warcraft, but it can be really rewarding when it’s all done.

But once you’re done, don’t forget to go out and have fun out there. This is your character, your little work of art. Do what you want with it. Don’t let the haters tell you that you can’t.

Deadmines: Mine Harder

When you solo Deadmines repeatedly for rep, eventually you figure your way around the place.

I decided to take a 30 minute dungeon run and compress it into a 10 minute whirlwind video tour of the new place. Includes commentary about both running it in a group and soloing it as a tank.

(For in-depth strategy and analysis of the instance, I recommend Wowhead’s article.)

Enjoy!

(Special thanks to Snack and Narci for the many entertaining conversations about this video.)

They Love Me Behind That Wall

Cynderbock is Exalted with Gilneas before Cataclysm.

Wait, what?

That’s crazy to think about, considering it took, at most about … 10 runs of Deadmines, max, to achieve? The new Gilneas Tabard (one of the new City Tabards, available at vendors near the home city Flight Points) allows you to gain reputation gains in dungeons, and if you do them at-level, they reward pretty substantial rep.

How substantial? 15 rep for each mob, 300 for each boss.  If you’re Human, that’s 16-17 each mob, 330 each boss.

So making a level 19 Ambassador just got a whole lot easier.  Lock your XP, get tabards, run LFD for profit and a title. Easy. You could do LFD at level 15, even, if you like RFC – or if you have friends who will run you, you can enter the dungeons at level 8-10.

This is a great change for the game, making it easier to use LFD as a leveling tool without missing out on all the benefits of questing.

Does it trivialize the Ambassador title on Cynderblock? Not really. Yes, it’s vastly easier to get now, and I expect I’ll see even more of them than I did before. That’s fine. No, really, it is!

See, the changes now can’t take away the fun I had in getting that title. Or, for that matter, getting Exalted with a faction that isn’t even really in the game yet. I mean, it’s not like I get anything from the deal, since ‘block still can’t use a mount. (Not that Gilneas has a mount to get, anyways.)

No, it’s time to move on and look forward to all the new things Cataclysm will bring us.  And no matter what else – they love me behind that wall.

How Cynderblock Got Her Groove Back

Van Cleef: Drop. Your. Sword.

So a funny thing happened to me on the way to the Deadmines.

I was pretty down on level 19 Warrior twinks in my review of the 4.0.1 changes. The loss of so many abilities was pretty daunting, and struggling in areas where I previously excelled was downright depressing. Going from a tank with unshakable aggro to one where everyone pulled off me was a humbling experience, even if I was running with twinked DPS.  PvP was painful, with casters and rogues running roughshod over me, feral cats jumping on me from the shadows, and paladins refusing to die, no matter how much damage I did.

I took a few days off to regroup.  I stopped trying to farm the AGM, since several guilds were gearing up twinks and competition for the trinkets was getting too fierce.  I rolled a bunch of alts.

Then one day I said, “let’s solo Deadmines, ‘block.”

And we did.

And it was hugely fun.  Why?

  • Damage is up across the board on all abilities in PvE.  As Prot, Shield Slam hits like an absolute truck.
  • I made sure to take Shield Specialization, and with multi-mob pulls I never had Rage issues.
  • Not only did I not have Rage issues, but I never had to worry about aggro.
  • The additional health, armor, and block chance means you’re taking very little damage from pull to pull.
  • The self-healing of Victory Rush changes the entire style of play, allowing you to maintain your health by killing things.  And since you’re not in a group, you can be sure it procs every single time.
  • Execute is a huge finisher.
  • Having Victory Rush and Sunder Armor available in both Battle and Defensive Stances meant that I didn’t have to sit in Defensive Stance or stance dance; I ended up staying in Battle Stance since I wasn’t worried about aggro, and wanted Charge and Execute.

I’d soloed RFC and most of Wailing Caverns before this patch dropped, so I knew it was possible to solo these instances at level.  But while RFC was a bit of a multi-mob faceroll in 3.3.5, WC required a lot of caution and care with each pull.  It was slow, careful going, and after a while I got pretty darn bored of the whole thing.

Deadmines, on the other hand, was a riot, with miners running all over, elites and normal mobs mixing with impunity.  It was a blast.  I started off cautiously, but by the time I saw how much damage I was throwing around, how I could use Victory Rush to keep myself healed up, and how little damage I was taking anyways, it was soon a romp over the Defias.

My second run (I was already hooked), the Cruel Barb finally dropped for me. With the nerfs to Shadowfang, Cruel Barb is now the highest DPS 1-hander available at level 19. You sacrifice stats for raw Attack Power, but if you have the Stamina from other places it’s awesome.  +12 AP is equivalent to +6 Str for Warriors, and the next highest stat weapon is Butcher’s Slicer, with +4 Str/+3 Stam.  The Barb already has higher raw DPS than the Slicer (15.8 vs. 15.2), and with the additional AP it is the clear choice for raw DPS.

So I’m sitting there, looking at my new toy, and it strikes me: I should go Fury, and wield two of these monsters.

I prefer Crusader, because when you get simultaneous procs, really great things happen.

I’ve never really played Fury before, though I do have a Combat rogue in her mid-40s. I grabbed a bunch of weapons out of my bank to try out offhands, eventually settling on the trusty Venerable Mass of McGowan for my OH weapon. The Mass and the Sacred Charge both received some slight changes in the latest patch, with the Charge now brought up to being a very good alternative to the Mass.  Basically, they both give you Agility and Stamina (for tanking); the DSC gives you a lot of Crit, while the Mass gives you Crit and Haste. I grabbed the Slicer as well to try it out, though I think the Mass helped me out more in the earlier runs.

It took me a few times to get used to soloing Deadmines as a Fury warrior. Fury plays a lot like I remember playing a Blood DK; as long as you can keep your self healing going, you’re unstoppable, but you take a lot of damage in the process.  If I pulled too big, especially with elites, then I’d wipe.

Victory Rush is really the key to Fury soloing right now.  You’re putting out so much damage that your goal is to burn though a mob, any mob, and kill it to offset the damage you’re taking with another Victory Rush.  As long as you can repeat that process, you’re fine – but if the damage overwhelms your kill rate, then you’re going down.  I found that I’d start off a big pull losing a lot of health, but once the mobs started dropping I’d go right back up to full.

Bloodthirst is the other tool in your Fury aresenal to help out with this kind of fighting. It gives you a small heal back while attacking, and doesn’t suck up much of your Rage while doing it.  It does respectable damage, but can be hit more often than Shield Slam.  I found in high-Rage situations I’d alternate between Bloodthirst and Heroic Strike while waiting for Victory Rush (and Execute) to proc.

Blood Craze helps out with the self-healing, giving back more than Bloodthirst but less than Victory Rush.

And, while I’d been farming the Arena Grand Master trinket, I’m glad I didn’t rely on it while soloing.  Dual Swift Hands of Justice provided increased DPS on top of healing on Killing Blows, giving a lot of small heals to offset the incoming damage.

The Cruel Barb refused to drop for me for a long time, so I spent a lot of time practicing how to solo Van Cleef as a Fury warrior.  I made a video on one of the early attempts that shows how the spec plays as a solo artist.

Yes, it is totally as much fun as it looks.

(I did speed up the video, because even a run with no wipes is about 30 minutes long.  It’s not RFC. You can play Yakity Sax in the background for full comedic effect.)

I kept running it, and what kept impressing me was how out-of-whack damage seemed.  I was able to 1-shot normal mobs with regularity, and elites were lucky if they lasted 5 seconds. I know that I’m twinked for maximum damage, but there were times that I’d pull off a 1513 Execute crit and know that levels were out of whack.  (The 700-800 Victory Rush crits were even better, to be honest – most of Execute’s damage comes as overkill.)  I fully agree with Zarhym’s assessment that combat times in the lower levels are too short, and that it’s not PvP we’re talking about here.  PvE is totally unbalanced at the lower levels right now.

Anyhow, after a dozen runs or so, the second Barb finally dropped. By then I was ready for something different, so I took Cynderblock back out into the wide world and picked up questing in those areas that are going to be changed in a few weeks.  Most notably: Darkshore and Ashenvale.

"So, they sell insurance in this tower? I don't think they get a lot of foot traffic out here..."

Aside from wanting to complete as many quests as possible with Cynderblock, there was one quest chain in particular I wanted to finish – The Tower of Althalaxx, which I remember being a total PITA trying to do at level 30.  I admit, I’m juvenile, and I’ve refused to call that tower by its proper name ever since I got there – this is the Tower of Aflac, and I quack “AFLAC!” at it every time I have to deal with it.

Well, the Tower of AFLAC has a pretty nice quest reward, Seraph’s Strike, a sword with good DPS and Spirit, useful for health regeneration.  I figured I’d pick it up before it vanished in the Cataclysm, and bang out the Darkshore/Ashenvale quests while I’m at it.  (You have gotten your Furbolg wand, right?)

Only… wait a minute.

Lower level items have had their stats rearranged, and… woah.

Did all that Spirit get converted into Hit?  Like, are you kidding me?  +10 Hit on a 2-hander?

Having that much Hit (4.72% at level 19) is huge for DPS.  Huge.  It knocks off nearly the entire Miss column for at-level targets, and makes hitting higher-level mobs much, much easier.  Good for twinks, good for levelers… this is a good sword.  A really good sword.

How good is it?

Well, I pulled out my DPS spreadsheet (not ready for primetime, that’s another post) and plugged in the new numbers.  Wow.

Pre-Crit, Seraph’s Strike has a white DPS of 22.54, greater than Glacial Stone (22.25) and Smite’s Mighty Hammer (21.29).  The Hammer might make more sense for boosting attack power, and the Stone puts out solid DPS numbers, but the Strike now gives a great blend of both.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m enjoying the heck out of Fury, but I may have to go Arms and try out a 2-Handed build just to see how this sword performs before the damage nerfs come in.

Anyhow. Warriors are still doing fine.  PvP is broken as a whole right now, don’t worry about it.  Aggro is hard because damage is too high.  We’ve lost some tools, but gained new ones.

And Cynderblock has her groove back.

Level 19 Warrior Changes in 4.0.1

Cynderblock readies her shield for an incoming attack in Darkshore.

The original title of this post was “What Is This I Don’t Even,” because the changes to Warriors are that extensive.

To say that Warriors have changed at level 19 is an understatement.  Everyone has changed in 4.0.1, don’t get me wrong, but Cynderblock is completely different now than she was in Wrath.

I mentioned this on the Gaming Worlds Collide blogcast, but the biggest difference is the influence of choosing your specialization at level 10. Before, one of the defining features of early play was that you weren’t specialized – Fire vs. Frost was the wrong question.  Twinks looked across the talent board, not down it.  You’d pick the best abilities suited for a particular job.

No longer.  Now you are a Frost Mage, a Destruction Warlock, a Subtlety Rogue, all starting at level 10.  And for Warriors, that opens up options we didn’t have before (Fury Dual Wielding!) but takes away some of the flexibility we enjoyed with hybrid talent builds.  Protection Warriors get Shield Slam, which is a great primary attack and buff dispeller all in one, but at level 19 it lacks the synergies it gets later on with Sword and Board.

But all of this comes at a cost.  Across all classes, abilities have been moved around, giving a better distribution as you level, but also removing a lot of the complexities I enjoyed with the Warrior class.  To sum up the changes to level 19 Warriors:

  • Battle Shout now requires level 20.  Not only do we lose the attack power buff, but shouts are the new way Warriors gain rage.
  • Shield Bash, our primary caster interrupt, also requires level 20.
  • Overpower now requires level 22.
  • Hamstring, one of our key PvP abilities, has been moved up to level 26, removing it from our repertoire.
  • Revenge has been moved way up to level 40, removing a key DPS ability from Defensive Stance.
  • Demoralizing Shout requires level 52, so there’s one of our three melee debuffs gone, and the other way to gain rage quickly gone.
  • Bloodrage, the primary way lowbie warriors used to generate rage, is gone from the game completely.
  • Mocking Blow is also gone.
  • Heroic Strike is no longer a On-Next-Swing ability, but instead is a normally activated attack.  It’s still a Rage hog, though.
  • Execute, a finishing move for when the target is below 20% health, has been added at level 16.  Will use a lot of Rage if you have it, though.
  • Sunder Armor only stacks 3 times, not 5, but each stack has a greater effect, so it’s all cool.
  • All Glyphs are gone, since they require level 25.

The specializations give some interesting abilities, don’t get me wrong.  But let’s just look at the above changes to see how the playstyle has been altered at level 19.

RAGE

The biggest single issue is Rage.  Warriors are supposed to generate Rage before a fight through their shouts (which no longer cost Rage), but those are not available at this level.  So what generates Rage?

  • Charge, which gives you 15 Rage, but can only be used out of combat.
  • Hitting things for white damage.
  • Getting hit.  Ouch.
  • Anger Management, the Arms special ability, gives you a steady stream of Rage in combat, and slows the loss of Rage out of combat.
  • The Blitz talent (Arms again) increases the Rage your Charge generates.
  • 1/3 Shield Specialization (Protection talent) generates 5 Rage when you block an attack.

Now, you do seem to gain more rage by just hitting things in combat than before. That’s the good news.  But unless you can get off a Charge, you’re not going to have enough Rage to unload burst damage in PvP.  You will gain Rage in combat at a decent rate, but forget the days of unloading Heroic Strikes, Thunder Claps and Revenge on targets.  You are going to have to manage your Rage very carefully.

The previous advice of binding Heroic Strike to everything?  Ditch it. Heroic Strike only to dump Rage.  That’s it.

Rage starvation is the single biggest issue you’re going to have to deal with on your lowbie warrior until you hit 20.  Get used to Charging and using your abilities sparingly.

THE LOST ABILITIES

Losing Hamstring hurts in PvP.  A tried and true Warrior tactic in WSG was to spam Hamstring on targets to proc your weapon’s enchant as well as slow people down. Hamstringing the FC was what you did.

Now, the Shamans and Druids have better speedy forms, and Warriors have no way to slow them down.  Forget taking out the FC now.

As a Protection Warrior, I loved having Revenge as my primary damage dealer.  It lit up all the time while tanking and PvPing, and I’d hit that button every chance I could. Like Overpower, it’s gone, and there’s no equivalent replacement.

Losing the Shouts means that we’ve lost both a buff and a debuff.  Demo Shout was very useful both for AoE tanking situations when TC was on cooldown, but also against melee classes in WSG.  You used to get Demo Shout up to slow down Rogues and the like against you, just like you’d put up Thunder Clap’s debuff.  No more.  The fact that Rage generation is now tied into these abilities is just icing on the cake.

I’m lost without Shield Bash.  I think this was what confused me the most when I tried to PvP on ‘block recently – I had no more interrupts.  I couldn’t stop level 10 Holy Paladins from casting, so they were invulnerable.  Interrupts are important!  Now those stupid Druids of the Fang will be able to run roughshod over the rest of my party with Sleep spells, and I have no way to stop  that.  Wailing Caverns runs are going to be hard without those interrupts.

THE NEW STUFF

Okay, so Warriors have lost a lot of their toolbox in 4.0.1.  What have they gained?

  • Increased health.  In most gear sets I’m over 2000 health now.
  • Execute.
  • Talent specializations.  Shield Slam is pretty cool while tanking, though in AoE situations it’s tough to choose between that and the Rend/Thunderclap combo when your Rage is low.
  • Resilience has been buffed.
  • Armor has been reduced.  Oh wait, that’s not a good thing.

I think the abilities you gain from choosing your spec are great for their respective roles; but when taken in the context of all the missing abilities, Warriors are hurting right now.

TANKING

I used to pride myself on my ability to tank low-level instances with Cynderblock.  She could roll through them like a freight train, a rock of aggro that made Deadmines look like Heroic UK to folks in HM ICC25 gear.

No more.  I’m superbly geared and struggling to hold aggro, which means low level LFD is going to suck for a while for normal tanks.  If equivalently-geared DPS starts up too soon, I can’t get aggro back.  If someone AoEs mobs before I’ve TC/Rended them, I will not have enough Rage to do anything to save you.  You’re going to see me slamming Taunt and Shield Slam in a frantic effort to save you, but it’s likely DPS is going to die.

This is a very different experience than I’m used to.  Perhaps it will get better with time; changes, dramatic changes, are coming to the low-level instances.

But right now, tanking has gone from an exercise in confidence to the same, frustrating experience I have tanking Heroics at level 80.  That’s not a good thing.

PVP

The 19 twink bracket of Warsong Gulch is a hot mess right now.  Rogues are doing huge, HUGE amounts of burst damage out of stealth.  Casters are also doing massive burst damage (see: Destro Locks and Fire Mages).  Hunters are still potent, with those freakin’ bats EVERYWHERE.

But it’s the level 10 Holy Paladins who are beating everyone in sight.

Level 10 twinking is not a new thing, but with recent buffs to Resilience and how abilities scale at level 10 and under, level 10 twinks are practically unkillable now. Damage mitigation is through the roof, which negates their smaller health totals, and the out of combat regeneration is amazing.  It’s like a free reset if they get OOC.

Making them is pretty straightforward:

And I don’t think this is going away anytime soon.  Level 10 characters are more resistant and scale better than level 19s, though level 19s have more abilities and health.  Both Psynister and I are trying out this brave new world, because nothing is worse than a level 10 Holy Pally in WSG right now.  Nothing.

CHANGE HAPPENS

Things don’t look very optimistic for Warriors right now in the level 19 PvP bracket or lowbie tanking.  Warriors have gone from being a very good class for both to average, or below average.  That’s okay.  There’s a lot of things changing in Azeroth in the next few weeks, and the low-level experience is definitely one of them.

Leveling is one of the not-so-subtle motivators used within Warcraft.  The game rewards it; more abilities, more power, more cool talents, more range.  Expecting to balance around crazy people like me who park at a given level is unreasonable.

But the way classes play at low levels is fundamentally different now.  My experience with Cynderblock (and talking to endgame warriors about her) shows just how different things can be.  I know that whatever leveling advice I could give you on Warlocks (my main’s class) is now invalid.  Things are very, very different.

It will just take some getting used to at level 19.

Twink Titles

There are at least five titles you can get on a level 19 character: Ambassador, The Diplomat, The Noble, The Explorer, and Of the Horde/Alliance. There are possibly others, but I’ve seen Armory examples of these five.

  • Ambassador I’ve covered on some detail, though I’ve since discovered there are three ways to the title: faction change, Chen’s Empty Keg, and the AQ War buildup quests. This last one required a lot of materials, but also required incredible foresight (since the title didn’t exist back in vanilla) or server transfers to new servers where the Gates of AQ were still closed during early Wrath. As all new servers start with them open now, that method doesn’t work anymore.
  • The Diplomat is an extension of the method twinks have used to get the Furbolg Medicine Pouch for years. Group up with a high level friend and let them kill the rep-granting mobs while you follow them around. Traditionally, twinks followed as a corpse, to avoid gaining XP, but that only works up to Revered for the Timbermaw.  After then you’re going to have to turn in Firbolg necklaces.
  • The Noble is the only holiday title without a level requirement – no dungeons or BGs – so it’s a good candidate for level 19 twinks. The hardest part is getting to Un’goro, which is really just a warlock summons away.
  • The Explorer is a lot easier now with the advent of the RAF two-person flying mount. You used to need a Warlock to summon you to the inaccessible regions of Outland and Northrend; now, you just need a friend with time and a sweet ride.
  • Of the Horde/Of the Alliance is rewarded for getting 100,000 honorable kills. There’s no level requirement, so all you have to do is grind out a lot of HKs.

Cataclysm should bring some more titles level 19 characters can get; I remain hopeful that Master of Warsong Gulch will grant a title. But we’ll have to see what makes it onto live.

So those are all the ones I know about.  Did I miss any? Any that you’re looking forward to in Cataclysm?

The Level 19 Ambassador Project

Cynderblock takes a moment to appreciate Eversong Woods.

A funny thing happened to me during my time playing Cynderblock as a Horde; I rediscovered the joy of questing.

Not leveling, mind you, but questing – seeing the World of Warcraft through the stories told through the quests you’re asked to do by various people. Leveling is different; the slow accumulation of skills, gear, and abilities through gaining experience is entirely different from just wandering around stepping into people’s narratives.

While questing is almost always the most efficient way to level, it’s not the only way. But they’d gotten conflated in my mind, and it was good to be reminded that the two activities are very different.

Silverpine, where Tauren go to take a break from the Barrens.

It turns out that I don’t like leveling. Or, more accurately, I don’t like leveling without a purpose. If I set a goal – get my banker to this level so I can get my tradeskills up to this other level, or level up to 19 to start building a new twink – I can usually do okay. But my server friends will tell you that I’ve rolled dozens of alts, gotten them to their teens, and then deleted them, all because I don’t feel there’s a purpose behind them. I get bored.

With Cynderblock, that was not a problem. She’s XP-locked, never to leave level 19. Her skills are all maxed (except Fishing, but it’s good enough to get her a Hat.) Her gear is literally the best it can be, for nearly every situation she can be in. And since I’d never quested or leveled completely through any of the Horde zones, I was really enjoying doing every quest I could find, experiencing the other side through her eyes.

So... where ARE the ropes? And shouldn't there be a counterweight?

Then I looked at my reputation tab, and saw that hey, I’m actually racking up quite a bit of reputation here. Maybe I could go for Ambassador!

Wait, what?

THE REPUTATION PROBLEM AT LEVEL 19

Strange Tauren in a Strange Land.

The Ambassador title is rewarded for bringing all five of your faction’s city reputations to Exalted. The strategy for it is actually pretty simple:

  1. Do all the starting area quests for each specific race.
  2. Do all the quests in the second and third-tier zones (levels 10-30), including dungeon quests.
  3. Fill in any reputations that are lacking after all that with cloth turnins: Wool, Silk, Mageweave, and the repeatable Runecloth.

Once you have an epic mount and are level 50 or so, this is pretty simple and just takes time to do the quests. The key is the repeatable Runecloth quest - with it, all you have to do is farm stacks of Runecloth and turn them in for small rep gains. For some of the less-represented factions – Gnomes and Trolls – this makes it so you don’t have to worry about finding every last quest. This quest becomes available at level 50, while the other ones open up at various earlier levels.

At level 80, getting Ambassador is even easier due to the Argent Tournament. Champion’s Writs can be turned in for 250 reputation, so you can just do dailies to get your reputation up to Exalted. It’s really an easy way to get your home faction reps up if you’re already at 80 without Ambassador.

But Cynderblock is not level 50, or level 80. She’s level 19. And the problem at level 19 is that there just aren’t enough quests to generate the reputation she needs. Consider the steps above:

  1. She can do the starting areas for all the races. Check!
  2. She can do all the quests in the second tier zones (10-20). Check!
  3. She can do a few of the early quests in the third-tier zones (20-30), mostly chains that start early on. Problem!
  4. She can turn in Wool cloth, but not Silk, Mageweave, or repeatable Runecloth. Problem!
  5. She cannot participate in the Argent Tournament. Problem!
  6. She does not have a mount, let alone an epic mount. Inconvenient, but not really a problem.

I may not have Plainsrunning, but at least I have speed enchants.

Wowhead has some great filters that let you determine how much reputation you can get with a given faction. Here they are, broken apart by continent, filtered for level 19s:

I’ve included the World Events because you might get lucky with your timing. One thing about doing this right now, pre-Cataclysm, is that the troll quests reward reputation, while the gnome ones do not. This makes me scratch my head a bit, just because of the nature of those quests. (Taking a package to a random gnome should not reward more rep than liberating their home city.)

If you take a look at all of these quests, you’ll find that you can get to Revered with most all of your factions, but not Exalted. It can’t be done with 5 factions; the numbers just aren’t there.

So the only logical solutions are to add more quests, or add more factions. Since the only way to add more quests is to wait for Cataclysm (a viable option, by the way), changing factions was the way to go.

FACTION CHANGING MAKES YOU POPULAR

Barrens Chat was surprisingly quiet.

When I faction changed Cynderblock to get BiS gear, I didn’t consider reputation. I looked at base stats (to maximize twinking) and a general sense of who ‘block was, and came up with two options: Orc or Tauren.

(I admit, it’s a little strange seeing the Alliance Knight’s Colors appear on Horde races.)

I went with Tauren, which turned out to be an extremely lucky choice later on. However, one thing to keep in mind is that Blood Elves are the only race with a completely restricted starting (1-5) area. There are no quests there for other Horde members, so your Silvermoon City reputation will always lag behind if you’re not a Blood Elf. ‘block is a Warrior, though, and Blood Elf won’t be an option until Cataclysm comes.

Here’s the key about faction swapping: your reputation comes with you, but your quest log does not. The home city rep that you’ve gained from questing is changed into an appropriate home city rep of the other faction, but all of the new quests are still available for you to complete. By faction changing, you effectively double the number of quests available for each home city reputation grind.

In other words: instead of ~400 quests, you now have ~800 to generate reputation.

And that’s more than enough.

As a Tauren, I managed to do almost every single quest available to me, 393 in total. There *is* a repeatable quest for rep, Chen’s Empty Keg, the only repeatable quest available to level 19s that rewards reputation, but I skipped that to see if it was really necessary.

Cynderblock says goodbye to the Horde where she first loved it, in Eversong Woods.

SWITCHING BACK

Switching back to Alliance, there was one clear standout for which race I should choose:

The Human racial ability Diplomacy makes reputation grinds much, much easier. Once I’d established that the goal was Exalted or Bust, this choice was no choice at all. No matter what other stats apply, a +10% bonus to reputation gains cannot be turned down.

The last thing to consider in faction changing is how rep transfers between cities with an eye towards the weakest ones: Gnomeregan and Darkspear Trolls. Blizzard has a handy page which shows how each race’s reputations transfer to the opposite faction. I took ‘block Dwarf -> Tauren, which moved my substantial Gnome rep (I’d leveled in Dun Morogh) over to Troll, which was good. When I took ‘block from Tauren -> Human, however, my Troll rep transfered to Ironforge and my Orgrimmar went to Gnome.

Oh, the sights I've seen!

So I came out of the Horde with low Ironforge rep and really, really good Gnomer rep. (My Exodar rep was also very low because of that Blood Elf issue.)

For an ex-Dwarf, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

SPILLOVER REPUTATION

I don't have to check the signs to know where this boat is going.

I was nervous but excited when I returned to the Alliance, my 5 Revered reputations in hand. My Ironforge reputation really had me worried, so I checked Loch Modan first and discovered that I had never quested there before.

But even after exhausting the quests there, I hadn’t hit Exalted with Ironforge – not even close, really. I’d erased the Troll deficit but had a ways to go. So I went after the new lowest rep, Exodar, and went after the Draenei starting zones.

Azshara totally looks like Xtina. You know I'm right.

The key on the last stretch was spillover reputation. See, every quest you do for your five home factions gives a certain amount of rep for the city in question. You go fetch water in Mulgore? +500 Thunder Bluff reputation shows up in your log. What doesn’t show, however, is that you get 25% of that reputation to the other 4 cities, too. That 500 rep for Thunder Bluff was also 125 reputation for Org, Darkspear, SMC, and Undercity.

And if you’re Human, every single one of those spillover gains gets an additional 10% bonus.

So doing all those easy quests in every starting area pays off for you, and the more questing you can do the better off you are. Going with the starting zones introduced in Burning Crusade means you can do more questing in less time, and still be gaining rep with your other cities.

That’s what happened to me. I got Exalted with the Gnomes, Exodar, Darnassus, and Stormwind while questing in Azuremyst and Bloodmyst Isles.

AMBASSADOR CYNDERBLOCK

Level 19 Ambassador of the Alliance, Cynderblock

In the end, it was a fedex quest to Stormwind that got me the achievement. It awarded 250 Ironforge rep, with +25 for Diplomacy, when I was 262 away from Exalted. So I knew this quest would do it, and lined up the shot appropriately:

And there you have it.

It seems simple in retrospect, but to be honest I didn’t know if it could be done while doing it. I never broke things down into a spreadsheet, because I didn’t want to destroy my questing motivation while playing Horde. I had a lot of questions about how the quests would transfer, about how many quests I’d done on the Alliance side, and if it would work.

But it did. It’s possible. It can be done.

All that worry, for naught.

EPILOGUE

Gathering herbs in the Wetlands is best done with friends. Especially friends with choppers.

I know I’ve said this a lot, but I don’t think it can be said enough: I’ve had a lot of help in making Cynderblock the character she is. Fynralyl spent many hours helping on both the Alliance and Horde sides, running me through quests that I had no business attempting, and driving me around to pick herbs in zones where no sane level 19 considers entering. And Psynister got me into this whole twinking business; his advice and help have been invaluable.

Thank you both.