Sunday, September 16, 2012

World of Warcraft Newbie Guide 10: Choosing A Specialization And The Leveling Path

As you approach level 10 you now reach an important milestone in World of Warcraft. At level 10, you have the power to choose a specialization. Specializations are a core part of class gameplay as they determine the role you fulfill and a specific playstyle to learn. Fortunately the general description of specializations is reasonably well-covered in the game, but there's still questions to be answered, such as what specializations are good for leveling. In this article I will go over specialization choices for each class and give recommendations on the usage of specializations, specifically for all forms of leveling. I will also cover the ways you can level your character starting from level 10 briefly, though each method of leveling will also be covered in its own article.

Choosing A Specialization (For Leveling)

Upon reaching level 10, a new game menu option will open up on the menu bar, as shown below:
Opening this will show you the specialization can choose, which will include the role (denoted by Tank, Healer, or Damage next to the specialization name) and a small list of abilities the specialization provides, as shown below.
In addition to this information, you can see a full list in your Spellbook by clicking the specialization names in the side tabs or clicking the class names when I link them below (make sure to go to the bottom, choose a specialization, and click "Spec" to see abilities by specialization). To learn a specialization, just click on the specialization you're interested in and click the "Learn" button below. Before doing so, however, consider reading the information below (for your class) as it may be helpful in securing your choice for a leveling specialization. You can always change specialization later by talking to your class trainer.
To reset specialization, select the first option. There is a small fee (based on your character level) that increased with each reset.
Beyond this point I will describe each specialization and indicate the role, describing how that specialization fills the role. Most of these are informed evaluations (due to the recent changes) while a few are on the basis of experimentation during the leveling process.

  • Blood is a tanking specialization that emphasizes active healing through the use of abilities like Death Strike. Blood Death Knights can also shield themselves with bones to reduce damage taken and summon an enchanted weapon to fight and defend them. I would highly recommend Blood for all forms of leveling because it deals sufficient damage and, due to the high sustain the specialization provides, reduces downtime. In addition, tanking specializations can queue for dungeons faster.
  • Frost is a melee damage dealing specialization that emphasizes dealing heavy Frost damage, mostly at a range, and delivering rapid strikes. Frost Death Knights can use both a 2-handed weapon or dual wield one-handed weapons. Weapon strikes can cause certain abilities to automatically critically strike (dealing double damage). Frost Death Knights can call down icy winds onto a group of targets, dealing high amounts of area of effect frost damage while afflicting them with diseases. I find this specialization pretty fun but for a plate-using class, this specialization makes the Death Knight frail. If you want to be a bursty damage dealer, choose this specialization.
  • Unholy is the other melee damage dealing specialization that emphasizes dealing Shadow damage and afflicting diseases for heavy damage. Unholy Death Knights can also summon a permanent ghoul pet and a temporary gargoyle minion, both of which are a large portion of the Death Knight's damage output. If you want a specialization that is good at afflicting opponents with diseases and commanding minions to fight while also doing good consistent damage, Unholy is the specialization of choice.
  • Balance is a damage dealing specialization that casts spells at opponents from a range. They use a unique resource mechanic that allows them to generate Solar and Lunar energy to cause their eclipse meter (shown below the character portrait) to reach 100 of one of the energy types, causing a Solar or Lunar Eclipse buff that increases the damage done by Nature or Arcane spells, respectively. This is core to Balance damage dealing and it helps to practice reaching one eclipse state then the other, bouncing between the two as much as possible to maximize the benefits. Balance Druids can take the form of a Moonkin to further enhance their damage at the cost of using healing abilities. I would not recommend this for any form of leveling unless you really like doing ranged damage for some reason.
  • Feral is a melee damage dealing specialization that uses the energy resource to generate combo points for finishing moves, like a Rogue. Feral Druids take the form of a Cat to accomplish this form of combat, biting and clawing their opponents. While Feral Druids don't have much sustain in Cat Form, they can kill single targets quickly and cast instant spells to heal up, cutting down on downtime and making it the best specialization for questing and battlegrounds and the one I recommend for all leveling.
  • Guardian is a tanking specialization where the Druid takes the form of a Bear, generating Rage to unleash powerful swiping attacks that draw the attention of enemies. They also gain some access to Feral abilities, though it doesn't give them the optimal strength that Feral Druids have. In my opinion it's also a decent leveling specialization, though I would take it over Feral only if you plan on doing dungeons.
  • Restoration is a healing specialization that emphasizes the usage of healing-over-time effects to restore the life of allies. They gradually get more and more ways to heal their group and their specialization affects certain baseline abilities and talents in a unique way. I would not recommend taking this because Restoration Druids have don't deal that much damage while leveling (or in general).
  • Beast Mastery is a ranged (and "melee") damage dealing specialization that emphasizes the usage of the Hunter's pet to deal damage. There are some unique pet-related utility, such as a rage effect that increases damage done. Beast Mastery Hunters can also tame exclusive pets. Because of how Beast Mastery deals large damage with the pet, splitting the threat between the Hunter and the pet, Beast Mastery is a choice specialization for questing and maybe doing dungeons (specifically soloing them).
  • Marksmanship is a ranged damage dealing specialization that deals huge physical damage from a distance. Marksmanship Hunters are mobile but if allowed to finish cast abilities they can cause devastating openers. They also have the potential to slow enemies with some damaging shots. I find this specialization to be much stronger for endgame as opposed to leveling, although at later levels it's decent in battlegrounds and dungeons.
  • Survival is a ranged damage dealing specialization that emphasizes magical damage, both directly and over time. In addition, Survival Hunters have more potent traps than other Hunters, such as traps that root enemies in place. Survival is moderately decent at doing all forms of leveling, though it might require a bit more skill. I would personally recommend it because I main a Hunter, but if you're inexperienced, go Beast Mastery instead.
  • Arcane is a ranged damage dealing specialization that primarily uses Arcane magic to deal huge burst damage. Arcane Mages rotate between generating Arcane Charges and managing mana to maximize damage then eventually consuming them to deal huge damage and allow mana to regenerate. I would probably recommend this for dungeons early on, but no much more until you reach maximum level.
  • Fire is a ranged damage dealing specialization that primarily uses Fire magic to deal a mix of burst damage and damage over time. Critical strikes are rewarded and can be chained with Inferno Blast to make Pyroblast, which is normally a long cast, instant cast. Originally I would use this specialization later on during leveling, but now I would consider recommending this specialization from level 10 onward for all forms of leveling. Keep in mind, however, that the Fire specialization has less access to slows, which is a core aspect to most ranged damage dealing gameplay (especially in PvP).
  • Frost is a ranged damage dealing specialization that primarily uses Frost magic to freeze enemies then shatter them for huge burst damage. Frost Mages can also summon an elemental pet to provide some additional damage and utility. Because of all the slowing and rooting utility Frost can get, they can be decent for questing and battlegrounds during leveling.

Note: Though Mists of Pandaria hasn't been released yet, I am still making this section in anticipation of all the Monk players that will soon come into existence. Though I played Monk a bit on the beta, things have changed and so this section is most subject to change in the coming weeks as I study the Monk class during the leveling phase.
  • Brewmaster is a tanking specialization that uses martial abilities to fight opponents toe to toe, drawing attention towards themselves. They supplement their combat power by making opponents inebriated with their brews (like in Warcraft 3) while also using brews themselves to enhance their combat abilities. I would personally use this specialization for all leveling because it allows faster queuing for dungeons and sustainability for Monks seems to be lacking for awhile in general, making it important to negate damage as well as deal as damage.
  • Mistweaver is a healing specialization that uses a mix of channeled and cast abilities to restore health to allies. Casting additional abilities while channeling enhances the cast ability. Mistweaver Monks also have a limited access to brews that restore their mana (mana is only for Mistweavers). As a healing specialization, I wouldn't recommend this for leveling too much unless you want to do dungeons.
  • Windwalker is a melee damage dealing specialization that uses martial arts to strike down enemies quickly. As the Windwalker's abilities improve, they gain special passive effects such as one that synergizes with the counter-attack passive Monks can get. This specialization may end up being used primarily for questing or battlegrounds, though I would still go with Brewmaster.
  • Holy is a healing specialization that uses the power of the Light to restore health to allies. This mostly consists of direct healing. Holy Paladins can also provide fire support, damaging enemies for Holy damage and potentially reducing their damage output. I would not recommend this specialization for leveling, though it does seem to do a little more damage than traditional healing specializations.
  • Protection is a tank specialization that emphasizes the usage of the shield and the Light to protect the Paladin while drawing the attention of enemies. Protection Paladins can heal themselves for a significant amount by actively using their offensive abilities to charge Bastion of Glory. I would use this specialization for leveling because it has some healing utility through baseline abilities and specialization abilities while also doing decent damage to both single targets and groups.
  • Retribution is a melee damage dealing specialization that uses two-handed weapons to deal heavy physical and Holy damage to enemies. While they primarily deal melee damage, they can also deal some damage from a range. Retribution Paladins are pretty good for questing and battlegrounds due to their ability to sustain themselves and deal large single target damage.
  • Discipline is a healing specialization that can do some direct healing, but specialize in the usage of shielding spells to prevent damage from occurring. Discipline Priests are also unique in the sense they can damage opponents with spells and heal allies at the same time. Because they have some offensive potential and significant sustain through both healing and high passive mana regeneration, I would recommend this specialization for all leveling. (Also, healers queue faster for dungeons than damage dealers.)
  • Holy is a healing specialization that uses a combination of direct healing, healing over time, shielding abilities, and group healing to keep players alive. Holy Priests are something of a jack of all trades, though not greatly proficient in any one type of healing, though they have a unique passive that allows them to continue healing for a short team after they die. Holy Priests also have access to a small suite of offensive spells like Discipline. I would not recommend this specialization too much for leveling in comparison to Discipline because Discipline has access to more offensive utility and can heal themselves at the same time as they deal damage while also shielding huge amounts of damage.
  • Shadow is a ranged damage dealing specialization that uses Shadow Orbs, which are generated by the Priest's direct damage abilities, to fuel their Devouring Plague and Psychic Horror abilities. It may be a good specialization for questing or battlegrounds, but Shadow Priests are notorious for having mana problems, especially early on.
  • Assassination is a melee damage dealer that specializes in the usage of daggers and poison to damage their enemies. To accomplish this, Assassination Rogues dual wield a pair of daggers and strike at enemies with both at the same time. In addition, they have a unique finisher that deals Nature damage and increases the rate poisons can be applied for a brief moment. Assassination Rogues can eventually mark a target to deal significantly more damage to them. Because of the weapon requirements, I wouldn't recommend this specialization for leveling. However, if you can get your hands on a good pair of daggers, try it out because it does some pretty decent damage.
  • Combat is a melee damage dealer that specializes in fighting head on with other opponents (more so than other Rogues) delivering strikes that can hit multiple enemies. Combat Rogues can greatly increase their combat potential by increasing Energy regeneration and attack speed for a short time. Combat Rogues aren't as picky about the one-handed weapons they use as other Rogues, making it a decent specialization for leveling, especially for questing and dungeons. I would recommend this specialization, even though other Rogue specializations may be superior in certain leveling activities.
  • Subtlety is a melee damage dealer that emphasizes the usage of stealth and striking at the target's weak points. Subtlety Rogues prefer to use daggers as the abilities of a Subtlety Rogue favor or require at least one to be equipped. Subtlety Rogues tend to do damage in large bursts of physical damage. Due to positioning requirements, this specialization isn't too good for questing or dungeons (very annoying to get behind enemies), though it is strong for battlegrounds.
  • Elemental is a ranged damage dealer that uses Fire, Frost, and Nature damage spells to deal burst damage while also some totem-based utility to further increase their offensive potential. Elemental Shamans can summon the power of the elements in the form of lightning, which can shock enemies for damage or knock them back. They can also charge their shields of lightning and unleash it in a huge burst of damage. Though the specialization isn't bad, I think this isn't the best specialization for leveling.
  • Enhancement is a melee damage dealer that uses a combination of melee attacks (with dual wielding) enhanced by elemental spells and weapon enchantments. With each strike, the next cast ability will be quickened to the point of becoming instant. Enhancement Shamans can also cast most spells with reasonable potency, including healing abilities, which, when paired with their strong damage dealing, wins my recommendation for Enhancement for all leveling.
  • Restoration is a healer that uses a combination of strong healing over time and direct healing to the group. They can also shield an ally with earth, causing damaging attacks against them to restore health until charges are expended. Because it is a healing specialization, Restoration is good for doing dungeons and maybe battlegrounds, but not much else during leveling.
  • Affliction is a ranged damage dealer that emphasizes the usage of Shadow damage over time spells to harm the enemy. They eventually receive a channeled ability that increases the strength of these spells while it is active. Affliction Warlocks use Soul Shards, which is used with Soulburn to enhance some spells. Because it uses a lot of damage over time abilities, Affliction isn't that good for leveling unless you're really good at managing debuffs on many targets.
  • Demonology is a ranged damage dealer that uses the demon minions to greater power, summons additional demonic minions through attacking, and, at higher levels, can transform into a demon. While in the demon form, many abilities are enhanced, but the form can be maintained for as long as the Warlock has Demonic Fury. Demonic Fury is a resource generated through spells cast outside of the demon form and is consumed when in demon form and by casting spells in demon form. I would recommend this specialization for all leveling because Demonology Warlocks have some reasonably strong damaging abilities for both single target and multiple targets and the demon form can be used often enough to deal more damage as well as prevent it.
  • Destruction is a ranged damage dealer that emphasizes the use of Fire damage spells that do burst damage. Such damaging spells generate Burning Embers, which fuels additional abilities. They can also heal themselves by consuming the Burning Embers. While this would hint towards a strong leveling, I believe it is a close second since Warlocks can obtain sustainability through other methods (talents, baseline abilities) and Burning Embers take quite a bit of time to charge.
  • Arms is a melee damage dealer that uses two-handed weapons to strike enemies down with powerful physical attacks. Arms Warriors can also strike a nearby ally for a brief time. Arms Warriors can also take advantage of an enemy's evasiveness by striking with a quick blow. While Arms Warriors aren't too bad, I think there is a better choice for leveling.
  • Fury is a melee damage dealer that dual wields either one or two-handed weapons, striking enemies down with lethal blows. Fury Warriors can heal themselves by striking with a powerful blow. Because of this, Fury is the specialization I recommend for all leveling.
  • Protection is a tanking specialization that strikes enemies with both weapon and shield to attract the attention of enemies. Protection Warriors can shred the armor of enemies with a shearing blow. They can also raise their shield to deflect all incoming attacks for a short time. Because it is a tanking specialization, it is a decent specialization for dungeons, though not the one I recommend.
The Ways To Level

Now that I have recommended some specializations for leveling, you might wonder what exactly "questing," "dungeons," and "battlegrounds" means from a leveling standpoint. That is why in this section I will briefly describe all three.
  • Questing is pretty similar to what you have probably done through the starting zone onwards. It is pretty much needed in order to obtain the experience to reach at least level 10. As you reach level 10, you can journey to other areas called zones, which contain hubs that assign quests to players. Each zone usually tells a few stories, possibly even having a single overarching tale that often pertains to lore. While this isn't necessarily efficient, you can gain reputation and rewards.
  • Battlegrounds can be done from level 10 onward and are accessible by pressing H. Battlegrounds are PvP zones that have objectives to be completed. Completing these objectives award Honor Points and experience points (while leveling). This is a good way to get into learning PvP without having the inconvenience of running back to your corpse every time you die, though it grants very little in terms of rewards.
  • Dungeons can be done starting at level 15 through the Dungeon Finder system. In short terms, you press I and queue for dungeons within your level range (or random dungeons, which is the preferred method) as the role of a tank (fast queue), healer (moderately fast queue), or damage dealer (slow queue). Tanks try to attack enemies to draw them off allies. Healers keep allies alive through healing spells. Damage dealers deal damage to defeat enemies before allies are defeated. Dungeons reward equipment and money, as well as a decent amount of experience.

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