Sunday, January 1, 2017

Stage Three. Early Max Level: Re-Setting the Table

Upon reaching level 110, the max level for this expansion, you enter Stage Three.  In keeping with Blizzard’s more recent game design philosophy, maximum character level does not mean that character progression stops, nor that you are done questing.  You enter a phase of continued progression, through story sequences, building reputation, and a whole new story-driven questing zone named Suramar, home of the Nightfallen.  You’ll also have world quest objectives, as well.

The key to navigating this transition is to remember that just because a host of these new options appear doesn’t mean that you need to rush off and start doing them all at once.  If you take things in order, they will all still be there when you come to them.

Step 1. 

The moment you ding 110 you’ll have an explosion of things happening.  Khadgar will have as many as three quests that he’ll want you to come visit him to talk about, and he’ll even chase you around in a pink bubble, nagging at you.  Accept all the quests to come and see him, but don’t head off there just now.  Instead, start at the class order hall.

Artifact Research
The very first thing you want to do is find the person in charge of Artifact Research.  They’ve had a white quest mark above their heads until now.  You’ll accept a quest; talk to them again immediately and click on “Let’s continue research on my artifact.”  This artifact research is the lifeblood and heartbeat of the expansion.  Research applies a multiplier to all artifact power items that you find. The more research you complete, the faster your artifact weapon will advance.  Since your weapon will be requiring exponentially greater artifact power with each level, this Research mechanic is the only thing that will allow you to keep pace with its ever-growing demand.

You need to start this research as soon as possible, and check to see that it is progressing at the beginning of each session.  Since the research multiplier only applies to newly acquired artifact power tokens, you’ll want to collect that research at the beginning of your session, so that it applies to everything you earn.  Remember to prioritize Artifact Research above other things you can spend order resources on. This is far more important than spending those resources on the mission board, for example, or recruiting minions.  And you’ll want to make sure that it is always going, even if you do nothing else that day.  You always want to wind the Research clock.

Research runs on Order Resources.  You’ll need 500 each time you want to wind the clock.  That quickly adds up so you need to earn enough resources to keep it ticking.  The primary way to earn Order Resources is through World Quests, and we’ll talk about that in the near future. 

Class Order Armor Set
Another new quest available at the Order Hall is from the quartermaster, who is basically a reputation vendor.  The vendor will give you an ilevel 810 helm, the first of many pieces of your Class order set.  The vendor will have the eight pieces that make up the set, each with a different requirement to unlock them.

On the second page of the vendor, you’ll find armor upgrade tokens.  These are available for order resources, and allow the pieces from the class armor set to remain competitive with your other armor.  It is definitely worth the first upgrade to your helm at this point.  One of the main gear objectives, eventually, is to reach ilvl 825 to qualify for LFR.  So bringing class order armor pieces to 830 is definitely worthwhile.

Also, when you first ding 110, a strange thing happens to the mobs.  Up until this point, you have been godlike in your ability to lay waste to your foes.  Suddenly with that ding, the same mob that you two-shotted at 109 becomes much harder to kill at 110.  The auto-balancing mechanic is tuned to a higher ilevel for a 110 character, and silver mobs that you used to be able to easily solo are suddenly unkillable.  This is where Order Hall armor sets become valuable.

The following list of armor pieces gives a rough order of the difficulty of obtaining them and can give you an idea of what things you should begin to focus on.
•    Helm (810): complete a quest in the class hall after reaching 110
•    Wrists (810): recruit 6 champions in your class hall
•    Legs (820): clear every Legion dungeon, regardless of difficulty
•    Chest (830): finish your order hall campaign
•    Boots (840): reach revered with 2 different Broken Isles factions
•    Gloves (820): reach honored with the Nightfallen reputation
•    Belt (840): earn a total of 100,000 Artifact Power
•    Shoulders (850): reach exalted with the Nightfallen reputation

Order Hall Upgrades
One of the NPCs in your order hall offers you bonuses or benefits that affect your mission board and champions.  This is presented as a series of choices between two options:  one relates to the success of missions on the mission board, and the other relates to questing in the world.  For example, you can choose between extra mission success and upgraded quest loot. 

At this stage, the third tier of upgrades becomes particularly important.  My experience was that order resources were most limiting, at this point.  The option to obtain champion armaments and equipment was the most useful to me, because one of those items gives you an extra 50 order resources for every world quest you finish.  A continuous stream of order resources is necessary to fulfill other requirements.  That’s a passive stream of 200 resources per day, but it also gives you a guaranteed mechanism for generating resources, should you need it.  If you need to collect 2000 resources for a armor upgrade, run 20 world quests/day for 2 days and you’ll have it.

My strategy is very quest-centric, as this expansion seems to prefer, so this benefit paid off significantly for me, particularly at this stage of the game.  If your strategy is more focused on running dungeons and raiding, and doing missions through the app. then the other choice might be better.  Additionally, at very late endgame, you may be prioritizing gold missions when the other choice might be preferable.
When I chose the other option (to increase your number of minions) it did help me to complete more missions per day, but I quickly depleted my order resources, since each mission took 150-200 resources.  Even though I had minions to send, I didn’t have the resources to start the missions because I needed those resources elsewhere.

The next tier of upgrades (Tier 4) requires you to spend 10,000 Order Resources.  We need to maximize our rate of accumulation, not facilitate our ability to spend them.

Order Hall storyline
Next, look around your order hall for additional new quests that continue the story line of your Class Order hall.  This will expand again at level 110.  You want to recruit your final champion, earn your bracers and unlock a further series of quests. Typically, these are tasks to complete a number of world quests and Mission board missions.  These aren’t things you can just go out and do; they’re going to take several days, so just keep these quests in mind.

Once you’ve gathered all available tasks in your Order hall, port to Dalaran and gather your assignments there.  You have multiple quest that deal with Khadgar, but there are some stops to make first.
Check with your cook in the faction inn and complete that intro series of quests to unlock recipe research, then commit your available cooking resources to researching new recipes.

In the Commerce district of Dalaran, there is a burning wagon and a quest series to complete here.
 It’s probably a good idea to drop in to your profession trainers to update your quests there.  There is also an archaeology quest in the commerce district as well.

Step 2.

At this point, we’ve again moved most of the housekeeping tasks out of the way.  It’s time to complete the thing we’ve been putting off, and go visit Khadgar in the Violet Citadel.

Khadgar has three main things for us.  First, he continues the Naaru quest series back at your class order hall.  Second, he unlocks world quests for us, which will be a valuable source of resources for our artifact research.  Third, he opens up the story line that will bring us into Suramar and introduces us to the Nightfallen.  The final quest he has is for a dungeon on mythic difficulty.  We probably won’t be ready for mythic dungeons for a while, so I ignore that quest for now to keep it from distracting me.

World Quests

Before we go anywhere, let’s talk about world quests for a minute.  World quests appear on zone maps when you zoom into a particular zone.  There are three main types of world quests:  The majority of the world quests will be regular and will reward a variety of loot, as mentioned in the description.  A few world quests will be special, however.  Dungeon world quests can be completed as an additional boss in an LFG dungeon.   Weekly World Quests have a golden dragon around them, and a purple background.  These are intended to be completed in a group, which you can join from the group-finder.  The rewards are scaled to the difficulty, however, and worth trying to pug.  True to their name, these only appear once a week.
There is another mechanic at work as well.  In the bottom left corner of the zone map is a set of three Emissary quests.  These are circular faction badges with four exclamations underneath.  Complete four world quests for the indicated faction, and they will offer you a substantial reward which will include a significant reputation gain with that faction.  The Kirin Tor emissary quest will reward you with reputation of the faction of your choice.  These quests also will give you order hall resources, which is what you need to keep the Artifact research clock ticking.  A new emissary will appear each day so you can do one emissary quest each day, or three at once.

The bottom line here is that you want to do one emissary quest per day, and one weekly world quest each week.

Khadgar has just unlocked these quests for us, but we will get to them later.  For now, examine the purple orb in front of him, and follow the storyline to Suramar.  This may seem like an odd choice, but we want to open up Suramar, and pick up the flightpath.  We don’t need to go very far however, and will probably save this area for later questing.  Complete the series up to the point where you turn in the three mana crystals.  That leaves plenty of quests for us to pick back up the golden thread when we return to Suramar. 
For now, return to the class order hall and we’ll complete the first of Khadgar’s tasks.  Speak to the Naaru Xe’ra and watch the conversation, before returning to Khadgar and finally back to your order hall to talk with Lights Heart again.

Step 3.

We’ve mentioned this before but let’s address it again here:  You still need to complete all the named storylines in each zone.  And this is true even though you don’t need experience any more.  The two main reasons why this is true are that
1.  You need to do this in order to unlock Legion Pathfinder, which allows flying in Legion
2. Because this is the easiest way to gain reputation with the four starting factions. 

You need to get at least two of them to Revered to unlock your 840 boots from the Order Hall set, and you need all six factions at Revered for Pathfinder (note that this is not the same as the reason above.  It is possible to reach revered without the storylines, but you need both for Pathfinder.
The most obvious time to complete the four beginning zones is right now.  They are still somewhat of a challenge for a fresh level 110, but more importantly, they still function as an introduction to this continent of the Broken Isles, and we still need to complete our primary assignment of gathering the four Pillars of Creation.  In terms of the overall storyline of Legion, their place in the narrative is now.

With that in mind, open your achievements and go to Quests -> Legion, and check each zone for the named storylines.  Find any that don’t have a green check and resume questing.  It’s time to get back out into the world.

While you’re out there, feel free to pick up any world quests that are along your path, and continue to clear out treasure chests and Rares.  These are fading in their relevance, so this is the last chance for them to be meaningful.

As usual, follow the standard order for tasks
1.    Order hall housekeeping
2.    Order hall quests and Light’s Heart quests
3.    Profession quests
4.    Zone quests


Step 4.

You will know that you have reached step 4 when a number of things begin to come together.
First, you have completed the Order Hall quest series, typically ending with a great cinematic and group shot.
Second, your Light’s Heart quest series ends with a task to gather 80 lingering soul fragments.  These are reported to drop from any end boss, but the most straightforward way to gain them is through mythic dungeons.  Once we've gained this quest, we can just take the fragments when they com.
Third, your profession quests send you into Suramar, probably to do something that you won’t be able to accomplish until you have progressed the Nightfallen storyline.
Fourth, you have completed the four starting zones and the storylines and have a check beside each one.  As a result, you have reached honored with the four factions and have assembled the four Pillars of Creation.
Fifth, you have completed all 8 dungeons on normal difficulty.  On your achievements page, go to Dungeons & Raids and select Legion Dungeon.  Mouse over the points awarded for each dungeon to see if it has been completed by your current character.
  • Violet Hold
  • Neltharion’s Lair
  • Maw of Souls
  • Halls of Valor
  • Darkheart Thicket
  • Eye of Azshara
  • Black Rook Hold
  • Vault of the Wardens
Typically, your gear ilevel is around 815-820, just under the LFR threshold;   your artifact level is 16-18 and your research level is 5-6.
Your goal for step 4 is to make sure that each of the five requirements listed above has been completed.  Of course, concentrate on any that haven’t reached this stage before moving on.

When you have completed the requirements of Step 4, you have finished the early max-level stage.