Rolling a new monk for Mists of Pandaria? Here’s a complete leveling guide, to cover gear, other necessities, and a full description of the leveling experience. (Content excerpted from a series of articles I wrote for WoW Insider.)
Preparation: Packing for the Journey
Getting some heirloom items is the obvious starting point for a new alt monk. Each heirloom armor piece will give you an XP bonus, and heirloom weapons contribute significantly to your damage output, which gets you through things faster. You’ve got two choices, agility leather for aspiring brewmasters and windwalkers, or intellect leather for potential mistweavers.
Either way, you’ll have six main slots that heirlooms can fill, four armor and two weapon (either a main hand plus off hand or two-hander). Below, I’ve listed the primary choices for each slot. Note that the chest, shoulders, and weapons require JPs, Champion’s Seals, or Darkmoon Faire rep, while the cloak and helm require a level 10/20 guild. New leg heirloom items are available in Mists, but will not be available until some time after launch.
- Agility chest Stained Shadowcraft Tunic
- Intellect chest Preened Ironfeather Breastplate
- Agility shoulders Stained Shadowcraft Spaulders or Exceptional Stormshroud Shoulders
- Intellect shoulders Preened Ironfeather Shoulders or Lasting Feralheart Spaulders
- Agility helm Stained Shadowcraft Cap
- Intellect helm Preened Tribal War Feathers
- Agility cloak Inherited Cape of the Black Baron
- Intellect cloak Ancient Bloodmoon Cloak
- Agility weapon Dual Venerable Mass of McGowan or Burnished Warden Staff
- Intellect weapon Dignified Headmaster’s Charge
There are also some heirloom trinkets and a ring, but those are either not that helpful or difficult to get, so I wouldn’t worry too much. If you want to enchant your heirlooms, go ahead; check out the available heirloom enchant options, which are fairly sparse except for weapon enchants.
That covers half your gear slots. The other half will have to be filled in by quest rewards or boss drops, depending on how you choose to level. Quest rewards should cover you pretty solidly, but if you’re planning on full-time dungeoneering, you may want to buy a few greens in case RNG is not your friend. Jewelry, especially, seems to be fairly hard to come by in dungeons.
Gold The shiny stuff! Even if you pre-buy all the items I’ve mentioned already, you’re going to want lots of gold to pay for riding training, a new set of glyphs, and any other incidentals. Training all the riding skills will cost between 10k and 13k (depending on how much effort you put into increasing your faction reputation), so I’d want at least 15k to 20k stashed away to feel comfortable. Obviously, if you’ll be buying things like dungeon/raid BoEs, you’ll want much more.
Bags Just depends how much you want to spend. Netherweave Bags, the bargain basement option, will get you 16 slots for 15 gold each. Frostweave Bags, my recommendation, will get you 20 slots for 100 to 120 gold, or you can upgrade a bit and grab 22-slot Embersilk Bags for about 300 gold these days. If you want the best of the best, though, be prepared to spend; 26-slot Illusionary Bags still run north of 3k gold on my server.
Profession mats You can choose to farm/craft as you level, but leveling is so quick nowadays that you likely won’t get the materials necessary to finish a crafting tier before leaving the relevant zone. You many want to go back and farm some stuff with a high-level character.
Food If you’re rolling a pandaren, you’re definitely going to want some buff food to maximize your racial. If not, it still helps. I’ll understand if you skip the old world and Outland foods, but definitely consider laying in some Blackened Dragonfin/Skewered Eel, orFirecracker Salmon/Severed Sagefish Head for the mistweavers.
Flasks/elixirs Mistweavers can use Flasks of Distilled Wisdom, which are very powerful for their level and will last you until you can use Frostwyrm Flasks. The agility classes, in contrast, will be stuck with Elixirs of Major Agility/Mighty Agility, though attack power consumables will work as well. If that’s too expensive for you, Scrolls of Agility/Intellect are a cheaper alternative. Of course, if you have some leftover Cataclysm flasks, throw those in for levels 80 to 90.
Potions Monks are already pretty mobile, but a stack of Swiftness Potions never hurts, especially to get through the early levels. If you’re questing, a few Swim Speed Potions will also come in handy for those annoying underwater finding expeditions. Healing Potions are always helpful to prevent time-consuming corpse runs.
Weapon enhancements Everybody always forgets about weightstones, but these are very nice for bumping up your damage for the agility-based monks. Mistweavers aren’t left out;Wizard Oil will give you a nice intellect boost.
Adventurer’s Journals These items are typically overlooked, but they can be pretty powerful starting at level 75. You have roughly a 50-50 chance you’ll proc a helpful buff, but just the chance at a 10% XP buff or a self-heal proc is worth it.
Monk Leveling from 1 to 90
Like all classes, you don’t start out with much. Your only usable ability will be Jab, which is your basic attack that generates chi. Your basic auto-attacks will likely do a lot more damage than Jab at first; don’t fret. You’ll also have Stance of the Fierce Tiger, which will cause your Jab to generate extra chi, which you won’t have any use for at first. Finally, you’ll have several passive abilities, the most noticeable being Tiger Strikes. This proc gives you (essentially) +50% melee attack speed and +100% melee damage for your next four swings, which means whatever you’re fighting will die very quickly.
So jab, jab, and jab some more until you hit level 3, when you will learn Tiger Palm. (You don’t have to visit trainers to learn abilities anymore; they just pop right into your spellbook. Hooray for progress!) This is your first chi-consuming ability, hitting about twice as hard as Jab for 1 chi. This sets up your first rotation: Jab, Tiger Palm, Tiger Palm, repeat. The armor penetration buff you gain from Tiger Palm is helpful but not overly significant, so don’t worry about it too much. Keep punching away, until you get to level 5 and learn Roll. (Whee!)
You’ll likely be using Roll a lot, so stick it somewhere easy to hit. This tosses you forward about 20 yards in the direction you’re moving (or facing, if standing still) and has two charges, so it can be used twice in succession. It’s good for travel from point A to point B or as a quick escape from a bad situation.
At level 7, you’ll unlock Blackout Kick, which costs 2 chi but hits more than twice as hard as Tiger Palm. I dropped Tiger Palm completely off my bars at this point. A few more levels, and you’ll reach level 10 and your big decision — specialization. (If you’re not sure which specialization you’d like to pursue, check out my “So you’d like to play …” guides forbrewmasters, mistweavers, and windwalkers.) For ease of questing, I’d recommend windwalker, and that’ll be the spec I follow for the rest of this guide.
Selecting windwalker will immediately grant you Fists of Fury, a very powerful channeled attack. From here on out, you’ll want to Jab twice and immediately launch into FoF, which will typically be enough to kill most quest mobs by itself. It’s got a cooldown, though, so you’ll still need to use Blackout Kick in between to kill stuff.
Levels 11 to 20
For this tier, you’ll still have lots of baseline abilities to get. At level 14, you’ll receiveProvoke, which is the monk’s taunt ability. Even though all specs receive it, you’ll likely only use this in desperate situations as a non-brewmaster, since the increased speed the enemy receives makes “taunt kiting” very difficult. Then at 15, you’ll have your first talent choice, all of which involve movement in some way. For leveling, my personal preference is Momentumto shorten walk times, but Celerity is good as well.
Next up are two utility spells, Resuscitate and Detox. Resuscitate allows you to bring dead players back to life when out of combat (always handy), and Detox allows you to remove harmful poison and disease effects from yourself or other players. (A mistweaver Detox will also remove magical effects.) With the new 8-second cooldown on all dispels across the board, it’s very likely that windwalkers and brewmasters will be pressed into service for dispel-heavy encounters, but you won’t have to worry about that while leveling.
While most of the abilities you receive early on are baseline, there are several windwalker exclusives as well. At level 18, you get Flying Serpent Kick, which is quite possibly my most favorite ability in the entire game. Click the button, and you go zooming off at epic flying mount speed. Click it again, and you land with a great animation, doing a little damage as well. (True story: I was competing with a couple other players in Valley of the Four Winds for quest mob spawns when one spawned off in the distance. They started mounting up; I hit Flying Serpent Kick. Five seconds later, they’d barely covered half the distance on their ground mounts and I was already launching into my Fists of Fury.)
At level 20, you get a really sweet teleport called Zen Pilgrimage. This ability teleports you to the Peak of Serenity in Pandaria, an area that has class trainers, profession trainers, and a new class quest every 10 levels. It’s like a death knight’s Death Gate – but livelier. You’ll also pick up Combat Conditioning, another windwalker exclusive that causes your Blackout Kick to do extra damage or healing, depending on your orientation. (It can be glyphed to just have the extra damage, if you prefer.) Oh, and don’t forget to get your mount!
Levels 21 to 30
First up, you’ll receive two more baseline abilities, Legacy of the Emperor, which is a buff identical to a paladin’s Blessing of Kings, and Touch of Death. ToD is very cool because it allows you to instakill an enemy with lower health than you; the downside is it requires 3 chi, which typically means you’ll have already half-killed an enemy by the time you can use it. Still fun, though, especially because it also interacts with your level 24 ability, Fortifying Brew. While Fortifying Brew is designed to be used as an “oh, crap” damage reduction ability, its 20% health buff pushes the Touch of Death threshold just a bit higher.
You’ll also get another Touch ability here that’s a windwalker exclusive, Touch of Karma. This is sort of like warriors’ Spell Reflection, but way better; this reflects all damage you take for 10 seconds. Now, good PvPers will quickly learn to recognize the spell effect and back off, but you’re about to ruin XxPwnYrFcexX’s day, which is perfectly fine with me.
Rounding out the baseline abilities, you’ll pick up Expel Harm at level 26. This ability should instantly hit your bars, because it heals you for a decent amount, does that amount of damage to an enemy target, and generates chi. One thing to note, though, is that it has to heal you to do damage, but it will still generate chi regardless. You’ll also pick up Afterlifehere, a simple passive that causes healing or chi spheres to occasionally proc when you kill an enemy. Finally, you get Disable at level 28, which is essentially the monk’s version ofHamstring. (Yes, they stole Improved Hamstring from warriors, too.)
At last, you’ll reach level 30. You’ll get dual spec here, so if windwalker’s getting boring, feel free to try one of the other specs for a while. While this milestone doesn’t come with any new abilities, you’ll open up your second tier of talents, which are all skills that combine damage and healing. While I love Chi Burst’s visual effect, Zen Sphere is your best bet for solo questing, since it lets you turn excess chi into healing on the move.
Levels 31 to 45
For this set of levels, there’s not too much going on for windwalkers. You’ve already received the majority of your core moveset, so now you’ll be picking up a bit of utility. At 32, you’ll get Spear Hand Strike, which is a standard interrupt with a nice all-schools lockout bonus for PvP. Following that, you’ll get Energizing Brew at level 36.
EBrew (as I call it) is deceptively powerful. It’ll seem kind of useless while out questing, as most of your fights are pretty short-duration in nature. Jump into a group scenario, however, and you’ll soon run into situations where you have no chi left to use on finishers and no energy for Jab. In that case, popping this will effective give you a little kickstart. It’s not an instant kick like a feral druid’s Tiger’s Fury or an assassination rogue’s Cold Blood, but in the end, more energy means more chi means more damage. After Energizing Brew, you won’t get anything new for a little while, but make sure to grab Journeyman Riding at 40.
Continuing on the utility theme, at level 44 you’ll receive Paralysis. This is your crowd control ability and functions similarly to a retribution paladin’s Repentance. It’s limited to melee range, though, which will make using it in a coordinated fashion somewhat problematic. (Later, you do unlock a talent that gives it a limited ranged capability.) It does have a shorter cooldown than duration, so you can refresh it as long as necessary; try to use it from behind, though, to get the full effect.
Finally, level 45 unlocks your third choice of talents, which all relate to chi in some fashion. I don’t find Ascension particularly useful, so I’d recommend picking up either Power Strikes orChi Brew. Personally, I prefer Power Strikes since I don’t have to think about using it, plus it generally allows me to Jab once and go straight into Fists of Fury or a Touch of Death.
Levels 46 to 60
Your first ability for this set of levels is quite handy for dungeons: Spinning Crane Kick. Now you have the beginnings of an AoE rotation! Just remember that it will only generate chi if you have three or more targets, so stick to a single-target rotation if there are two.
Immediately following Spinning Crane Kick, you’ll get Spinning Fire Blossom at 48. (Monks love to spin, apparently.) This quirky little ability is pretty unique. First, its a windwalker-exclusive ranged ability and costs 1 chi, so you’re not going to use it very often, just when fight circumstances cause you to have to leave melee range for a bit. Second, its default behavior is a dumbfire; use it, and it flies straight forward, hitting the first thing in range (and the range is pretty considerable). I found using it this way to be pretty difficult, so I’d recommend glyphing it two levels later to allow it to home in on a target. Around this time, you’ll also get a free 5% agility from Leather Specialization, which is handy.
Another ranged option is Crackling Jade Lightning, our level 54 ability. While this ability is designed mostly for mistweavers to give them a ranged damage option, we can still use it when we don’t have the chi for Spinning Fire Blossom or just want to pull something quickly, since Spinning Fire Blossom has a travel time.
Level 56 is a very important level for windwalkers, because you’ll receive Rising Sun Kick, the most potent move in your arsenal. Not only is this kick the strongest ability we have in terms of damage per chi, it applies a debuff to the enemy that increases your damage to that target by 10%. Unless you’re fighting something that can be killed in a single Fists of Fury, you’ll want to use Rising Sun Kick first and every time it’s off cooldown.
While level 60 is an important milestone to any character (flying mounts, woo!), there are some good windwalker-specific bonuses here as well. You’ll get Tigereye Brew, which is built up to use as a quick damage boost, as well as a one of three crowd control talents. Since you’re already going to be in the thick of things, I highly recommend Leg Sweep, a Fists of Fury/Leg Sweep/Spinning Crane Kick combo will give you a large amount of AoE damage during which opponenets are defenseless.
Levels 61 to 90
New ability gain slows even more here as you get out of the Old World and into expansion content. Level 64 unlocks your next two abilities: Healing Sphere and Path of Blossoms. Healing Sphere allows you to deliberately place one of those little green spheres you’ve been seeing for a while now, to heal yourself or a party member. It’s got a pretty hefty energy cost, but if you see a bad fight coming up, you can set up a fall-back point with three spheres to get a near-full heal. Path of Blossoms, meanwhile, isn’t all that helpful. It sounds cool in theory (landmines!), but they don’t last long enough to be pre-placed, so you’ll only be using it in the event you need to run away from something.
Level 68 opens what might be considered our final utility spell, Grapple Weapon. It’s essentially a ranged disarm with a chance to get a small buff. Handy, but likely not too useful except in PvP.
After that, you have another long wait until 75, when you get your fifth talent choice. All of these are defensive/healing abilities, so they’re very situational. In general, I’d recommend Diffuse Magic as a self-dispel/magic damage reducer. Dampen Harm sounds good, but you (hopefully) won’t be taking too many physical hits for more than 10% of your HP from quest mobs and such. You’ll also have a third glyph choice here, though nothing is particularly compelling.
Level 80 heralds the last rotation-changer you get. You’ll unlock your mastery, Combo Breaker, which will occasionally grant you a free Tiger Palm or Blackout Kick after a Jab. Like with Energizing Brew, this is one of those skills that you won’t appreciate as much while questing but really becomes useful once you participate in a sustained fight. Immediately following this, you’ll pick up the last windwalker-specific ability, Legacy of the White Tiger, which is a 5% crit buff for you and your group.
Home stretch! Level 82 opens Zen Meditation, which is potentially a very powerful group/raid cooldown. (I say potentially, because it all depends on which spells it affects or doesn’t affect. At least, you’ll get some damage reduction out of it.) At 87, you’ll unlock Transcendence, which is a short-range teleport similar to a warlock’s Demonic Circle. Finally, 90 will grant you your final tier of talent choices. Chi Torpedo is a bit weak at the moment, so your best bet will be Xuen for a single-target fight, or Rushing Jade Wind for multiple targets.
Whew. Now that we’ve got to 90, we’ll have to prep for endgame! See one of my spec-specific guides for info about life at 90.