I love Heirloom gear. I love having complete sets ready to go for pretty much any low level character I choose to roll. I spent much of Wrath obsessed with collecting them. I have, at last count, 29 heirloom items. That’s twenty-nine pieces of Bind to Account gear, all dedicated to making me an awesome leveler.
And yet… I’m not an awesome leveler. I’m just not. I’m great at rolling alts, and pretty good at making them as powerful as I can at any given level, but I’m just not a great leveler. I play with some great levelers, people who can take a toon to level 40 in two days, with full professions, and completely enjoy the experience along the way.
That’s not me. Each level is a struggle, and there’s this constant sense of guilt that I should be doing it faster, better, are we there yet? that makes me wonder why I roll so many alts in the first place. Having all the Heirlooms in the game wouldn’t make me better at leveling.
And yet: I enjoy questing. One of my biggest personal lessons with the Level 19 Ambassador Project was how much I enjoyed discovering the stories behind the game, of seeing the reasons why places are the way they are. I enjoy collecting gear, of sifting through quest rewards for the best, the prettiest, the coolest-looking, the oddest. I love having torches and lanterns and pretty dresses. I can even enjoy leveling, when I forget that there’s a goal I’m trying to reach.
I laid out the case for Heirlooms in an earlier post, but it’s relevant to summarize it here. Heirloom gear serves two purposes; to give experienced players a shorter path through content they’ve experienced before, and to allow for gear to be shared between characters on a server. Heirlooms are good gear, sometimes great gear, sometimes the best gear you can get. You can enchant them once and never have to enchant that slot again. You can get stats that are otherwise rare or unavailable before level 60 (Hit, Haste, Resilience.)
But when Cataclysm comes, I think I’m going to level a lot of my alts without Heirlooms, or only with a few selected ones. I’ve already started using my Heirlooms less and less, and am finding it a more enjoyable experience overall.
This is, frankly, odd for me to admit, since in terms of efficiency (and regular readers know how I feel about efficiency), Heirloom gear cannot be beaten. (Even speed enchants on your boots can’t quite compare to Heirlooms for increasing your experience gain.) Going without the chest and shoulders means you are leveling 20% more. That’s crazy.
THIS ISN’T OLD CONTENT
The old world is not going to be old anymore. The experience from 1-60 has been redesigned, the stories are different. Leveled through Darkshore, Westfall, and the Barrens dozens of times before? Well, you’ve never leveled through these zones. They’re different now. You can’t be bored with these quests yet, you’ve never done them!
Doing all of the tier 1-2 zones on a single character made me realize how different each zone could feel, how some zones appeal to you and others don’t. Taking time to experience each zone and the stories within it is a good, enjoyable part of the game! Remember your first character, stumbling around without much of a clue, discovering new places, being awed by the immensity of this game?
Don’t rob yourself of that innocence too soon. Take your time. Stop and smell the roses.
(Okay, Outland and Northrend are still old content. Get every XP boost you can to level through those quickly.)
THIS ISN’T THE FASTEST WAY TO GET A NEW RACE TO 85
If you are really in a hurry, Heirlooms will not get your new goblin or worgen to 85 by December 8th. No, if you want to play one of the new races in the endgame as soon as possible, your best strategy is to take an existing level 80 character to 85 and change their race. There realm first racial achievements have been removed, so there’s even less incentive to try to do this, but if you’re dead set on playing the endgame with one of the new races?
Get your level 80 character ready to switch.
THIS ISN’T THE WAY TO BE OVERPOWERED
I’ve been rolling a lot of alts lately, and I’ve heard people talking in battlegrounds about how overpowered someone is because they have Heirlooms. I think this is probably filtering into the Dungeon Finder, too – “lol no heirlooms.”
This is stupid. It’s not stupid because it’s childish (though it’s that, too). It’s not even stupid because it ignores player skill (which is also stupid.) It’s stupid because it ignores math, and ignores a simple fact: for the first 30 levels or so, your enchants are better than your gear.
I rolled a Hunter recently, why, I wasn’t quite sure, but I did and I’m enjoying it. I tossed a Lovely Purple Dress on her and a set of enchanted white gear I got from the starting area vendors, and then proceeded to destroy the starting area. I tossed Heirlooms on her at level 10, keeping the same enchants, and have proceeded to destroy every instance and battleground I’ve been in.
+7 Agility to the boots. +9 Stamina to the bracers. +15 Agility to the gloves. +15 Agility to the main hand weapon. +100 Health to the chest. +2 damage on the bow. +16 Armor to the legs.
For a Hunter, that translates to 74 Ranged Attack Power and an additional 190 health, just from enchants.
A full kit of Heirlooms provides (at level 19): +5 Agility from the shoulders, +7 Agility from the chest, +3 Agility from the MH, +18 Stamina, +6 Haste, +6 Resilience, and a PvP trinket. That’s 30 Ranged Attack Power and about 4% Haste, 180 health. All good stats, and worth having for maximum pwnage, but it takes a while for gear to catch up to the wonderful enchantments you can place on level 1 items.
Think about that again. A properly enchanted set of white gear gives you better bonuses than Heirlooms for the first 20 levels.
Heirlooms are a good way to ensure that several of your slots are filled with good, enchanted, blue-quality gear. They mean you can enchant a slot once and never worry about it again, which I greatly appreciate given how much I love the Crusader enchant. But it’s not just the weapon damage that is important there: it’s always having an enchanted weapon. You save money, you don’t skimp on your Heirloom enchants like you might on something you’re going to replace in a few levels.
THEY OBSCURE YOUR VIEW OF THE GAME
A related pet peeve is that it also surprises me how often I hear players refer to Heirlooms as best-in slot items. They’re not, or not always. At any given level, for a specific class, they might be the best you can get – but more often than not, there’s something else you can get. If you have Heirlooms and are leveling quickly, you’d probably never notice this.
What I’ve noticed while using Heirlooms is that I start ignoring whole swaths of gear, and stop making choices around them. That’s okay – it’s one of the advantages of Heirlooms – but it’s also a disadvantage. There are some really great items in the game that you’ll never acquire, never even notice, if you level in full heirlooms.
I obsess a bit on my twink blog about the best weapon for a given spec or situation. And yet, I often use the Venerable Mass of McGowan for my MH weapon. It’s a great tanking weapon because of the Agility, though there are some swords that outclass it for sheer DPS. So I switch, depending on what situation I’m in. (The 2H Heirlooms are all outdone by several different quest rewards and I don’t even have them on ‘block anymore.)
But Cyn, you’ll rightly say, why should I spend the time researching that when the Heirlooms are good enough, and when I’m going to outlevel that reward in a dungeon run or two anyways?
Because it’s a part of the game that you’re missing. If you wear your Tattered Dreadmist set all the way from 1-80, not only do you miss out on any sense of progression in your appearance, you lose out on how bad and awkward the outfits were in Outland (and how drab everyone is in Northrend.) Your gloves, helm, and boots change, but you basically look the same from 1-80.
If your goal is getting to 80, then maybe that doesn’t matter. There’s no right or wrong here, just a matter of preference. Looking like a clown in Outland isn’t something to seek out, exactly – but it’s part of the game, and a fun part of the game. Replacing my purple tunic was a big step – though it was nice seeing my legs again!
THEY GET IN THE WAY OF LEARNING YOUR NEW CLASS
It’s one thing to say that Heirlooms let you skip over seeing a part of the game (gear). The more I’ve leveled with them, the more I think that they can hinder becoming a real expert in your class.
Hear me out.
It’s fairly straightforward to pick out a good set of Heirlooms for a given class. You might not get the best ones for your chosen spec, but you should be able to do pretty good overall.
But what if you want to tank instead of DPS? There’s no gear that’s specific to tanking, and even though the instances 1-80 aren’t that demanding anymore, you’re not getting exposed to the idea that you should gear differently for tanking than for DPS – until you hit the endgame. I ditched my DK’s Heirloom chest when he hit 70 and went with the crafted tank blues instead.
The difference was noticeable. Having dedicated tank gear in all slots made a big improvement back in the days of Defense, but even at lower gear levels I believe it’s important to start learning the ins and outs of why gear works the way it does while leveling, not at the endgame.
It’s not just the roles of the holy trinity that need to be learned through the leveling process – the distinctions between gearing different specs are lost in the heirloom shuffle.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got a Rogue I’m leveling Combat. I’ve probably mentioned that I’m also not very good with her; I don’t really understand what I’m doing aside from Sinister Strike > Slice and Dice > SS x5 > Eviscerate, with occasional Blade Flurries to spread the damage around. I’m basically doing what smarter Rogue players than I have told me what to do, and running LFD so that I can level her up.
The reason I’m leveling a Rogue is that I want to level her Enchanting and Inscription. Heirlooms work great for this purpose; they let me grasp the basics of the class, keep the same gear throughout the process, and every once in a while drop into LFD for some dungeon runs.
But at the end of all of this, after I hit level 80, will I be a good Rogue player? No. Absolutely not. I grab random gear with Agility, Hit and Stamina off the AH or from dungeons, but basically I’m powering through on Heirlooms.
Conversely, I plan on leveling my warlocks in Cataclysm with minimal Heirlooms, precisely so I can see what it’s like. I want to experience the new gear. I want to see what it’s like in the field, how it looks, how it works. I want to sit there actually thinking about a quest reward before turning in the quest.
There’s a counter-argument to be made to this – namely, that you don’t need to be an expert in how a class levels to be an expert in it at the endgame, or to be a really good endgame player. I absolutely agree with this. If leveling is not your goal, but the endgame is, then you probably don’t need to know the intricacies of how a class levels up.
But there are skills you learn while leveling that are important (kiting, trapping, jump shots, CC, pulling, healing on the move) that you need at level 80/85. Don’t dismiss them out of hand if your goal is the endgame.
NEITHER WAY IS WRONG
I know me. I’m going to waffle back and forth between using Heirlooms, not using Heirlooms. I love them too much to abandon them entirely. Some toons are going to be totally tricked out, and that means they get the purple dress and skull shoulders and staff. Others are going to be left to fend for themselves.
Leveling, it seems to me, is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Sometimes we just want to take the highway and get there as fast as we can. Sometimes we want to take back roads. One might be faster, but that doesn’t make it better.
And that is the crux of my case against Heirlooms.