The Steppes is proving to be a fun and varied place to level. I'm currently lvl 66, though I believe I entered the zone for the first time to the south at around lvl 60. I suspect it will take me up to at least lvl 68. In short, I think druid's prime here is once you get your lvl 63 charm spell. Here is a break-down on my experiences so far, I'll try to update it over the coming days to see how far the zone takes me.
NOTE: As of October 2012 this is a hot zone, so the exp is good and the daily hot zone quest is awesome; 5 kills for a piece of defiant gear and 256 plat. Outdoor zone with lots of animals for druids to shine!
UPDATE, level 73: I am back at it in the Steppes at lvl 73. For lvl 71 and 73 details scroll down.
Early on (lvl 60) the lizards, snakes and spiders near the southern zone-in were deep blue to white, though easy enough to solo with a J1 tank merc. For me it was mostly buffing the tank with skin-like spell, hp regen, DS and STR buff and let the merc at it. I would usually snare pull, hit with a couple of debuffs and pehaps a couple of DoT's. Usually would heal the merc once renewal (later use Karana's renewal, the ~4800hp slow cast heal). I do recall blackfeather roost being easier XP and much better drops, so I didn't stay here too long at the lower 60's.
Quick note on strategy. The Roost was great because in the low 60's our animal charm worked on most of the mobs there. As a standard I would zone-in, pick a hard-hitting mob (usually a puma) and then keep it attacking along-side my tank merc. Kills went fast, and my merc usually re-grabbed aggro from the pet quickly when charm would break so I could re-charm. I often let the pet tank until at least 50% health, down to about 20% is even better. The logic is when charm breaks I can just kill it for exp and grab another pet nearby. Meanwhile I try to stack all available debuff's, keep the merc tank buffed and healed and I'm good to go.
As for my buffs, I always ride a mount, have skin-like and mask-of for the mana regen, use spirit of the eagle for lev, and have the level appropriate clarity potion ticking. Mostly defiant gear otherwise, maybe still wearing my black iron medallion from the old days, how sad.
Around lvl 63 Roost is mostly light blues so I came back to Steppes. I love the zone because it has a druid ring, and you can even easily bounce to the southern zone-in from the druid ring with egress. When you get your lvl 63 charm spell the zone-in animals are all fair game. I now repeat the above strategy, adding in both strength buffs and pet haste to a chasm mamba. The targets of choice for me are either deep blue conning animals (wolves and leopards , lizards, snakes) or I target gnolls.
Animals: These are probably the best exp, because I pull with glamour of tunare, AA snare and then fear them. I usually stack 2-3 debuffs and then both my hasted pet and my merc tank wail on them. I tried melee DPS merc, which does better DPS, but I prefer to have the taunting tank that can re-gain aggro from my pet or adds and survives longer. Beware the direction you send them feared, south or east is generally best. Feared animals generally run in a direction opposite to which they are facing you, so you can herd them a bit accordingly.
Gnolls: I love killing the gnolls, found in the NE portion of the zone. Besides great cash and drops, they remind me of the good 'ol days back in blackburrow. They have roamers, but you can usually pull one very easily to either the southern or western side of their camp. Same strategy as before, I have both my merc and a hasted/charmed pet wack on them. It seems that a couple of debuffs and a couple of DoT's or nukes help speed it up a bit.
As for gnolls, many are still dark blue as the animals start turning light blue, so I would expect to focus more on gnolls as one goes lvl 66+. (Correction, this isn't entirely true. The lizards just south of the druid ring all con dark blue at lvl 68). Note many gnolls due north of the druid ring con at least dark blue at lvl 68 and should carry someone at least a couple more levels.
Other stuff in the zone:
Earth elementals. Kos and at the center of the zone. Their aggro range is small, so if a feared pet is nearing them it usually is safe enough to just stay away and let the animal run nearby. They seem to be slightly harder for their level, enough I don't hunt them exclusively but don't egress if I have an add and I am doing well enough.
Goblins: Never hunted them, seem to be a low level version of the gnolls, found to the SW. Might be good to pull with the gnoll strategy at an earlier level, but I loved the Roost and would prefer it while using charm.
Giants: Well, they are like all giants I have encountered in this game. They hit hard and seem to be tough for their level, and they con out to be around lvl 68-70. You could probably hunt them with enough preparation, but I doubt the exp is worth it.
UPDATE at lvl 71: I'm at lvl 71 and have a few hundred AA's, and now the east side gnolls are a great target. Use your lvl 71 charm to grab a lizard and start plowing through gnolls. I love to do this and when my pet is less than 20% I finish off my gnoll(s), camo to break charm and kill the pet for exp and grab another pet. Apply the same logic as reverse charming; let the mob take down your pet's health and then get the exp. Excellent!
UPDATE at lvl 73: Two big updates, vineleash cascade at lvl 72 and now winter's flame, whohoo! Winter's flame nearly doubles our raw DD damage, I always open a fight with snare, then glacial frost (AC and Cold debuff) and then our fire DoT that has Fire debuff and AC/ATK debuff built in. Nukes then do around 4K, each half can crit and if both crit it can top 8K. I enjoyed grabbing a charmed pet, give it pet haste and then it combined with my tank merc do nice DPS in their own right after I have debuffed. With Vineleash cascade it opens up the area to swam charming, explained below.
Root/snare rotting/nuking: I tried this on the gnolls, not bad but not crazy good. With mercs I find rooting worthless. I had some luck snare and nuking to keep aggro with a DPS merc, but I usually had to do it in far-out 3rd person camera which I don't prefer/haven't mastered.
Quad kiting: I have not tried it here, but tried it recently in plane of nightmare. Back in the day it was awesome, but now that your regen out of combat is so fast it makes running around for a couple of minutes to group up your targets feel like it isn't worth it.
No merc: I'm playing gold but to cater to those that are not, I would probably stick with having a pet, have it ensnared, and when charm breaks just run, re-charm and rinse. For a safer approach root rot is hard to beat though I would expect slower exp.
Reverse charming (no merc): I have never reverse charmed here (haste/buff a pet, root/snare, break charm and pull over a second pet for it to destroy, break charm at ~15% and kill second weakened pet, rinse repeat). I suspect it would work well here.
Swarm charming(no merc): Daldaen referred to it in his lvl 95 guide on here and I used it successfully here at lvl 71. The targets are all of the (light blue) animals south and west of the druid portal. I would grab up to 5 at a time, AA snared, charm one and break charm when at least <15% health. All of these animals seemed to want to run when weakened, so instead of them staying with the pack they would turn to run, snared so they would sit in place. I would just toss a DoT or DD to finish them off after the next pet was charmed. The technique is tricky, since they are all walking to you I would click through my list to sic the pet on each one, to have them beat my pet down faster. Not graceful by any means, with snared animals wandering to you, pets breaking, corpses rotting, but it was a fun change. Would be a good place to practice this hunting technique before something like mammoths in Icefall.
At lvl 72 Swam charming comes into its own with vineleash cascade. I have tried it more in icefall glacier than in the steppes, but the same idea translates well. Group up your target group of mobs and hit them with vineleash, charm one, and break before it dies. The trick for me has been getting the group tight enough, and keeping all of them rooted. Vineleash expires after six tics, so the best thing to do is spend the extra time to get the pack very tight and don't forget to hit vineleash frequently. This has a bit of a learning curve, as soon as one animal is out of sync it is difficult to get it back with the group without starting over with circle kiting it to tighten the group. I have yet to master this skill to the point where it is more efficient for xping, but it has great potential.
Lvl 78(?)-80+ merc swarming. I describe the details more in the thread dedicated to merc swarming, but at lvl 80 the gnolls in the NE corner of their spawn area are all light blue, and 4-6 are managable.
Quick closing note: for all of you(us) lurkers, chime in with a thought, critique, or recommendations. I'll take all the help I can get, and so will others.
-Mallorn, halfling druid of Tunare-Seventh Hammer.
Quest, Epics, Exp camp spots, walkthroughs, spoilers, and PvP discussions.
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