Reworked from my posts in the SOE forum thread: 55+ solo ideas.
One of the benefits of the Hot Zone switching programme is that it forces us to rethink the “best” zones for levelling every few months. I have a suspicion that the devs don’t always reset the ZEM back to quite the same as it was before the zone was “hotted”. As the current (August 2009) hot zone set hasn’t received a noticeable ZEM boost, it was time to check out my personal rankings for favourite zones. The introduction of mercs last year also shook up general preconceptions about what would work best, along with general gear upgrades from Defiant drops and trickle down from recent expansions. One important factor is scaling of AA experience as you gain more AAs, so newer zones I try should in theory give gradually reducing exp, unless the AAs I am buying are making a significant improvement to my kill rate.
I chose level 55 as my starting point, at least partly because I had an old favourite character who was already exactly 55 (and had been for about five years). I decided to use him with a tank merc, partly because at this level they are still vastly overpowered against even con mobs, and partly because avoiding using charm was my only way of making generally comparable experience with this character (plus that goes against all the “rules” of how to solo with an enchanter). So my starting point was a level 55 enchanter with all spells, most skills decent for his level (but he was afk while SOE made some skill cap increases), and the best enchanter and cleric buffs available (which means Tranquility, Aanya’s Quickening – 64% haste, and Virtue).
Merc or not?
The evaluations below were all made with a merc, but it’s also interesting to see if the exp cost (around 40%) for using a merc is balanced by their added dps. For this test, I used a 55 warrior with < 50 AAs (including CA3/CS3/CF3), with and without a tank merc. Strictly solo, in Grieg’s End (which was a hot zone at the time, although not in the other tests), I got 5.18 AAs. With the merc, I got 6.51 AAs. So yes, at level 55 for melée characters, a merc is worth having.
So, in order, the best first (the number is the number of AAs he gained in a 30 minute Lesson of the Devoted):
Grieg’s End 6.35
This was killing from the zone in at Scarlet Desert, although I see no reason that the Dawnshroud end should be any different. A few mobs are even con, but most are dark blue. Most pulls are single. There are still a few trap spawns in these areas, but not as common as I remember. Not much loot. The experience here is so much better than elsewhere that it has to count as a significant difference.
Chardok B 5.75
Again, at the zone in. No respawn during lesson, so this was almost all of the undead and chokidai. The problem with this camp is that it is a long run, then a maze in Chardok to get the the herbalist area where the zone line is. Luckily I had good Chardok faction, otherwise it would have been unfeasible. Mainly dark blue, some whites and yellows.
I killed from zone in down to the locked crypt at scarabs, then across to the entrance to disco. So upstairs only, no mushrooms, no juggs. Decent loot, especially if you sell Nodding Blue Lilies in the Bazaar.
Plane of Innovation 5.33
Killing from the zone in anti-clockwise (which means single pulls).
Plane of Justice Death Row 5.27
This is the camp just after the row of guardians on the way to Mavuin. Four mobs in a passage, then several pairs of mobs, all dark blue. Then finally another guardian (level 60, so red). Prisoners in the cells at the side, but I didn’t have time to take those. Each pair is a double pull.
Nadox (shell room etc) 5.15
This is the room in the SW where Dulein Gedasi spawns, all the mobs are accolytes or initiates. It is called after the statue of a nautilus in the middle of the room. You start in the sand room at the end of the corridor to the south of the room. All dark blue, apart from the named who is white. Some single pulls, but quite a few doubles. I had to go to the sentinel room to the east after clearing this room to get more mobs.
Nadox is only one kill shy of PoI/PoJ/Sebilis, which is close enough for random variation.
Blackfeather Roost 5.04
Killing on the first tier, bear cubs, pumas and snakes. Clear the pumas first, as they are aggro, but trying to avoid pulling the named (especially healthy), as they are far harder to kill. It’s a big area, and you can clear it quickly, meaning lots of running around waiting for respawn. Good exp/kill, but poor overall.
Outer Acrylia Caverns 5.02
Starting with the undead minions inside the gates, killing all of that area (including the named place holder at the top of the stairs), and the area before the portal to Inner AC, with the second PH. These two are only one kill short of Nadox, so close enough (but a long way shy of GE and Chardok B).
Velketors Labyrinth Upper Dogs (hot zone) 4.82
This camp is the first set of kobolds on the way to Velketor’s Castle, going up from the slide ramps. Clear all the kobolds and a few gargoyles, then catch some respawned kobolds. If it wasn’t a hot zone, it would be poor exp.
The Hole 3.91
I invised down to the first set of constructs, and killed them and the first ghosts and gargoyles at the start of the city; everything up to the entrance to the lake/waterfall. Good loot here, but exp considerably less than I expected.
Another little disappointment, considering how long my beastlord lived here in PoP era. I took tier 5, killing from the safe passage just past the sleeping ogre as far as I could.
Kael Drakkal Arena (hot zone) 2.86
This was terrible – especially considering it was the level 55 hot zone. I started at the first see invis mobs at the arena, and killed what I could find before the Protectors of Zek. I couldn’t manage the steps to reach the spectators, so I was basically short of mobs. Light blue, dark blue, and some white.