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After reading the wonderful travelogues posted by SinisterWyvern and Disargeria, I knew it was time for me to go check out the Peak of Serenity. While the spell to teleport there has been present in the beta for some time, that Peak of Serenity was completely devoid of life. It was definitely serene — but somewhat boring. Now, though, there are loads of nifty things there for new and experienced monks to do.
There and back again
Reaching the Peak of Serenity is quite simple. Once your monk reaches level 20, you receive the spell Zen Pilgrimage, which works just like a druid's Teleport: Moonglade or a death knight's Death Gate, instantly teleporting you to the Shrine of the Ox on the Peak of Serenity. Unlike those spells, however, once you arrive, it becomes Zen Pilgrimage: Return, which will whisk you back to your original location.
It's very slick and reminds me quite powerfully of quickly popping through a Town Portal to do something and come back in one of the Diablo games. (If you decide to “jump the fence” and leave the Peak of Serenity, though, the Return ability will disappear and the Zen Pilgrimage cooldown will start. You may want to think twice before you decide to explore Pandaria at level 20.)
When you first see the Shrine of the Ox, your initial reaction might be to wax lyrical, as the place is covered in candles. (Har.) More importantly, though, a monk class trainer is there, as well as Master Hight, the Peak of Serenity Grand Master. If you just want to train skills and go, you can certainly do that, or you can start exploring the place. The peak offers some magnificent views of the Kun-Lai Summit zones. You may notice that Master Hight has a quest for you, though …
The return of class quests
That's right, monks get class-specific quests! A new quest unlocks from Master Hight every 10th level, starting at level 20 and proceeding all the way to level 90. Each quest begins the same way. You'll be asked to go to the Training Grounds (shown in the foreground at the picture at the top of this article) and train with one of the different masters there. Finding the master is simple, but the training — not so much. Each trainer will challenge you to defeat them in a straight-up fight, but during the battle, they will use an ability that must be countered by one of your class-specific abilities.
For example, you'll start out by fighting Master Cheng. The battle's a pushover at first, until he casts a nasty, large flaming void zone at your feet that takes off 10% HP every second. Ouch. Walking out is too slow, but it's a perfect opportunity to use Roll. Get out of the fire, take a breath, and get back to the fight! (Below, you'll see my draenei monk not succeeding at this task.)
That's not the only mechanic tested here, of course. You've got a master who will heal to full unless you use a Spear Hand Strike interrupt; another who has a stacking defensive buff, requiring a Touch of Death finisher; and several others, though I won't spoil them for you. As you might have expected, your level 90 match will be against Master Hight himself, and you'll have to use every skill you learned in the previous bouts.
Once you've defeated the master in question, returning to Master Hight will net you a reward, a piece of blue gear in either agility or intellect flavors. In another call-back to martial arts movies, you'll receive a yellow belt, than a green, red, and finally brown, as well as some other pieces along the way.
You'll also gain an awesome buff, Enlightenment. Currently, this buff will give you a 50% buff to your experience gain for the next hour, which is amazing. What's even better is that each quest, once cleared, is available as a daily quest! That means you can make the Peak of Serenity a daily destination, to turbocharge your leveling for that day. (Both the regular and daily quests scale to your level, mind you, so don't think you can just breeze through. Sadly, the item rewards don't scale.)
Once you've done your training for the day, though, what else is there to do at Peak of Serenity? Shopping? Shopping.
Get to the shoppa
There are several vendors at the Peak of Serenity who sell a variety of items. Over on the Terrace of the Tiger, you've got Master Tan who sells a variety of nifty-looking fist weapons, including some cool Tiger Claws. Near the stairs to the Shrine of the Ox, you'll find the vendor tents depicted above, which feature a botanist who trains herbalism and inscription, a tanner who trains leatherworking and skinning, a brewmaster who trains cooking, and a staff vendor. In a cool feature, the staff vendor and tanner will sell all the quest reward items once you've completed a trainer quest for the first time, so transmogrification devotees won't be left out in the cold.
If you keep looking around, there are a few other cool landmarks. There are some hot springs with trainers nearby who will teach you fishing and first aid. There are two terraces with NPC monks practicing their moves, with some cool flavor text options. There are a few additional monk trainers and even a semi-hidden blacksmithing/mining trainer (I guess those professions aren't well-loved in Pandaria).
Frankly, the only thing this place is missing in an innkeeper or some way to get rested XP; that fact will keep your visits fairly temporary. Overall, though, it's a cool place to poke around and visit, and I can't wait to take my monk through it once Mists of Pandaria goes live.