5% was admittedly an exaggeration, just felt that low. I'd say it was probably closer to the 30-40% range. It was Artifacts of the Blacksilt, spent a good 10-15 minutes killing Blacksilt Seers to get two damn idols to drop. A quest that had me killing Elder Brown Bears for bear flanks also took quite a while, though that was less due to drop rate and more due to how spread out they were.
Dugi and Zygor both had their guides updated before Mist of Pandaria was released and both guides are kept updated with all the patches and changes to the game. Dugi is way faster with updates and has a lot more. Zygor seems to hold out and then do a big update. With new content such as guides etc, Dugi is definitely leading the way with Zygor usually many months behind. Zygor now offers the same number of guides as Dugi but it took them a long time to catch up.
Heirlooms. At the bare minimum you make sure all the armor pieces upgraded to 110, since this is the lion's share of your experience increase. Neck and Ring upgrades are secondary, but still important due to being able to enchant them. Trinkets can't be enchanted, but you'll want them at max as well, if only to save time by not having to worry about replacing them as you level.
That lack of storytelling agency may soon change with Patch 8.1, Tides of Vengeance, which is coming to Battle for Azeroth soon. While there are plenty of fun gameplay changes that should make the expansion better, one of the most interesting additions is that of choice. In an upcoming quest, players will be able to choose whether they want to support Saurfang or Sylvanas — essentially honor or evil — in the struggle for Horde warchief.