A Guide to Leveling in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
This guide will introduce you to leveling in World of Warcraft. Additionally, it will contain helpful information to speed up the process and get you to max level quickly, regardless of whether you are a new player, or an experienced one that is trying to level up your alts.
Shadowlands Changes to Leveling
- Faster Leveling: Leveling takes around half the time that it did before.
- New Starter Zone: Exile's Reach is an optional starter zone (Level 1-10) for all races, classes and specs that introduces new players to the ropes of the game before sending them into Azeroth.
- Heirloom Set Bonuses: Special bonuses from wearing multiple Heirloom items. XP Increase from Heirloom Items is gone to compensate.
- Timewalking Campaigns: Lets you choose which expansion's content you want to level in, after you have reached max level through Battle for Azeroth content already.
You can find more detailed information about all of the changes on our Shadowlands Leveling Changes page.
Experience in World of Warcraft
Experience (XP) is a fundamental part of leveling in WoW, and it is required to advance through the levels. Many activities grant Experience, but most of it will come from killing mobs in the open world and dungeons, completing quests and bonus objectives, and finishing dungeons. There are a variety of ways to increase Experience gains, such as potions, turning on War Mode, certain Seasonal Events, gem sockets, and more.
The Rested XP system is designed to reward you for returning to the game after you have been away for a while. It is a bar that adds to your Experience bar while you are offline, and it increases the XP you gain from killing mobs until the bar is depleted. The Rested XP bar grows up to 150% of your level or 15 "bubbles" of XP on the default UI. The bar grows much quicker if you log off in an Inn or a Capital City, so you should always try to log out in either of those places to get the most benefit.
On the page below, we have compiled some detailed information about Rested XP and how it works.
How To Get Mounts in World of Warcraft?
You will unlock the ability to ride a mount at Level 10, but you can also unlock a special "Heirloom Mount", the Chauffeured Chopper, by unlocking the Heirloom Hoarder achievement, which requires you to collect 35 different Heirloom items. This mount is slightly slower than a normal mount, but it can be used from Level 1 for a huge boost to your early leveling speed.
To ride your mounts, you will first need to learn the Riding skill. This is taught by Riding Trainers around Azeroth. On our Mounts page linked below, you can find all the information you need about learning the Riding skill and acquiring mounts.
Mounts are the primary way to get around in World of Warcraft, as they increase your movement speed significantly. They can be used in almost all outdoor areas, except for dungeons, and there are hundreds of mounts to collect.
Heirlooms in World of Warcraft
Heirlooms are a special type of item in World of Warcraft. Wearing multiple Heirlooms unlocks bonuses that help you level faster, and all Heirloom items scale with your level, becoming more powerful as you level up. This means that you can use most Heirloom items from Level 1 to 49 (assuming they have been upgraded fully), without ever having to change them.
You can read more about all the Heirlooms, set bonuses, and how to get them on our dedicated Heirlooms page.
How Does War Mode Work in World of Warcraft?
War Mode is a feature that lets you opt-in and out of World PvP. By default, War Mode is off and you will not be able to engage players from the enemy faction in combat. You will still be competing with them for tagging mobs, however, but you cannot directly interact in any way.
War Mode is unlocked in your Talent Panel at Level 20. It can only be enabled in your faction's capital city (Stormwind for Alliance, and Orgrimmar for Horde). Enabling it will unlock several bonuses.
Enabling War Mode will let you attack players from the enemy faction, and they will be able to attack you as well, regardless of your level.
War Mode Bonuses
The obvious disadvantage of War Mode is that you may be killed or even ganked by players from the opposite faction as you level, which can be frustrating and costs you time. However, the game rewards you with several benefits for turning it on.
- 10% increased XP rewards from quests and killing mobs. This can scale up to 30% if your Faction is under-represented in World PvP.
- Unlocks PvP Talents, some of which are helpful for leveling and World PvP.
Should You Turn On War Mode?
Yes, we recommend turning on War Mode. The PvP talents can be extremely helpful, and the XP bonus more than makes up for any time lost from being killed by enemy players. Furthermore, if your faction is under-represented, the bonus scales up to make it worth your while.
We only recommend turning off War Mode if it is a source of major frustration for you. You can turn it off at any Inn or capital city, but it can only be turned on again in Orgrimmar or Stormwind.
Where To Start Leveling in World of Warcraft?
When you make a brand new character, you will have the option of starting in Exile's Reach, a dedicated starter area that is designed to teach new players the ropes of the game, or you may choose to level in the original starter zone for the race you have chosen.
For leveling speed, we recommend choosing the Exile's Reach for your new character. The quests are very dense, easy to do, and you get a run speed buff that significantly speeds up leveling in the area.
Best Expansions to Level in World of Warcraft
In Shadowlands, you may choose to do any expansion's content while leveling up to 50. The fastest expansion to level in is Warlords of Draenor (WoD). The primary reason for this is that all the WoD zones have Bonus Objectives. Essentially, they are one-time quest-type objectives that appear throughout the zones. Completing these gives a huge amount of XP for the time spent completing them.
If you wish to take a break from Warlords of Draenor, we also recommend Legion and Battle for Azeroth zones as alternatives.
Fastest Leveling Specs in World of Warcraft
When it comes to choosing a Class for speed-leveling, the strongest choices will come down to a few factors that we deem important for leveling:
- Ranged Specs that can tag many mobs easily.
- Specs with high mobility.
- Powerful AoE damage.
- The ability to self-heal when things get tough.
A spec does not have to fulfil all of those criteria to be a good leveling spec, but the more the better.
Classes with Strong Leveling Speeds
- Demon Hunters: Best mobility, high AoE burst damage, and excellent survivability.
- Druids, particularly Balance: Can easily pull many mobs using DoTs, and has no cast time on its Flight Form. Good at spread AoE damage.
- Hunters: Pets can tank for you, allowing bigger pulls. Can handle group quest mobs alone.
- Mages: Excellent crowd control and damage.
This is not an exhaustive list, and generally speaking, your playstyle and efficiency matter much more than your choice of class. To give you an example, here is a leaderboard of the world's fastest players to reach Level 60 when Shadowlands launched, courtesy of Data for Azeroth.
As you can see, a wide variety of classes and specs are represented.
While we singled out 4 specs in the section above, we also have leveling guides for the other 8 classes:
- Death Knight Shadowlands Leveling Guide;
- Monk Shadowlands Leveling Guide;
- Paladin Shadowlands Leveling Guide;
- Priest Shadowlands Leveling Guide;
- Rogue Shadowlands Leveling Guide;
- Shaman Shadowlands Leveling Guide;
- Warlock Shadowlands Leveling Guide;
- Warrior Shadowlands Leveling Guide.
Should you do Dungeons while Questing?
The vast majority of your XP will come from completing quests throughout a variety of zones that you will pass through. Also, from Level 15 onwards, you will be able to use the in-game Looking for Group tool to sign up for specific or random 5-man dungeons. Killing the mobs within gives a good amount of XP, and you also get a large XP bonus for completing the dungeon in its entirety.
If you are following our recommendation and leveling primarily in Warlords of Draenor zones, we recommend Questing to be your main source of XP. However, you should do every dungeon that you unlock at least once, because of the quests found within. Most dungeons have an NPC at the beginning that offers multiple quests, usually involving killing certain bosses or picking up various items throughout the dungeon. Make sure you pick up and complete these quests as they offer a huge amount of XP for relatively little effort. They can only be completed once, so when you have finished all the quests for a dungeon, you will probably never have to visit it again.
Solo Leveling or Group Leveling in World of Warcraft?
Generally speaking, any group size is fine for leveling in WoW and there are not significant differences in leveling speed between them.
When grouped up, all XP from killing mobs is split in half. However, you can kill them much more quickly, and you can pull more at once.
In addition, you can split tasks between party members. A strong DPS or Tank player can pull and kill many mobs, while others focus on shared quest objectives, such as activating items or collecting them from the ground. However, not all quest objectives are shared, and, in some cases, you will be slowed down by having to wait for everyone to complete a collection quest before moving on.
If you intend to do dungeons while leveling, having a Tank or Healer in the group is invaluable, as it reduces queue times from several minutes, to just a few seconds in most cases.
The World First Level 120 group was a 3-man group with two Balance Druids for easily pulling many mobs together, and a Beast Mastery Hunter for pet tanking large mobs and quickly cleaving down AoE packs.
Speed Leveling Consumables
In World of Warcraft, there are tons of different consumable or collectable items that will help you level faster. Some are easier to get than others, and we will attempt to list them in their rough order of importance/leveling speed benefit.
For more information on the consumables, you can check out our dedicated page below.
Addons for Speed Leveling
The only AddOn we recommend for leveling quickly is WoW-Pro. This addon puts an arrow and a list of steps inside the game for you that guide you towards your next objective in the fastest way possible. It allows you to stop thinking about where you should go and which quests you are on, and focus more on using your Consumables at the right time to maximize leveling speed.
Aside from WoW-Pro, here are a few other AddOns that we recommend to speed up the leveling process:
- Speedy AutoLoot increases the speed at which you can loot things from mobs and chests, saving a little bit of time when you loot.
- Pawn will indicate on the tooltips of new items if they are an upgrade or not. While we do not recommend this for end-game optimization, it is useful to immediately judge quest rewards while leveling, so that you can make the right choice quickly.
Since you may be starting your WoW journey on this page, here are some other AddOns that we recommend for any player of any class. These are not necessarily for leveling, but will make your life easier in many other ways.
- ElvUI is a very popular full UI replacement. It completely redesigns Action Bars, Unit Frames, Name Plates, and many other aspects of your UI and is highly customizable. The default profiles are good, but we recommend checking out Wago to find a user-created profile that works for you. You can access the settings of ElvUI in-game by writing /ec in your chat window.
- WeakAuras is a sort of framework that lets you create visual and audio alerts for buffs, debuffs, and almost anything else you can imagine. It is a crucial part of WoW's endgame, and the sooner you learn the ropes of how to use it, the better. It can be used to enhance your performance or it can be used for convenience. Whatever your use-case, Wago has thousands of user-created WeakAuras that you can use.
How Does Recruit A Friend Work in World of Warcraft
The Recruit A Friend system is designed to reward players for building WoW's playerbase by inviting their friends to play the game. There are benefits for both parties.
The most important benefit is the 50% XP Bonus you gain while you are partied up with your friend, rewarding you for leveling together.
You can access the Recruit A Friend system via the in-game store menu. Using this system, you can send an email link to friends, and if they enable a subscription via your link, both of you will get rewards.
You can find more detailed information about Recruit A Friend and its rewards on our dedicated page below.
- 12 Jul. 2021: Updated the recommended starting leveling area to be Exile's Reach.
- 04 Sep. 2020: Guide added.
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