If you are among the many people who strive to level as fast as humanly possible when a new Warcraft expansion comes out, then you are no stranger to the amount of preparation needed. Not only do you have to prepare your characters for optimized leveling and questing, but you need to do some pretty hefty organizing of your life outside of the game to maintain it. As a member of this community of speed levelers, I decided to share the preparation and strategies I am employing for Shadowlands.
**Reminder, this article is for people whose goal is to level as fast as possible!
IN-GAME CHARACTER PREPARATION
One of the best things you can do to prepare for leveling is to, well, level! If you have access to the Shadowlands Beta, copying your character and going through the entire leveling process from 50-60 is one of the most effective things you can do in preparation. As anyone with a few alts can tell you, knowing the quests ahead of time cuts down your time spent dramatically. You can take as much time as you want on Beta, including watching all of the available cut-scenes and reading the quest text/lore. If you are trying to speed level at Launch, you will want to avoid those things. Having Beta to be able to experience them at your leisure is nice.
If you don’t have access to the Beta, there are quite often players streaming (or that have VoDs available) of the leveling process. You can use those to familiarize yourself with the quest chains. Remember that unlike the last couple of expansions, in Shadowlands you unfortunately do not have the opportunity to pick the order in which you do the leveling zones. Everything is scripted and you have to follow the proper order.
As most of us do at the end of every expansion, going through and methodically cleaning and emptying your character’s bags and banks is almost therapeutic. Vendoring old gear you’ve been holding onto, deleting random quest items you’ll never need anymore, and organizing everything again, is a great way to prepare your character for a new expansion. It will also help prepare you for speed leveling by doing a thorough inventory of all of your consumables and items that will help you. Additionally, while questing your bags will often get full of random items and junk, so the more empty bag space you have, the less number of times you’ll have to worry about cleaning your bags, which takes valuable time!
Here is an example of what my bags look like, all cleaned out and filled with my leveling consumables and items.
And yes, that is a Hula Doll!
There are a lot of consumables that you will want to prepare ahead of time that will aid you in speed leveling. Blizzard has made some changes to how things like potions work, so you will want to take extra note of how they will function.
These are an engineering-crafted item from Legion. As far as we can tell, there is no level restriction so you will be able to use these the entire time. These boost your speed a ton and last a considerable amount of time. They have a 3 minute cooldown, and are only usable outside, but they are going to be AMAZING to use while in The Maw where you cannot use mounts. Keep in mind that Blizzard has changed speed potions to be a 5 minute cooldown, and the current ones we have will not work past level 50. You are likely going to want a pretty big stash of Gunshoes while you level.
A 150% speed boost for 8 seconds, on a 5 minute cooldown. Unlike Gunshoes, you CAN use these indoors, so it is best to reserve these for caves or other indoor areas where you cannot mount. Since they now have a 5 minute cooldown, you will probably want to pre-plan where you use them. These no longer work past level 50, so there is no point to maintain a huge stash. You will likely only get a handful of uses of them before hitting 51. Keep your eye out for alchemists learning/crafting the Shadowlands version of these.
A stupendously useful item, these reduce your falling speed allowing you to glide. You can also change direction while falling, unlike slowfall from a mage. You’ll want to stock up on these, as they can help you cover large distances in short periods of time.
4. Flasks and Potions
Pretty straightforward, you’ll want to always have a flask on. The more damage you do, the faster stuff will die, the faster you’ll level. As far as potions go, keep in mind some have that new shared 5 minute cooldown, so you will not want to chug them unless required to beat a big elite NPC, especially if you plan on using speed potions.
5. Food Buffs
You can use your standard stat-increasing buff food if you want, but for the purposes of speed leveling, I recommend using Bear Tartare which will grant you movement speed after killing an enemy. The faster you can run, the faster you level!
Depending on your leveling group, or if you plan to go solo, you will want access to all of the class buffs to increase your damage/survivability. If you do not have a warrior, mage, or priest in your group, there are scrolls that will give you Battle Shout, Fortitude, and Intellect buffs. Keep in mind these scrolls WILL NOT work past level 50, so you won’t need many to last you that first level.
7. XP Potion
The Draught of Ten Lands is a BFA item that you can buy with faction service medals. Unfortunately it does NOT work past level 50, but I recommend grabbing a couple for that first level. 10% additional XP gain will only make your leveling experience that much faster. Make sure to pop one right before you hit 51, the buff will persist!
If you do not have a Shaman, Hunter, or Mage in your group, you’ll want to grab a stack of Drums to give your team a lust buff on CD/for big elites or pulls. It appears as though these have also been made to be ineffective after level 50, but some variations (Drums of the Mountain) do not have that on their tooltip on live at the moment. There will be a Shadowlands version available for 51+.
Speed Set Gearing
Many classes will not need to bother with putting together a speed set, such as Druids (cheaters) or Warlocks (burning rush - also cheaters). However, some of us less mobile players (see: paladins) will want to look into putting together a speed gear set. With everything on and procs a proc’ing, you can almost get close to mount speed while running.
This will be especially nice due to the fact that everyone is forced to follow the same leveling order. There is going to be a lot of competition for mobs and quest items. A speed set will help you tag mobs and also just to get ahead of the main leveling pack. Once you are ahead of the main group everything is easier.
1. Speed Enchants
Although it says it does not stack, the boot enchant Enchant Boots - Minor Speed is additive movement speed. It will only go on items ilvl 50 and lower though, so you'll have to buy something off the AH low enough to equip it.
2. Speed Gems
You can equip two speed gems to your gear for a total of 8% movement speed. The movement speed gems are unique-equipped, but you can use one Straddling Viridum (3%) and one Straddling Sage Agate (5%). You will either want to buy a handful of each, or equip them to items you know you will likely not be replacing until you hit max level.
3. Wrathion Trinket
The trinket that drops off Wrathion in Ny’alotha, the Humming Black Dragonscale, has a proc that increases your speed for 15 seconds. The on-use is also not terrible for questing as it can be a nice way to glide/fall if your goblin gliders are on cooldown. You will probably want to keep this equipped all the way to level 60.
4. Fenryr Trinket
The Hunger of the Pack trinket drops off Fenryr in the Legion dungeon Halls of Valor. You can easily solo this at level 50 right now. Give it a try on Mythic, if it doesn’t drop, you can spam normal until it does. This trinket gives 30% movement speed for 10 seconds whenever you kill anything that gives experience or honour. This is a HUGE addition to a speed set and I absolutely recommend putting in the time to get it. Don’t take it off until you hit 60. The damage loss is well worth the speed you will gain.
5. Cloak of Restless Tribes
This cloak drops in King’s Rest off of the council boss. More useful for ranged players, it might still be worth using for other classes depending on how often you can get it to proc.
6. Runeblade of Baron Rivendare
This 2H weapon drops off the final boss in Stratholme and is a great addition to a speed set. As long as your character's gear is semi-decent, it won't even be that noticeable a damage loss if you keep it equipped. Luckily it is a weapon, so you can swap it during combat. Put on a proper weapon for damage during big pulls or elite mobs, then quickly swap back for the speed bonus!
7. Bear Tartare
As mentioned above under Consumables, you will want to include Bear Tartare food buffs into your speed set plans.
8. Mount Equipment
You have three main options for mount equipment that will be beneficial for speed leveling, you will just need to pick which one you think will work best for you and your group.
Angler's Water Striders - Water Walking
If you have a DK in your group, or a Shaman, this equipment would be useless so
definitely double check if you have it equipped
Light Step Hoofplates - 20% Mount Speed
This will not stack with other passive speed boosts, so if you have a paladin in
your group (hooray crusader aura!), or you are a DK, you will not need to use this
Comfortable Rider's Barding - Anti-Daze
This item will make it so you can run mounted through groups of mobs and they will not
be able to daze you, knocking you off your mount. If you plan to level as a tank, this is
superfluous so you’ll want to use something else.
9. Nitro Boosts - Engineering
If you are an Engineer, you can get the belt tinker Nitro Boosts from Northrend Engineering. They only require level 30 so it is pretty quick and easy to level the profession to that point. They provide you with a speed boost on a 2 minute CD, and unlike the current speed potions, they do appear to work after level 50! Big asset if you're an Engineer!
If you are an Engineer, you will want to make sure you have a Loot-A-Rang. This is a toy crafted by Cataclysm Engineering that will retrieve your loot from a nearby corpse. It has a larger range than your character does. While it may not seem like a huge deal, it can certainly shave off some time in your overall leveling experience.
It is best to make sure you have some kind of NPC mount that gives you the ability to repair your gear and vendor items to clear your bags, without having to go back to a town. Traveler's Tundra Mammoth, Great Expedition Yak, and the Mighty Caravan Brutosaur (Longboi) are great utility mounts!
Guild Banners are purchasable from the Guild Vendor and there are three levels of them. You will want all members in your leveling group that are in the same guild to have them in their bags. Do your best to arrange a system of dropping them as a team in order to have up-time on the buff as much as possible. Here is a handy WeakAura to track usage of these for your entire party!
Having an NPC mount gives you the ability to repair and vendor items from wherever you can mount, but if you do not have access to one of those, you will want to have access to Jeeves (Engineers) or at the least some Auto-Hammers so you can repair your gear.
To make sure your bags always have space, if they start to fill up with items you want to save and not vendor, having access to a mailbox (Moll-E or Katy Stampwhistle) allows you to mail them (if BoE) to an alt so you do not have to go back to a bank to deposit them, wasting valuable leveling time.
Azeroth Auto Pilot is probably the best add-on available for leveling. It has a pre-planned speed run programmed into it, and the developers have spent a lot of time ensuring it’s the fastest and most efficient leveling route. It also has a lot of functions that will help speed up your leveling. Even if you choose not to use it as a leveling guide, I recommend getting it as an all-in-one tool for the other functions. You will want to configure your AAP to automatically cancel cut-scenes, automatically accept and turn-in quests, and to automatically repair and vendor grey items. These are quality of life options that will just equate to time saved while leveling.
Take a few minutes and go through your Quest Log, as you probably have random quests from this past expansion that are completely irrelevant now that you can delete. As you level you’re likely to pick up a ton of new quests, so the last thing you want is to run out of room!
Assuming everyone is on the same page in terms of preparation, organization, and leveling goals, leveling in a group is certainly the fastest option. Having multiple people tagging and killing mobs allows you to pull bigger, pull faster, and get through quests quicker. Additionally since many quest objectives are shared, you can spread out and work through a quest separately, speeding up the process.
OUT-OF-GAME PLAYER PREPARATION
Your in game character is not the only thing that you will need to spend some time preparing and organizing for. If you are planning to go hardcore on Launch, you’ll want to organize your sleep, meals, and breaks well ahead of time. Coordinate with your group before you start to ensure everyone’s schedule matches. Organize breaks ahead of time so you can all take them at the same time. Nobody wants to be the reason their group falls behind, so if everyone in your group is on the same page with the same goals, you’ll have a great leveling experience.
A pretty common mistake a lot of gamers make during long-hour binges is forgetting to eat. This will leave you tired and without the energy to continue playing. It can also lead to headaches and having a tough time following instructions. Preparing what and how and when to eat, ahead of time, is hugely important for successful speed leveling. A couple of things to keep in mind when you plan your meals:
Try to avoid meals/food that need a knife and fork, so you can keep playing while eating.
Avoid high sugar, high carb foods, and refined carbs (white bread, white rice, white pasta, etc). Gaming is a sedentary task, so any carbs you ingest will not be burned off, and will end up making you tired. Sugar will give you a high but then make you crash.
Caffeine in moderation - have it periodically, but don’t chug energy drinks, as you’ll crash and it’s also extremely unhealthy. To get the best bang for your caffeine buck, stick to green tea. Due to the antioxidants in green tea, you absorb the caffeine slower. You will not reach peak “alertness” as quickly as with coffee/red bull, but green tea will keep you stimulated for longer periods of time.
Don’t get into the trap of just eating snacks all day long, as that won’t give you enough energy. You will want to snack here and there, but make sure you do include at least one meal during your leveling push (or more if you level multiple characters back to back in one session). You can make sure this doesn’t take any time away from the leveling by preparing these meals ahead of time. Slow cookers are amazing tools for this.
Here are some great examples of SNACKS you will want to consider for leveling. These will keep you energized and fed without making you sluggish, tired, or causing you to crash.
Veggies & Dip
Prepare ahead of time and put in a tupperware ready to go!
Whole Wheat Pita Chips & Hummus
A great way to get some nutrients to tide you over until a scheduled meal break,
and easy to drink without losing a minute of leveling
For your MEALS, slow cooker meals and casseroles are a godsend. You can make multiple servings in one go, do all of the prep ahead of time and then either throw it all in the slow cooker before you start leveling or toss it in the oven when it's time to eat.
Here are some great ideas for MEALS that you can either have cooking in a slow cooker while you level, or that you can make fully ahead of time and throw in the oven/microwave when it comes time to eat.
Use brown rice if you can, add some meat and veggies and throw in the fridge in
bowls/tupperware for easy reheating
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Use whole wheat pasta if you can!
Get one of these ready-made from the store and pull the chicken ahead of time,
put it in a tupperware in the fridge and you have ready to eat chicken (hot or cold)
on demand. Make a sandwich with it (whole wheat bread!) or heat it up and eat it
as is for a quick protein snack.
Water, water, water. Did I mention water? Drink water. Oh hey by the way, drink some water. Staying hydrated is probably the most important part of a long gaming session. Dehydration easily and quickly leads to feeling tired and losing energy. Stay hydrated by keeping a bottle of water at your desk at all times. Don’t chug it, because that will end up with you needing to use the toilet more often than you’d like, but make sure to routinely take little sips. For even easier/quicker access, pre-fill a couple of water bottles and stick them in your freezer/fridge so they’re quick to grab when you need a re-fill. If you really want to stay hydrated but avoid using the washroom as much as possible, consider drinking something like hydralyte to enhance your hydration levels without consuming additional water.
Avoid sugary drinks like juice or pop pretty much entirely. These are really bad for your energy levels over a sustained period.
As mentioned above, consume your caffeine in moderation. I’m not about to say avoid it, as that’s just silly (also headache-inducing for those of us addicted!). Energy drinks should be considered a last resort if you’re crashing and you’re almost at the end of the leveling push. Otherwise, green tea is your best bet for the most sustained energy boost without the heavy crash that caffeine can give you.
Being comfortable during your leveling binge sessions is pretty important. During Ny’alotha, I signed up to be a “Limit Lackey”, which meant I helped the guild Complexity-Limit with their heroic splits for the week prior to Mythic release of the raid. As I had a large number of max level alts with good gear at the time, and a wide open schedule, they had me scheduled for almost every single split during the week. The amount of hours I spent raiding that week was insane, and I literally ended up with an ass injury out of the deal. I sat for so long in a chair not built for the task, I ended up getting something called Piriformis Syndrome. It’s a literal pain in the ass. I strongly recommend doing what you can while you level to avoid this kind of extreme result.
As for me with my uncomfortable chair, I’ve made steps to fix that. I recently purchased this seat and back cushion set, which has already made a huge difference in my comfort levels in my chair.
Stemming from the comfort, it is important to not only be comfortable, but to make sure you don’t necessarily harm your health through a long gaming binge. We have all heard the stories of people playing games for 30+ hours in a row and dying as a result. Obviously this is an extreme situation, but it certainly highlights that long sessions of gaming are detrimental to your health. There are, however, very easy things you can do to counteract some of the negative health effects.
One danger is blood pooling in your legs, causing Deep Vein Thrombosis. Passengers of long flights are also at risk of this, so the recommendations to deal with it are the same: move, even if for small periods at a time. If someone else on your team is taking a small break to use the washroom, or grab something from the fridge, take the 10-15 seconds and stand up, walk a circle or two around your room, and stretch a little. Bend down and touch your toes, bend to the sides, and also stretch your neck, as it can get quite tight and sore.
Eye strain is a real problem and not only unhealthy, but is likely the number one thing that could get in the way of your gaming session. Spending long hours staring at a screen can cause severe eye strain, leading to headaches and even migraines. A headache could quickly put a halt to your leveling. To avoid this, look away from your computer and close your eyes every so often. It does not need to be for a long period of time, even 10-15 seconds every 30 minutes makes a big difference. On a flight path? Close your eyes. Loading screen? Close your eyes. Making use of these little lulls in the game to close your eyes can help prevent any eye-strain related problems that might make you have to quit early.
Another way to help counteract eye strain is with special glasses or filters on your glasses that filter out blue light. I personally suffered from headaches for many years (my work involved being at a computer all day) until my optometrist suggested I get a lens with a blue light filter. The headaches stopped immediately. You can get these types of filters on prescription glasses, or you can buy glasses for the sole purpose of filtering out blue light.
Clean Your Room/Office
This might seem trivial, but making sure your space is clean before you start leveling can help a lot. It will manage any anxiety you might feel, it will make the experience more comfortable, and it means that you can easily go a couple of days of binge gaming without worrying about your household responsibilities. My personal to-do list on the day before Launch includes cleaning the kitchen, cleaning my office, doing dishes, and doing some laundry.
Shadowlands has a global release, which means it is coming out at various times around the world. You will want to make sure you are well rested and not pushing your awake time during your leveling binge. If your schedule allows for it, try to have a full night’s sleep before Launch, planning your wake-up for 2-3 hours before the scheduled launch time. I am in the PST time zone, so the game is releasing at 3pm for me. I plan on going to bed around 2-3am the night before, and waking up at noon. This way I have a few hours to shower and throw some chili in the slow cooker before logging on.
Restart your computer a couple hours before Launch, and try to close out any superfluous applications for a smooth run. Log into the game early, to make sure everything is working properly, but also because the last few Xpacs have actually launched a few minutes early! Update your add-ons, but make sure you save a copy of your WTF folder beforehand just in case as well!
There are a lot of things to do to prep for the best (and fastest!) Shadowlands leveling experience. Even if you are not aiming to level quickly, if you plan to do so in one session, many of these tips will be beneficial to you.
Is there anything I forgot? Let me know in the comments!
Happy Leveling, and I’ll see you in the Maw =)