As I’ve said before, leveling in Vanilla / Classic WoW is a whole different game from its modern counterpart. In retail WoW, you might find yourself gathering up five enemies at a time and cleaving them down while you wait for the queue to pop on another 15-minute-long random dungeon sprint. On the rare occasion that you need to go somewhere yourself, you have up to three hearthstones at your disposal, ready to take you to capital cities which serve as nodes within a vast network of portals capable of taking you almost anywhere in the world. As you level up, new skills are granted automatically, and gear is thrown at you faster than you know what to do with it.
In Vanilla, chances are you’ll be wary of pulling even two enemies at a time for the majority of your leveling experience. At some point, you’ll likely die while num-lock running to your next quest hub because you couldn’t bear to watch your character traverse the entirety of the Barrens on foot and got up for a cup of coffee. If you want to run a dungeon, you’ll need to clear your schedule for at least 2 hours, and that’s provided someone else has already put the time in spamming LFG in general chat to get a group together.
Now that you’re mentally prepared for the journey ahead, let’s get into it. In this guide, we will focus on general leveling tips for Vanilla / Classic WoW. These tips apply to both Horde and Alliance. For faction-specific guides which discuss optimal leveling routes, see the Horde leveling guide and Alliance leveling guide.
In no particular order, here are the most important things to consider as you prepare to level in Vanilla:
1) Use a quest add-on (and preferably a coordinate add-on, too)
Whereas these functions are built in to the native UI in modern WoW, questing in Vanilla can get quite confusing without add-ons. Using a quest add-on will not only help you to locate objectives and plan your questing routes, it also allows you to scan the map for any quests you may have otherwise missed. If you’re the type of person who wants the added challenge of locating and deciphering quests yourself, by all means go for it, but just know that it will severely hamper your leveling efficiency. A coordinate add-on, while not as crucial as a quest add-on, comes in very handy for communicating with other players and gleaning information from guides and wikis.
2) Always be grinding
Well, maybe not always, but the fact is that in Vanilla, you will inevitably run out of appropriately leveled quests a number of times on the way to 60. To mitigate the pain and avoid having to grind out an entire level at some point, it’s essential to sprinkle some minor grinding in while you travel. The idea is simple; when you’re beelining across a zone on the way to your next quest, you can afford to expend some mana or health to kill a few enemies along the way. Then, rather than stop to eat or drink, you can regenerate while you continue running to your destination. Depending on your class, you may even be able to run and grind at the same time, knocking out two birds with one stone. Hunters, for instance, are extremely good at this, and it’s one of the reasons that they are the fastest levelers in Vanilla. Finally, if you find yourself in a quiet area with some enemies you like killing and you feel inspired, take a short break to just grind before moving on – you’ll be glad you did in the long run.
3) Quest and grind at your level or up to 2 levels below
This is not a hard rule, but it’s important to keep in mind if you want to level quickly and avoid unnecessary frustration. In Vanilla, you’ll find that fighting enemies above your level can get difficult quickly. An enemy 3-4 levels above you has a significantly higher chance of resisting or avoiding your attacks, and depending on your class and gear, you may not even be capable of killing them. This means that the decision to complete a nearby quest that’s above your level is often a judgment call, weighing the costs and benefits of sticking around and toughing it out or leaving and coming back later. In general, if a quest requires me to kill more than five orange enemies, I’ll usually opt to move on and return later. Beyond this, I would never suggest trying to grind on orange enemies. Hunters, you can bend this rule a little more than others.
4) Try to fight one enemy at a time
This one is pretty simple if you think about it. In Vanilla, there are far less cleave mechanics than in the modern game. As such, unless you’re a frost mage AOE grinding, you’re generally not doing yourself any favors by pulling more than one enemy at a time. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be questing or grinding any slower; in fact, inviting a second enemy to beat on you while you whittle down the first is simply a waste of resources and will inevitably result in you needing to eat or drink more often. Find a good chain pulling rhythm!
5) Stock up on food, drinks, and bandages
There’s nothing worse than heading out to a remote quest area to slay the latest army of enemies only to discover that you forgot to bring any food or water. At this point, you’re faced with the decision to head back to town and stock up or tough it out and rely on passive regeneration. For the first 15 levels or so, that passive regeneration is actually not too bad, and depending on your class, you may be able to get away with relying on it. Beyond that, however, traveling without food or water is tedious and a waste of time. If you’re a rogue or warrior, do yourself a favor and keep up with first aid. Bandages are a much quicker method of healing when you don’t need to drink and will save you hours in the long run.
6) Empty your bags regularly
I take it back – there is something worse than forgetting food and water. Finding yourself in another remote corner of the world only to realize that your bags are full. You can delete a few gray items here and there, but the bottom line is, you’ve doomed yourself to a short trip and a frustrating walk back (and forth, and back again). To save yourself the hassle, make a habit of clearing your bags out when you’re in town. If you happen to pass through a capital city or one of the goblin hubs, check to see if you’re holding on to any items you want to put in the bank.
7) Use your hearthstone strategically
This is something that’s all too easy to forget. If done well, however, it can save you a great deal of travel time. In general, as you find yourself questing in new zones, consider setting your hearthstone to the local inn. Keep in mind that it may sometimes be best to keep it set to a more central location (for instance, Horde questing in Kalimdor may simply opt to keep their hearthstone in Crossroads for a good chunk of the time). Just be mindful of it and aim to get the most out of your hearthstone that you can – leaving it unused for hours at a time is a waste of precious time. It may help to keep your hearthstone on an action bar if you tend to forget it.
8) Pick up flight paths whenever you’re near them
In the same vein as the last tip, this will save you some time spent running if you can remember to do it. Occasionally, you’ll find that a quest will take you to an area nearby (but not quite all the way) to a flight path you haven’t claimed yet. As a Horde player, notable instances of this are heading to Camp Taurajo in the Barrens for the first time when you haven’t yet visited Thunder Bluff, or taking the boat to Booty Bay to turn in a Barrens quest in your teens. In these cases, it’s worth taking the extra time to run over and claim the nearby flight paths. Later on, you’ll be glad you did.
9) Pick up all quests for a dungeon before you run it
The truth is, running dungeons in Vanilla is not a very efficient way to level. That’s not to say it isn’t worth it though! Dungeons are a fun and essential part of the Vanilla experience, and a well-timed dungeon run can grant rare weapons or armor that will speed your progress up significantly. Still, if you’re going to run one, it’s worth preparing for and doing it right. Many dungeons offer a main quest which grants a piece of rare gear, as well as a number of side quests. Some may require you to complete prerequisite quests before you can pick them up, so do your research and get these done before joining a group. If you’re interested in a particular dungeon, check out the Dungeon Guides section of the site, which includes information about picking up and completing quests for each dungeon.
10) Only purchase skills that you plan to use
This is an extremely important difference between Vanilla and modern WoW! In Vanilla, rather than being automatically granted new skills upon leveling up, you purchase them from a class trainer, with new skills coming available at every even-numbered level. Beyond this, you can purchase new ranks of existing skills as you level up. All in all, it becomes very expensive. With this in mind, it’s important to only purchase skills that you intend to use. For instance, if you’re leveling a frost mage, there’s no sense in buying a new rank of fireball every time it’s available – save that for when you’re maxed out and have some disposable income. This is a nice segue into my next tip, which is…
11) Save up for your mount
Purchasing your first mount is a huge milestone in Vanilla and provides a much-needed speed boost after spending your first 40+ levels slogging it on foot. Unfortunately, it’s extremely expensive, and not many players manage to hit 40 with the necessary gold in hand. For this reason, it’s important to minimize your spending on skills and at the auction house along the way. Of course, I could write an entire separate guide on methods to earn gold for your mount, but if your goal is to level efficiently, just keep an eye on your wallet and keep questing. You’ll usually be able to purchase it by the early-to-mid 40s. Paladins and warlocks rejoice, your mount is free!
12) Keep your gear up to date, especially weapons
As I alluded to earlier, new gear isn’t always easy to come by in Vanilla. Of course, that just makes it all the more exciting when you do manage to pick up a piece! Still, you’ll occasionally find that your old weapons and armor aren’t performing like they used to, and it can really slow you down. When this happens, it’s worth it to figure out where your next upgrade will come from. Check to see if an upcoming quest chain or dungeon can offer a replacement. Otherwise, make a habit of scanning the auction house for cheap pieces, keeping in mind that you don’t want to spend too much if you haven’t purchased your mount yet.