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WoWAug 26, 2020 2:00 pm CT

Is it better to level before or after Shadowlands releases? We weigh the pros and cons of each

Shadowlands is changing the the leveling process. This is meant to streamline leveling as well as to shorten the time it takes to reach entry into the new Shadowlands content. You could level alts now while waiting for the expansion to launch, or you could hold off and wait until Shadowlands releases. Which is better? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each to help you decide when is the best time to level alts.

How Death Knight and Demon Hunter leveling is changing in Shadowlands

If you don’t have a Demon Hunter on a realm, level a Demon Hunter. Right now, they start at level 98, which is a solid majority of the leveling process. They just have to do their starting area, Legion, and BFA, and they’re at max level. The only drawback is that they’re limited to one per realm. Death Knights start at level 55, and you can have as many as you want. Additionally, any Allied Race can be a Death Knight if you own Shadowlands, and they’ll still be able to unlock the Heritage Armor at the appropriate level. That makes Death Knights a great way to do so quicker.

Come Shadowlands, Demon Hunters are no longer restricted to one per realm. Beyond that, Demon Hunters and Death Knights begin at level 8. They still have their starting area, that takes them to level 10. That’s still a bonus, just not as much as it used to be. Allied Races begin at level 10. They actually have a slight advantage on the two hero classes.

When it comes to leveling these two Hero Classes, I personally find it worth doing so now in BFA, just for that feeling of skipping so much content. It makes it feel that much faster.

Experience buffs are going away

There are currently three great buffs that add to experience gains in WoW that will be gone with the Shadowlands pre-patch. The first is from Heirlooms. They’ll have bonuses, but not the experience bonus — and that’s (probably) why you paid all that gold.

Second, the Winds of Wisdom buff. To encourage players to keep playing from now until the pre-patch, all leveling players have a 100% increase to all forms of experience. Doubling experience makes a difference that can be felt — but it’s going away come patch 9.0.

And third, there are the Elixirs that increase experience. All of those will become gray items and no longer provide bonuses. Blizzard said they want to ensure they even out the leveling process and not have faster ways for some players over others. They can be expensive, but anyone who wants to ensure they have the fastest leveling strategy possible will need to take advantage of this now.

There are other tricks to leveling fast that might be lost come Shadowlands. In Warlords of Draenor content, clicking on treasures gives massive amounts of experience and is faster than doing quests. The Bonus Objectives in WOD zones also provide a lot of experience, to complement the treasure hunting. In Legion, there are the Assaults. These give several levels in a short amount of time.

These alternate forms of experience were great for leveling quickly, especially for those looking for an alternative to questing. However, if they remained lucrative, then everyone would feel the need to level in Legion and WOD zones and ignore the quests. It’s likely these will both be hit with nerf bats, so I recommend utilizing them while you still can.

Leveling is a great way to use pre-expansion downtime

In some expansions, there were new classes or races that could not be leveled until after release. Battle for Azeroth locked many Allied Races until late into the game. With Shadowlands, nothing new is coming. Any race or class you want to play is available right now.

And while the leveling process will be changing and set up to better flow through all the zones of a continent, the zones themselves won’t change. Blizzard isn’t doing what they did in Cataclysm. Your favorite zones aren’t going anywhere, nor will they have anything different to offer after Shadowlands launches.

Everything new that will be offered will be at max level — or at least, for what is considered max level right now. Maybe it will be faster, in total, to level a character after the expansion’s launch. But there will so much more to do then. Right now, as BFA is dragging on, take the little extra time, and prepare the characters that will delve into the new content. Everything new will be at the at the current maximum level.

That said, leveling will be a lot easier and faster in Shadowlands

If you don’t like leveling, and this has kept you from leveling an alt for a while now, then honestly, you might as well wait. Heirlooms, Winds of Wisdom buff, and experience potions — even with these changed or gone, the goal is to make leveling “60 to 70% faster.” Reports from beta have confirmed that leveling is extremely fast in Shadowlands. One YouTuber, Towelliee, was able to level from 1 to 50 in twelve hours. No special speed-leveling, either, even taking breaks in there.

This is beta, if players are hitting level cap too quickly changes could be made. This process might be made to take longer. It is too early to say for sure how fast it will be. The point is, it will be faster.

Additionally, from levels 10 to 50, it will all be in one continent. Putting speed aside, the best leveling right now is disjointed. Starting at level 60, every ten or twenty levels, you have to switch continents, and that takes some time, heading back to a capital city, and sometimes skipping through cinematics. With the new system, once an area is chosen, it can be played through until level 50. And probably level cap will be reached long before the place is finished, especially if you do side quests and don’t just focus on the main story.

With fewer levels, the distribution of perks, such as new abilities and talents, is much better disbursed. Leveling up feels like a reward, not just a number that is closer to something. Too many levels in the game, and it cannot deliver that feeling. Leveling isn’t just faster, but feels better while doing it.

And there are actually new leveling zones for level 1 – 10. Exile’s Reach is meant to introduce new players to the game. But it is new content, provides gear that can be added to a transmog collection, and has a different experience for Horde and Alliance. There wouldn’t be any new zones for this character at level 10, but do you want to delete a character you’ve spent these levels with?

The overall leveling process will be faster in Shadowlands. The time to level a character from creation to the beginning of the expansion’s experience will be a lot less. And not having to go back to Orgrimmar or Stormwind to begin the next leg of the leveling process with will be a huge boon to the whole journey.

But right now there is little else going on in WoW. With Heirlooms still giving a bonus percentage, the Winds of Wisdom buff, and Assaults and Bonus Objectives dishing out a massive amount, there is a great deal of extra experience. Leveling does not take long at all. Especially on a Death Knight that is nearly half way there in levels, or a Demon Hunter that is practically done by the time they’ve done two Assaults.

Or, just take some time and enjoy the leveling process.

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