You have clear end-game areas like the Plague lands and Burning Steppes, which are all equipped with tons of dungeons and grindable elites. Today Blizzard ships an expansion with six or so tightly-wound, scalable zones that all dovetail into each other super neatly.
Headwind Pass got a lot cooler during the Burning Crusade and the introduction of Marathon, one of World of Warcraft's most beloved raids ever. In Vanilla, though, Headwind Pass was merely a gloomy placeholder zone with no quests and a faint promise of things to come.
Given that it hosted one of Vanilla's most antisocial dungeons that required little teamwork to defeat, there just wasn't a lot about this place that made anyone wants to stick around. The dense foliage made my frame rate chug back in 2004, and it felt like you ran out of quests after about 30 minutes.
Dust wallow always felt a little unfinished, which is strange, considering freaking Jain Broadmoor lives here. Cataclysm completely reworked the zone, and turned it into the focal point for the Steamworks of the Horde-aligned Goblins.
A fine, workmanlike leveling zone with Horde and Alliance, which is probably most interesting for hosting the ruins of Rather (for any lore-hunters out there). You can tell nobody cares about Marathi Highlands because Blizzard had no problem cannibalizing the assets for its first War front in Battle For Zeroth and basically sweeping the old zone under a rug.
Silver pine would get a lot more interesting after Cataclysm, when Blizzard gave it some of the most substantial, plot-moving lore they've ever implemented into a leveling zone. It did that job perfectly, and held its own until The Burning Crusade, when it became a focal point for any enterprising young mercenary looking to reach level 70 in Outland.
Blizzard would evoke the Dun Borough spirit so much better years later, when they took us to North rend in the Wrath of the Rich King expansion. Another zone that got fully reworked with a genuinely fascinating storyline after Cataclysm, but was just sorta there in vanilla.
That changed about halfway through Vanilla's lifecycle with the introduction of AHN'Iraq and its corresponding quest lines, which fleshed out some fascinating story beats about the Iraqi and the Old Gods while sending players on World of Warcraft's most epic quest ever. So I'm leaving it here, halfway through the list, because it was one of my favorite zones for about half of Vanilla's life cycle.
Once you’ve decided on a new main for the coming expansion, or possibly alts you’d like to have around, a second question arises. Before there were some questions along the way, as Burning Crusade and Wrath shared a bracket as did Cataclysm and Mists of Mandarin, but you still largely had your path decided by the release order.
For many players, this is a good excuse to revisit content from the past that used to be out leveled quickly and hard to actually experience in any meaningful way. Burning Crusade, Wrath, and Cataclysm should generally be avoided unless you have a specific quest or activity you hope to complete along the way.
For the average player, this sort of play isn’t exactly desirable, and estimates extrapolated from applying a raw multiplier to what PTR speed runs aren’t accurate. Some zones are improved far more by using these speed run strategies than others, so it’s best to keep the rankings in mind and focus on minimizing your downtime more than quibbling overestimates; the time you spend worrying your choice might not have been perfect is probably enough to cover the difference between them.
It’s hard to keep a dense experience down, and despite several nerfs The Iron Horde campaign from Warlords is still the quickest expansion. It’s important while you’re in Drano to take advantage of grabbing any treasures you see and never miss bonus objectives near your path.
Going far out of your way for one that doesn’t have any quests associated may not be worth it, but missing bonus objectives that are on your path is a good way to really lower the yield in Drano. Picking up just a few that are close to your path quickly adds up to a quest’s worth of experience and even counting the time to get to them, this will probably take only a minute or two.
This is another reason why preexisting knowledge really helps Drano’s speed, knowing the path to get to the harder treasures can add multiple full quests of experience for very little work. Puzzling them out for the first time or even finding someone else’s solution likely takes long enough to make them no longer worthwhile after the nerf.
The zones are suited well to leveling through and leaving, as well, with stories that are mostly self-contained as you search for items important to the main plot of the expansion. The biggest downside is that there are a number of quests that may slow your class hall campaign or professions if you choose to use them as they require dungeon completions.
It may seem odd that the eighth expansion for an MMO that's been around since 2004 is the perfect starting place for beginners, but that's the case with World of Warcraft: Shadow lands. The new expansion brings about a new starting zone, called Exile's Reach, which is ideal for newcomers.
While veterans may be working their way through leveling zones or playing World of Warcraft Classic, Exile's Reach offers a tutorial area for beginners. After a short tutorial aboard a ship, players and their allies are shipwrecked in a new starting zone called Exile's Reach.
Unlike previous World of Warcraft starting zones, Exile's Reach was made for streamlining almost two decades' worth of mechanics into a fairly short introduction. It's a great way for beginners to learn all the essential elements of the game, and it works incredibly well.
Longtime World of Warcraft players will find it overly easy, but it's great for newcomers who are just learning the ropes. Another aspect that helps this World of Warcraft: Shadow lands starting zone is the level squish.
Everything about Exile's Reach is designed to get new players through the content while introducing mechanics and features that won't overwhelm them. World of Warcraft has hundreds of interesting zones to see and experience, and it’s easy to miss lots of them in your race to level 100 in anticipation of Legion, or whatever expansion is coming out next whenever you are reading this.
I’ve put together an objective list of the most interesting zones in the entirety of WoW, so buckle in for the adventure! Sadly, though, many players will have killed Thorazine’s daughter Princess Threads earlier in the game, but luckily the elemental lord of stone is pretty cool about her family being murdered.
It is a common place to level characters, and I spent untold hours of The Burning Crusade doing quests and trying not to be killed by high-level players in this zone sandwiched between the mountains and ocean. It is a war zone in both the game’s fiction and its actual play, and beyond normal questing, a player can always experience the Horde leader Thrall’s escape from Brunhilde Keep in the Caverns of Time.
The fjord leans into the Northern European flavor of the continent of North rend, and the main antagonists here are giants (whose home you need to run through to properly smash them). Also, apparently, the Forsaken (the undead faction in WoW) are hanging out here cooking up a great new plague to attack the Rich King with.
It is also lush and green, and it was once a super dangerous place to go questing due to how many players would be running around trying to do the same thing you were. Even now the crater is teeming with strangeness that isn’t anywhere else in the base WoW experience, and doing certain quest lines reveals some powerful creatures behind the veil of Zeroth.
Like all locations in the game, there’s a complex ecological system that ties together the physical space, the enemies you encounter, and the characters you meet, and in the Valley of the Four Winds that is all centered on the creation of massive pumpkins, tasty treats, and beer. In fact, most of the time that a given player will spend here is consumed by saving vegetation and/or beer from various kinds of baddies.
There’s a wonderful visual tone to the very large zone, and it is interspersed with night elf fortresses, demon spawning grounds, and a nice coastal area. This is the core of a WoW experience; this entire zone is a strange collapse of systems, ideas, and aesthetics that somehow coheres into something truly amazing.
This staging point, the garrison, contains a huge amount of the content of Warlords, and I spent way more time than I would have thought going out into Frost fire Ridge and skinning, mining, or just attacking enemies to see what was going on in the massive fort that dominates the landscape. It was a bad life, to be sure, because it was a zone that acted as a bottleneck for Horde players who wanted to proceed in levels.
My 3 choices seem to be Ashen vale, Stone talon Mountains, or “finish up Barrens and then go to A Thousand Needles”, or maybe some mix of those. I'm kinda leaning towards Ashen vale (I'm sick of open expanses, he, and it will have lots of herbs to level my herbalism), but any advice would be welcome.
You ought to go for Stone talon mountains first as it is aimed a bit lower in level than the other two. Depends on a bit. If you're on a PVP server, avoid Hills brad like the plague.
For reasons obscure, the Alliance seems to love hanging out there and killing hoardings. I recommend the later path, but only slightly- if you can easily kill mobs 1 or 2 levels above you, then Ashen vale is probably marginally better, as it has some great grinding quests.
Cheapest XP in the game, and you can sell the pages you get in the zone later to recoup the cost. Also saves you from filling your bag eight layers deep in paper.
Most of my alts stall in the mid-20s until I can get into some more interesting stuff. Alliance get Ashen vale, South shore, Red ridge, Dusk wood, and Wetlands. I've done all the horde combinations, I'd recommend Barrens Stone talon Thousand Needles early.
Its like they turned Dust wallow into a Blood Elf starting zone ... crazy efficient and fun! It's painful to navigate, making it hard to find quests.
A lot. I recommend diving into Stone talon ASAP, then Thousand Needles. It's painful to navigate, making it hard to find quests.
A lot. I recommend diving into Stone talon ASAP, then Thousand Needles. I timed the run from Splinter tree to the Zora Strand outpost.