Choosing a race
Before I began playing I spent some time thinking about which race to play. It seemed like a critical decision because once taken I couldn’t take it back (apart from starting another character). In truth I think there is actually no need to agonize over this choice; you will have a good time no matter which race you choose. There are no differences between the races big enough to make or break your gaming experience.
About the only important thing you need to consider is that each race has its list of possible classes. If you want to be a druid, for example, you can’t choose to be human; you have to choose night elf or tauren. But apart from that it’s really not worth stressing over.
Playing both the Horde and the Alliance can be fun.
Choosing a class
Pretty much exactly the same point here. There is no need to agonize over this choice because all classes are fun to play. Here are some of the nice things about the classes I’ve played so far:
- Druid: Great first-character class as the druid has a feline form (allows you to play like a rogue), bear form (allows you to play like a warrior), travel form at level 30 (allows you to travel fast before getting to level 40 and getting your mount), and can play in the roles of healer or DPS (player who specializes in maximum Damage Per Second). This gives you a glimpse of many styles of play and can help you select what your next character will be. Above all, the constant shape changing is great fun and you won’t get bored. When you die you get a spirit form that has a speed bonus so you’ll spend less time journeying back to your corpse.
- Hunter: Once you get your pet at level 10 you are from that point on basically always in a group; your pet is quite a dependable tank. This means that you can solo more missions and level up fast, and you won’t die as often as other classes. You get a high-speed travel aspect at level 20, even sooner than the druid gets its travel form. Being a hunter combines really well with skinning, leather-working and cooking; you’ll kill lots of beasts to get meat for your pet, you can cook it, and make your own armour.
- Priest: The priest is a weakling compared to the other classes but its healing ability is its saving grace. You might think that you’ll die more often as a priest because you’re so weak but that’s not true: you can heal yourself and in the early stages it is fairly easy to avoid dying. Once you get to a level where you can participate in instances you’ll be in constant demand to join groups, so you’ll get lots of treasure and level quickly.
- Mage: Awesome DPS and the ability to make your own mana-restoring drinks make this a very fun class to play.
- Warrior: Of the classes mentioned so far, the warrior is actually one of the least rewarding to play in the early levels. Basically you’re only as good as your equipment and that can be hard to get at low levels. You will die often unless you’re in a group, preferably with a healer. If your other characters find high-level weapons and armour, send them to your warrior through the in-game mail system.
Start on your professions early
When I started with my first character I made the mistake of focussing too much on levelling up, relegating my professions to the backburner. This soon turned into a problem because I found myself being sent to new areas with higher level missions and enemies, but I didn’t have the required skill to exercise my professions in those tougher areas. I was a herborista that didn’t realize that as your enemies got tougher the plants in the areas get tougher to collect too, and so I got stuck, unable to advance in my profession.
But the problems didn’t end there. I elected alchemy because it completed my herb-gathering, but when I finally got my herb skills up to a decent level I found that my alchemy had lagged behind. My alchemy skills were so poor that they couldn’t use the plants that I was now capable of collecting.
The same tough lesson was to be learnt with fishing. Fishing’s a good secondary skill for alchemists because some potions require fish oils that you can get from fishing. Once again, however, I found that my character’s level was taking me into areas where I wasn’t good enough to fish.
When I belatedly added cooking and first aid I faced exactly the same problem. I was collecting materials that I didn’t have the skills to take advantage of.
This is a shame because Blizzard has carefully structured Azeroth so that you can move through the world levelling up, facing tougher and tougher enemies, and providing you with materials and challenges in your professions that increase in line with your movements into tougher areas.
Taking on all the secondary professions (cooking, first aid and fishing) is definitely worth doing from the very earliest moments of the game. In this way instead of just killing targets for experience, you can actually use those things that they drop which don’t have a lot of monetary value: beasts drop meat which you can then use to bolster your cooking skill; humanoids drop cloth which you can use in first aid; fishing supports your cooking skill by providing you with fresh material for cooking (and if you’re an alchemist it is invaluable for your potions; if you’re not an alchemist then you can still end up fishing valuable or useful objects out of the water as your skills improve).
At first these skills might just seem like novelties; it is generally fairly easy to pick up food and potions and the like without too much effort. But as you get better at these things you’ll actually start to be able to make some pretty decent stuff. And you can then use that stuff to reduce your down time, keep you on the move quicker, and gain more experience as a result.
The moral of the story is simple:
- Start working on your professions and secondary skills as soon as possible
- Try to keep your different skills roughly in sync with one another
- Grab all the secondary professions, not just one of them
As I said above, my first character was an alchemist and herb gatherer, with fishing as support. This is a good combination for obvious reasons: you gather your own materials and don’t have to waste money buying them.
But I often found that I wanted the services of a tailor or an enchanter and one wasn’t always available in my guild. So I created secondary characters with a view to developing different skills and professions for each. In an ideal world you would have access to most of the key professions in this way.
The second combination that I tried was enchanter and tailor. This is another oft-recommended combination. As a tailor you can make use of all those humanoid cloth drops, create useful items for yourself, and once you get to a certain level you can start to produce green items. This latter point is critical because enchanters depend on lots of green weapons and armour.
When you are a level 5 enchanter you probably don’t get your hands on many green items. Your only hope to get your skill off the ground is to get your tailoring up to the point where you can produce green items yourself. You then disenchant them to extract components for your enchanting.
But if you are a tailor and are developing your first aid at the same time you will need an insane amount of cloth. I soon got tired of killing low level humanoids in order to get it (literally hundreds) and I was getting all too little experience from it, so at that point I got my higher-level character druid to go out and do the killing for me. Obviously the level-42 druid got no experience at all from killing mobs in the 5 to 20 range, but he was able to go much faster and get the much-needed cloth many times faster. I mailed the cloth to my low-level enchanter.
Is this somehow "cheating"? I don’t think so. Just as guild members help one another, there is nothing wrong with one of your characters helping another one of your characters.
In this way by the time you start to move outside of your start zone you should already be extremely skilled for your level. Although it is tempting to think only about levelling up so you can get that mount as soon as possible, I think it’s better to get there slowly and have your professions and secondary skills maxed out. I would much rather be in a zone that was "too low" for my professional skills than in one that was too high. And by the time you reach the highest levels of the game your professions should be absolutely stunning, not just mediocre.
Other combinations I have tried that have worked well are:
- Warrior/Miner/Blacksmith: can create his or her own (chainmail) armour.
- Hunter/Skinner/Leatherworker: once again can create his or her own (leather) armour; in addition you’ll need to kill beasts for their meat (so you can feed your pet) and you can kill two birds with one stone by not only killing them for their meat but skinning them as well.
When you create your first character you can probably live without any add-ons. By the time you reach level 10, however, you should definitely consider installing a good map add-on, like Cartographer. The most important feature is the co-ordinate display which will allow you to consult databases like thottbot.com or wow.allakhazam.com and find out the locations of hard-to-find mission objectives and items. These map add-ons are a small and unobstrusive extension to the existing interface.
If you have a gathering profession (like herbalism or mining) then your next add-on should be Gatherer or something similar. As you progress through the game you will realize the importance of resources and materials, and the database of material locations that you build up using Gatherer will become increasingly valuable to you. Like Cartographer, Gatherer is not a very "disruptive" modification to the standard user interface.
Note that even if you don’t have the ability to collect a particular item you should still right-click on it and Gatherer will record it. The database of item locations built up by Gatherer is shared across all of your players so you can add mining locations to the database even when you’re playing with your skinner character, or herb locations when you’re playing with your miner, and so forth.
By the time your first character reaches level 20 you are probably ready to start thinking about something like Auctioneer. Even if you’re not interested in playing financial games in the auction house the add-on provides you with extended tool-tips that help you gauge the worth of the items you find and also know what professions they are used for.
Much, much later, you should think about installing Cosmos. Cosmos is a radical overhaul of the user interface which comes with dozens of extensions, and I most definitely wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. Any time before level 40 is probably too soon. Nevertheless, Cosmos does offer some very useful and powerful extensions for the advanced user. My advice is to disable almost everything when you install Cosmos and to reactivate only the essential extensions one by one as the need arises. This will spare you from having to cope with all of the interface transformations in one hit.
See "Warcraft gold guide".