Gone are the days of early World of Warcraft, when leveling a character was a strenuous, gut-wrenching task that only the few victors of virtual natural selection would accomplish. It’s not uncommon nowadays to see long timers with 5-6 high level characters, as Blizzard seriously dropped the bar (not just the xp bar, but the difficulty one as well) in leveling.
What this horde leveling guide tries to do is adapt to the current state of World of Warcraft, as opposed to older guides (ours as well) that are now partially obsolete. For example, whereas most leveling guides of old days agreed that grinding sessions in between quests were a quicker way to level up, it’s now a waste of time more than anything else, as quests have become the primary and main source of experience.
In order to get the most out of these quests and find the quickest way to complete them (and possibly bunch them up), we’ll have to resort to what the famous WoW Pro Jamie calls “Optimized Quest Circuits”. That means you need to plan ahead and make up a strategy where you know exactly where to go and what quests to pick-up/finish, in order to optimize your play time so you get to finish as many quests as possible, bunching them up and reducing travelling time (which is frustratingly high, especially at lower levels, and especially for horde characters who usually deal with more wide and open spaces). To help you out, you’ll need a couple of leveling add-ons:
Horde Leveling Add-ons
QuestHelper – the father of quest add-ons, QuestHelper is an awesome tool to use while leveling, regardless of race, starting area or questing path. Its ability to show you the exact location to quest givers on the map and also automatically calculate an optimized questing trajectory is essential to speed up the leveling process. However, the truth is that it’s not always a given that QuestHelper’s routes are the best ones, as it calculates them according to your current position (which might not necessarily produce the best questing routes at all times). If I were to level a Horde character again (and I will, as soon as I’m done with this pesky Death Knight), I’d only use QuestHelper as a ...well, as a quest helper, not as a must-follow-to-the-letter type of add-on-guide.
Cartographer – Remember that stumpy, rigid old map World of Warcraft comes with? You probably won’t after using Cartographer for a couple of days. It truly gives the map a ton of functionality, which particularly interests us in this case as levelers, as you can set up way points, scale the map and manipulate the shroud of war however you like (if you do intend to keep the shroud, most players just prefer to see the entire map when leveling new characters).
AtlasLoot Enhanced – if you remember the old Atlas modules from way back when Molten Core was still a fun ride, you’ll easily get the hang of AtlasLoot Enhanced, which is a buffed up version of the old mod, which includes a nicely compiled list of item drops and maps. A leveling hordie might need it to plan ahead on instance loot, although there’s not much point to really re-try any questless instances just for a couple of items, since you’ll outgrow them soon enough anyways. Decent add-on, will come in handy, but not an essential one.
Horde Leveling Guide – 21-30
The reason I’ve skipped the first 20 levels of the guide is simple: it’s so easy to get to level 21 nowadays that even if you’re a complete newcomer to World of Warcraft, you’ll be able to get there in a couple of days. The starting area of your race will affect your 1-to-21 leveling speed however, with the blood elves being a bit faster due to having their quests more bunched up and are usually clustered on levels, so you don’t have to do a lot of running back and forth (just forth).
Anyway, at level 21 you should be done with most of the early Barrens quest if you started as Tauren, Orc or Troll and you should be arriving to Kalimdor if you’ve started as a Blood Elf or Undead. Regardless of race, your first stops are getting the nearest flight paths in the area, which will connect you through most of your early leveling. Set your inn up in Orgrimmar and start moving south through the barrens, taking the Crossroads Flight Path if you haven’t been there already (it’s your bridge between several zones, so I wouldn’t miss it). Make your way down to Ratchet and take the FP there; you’ll need it soon enough and it’s sort of in your way. Next stop: Camp Taurajo – this is where the action starts at this level range as it connects the Barrens with what should be your next leveling zone as a hordie: Thousand Needles.
Alternatively, once you’re in the Crossroads you can start gallivanting West towards the Stonetalon Mountains and finish the early quests there. I’d rather you skip the deep Stonetalon quests for now because they require just too much travelling and should be tough enough in your early 20s that it won’t make it efficient to complete them yet. Instead, fly back (or Hearthstone) to Orgrimmar and go wait on the Zeppelin. Take a hike to the other continent and visit your old rotten friends in the Undercity, then go south until you hit Hillsbrad Foothills (you should be level 22-23 by now). This area, with its central quest hub Tarren Mill, is an experience boost like no other. The quests are so easy and bunched up that you should be staying here for at least 2 or 3 levels, though on PVP servers this should also be your first real contact with the dreaded Alliance, so if it gets too crowded go back and start your killing spree in Ashenvale (you should be going here anyway soonish).
Although Ashenvale quests start as early as level 21, the real action is around 25-27 in Splintertree Post and at the Zoram Strand outpost on the western beaches of Ashenvale. The scenery does make it a bit hard to move around and by the Gods, anyone leveling in Ashenvale must have nightmares of getting jumped by invisible Alliance spies or elite mobs, but it’s still a great leveling hub that you shouldn’t miss out on.
Next up, get your bee-hind down south again, in Camp Taurajo. Assuming you took the FP when I suggested, you should be ready to start on the lower barrens quests:  Betrayal from within,  Weapons of Choice and  Mahren Skyseer. If you’re not 27 yet to take the Skyseer quest, just grind a bit to catch up so you can finish that quest while you’re in that area (yes, I know I said no grinding, but you must have slacked until now if you’re not 27 already :) ). Next stop is Thousand Needles where the quests flow so gently that you’ll be hitting level 30 in no time. There are plenty of quests here, so there’s no reason to get out of the Needles too fast, except maybe to unload your stuff in Orgrimmar.
Horde Leveling Guide – 31-40
By the time you’re 31, you’re most likely done with the better part of the Needles, so mop up any remaining quests and head East to the Shimmering Flats. You’re going to love this place if you haven’t visited it on another character, it’s small, it has clustered quests and let’s face it, it’s fun. How often do you see gnomes and goblins drag racing in the desert these days? Almost never. Anyway, the Shimmering Flats provide a steady stream of experience up until level 34, at which point you should head down south to Tanaris and take the Gadgetzan flight path. You can’t start questing here yet, but use the FP to travel to Ratchet and wait for the boat: you’re heading to the great wondrous land of PVP galore, nuked lowbies, crying quest-mongers and pirate goblins. It’s going to be fun, trust me.
Now, most of the Booty Bay quests are in the range of 34 and 37, so although you can pick them up already, you probably shouldn’t attempt to go at them, unless you have a strong group to quest with. Instead, head north to Nesingwary Camp (which incidentally is the target of a quest you get in Booty Bay,  Investigate the Camp). Get the mastery quests here and start pounding on the poor animals until you get National Animal Rights Association gluing Wanted posters with your face on every tree in the Vale. The Raptor Mastery is a bit tougher, so you might want to start with Panther and Tiger Master. After you’re done smashing the beasts, head on to Grom’gol and deliver any remaining quests. I’d strongly suggest staying in STV until you’re level 37 or so (which isn’t that hard to get to given the number of quests here), especially if you’re on a PVE server and you don’t get annoying high-level Allies nuking you with one shot.
Levels 37 to 39 should either have you finishing up the remaining quests in STV (if you’re lazy), or see you flying to Stonetalon and passing west into Desolace, doing the quests there (if you’re not lazy and like huge bone yards and desolate wastes). Either way, at 39 please do come back to STV, since you’ve got to finish up the elite levels of your mastery quests and getting the juicy rewards they offer.
Horde Leveling Guide – 41-50
You’ll have to travel a bit in order to get to the best experience hub of the early 40s, but trust me, it’s all worth the walk: go to Swamp of Sorrows (which, by the way, is an absolute blast if you’re an herbalist) and take the Stonard quests. You’ll need this inaccessible flight path in the future as well, so you might as well pick it up at this level. There aren’t that many quests in the Swamps, but some of them do tie you to the land down South, namely the Badlands and its central Horde city of Kargath. This is the place to be until level 45 or so as you have to go through a lot of killing quests, which, let’s face it, are pretty fun and easy and offer good experience if you’re also rested (which you should be, if you’re sleeping in inns when you log off).
From here on, you have two good choices in finishing the latter quests of Stranglethorn, or starting a new adventure in Tanaris. You’re probably already bored to death with the jungle, so let’s go to Tanaris and fire up the eastern quests (they can be completed with ease at level 46-47, regardless of your class or race). There’s no real reason to leave Tanaris until level 49, as the quests take you further down south (and west) and when you’re finished there, go down the western mountain edge (don’t jump, there’s a path). You’ll end up in Un’Goro, which is hands down one of the best leveling spots for both Horde and Alliance characters. You’ll be trapped in a small bubble with dozens of quests, most of which involve killing stuff (so yeah, there’s a bit of grinding here and there, but if you’re rested, it won’t feel as annoying as you see yourself blazing through the xp bars), in one of the best sceneries in vanilla wow. It can’t get much better than this and don’t be surprised if you end up being 51-52ish when you’re done with Un’Goro, as it’s a leveler’s heaven.
Horde Leveling Guide – 51-59
Here’s where my surprise zone comes in. Whereas most other guides have you running straight to Azshara or Felwood when you’re done in Un’Goro, I’m going to suggest going back to a slightly lower level zone: the Searing Gorge. The Gorge is an interesting place and I’ve noticed the huge discrepancy in difficulty if you’re visiting it at say, level 46 or if you’re going there at 48+. Yes, the quests are level 48 for the most part, but it’s so much easier to do them at a higher level due to the fact that you’ll have less chance of dying from range-aggroing the many wandering mobs in the area (golems, spiders, dark dwarves and silly cultists). Much like Un’Goro, the Gorge is a tight place with loads of clustered quests that will undoubtedly boost you a couple of levels.
You should be around level 54 when done with the Gorge and you’ll have the choice of going Azshara or Felwood at this point. I’d suggest Felwood, not necessarily because it gives you a higher experience-per-hour quota, but because it connects directly to the area you’ll want to quest in afterwards: Winterspring. Felwood is actually one of my least favorite areas, but that doesn’t deny it being a great experience hub that also offers herbalists a good opportunity to get some get-silly-rich herbs these days. The usual course is to go North to Winterspring when you’ve finished all the quests in Felwood (you should be level 56 at this point) and stay there until early 59. If you’ve finished all the quests in Winterspring and you’re still not 59, you can fill the gap in the Burning Steppes or simply grind your way through that last annoying vanilla level.
Horde Leveling Guide – Outland
You may be wandering why I didn’t suggest going to Outland as soon as you hit 58 and you’re able to go through the portal. Well, the thing is, I found it much more efficient to start off with the advantage of the extra level, again due to the aggro range of several mobs (especially the demons around the Wrath Gates, those make your life hell if you’re 58).
Going from 59 to 60 is probably also the only level I’d advise trying to grind through, as you gain a ton of experience from each mob, whilst having to fill up a small experience bar in comparison to the one going from 60 to 61. Might as well take some of the early killing quests while you’re at it, but if you can, hold off to delivering them until level 60 to make the most out of that xp.
Now that Wrath of the Lich King is out, Outland leveling is seriously nerfed for all classes. I started in Hellfire at lvl 59 and when I finished all the quest lines there I was already 63 (true, I did get into a couple of instances with my friends, which probably wasn’t the best experience-per-hour ratio). From here on it’s really a matter of what zone you’d like to skip, in order to rush to the next best thing. I skipped Zangarmarsh and went straight to Terrokkar Forrest because I had never leveled there before, but it’s really a matter of choice because all Outland zones have an equal share of quest hubs.
If you’re fully rested though, you might want to focus on Nagrand as soon as possible (which is around level 63). There are a lot of killing quests there and the double experience from mobs will help you hit two birds with one stone.
Outland will be a quick run if you stay in areas close to or lower than your level and you’ll feel a bit disappointed if you leveled another char before the experience nerf, as you’ll be skipping some of the fun stuff (for example, I hated that I had to skip Zangarmarsh altogether, it was one of my favorite zones in The Burning Crusade). If you’re on your 4th level 60+ character though, you might want to be out of here as quickly as possible and run to Northrend as soon as you ding 68. I’d strongly advise visiting back when you hit 70, since you’ll still have plenty of stuff to do in Outland at that point (such as getting your epic flying mount, completing any profession quests such as the alchemy masteries, and so forth).
Horde Leveling Guide – Northrend
Levels 71 and 72 are going to see you starting off in either the Borean Tundra or the Howling Fjord. The starting choice really depends on your play style and possibly on your professions, if you want to improve them and make some gold along the way. For example, whereas the Howling Fjord is a dream come true for miners, the Tundra offers a variety of herbalism hubs that can get your herb stacks up and running in no time.
As far as quests go, I’ve found the Howling Fjord ones to be slightly more difficult, not necessarily due to their objectives, but due to the difficulty of travelling across the environment (lots of mountains, hills and high-low terrain differences), whereas the Tundra is mostly flat. Hated Ashenvale as a lowbie? Go Tundra. Hated the Barrens? Go with the Fjord. In either case, the amount of quests is incredible and their progression is naturally more optimized than in vanilla WoW and even in The Burning Crusade (meaning that you’ll be making less use of Quest Helper and other quest route optimization add-ons).
Late level 72, or perhaps even 73 should catch you entering Dragonblight which is hands down my favorite area in Wrath of the Lich King. The mesmerizing sceneries, the awesome quests and by awesome I mean awesomely awesome (you’ll know when you reach Return to Angrathar), dragons, fairies, underground spiders and hulking cave worms...it’s every RPG nerd’s dream come true.
The next logical step in your progression after Dragonblight is the Grizzly Hills, which quite frankly made me yearn for my long lost day of woods-trotting with my friends. It’s an extremely atmospheric area and it has some of the funniest quests around (yes, yet another poop-related quest...you’d think someone at Blizzard quest design has a weird fetish). If you’re having a hard time moving on to doing level 74-75 quests at this point, you could always turn back to that one area you left behind (Borean or the Fjord) and quickly clean the place up for a nice experience boost that can keep you going at the higher levels. Zul Drak really isn’t that hard anyway, mostly because of the flat, steps-like structure of the environment where you can clearly see mobs and objectives and most importantly, you can easily spot and engage (or run from) Alliance players. That’s one thing that Grizzly Hills failed at, since on PVP servers near WOTLK launch time you’d have a dreaded Alliance noob hiding behind every tree or slope.
Level 78 actually gives you several options to go for, including starting Sholazar Basin or the Storm Peaks, especially now that you should be having a flying mount. Storm Peaks is pretty much like Blade’s Edge Mountains in TBC, you’re quite screwed if you don’t have a flyer, so I wouldn’t suggest going there if you didn’t buy one yet. Sholazar is nice and has several great quest hubs, as well as being an awesome herbalist destination, as are most jungly places in the game. A flying mount helps here as well, but it’s still easily to go around the zone without one than it would be if you were in Storm Peaks.
Personally, I like going straight for Icecrown. The thing is, Icecrown has some of the best progressive quest chains in the game and you’ll need a lot of them if you want to make money later on in the game, since they all finish in daily quests that can churn you quite a nickel. Most of the quests also give you Knights of the Ebon Blade rep, which is quite useful for melee classes, so there’s another reason to go straight for Icecrown as soon as you’re 78. The bundle of quests in Icecrown could probably last you until you are level 82 so this is a great place to be in at this point, unless you’re sick of snow from your earlier Dragonblight or Storm Peaks experiences.
I hope you enjoyed this horde leveling guide and it helped you figure out how to optimize your leveling for the fastest paths possible. I wish you good luck in getting to 80 as fast as possible, it’s there that the game truly starts :) /wave