Warcraft: A Guide for Returning WoW Players

UPDATE: This guide is outdated. A newer Legion guide is currently in production.

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that World of Warcraft has changed over the years. It’s an extremely deep, dynamic game with a sustainable timeline that has continued to impress. As with any long-term game, it’s common for players to take breaks from the game. For me, those breaks were Burning Crusade and Cataclysm. There’s one issue, though… Since Wrath, there have been some pretty hefty changes to game features, direction, and the overall game experience. There has been simplification of some areas and deeper complexity in others.

Therefore, I have found the opportunity to create more of a reference guide / recap for players returning to the game. This guide will provide some of the newer features and changes to the game that you may have missed out on. My intent is not to go in depth on each of these items, but to provide a general overview of them and a means of diving further in and learning more about the item if you so choose. Think of this as a mini catch-up session – I truly hope it helps. If you still have questions after reading the guide, please don’t hesitate to ask questions either here or in-game at Accomp#1170. Enjoy!


Talents & Glyphs  —  Reforging  —  Transmogrification  —  Void Storage  —  Instance Finder  —  Dailies  —  Weekly Tasks  —  Loot System  —  Legendary Chain  —  Inscription  —  Archaeology  —  Guild System  —  Heirloom Gear  —  Pet Battles  —  PvP System  —  Learn About Your Class  —  Cross Realm  —  Recruit A Friend / Scroll of Resurrection  —  Searching For A Guild


Achievements are now account-wide!


Revamped Talent Trees & Glyphs

Alongside the introduction of the MoP expansion came a complete rehaul and simplification of the talent tree system (thank goodness). What used to be a diluted, complex talent tree system that everyone pretty much just copy/pasted from someone else, turned into a more elegant, utility-based talent tree system with much fewer options. Now you pick a single spec, are assigned default skills for that spec, and you choose one talent per tier, 6 tiers in total, opening at various levels. Glyphs have also been simplified, so now you simply choose 3 major glyphs and 3 minor glyphs and you’re done. Also, the physical glyph item has changed and it now adds that glyph to your permanent utility – so purchase it once and you have it for life.

Resources: Talent Tree Builder


Introduced as a means of having further control over your gear, reforging allows you to take 40% of an item’s secondary stat and convert it to another secondary stat that item does not currently have. For instance, if I had a [Nine-Tailed Helmet], I could convert 40% of the Haste to Mastery, since it’s a better stat for my spec. This is particularly useful when dealing with stat caps such as hit and expertise. Reforging can be added and removed as many times as you like, at a minimal cost – you really should take the time to reassess your reforged items every time you get a new piece of gear.

Resources: WoWWiki entry on Reforging


Prior to patch 4.3, there was always the issue of players looking like each other. There was a ton of gear available, but people wanted the best items – so naturally, everyone looked similar. With the introduction of Transmogrification, commonly referred as “transmog,” you can change the appearance of any piece of gear/weapon to a like-type model. For instance, if I do not enjoy how my new heroic shoulders look, I can transmog them to look like old tier shoulders if I so choose. This feature is yours to have fun with, so enjoy!

Resources: Preview on Transmogrification

Void Storage

The longer you play World of Warcraft, the more crap you have piling up in your bank – some of it which you’ll honestly never touch, but you’d like to keep it anyways. This could include some seasonal or event item, maybe a dagger from your first boss kill that has some significance to you, so you keep it around. The Void Storage is a place to put all that stuff. It’s a paid bank service of 80 slots that allows you to store items, including soulbound or account-bound, at a small price. It’s sole purpose is to free up your bank space and get stuff out of the way you don’t intend to use regularly. You have to pay a small fee each time you deposit or withdraw from Void Storage, but it’s a neat feature nonetheless.

Resources: Preview on Void Storage

Instance Finder

What used to be exclusively the Dungeon Finder, has since evolved into something much more useful – an Instance Finder. By using this tool, you can queue, solo or with friends, for any current expansion dungeon, raid, or scenario – assuming you meet the minimum gear requirement for that instance. For those who missed the scenario train, a scenario is a 3-person instance that is intended to have a faster time of completion than a dungeon and does not require a healer or a tank – ultimately creating faster queues for DPS. Raid Finder, often referred to as “LFR” is a dumbed down version of the normal mode raid with slightly lower quality loot, making raid content more accessible to more casual players. LFR difficulty raids can be completed once per week and do not share a lockout with normal mode raids.

Dailies – “Slow Down.”

Welcome to World of Dailycraft. I mean… uh, yeah. All kidding aside, dailies are extremely important in Mists of Pandaria. There’s a few reasons why dailies are pretty much mandatory now. The first is that almost every reputation has raid-quality gear with a minimum rep requirement to purchase said gear using Valor Points. The second reason is to earn Lesser Charms of Fortune. This is a currency that you receive upon every turn-in that can be used once per week in a quantity of 90 to purchase 3 Mogu Runes of Fate. Read the section named Loot System Extended for more information on how these are used. The final reason to complete your dailies is that upon completion, you earn Valor Points (and gold). Please note, once you reach Revered with select reputations, visit their Quartermaster – they will have an item you can purchase that permanently grants 100% reputation bonus for all characters on your account. The hunt to exalted and alt rep just got much faster.

[box type=”info”]Disclaimer: Take your time with the dailies. There is now no limit to how many you complete per day. Do not try to attempt every faction’s dailies every single day. You will burn yourself out. As the Pandas say, “Slow down.”[/box]

[box type=”download”] The Tillers, a farming faction at Halfhill in the Valley of Four Winds, provide more perks than meets the eye. Once you gain exalted with them and unlock all 16 farming plots through quests purchased through the Quartermaster, you should have a quest named “Inherit the Earth” from Nana Mudclaw at the top of Halfhill. This quest will essentially give you the farm and open up work orders, which are additional dailies that provide bonus rep for select MoP factions.[/box]

Resources: MoP Dailies Guide

Weekly Tasks

This is more of a reminder to complete particular tasks each week to ensure you’re getting the most out of your playtime. Be sure to kill all world bosses each week for a chance at 496 and 522 loot, respectively. This includes Sha of Anger, Galleon, Oondasta, and Nalak(once all Isle of Thunder stages are complete). Complete each Raid Finder instance each week for a shot at loot and guaranteed valor. Complete Thunder of Isle tasks such as the solo treasure scenario via Key to the Palace of Lei Shen, killing a rare, and finding a trove. On top of that, you should be capping your Valor Points and Conquest Points. Once you cap Valor Points on one character, you earn increased Valor Points on all other characters for the rest of that week.

Loot System Extended

We all know random loot can be a big pain in the arse. Well, now your chances just got better. Raid Finder loot is now awarded randomly per player, rather than per raid. So, each player has a chance to get loot for the role they queued as, individually. Traditional non-Raid Finder loot has stayed the same, with the exception of bonus rolls. Bonus rolls are granted by using either an Elder Charm of Fortune or a Mogu Runes of Fate after killing a raid boss. So make sure you’re getting your 90 Lesser Charms of Fortune to turn in each week and your Key to the Palace of Lei Shen for your shot at a handful of Elder Charm of Fortunes.

Legendary chain & Sha-Touched

There is a new legendary quest chain in Pandaria and you’ll want to start immediately, as it takes a good while to complete. It begins at Halfhill in the Valley of the Four Winds from an NPC named Teng Firebrew. This quest chain, much like the Cataclysm Rogue legendary quest chain, revolves around Wrathion the Black Prince, but is available to all classes. In the end, you’ll end up with a legendary gem that provides +500 of your optimal base stat. However, this gem can only be placed in Sha-Touched weapons, such as [SpiritSever]. Quest objectives and Sha-Touched weapons are both obtainable via Raid Finder, so you have no excuse not to get working on it!

ResourcesIcy Veins Legendary chain walkthrough


A profession that was introduced during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Inscription provides players with the ability to craft glyphs, off-hand tomes, staves, vellums (containers for enchants to be stored in for trading), shoulder enchants, and Darkmoon Faire cards.Paired with Herbalism, you gather materials for Inscription by milling herbs. If you’re not familiar with Darkmoon Cards, you should be. They are early expansion best-in-slot trinkets and are the true money maker for Inscription. It’s definitely a profession worth looking into for an alt or two… or three.

ResourcesOfficial Inscription Guide


This is a secondary profession added with Cataclysm that is intended to be a more casual approach to professions. It offers no direct benefit such as other professions; however, you have the opportunity to discover new pets, mounts, achievements, account-bound items, and just some overall neat on-use items to screw around with. The idea is that you find a survey area, you survey it, and you discover hidden objects. Rinse, repeat to 600 skill points. It’s been reported to take between 4-10 hours to level from 1-600, so enjoy!

Resources: Official Archaeology Guide

Guild Progression System

Taking guilds to a whole new level was the introduction of the guild progression system. Now guilds are able to be leveled from 1-25, unlocking perks and items along the way. On top of the leveling system is a guild achievement system. This works very similarly, in that guilds can work together to accomplish progression achievements and unlock items such as heirloom gear, mounts, pets, etc. Each guild member also has guild reputation. Some items the guild unlocks require a minimum reputation with the guild before a member can purchase them. You earn experience for the guild the same way you earn experience for your character. So ultimately, the guild system provides a structure for guilds to work together to accomplish feats together and progress / reap the benefits as a team.

Resources: WoW Guild Advancement Guide

Heirloom Gear

These are account-bound pieces of gear you can purchase with various currencies to send to your alts. Their stats scale with the level of the character and some pieces provide bonus experience as well – this makes leveling a much quicker, more pleasant experience. Original heirloom items only scale to level 80, but Mists of Pandaria introduced improved items which allow you to trade in your old heirloom item for a newer, better version that scales up to 85. Heirloom items are available via Justice Point vendor, Honor Points vendor, Guild Vendor, Darkmoon Faire, Wintergrasp, Argent Tourney Grounds in Northrend, and Fishing ([Dread Pirate Ring]). If you’re leveling an alt, put in the work on your main to deck out the alt in heirloom gear – you won’t regret it.

Requested: Wowpedia Heirloom List

Pet Battles

Remember Pokémon? It’s that. Here’s a guide.

Resources: Pet Battle Info Guide

PvP Changes?

Well, I’ll be honest – I’m just now getting into PvP. So this area is definitely not my strong point (I’m a carebear). However, it’s important to understand the overall concept of how PvP is structured and the progression behind it. Patch 5.2 introduced some changes to the PvP scene that makes it much easier to play catch up. The idea is simple – you want PvP gear. So start running random battlegrounds and farming valor. It’s not unreasonable to grind a couple pieces of honor gear per day. You’ll also want to be sure to cap Conquest Points each week. You earn these by winning random battlegrounds, participating in ranked battlegrounds and arenas. I know this is all very top-level, so you’ll want to do more reading on the specifics.

Resources: Arena Junkies

Where to learn about your class (talents, rotations, etc.)

Anyone can play a class, but it takes some extra time and effort to really play it well. You need to do your research outside of the game to truly understand the mechanics and how to make choices appropriately both in combat and out. What talents should I use? What’s my rotation? What’s pre-potting? How do I pair my cooldowns? These are all questions that a group of very smart people who play the same class as you have already answered. But you have to put in the time to research it and learn it. Once it becomes second nature, you will be set apart from the rest of the players and your performance will directly show that. I’ve provided some resources below of where you can start, but once you learn it – educate others!

Resources: Elitist Jerks, Noxxic, Icy Veins

Cross-Realm Functionality

This is by far my favorite feature Blizzard has introduced to date. Cross-Realm Zoning, commonly referred to as ‘CRZ,’ provides the ability to group with players from other realms. This can be done by either grouping with a friend via BattleTag, but it also can randomly group/phase you with others as well. Certain zones are CRZ and Pandaria raid content prior to current tier is available for cross realm grouping as well. The same goes for Dungeons and Scenarios. So if you have a friend or maybe an off-server guild applicant, you can play with them whenever you’d like – even on different servers!

[box type=”download”]With the introduction of cross-realm grouping comes a seriously great tool made by the community called Open Raid. This website allows people to schedule events cross-server and is used for everything from achievement runs to previous tier raiding. It’s amazing – use it.[/box]

Recruit A Friend / Scroll of Resurrection

Okay, so it’s a marketing pitch to get people to come back to the game. But it’s still a nice feature/offer. Recruit A Friend allows you to invite a friend to play with you, earning both of you triple experience, the ability to summon each other, and if they subscribe for one month – you get one month free. If they subscribe for two months – you get a free mount. Pretty cool. The Scroll of Resurrection is intended for players who have since stopped playing the game and it provides them with 7 free days to come back and play. If they re-sub for a month – you get a free mount. Moral of the story – bring more friends into the game and get free mounts and playtime.

Resources: Recruit A Friend FeatureRecruit A Friend FAQ, Scroll of Resurrection Feature,  Scroll of Resurrection FAQ

Searching for a new guild/server

So you’re returning to the game after some time away – it’s healthy to take breaks. But now you’re back and your old guild is no longer together and you maybe you don’t know many people on your server now. Well if you’re willing to dish out the $25, you could consider transferring to a new server. But make sure you do your research first! Get to know the server by reading up on forums or maybe chat with some people on that server to get a sense of how troll-ridden it is. I’ve listed a link below to the Guild Recruitment section on the Official WoW Forums – that’s probably your best place to start. You should also check your realm’s forums as well. On the other hand… You could always transfer over to Aerie-Peak [US] and play with us Alliance <Convert To Raid> folks. Just sayin’.

Resources: Guild Recruitment Forum


Well, that’s really all I’ve got for y’all. I really do hope it helped. I tried not to go too deep, so I’m sure there’s stuff here that I’ve missed or opted not to include. But hopefully the guide serves its purpose and acts as the primer for returning players that it’s intended to be.

Resources: Blizzard’s Returning Player Guide

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, etc – please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can contact me via comments here, in-game at Accomp#1170, or on Twitter at @Accomp. Thanks guys, I hope you enjoyed the read!



Accomp is a Gamer, UX Engineer, and Writer. He’s a PC MMO enthusiast, console gamer, and mobile geek. Whether it’s hardcore raid leading, competitive FPS gameplay, or discovering indie games, he’s got the experience. Join his Discord and follow him on Twitter, Twitch, or YouTube!

12 Responses

  1. Alas-I-Am-Slain says:

    Alas indicates a feeling of sorrow. You should change that word to therefore. Or, since this is the Internet and everyone loves to say it, hence. Or, a third option, ergo. Unless you feel badly about making the guide, in which case good word choice.

  2. Very nice guide, man. Exactly what I was looking for, and the links to expanded resources is genius! Also, very well written!

  3. Louis says:

    Great article, thanks!

  4. Alf says:

    i came back to wow and now i’m not overwhelmed with all the changes. TYVM!
    “Alas you helped me immensely. 😀

  5. Marisol says:

    Much appreciated. The fiancé and I (met on wow) took a break for a year after our son was born. We were always online and raiding during Wrath, but slowed down during Cata, and quit before Mists. I thought I could catch up with the forums and Joystiq but that so didn’t work. This was much better.

  6. matt jones says:

    This helped, especially the links for delving further into the subjects. Thank you.

  7. KirstyPally-Exodar says:

    Took a two year break after Deathwing died to our facerolling LFR group. Came back last week. Moved servers from Arathor to Exodar to play with my former guild leader. I started my Toon (KirstyPally) Saturday afternoon December 21, 2013, it’s now December 30th, she’s level 88. I did have three days off last week. Basically it’s two to three days to clear vanilla (1-58), then about a day for each expansion up to Pandaria. I have all heirlooms accounted for except the ring and I’m a member of a level 25 guild, so that’s a significant stack of +% EXP. I probably would have gotten through vanilla faster if I adopted Slash and Burn leveling immediately instead of clearing the zone like I was used to.

    Slash and Burn Leveling: Go to the closest, most familiar and highest level zone you qualify for and pick up all available quests in whatever hub you arrive at. Complete quests in the zone until your level raises to a point where you qualify for a higher level zone. Immediately abandon all your active quests from the lower level zone, move to the higher level one, rinse and repeat to 85. Don’t bother investing time in leveling professions at this juncture, it will only slow you down. Do take two gathering proffs however. You’ll still find enough low level stuff in your way as you go about your business on foot so why not pick it up and sell it on the AH then use that money to secure more storage space or put towards mount training. All you really need going up is bags and bank space. You will be killing a lot of mobs and you will get a lot of cloth and BoE Greens. Find a tailor/enchanter to turn that stuff into something better than bandages. When you’ve finished BC, get your netherweave turned into bags and start your bank alts. This is just preference, as I don’t feel like spending 25g on a bank slot when I only have low capacity bags.

    When you get to Pandaria, cease “slash and burn leveling”. Slow down, take your time, the storytelling and questing got a lot better, you really don’t want to miss it even as you push forward.

    Pet Battling for better leveling:
    This happens to all of us, the quest says kill 10 mobs but only six spawned and then you killed them. You’ve ridden/flown around on your mount all over the ‘blue’ covered area of your quest tracker map overlay and you still don’t see them or another player is tagging them first. Find a pet to battle close by while the mobs respawn. Winning a pet battle where all of your pets participate earns you almost as much experience as a good level appropriate quest turn in. Something like over 2/3 of quest XP. So you fight a couple of pets, meanwhile the mobs respawn/your competition moves on and then you’re back on track. You can only heal your pets yourself every 8 minutes, but 10 silver pieces will do it if a stable master is available.

    Dungeon Quests:
    Queue for specific level appropriate dungeons. You’ll find the quest giver inside, usually close to the entrance. Run the dungeon once and only once. You only care about gloves, bracers, belts, boots and probably rings. Everything else should be scaling thanks to your heirloom gear so you don’t need to be there more than once. You can run a random dungeon for the bonus XP and sack of useful (useless) items, but unless you’ve randomed a dungeon you haven’t already quested out, it’s generally not worth it. Don’t even think about boss drops. You’re leveling too fast for them to be of any significant advantage.

    Worgen characters (and I presume Goblins as well) start near a mailbox, so you can equip your toon with heirlooms before going on their racial introduction quest chains. The Battle for Gilneas quest is bugged bad. DO NOT attack Sylvanas while she is fighting the King or you just might find yourself being ported to the start of the quest, for the fourth time.

    Pandarens do not have mailboxes in their starting zones because you are considered neutral until you choose a side and leave the island. End result? My worgen druid completes her intro quest chain having reached level 14 by the end whereas the Pandaren mage is level 12 before having access to heirlooms.

    Some other things folks may want to know about:

    Heirlooms can go in the mail across servers. Did your friends migrate or your old guild disband? Need to level a toon fast? OK, no problem. Mail your heirloom gear to your new character on another realm just like “Charactername-Realmname” and it’s done. You can still earn JP on your old server’s high level toons running dungeons if you need more heirlooms or need to upgrade them. The most important things to upgrade are the chest and shoulders since they have +% experience gain on them. You’ll find better weapons and trinkets through questing, and the rest of the stuff scales to 85 already.

    AoE looting:
    I don’t know when it happened, but looting became an AoE ability. Normally, let’s say you mow down a pack of eight mobs. You used to click eight times to loot all the mobs before or after recovering mana & HP. Now clicking once picks up all the loot within 15 feet of the mob that you’re entitled too. It’s a nice quality of life improvement.

    Pandaren Professions fast track:

    Gathering: you can gather from nodes in Pandaria even if you don’t have the required skill level. You’ll earn resources in pieces out of ten that can be assembled into the real deal (ex: 10 ghost iron nuggets make one ghost iron ore). This is a way better method to skill up than scouring the old world because if you’re decked out in heirloom gear you’ll just level too fast to keep pace with nodes’ skill requirements as you go questing (especially if you queue for dungeons). Also, nodes are more plentiful and respawn faster.

    Cooking, Pandaren edition: No need to spend your time scouring the old world for cooking recipes and their respective ingredients. Just save your gold, when you get to the Valley of the Four Winds, talk to Sunjin Ironpaw in Halfhil. She sells recipes and most mats to raise your cooking to an appropriate level and is close by to all the Pandaren cooking masters and Yoon’s farm (which once developed is a renewable source of cooking ingredients).

    Pandaren Fishing: No pole required, you will catch golden carp until you have real skill, but those golden carps are ingredients to power level your cooking to skip over the last three expansions and vanilla so it’s not vendor trash like ‘sickly fish’ or ‘driftwood’.

    Blacksmithing: You can use Ghost Iron to craft useless white training project items (like dinnerware) that allow you to bypass scouring the world for recipes to fill in the gaps that trainers leave you with. Just like cooking, this is an easy access ramp to get your skill “au courant”.

    There are probably others that got this treatment (not engineering, so I wont’ be mounting my flying machine anytime soon), but like I said, I’ve been back for just over a week so there’s still lot’s more to learn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *