WoW Post-Vanilla Recap

This recap is dedicated to those who quit WoW either after Vanilla, or started playing during Classic and now want to transition onto retail. Here we have gathered all the major changes and new features/content types beginning with patch 2.0 you need to know heading into the Shadowlands.

To browse other recaps starting from different expansions, click here.

Systems And Features

Achievements

An account-wide progression system, achievements exist in every area of the game. They add more reasons to do content and create new challenges for players to overcome. 

While achievement points can’t be spent and don’t have any real purpose, some achievements have mounts, toys, titles and other special rewards tied to them.

Auction House

The AH has undergone a major revamp, both in UI and functionality. You no longer need to list by stacks or a specific amount, nor do you have to undercut others. Simply select an already listed price and add your items to that. The latest additions are the first to sell. On top of that, the AH is now cross-faction.

WoW Token

It’s now possible to pay for your monthly WoW subscrption through ingame means. This is done through tokens, which you can buy from other players in a special category of the Auction House. Or you could buy a token and list it for gold, thus exchanging IRL currencies for ingame gold.

Talent System Rework

A new system was implemented in Mists of Pandaria:

  • Talent points are gone.
  • You’re locked into one spec – a Resto Shaman can’t pick up Elemental talents.
  • Talents are now grouped by rows. You may only pick one talent per row.
  • Changing talents and specs no longer requires retraining. Swapping talents is free in rested areas but requires a Tome of the Tranquil Mind outside.

Barbershop

You’re no longer stuck with the appearance you chose on the character creation screen all those years ago.

Eye color, hair style and everything else can be changed here anytime – even the gender of your character! Look for them mostly in major cities.

Transmog

Current raid tiers no longer have to dictate the look of your characters!

Every single armor piece and weapon you ever make soulbound to a character will be stored in the account-wide Appearances tab. Once unlocked, you can apply any skin to a compatible piece of armor or weapon, overriding their current appearance but retaining the stats for a fee.

Transmogrifiers can be found in major cities like the faction capitals (Orgrimmar and Stormwind) as well as expansion hubs.

Toybox

All your novelty items are now account-wide unlocks, stored in the Toybox. Most of them are just for fun, but some items like the fishing raft can be quite handy at times.

Adventure Guide

This is like an ingame newsfeed. Here you can learn about some of the most recent patch content, ongoing weekly events and even some suggested content for your level.

On top of that the Adventure Guide also has a loot tab where you can check out the drops of every dungeon, raid and open world boss. The default keybind for this panel is Shift + J.

Premade Group Finder

Not to be confused with the LFG system – instead of being an automated group finder – this is a cross-realm feature where players can list their own groups for just about any content or join that of others.

Cross-Realm And Linked Realms

Playing with others from different servers is now a daily occurence. Some servers are linked by default to create a megaserver in order to ensure healthy population levels.

The most important things returning players have to know:

  • You can play with anyone from other servers as long as they are on your region (EU, NA, etc.). Simply invite them into group and they’ll be brought over to your shard.
  • This works in both open world and instanced PvE/PvP encounters.
  • Economies are still separate. You can’t trade with players from servers outside your linking.
  • Mythic raiding is an exception, here you can’t play with people from other realms after the initial release. However, once enough people have cleared a new raid on Mythic difficulty, cross-realm grouping opens up for the region.

Guild Changes

Over the years the guild system has received many updates:

  • A guild bank can now be found in most cities. This is a shared bank for members where they can deposit or withdraw items and currency.
  • The guild tab was moved to a new location called Guild & Communities (default keybind: J).
  • Perks have been added for guilds to unlock, benefitting guild members such as the reduced Hearthstone cooldown and increased mount speed. All the more reason for returning players to join a guild!

Communities

Look at them as an alternative to the guild system, there are all sorts of communities you could join without having to leave your guild.

Are you in a guild with friends, but want to get more involved in PvP? Join a PvP community! Or maybe you want to build a better future for all gnomekind? There’s a community for that too. The possibilities are endless!

Void Storage

Do you have a bunch of items from 15 years ago that you are holding onto for one reason or another? Like most returning players, well aware deep down that if they were to disappear overnight, you wouldn’t even notice?

In that case the Void Storage is the perfect place to store them. This is like a bank for items you barely even touch. Depositing them is free, but withdrawing has a fee. Should free up a couple of bank and inventory slots for returning players.

Blizzard Store

Nowadays store services are no longer limited to basic functions such as server transfers. Name changes, race changes, even some mounts can be bought from the store.

General

PvP Servers Removed

The PvP/PvE server split is no more, every server is the same. Instead we have an optional War mode. More on that in the PvP section below.

Mission Tables

Mission Tables are best described as offline progression. You send your followers on missions, then you sit back and relax for a few hours and they’ll be back with some rewards for you.

This is a new type of reward structure that’s present in every expansion from WoD onward in some form.

To use a mission table you don’t even have to log in! Simply download the WoW follower app for your phone and you’re good to go.

Pet Battles

As part of this new minigame, you can level up your companions and use them in turn-based battles against both PvE and PvP opponents.

Reagents

No class in the game requires reagents for skills anymore. Ammo for Hunters, portal stones for Mages, even soul shards for Warlocks have been removed, just to mention a few.

Account-Wide Changes

Mounts and companions are now account-wide.

Classes and races

New Classes

  • Monk
  • Demon Hunter
  • Death Knight

Monk

Available specs:

  • Brewmaster - a tank using two handed weapons.
  • Mistweaver - healing spec.
  • Windwalker - dual wielding melee DPS.

Monks are masters of martial arts taught by the masters of Pandaria. They are agile, fast and versatile.

Demon Hunter

Available specs:

  • Havoc - dual wielding melee DPS.
  • Vengeance - dual wielding tank.

Demon Hunter is the second hero class to be added to WoW. This is an insanely mobile melee class with special perks such as gliding and double jump.

Only Night Elves and Blood Elves can become Demon Hunters.

Death Knight

Available specs:

  • Blood - tank spec with lots of self-healing, opting for a 2 handed weapon instead of a shield.
  • Frost - melee direct damage spec, capable of both dual wielding and using 2 handed weapons.
  • Unholy - DoT focused spec with a pet, uses a 2 handed weapon.

Death Knights are former undead servants of the Lich King. They are ruthless juggernauts with low mobility but high sustain and damage.

New Races

Blood Elves and Goblins have joined the Horde, while the Alliance has recruited the Draenei refugees of Argus and the Worgen of Gilneas.

We also have our first “neutral” race – the Pandaren. They can choose their own faction, which means you’ll see them on both Alliance and Horde.

New Combinations

Many new race/class combinations are possible now. Gnome Priests, Tauren Paladins, Troll Druids and more await returning players.

Allied Races

A new concept introduced near the end of Legion, allied races are new, faction based playable races. To unlock them you have to do associated quest chains and achievements.

Allied races start at level 10 and thus get to skip the first zone.

Alliance:

  • Void Elf
  • Lightforged Draenei
  • Dark Iron Dwarf
  • Kul’Tiran Human
  • Mechagnome

Horde:

  • Nightborne
  • Highmountain Tauren
  • Mag’har Orc
  • Zandalari Troll
  • Vulpera

Heritage Armor

Allied races have their own, unqiue armor sets that match their theme. Over the years however some of the old races have also received heritage sets as an ongoing project. These are: 

  • Dwarf, Gnome, Worgen for Alliance.
  • Blood Elf, Goblin, Tauren for Horde.

Professions

First Aid Removed

First Aid is gone, making it the first profession ever to be fully removed from WoW.

  • Bandages are now rolled into Tailoring.
  • All the other recipes became part of Alchemy.

New Skill Levels

Profession skill is now based on individual expansions. For example you no longer need to level Alchemy in TBC before you could learn WotLK recipes.

Jewelcrafting

JC was the very first new primary profession ever to be added to WoW and came with The Burning Crusade. Jewelcrafters primarily create items such as rings, necklaces, and gems that can be socketed into gear for extra stats.

Inscription

This is a new primary profession introduced in Wrath of the Lich King. Through Inscription players can create a wide range of products from Darkmoon cards to raid consumables.

Archeology

A new secondary profession has arrived with the Cataclysm expansion. Archeology is a versatile side activity which makes you explore various dig sites while learning more about ancient civilizations in the process.

Rewards include weapons, mounts, toys and more.

Recipe ranks

Learning a new recipe isn’t a culmination of your efforts, but rather the first step toward mastering it. 

Some recipes can now have up to 3 ranks, each rank is more effective than the previous. How you get to the next rank depends on the recipe – could be from a vendor, quest or other methods.

Not all recipes follow the same pattern, but here’s an example:

  • At rank 1 you may have to craft the item at a crafting station, 
  • Once you hit rank 2 you may no longer need the station.
  • Finally at rank 3 there’s a chance to create more items than expected.

Shared nodes

Players are no longer competing for resources in the open world. Gathering nodes such as ore and herbs can now be looted by multiple players.

PvE

Keys And Attunements Removed

Raid attunements are no longer a thing. Any character with the appropriate level can enter a raid without an artificial barrier.

On a similar note, dungeon keys are also a thing of the past.

Timewalking

This is a new weekly event that happens about once a month, bar a few special occasions. Timewalking lets you revisit and relive old content, getting scaled down to the appropriate level and doing it all over again for special rewards including mounts.

TW mostly consist of dungeons, but a few old raids have also made a comeback and the list is expanding.

The current range of available expansions starts at The Burning Crusade and ends with Warlords of Draenor. Legion TW is expected to be added a few patches into Shadowlands.

Automated Group Finder

One of the many new convenience features players returning to WoW are inevitably going to encounter is the LFG system. You can queue up for raids and dungeons from anywhere in the world without having to walk to the instance:

  • LFD – Looking For Dungeon.
  • LFR – Looking For Raid.

The group finder is accessible via the menu bar at the bottom of your screen (green eye icon), or via keybinds (I by default).

LFD:

  • Difficulty levels: normal, heroic.
  • Player level: 10-60.
  • Content range: current expansion and special events (like Halloween’s Headless Horseman encounter). Dungeons from previous expansions are accessible after selecting a timeline from Chromie while leveling.

LFR:

  • Difficulty level: special raid finder difficulty, which is a tier below normal.
  • Player level: only max level players.
  • Content range: only the current expansion. To do LFR difficulty for previous expansions, you usually have to seek out a special NPC that’ll let you in.

Difficulty Levels

Dungeons:

  • Normal – the easiest, “base” difficulty for leveling and fresh max level characters. The automated group finder uses this difficulty.
  • Heroic – the starting point for max level players who are getting ready to get into endgame. A tier above normal.
  • Mythic – the final transition phase into endgame content, harder than heroic.
  • Mythic+ – infinitely scaling endgame 5 man progression system. The higher you go in the keystone levels, the better gear you’ll get.

Raids:

  • LFR – the raid finder’s special “easy mode” difficulty for fresh max level players or those who aren’t interested in gearing through raiding, but still want to know the story and such.
  • Normal – a step up from LFR and a starting point for endgame gearing.
  • Heroic – harder than normal, this is where the difficulty (and the rewards) start to ramp up considerably. For many, heroic raiding is the endgame.
  • Mythic – the highest and most competitive form of raiding. The hardest content the game has to offer, mythic raiding requires serious dedication.

Mythic+

M+ is a new, scaling dungeon difficulty system. When you kill the last boss of a Mythic dungeon you’ll gain a key – a key is used at the start of a run to determine the difficulty level. A +7 is harder than a +4 and offers better quality gear.

These dungeons are timed, you can upgrade your key by finishing the dungeon within the time limit. Keys are tied to specific dungeons, but only one person has to have the right key in the group.

The best M+ reward however doesn’t come from the dungeon itself, but rather the weekly chest. Each week after reset you may loot items from a chest in the expansion’s main hub based on the highest key you did the week before.

World Quests

Blizzard is trying to diversify the questing experience, and World Quests (WQs) play a major role in that. To do a World Quest all you need is find the marker on the minimap, go there and complete the objective. You don’t have to accept anything or visit a quest hub, it’s all automatic.

WQs are usually daily or weekly quests and change over time.

World Quests started out in WoD with bonus objectives but were truly fleshed out in Legion and BfA.

Reputations

Legion and BfA reputation grind isn’t over at exalted – instead, that’s where it truly begins.

For every 10k rep you earn after exalted you can pick up a Paragon reward from the faction’s quartermaster. These rewards usually include expansion-specific resources, gold, toys and even mounts.

Leveling

Level Squish

An unprecedented level/stat squish has happened in the Shadowlands prepatch. 50 is the new max level, soon to be raised to 60 in the new expansion. Item levels have been adjusted to fit the squished numbers.

Mob tagging

A mob can now be tagged by up to 5 people and all will gain credit, even if they are not grouped. Cross-faction tagging is a bit more complicated thing and partly depends on your War mode settings.

Party Sync

Ever experienced being on a different part in the leveling process than a friend of yours? Already did the quests in a zone, but your friend is just starting out? With party sync, higher level players can now join their lowbie friends and replay content they’ve already done, while gaining credit for quests all over again! This enables both of you to progress together.

Heirlooms

These are pieces of equipment that scale with your level and grant various bonuses that should speed up the leveling process. Heirlooms are acquired at max level and are meant for alts. The more pieces you have, the more useful they are thanks to the set bonus.

Every piece of heirloom armor, necklace and ring contributes to the completion of the set bonus. Weapons and trinkets on the other hand don’t.

Finally, there is a collection tab for them. When you unlock a new heirloom, all of your alts on your account will be able to create an infinite amount of copies of them by clicking on a heirloom item in the collections tab.

Exile’s Reach

This is a new level 1-10 zone that’s supposed to be the universal tutorial for all new players, regardless of race. It goes by fast (about an hour) but teaches many of the fundamental concepts a WoW player has to know in the current era (vehicle combat, boss mechanics, LFD, etc.). We definitely recommend doing it at least once for returning players.

Chromie Time

It’s now possible to select a single expansion and level up there all the way fom 10 to 50. This should make leveling more of a coherent experience, and potentially very different for every new character you create.

To begin, seek out Chromie in your faction capital. She’s located near the Embassy in Stormwind for Alliance and Orgrimmar for Horde players. Look for the hourglass icon on your map.

Your character must be level 10 or higher to access this feature.

level scaling

Mobs and quests in most leveling zones now scale with your level, which means you’re no longer forced to change zones every few levels. You can also do them in any order you want.

PvP

PvP Progression Rework

The Vanilla Honor and ranking system is dead and buried, as it should be.

A reimagined Honor system is now in place:

  • By participating in PvP activities such as BGs or killing enemies in the open world, you earn Honor points and Honor currency (these are 2 separate things).
  • Every few Honor levels you earn new rewards, mostly cosmetic ones. The max level is 500.
  • Rewards can be found on this page.

Battlegrounds

The most important BG updates:

  • A Random BGs queue was added and is now the go-to way of signing up for Battlegrounds.
  • Players can now queue up for BGs from anywhere in the game.
  • 40 man BGs like AV now have their separate queue called Epic Battlegrounds.
  • Rated Battlegrounds are now a thing for those who love competitive, large-scale PvP.
  • Every 2 weeks there is a special event called PvP Brawl. The Brawl has its own queue and usually introduces new rules to existing BGs to shake things up.
  • You can now automatically earn gear from playing BGs without having to grind rep. Check your inventory for a lootbox after winning a game.

Arenas

Arenas are the most competitive form of PvP in WoW. The best rewards (including gear) come from here.

  • The rated formats are 2v2 and 3v3,
  • Arenas use your personal MMR to find worthy opponents.
  • There is no solo queue for ranked.
  • An unrated, Arena Skirmish queue exists for practice.

Currencies and rewards

There are 3 main ones you need to know:

  • Conquest Points. You earn it either from Arenas or time gated activities such as the daily Random BG win. Conquest Points automatically start filling a bar, and when it’s filled you earn a piece of endgame PvP gear.
  • Honor is the more accessible PvP currency and is used to purchase lower tiers of gear. You earn Honor from BGs and killing other players in general. Not too different from Vanilla.
  • Battleground Marks of Honor have been retired. There is however a new, universal Mark of Honor currency. Marks for the most part are used to purchase legacy items, mounts and consumables.

Mercenary Mode

Tired of long queue times in random BGs? If your faction is heavily outnumbering the opposing one you get to sign up to fight on the enemy’s side as a mercenary. There is a special NPC you have to visit in order to sign up as a mercenary – look for Seargeant Wilson in Dalaran (Broken Isles).

PvP Talents

To offer more customization options for PvP players whilst also freeing up space in the talent rows, Blizzard has introduced PvP talents. There are 3 slots where you may slot in any combination of available PvP talents.

The PvP talent window can be accessed through the regular talent panel via a toggle in the top right corner.

These talents are active in BGs, arenas and even the open world (as long as you have War mode ON).

PvP Talent System in Shadowlands

War Mode

Right underneath the PvP talents you’ll find the War Mode toggle. The PvP/PvE realm split is now gone and War Mode is the replacement. When toggled on you’ll be placed in a shard with only those that have also made the same choice. It’s an easy way of opting in and out of world PvP, but you may only toggle it on in your faction capital.

There are certain benefits to War mode. During leveling you’ll get bonus XP between 10-30% based on which faction is the underdog in the zone. At max level War mode increases world quest rewards. There is also a chance for a supply drop randomly in each zone, incentivizing clashes.

Twinking

The most important change here is the XP eliminator. You can now talk to Slahtz in Orgrimmar or Behsten in Stormwind and opt out of receiving XP from any and all sources for a small fee. Should you want to start gaining XP again, just talk to the same NPC. The only downside is that you’ll now be placed only into BGs with other twinks.

Gearing a twink is also taking a completely new direction each expansion it seems. With the introduction of Chromie time, spamming TBC dungeons for gear with socket slots seems to be the way to go.

Gear And Mechanics

Gear

Brief summary of smaller changes:

  • Beginning with Battle for Azeroth, no new set bonuses are being added to new tiers of raid gear.
  • Class based tier skins are replaced by type based ones (leather, plat, etc.) from BfA onward.

Stats

  • Removed
  • Added
  • Changed

Removed

The following stats have been removed:

  • Spirit.
  • Expertise and weapon skill.
  • Hit rating. In PvE characters are hit capped up to 3 levels above theirs.
  • Spell Power and Attack Power. Spells now scale with Intellect in effectiveness while physical attacks scale with either Agility or Strength, depending on the spec.
  • Spell Penetration and Spell Resistance.

Added

Several new stats have been added to the game:

  • Mastery as a stat means something different for each class and spec. For example a Resto Shaman's mastery is Deep Healing, which increases healing done against low HP targets. The more Mastery stat they stack, the more effective this bonus becomes.
  • Versatility as the name suggests has a little bit of everything. Versatility increases outgoing damage whilst mitigating incoming damage.
  • Haste increases spell casting and melee attack speed, the rate at which DoTs and HoTs tick, the resource regeneration rate for some classes, and even reduces the global cooldown of abilities.
  • Avoidance reduces AoE damage taken.
  • Leech causes spells and attacks to heal the user.
  • Speed. Not to be confused with Haste, Speed increases movement speed.

Changed

Armor penetration, dodge and parry rating are no longer itemized, but still exist as game mechanics.

The itemization of things like critical strike chance went from a flat percentile bonus to a more scaleable stat system. Instead of having 1% critical hit chance, items now have critical strike rating instead, and crit chance is calculated based on that.

Removed Mechanics

Several old mechanics have become obsolete over time and got removed:

  • Spell batching – the servers no longer resolve player interactions at set intervals.
  • Melee leeway – melee range is no longer increased versus targets that are running away.
  • Debuff cap – there’s no longer a limit on how many debuffs can be active on a target.

Hiding Armor

Previously done through display settings, hiding the helmet/cloak is now a functionality tied to transmogrification. In addition, several other armor pieces can also be hidden now.

Item Level

This is a new way of tracking your gear progression. Every piece of gear has an item level (iLvL) – the better your gear is, the higher its iLvL is going to be.

Some content (like LFR) is locked behind a certain item level, while players also tend to form groups based on iLvL in the premade group finder. You can check your item level on the character panel, right above your stats.

Flexible Stats

Most endgame items now have flexible main stats. This means that whether the item has Agility, Intellect or Strength depends on your active spec. The same item may have Agility on it when your Shaman is Enhancement, and Intellect when you go Elemental.

Travel

Portal Room

Navigating old content just became easier! Both faction capitals now have their very own portal rooms providing easy access to major hubs of every expansion as well as other the cities of their faction.

Azeroth Flying

Since Cataclysm’s world revamp flying is allowed in pre-expansion zones.

Swimming Mounts

Players no longer get dismounted upon entering deep water. Mounts can now swim!

Mount Skills

With the level squish, riding requirements have also been adjusted and reworked:

  • Level 10 – apprentice riding (ground, 60% movement speed boost).
  • Level 20 – journeyman riding (ground, 100% movement speed boost).
  • Level 30 – expert riding (flying, 150% movement speed boost).
  • Level 40 – master riding (flying, 310% movement speed boost).

Unlike class skills, you still have to visit a riding trainer in a city to learn new ranks of riding skills.

Mount Equipment

Mounts can now be enhanced with new functionality via the new mount equipment system. These include water walking and gathering without dismounting.

mount equipment

As for how to obtain the equipment, the sources are different for each one. For water walking you must grind some reputation with the Anglers faction in Pandaria, while ground speed increase comes from Enchanting.

The list of all available mount equipment can be found here.

Miscellaneous

Weekly Events

Each week there is a PvP and a PvE event going on. Bonus reputation, Timewalking, special Battleground rules and more await you! Weekly Events help keep the game fresh and motivate players to try out new types of content. Use the ingame calendar to keep track of these events.

Micro Holidays

These are small, annual events that usually last 1-3 days. Micro Holidays rarely have rewards associated with them. Most of the time these are just little side activities you could participate in, like the Auction House Dance Party or Moonkin Festival.

Keyring

The keyring has been removed, as keys are no longer a relevant thing for the most part.

Class Trainers

There’s not much reason for these poor guys to exist anymore. Skills are learned and upgraded automatically, talent resets can be done for free in any rested area, and there’ no dual talent to be purchased.

Spell Ranks

Downranking spells is no longer possible. Players are no longer able to use previous ranks of skills for saving mana or cast time, as skills are upgraded automatically during leveling.

Loot Trading

Dungeon and raid loot is tradeable to other group members for up to 2 hours of gametime.

Recruit A Friend Revamp

Everyone has their own referal link they can use to recruits their friends to try WoW. In the new RAF system when you successfully recruit someone, both of you gain 50% bonus experience as long as you’re in the same group and within 100 yards. You’ll also unlock a hearthstone-like feature that allows you to teleport to each other’s location (this is on a 30 minute CD).

For every month of gametime one of your recruits add, you’ll gain a special reward – including mounts and skins! The rewards cap out at 12 months.