Battle for Azeroth: What to know if you're getting back into World of Warcraft

So you've fallen off the WoWagon and you want to BFA with your besties.

A new expansion for World of Warcraft is an exciting time, but for those of us don’t actually have much time, it can also feel daunting. Questing, the “best” talents, leveling professions; there is so much to do and it’s easy to feel like you’re behind or doing it wrong.

Don’t fret, for we’ve got the basics here to help you dive into the game and enjoy it at your own pace.

The Story So Far

After Sargeras pierced the soul of Azeroth with his sword in the final confrontation of Legion, Khadgar helped mend its poisonous wound by using the power stored up in our artifact weapons. The piercing of the planet not only left a permanent mark in Silithus, but has now allowed the “blood” of Azeroth, called Azerite, to seep out into the world.

Azerite has powerful, magical abilities, and both the Horde and Alliance are in a race to gather more of it than the other. Now at war, both factions are enlisting the aid of new allies to gain an advantage over the other. The Horde finds itself aligning with the mighty Zandalari troll empire, and the Alliance seeks the assistance from the human kingdom of Kul Tiras.

Both of these peoples would be a great boon for their faction, but each also comes with their own political baggage, and that’s where Battle for Azeroth begins.

Finding Your Faction

Chances are that you have high level characters in both factions, and you may find yourself struggling to decide which faction and character to level first. You could do as I have and bounce between the two, or, if you like a particular theme of story, choose one over the other.

Both the Horde and Alliance find themselves trying to discover and root out a bad player in the upper ranks of each government, but go about revealing them in different ways. The Horde help Princess Talanji uncover how evil events across Zandalar are related, and the Alliance help Flynn Fairwind and Taelia reunite the political houses of Kul Tiras.

If you’re the “uncover the mysteries of the jungle” kind of person, play your Horde character first. If you enjoy a more piratical theme, definitely begin with Alliance. No matter which you choose, pay close attention to the characters and the environment around you because you’ll start to see signs that there is much more going on here than anyone involved realizes.

Choosing your Class and Specialization (“Spec”)

This one is all on you, sorry. It took me weeks to decide between focusing on my death knight or huntress first. If you played in Legion, most classes play very similarly to how they did before, but some had talents removed or shuffled around.

Most classes have three different specs to choose from, and for some the choice is simple: tank, damage, or heal. For those damage-only classes, making the choice on which spec to play as can be difficult. To help get the full feel of each, play at least an entire level as each spec. Spending years as a Beast Mastery huntress, I’m finding myself quite enjoying the melee aspect of stabbing things as Survival.

Tapping Your Talents

The Talent Trees for each class can feel like such a chore to go through. Making a decision on which one is “best” is draining if you don’t pull up a web site designed to make the choice for you. (However, if you are looking for one of those, we recommend our sister site Wowhead. -ed) Thankfully, right now you’re only leveling up and you don’t need to worry about it. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing 3.227% more damage, or 3.228% when leveling, so take all the Passive talents you can and sort it all out when you hit 120. Because for now, we don’t have time for all that nonsense.

In each Talent Tree you will come to a row that doesn’t have a Passive option. When this happens, go for something that sounds cool, or is familiar if it’s available. With my priestess, grabbing Shadow Word: Death was an easy decision because she’s had that ability since The Burning Crusade.

The game will ask you to also pick your War talents. Unless you’re planning on activating World PvP mode, make your life even easier and just close that tab as quickly as possible. World PvP mode may grant a small amount of bonus experience and gold (10% more), but unless you thrive on that risk, you only have so much play time and the other faction is just a hassle.

Professions

Profession leveling gained a useful overhaul for those of us who didn’t bother with them before on some characters, or are trying a new profession in the expansion. No longer does one have to level the trade from 0 to 9000, but now each profession is tied to individual expansions, meaning that if you skipped tailoring in Legion, you can dive right in to Battle for Azeroth tailoring.

Before you begin your big adventure, once you’re in Zuldazar for the Horde, or Boralus for the Alliance, talk to a guard and get directions to your profession trainers and purchase either Zandalari or Kul Tiran versions of your professions so you may level them as you travel these new lands.

Where to Go From Here

Now that you’ve chosen a faction, decided on your talents, and trained your professions, you’ll be guided to your faction’s war table to decide which zone to play. There is no correct answer here: they all have great stories and scale their level with you, meaning most enemies are always about your level. Whichever you choose though, stick with it until the end because the last quest will give you some nice gear.

Each zone has a great number of flight paths and inns to log out in for rested experience, so read the description for each and enjoy!

Azerite, Azerite Armor, and You

Legion had its artifact weapons such as Ashbringer and the Scythe of Elune, but those had to go away for a new expansion. Since they’re now powerless, during the beginning moments of Battle for Azeroth, you’re given a necklace, called the Heart of Azeroth, that is effectively the same thing and absorbs any Azerite you collect while questing and killing bosses in dungeons.

At the same time you’re given the Heart of Azeroth, you’re also given your choice of three different pieces of armor called Azerite Armor. Don’t sweat this decision like I did -- it turns out you’re going to get a bunch more of it while leveling up anyway, even doubling up on slots with different versions of them.

Azerite Armor replaces the skills learned from artifact weapons, and instead moves them to armor, and calling them Artifact Traits. You’ll get a notification each time your gear levels up from Azerite you’ve collected, and at that point you’ll have a choice on which Trait to take. If you want to change these Traits, both Zulduzar and Boralus have an NPC who will reset them for a price.

This new armor type is the core of character progression, and traits vary based on where you found the item, which class you are, and what spec you currently are. At higher levels, a new ring is added that changes based on your role, such as tank, damage, or healer.

General Tips

  • Before you play any character, log on to all of your 100 characters so they will begin to earn rested experience while you level up your main.
  • The desire to transmog your gear while leveling will be strong. Unless you’ve got a hole burning in your pocket, at most the only transmog you should do while leveling is to turn off the items that can be made invisible, such as your helm, cloak, belt, or shoulders.

  • Do not vendor greens this time around. In both Zulduzar and Boralus is a machine that will take just about any uncommon or rarer Battle for Azeroth gear and scrap it into reagents and trade goods for professions.

  • Watch your minimap for secret treasures and rare monsters (mostly now called encounters). These will give experience, sometimes Azerite, and a bit of gold.

  • If you have it and you’re not a druid, death knight, or shaman, add one of the Water Strider mounts to your action bar to save you some pain and run on top of water.

  • Flying in the new zones will be locked away for a while, but if you have the Flight Master’s whistle from Legion, once you hit 120 it will also work in Battle for Azeroth areas. If you don’t have that whistle or destroyed it, you’ll be given a brand new one at 120.

Obviously, this guide only scratches the surface of all that Battle for Azeroth has to offer! Once you're comfortable dipping your toe back into the World of Warcraft pool, consider hanging over to Wowhead for its comprehensive Battle for Azeroth survival guide.