I levelled to 80 today. 5 days 7 hours /played. I am 659 gold away from epic flier. 4541 gold on me, basic flying, wyvern mount and cold weather flying purchased.
I'm going to discuss 2 aspects: which zones I choose and how I made money.
At 68 my first zone was Howling Fjord. I was tempted to continue in Outlands and possibly level in Netherstorm or Shadowmoon Valley. The advantage of doing that would have been more long-term gold because by getting my levels from quests that would be grey at 80 I would have more non-grey quests to do at 80 which are highly lucrative.
I choose to go to Northrend though because as a miner/skinner I felt I would make more fast cash collecting those resources and selling them than I would collecting the comparitively redundant Outlands resources.
I knew I would be looking for instance groups as my highest priority for any instances where I had quests available to do. There are several reasons I value instancing while questing even though it is usually a minor hit to your exp/hour. First it teaches you how to play your character in the way you will need to at end game. I got a lot of tanking practice as well as several opportunities to dps while levelling. Next it gives you blue items, especially from quest rewards that are better than the solo quest rewards. Experience point rewards are solid too. And perhaps most importantly it allows you to meet other players so you can build a network of people who you want to play with and who want to play with you.
I did enough quests in the first Horde Howling Fjord town to unlock A Score to Settle which meant I could to Utgarde Keep and complete all the quests there.
I did a few more eventually reaching the walrus people town of Kamagua where a rather lethergic turtle took me over to Borean Tundra. I went to Amber Lodge, did a few quests to activate the flight point there, flew over to Coldarra and did most of the solo quests there. This allowed me to progress to the point where I had all 4 dungeon quests for The Nexus. Then it was back to the Fjord for my soloing. In the hours I spent there I picked up dungeon groups and completed both WotLK starter dungeons with competent groups for a nice hit of experience points and gear.
My next zone was Borean Tundra. I am very familiar with it and I expected the group quests to be more possible to beat solo than in a higher level zone. I didn't queue for any instances until I hit 72 at which point quests in Azjol-Nerub became available. These are simply picked up right outside the instance without requiring any chain. The group I cleared that instance with wanted to carry on and do Old Kingdom so we cleared both instances and had a very enjoyable time.
My next zone would be a choice between Dragonblight, Zul Drak or Grizzly Hills. I choose Grizzly Hills for 3 reasons. 1) it has an arena which is unlocked after a chain of quests there. Arena quest chains are by far the best way to level in WoW when they are available. 2) to do the instance quests in Drak'Tharon Keep you have to complete a long chain in Grizzly Hills first, Cleansing Drak'Tharon. No chain in Dragonblight unlocks any instance quests. (Although for those who have never seen it The Battle for the Undercity is an amazing solo quest experience, highly recommended). 3) I expected to be able to cope with the group quests. In the event I did them with a Warrior I met and what's more he even decided to join our guild and is now our main tank. I was very happy with our performance in the group quests including 3 manning the arena without a healer and beating Arugal as Warrior and DK. The extreme survivability of a tank specced Death Knight buys enough time for dps to beat these fights and our cooldowns are great for these fights because you can chain all of them.
I finished Grizzly Hills, Drak Tharon Keep and went back to Old Kingdom, this time at a level high enough to do the quest there (you have to be 73).
Next zone I choose Zul'Drak. I wasn't quite high enough to unlock Sholazar basin (you have to be 76). I wanted to mine Saronite as my blacksmith guild leader was promising to make me items if I sent him some. There is also a dungeon quest you unlock in Gundrak after a very long quest chain in Zul'Drak. A final factor was the availability of Argent Crusade and Ebon Hand reputation from quests in Zul'Drak.
I didn't get very far before instance runs to Gundrak and Violet Hold saw me pass 76. I immediately switched zones to do Sholazar Basin because it is by far the best zone for Saronite Ore at this stage. Starting Frenzyheart reputation was also a factor because I want the Frenzyheart Insignia of Fury.
I did Sholazar Basin until I unlocked the Frenzyheart dailies (including soloing the group quest which was great fun even if at one stage I died and had to run back while my new Frenzyheart friend tanked the boss for me!)
With an increasingly messy quest log I decided to head for the Storm Peaks next. I now was part-way through both Sholazar Basin and Zul'Drak but I wanted to include unlocking Sons of Hodir rep with my exp and gold revenue. This rep allows you a shoulder enchant, particularly important on this character as he lacks any Burning Crusade shoulder enchant. The chain also unlocks 2 dungeon quests in the Halls of Lightning.
With the help of instance runs in Halls of Lightning (2 quests), Caverns of Time:Stratholme (1 quest) I hit 80 and several hours after managed to get my epic flying mount.
I got money by being a miner/skinner and by logging on my alt every couple of days to sell everything. I bought very little from the auction house - glyphs were my main expenditure. My auction house strategy was simple. I undercut by a copper, listed for 48 hours and if it failed to sell unless it was a staple like ore or leather I just vendored the item that didn't sell. Vendoring unsuccessful auctions is a strong strategy for a low pop server that has just launched. There are so few players around who might buy a level 75 boe blue that it's not worth the time and AH fees to keep re-listing them.
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