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World of Warcraft: Shadowlands pre-patch revamps customization and leveling

The pre-expansion event is on hiatus until Shadowlands gets a release date

The World of Warcraft: Shadowlands pre-patch is (mostly) here, and it brings with it some of the most meaningful changes in any pre-expansion patch.

On Oct. 1, Blizzard delayed the highly anticipated Shadowlands expansion for World of Warcraft. The expansion currently doesn’t have a release date, but its big, pre-expansion patch is here nonetheless.

While we don’t know when we’ll be playing Shadowlands this year, the pre-patch is the first step for Blizzard transitioning World of Warcraft from the dismal Battle for Azeroth expansion to — what players hope — is a fresh start with Shadowlands. This pre-patch also rebuilds some important structures in World of Warcraft, like level, leveling, and character customization.

Here’s a look at what this new pre-patch has to offer.

Character customization

One of the most exciting aspects of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is a complete overhaul to the character customization system inside World of Warcraft. For years, players have been stuck with older looking models that have very little variety.

With the pre-patch, players can express themselves with different jewelry, eye colors, hair colors, beard and hair options, tattoos, and more. More importantly, Blizzard has included more diverse options for players — especially in the human models — so they can create characters that represent themselves better than before.

With this change, players can now fully customize their character — aside from their playable race — inside the in-game barber shop. Players won’t need to pay for any services to change how their characters look, including their character’s sex.

Readjusted leveling and levels

The Shadowlands pre-patch comes with World of Warcraft’s first level squish. While the max level during Battle for Azeroth was level 120, the max level is now 50. How does that work? Well, any level 120 characters players had are now 50, and any characters below that will get a similar adjustment. When Shadowlands actually launches, players can level from 50 to 60.

For new characters, the level squish changes everything. Blizzard has completely redone the World of Warcraft questing situation. Instead of questing through Vanilla, Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and all the way up through the old expansions, players now just choose one leveling experience.

Once players hit level 10, they’ll speak to Chromie, who will set them on a journey through a single expansion — like the Mists of Pandaria leveling experience, or Warlords of Draenor. The next 40 levels will only take about 10-15 hours depending on the chosen experience and player pace. Once players finish their chosen expansion, they’ll be ready for Shadowlands.

A new tutorial

World of Warcraft Exile’s Reach zone
The new Exile’s Reach tutorial zone is a great learning experience
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

While it won’t affect veterans too much, newcomers will start their World of Warcraft journey in the exceptional Exile’s Reach zone. This tutorial scenario is completely new, and takes players through their first 10 levels, teaching them the ropes about how World of Warcraft works. It even has a unique quest based on the player’s chosen class, and culminates in a mini-dungeon.

We tested Exile’s Reach as a newcomer and veteran experience in the beta, and thought it did an excellent job. Veterans can choose whether they want to run through Exile’s Reach or their race’s starting zone.

Class changes and the “Unpruning”

Like all pre-patches, the Shadowlands pre-patch sees major changes to all of the game’s 12 classes. But unlike previous class changes, this patch includes the “Unpruning,” which is Blizzard’s silly word for giving numerous abilities back to classes.

Over the past few expansions, Blizzard has worked to remove some of the complexity in classes, dialing them in and taking away some of the ability bloat. While useful for easily overwhelmed, new players, this pruning process caused some players to lose abilities that made them unique — like Hunter’s bizarre Eyes of the Beast ability — and some important utility.

Players should have more abilities than when they last logged in — but we can’t guarantee that all of them will be useful.

This isn’t the entire pre-patch

While we’ve listed the meat of the pre-patch above, there are some quests that won’t be available on Oct. 13. This includes the pre-patch event, a Scourge invasion outside of Icecrown Citadel.

This event will set up the story and prepare players for the Shadowlands expansion. But we currently don’t know when the Scourge invasion will start in-game — all Blizzard says is “shortly after the pre-expansion launch.” We expect to learn more about the new Shadowlands release date and the release date of the Scourge event in the coming weeks.

As of this writing, you can download the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands pre-patch to your client. World of Warcraft is currently down for maintenance due to the pre-patch and will return the evening of Oct. 3, around 6 p.m. EDT, according to Blizzard.

Here are Blizzard’s complete patch notes for the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands pre-patch.

Shadowlands pre-patch notes


Shortly after the pre-expansion launch, you’ll be called upon to defend Azeroth from an undead invasion as the Scourge sweep across the land. Players will embark on a quest to establish a foothold in Icecrown, where the barrier between Azeroth and the afterlife has been shattered, and prepare for the coming journey into the Shadowlands. This limited time pre-expansion event will only be available until the launch of Shadowlands, so make sure to log in to experience it and earn special rewards.


Levels, items and stats have been adjusted to make reaching a new level feel more meaningful while simultaneously making the leveling experience faster than before. Characters at level 120 will become level 50 after the content update.


The character creation experience has been revitalized with a brand new user interface and many new character customization options to choose from. Some of the new options are selecting your eye color, new skin tones, new hairstyles and hair/fur colors.

All of these new options are available at Barber Shops throughout Azeroth, including the option for Druids to choose the appearance of their shapeshifting forms and the ability to swap genders. Now all customization is available in game at any time so the Appearance Change service will no longer be sold in the Shop.


Exile’s Reach is an all-new starting experience that will take you on an excursion that will introduce you to the fundamentals of playing World of Warcraft and the important mechanics for your chosen class. If you’re new to World of Warcraft and have never created or leveled a character, you will automatically begin your journey into Azeroth with the starting experience. If you’re a veteran player or you’ve leveled a character before, you can choose to opt out of the starting experience and begin instead at level 1 in the starting area for your race.

Upon reaching level 10, new players will continue their journey through Battle for Azeroth and into Shadowlands.


Players who have already experienced Battle for Azeroth and reached level 50 on at least one character can now choose to level any subsequent characters in a different expansion using Timewalking Campaigns. This new feature allows content from locations like Northrend or Pandaria to scale to a player’s level, so they can adventure from level 10 all the way to 50 and experience the stories of these areas at their originally intended pacing. Visit Chromie near the embassies in Stormwind or Orgrimmar to select your expansion leveling experience. If you’d like to select a different expansion to level through, simply speak to Chromie again.


After creating your character and beginning your journey into World of Warcraft for the first time, you will enter the Newcomer Chat channel where you can chat with other new players and experienced players on the same faction who will be your guides as you level through the new starting zone – Exile’s Reach. New players and guides will be able to recognize one another in the chat channels and with icons above their characters’ heads that only they can see. Upon reaching level 20, new players will be prepared to continue their journey ahead on their own and will no longer have access to the Newcomer Chat.

o If you’re a veteran player and are interested in guiding new players as they experience World of Warcraft for the first time, head over to Stormwind Embassy or Orgrimmar Embassy and speak to the guide recruiter once you’ve met the following criteria:

  • Have an account in good standing
  • Reach level 50
  • Complete 3000 quests
  • Earn at least two of the following achievements: Terrific Trio, Rival: Battle for Azeroth Season Four, Battle for Azeroth Keystone Conqueror: Season Four, The Waking Dream or We Have the Technology.

If you no longer wish to be a guide, you can speak to the guide recruiter once again.


  • Flying in Warlords of Draenor and Legion no longer requires earning the achievements, Draenor Pathfinder and Broken Isles Pathfinder, Part Two.
  • Players who have completed the criteria for The Alterac Blitz but did not receive the achievement may receive it upon login.


  • Unlocking Allied Races no longer requires reaching Exalted reputation with that race’s associated faction.


  • Sold auctions will now show buyer or bidder player names in a tooltip.
  • Commodities (stackable items) are now sold by selected stacks before other stacks from the inventory.
  • Personal auctions can now be sorted by time remaining.
  • The “Level Range” filter now also filters battle pets by level.
  • A “Runecarving” option for Profession-crafted armor pieces for Legendaries has been added under each Armor category. These materials are not yet available until Shadowlands.


  • Max level is now required to access the Black Market Auction House.
  • The Mighty Caravan Brutosaur is no longer sold by vendors and will now be occasionally available on the Black Market Auction House.



  • Most non-periodic damage or healing abilities on all classes will have a 5% variance on each individual use.
  • Power Word: Fortitude, Arcane Intellect, and Battle Shout give 5% of their respective stats (was 10%).
  • Area target spells can now be cast at the player’s position using self-cast modifier keys.
  • Abilities (like Mortal Strike or Wound Poison) that reduce the healing received by a target have had their effectiveness doubled against creatures. The value of these abilities will remain the same against players.
  • Warrior, Hunter, Monk: Mortal Wounds now reduces healing taken by 50% (25% against players).
  • Rogue: Wound Poison now reduces healing taken by 8% per stack (4% against players).
  • Warlock: Mortal Cleave/Legion Strike now reduces healing taken by 20% (10% against players).
  • Many area-of-effect abilities have had their damage and their maximum number of targets adjusted. See individual class sections for a list of specific spells.


  • Mythic Keystone Dungeon Affixes
  • Bursting
  • Bursting is now a dispellable Magic debuff.
  • Bursting deals a flat amount of damage instead of a percentage based off of max HP.
  • Volcanic
  • Players are now knocked in the air when hit by Volcanic.
  • Volcanic now deals damage equal to 15% of the player’s health (was 40%).
  • Sanguine
  • Sanguine’s duration reduced to 20 seconds (was 60 seconds).
  • Grievous
  • Non-periodic heals now removes 1 stack of Grievous.
  • Grievous now deals a flat amount of damage instead of a percentage based off of max HP.
  • Explosive
  • Explosive Orbs now spawn 4 to 8 yards from the unit that summoned them (was 3 yards).
  • Explosive Orb health has been reduced and no longer scales with keystone level.
  • Explosive Orbs now have a sound effect when defeated.


  • Corrupted Items
  • With the Black Empire turned to ash upon the defeat of N’Zoth the Corruptor, Corruption effects on items will no longer function.
  • Ashjra’kamas, Shroud of Resolve
  • With Corruption receding, Malefic Core will be temporarily removed from MOTHER until the launch of Shadowlands.
  • Heart of Azeroth
  • Rank 4 Essences are no longer obtainable.
  • Heart of Darkness (Azerite Trait) no longer requires 25 Corruption Level to be active.
  • Memory of Lucid Dreams (Azerite Essence) now affects Holy Power instead of Shield of the Righteous for Protection Paladins.
  • Memory of Lucid Dreams (Azerite Essence) now affects Mana for Enhancement Shaman.
  • The PvP Talent granted with Conflict and Strife (Azerite Essence) Major Power has been changed for the following classes:
  • Mistweaver Monks now learn Chrysalis (was Way of the Crane).
  • Affliction Warlocks now learn Rot and Decay (was Endless Affliction).
  • Restoration Druids now learn Reactive Resin (was Overgrowth).
  • Discipline Priests now learn Purification (was Premonition).
  • Mages now learn Netherwind Armor (was Temporal Shield).
  • All Legion Legendary items’ bonuses no longer activate.
  • Leatherworking drums now provide 15% Haste (was 25%).
  • War-Scrolls of Battle Shout, Intellect and Fortitude can no longer be used by characters above level 50.
  • Many consumables now have a 5 minute cooldown.
  • Water now regenerates mana slower in the first seconds you begin drinking, increasing to a rapid return as you drink continuously.
  • Reduced the amount of value that Critical Strike, Haste, Mastery, and Versatility secondary stats provide when reaching high thresholds.
  • Heirlooms no longer have experience bonuses and now have a set bonus. The new set bonus can be obtained from all Heirloom pieces except weapons and trinkets.
  • (2) Set: Rested experience consumed is reduced by 30%.
  • (3) Set: Increases your out-of-combat regeneration in the outdoors, normal dungeons and battlegrounds.
  • (4) Set: Gaining a level triggers Burst of Knowledge, dealing Holy damage to nearby enemies and granting you 40% primary stat for 2 minutes. Defeating additional enemies extends this effect, up to 2 additional minutes.
  • (6) Set: Rested experience consumed is reduced by an additional 30%.
  • Elixir of Ancient Knowledge, Elixir of the Rapid Mind, and Excess Potion of Accelerated Learning will become Poor quality and no longer usable.
  • The Draught of Ten Lands will still retain the 10% experience bonus but will now be capped at level 50.
  • Glyphs that change the appearance of a Druid’s form are now one time use and unlock the appearance permanently at the Barber Shop.
  • PvP Weapon Illusions can be used by all characters across the account.
  • You can no longer champion a Mists of Pandaria faction for bonus reputation.


  • Flat damage-taken modifiers (e.g. Black Claw) now happen after multipliers such as Shattered Defenses, or pet species strengths/weaknesses.
  • Shattered Defenses now increases damage taken by 50% (was 100%).
  • Abilities that dealt damage twice per round (e.g. Hunting Party) had their total damage dealt increased by 25%.
  • Abilities that dealt damage three times per round (e.g. Flock) had their second round damage increased by 66% and their third round damage increased by 133%.
  • Damage over time effects dealt by Aquatic pets increased by 25%.
  • Money Meteor and Twilight Meteorite damage reduced by 10%.
  • Jar of Smelly Liquid cooldown has increased to 2 rounds.
  • Righteous Inspiration starts on cooldown when a pet battle begins.
  • The following pets have had their stats lowered:
  • Boghopper
  • Hermit Crab
  • Slimy Darkhunter
  • Crypt Fiend
  • Mechanical Prairie Dog
  • Tiny Blue Carp
  • Mechanical Cockroach
  • Cinder Kitten


  • Battle for Azeroth Season 4 will end with the launch of the Shadowlands pre-patch. During the off-season, Mythic Keystone dungeons will still be playable using Season 4 affixes and rewards, but their seasonal achievements will no longer be available. Additionally, it will still be possible to queue for Rated PvP based on your Season 4 rating, but titles and associated rewards will no longer be earnable.
  • All Gladiator mounts and titles, including those from previous seasons, can be used by all characters across the account the mount and titles were earned on.
  • Gladiator’s Medallion, Adaptation, and Relentless have been removed from Honor Talents. The functionality of removing control-impairing effects will be restored as a powerful PvP trinket option that can be purchased with Honor from Aneka Melae in the Hall of Legends in Orgrimmar and Alice Fischer in the Champion’s Hall in Stormwind.


  • A navigational marker will now appear on screen to direct you to quest objectives reducing the need to open and close the map.
  • Pins can now be placed on the World Map by pressing Ctrl+Left Click at the targeted location. The map pin can be tracked with the navigational marker and shared in chat.
  • Druids are now able to customize their shapeshift forms, including Artifact appearances, in the Barber Shop separately from their hair color and weapon transmogs.
  • Campaign quests now have separate headers in the Quest Tracker.
  • There is now a collapse button for each section in the Quest Tracker.
  • Player spells have been rearranged in the Spellbook. Each class now has a tab that shows abilities that are available to all players of that class, while specialization-specific spells appear under individual specialization tabs.
  • Hovering over the resource bar will now show the tooltip at the cursor location.
  • Using the Self Cast Key modifier on friendly target location spells now places it at your location.
  • You can now adjust key bindings when mousing over an action or micro menu button from the new Quick Keybind Mode option in the Key Bindings menu.
  • Encounter abilities are now searchable in the Adventure Guide search field.
  • The Item Sets tab has been removed from the Adventure Guide.
  • Group leaders can now start a countdown timer using group manager tools, or by typing /countdown 10.
  • Auction House and player mail notifications will now show on the character selection screen.
  • The UI Scale setting has moved from the Advanced section to the Graphics section in System Settings.
  • New Accessibility options are now available in Interface settings:
  • Added Motion Sickness options.
  • Added an Override Screen Fade option that changes the color of full screen flashes to fade to black.
  • Added keybind, camera, cursor control, and movement support for Gamepad controllers.
  • Cinematic subtitles are now defaulted on.
  • The ability to join a Group voice chat from the game client has been temporarily disabled.
  • The Credits screen has been updated and redesigned for Shadowlands.


  • The Brawler’s Guild is now temporarily closed. This forum for fisticuffs and furious fighting will return in the future.


  • Legion missions and followers are now available.
  • Characters can now be favorited in the Character Selection screen.
  • The latest WoW news is now available in the app.

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