The World of Warcraft: Shadowlands beta is officially here, and players lucky enough to have access can dive in and experience WoW’s next major expansion — almost in its entirety. But while the beta serves as a fun way to play the game early, Blizzard intends to use this time to test and balance the expansion’s major features.
For players like me who are stressed about deciding which Covenant they want to join when Shadowlands launches later this year, it’s a great opportunity to test each of them out before having to commit. As I’ve leveled through Shadowlands, I’ve found my choice much easier than expected, as Blizzard gives players a free sample of each Covenant as they level.
What are Covenants?
When players reach the new max level of 60, they need to pick which afterlife club they want to pledge to. There are the sinful Venthyr, the undead Necrolords, the heavenly Kyrian, and the forest-dwelling Night Fae.
Joining different Covenants gives you different tools. Each Covenant member gains access to one Covenant-wide ability — usually utility focused, like a shield — and one ability based on their class. That class ability makes this choice very difficult for most players, as switching Covenants mid-expansion won’t be easy. You need to discover which Covenant you like before you hit 60, and expect to stay with that Covenant for the next two years, or find yourself far behind on your Soulbinds (talent trees tied to specific Covenants) and Renown (the weekly resource you use to level up your Covenant.)
But Blizzard takes a lot of the stress out of this choice by letting you level alongside each Covenant.
Free Covenant samples
Shadowlands sees the return of linear leveling in World of Warcraft, where the last few expansions have let players choose which zone they want to experience first. Players will start in Bastion with the Kyrians, move on to meet the Necrolords in Maldraxxus, then the Night Fae of Ardenweald, and finish off with the Venthyr in Revendreth. As you level, you’ll meet various Covenant characters, go through some of their story content, and get a chance to test out their Covenant-specific powers.
As a longtime Paladin player, I knew I wanted to pledge Kyrian, for the thematic cohesion — angel wings, the resting place of the famous Warcraft 3 Paladin, Uther. How could I resist? But reading the Kyrian ability for Paladins ahead of beta, I found myself disappointed. Their Paladin ability, Divine Toll, automatically fires out Judgements, Avenger’s Shields, or Holy Shocks to up to five nearby targets. On paper, the ability sounded boring compared to some of the others.
But as I ventured into Bastion and met the Kyrian, they offered to let me borrow Divine Toll while in their zone. From the first time I activated it, I knew it was the ability I wanted to hold onto for all of Shadowlands. It felt powerful, and slid perfectly into my character’s ability rotation during combat — something I never would’ve realized without this free preview.
When I left Bastion, the Kyrians took their abilities away, so I could test out the Necrolord and Night Fae Covenants while I adventured through Maldraxxus and Ardenweald. Despite looking appealing on paper, the Necrolord and Night Fae abilities didn’t sing to me the way Divine Toll did.
When I reached the Venthyr in Revendreth, they let me test my final Covenant ability: Ashen Hollow. While more appealing than the previous two, Ashen Hollow’s long cooldown left me less excited than Divine Toll. And by the time I finished the zone and reached level 60, I’d made my choice.
I walked away from my leveling experience with the Covenant I wanted, thematically. But my time actually using Divine Toll alleviated all the doubts I had around the Kyrian Covenant. Players would have a hell of a time picking a Covenant if not for this test drive system. It’s like tasting various ice cream flavors before you order your scoop.
By the time Blizzard launches Shadowlands later this year, hardcore players will already know the “best” choice for their class — in terms of granting the largest statistical advantage. But for casual players and lapsed raiders, the questing experience is a critical step on determining their Covenant. Also, Blizzard nailed the implementation of Covenants during the leveling experience, making an impossible choice much easier.