World of Warcraft: Shadowlands' pre-expansion patch is now live on North American servers, bringing with it an enormous number of changes and lots of zombies. Laying the foundation for Shadowlands to release later this year, this pre-patch (simply titled 9.0.1) vastly improves how you level new characters in WoW and includes big reworks to every class to prepare them for their (eventual) journey into the afterlife.
The biggest and most immediate change is that Blizzard has refactored how levels worked and condensed the grind to level new characters. The new level cap is now 60 instead of 120, and instead of leveling through decade-old zones, players start their journey in a new area called Exile's Reach. I played it on WoW's beta servers earlier this year and it's a much better introduction to what modern WoW is like.
Once you reach level 10, you'll either be whisked off to play through the story of Battle for Azeroth, the current expansion. Or, if this isn't your first time playing, you can choose a previous expansion to play instead, which will take you up to level 50—the current cap until Shadowbringers launches.
In addition to the new leveling process, you might also notice a lot of zombies running around Azeroth. That's thanks to the pre-expansion event, which recreates some of the glory of Wrath of the Lich King's launch by unleashing an undead plague on Azeroth. There's a lot of loot and time-sensitive rewards to be earned by participating in the event, either by becoming a zombie yourself or fighting back the undead horde. You can read our pre-patch guide to learn more.
While it's exciting that the 9.0.1 patch is finally out, we have no idea when the rest of Shadowlands will follow. Blizzard delayed the expansion from its initial October 26 release date, but hasn't said what the new launch date is, except that it's still on track for later this year.