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What you can do in the Shadowlands pre-patch

wow shadowlands pre patch release date
(Image credit: Blizzard)

The WoW: Shadowlands pre-patch is out now even though the World of Warcraft Shadowlands expansion itself has been delayed. Now that the WoW 9.0.1 pre-patch has launched, there have been updates to many of the game’s systems. 

You can't enter the new zones yet, but you can experience a Scourge invasion, new leveling features, and new abilities and character changes. Here's everything you should do now that the WoW: Shadowlands pre-patch is out, from guiding new players to tackling a zombie invasion.

WoW: Shadowlands pre-patch release date

The pre-patch launched on October 13th for U.S. realms and will launch Wednesday, October 15th in Europe. While the expansion itself doesn’t yet have a new release date, this raft of changes should keep you busy in the meantime.

Remake your character

A huge number of additional character customization options are unlocked in the pre-patch, including new skin, eye and hair colors, faces, tattoos, jewelry, Night Elf leaves and Tauren flowers in your hair, undead skin-and-no-skin options, Draenei tail length and a variety of other effects. Druids and Worgen can change the appearance of each of their forms separately. 

Gender changes, formerly a paid service, are available at the barbershop. Your transmog game is improving as well: Legion artifact weapons can now be used by all specializations, instead of the one on which you originally earned them. Artifact sets (main hand and offhand) are transmogged separately, too. And wands can be transmogged to other one-handed weapons.

Start an allied race toon

Reputation requirements to start an Allied Race character have been removed, so you can pick one of the ten allies you like and get leveling, but only after you’ve completed the related quest series for that race. For example, earning Void Elves and Lightforged Draenei requires completing the Argus campaign; earning Vulpera requires completing all their storylines in their zone; and unlocking Mag’har Orcs and Dark Iron Dwarves requires the completing of the Horde or Alliance war campaign, respectively. Earning the heritage armor of each race still requires leveling it from scratch (rather than race-changing or boosting the character.)

Enjoy the new leveling squish

Blizzard revamped the leveling experience for Shadowlands, and many of those changes are available now as part of pre-patch 9.0.1. The new Exile’s Reach starting island for level 1-10 characters offers a delightful way for new players to get to know the game (and a new experience for returning players, who can choose between that and the traditional starting zones.) The new level cap is 60 in Shadowlands, and is capped to 50 in the pre-patch, meaning that for a short time, max-level characters in retail World of Warcraft are actually lower-level than their WoW Classic friends (where the level cap remains 60). 

Blizzard has said the 1-50 leveling experience should be about 30 percent faster than the 1-120 experience was previously. The alt leveling buff, Winds of Wisdom, ends with the pre-patch, but the Impressive Influence reputation buff continues at least through the end of October. If you have a flying mount and skill, you're able to fly in Draenor and Legion zones, even if you haven't completed those achievements.

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Guide other players

A new mentoring system allows experienced players to guide new players in the game in a special chat channel. New players are added to the channel automatically to ask questions. Experienced players can volunteer to be mentors in the channel by hitting up a guide recruiter in Stormwind (for Alliance) or Orgrimmar (for Horde). To qualify as a guide, you must have an account in good standing, be level 50 on at least one character, complete 3,000 quests, and earn 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. New players and guides can also recognize each other in game: they have icons above their heads that only other new players and guides can see.

Tune your armor with Relics of the Past

A unique system called Relics of the Past now allows crafted armor to scale up—and down, in the case of alts—to different levels. This means that crafters can make armor from almost any expansion and tune it up or down to fit characters higher or lower level than that expansion. Relics are used making reagents from a variety of expansions. 

Armor with applied relics max out at level 100, the same level as armor from the new pre-expansion launch event coming in Icecrown later on. By comparison, other items, both crafted and dropped, earned by current max-level players are being squished at the same time their levels are. Item level 465 armor, for example, (the maximum available from Mythic Plus dungeons) has been scaled down to item level 120.

Check out your unpruned class abilities

Every class has now received iconic (and not-so-iconic) abilities that were 'pruned' in previous expansions and patches. For example, hunters get Hunter’s Mark back, which now allows the hunter to always see the target even when stealthed. They also get back Arcane Shot for damage; Tranquilizing Shot, an enrage and magic dispel currently provided by pets; Kill Shot, an execute-style damage shot against low health targets; Eyes of the Beast, which allows them to directly control their pets; and Scare Beast, for terrifying enemy beast targets.

In addition to the un-pruned abilities, almost every class has seen loads of tweaks, changes, and outright rebuilding due to Shadowlands tuning and updates. Notably, most area of effect spells are limited to five or six targets.

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Note the Mythic Plus dungeon changes

Season 4 for Mythic Plus dungeons has ended with the pre-patch, but many of the affixes that make those dungeons more difficult have changed, giving players a preview of what they can expect when the next season begins in Shadowlands. (The new Shadowlands affixes are not yet in the rotation). 

For example, Bursting is now a dispellable magic debuff, dealing a set amount of damage. Volcanic now knocks players up in the air when they’re hit by it, taking 15 percent of their health. Sanguine pools poof after 20 seconds, down from a minute. Greivous stacks can be removed by using direct heals, and they do a set amount of damage instead of a percentage. Explosive orbs spawn further away from the mobs that summon them, their health has been reduced (and doesn’t scale), and they make noise when you kill them.

Hunters, tame those new pets

Hunters can tame a variety of new pets in the pre-patch, including alpacas, camels, horses, pigs, unicorns/dreamrunners, shale worms, previously-unavailable kunchong bugs, mammoths and elephant-like elekks. You can now also stash up to 200 pets in your stable, meaning it’s collection time

Cloud serpents, including the beautiful celestial serpent raid boss Elegon in Mogu’shan Vaults (actually a spirit beast, so beast mastery hunters only) and the zappy black cloud serpent Huolon on Timeless Isle, can now be tamed via a book from the Cloud Serpent reputation vendor in the Pandarian zone Jade Forest. Using the book requires exalted reputation with their faction; Pandarian hunters can tame them without the book. Hunters of the Undead race can tame undead pets now—everyone else gets it from a book when Shadowlands drops.

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Prepare for the end of Corruption

The pre-patch has removed all Corruption power-boosting effects from the game, and most players are likely to see some significant changes in their playstyles and/or preferred stats as a result. Azerite essences and traits still work (and will until players venture into the Shadowlands), and the Heart of Darkness Azerite amor trait that relied on Corruption has been changed so it'll be active at all times. Player power has been boosted to compensate, so encounters shouldn’t feel any more difficult, and may actually feel easier. Your Legendary cloak remains, but no longer provided Corruption resistance or an on-use effect.

Other content has ended with the pre-patch as well, including performance-based achievements such as Keystone Master (completing all dungeons at Mythic Plus difficulty level 15 in time), raid achievements like Ahead of the Curve/Cutting Edge, the Hertz Locker achievement in Operation: Mechagon, and achievements related to Horrific Visions and advanced gear from the PvP season. The Brawler’s Guild has disappeared, you can no longer collect Rank 4 essences for that achievement and title, and if you wanted to buy that pretty, pretty 5 million-gold brutosaur mount, you’ll have to hit the Black Market Auction House and hope it pops up.

Look at those pretty, pretty shadows

Changes to the game engine for Shadowlands have launched with the pre-patch, and that includes the game’s new ability to take advantage of ray tracing. This gives the game the algorithms to follow each ray of light, leading to more realistic shadows and other lighting effects. Warcraft has never looked so realistic. 

You won’t see the gritty, real version of what ray tracing can do, but it provides a noticeable boost to the game’s graphics. You’ll need a graphics card capable of ray tracing to see the benefits, though.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Join (or battle) the Scourge

Some time after the pre-patch launches (Blizzard hasn’t set a date yet), the prelude to the new expansion will begin, unleashing a zombie invasion in the streets. The release date for this event will be the cue for when the expansion as a whole will drop, but it'll probably be a little less than a month after the event begins.

In the invasion, Scourge zombies in capitol cities bite players, which turns them into zombies themselves who can infect other players, unless they choose to heal themselves at an NPC healer. Brand-new characters visiting Stormwind or Orgrimmar after completing Exile’s Reach cannot be bitten.

A new series of story quests introduce Shadowlands' lore, as major leaders from both Horde and Alliance are kidnapped. Over the course of the event, players progress toward the massive sky-opening event that heralds the beginning of the Shadowlands and their entry into the lands of the afterlife. Part of the questline includes a new world boss: Nathanos Blightcaller, main squeeze of evil-and-departed Horde Warchief Sylvannas Windrunner, who vanished shortly after killing Varok Saurfang and betraying the Horde.

In addition, a new questing hub opens in Icecrown, giving players access to new bosses to kill, new items and pets, tokens to increase major city faction, and new transmog items (which also serve as item level 100 booster gear for new alts). A zone-wide debuff seems to interrupt every spell, but players can avoid it by standing next to bonfires to build up a stacking buff.