I first heard about the World of Warcraft Ironman challenge back in Cataclysm, and have always kinda wanted to try it ever since. The challenge is to basically:
- Reach max level without dying.
- No spec.
- No talents.
- No glyphs.
- No gear better than junk or common quality.
- No dungeons.
- No grouping up.
- No XP buffs.
- No potions.
- No elixirs.
- Nothing that gives you an advantage you wouldn’t normally have (so, for example, no Goblin Glider kits, food buffs, or buffs from other players.)
- No sending yourself gold or anything else, you’re supposed to play as if it’s your only character.
- No professions, primary or secondary, other than first aid.
So a couple of months ago, I thought I’d try the challenge out. You know, for a laugh. I created a Pandaren warrior, figuring mail armour would give me an advantage, (hilarious to me now, as I now know warriors are probably the worst class for Ironman) and made it all the way to level 16 before dying in Ghostlands.
I shrugged and thought that would be that, but it wasn’t long before I found myself creating a Blood Elf hunter. Hunter seems to be the best class for Ironman. Also, my main is a hunter, and it’s the class I feel most natural and comfortable with.
As for the choice of Blood Elf – they have access to really cute starting outfits. Hell, they’re just cute to dress up generally. Your options of gear as an Ironman is extremely limited – but a Belf looks good whatever you throw on them. They can make rags look chic.
So I tried again, and this time I died by falling off Windrunner Spire.
(I’m ashamed to say that this is how at least three of my Ironman characters have died.)
((At least two others died by falling off cliffs in Stonetalon Mountains.))
Death by falling just didn’t seem like a fair way for an Ironman to end, so started the challenge again. This became a bit of a trend. I’d be doing great, then I’d die for some silly, careless reason, which just wouldn’t feel like reason enough to give up.
On my 4th or 5th try, I managed to reach level 50 before lag killed me in Tanaris. (I thought it was strange that my cat was trailing so far behind me. And that none of the enemies were showing up when I knew they were supposed to be there. And that my health was disappearing suddenly. And that – too late I was dead.) That was enough to make me decide that I really can do this. I’m not dying because I’m weak or inexperienced, I’m dying because I’m careless around cliffs, and have lag! I can get Ironman! I can! I will! Or I will die trying!
The challenge became my obsession. I died a few more times between levels 20 and 30 – levels that I find to be danger zones – and I would have to start all over again at level 1 every time – but eventually I reached level 60. I was so excited about the milestone. Flying! A new bow! I would be heading to Outland soon! Then I tried a particularly deadly vehicle quest in Un’goro Crater (vehicle quests are the devil if you’re an Ironman) and found myself having to start over all over again.
Which I did. Every death had made me more determined. I joined the WoW Ironman forum, where I kept a blog about my progress. I started researching every step of the way. I reached level 30 something and then fell off a cliff in Stonetalon. I started over. I died at level 58. A deadly elite in Un’Goro Crater got me. (Un’Goro Crater is evil, plain and simple. Evil I say!)
Gggaa. I started over, swearing this would be the last time. And that was the Ironman I got all the way to level 91.
The Ironman that died today.
During a quest in the Jade Forest, I accidentally targeted and shot at the rare Spirit Beast Hutia, a creature that can one-shot normal characters, never mind Irons, and that was the end of that.
It’s a wrench to make it so far, and then die so close to completing the challenge and for such a silly, easily avoidable reason, it really is, but I’m less upset than I could be.
One reason for this is the challenge fundamentally changed when I reached level 90. Patch 7.0.3 arrived, and with it, forced specs. So even if I reached level 100, I was always going to have (90) in brackets next to my name to show that I only reached level 90 the “old way”. That was never going to feel great.
Another reason for this is the way I’ve been doing the challenge. I’ve mixed it in with another personal challenge I’ve been working on – to get Loremaster by exploring the quests in every single area. I have been using several alts for this – A monk, a death knight, a warlock, and a mage. I’ll take an alt through an area, read every single quest, (getting a feel for which quests I can do on my Iron and which ones I should avoid) and even complete any dungeons associated with that area. The idea is not to just achieve Loremaster, (as I do any remaining quests even after completing the achievement in a given area) but to fully explore and experience the game’s stories and lore.
Here’s how this has been a problem: The Loremaster challenge isn’t something with a time limit. I can take as much time as I want to complete it. But with Ironman, I’ve been working against a deadline, (have to reach 100 before Legion) and I haven’t been able to bring my Iron into a zone before completing that zone with a Loremaster character, so it’s all been terribly time consuming.
So now, with that deadline gone, I can slow down Loremaster and really savour it again, and while Ironman has been my main focus for months, it’s Loremaster that I’ve been getting the most out of.
So what now?
I’m going to carry on thoroughly enjoying Loremaster for awhile. I’ve just reached Mists of Pandaria zones, an expansion I adore andidontcarewhoknowsit, and I’m already loving every moment.
The WoWIronman website also needs people to help create official lists of quests and mobs to be careful of, and I’m going to be contributing to that.
Legion is on its way. It’s time to start exploring pre-expansion content, get the achievements, etc. I’ve also pre-ordered, so should be able to make a demon hunter soon.
And yeah, once the dust settles, once Legion has become dull and we’re waiting for new content, I might just try Ironman again. It would be a pity to never achieve it.
In the meantime, I do have advice for any other potential challengers. Keep in mind I play Horde, so some of my advice is very Horde focused.
WoW Ironman – Survival Guide
- Consider using a scout, especially if there are zones that you’re not familiar with. (A scout is a character you send into a zone before you send in your Ironman to “scout out” the quests, so that you can know which ones are and are not safe and/or doable) My scouts were fully geared, spec’d and talented characters as I was using them to do Loremaster – which wasn’t ideal, but they were still invaluable. I can only imagine how useful a scout that’s exactly like your Iron in every way except allowed to die would ultimately prove to be, and if I ever try this challenge again at some point, I will definitely be using a proper scout.
- Join the forum. Not only does it provide you with a community that understands exactly what you’re going through, the forum is a fountain of invaluable information that you need if you hope to complete this challenge. Many Irons like to share their experiences on the forums, and knowing what other Irons found challenging or deadly can save your iron from a lot of grief. I personally don’t believe I would have gotten through Burning Crusade zones without the forum, which warned me against things like the hidden enemy in a certain cave in Zangarmarsh, which has killed many Irons. It’s also helpful, when entering a new zone, to visit the “mobs & quests to avoid or be careful with” and “death rage” threads, and do a quick search for posts that mention that zone.
- Use the Auction House. You won’t need a lot of money, but you will need a bit for flying, etc. You don’t have any professions so you have to rely on selling stuff you pick up, so try sell everything you find.
- You’re allowed to use first aid for a reason. First aid can save your life. Work on this profession.
- Be aware that some quests flag you for PVP. Avoid like the plague.
- Take your time. It’s not a race, it’s a challenge. Most of my deaths happened because I was too impatient and trying to speed through zones. More haste, less speed applies here. Stick to “green” zones if you can. If you’re experiencing lag, log out. If you’re too tired or distracted to focus, log out. Ironman does not reward risk takers and it’s absolutely deadly to the careless – I should know.
Levels 1 – 60
- Hunt rares. Azeroth zones are full of them, they’re usually easy enough to kill, and they’re usually worth a decent amount of XP. They respawn especially quickly in lower level zones. Knowing where the rares in any given zone are, and stopping by to kill them, can really help with that little bit of extra XP.
- As it’s where I died the most, I became all too familiar with this part of the challenge. I sort of perfected my route, and it’s definitely the route I recommend for any Horde Iron:
1-5: Whatever starting area you begin in.
5-12ish: Tristfal Glades
12ish-20+: Silverpine Forest. Be careful of the giant at the Forsaken Front (he’s killable but dangerous) and of General Marstone who, if he decides to attack you instead of the NPCs that are supposed to be helping you, will kill you VERY quickly. In fact, just be careful of the Lord Godrey quests altogether, as the NPCs that are supposed to be helping you have a habit of disappearing / not doing their damn job.
Early 20s to late 20s: Hillsbrad Foothills. DON’T GO NEAR THE YETI. Don’t do the Plants vs. Zombies questline either – save that for later.
Late 20s to early 30s: Stonetalon Mountains. Don’t fall. Don’t try kill the big fish. Really don’t fall.
Early 30s to mid 30s: The Hinterlands
(Make sure to pick up the OOX-09/HL Distress Beacon quest as it’s tons of basically free XP, though you will get attacked by three mobs who hit quite hard so do be mindful of that. You may have to farm a little after questing, depending on your luck.)
Mid 30s to late 30s: Cape of Stranglethorn
(After you’re done in the Cape of Stranglethorn, swing by Ferelas to pick up the OOX-22/FE Distress Beacon quest from the Feral Scar Yeti, who have an extremely high drop rate. As before it’s tons of basically free XP.)
Late 30s to early 40s: Western Plaguelands.
Early 40s to mid 40s: Eastern Plaguelands
Mid 40s to late 40s: Tanaris
(Grab the OOX-17/TN Distress Beacon, you’ll likely get it while questing unless you’re VERY unlucky, and turn it in for XP and the pet, which you can put on the AH for quite a hefty sum to potentially solve any gold problems your ironman might have in the future. I have yet to sell one of these before dying, but hope springs eternal.)
Late 40s to early 50s: Felwood
Early 50s to mid 50s: Winterspring (it’s right next to Felwood so might as well)
Mid 50s to late 50s: Swamp of Sorrows
Late 50s to 60: Un’Goro Crater. Be extremely careful, this zone is the devil. If you get attacked by one of the elite dinosaurs that patrol around the area, you will die.
Levels 60 – 61
- There’s a questline in Hillsbrad Foothills that scales with your level and is basically a Plants vs Zombies game. This is a good time to cash that in. Also, from now, there will be a daily that scales with your level here, so it’s worth coming back often.
- There’s a first aid quest in Arathi Highlands that scales with your level. It’s worth doing now.
- There’s a few safe quests you can do to get to Outland before you have to fight anything. Do them.
- Vendors in Outland sell level 60 white quality weapons. Go buy one.
- Flying and a flight master’s license is available. Get both.
- Explore. Exploration is a lot of free and safe XP, providing you’re careful. Explore Outland, as well as every Vanilla area for levels 35 and up. This should take you to level 61. There are, apparently, dismount bugs in Vanilla, though I never encountered them, so the advice is to fly low in Vanilla zones. However, fly as high as you can in Outland zones, as there are flying mobs that can and will one shot you if you fly too close to them.
Level 61 – ?
- Vanilla zones are squished when you reach level 61. This means that you’ll one-shot everything and nothing can hurt you, not even the evil monsters in Un’goro Crater. It’s time to do Un’goro Crater, Silithus, and Blasted Lands. You won’t be getting as much XP for each quest, but you’ll speed through them so quickly it’ll be worth it. You want to get as much safe XP as you can before venturing into Outland, because Outland is going to be terrifying.
Level 60+ – Level 70
- Very, very, very careful questing in Outland.
- Shattrath City: Has a few safe quests, such as Rather Be Fishin’ and the quest where Khadgar gets a minion to walk you around the city, that are worth doing ASAP.
- Hellfire Peninsula: Obviously be careful of the Fel Reaver. There are a few other deadly rare elites in this zone, so it’s a good idea to know who is where. Cruel’s Intentions and Foot of the Citadel are worth more XP than most quests for a reason. Don’t even try them.
- Zangarmarsh: A bug involving a cave that you’re asked to go into for a couple of quests makes that cave deadly. An invisible mob that spawns in the cave has ended more than one Ironman. It’s possible to get away with doing these quests anyway, but the small amount of XP rewarded isn’t worth the risk. Just stay away.
- Terokkar: This zone is tricky but potentially worth a ton of XP. As far as advice goes, I’m just going to quote my own thread over on the Ironman forum:
“When it came to deciding whether to join Aldor or Scryer, I discovered accidentally that I can do both. I joined Aldor, did a few quests for them, then picked up the quest that allows you to transfer to Scryer. Then I had to build up rep for Scryer, which was a simple case of running around the lake outside Shattrath for awhile killing basilisks and collecting their eyes. (This gives good killing rep too.) Once I had turned in about 40 eyes I could do a bunch of quests for Scryers. I did a few of those, and then I did the quest that allows you to go back to the Aldor. (It didn’t transfer me back to the Aldor, that would take more grinding, only this time for venom sacks). All in all this resulted in quite a nice chunk of XP.
“I did most quests in Terokkar, following Tanee’s advice with some of them, especially the advice about Tomb of Lights and Vengeful Spirits. I didn’t even try to do the quests for Private Weeks, and I left Evil Draws Near, Escaping the Tomb and What Book? I Don’t See Any Book for after the level 71 squish party. I tried to do the Skywing quest but it bugs out every time, so I gave up.”
- Nagrand: A straightforward zone that should take you to level 70.
Level 70 – 71
- Cold weather flying is available. Get it and explore all of Northrend, flying as high as you can so as to be out of range of flying mobs.
- You can grab a weapon in Dalaran. This will be the last time you can buy a white quality weapon from a vendor, as the Brunnhildar Weapons were changed to uncommon in the Legion pre-patch.
- To get all the way to 71, you have a choice. You can risk a few starting quests in Northrend. There are a few safe ones, like Friends in Dalaran, but Borean Tundra is awful for Horde, and there’s rumours of a certain mob in Howling Fjord that can one-shot an Iron. I chose to level in Nagrand instead, an option that is slow and frustrating. Scout it out and see what works for you.
Level 71 – 78
- Squish party in Outland! A combination of doing all the quests you can in all the zones and doing dailies – particularly the Shattered Sun Offensive dailies – really can take you all the way to level 78.
- Never attempt a group quest, especially a 5 man quest, without scouting it first.
- Shadowmoon Valley: Should be your last zone. There are some mobs here with a certain ability called “Aimed Shot”, an ability that can one-shot an iron. These mobs hang out over at the Netherwing Ledge, except for some who show up during the quest Zuluhed the Whacked. Do not do that quest. Do not do any quest that takes you to Netherwing Ledge. It’s also advisable to skip the vehicle quest The Fel and the Furious, as this quest has a horrible tendency to glitch out.
Level 78 – 80
- Visit the Argent Crusade. (You can actually begin these dailies from level 77). It’s inadvisable to do any daily that requires any actual fighting before the squish, but there’s a few safe dailies, like Get Kraken!, that are worth doing immediately.
- Careful, careful questing in Northrend. Your biggest concern here (and it will stay a concern even after the level squish) is mobs with Aimed Shot, an ability that can one shot an Iron. Stay away from these mobs. Some can be found in Crystalsong Forest, some in Grizzly Hills, and some in Howling Fjord. Be aware of these mobs, where they are, and who they are, and stay away as much as you can.
Level 80 – 81
- Not a huge amount of XP can be made from exploring Cata zones, but it’s still worth doing. I didn’t explore Vashj’ir or Deepholm until I actually got to those zones though. As always, fly as high as you can.
- The intro quest to Mount Hyjal is perfectly safe and gives a ton of XP. The follow-up breadcrumb quest gives a decent amount of XP. It’s worth doing both, so go and do them.
- The intro quest to Vashj’ir is not safe for a Horde Iron. Wait until after the squish before venturing into that zone.
- More careful questing in Northrend.
Level 81 – 86/7
- Northrend squish! Same basic rules as Outland apply – scout group quests and be careful of vehicle quests.
- Still stay away from mobs that have aimed shot. I was able to skip Grizzly Hills and Howling Fjord entirely. Icecrown Citadel gives you some quests in Crystalsong Forest that takes you close to the mobs with aimed shot. These quests are doable, just be extremely careful.
- There’s more than enough quests and dailies in Northrend to get you to level 86 at least. I didn’t head to Vashj’ir until level 87.
- The introduction quests to Pandaria are safe enough, just stop before you actually fight anything. This should open the portal to Pandaria, though you won’t be visiting again until level 90.
Level 86/7 – Level 91
- Cata squish! Same rules as always apply – scout any group quests and start doing dailies as soon as you feel comfortable with them. Mount Hyjal and Tol Barad have the good dailies.
- When you can, save level 85 quests for when you hit 90. They’re worth more XP than other quests.
- Vashj’ir has a level ?? elite mob swimming around, a sea snake called Velskar, that will aggro you if you get too close, so stay away. The quest Looking Forward sometimes bugs out where a wall is supposed to disappear, but it doesn’t. Not to worry, you can use a cushion toy to get past this bug – just look it up on wowhead.
- Mount Hyjal: The quest Mental Training has killed Ironman characters in the past. Research before attempting. If you can, test how much damage a wrong answer will do on a scout – some Irons have been one shot, others only lost 10% of their health.
- Deepholm has a quest that can kill you easily if you’re not careful: Wrath of the Fungalmancer. It’s a good idea to scout this quest, but basically: avoid the mushrooms. (There’s one path where you can’t get across without touching a mushroom. If you go back a bit there’s another path that’s safe.)
- Uldum is pretty much straightforward. You won’t be getting a huge amount of XP by the time you get to it, but it’s still worth doing.
Level 90 – 91
- You can get flying in Pandaria now. Welcome to your last chance to make exploration XP. Flying isn’t allowed in Draenor zones, so it’s not an option there. Pandaria is safe if you, as always, fly as high as you possibly can.
- There’s a set of level 85 quests that happen in Northern Stranglethorn, and Thrall should have a level 85 questline available for you in Mount Hyjal. Now is a good time to do those.
- Twilight Highlands has a terrible reputation on the Ironman forums, but I suspect it’s more dangerous for an Alliance character than a Horde. However, the quest Devoured expects you to die to complete it. I was unable to test whether or not that death counts, (not all quest deaths do) so I can’t tell you whether to avoid or not, as I just didn’t do it. Other than that, you should be able to complete every zone.
Level 91 – ?
Sadly, there’s not much I can tell you that would help, as this is where I died. I do have some info though.
- This is really where the challenge becomes really challenging again. Pandaria doesn’t have a level squish like the ones you’ve been used to since the level 61 squish party in Vanilla.
- Do not attack any rare mob that spawns ever. These mobs can kill even normal characters, nevermind Irons. They’re basically all the Yeti from Hillsbrad Foothills. Accidentally attacking one of these guys is, sadly, exactly how I died.
- Scout everything. At this point you just have to. There’s a few infamous named quest mobs, such as Lupello, who are deadly to an Ironman. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to just quest through Pandaria the way you’ve quested through Outland, Northrend and Cata.
And that’s that. I really do wish I didn’t die this morning, but I did. But hey, if you’re ever looking for something to do in WoW, you should give the Ironman challenge a try. It’s frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking, but it’s also the most fun I’ve had in WoW in years. And who knows, maybe you’ll have better luck.