Welcome to Part Three of my five-part series on Pet Battles and You: Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know About Pet Battling And Were Too Embarrassed To Ask. You can read parts one and two here and here.
Now that you know all about your adorably furry and/or scaly and/or winged companions, it’s time to make them All Growns Up!
Leveling battle pets to 25 is exactly the same process that leveling a toon to 25 (or 50, or 73, or 90) is – you watch your health bar, go kill things, collect your XP, and repeat. Blizzard made the battle pet leveling path even easier because it follows a regular character leveling path. Not sure where to go next for higher-level pets? Ask yourself where you would take an alt next. It’s almost certainly the right answer. Or go look at this page at WarcraftPets.com. I told you they were my favorite people. Or scroll down to the bottom of this post, where I’ve put a handy-dandy quick-reference chart JUST for your convenience.
Now, we all know that leveling alts can be a tedious… okay, downright mind-numbingly boring… occupation. How do you (lolololol) battle through?
Here are two different approaches:
Solo Pet Leveling
Leveling pets solo (only using one pet per battle) is by FAR the fastest way to level a pet, but only pets that have significant damage reduction and healing abilities can actually accomplish it expeditiously. The key to fast solo pet leveling is using pets that can survive three to four battles in a row. Blizzard has given us a Beautiful Magic Button…
…but you can only push it every EIGHT minutes.
(/rant You will soon come to realize that eight minutes is A FREAKING ETERNITY. /rant off)
The slowest part of pet leveling is constantly having to fly back to civilization in search of a trainer to heal up your pets. Therefore, if you want to solo level a pet, you need to pick one that can heal itself during battles. If your pet can last three battles, you are going to be very close to the 8-minute mark, and then you can click your Beautiful Magic Button and continue on your merry, homicidal way.
Pets that are great at soloing: Crabs (I soloed my Strand Crab from level 10 to level 25 in about four hours), Turtles, Bears, some Dragonkin (the Celestial Dragon is an ass-kicker), some Elementals (if it looks like a miniature resto druid in tree form, it probably has good heals), and Toads.
Generally speaking, if your pet LOOKS like a player class that does really great tanking or healing or a Tenacity hunter pet, it probably IS a good solo pet battler.
Pets that REALLY REALLY suck at soloing: Exotics – pets that have strengths against hard-to-find families like Humanoid and Magic. Some Elementals (the ones that look like crystals), because their hardest-hitting abilities also damage themselves. Undead pets in general, because they are vulnerable to Critters and CRITTERS ARE EVERYWHERE.
If you want to just zerg pets merrily along as quickly as possible, here’s some tips:
1) Fight with your strengths. How much XP you get for a pet is entirely dependent on the comparative level of the pet you are fighting, NOT what family it belongs to. You do not get extra XP for fighting things that are hard to beat because they are strong against you. If your level 10 Panther Cub battles a level 12 Squirrel and a level 12 Moth, he will get the same amount of XP for both of the wins. However, he is going to have a MUCH easier time beating the Squirrel and will finish the battle faster and with more health.
2) Fight level 4 or 14 pets until your pet is at least levels 6 or 16. Usually, my approach is to always fight battles with pets at least one level higher than I am, since you get more XP from battling higher level wild pets. However, at levels 5 and 15, wild pets get to add a friend. The cost in XP of fighting a lower wild pet is still far less than the cost of having to defeat a 2nd and 3rd pet.
3) Keep emergency backup at your level. You do still have 2 other pet slots, so keep the bench warm with appropriate-level pets. Remember that a pet must live until the end of the battle to receive any XP; a dead pet gets squat. In a desperate pinch, it’s much better to bring in a closer and take a hit to your XP gain than it is to take that extra hit that kills you and gets you nothing. And if it DOES come down to that pinch, you don’t want to find that your level 22 Dragonkin that’s fighting a level 24 Bandicoon is getting backed up by a white level 5 Rabbit.
Team Pet Leveling
Leveling a 2 or 3 pet team will feel 2 or 3 times slower than soloing. That’s because… it is. The amount of XP any individual pet on your team will gain is a function of how many pets were used (AND SURVIVED) in the battle and the relative level of the wild pet compared to you. For example, at level 1, a pet will gain 50 XP if it defeats a level 1 pet by itself. A team of 2 level 1 pets that both hit the wild pet and survive until the end of the battle will get 25 point each. Still, even though leveling a 3 pet team is three times slower than soloing, you emerge at the end with three maxed pets instead of one. In the end, it all works out to the same amount of time invested.
It just feels painfully, grindingly slow. Here’s some tips to make it bearable:
1) Don’t stack families on your team. When wild pets add friends, they are not necessarily from the same family as the original wild pet. A Rabbit might bring along a Moth or a Crab to your pet battle party. You’ll maximize your chances of having a pet that is strong against one of the enemy pets if they are not all from the same family. If push comes to shove and you’re in a corner, stack Beasts. You are more likely to see Critters than any other pet.
2) Whenever possible, fight pets AT LEAST 2 levels higher than yours. The loss of XP that you suffer by using three pets in the battle is alleviated to some degree by the gain you get from fighting higher level pets.
3) Equalize pet health loss. Have each pet in your team kill one pet on the other team, and then substitute the next pet. Don’t keep any one pet in for longer than the time it takes to kill their opposite number. Remember that you still have that (AGONIZINGLY LONG) eight-minute cooldown on your Beautiful Magic Button, so to expedite leveling, your team needs to survive at least three battles in a row. Also remember that a pet ONLY needs to be in the battle for one round (makes and receives an attack) in order to qualify for XP. If necessary, put the your terribly beat-up low-health pet in for just one round and immediately yank it out again.
3) Deploy with wisdom. If the enemy sends an Aquatic, send in your Flying pet. This should be a no-brainer. If you don’t have anything that is strong against the enemy pet, at the very least don’t send in something that is WEAK against it, for the love. Unless, of course, you don’t have any other choice, in which case – best of luck.
4) Press the SKIP button. It’s almost always more of an overall health loss to substitute out a stunned, trapped, or transformed pet because the enemy pet will get extra hits on the way out AND the way back in. Just hit the skip button to skip your turn and take your medicine.
5) Don’t be afraid to wave the white flag. You can ALWAYS retreat from a battle with absolutely no penalty whatsoever, save the health that your pets have lost. If you have a pet die on you, it’s better to retreat and keep the whole team at the same XP level than to continue with the battle and end up with a pet dragging behind.
Where To Level Your Pets
Whenever possible, try to stay within spitting distance of a Stable Master so that you can augment your Beautiful Magic Button with a very quick trip back to a person who will heal your pets for you for the very low price of 10s.
(Seriously, Blizzard? I have to confirm EVERY TIME that I’m SURE I want to be spending TEN WHOLE SILVER? EVERY TIME?? SERIOUSLY?!!?! GAH.)
Generally speaking, every major town will have a Stable Master. Not always, but usually. There are some places where Stable Masters are extremely few and far between, and strangely enough, Pandaria is the worst offender there. You would think that since it’s the expansion that brought us pet battling, you wouldn’t be able to move four feet without tripping over a Stable Master, but sadly that is not the case.
Now then, that handy-dandy pet level guide I mentioned: Pet Level
(Yes, yes, okay… it’s a PDF. I’m SORRY, I totally fail at tables in WordPress. Sue me.)
My Top 5 Favorite Leveling Spots
5) Skald, in the northeastern corner of Blade’s Edge Mountains, just south of the Crystal Spine. There’s a sweet spot there that has a bazillion Scalded Basilisk Hatchlings all piled on top of each other. If you’re careful you can easily level 18-20 without moving more than 20 feet in any direction. Unfortunately, there is no Stable Master within easy flying distance, so you’ll have to be VERY careful. Or else spend a lot of time waiting on your Beautiful Magic Button to go off cooldown.
4) The Starting Zones – ALLLL of them. It’s all but impossible to go more than about five feet without tripping over a pet that you can battle. Plus, you can make loops around the central towns like Goldshire and stay close to Stable Masters.
3) Valley of the Four Winds. My favorite part about Pandaria wild pets is that very frequently they come in packs of three and four. Besides the ramped-up cuteness factor, that is VERY convenient. And Halfhill is fairly centrally located, so it’s not terrible to get back to the Stable Master for a quick heal.
2) Northern Feralas. For leveling 10-12, Feralas can’t be beat. The pets are plentiful and you can usually find seventeen of them wandering within ten feet of Veir, the Stable Master at Dreamer’s Rest.
1) Northern Felwood. I LOOOOVE Northern Felwood for mid-level pet leveling. There are TWO easily-accessible Stable Masters (Nalesette Wildbringer in Talonbranch Glade and Hurah in Whisperwind Grove). There are squillions of pets and they are all level 14. I sometimes will take pets as low as level 11 and hang out there until my pets are big enough to swoop up to Winterspring for the last couple of levels before heading to Blade’s Edge.
The Absolute WORST Places To Pet Level
5) Jade Forest. There are no Stable Masters at all in Jade Forest and the pets are very much intermingled with mobs that will aggro. PRO TIP: If you are leveling pets in Cata or Pandaria zones, the mobs are still high enough to yoink you out of your pet battle if they run into you. If that happens, the wild pet you are battling will be restored to full health – but YOURS won’t be. Do yourself a favor and clear out the baddies before you go into battle. Just don’t use AOE! You’ll hit the pet!
4) Shadowmoon Valley and Blasted Lands. You will spend far, far more time flying around LOOKING for pets than you will actually FIGHTING them.
3) Swamp of Sorrows. Ugghhh. Too. Many. SNAKES. /shudder
2) Undercity and Silvermoon City. Yeah, I know that sounds stupid, but you need to tame pets in the capital cities to get Big City Pet Brawler. If you are a die-hard Alliance like myself, you have NO idea how to get around Undercity. I finally managed to find something that might have been the door and swooped in on a Lost of Lordaeron wandering within a close enough distance before I got swarmed over by the guards. Oh, and guess what? You still can’t fly in the Outland races’ starting zones. FYI.
1) Storm Peaks. In Storm Peaks, the pets, specifically the Arctic Fox Kit, only come out when it snows. Guess what it never does in Storm Peaks? Storms.
Next up – Throwdowns With Pet Tamers! All the skinny you need to know about where they are, what they’ll bring to bear, and how to beat them down.