Casually Classic: 20 tips for surviving the WoW Classic community’s hardcore mode


“Just one more hour of WoW Classic. One more hour, then I’ll go and play something serious. Or be a productive member of society. Promise.”

I’ve been saying a lot of this over the past few weeks as time and time again, I’ve been logging into WoW Classic to play the community’s highly addictive hardcore mode. But gaming under the pall of permadeath isn’t for the faint of heart — or the ill-prepared. From both experience, talking with others, and learning from pros, I’ve gathered together a list of 20 tips and tricks to making the full run from 1 to 60 on a single life.

Slow down and enjoy the grind

Pacing is key. Rushing to 60 is the most sure way to fail, so it’s best to throttle down and realize that a slow and steady pace combined with a lot of relatively safe grinding is the way to go. I’ve heard it said that Hardcore Classic is actually one of the most relaxing MMOs because of this, and I concur. Relaxing… with the occasional spate of stark terror.

Save gold

Without being able to use the auction house, you’ll find making money is even tougher. And it’s vital to have enough funds to afford needed skills, some basic vendor items (bag space, anyone?), and that all-essential level 40 mount. Happily, grinding equals gold if you’re doing it right. (Humanoid mobs is doing it right, FYI.)

Casters are deadly

WoW Classic can be surprisingly brutal at times, and those who underestimate this will find themselves dying to strange things. Like casters, for example. Casters in Classic can blast you to oblivion fairly quickly — and they have a longer attack range for their spells, making it a lot harder to run away from them. If you have to fight them, make sure that the casters of a group go down first.

Overconfidence is a killer

Probably 75% of the deaths that I’ve seen — and I’ve seen so, so many people bite it — comes from players taking unnecessary chances and being a touch overconfident when they really shouldn’t be. Don’t pull packs of mobs, don’t run through dense areas, and don’t try to cheat death more than absolutely necessary.

Complacency kills you, too

The yin to overconfidence’s yang is complacency. It takes a long time to level up a character in Classic, and a great deal of that time is spent grinding mobs and slowly working toward objectives. The quiet humdrum of this leveling pace might lull you into a false sense of security when WHAM, you die because you weren’t paying attention.

Racials can be lifesavers

Don’t forget that every race comes with a free skill — and some of these are far more useful than others in survival situations. For example, Dwarves’ stoneform or the Tauren’s warstomp gave give you the edge you need to survive an encounter. Use them wisely!

Don’t depend on others for help

In Hardcore Classic, it’s every man, woman, and gnome for themselves. Nobody’s allowed to group or ask for help, and while you can get assists (and assist yourself) without a call, it’s good to get into the mindset that you should never depend on others. Some people hang back when they see you in trouble, not wanting to grab aggro if you happen to die.

Watch out for griefers

Speaking of others, while the majority of players I’ve encountered are pretty groovy, the growing popularity of this game mode has attracted griefers. There are ways for players who aren’t adhering to the “death equals delete” rule to lure others into PvP or deadly situations, and they delight in bringing a person’s run to a premature end. One example of this is flagging for PvP and then standing right on top of a quest giver so that a player might accidentally click to attack them.

Caves are suicide (including outdoor caves)

Caves might boast a high mob density, mining nodes, treasure chests, and quest objectives — but they’re also HC killers. Many people go into those and never come out again because of fast respawn timers and nowhere to run. In general, avoid caves until you see a great deal of players roaming around them. And be aware that there are outdoor “caves” like troll ruins that function much the same way.

Cooking and first aid are great professions, as is alchemy

Hardcore Classic encourages you to approach WoW from a different perspective, putting a priority on any survival edge you can find. So those secondary professions you might ignore on regular characters? Yeah, pick ’em up. Cooking and first aid could well save your life in the future, and they’re pretty easy to level. Another good pick is alchemy for those “oh crap” moments when you need to down a health potion.

Bigger inventory is clutch

An early game goal for any hardcore player should be to expand one’s inventory as much as possible. More space equals bigger loot hauls equals more gold for when you need it. I don’t like leaving the first zone until I have a good set of six-slotters from drops.

Zoom out and be aware of your surroundings

You need as much situational awareness as possible, and a good way to get that is to zoom out the camera so that you can see mobs pathing to the side and behind you. It’s also good practice to periodically swing the camera around to look at all sides and see what’s coming your way.

Be a coward

Nobody gets an award for bravery in Hardcore Classic. You get acknowledged for making it to 60 any way possible. And trust me, it’s the cowards who pull it off. Run early, run often, and have an exit strategy on hand at all times.

Mitigate deaths with a raft of alts

It’s a huge blow when you lose a character to that inevitable death, but there is a way to mitigate the loss: Instead of putting all of your effort into a single character at any given time, have at least three alts that you rotate through. That way if you lose one, you still have two others and can start training up a third as a replacement. Psychologically, it helps.

Kill or CC runaways

Some mobs in classic — especially with the word “runner” or “young” in their name — tend to dash away when their health falls to a certain point. That can be disastrous, as they’ll make a beeline for other mobs and bring them back to you. So be prepared to deliver fast knockout blows or otherwise have a crowd control ability on hand.

Go fly a kite

Did you know that when mobs in Classic get to low health, they move more slowly? That was a fun tidbit I learned the other day. But I’ve always known that kiting is a great way to nibble down tough or hard-hitting mobs. If you’ve got the ability to do this, take advantage of the terrain and space to stay safe.

Strafe while running away

When you’re in trouble and need to disengage, the temptation to simply run directly away from a mob is huge. This will earn you a bunch of dazes and probably get you killed. Instead, the game won’t daze you if you’re facing the mob or sideways to it. So as weird as it sounds, strafe sideways away from mobs.

Learn how mob leashing works

Along the lines of running away, it’s vital to understand how leashing works in Classic. Mobs will chase you only so far away from their spawn point before being yanked back — unless you hit them, at which point their leash timer resets. So stop hitting mobs if you’re running away (and if you’ve got a pet, have them go passive).

Mobs can fight you above and below

Don’t be fooled by vertical space in Classic. Mobs calculate only horizontal distance to their targets, so if you’re above or below them a good ways but only a little off on the X and Y axis, they can still slap you around. This is good to know for vertical spaces such as towers.

Enjoy the moment-to-moment gameplay and milestones

So yeah, chances are that the character you roll up isn’t going to make it to 60. It may, but probably not. So either you abandon this foolish enterprise altogether or you find enjoyment in the journey of the game more than the destination. Cheer others on, celebrate milestones, refine your survival strategy, and realize that you’re creating a story to cherish and share.

Stepping back into the MMO time machine of WoW Classic, Justin Olivetti offers up observations and ground-level analysis as a Gnome with a view. Casually Classic is a more laid-back look at this legacy ruleset for those of us who’ve never stepped into a raid or seen more than 200 gold to our names.
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