Leveling in WoW remains one of the better parts of the game when compared to MMORPGs of the past; while the "grind" of gaining experience to gain the next level remains present, it's far less painful than even the early days of the game. With multiple experience buffs throughout its shelf life along with new account bound items and Recruit-a-Friend bonuses, leveling characters from 1 to 80 has never been easier.
As an alt-a-holic, I've gathered a few tips that some players may not already be aware exist. I've written this guide so that anyone who wants to level from 1-80 in the fastest manner possible can do so. With that said, this guide is NOT for new players, but rather experienced players, and for the first 25 levels is very Horde-specific. It also can become tedious, but is the fastest way to level. There's a lot of pre-mount travel involved so any mount that can move multiple characters will be handy, as will summons. Summoning stones will be useless if not of the warlock variety.
To begin, gather all of the requisite items: Bind-on-Account Gear, a Recruit-a-friend (or dual box a second account yourself), and another higher level friend who can help run you through instances. While any of these items can be disregarded, it's when they all come together that leveling becomes very quick. Other items, like enchants, PvP reward experience buffs, or seasonal experience buffs (such as the Midsummer Fire Festival Maypole buff), will help but are not always available. Also, if using the Recruit-a-friend method, a level 30 character on the main account will also net you another level 60 character when you're finished.
Once you've decided on a character and have equipped them, they'll need to reach level eight normally. This should only take a few minutes with the experience bonus; just run beginning quests until they reach the required level. Once this occurs, travel to Orgrimmar and have the higher level friend run you through Ragefire Chasm. The fastest method is to have the 80 run through the instance and gather every mob, run them to the beginning of the instance, and kill them all with area of effect spells. In practice, this works best with well-geared armor wearers (think prot paladins), but not so well with cloth wearers. If you don't care about every ounce of speed, or don't have the armor or gold to waste on repairing durability, then by running the instance normally you'll still get the experience for your alts. A note about running normally, the alts need to stay close enough to get experience, but not so close that they pull. This will be crucial to survival in the later stages of this guide.
The recruit-a-friend provides a spectacular amount of experience even with an 80 in the instance, and using this method will level a character very quickly. This bonus is increased even further with BoA gear. It's not necessary for the lowbies to loot every mob, but I'd recommend at least looting the cloth, either for leveling first aid later, or for selling. The looting gives the characters being leveled something to do, and allows them to save up a nice chunk of change for spells and mounts later. As a corollary to this, I'd recommend that they have large bags to prevent too much down time.
Once the characters have reached level 10 (it shouldn't be more than a run or two), make the trip to Silverpine Forest and run Shadowfang Keep. Shadowfang is one of my favorite instances because of the décor, the tightly packed mobs, and the good loot for the level. There are a few patrols that will spawn, most notably in the room that holds two ghosts right after the courtyard and before the kitchen. The mobs will spawn after the dining room is clear, so make sure the lower level characters are close. Other than that, this instance is quick and painless. If you pull the whole instance, you can max out all five instances per hour; any more than that and you'll be locked out, so keep this in mind.
You'll begin to see why this method is tedious in SFK, as you'll be there until both characters reach level 20. In that time you'll likely see every drop, every rare mob, and learn every patrol spawn location. As a reminder to casters, some of the mobs at the top of the stairs or ramp are magic immune (to most magic anyway, some things seem to get through). At level 20, the characters are able to run all of Scarlet Monastery (yes, even the higher level Cathedral). Personally, I run each of the section once for achievements and completion, and then focus on Cathedral. Once again, the best method is to pull the whole instance, but your mileage may vary.
At level 35, you'll be moving onto the fantastic Zul'Farrak, which mercifully allows all character to use their mounts because it is an outdoor instance. You should be able to ride around and gather the mobs with your horse, but there are a few things to note: First, don't forget the boss in the cave, as he stands to drop part of the epic two-handed sword (the second half drops from the final boss after the prisoner event. This is however, completely optional). Second, the prisoner rescue event at the top of the pyramid takes a lot of time for little experience. If you are not going for the epic sword and can stand to skip the last two named bosses, I'd recommend skipping the event entirely.
Upon reaching level 40, you'll be heading to Blackrock Mountain to work your way through the gargantuan Blackrock Depths. Because of the size of the instance, you'll be unable to pull everything and should stay together as a group. Make your way through the instance doing as much or as little of the events as your group chooses. It should only take one or two full clears to reach level 45. My group has consistently noticed that the first part of the instance offers better experience than the later, but once again, your mileage may vary.
You'll finish part one of your journey to 80 in Scholomance in Eastern Plaguelands. It is here that you'll level from 45-60. No special notes about this instance, only that like all of the other instances in this guide, you may come to hate this place over the course of 15 levels. As such, feel free to substitute other instances or questing into this guide. I, however, found these instances to be the fastest.
Upon reaching level 59-60, you should have your friend account grant 30 levels to your level 30 alt on your main account, which will now also be level 60. If you're doing this for yourself without a real friend, you can now transfer your friend account character and end up with 3 level 60s. Just be sure when registering the account that your friend account has the same last name, and you'll be all set for the transfer. Besides, paying for the transfer beats buying the expansions again.
At level 60, you'll lose the friend bonus, be ready for outland, and will have access to your flying mount which will make leveling a breeze, though not as easy as 8-60. If you've got the gold for the cold weather training tome and your epic flying mounts, even Northrend will seem easy. Good luck!
Have any of your own speed leveling tips? Leave them in the comments section!