Looky, Mom, we're all original: we didn't call this post "Home is where the hearth is" (but only because that title was already taken). And speaking of being trite, hearthstones may seem like a rather mundane matter -- not exactly high-value gaming strategy, eh? -- yet seasoned players manage to accumulate a little hearthing savvy that makes life in Azeroth (and the Outland and Northrend) a little more convenient.
Hearthstones link you to an inn in a location of your choosing, allowing you to transport ("hearth") back there once every 30 minutes. Prior to Patch 3.1, when you could only use your hearthstone once per hour, choosing where to bind and how to most efficiently order your errands and quests called for more than an insignificant amount of thought. The lower cooldown time today makes planning simpler, but there are still a few points worth knowing to help tune up your efficiency and dial down your travel time.
- Your hearthstone is unique (so you can only have one at a time). If you lose or destroy your hearthstone (full bags, anyone?), you can get a new one for free by speaking with any innkeeper. Be sure to rebind afterwards.
- Choose the location to which your hearthstone will transport you by "binding" at an inn. Talk to the innkeeper and choose "Make this inn your home."
- Your hearthstone has a 10-second "casting" time, which can be interrupted if you take damage from monsters or other players.
- Your hearthstone's cooldown (the period after use before it can be used again) lasts 30 minutes after each use. The cooldown includes time that you are logged out of the game.
- Several items in game offer hearth/transport effects, but they're all high-level items beyond the general scope of newer players. New players do have several other options. Players who have taken the Inscription profession can make and use various Scrolls of Recall (different levels of scrolls for different levels of players). Shamans can "hearth" every 15 minutes (less, if glyphed) with the level 30 spell Astral Recall. And Mages learn spells that transport them (and others) to various specific cities around the world.
- If you drop from a group while inside an instance, you'll be transported automatically to the nearest graveyard. (Prior to Patch 3.1, this would transport you to your bind location. This is the infamous "ghetto hearthing" technique players used to rely on when their hearthstones were on cooldown.)
There's an easy answer to the question of where to set your hearth: wherever it's most convenient for you. If you're deep into questing, you'll want a location that facilitates quick movement throughout your current zone and related cities. If you're heavily involved in crafting and selling, you'll want to be socked in at a major city with an Auction House. If you frequently farm a particular item, you may want to bind nearby.
Popular binding locations for leveling -- Alliance
- Levels 5-10 Goldshire (Human), Dolanaar (Night Elf), Azure Watch (Draenei), Kharanos (Dwarf & Gnome)
- Levels 10-20 Sentinel Hill (Human), Auberdine (Night Elf), Blood Watch (Draenei), Thelsamar (Dwarf & Gnome)
- Levels 20-58 Ironforge, Stormwind or Theramore
- Levels 5-10 Razor Hill (Orc & Troll), Brill (The Forsaken), Bloodhoof Village (Tauren), Falconwing Square/Fairbreeze Village (Blood Elf)
- Levels 10-20 Crossroads (Tauren, Orc & Troll), The Sepulcher (The Forsaken), Tranquillien (Blood Elf)
- Levels 20-58 Orgrimmar, Undercity or Tarren Mill
Another popular binding option is to choose a major city that offers portals to the major capital cities – in other words, Shattrath City for The Burning Crusade content or Dalaran for Wrath content. Despite the fact that these cities are designed for high-level players, you can reach them at any level with a little assistance. There are quite a few options for getting to Dalaran as a lowbie. To get to Shattrath City, you can ride right through the Dark Portal if you're level 58 or above, or purchase a Mage port or a Warlock summons if you're still low level.
The advantages of being in a major hub include access to a large chunk of your server's player population and high-level crafters, convenient banking, clickable portals to all the major capital cities (and Auction Houses), and more flexible travel (via the portals) to every area of the world. A couple of caveats: Travel times to lower level locations may in fact be lengthened by needing to loop through a portal to a capital city. If your activity is centered around Old World locations, it may be more convenient to set your bind point to an Old World inn. Finally, to make effective use of the flight paths near Shattrath City and Dalaran, you'll need to have acquired the flight points in nearby locations.
Other hearthstone tips
A weak escape. Don't count on being able to hearth safely out of a dangerous situation. A hearthstone is not a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. If your hearthstone cast is interrupted at any point during its seemingly interminable 10-second cast time, you'll be left standing defenselessly.
I've fallen and I can't get up! If your character becomes stuck in the environment (behind a tree, inside a wall, etc.), you can use the Unstuck command in the Help menu. Because Unstuck effectively uses your hearthstone, your hearthstone cooldown will be reset and you'll have to wait another 30 minutes before you can hearth again.
What's "bubble hearthing"? Paladins can use their Divine Shield to protect themselves from incoming damage (and therefore, interruption) while casting their hearthstones. This tactic, which has been liberally used and abused in PvE and especially PvP content, is known as "bubble hearthing."