What are heirlooms and how can I get them?

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What are heirlooms and how can I get them?
If you're new or recently returned to World of Warcraft, you've probably heard mention of heirlooms. This stellar leveling gear binds to your account rather than your characters -- so you can mail it to your alts -- and levels as you do, getting better as your character advances through the game. And best of all, heirloom gear often grants you an experience bonus for equipping it -- typically 5% or 10% bonus experience for each piece of armor. What that means is faster leveling with no need to worry about hunting down the best gear along the way.

Because heirlooms are targeted squarely at level 90 characters leveling alts, you might not have put much thought into them -- but we're here to tell you that you don't need to wait until level 90 to pick up some heirloom gear for your character. If you know where and how to get it, you can grab a few pieces as you advance -- and with the sizable benefits they offer, you'll probably be glad you did.

But whether you're a new character leveling up or a long-time level 90 thinking about a new alt, we'll walk you through what's available and where to find it.

What kind of heirlooms can I get?
Though you can't fill every gear slot with a piece of heirloom gear, you can get pretty close. You'll find shoulders, chests, legs, and helms in cloth, leather, mail, and plate with stats that are appropriate for almost every class and spec. We say almost because there's only one heirloom piece of spell plate for holy paladins -- sorry, wannabe holydins! But beyond paladins, you'll find heirloom armor for tanks, DPS, and casters of all classes. You'll also find weapons, cloaks, trinkets, and a single ring.

Here's what you need to know about heirloom gear before you buy:
  • The stats on heirloom items scale depending on the level of the character equipping them.
  • For classes that wear different armor types at different levels -- for example, hunters can wear mail at 40, but from level 1 to 39 wore leather -- heirlooms of the appropriate type will scale down to the right armor class so they can be equipped. This means you shouldn't buy your hunter leather heirlooms, even if they're under level 40.
  • Most heirlooms -- all but weapons and trinkets -- offer an experience bonus that stacks, so the more heirlooms you equip, the faster you'll gain experience.
  • All heirlooms have a cap past which they will not scale -- level 80 or 85. Most level 80 heirlooms can be upgraded to level 85 heirlooms for a price.
  • All heirlooms can be equipped starting at level 1 -- even shoulders, helms, and trinkets, which you won't otherwise find in the game until later.
  • Heirlooms don't have a durability stat, which means they never need repairing -- something that's certainly good for your bank balance.
If you get your heirlooms at low levels, you'll get the most use out of them -- but heirlooms picked up at level 40, 50, 60, or even 70 can make a big difference in your leveling game if you have the resources to get them. So just how do you get heirlooms?
How to get your hands on some heirlooms
What makes heirloom items so difficult to track down is that they come from a number of different places -- and if you don't know where to look for them, you might not find them. There are six different ways to get your heirloom gear:
  • Buy them with gold from guild vendors. Shoulders, legs, and cloaks are available this way, if your guild is of the appropriate level and has the right achievements. These are level 85 heirlooms.
  • Buy them with Justice Points, which are obtained by doing lower level (Burning Crusade, Wrath, Cataclysm) dungeons and raids. Shoulders, chests, weapons, and trinkets are available in this way from a number of vendors. These are level 80 heirlooms that can be upgraded to level 85.
  • Buy them with Darkmoon Prize Tickets, which you get by doing quests at the Darkmoon Faire. You can get the same shoulders, chests, weapons, and trinkets from the Darkmoon Faire that you can with Justice Points. These are level 80 heirlooms that can be upgraded to level 85.
  • Buy them with Champion's Seals, which you can get by participating in the Argent Tournament in Northrend. You can get the same shoulders, chests, weapons, and trinkets that you can from the Darkmoon Faire or Justice Points. These are level 80 heirlooms that can be upgraded to level 85.
  • Buy them with Honor Points. Shoulders, weapons, and trinkets with PvP stats can be bought in this way. These are level 80 heirlooms that can be upgraded to level 85.
  • Win first or second place in the Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza. This will give you the option to pick up the Dread Pirate Ring, the only heirloom ring currently in the game. This is a level 80 heirloom, with no upgrade option.
The reason not every newbie is running around with a full set of heirlooms is, of course, the cost -- the amount of cash or points you'll have to shell out for any of these items isn't trivial, especially since Justice Points and Champion's Seals are primarily gotten through higher level -- though not max level -- dungeons and raids. But there is some low-hanging fruit on the heirloom tree:
  • If you fish, the Dread Pirate Ring only requires you to catch 40 fish... faster than anyone else on your realm. Still, it's doable for fishing aficionados.
  • If you're in a guild of level 10 or higher, heirloom cloaks are available for 1200 gold. This may seem like a lot, but it's not terribly hard to come across as you level, even without any fancy gold-making tricks.
  • If you're into PvP, shoulders, trinkets, and one-handed weapons can be had for 2175 honor, with two-handed weapons for 3500 honor.
  • Darkmoon Faire heirlooms are challenging because the Faire -- and its dailies -- are only in town for a week at a time. Still, you should be able to pick up a piece of gear every two months just from doing the dailies. This is a long time-span, sure, but for players who don't zoom through the levels, picking up a heirloom or two this way might not be a bad idea.
  • By the time you can easily farm Justice Points and Champion's Seals, we wouldn't really recommend buying new heirlooms for yourself -- but if you're a returning player starting a new character, it's worth checking out any characters you once played to see if they have any to spare.
Need more details on what or where to buy? The best resource we've found is Xabidar's Heirloom List on Wowhead -- it lays out the costs and points you to the vendors to buy them from.
Getting heirlooms where they're needed
The big reason why it's a good idea for returning players to check old characters for the cash or resources to buy heirlooms is that these bind on account items can be mailed cross-server and cross-faction. So even if you're starting anew with a new character, new server, and new faction, you can make use of some of the resources you once had to give your new character a head start.

To mail heirlooms, just open your mailbox and address a letter to charactername-servername. Be sure you're only mailing bind on account items, though -- any other attachments, from gear to gold, will prevent the mail from sending. Like sending mail to any character on your account, the item will show up in your mailbox instantly.

Not enough power?
This gear is pretty high-end for the average leveler, but if you're looking for more, you can enchant your heirlooms, too. Even high-level enchants can be used on these level 1 heirlooms -- though they'll be scaled down appropriately -- so long as they don't cause an item to become soulbound when used.

Now: good luck and happy leveling!

Just because you're a newbie doesn't mean you can't bring your A-game to World of Warcraft! Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from the seven things every newbie ought to know to how to get started as a healer or as a tank.
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What are heirlooms and how can I get them?