15 Minutes of Fame: Flower power pollinates leveling for true neutral pandaren

Crazy metagaming projects are among my favorite topics here at 15 Minutes of Fame. It's impossible not to catch the excitement of someone who's figured out a new way to spin Azeroth. Take for instance the curious case of Doubleagent , the "neutral" pandaren who's managed to make it to level 80 and still climbing without ever leaving the pandaren starting zone. In his case, staying put also means never having chosen a faction; Doubleagent is neither Horde nor Alliance but instead remains a neutral party. And the method to his madness? Flowers. Lots and lots of herbalism and flowers.

Ticking through level 83 when this article was posted, Doubleagent continues to drift through the gentle fields leading to level 90 and beyond -- because oh yes, this is one player who plans to take his leveling project all the way to the top in the coming expansion as well.

Main Horde character Hyrulezelda, blood elf demonology warlock
Guild Dreams of Insanity
Realm Mal'Ganis (US-Horde)

Main Alliance character Twïnrova, night elf fire mage
Guild A New Dawning
Realm Velen (US-Alliance)

Main neutral character Doubleagent, pandaren elemental shaman
Realm Mannoroth (US)

WoW Insider: The first thing most people think when they hear about the herculean task of leveling up within a starting zone is how time-consuming it must be. When did you create Doubleagent?

Doubleagent: September of 2012 -- the exact date I'm not sure of, I did however hit level 10 on Sept. 29, 2012.

And what's his time /played?

It's over 160 days now. Granted, I used to AFK a lot more than I do now on that character, so how much of it was actually just me running around herbing, it's hard to say.

That's an incredible amount of time to play without not only a large portion of WoW's gameplay and content but also the little conveniences that make up a life in Azeroth.

No hearthing (I use my Astral Recall shaman ability), no flight paths, no mage portals, no summons accepted, no auction house use, no bank, no talent tree respecs, no consumables, 121 mounts owned (none of the Alliance- or Horde-only ones show up), no deaths from other players, no deaths from opposite faction, no dual specialization, no riding training ...

When you first conceived the idea of this project, were you aware of just how limiting and time-consuming it would be? Or did you go into it more as a casual experiment that gained momentum as you went along?

I thought of it after hearing about picking a faction at level 10. I was curious if one had to choose at 10 or if it was possible to level beyond that. I knew it was going to be slow, but didn't realize how slow. I did, however, rely heavily on rested experience when I first started -- but having not run out of it since my mid-level 50s, I no longer need to park my 'toon for long periods of time to get rested. If my friend hadn't mentioned that I couldn't level cap as a neutral, I'd have probably stopped long ago.

How long were you able to gain XP through questing and killing mobs?

The quests on the isle I didn't actually finish until well after they were grey (early to mid-50s?) but still gave a little XP. I'm assuming one could probably get experience from mobs until level 19 (as mobs eight levels lower than you are still green, higher than that they are grey with no experience).

So wait - what about dungeons or battlegrounds? Can you get out to do those? What about pet battles?

Dungeons cannot be done without choosing a faction, which is the same for PvP since it is designed for the two majority factions in mind.

Pet battles I originally thought could not be done in any shape or form. You cannot queue for pet battles with other players, there are no wild pets on the isle to battle ... However, there are account-wide quests that can be turned in on any character from the quest log, four of them being Alliance-side and one being Horde-side. I didn't realize until September 2013 when someone mentioned it.

Aside from professions, this is about the only source of experience, as heirlooms or other experience boosts are not available in a tab yet.

What about leaving the island via LFR?

Like dungeons, LFR is also unlikely as it requires a certain ilevel to queue for (assuming it's not locked) as well as 24 other neutral 90s. It seems very unlikely to have any impact, as far as queues go.

The only possibility on that front I can think of is holiday bosses (again, assuming it's not locked), which I don't think have an ilevel requirement. Problem is, I'd need four other 90s to queue with, as it's not going to pair me with Alliance/Horde -- it would look for four other neutrals. It's hard to convince people on my friend list to level factionless.

If I was allowed to leave, it would be nice to pick up training that is otherwise unavailable or to participate in the Lunar Festival, as we have nothing like that here. Though, given that flying mounts return a different error on the isle than ground mounts, [this] leads to believe that flying is disabled here on the Wandering Isle -- so even if I had flying training, I wouldn't be able to fly.

Let's talk about your professions. Why is herbalism your main XP strategy while mining is not?

Originally I had herbalism and inscription (1 to 80 primarily, anyway), which provided a good source of revenue vendoring the Moonglow Ink (1 gold a stack) I made from the herbs. Mining shifted me out of wolf form; herbing did not (which allowed me most of the time to play just using my mouse).

However, after discovering that none of the glyphs I can make through minor research for shaman can be made with the resources from the isle, I gave it up to also pick up mining. Granted, there is still more experience in herbalism, as Earthroot gives 10 more experience than the only mining node (Copper) on the isle.

Does herb respawn keep up with your circuit pace?

The herbs respawn before I get back to them; if they're not there, I know someone else has picked it.

Do you enjoy the process, or do you stay busy second-screening or chatting with friends or something else while you gather?

Most of the time, I'm doing other things while herbing/mining. I rarely just herb/mine straight, unless I'm recording. I play in windowed mode, so I'm only using one monitor. I have a lot of things to watch that I wouldn't get around to watching otherwise. I also surf the web while I'm playing as well, though most of my friends also play WoW, so I often talk with them using RealD.

How does inscription fit into the picture?

It was my main source of gold for a long time. There is a low farm rate spot on the isle to get Mageroyal to make the Midnight Ink. You can get Verdant Pigment as a rare mill off Earthroot, but there is no way to learn to make Hunter's Ink, as inscription stops at 75. I still carry a stack of it on me, despite having dropped Inscription. I may level it up on another neutral some day.

If I ever get the ability to buy riding training through a tab or something, I should have more than enough. Though now that I've dropped it, I've gone to vendoring everything for much, much less gold.

Many players have asked why you can't just use the mobile app to access the neutral auction house. Is that not possible?

I don't actually have a mobile phone, and even if I did, I'm not sure how many people would actually actively check it as opposed to their own faction auction houses.

Why did you choose a shaman for this character? What happened when it was time to get Heroism or Bloodlust?

Primarily for the Ghost Wolf speed buff. Originally I wanted to roll a warlock (they get free mount training at 20) -- but alas, pandaren cannot be death knights, druids, paladins or warlocks. At level 70 as a neutral shaman, you get no new spell -- neither Bloodlust or Heroism nor a neutral version of it. If you level up high enough to pick a specialization, you'll see it's not listed in spells that haven't been learnt yet, either.

When you finally hit level 100, will you choose a faction and leave the island?

No. I fully intend to stay until after level 100 as well (whatever the next level cap may be), mostly due to just how long it takes to level there. One could probably (without rushing too much) level 1 to 100 Alliance/Horde in a few weeks, whereas you're looking at a much slower pace if you decide to remain factionless. The only way I will leave the isle is if I'm able to do so without a faction -- and even then I'd miss the Isle. It's been my only home for a while.

We notice you proudly wear your Insane title. What other grinds and long-term projects have you enjoyed in WoW on other characters?

Grinding Bloodsail to exalted using Jazzrik in Badlands and Admiral Shelly from Dun Morogh, before Cataclysm; doing both the Molten Core legendaries on my warlock; and lastly, Herald of the Titans comes to mind as something I enjoyed. I got it on one of my alts before Doubleagent hit 80, just to see if it would be one of the titles neutrals could use -- and it was.

I also enjoyed getting the Beloved back when it required 70 reputations (more of an effort), as my main is only missing Warsong Gulch (got everything else maxed). I also took part in the Scepter of the Shifting Sands quest line but forgot to choose a reward at the end, so I didn't get the feat of strength (though the scepter is still in my bank).

You must spend a lot of time playing WoW! What's your typical WoW schedule over a week's time?

I typically can spend more time working on leveling my neutral when I'm not doing other things. Usually I do my pet dailies and my Halfhill farming every day and a few extra things on other days. Lately I started doing a little current raiding on Saturday nights, but Saturdays and Sundays I'm usually off work, so that day is still pretty open. I run a few older raids through Open Raid every week that usually don't take very long.

I've also been trying to get even more level 25 battle pets to do more with the Celestial Tournament, which I've been meaning to complete at some point. It becomes a lot easier when you have the ideal pets for certain battles, since you cannot heal.

When you're not playing WoW, what keeps you busy?

My name is Johnnie, and I am a Canadian. I have a full-time job, which is generally Monday through Friday from about 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. I have a black belt in tae kwon do as well as a degree in digital graphic design.

I also play Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, but I'm currently not in any campaigns. I'm also a website manager at Fan Forum, so I pop in there as well while I'm playing as well as when I'm not.

Do you by chance have a goblin still in the goblin starting area?

Yeah, it's level 27. I haven't played him much lately, since I've been focusing more on my neutral pandaren. The nodes there don't respawn the same as the Wandering Isle.

I also got a worgen that hasn't been bitten yet (though the armory picture doesn't reflect it), which I've also sidelined at level 14. (You don't get the Two Forms spell, as a result). I had another one I was working on staying in the starting zone that was a higher level, but I found that the area was very much restricted in how much you can move around, making it not the most ideal spot if you want to move about freely.

I can't seem to get into playing death knights, but another thing that I want to try some day is either a DK not leaving the starting zone or a DK that hasn't turned in his letter to rejoin his faction.

We hear there's a TRIPLEagent out there ...

Yeah, working on him slowly... Will have more time to focus on him if I hit level cap before the next expansion, which is looking to be likely. But he's currently level 31 -- well, about two-thirds of the way to 32. I mainly started him to get the two exotic pets on the isle that a lot of sites like to claim are untamable --but if you take the time to level, you can indeed get them, at an earlier level than the ones on Pandaria (Water Pincer and Guardian of the Elders).

I actually have a few other neutrals, but they are currently too low level to bother mentioning (under level 10).

"I never thought of playing

WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) or a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to