Using the Dungeon Finder to level in a flash

If you're exhausted of leveling through the same old zones, it may be time to head to the Dungeon Finder for some of World of Warcraft's speediest leveling. How speedy are we talking about? Last night I spent about an hour with a just level 15 -- the minimum level for dungeons -- priest dungeon running and walked away with five levels and sacks full of loot. Admittedly, I had a stock of rested XP and a few heirlooms, but even without either, you should find dungeon leveling to be pretty zippy -- and a nice change of pace from the daily questing grind.

The downside? While you're here, you'll be playing in a group of five -- typically a tank, a healer, and three DPSers -- and you'll need to learn how to play well in a group, which can be a bit different than playing solo. Though dungeons -- especially low level dungeons -- are easier than ever, there are some tips that will help ease your way. So let's take a look at what you need to hit the dungeons so you're ready to take advantage of that sweet, sweet Dungeon Finder XP.

Dealing with the time between queues
We'll tackle the space between dungeons first. If you're not playing a tank or healer, you'll have at least a few minutes to kill between each dungeon run. This is just the reality of class demographics; the playerbase isn't evenly divided on a 1:1:3 ratio (that's one tank, one healer, and three DPS characters).

You can keep up your experience gains by questing between dungeons, but as you're going to level in a flash this way, you may want to spend your downtime farming the vital materials to level your professions. While some cloth, ore, and materials can drop inside dungeons, you're not going to get nearly enough to keep your professions on level. It's a bummer, but it's true -- and your professions aren't going to be much use if they're low level.

Hit up sites like Wowhead -- or your favorite search engine -- so that you know where your best farming grounds are. Then, while you're waiting for the dungeon queue to pop, go to town.

Dungeon quests and you
Once upon a time, in the sad days of yore and 5,000 visits to the same dungeon over and over, you picked up dungeon quests out in the wild world. You'd talk to Joe Bob Dwarf who'd send you into Uldaman to kill a particular rock creature. Then, returning with the shiny bauble, you'd only then discover Joe Bob's close friend Cletus the troll needs to you go back into Uldaman. Rinse and repeat a bajillion times until the mere thought of Uldaman would send you into apoplexy.

Nowadays, all the relevant quests for each dungeon are nicely housed right by the door. It saves an immense amount of time and gives you a nice little XP boost for running the dungeon. The XP is a nice bonus, but it's only a small percentage of the experience you'll gain killing monsters and bosses. I bring this up now because most tanks run dungeons like their pants are on fire and only the final boss in a dungeon has the ability to cool those flaming trousers. While we'd like to believe most groups are cool with taking the time to complete every quest, prepare yourself now to not get everything done.

For that matter, leveling through dungeons is so fast that you might not even get the opportunity to turn them all in. If you don't make it back to the front of a dungeon, you could find the quest going gray after another random run. So try and do quests, but don't sweat it.

Keep your gear -- and yourself -- in good shape for groups
The most important thing you can do between each random dungeon is to drop by a local repair guy and fix up your gear. The bit of damage you take each run can add up fast, and you find your gear useless before long. And while you're in town repairing, be sure you keep a stock of water, food, potions, and anything else you need to do your role right -- mostly, groups zoom through dungeons too fast for anyone to stop and eat, but if you need to, you don't want to be caught without.

You'll also want to be sure you've got the right spec and gear for grouping -- and be especially sure you're not queuing as a tank or a healer while specced to do DPS. It might get you into dungeons faster, but it will be a problem when it comes to actually needing to tank or heal. Most of the specs in WoW are somewhat viable in any playstyle theater, let's be honest. Some talents don't really help out the group; they're best suited to PvP or to solo play. Those talents are cool. They're fun. But they don't really belong in a spec intended to run the Dungeon Finder over and over. This is just basic logic; you're spending all of your time in groups, so choose specs that support groups.

A special word for tanks
Hey, tanks. Join me over here to the side for a second. You DPS and healers can stay over there. It's just us meatshields for a second.

Now that we're alone, I have a special note for you guys: Put a skull on what you're killing. All those DPSers with the guns and the Lightning Bolts and the Fireballs are just dying to stab and mutilate the bad guys. And, believe it or not, most of them will do their best to be on your target ... if they know what the hell you're targeting. Show them what to kill with a nice, friendly floating skull.

Look, it's just us tanks. I know you switch targets all the time, I know keeping threat can be a pain in the lower levels. I'm perfectly aware that, sometimes, you no sooner target an enemy before some mage opens up with a Pyroblast of Infinite Hells and Screw Your Aggro. And, I know, our pants are on fire and the delicate bits are getting burned.

But, seriously. Put a skull over what you want them to kill. They'll thank you for it and think you're the most amazing tank to ever tank.

A special word for healers
Okay, the tanks are out of the way. Now it's time for the healers. If you've specced and queued for healing, you know it's your job to keep the group alive. Most runs -- especially at low levels, before you get into the challenge of heroics -- this is pretty easy. In fact, sometimes it's so easy we shift attention to the monsters and start DPSing like everyone else, which is a-okay... so long as you still keep an eye on the group, because sometimes it only takes the blink of an eye for things to go from just fine to why is everybody dead?!

One of the biggest challenges of doing dungeons as healer is keeping an eye on everything -- from your group's health to your enemy's health -- and using your resources accordingly. My advice is to set your tank as your focus target. This means that no matter what you're doing, their healthbar is front and center on your screen so you can't miss it if they're suddenly taking a ton of damage.

You might not get a thank you from your group, but trust me, they'll be glad they've survived the dungeon.

A special word for DPS
Don't think the special talk was all for the tanks and healers: though DPS do virtually the same thing in dungeons that they do outside of dungeons, you do need to be sure you're working as part of the group instead of going solo. The biggest thing a DPS needs to do in a group situation is follow the tank's lead. Make sure you're letting the tank pull targets and get aggro before you go all out. If you find you're taking a lot of damage -- which you may find yourself doing often, especially if you outgear the tank -- you should back off a little to make sure the tank can do their job. (This is especially important with multiple mobs, where AoE damage can peel things off the tank quickly.)

Also, watch out for your healer. As someone who's leveled a lot of healers through a lot of dungeons, I can assure you that any DPS who breaks off the main target to pull a stray mob off me when I'm healing is my new best friend.

Be patient
Now that we're all back together, this is the single most important thing to remember about random dungeons. Random dungeons are random. And while I've not yet encountered a lower-level group that's not capable of completing a dungeon, the odds are that someone has to pull the short straw and fail to kill Hogger.

If you happen to draw that short straw a half-dozen times, it sucks to be you. But hold out hope that soon enough, you'll be flying through the levels with ease. Leveling through dungeons is fast, easy, and a whole lot of fun. (Also, easier on the feet; you don't have to run around everywhere.)

Take the time to help others
More than any other thing, what makes me wince when dungeon running is the number of groups that would ignore the pleas to do a certain boss. Plenty of dungeons have optional bosses and side quests that aren't strictly worth it on a time-to-XP ratio but result in completing a quest.

A new character walking into a dungeon for the first time hasn't completed all those quests. If you can find it in your busy agenda of racing to the end, take the time to knock out those quests for the new guy. Think of the karma!

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.