Though I started working on an article about how to collect battle pets much in the same vein as collecting titles and mounts... I quickly realized it was going to be a lot more complicated than that. Though you certainly can collect plenty of vanity pets by buying them, farming for drops, and getting achievements, the bulk of pet collecting in WoW needs to be done by capturing wild pets for yourself.
So if you want to amass a fine collection of WoW pets, what you need to do is get into pet battling so you can find and capture your own pets. However, it's a daunting prospect if you're starting from level 1 and want to pick up pets from Northrend or Pandaria. We've already walked you through the very basics of starter battling and some tips on advancing through the levels, but today we'll walk you through the battle pet details you'll need to go from 1 to 25 and collect as many pets as you'd like along the way.
Know your pet families
Though what type of pet you match up to what might not matter at low level fights, as you advance knowing what each family's strengths and weaknesses are is crucial. (And it can let you game the system and beat high level pets with low level pets that are of the right family... but more on that later.) Each pet falls into one of ten families: aquatic, beast, critter, dragonkin, elemental, flying, humanoid, magic, mechanical, or undead.
Each of these families has its own strengths and weakness, with good defense against one (+33%) class and good attack against one class (+50%) -- which of course means that there are also families each family is weak against. There's admittedly a lot of fiddly details, but what it comes down to is you should aim to match your pets against pet families they're strong against while avoiding matching them against pet families they're weak against. In addition to strengths and weaknesses, each pet family also has passive bonuses. Here's the basics:
Aquatic: Strong against elemental (attack) and undead (defense); weak against magic (attack) and flying (defense). Harmful damage over time effects are reduced by 50% on Aquatic pets.
Beast: Strong against critter (attack) and humanoid (defense); weak against flying (attack) and mechanical (defense). Beasts deal 25% extra damage below half health.
Critter: Strong against undead (attack) and elemental (defense); weak against humanoid (attack) and beast (defense). Critters are immune to stun, root, and sleep effects.
Dragonkin: Strong against magic (attack) and flying (defense); weak against undead (attack) and humanoid (defense). Dragons deal 50% additional damage on the next round after bringing a target's health below 50%.
Elemental: Strong against mechanical (attack and defense); weak against critter (attack) and aquatic (defense). Elementals ignore all negative weather effects.
Flying: Strong against aquatic (attack) and beast (defense); weak against dragonkin (attack) and magic (defense). Flying creatures gain 50% extra speed while above 50% health.
Humanoid: Strong against dragonkin (attack) and critter (defense); weak against beast (attack) and undead (defense). Humanoids recover 5% of their maximum health every time they attack.
Magic: Strong against flying (attack) and aquatic (defense); weak against mechanical (attack) and elemental (defense). Magic pets cannot be dealt more than 35% of their maximum health in one attack.
Mechanical: Strong against beast (attack) and magic (defense); weak against mechanical (attack and defense). Comes back to life once per battle, returning to 25% health.
Undead: Strong against humanoid (attack) and dragonkin (defense); weak against aquatic (attack) and critter (defense). Undead pets return to life immortal for one round when killed.
This is a lot to remember, so for battling novices (or even not-so-novices), we highly recommend WarcraftPets.com's cheat sheet, which is designed to be printed out. If you're still not quite getting how pet families work, check out WarcraftPets for helpful charts.
When you're leveling your pets, you'll want to level at least one pet in every family in order to have a strong team to fight off anything you might encounter. This is especially crucial when you're trying to fight higher level pet tamers, where you'll probably need specific families at high levels in order to win.
What you need to know about pet stats
Battle pets have stats just like your character does, but fortunately they aren't nearly as complicated. Battle pets have just three stats: health, power, and speed. Health is your pet's health, power is how hard it hits (much like attack power or spell power), and speed simply determines which pet goes first each round.
Each type of pet tends to have their stats laid out in a certain way (for examples, turtles tend to have high health), but individual pets can vary. Gaining levels will come with an automatically assigned stat increase that mimics your pet's starting stats (so your turtle will always have high health). As to how much of any stat a pet gains each level, that depends on the pet's quality: just like gear, pets can be gray (poor), white (common), green (uncommon), or blue (rare). The more rare the pet, the higher their base stats -- and the more stats they'll gain per level. When you're out catching pets, you'll want to keep your eyes open for rare pets to add to your collection: the difference is notable, especially as you level up.
Each pet has 3 skill slots with the choice of 2 skills for each slot. Just like your character, your pets gain skills as they level: the first slot is unlocked at level 1, the next at 2, 4, 10, 15, and 20. When your pet reaches one of those levels, you can choose which skill you want to slot for it. Some skills will be based on your pet's family and do the same type of damage -- but other pets may have a mix of skills that come from different families. For example, the Cinder Kitten is classified as an elemental, but has some beast attacks as well (it is a kitten, after all). This can be good or bad, depending on the battle -- you might find the variety of abilities available adds versatility to your team, but it can also be frustrating when you wind up with attacks that are weak against your opponent.
Building a winning battle pet team
Your team is made up of three pets each of whom can be swapped in and out of combat any turn you'd like (though you'll lose the chance to take an action when you switch, so you don't want to be too switch-happy). But when it comes to picking the perfect combination of three pets... well, there isn't one. Your ideal team will vary depending on what you're fighting, when you always want to make use of those family strengths.
However, unless you're fighting pet tamers, you probably won't know exactly what kind of team you're going to wind up fighting, so it's important to build a team that's versatile and can handle different situations. Here are some tips:
Aim to have three different pet families represented in your team. That way you won't wind up fighting something your entire team is weak to.
Pets with healing skills are great for leveling because of their survivability.
Even though you can only have three pets on your team, make sure you're working on leveling a pet from every family -- there are points when you'll wish you had a mechanical or an elemental or the like. Don't regret not having them later: level them now.
How to capture new pets
Pet capturing is fairly simple: just start a pet battle and when one of the pets on the opposing team falls below 35% health, you can attempt to capture it. Your attempt won't always work, but be patient -- each time you fail, you have a 25% better chance to capture the pet next time. Unfortunately, if you hit too hard and kill a pet, it's gone for good... which is what makes the Terrible Turnip -- which has an attack that can't reduce its target lower than one 1 health -- so useful for collecting new pets. If you're having trouble collecting low level pets, find a Terrible Turnip on the auction house -- it will definitely help.
Unlike pets you might have gotten from quests or achievements, wild battle pets will start out at around the level they were when you caught them (expect high level pets to lose a couple of levels when tamed). This means catching new pets can be a great way to flesh out your collection with higher level pets in families you don't have yet.
We've slammed you with a bunch of information -- which is probably more than enough to jump into starting your own pet army. Next on WoW Rookie we'll be taking this information and applying it to how to best level your pets. Happy battling!
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.