If you're new to the game, you're faced with a lot of choices. The most important of these choices are without a doubt what class you want to be. Then, along with choosing a faction, you must choose a race.
One thing you should know before starting this process is that, unlike a class, your race and faction are not set in stone. As of September 2, 2009 in the US and September 17 2009 in the EU, players may now choose to change their Faction for a fee of $30.00 in the Account Management Page. Also, as of October 27, 2009 for US and EU, players may now also change races for a fee of $25.00 in the Account Management Page.
What is a race?
Well, in World of Warcraft, there are two factions: the Alliance and the Horde. Each faction currently has 6 race options to them. The races for the Alliance are the dwarves, gnomes, humans, night elves, draenei, and the worgen. The races for the Horde are the orcs, tauren, trolls, undead, blood elves, and the goblins. Pandaren are available for both factions (). Click on an individual link for in-depth information on each specific race.
Choosing a race
Each of these races has unique racial traits and certain playable classes available to them. These racial traits and class options help them to accomplish their goals in the world. Racial traits, also known as "racials", can be either passive or active.
Characters can only talk, group, and create guilds with players from their own faction. Certain zones and cities in the world are also friendly to one faction while hostile to the other. Additionally, certain quests can only be completed by members of one faction and not the other.
The tables below outline which player class is available to a race (denoted by X).
The zone you begin in depends on your race (unless you are a death knight, a demon hunter, or monk). The Blood Elf and Draenei starting areas (Eversong Woods and Azuremyst Isle, which were added in, and can only be accessed with, the Burning Crusade expansion), are generally agreed to provide a smoother, more enjoyable leveling experience with better-designed rewards. However, any race can level in any starting zone of the same faction, you'll just have to hoof it over there. You'll probably want to reach level 5 where you start and then travel to the new zone.
The Goblin and Worgen starting areas (Kezan and the Lost Isles for goblins and Gilneas for worgen) were added with Cataclysm expansion Patch 4.0.1, and have a more tightly linear, narrative flow through the first several levels. These starting areas are essentially instances that are specific to these races and make use of phase shifts as the player progresses through the content. As a result, other races in the same faction are not able to access these starting areas. In addition, unlike in other starting areas (besides Pandaren), Worgen and Goblin players must complete their starting zones before entering the wider WoW universe (including PvP battlegrounds), often emerging at level 12 or 13.
The Pandaren starting area is actually a gargantuan, floating turtle island added with the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Like the goblin and worgen starting areas, the Wandering Isle is effectively a giant instance and they must complete a starting experience and choose a faction ( or ) before venturing into the rest of the world.
- Main article: Racial traits
As mentioned above, different races have different racials. The importance of these traits is arguable (and they can change from expansion to expansion), but they do help distinguish them beyond physical aspects. However, if they did not exist, you might ask what would be the difference between races? Well, the answer is this:
- Different animations (most noticeable when dancing or idling)
- Different background stories
- Different looks
- Different starting locations
It is recommended that you choose a race according to what makes you most comfortable and based on a variety of factors only known to you. However, there are cases where having the right racials can be a life saver, depending on your class; see the Racial Traits for a full list.