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While most of us want to bite into the big leagues as soon as we ding 80, some players are more interested in trying out another class or the other faction. As soon as they reach the top, they dip back down to the bottom again. Making the road to 80 quicker and easier the second (and each subsequent) time around are heirloom items.
First introduced in Patch 3.0.2, heirloom items are "big brother" helper items designed to be purchased by level 80 characters and passed along to younger characters on the same account, realm and faction. Heirlooms were specifically created to help your alts level up. Their stats get better and better as your character levels, and the shoulders and chest armor even provide an XP bonus. Such a deal!
What's in a name?
A word here about heirloom terminology: Heirlooms are a special type of item known as Bind to Account (BtA). Most people use BoA as the shorthand for this type of item, even though BoA more properly stands for Bind on Acquire (another way of saying Bind on Pickup, or BoP). So that none of us are fighting against the current to understand the matter at hand, we'll stick with the common usage and refer to these account-linked items as BoA pieces.
Another somewhat confusing point about so-called BoA items is that you can't actually send them to any character anywhere on your account -- you currently cannot send BoAs to characters on other factions or realms. Only characters that share the same faction AND the same server AND the same account can trade BoAs freely among one another. Of course, that also means no handing them out to your friends, no trading with family members, and no mailing them to a character on a second account. That goes for other BoAs, too, including the Collector's Edition companions and the Baby Blizzard Bear.
Will the restrictions on sharing BoAs among characters across your entire account ever be lifted? Probably. Now that players are able to pay to change the faction of their characters, faction restrictions are likely to change. Says Blizzard's Wryxian, "It really is just a matter of semantics. The item is bound to your account, just that there are other game mechanics that prevent exchange between factions. If the game supported a way for bound items to be passed between characters of different factions, then it should work as written on the can. Sure, we could have named it such that it purely described only what you can currently do with it, but instead we chose not to restrict it from future possibility." At this point, however, BoAs are limited to same account and faction and realm.
How do heirlooms work?
You'll recognize a heirloom item by the gold color of the text of its name. Experienced players carry a fond spot in their hearts for many of these items, which look like and are named after items from the early days of classic WoW.
Heirlooms are considered level 1 items, so you can equip them from the very start. The beauty of a heirloom is that its stats scale up automatically as you level. If your class gains the ability to wear a different type of armor at level 40, heirlooms do that for you automatically, too! Buy the type of armor you ultimately want to end up with; it will scale down to the appropriate type for a newbie. For example, plate armor will appear to be mail when worn by lowbie Paladins and Warriors, while mail armor masquerades as leather on new Hunters and Shamans.
The hot item? Definitely the shoulders and the chest armor, which confer a 10% XP bonus from quests and kills. The bonuses from each piece stack, so you'll get a full 20% XP bonus if your alts wear both pieces. And as of Patch 3.2.2, they'll provide a bonus from XP earned not only via quests and kills but from Battlegrounds as well. Weapons are another popular choice for leveling characters.
How do heirlooms scale?
Heirlooms approximate the stats and attributes of a blue-quality (rare) item that's the level of the character currently wearing it. At level 80, they are roughly equivalent to an item level 187 rare. Once you hit level 80, you'll want to replace them with gear from quests, instances, or PvP.
Want to know exactly how your heirlooms will perform over the levels? Check one of these heirloom scaling calculators:
Although heirlooms are designed for leveling characters, you have to have leveled one character all the way to 80 in order to buy them. They're a benefit for second-timers. Once you have a level 80, though, you can purchase as many different heirlooms as you can pay for.
Heirlooms come in two flavors: a PvE-oriented set, and a PvP-focused set. Buy PvE-flavored heirlooms with Emblems of Heroism. These badges used to drop in heroic instances and in raids; now, get an Emblem of Heroism by turning in an Emblem of Conquest to the Emblem of Conquest Quartermasters in Dalaran. Emblems of Conquest drop from all level 80 five-man heroic instances, level 80 raids that formerly dropped Emblems of Heroism and Valor, and bosses in Ulduar. (Emblems of Conquest are also used to purchase Tier 8 gear; we'll talk about that more in an upcoming WoW Rookie.)
If it's PvP-flavored gear heirlooms you're after, you'll need to spend Stone Keeper's Shards. You can get Stone Keeper's Shards two different ways: through completing daily quests involving Lake Wintergrasp, or by defeating five-man dungeon bosses when your faction controls Wintergrasp. Redeem them for items from the Wintergrasp Quartermasters in Wintergrasp Keep.
A third type of heirloom, PvE-focused chestpieces, were added in Patch 3.2. These chestpieces are available at the Argent Tournament in Icecrown, once you've achieved the title of Crusader, for 60 Champion's Seals (earned by participating in the Argent Tournament). You may also purchase the heirloom chest armor from Enchanter Erodin or Enchanter Isian in Dalaran for 40 Emblems of Heroism.
In fact, quite a few heirlooms are now available at the Argent Tournament. The weapons sold in Dalaran plus two new weapons are also purchasable at the Argent Tournament with Champion's Seals.
What if you make a mistake and buy the wrong thing? Unless you've already mailed the item to another character, the level 80 character that you used to buy the heirloom can return it to the vendor for a refund within a two-hour grace period. (If you've mailed it to an alt already, though, you're out of luck. Sorry.)
Other good-to-know tips about heirlooms
- Your level 80 character can freely purchase types of gear that he/she cannot use; for example, a Priest can buy plate armor to hand down to a Warrior alt.
- The 10% XP bonus from heirloom shoulders and chest armor stacks, giving alts who wear both pieces a whopping 20% bonus to XP from kills and quests and (as of Patch 3.2.2) Battlegrounds.
- If you have more alts than you have emblems (or time and energy) to buy them gear with, and if you mainly want the heirlooms for the XP bonus, you can always buy cloth shoulders – after all, every class can equip cloth armor.
- Heirlooms can be enchanted only with enhancements that do not bind the item to your character, which excludes most Burning Crusade or higher enhancements (including Death Knight runes). Some higher level effects won't proc until the character using the item is high enough level. You can put a Zandalar Signet on your heirloom if you have the reputation level to do so, although it won't be active until the character using it is level 55. WoWWiki has a nice list of the most effective heirloom-compatible enchants.
- Heirlooms have no durability stat – that means no repairs. Enjoy the savings!
WoW Rookie walks you through all sort of new-player concerns, from game lingo for the beginner to joining your first guild as a mid-level player and on to what to do when you finally hit level 80. Visit WoW.com's WoW Rookie Guide for links to all our tips, tricks and how-to's.