Venthiri looks over the Shadowlands, within a cave with swirling brown and blue mists surround them.

Shadowlands Systems Overview

This guide is meant as an overview for some of the various mechanics of Shadowlands, which has been requested by a few colleagues who were feeling lost in the sea of information. There are a lot of new systems coming, so this guide is designed to help provide context without becoming overwhelming. If you have any questions, or feel a sudden sense of dread, feel free to tweet at @hrothmar_tv and I’ll do my best to help answer any questions.

1. Covenants

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, Covenants. Shadowlands has four “Covenants” (ie: factions) which are battling in the Shadowlands. At the end of your leveling experience, you’ll choose one of the Covenants to align yourself, granting you access to a unique ability for your class and a nifty movement skill. There’s two main schools of thought around picking your Covenant: “The One You Like” OR “The One That Is Best”. While you are leveling from 50-60 you’ll be able to experience each of the Covenants, their abilities, and their flavor, so if you’re picking based on theme/preference– don’t sweat it, you will get to date each of them before you marry one. After reaching max-level (60), you’ll receive a quest in Oribos to choose which of the four you want to pledge yourself to. 

Picking the “Best Covenant” (for your spec) has benefits too though. Atop doing the most damage/healing/tanking, picking the Covenant which is considered best for your specialization will also mean that you’ll have direct access to more clear-cut Community Covenant Guides. Following along with the rest of your spec will make other areas of the Covenant system easier to make choices on, such as which customizations to choose when it comes to Soulbinds and Conduits, which we’ll cover next. Covenants which are not recommended for your spec will likely have less resources and community knowledge comparatively, but that doesn’t make them a “bad” choice, always do what makes you happy.

Guide: Recommended Covenants For Every Spec

a. Soulbinds & Conduits

Soulbinds are a sub-system to your Covenant where you will “bind” yourself to one of three members within your Covenant. When you bind with a Soulbind, you get access to a talent tree system which you’ll unlock as your connection grows stronger to them. The talent tree isn’t set-in-stone though, instead it is filled with empty sockets for customizations. These empty sockets are then filled with “conduits”, which empower various aspects of your class to make you stronger. Conduits come in three flavors: Potency (power), Endurance (survivability), and Finesse (utility).

In a nutshell, you will choose which Soulbind you want to progress with, then fill their skill tree with Conduits in order to increase your power. This is where following a recommended Covenant guide will be greatly beneficial, and why I suggest going with the recommended Covenant for your specialization, since the customization of Soulbinds and Conduits can become overwhelming quickly. As of the time of my writing, there are not any “best in slot” lists created for most classes when it comes to Soulbinds and Conduits.

I expect “Best in Slot Conduit Guides” within a week and will update this article with links when they are available

In order to unlock more of the skill tree, opening up additional empty sockets, you’ll need “Renown”, which I will cover shortly. As for acquiring the conduits themselves, you’ll need to focus on reputation, dungeons, PVP, raiding, and/or World Quests, etc. As a note, you can swap them out for a very low cost, so don’t get too hung up. If you’re curious about where to obtain specific conduits, I’d direct you here:

Guide: Conduit Drop Locations

b. Renown

Renown is the “reputation” you have with your Covenant. It builds trust with the Covenant as a whole, unlocks progression within your Soulbind, and unlocks Covenant-specific weapon illusions, player titles, and other rewards. This is a mostly passive system which you won’t have to actively worry about. If you want to focus on it, do the Covenant quest line itself and the two weekly quests to “Collect Anima” and “Save Tormented Souls from The Maw”. Renown is sort of like Azerite Power from BfA, but unlike Azerite Power it’s not a bottomless grind that increases your power. Instead, the renown system is capped on the amount you can gain at any given time and it has a catch-up mechanic available immediately (up to the current cap)- so seriously don’t worry about this and just do those weekly quests.

c. Anima Conduit

Located inside of your Covenant’s HQ, the Anima Conduit is a progression system where you help to revitalize the flow of Anima throughout your Covenant’s world. In-game, you’re essentially taking the resource of Anima and reallocating it around the map in a system called “Anima Routes”. Unlocked routes remain accessible for 24 hours and give you access to additional events such as hidden treasures or fighting strong enemy champions. After the 24 hours passes, you’ll need to re-spend Anima to reopen them. Eventually, you can permanently unlock the routes to avoid this upkeep cost.

Over time you’ll upgrade your Anima Conduit to higher ranks, allowing you to unlock additional, more advanced Anima Conduit Routes around your Covenant’s world. Additionally, investments into the Anima Conductor will power a teleportation system for faster travel. This will ultimately culminate in an easier time doing World Quests, while also offering a catch-up mechanic at Rank 3 (the max) for discovering any missing Legendary recipes, which we’ll get to shortly.

2. Torghast

Torghast is a repeatable, scalable dungeon which you can run alone or with a full party of friends. Torghast is going to be a source of a fair amount of character improvement. Most notably, you will need to participate in Torghast in order to acquire a currency named “Soul Ash”, which is needed to craft Legendary items, which I will cover next. Torghast itself has varying rewards depending on its scaling difficulty and number of “floors” you’re able to complete. You’ll enter a “floor”, defeat the bad guys within, empower yourself with fun/cool buffs throughout, then beat the bad guy at the end.

You’ll unlock Torghast after you pledge yourself to a Covenant and accept a quest to go to the Maw. Unlike BfA’s “Horrific Vision” system, there’s no key-based entrance fee system, meaning you can run Torghast as much as you want, making it a great opportunity to help your friends and guildies. The only limitation within Torghast is how much Soul Ash you can earn per week.

Guide: Torghast Overview

3. Legendaries

Shadowlands is introducing craftable Legendary items, which will require materials from multiple professions to create. Since you will need materials from other professions, you will not be able to solo-craft one without the use of alts, guild friends, or the Auction House. Legendaries are a bit more in-depth of a system, but it essentially breaks down into three steps: Find which legendary is good for your spec, acquire the materials to make it, then craft/upgrade it.

First, you’ll want to identify which Legendary is best for your spec. Note: the “best” one is subject to change, so some people are choosing to hold-off on building their Legendary until more nerfs/buffs come out pre-Raid. There is no downside to waiting to craft one with the only potential drawback of creating one early being that a nerf might make a different Legendary “better”. Ultimately, follow your gut as you can always just craft the other Legendary if needed.

Second, you’ll want to find the recipe for your Legendary. Some are in dungeons, some are locked behind Torghast progression, and others are locked behind Raid progression (which means it might take a bit to reach, depending on your raid team).  That said, you’re welcome to craft a stand-in if you so wish in the meantime if you’re unable to get the optimal one due to it being inaccessible.

Finally, you’ll actually craft and upgrade your Legendary, which will become a cycle you’ll focus on moving forwards. After you have the recipe and the materials, you’ll head into Torghast and speak with the Runecarver, who will create your legendary for you. This should be a goal for all raiders to have, since it’s going to be extremely beneficial for anyone who has one and make life a lot easier. Legendaries can only be upgraded to Rank 4 (max), which puts them at ilvl 235.

Some Legendaries can go on multiple slots. Consider placing it on an easily swappable piece, such as a Ring or Bracer (if applicable).

4. Professions

So far, every single profession is useful in Shadowlands. The biggest change compared to previous expansions is the ability to specifically target which secondary stats or effects you want on crafted armor, which is something Inscription produces for other crafters to include in their crafting. They’re also adding a catch-up mechanic called “Journals” which can be consumed weekly for a flat +5 skill for the relevant profession which can help with time/money investment issues. For a more high-level look at professions, check out the Professions Overview Guide.

The most important thing Professions offer is that they’re used in the creation of your crafted Legendaries, which you’ll need produced-goods from other professions in order to create. You can’t go wrong picking a crafting profession, since you can still craft your Legendary using created materials from the Auction House +  Soul Ash, so it is a safe choice to pick any profession you enjoy and your created goods will be usable and marketable to everyone else in the game as well.

5. Raiding info

The raid, Castle Nathria, and Mythic+ open on the same day: Tuesday, December 8th. This is two weeks after launch which should be plenty of time to reach max-level and get a few upgraded pieces of gear through any means you wish. Remember, any gear you get before raiding will greatly help the entire group to clear the raid significantly easier.

This raiding tier is going to be extremely dependent on individual responsibility, so this won’t be a raid where you can blend into the background and hope nobody notices, as there are many mechanics which will either kill you or make the fight more difficult if failed, so be sure to review guides before entering. Currently, I would suggest the guides from Ready, Check, Pull, though historically we have used Hazelnuttygames guides (they just haven’t published their yet).