Most heirlooms only work in a limited level range in their default form and must be upgraded to work at higher levels. That costs gold, and you’ll need around 30,000 gold to outfit yourself with a fully upgraded set (counting only those that give you bonus experience). You may need to spend some time on a boosted character to acquire the gold you need to outfit another character with heirlooms, but it’s well worth the effort.
I've been having what is apparently a scaling issue caused by inflated secondary stats on some Wrath of the Lich King items. In particular, my Highmountain tauren warrior leveled through Northrend and picked up a green, iLvl 87, 2h sword. All of the secondaries were in the +25 to +30 range, and the Dugi Gear Advisor decided it was better than the heirloom 2h axe I was using. So I went ahead and equipped the sword.
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I've found the best way to level alts is Pet Battling over by Halfhill in Pandaria. My Nightborne Priest I got to 90 that way (the rest was WoD Treasures, then regular leveling post 100), my Mag'har Shaman I'm at 61 with 16 hours or so played. Having a second monitor to zone out and watch Netflix or whatever helps. I think it's the fastest way to get to 90 personally. I really dislike the leveling changes so I just Pet Battle now.
Research instances appropriate for your level online. Running instanced content is the single most important thing you can do, at least up through level 85. Instead of focusing on questing, focus on dungeons. A quick search for “WoW dungeons by level” or similar will help you find the right instances for your level. Keep in mind too that many instances are faction specific, so make sure to check Horde or Alliance specific lists!
- The auto trash sell feature is also incredible, but I always had issues with it selling gear efficiently. Often I have to open my bags 2-3 times if I have a lot of trash, because it can't clear it all in one go. There's also a very noticeable delay with this feature when opening the bags, almost like the bag UI is freezing for a few seconds, then it clears. I've started using a different add on for auto selling trash and it does it all instant, no hiccups, no nothing. Just one swift move.
At level 80, I skipped Cataclysm and went straight to Pandaria. Even as my warrior leveled up, and that heirloom axe increased in iLvl along with me, Dugi still ranked that iLvl 87 sword higher. I kept picking up new 2h weapons, and Dugi kept rejecting them in favor of that Wrath sword. That's when I noticed that all of these Pandaria weapon drops, even weapons 20 iLvls higher than the Wrath sword, had secondaries under 20. So even though Dugi Gear Advisor is showing that a new weapon would provide a DPS increase, it still prompts me to re-equip that Wrath sword every time I equip a new weapon. Meanwhile, I've kept the heirloom axe in my bags, assuming that at some point its stats would once again beat whatever I had equipped, but nope, it doesn't, according to Dugi.
Anyway, there are no more shortcuts. There are no more "Tricks". It's just straight questing now since Blizzard nerfed other methods of leveling. You can still do dungeon spam, it just won't be as fast. You can still do BGs, it just won't be as fast. Just about the only alternative way to level that rivals questing is Pet Battles(which makes ZERO sense).