When you have completed your third zone, you should be nearly max level, but you still have work to do! Head back to your faction hub and complete the last foothold quest to unlock your fourth mission table champion. After, you will want to do your newly available invasion missions for your faction. This quest chain is one that will be time gated by reputation levels earned with the 7th Legion for the Alliance and iThe Honorbound for the Horde. Complete as many quests as you can and then finish up your leveling with side quests you may have left in previous zones as necessary.
Guild Banners. The Banner of Cooperation and Battle Standard of Coordination will increase the experience from kills. They both have a 10 minute cooldown, but when you use one, the other is only locked out for 2 minutes. I was very bad about using these, so it might be worth using a macro to drop them on your first attack against an enemy. Keep in mind you must have reputation with your guild before being able to buy these, so new character may have a bit of a wait before picking them up.
These are a genuinely challenging and dynamic way to play. No two are alike, and the A.I. actually does give you some real opposition. Island expeditions are like dungeons, available in normal, heroic, and mythic difficulties. That means you can press into higher difficulties for more of a challenge. Of course, the PvP version pushes everything to the max.
The Heart of Azeroth is an artifact given to the player character from the world soul via Magni Bronzebeard. It is a necklace that can use the power of Azerite, the lifeblood of the embryonic titan Azeroth (See Plot, below). Azerite is similar in function to Legion's artifact power, in that it is gathered normally from playing the game and is used to upgrade an artifact; likewise, the Heart is similar in function to Legion's artifact weapons by having the capacity to be constantly upgraded. Unlike artifact weapons, however, the Heart is shared with all of the player's specializations and can empower all eligible pieces worn simultaneously.
At 96 the standard wisdom is to immediately drop what you're doing and proceed to Spires of Arak and do the quests to unlock the Inn, granting a further 20% experience bonus while in that zone. You'll want to do that eventually anyway, but I'm not sure it outweighs the quest experience from Gorgrond. However, if you decided to go to Spires immediately at 96, restrict yourself only to bonus objectives and again leave Treasures until you're 100+. Make certain that when you being the quests to unlock the inn, you speak with the quest NPC to also learn Archaeology, since it's required to collect several of the treasures in Spires.
It's hard to step out of the shadow of Legion, which was utterly fantastic in almost every way, to enter an expansion where you get one item per boss in the last expansion because the rules have been changed to force more grinding, where you have to grind reputation in the old expansion that you probably skipped because rep grinds suck JUST to unlock allied races (who aren't fully unique races since they recycle old content such as animations), where questing has SOMEHOW become boring again and where your new abilities are given by items you'll swap out every level, meanwhile being only boring passive effects no one cares about.
As the battle for Darkshore begins, both the Alliance and Horde are blindsided by a new development: High Overlord Saurfang, who had been defeated and captured in the Battle of Lordearon, has suddenly escaped Alliance captivity and is on the run. Sylvanas sends Horde Champions to track Saurfang down, ostensibly to extract him. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the search party is in fact an assassination squad, as Sylvanas suspects Saurfang of colluding with the Alliance in an attempt to dethrone her. While some Horde champions choose to side with Saurfang and help him escape the assassins, other champions remain loyal to Sylvanas and report Saurfang's and the dissenting champions' treachery to her.
To give you some perspective I leveled both a LF Ret Paladin and BE Rogue (so one started from level 20 and the other from level 1). I focused on getting the achievements I was missing for the Loremaster, so not the most efficient route by any means. I was using full enchanted heirlooms (minus the ring) and the WoW-Pro addon though, as well as having War Mode turned on all the way.
Players’ relationships with the NPCs around them have been hit-and-miss over the years. One of the original issues with Thrall, the Horde’s original Warchief, is that players began to refer to him as “green Jesus,” because of how infinitely powerful and infallible he was. But he’s been gone since the Warlord of Draenor expansion, and with the death of Varian Wrynn and Vol’Jin at the start of Legion, the old guard hasn’t been there to guide players the same way as it used to be.