So Mists of Pandaria's pet battles are finally around. If you're on the rush for 90 (or already there) however, you will have discovered that the Pokemon-esque mini-game has a bit of a fatal flaw for you. While Pandaria is litterally scattered with awesome petlings to capture, it lacks anything under level 23, which means you need to grind up some serious old-world levels on your pets before you can catch anything there.
This is obviously an opportunity to try and speed up the grind. Since pets are shared over your account, you can gain a bit by playing the lower-levels on a lower-level alt who is in the zones where you find enemies of the level you are looking for of course. That said, there are basically two core ways to get your pet-levels up that I have found, and thought I would share.
The XP farmer
This is the way that most obviously spring to mind – have a lot of fights, win them and get XP and level the pets in your battle team that way. There are however some tricks you can use to speed this up. Firstly using the "find battle" feature you can probably speed up getting into fights – and do it while standing beside the nearest stable-master for quicker response. On the other hand pvp pet battles tend to take longer due to the need to sync turns between two players – and are harder to win. If you would prefer to play in the world, I would recommend finding areas with plenty of spawns in the level range you seek close by a stable-master. You want to look for pets that exactly match or are one, maybe two, levels below your team's approximate level. That way wins are easy to farm and you can get more than one battle in between heals. Organize your team with the lowest pet first, and the highest pet last, this way you are giving your XP where it's most needed. If two pets are on the same level, put the one with the fullest XP bar first – that way you'll finish levelling him quicker – afterward swap to put the now lower pet at the top. Then play them in order. If your low-level pet is about to die, swap out urgently because you get no XP on a dead pet, rather share some XP with another team member than lose out entirely.
This one is the higher-risk for higher-reward approach that may not immediately spring to mind. The idea here is that instead of levelling your team- you level your stable. What you do is assemble a team of your highest pets. Then go to an area where you can battle pets a level or two higher than them. If you're using (for example) a level 6 pet against a level 8 – you almost certainly won't win the fight (let alone the enemy pet's team member) but that's not the goal. The idea is to use your level 6's to wear him down, the entire team if needed, until you can, on your last pet, capture him. As soon as he is caught, swap out your lowest pet with the newly acquired level 8. Repeat until you have a level 8 in every slot of your team, then head somewhere else and collect some level 10s.
You will likely find you lose more than you win, and often have to go back and recover dead pets. This is high risk -but the reward is that as soon as you do get a catch, you rapidly get a pet 2 levels higher. I can be a much speedier way to level your team as a whole, at the cost of leaving pets behind. By the time you're done you'll have pets of every possible level along the way.
Combining the styles:
So what do I do ? A bit of a combination of the two really. The catch-up works best if your whole team are very close in level (because that allows the most accurate judgements of what enemies you could potentially capture with their combined power), so if one is behind I would XP grind him to bring him in line before continuing to doing the catch-up. Of course even while XP-grinding you still get XP if you capture rather than kill, so if you're fighting a pet you dont' yet have, feel free to add it to your collection anyway.
With the right approach the pet battles are serious fun, that I am truly enjoying. It's a relaxed and somewhat silly break from the heavy planning and strategy that is most of the WoW universe – a minigame that is just plain fun and gets you cute pets to boot.