Hit 79 last night. I'm pretty much keeping up a one-level-a-day pace at this point. Granted, I'm playing about 6 hours a day (way more than I usually do!), but still it's shocking how much faster leveling is from 70-80 as it used to be from 60-70 (which took at least twice as much /played time, if I remember correctly). I basically come home from work, instance or quest with my girlfriend until she goes to bed at 10 to get half a level, then solo until 1 am to get the other half of the level. So basically, 6 hours a level, and it hasn't been getting significantly longer as I level up. I expected 78 to take much longer than 77, but if it did, I haven't noticed.
I'm also making big money. Having bought a bear mount for 800g and cold-weather flying for 1000g, and paying to skill up Mining, Jewelcrafting, and First Aid (all surprisingly expensive) and pretty much doing zero auction-housing, I'm actually almost net 2000g ahead of where I started. That's just from quest gold, drops off mobs, and vendoring the most expensive-looking reward from each quest. I've been sending all BoE greens to a guild enchanting friend (in exchange for enchants) and I haven't tried to sell any gems or ore yet, so the potential for profit is even higher.
I'll be buying the Kirin Tor ring for 8k gold when I ding 80 (I started leveling with about 9k saved already - thank you epic gems for badges). It statistically matches gear from 10-man raids (I don't expect to do much, if any, 25-mans in Wrath) so I won't be replacing it for months. It also offers a second hearth (separate cooldown from hearthstone), and actually frees me up to set my hearthstone itself somewhere other than Dalaran, such as my favorite daily quest hub or the nearest town to Naxx.
Right now, mining is off the charts. Mining nodes are everywhere, it seems I can't take a step in any zone without tripping over some cobalt or saronite. One major daily quest hub in Storm Peaks actually had 2 titanium and 2 saronite spawns in it while I was there picking up quests. And they respawn fast. In that same hub, I mined in 4 spots, left to do a quest, came back about 5 minutes later, and re-mined 2 of them along with one newly-spawned node. I have no idea yet if the spawn rate is bugged, or Blizzard intends for metal to be less rare than it was before (people spend more time mining and have more ore, but maybe recipes use more ore?), or if the spawn rate is normal for the expected population, but the proliferation is simply a function of the fact that I am far ahead of the pack. Last night I ran into a total of 3 other people in Storm Peaks, meanwhile Dragonblight and Grizzly Hills are literally blanketed with players. I guess we will find out the answer as things develop, but right now I'm stockpiling as much ore as I can while I'm still the only one mining these zones.
I also did my first level 80 instance run last night: Halls of Lightning. It's a Titan instance full of iron dwarves and vykrul. The place was beautiful, probably the prettiest 5-man instance ever in this game. I don't want to spoil the surprise or the story, so I'll leave it at that.
The party was a level 79 prot warrior, level 79 frost mage, level 76 fury warrior, my level 78 rogue, and my girlfriend's level 79 enhancement shaman (healing). The players were some of the more experienced and expert raiders in my guild, and we all knew each other and the game very well, had good synergy, and were on Vent. We had started Wrath around tier 5 gear level and had all replaced about half of our gear with instance/quest blues by now.
We cleared the instance. Granted, we had our first legitimate wipe since the xpac came out (and we've done every leveling instance multiple times with this team), as we misunderstood the mechanic of the final boss, Loken, and then took a few more wipes to develop a new strategy that worked. He has an aura that deals more damage the further you are from him (so the party has to stack on top of him), but then he periodically does a long-cast-time aoe for 7-8k damage. Originally, we tried to use pillars in the room to line-of-sight his aoe a la the final boss of Setthek Halls.
It turns out they don't provide a break in line of sight. Boom goes the party.
Then, our intrepid level 76 warrior figured out that you could outrange the aoe, a la Murmur. But the entire party had to coordinate on which direction to run away, otherwise someone would die to the aura (partly because they ran away from the healer, and partly because Loken would run toward the tank after the explosion). So we coordinated a pattern where we would all run south the first time, then north the second time (since Loken kept moving to where the tank was after the explosion) and so on. We got him on the 4th try, when we finally got the running right. First level 80 instance cleared for our guild!
For those of you wondering how reputation works now in instances: if you just walk into an instance cold, kills give you rep with your basic horde or alliance faction (in our case, Warsong Offensive). If you are wearing a tabard for one of the factions that you can champion (I believe Wyrmrest Accord, Ebon Blade, and Argent Crusade is the full list), then you instead get full rep with that faction. Most trash elites give 5 rep, while boss kills give 50. I got about 1000 rep running Halls of Lightning, which was the longest instance I've yet seen in the game, taking just over an hour for our underleveled group.
My working theory right now for why leveling and money-making are so much easier in Wrath is this: quest volume. Think about how many quests you completed to get to level 71. Compare that to how many quests you completed to get to 61. Quests in Northrend are easier to get to, take less time, have clearer objectives, and stack better than they did in Outlands, so I believe I'm simply doing more quests in less time, resulting in more xp and cash per hour than the more grind- and travel- heavy levels before Northrend. In most hubs, you pick up 3 quests for the same nearby area, do them all together quickly, hand them in, and then get 2 more that stack for another nearby area. Rinse repeat.
All in all, Wrath has been much easier than TBC so far. Personally, I don't think this is a bad thing, yet. I'm actually having a lot more fun. Not because it's easy, but because there is less hassle. It's not like questing was hard before: how many times have you actually failed a quest? 5 total in the past 3 years? And let me guess . . . all of them were escort quests that were a little buggy to begin with? Yeah, I thought so.
The only difficulty was the annoyance factor: having to find the quest target, having to travel out to it and back, and having to deal with non-quest-related hindrances along the way while often being delayed by slow respawn timers or terrible quest item drop rates. As far as I'm concerned, those timesink holdovers from the EQ days (thanks a lot, Tigole) can't go the way of the dodo fast enough. Good riddance.
We'll see if it becomes a problem as I get to the parts that are actually supposed to be a challenge.