The designers of Warcraft wanted to make the game a real "world," with lots of space and long runs to new destinations. Because the world is so big, one of the perks is being able to buy and ride a mount.
Mounts increase player speed and help them get to places faster -- plus, it's a nice feeling to be able to ride a cute horsie.
To ride a mount, you must first buy riding skill:
- At level 30 (recently changed from 40), you can buy a skill to let you ride regular, rare-quality mounts which increase your speed by 60%. The cost altogether is 45g (reduced from 100g).
- At level 60, you can buy the skill to let you ride epic-quality mounts which increase your movement speed by 100%. The cost for skill and mount together are 700g.
- At level 70, you can buy the skill to let you ride regular, rare-quality flying mounts, which increase your movement speed in the air by 60%. The cost for skill and mount together are 900g (reduced from 1,000).
- Finally, after buying the first flying skill, you may buy a final riding skill for mounts that increase your movement speed in the air by 280%. The cost for skill and mount together are 5,000g. This skill also works for rare super-flying-mounts that increase movement by 310%.
Level 40 & 60 Faction Mounts
Anyone can get their own race mount no matter the reputation. To get another race's mount (but only alliance for alliance and horde for horde), you must have Exalted reputation with that race/faction.
- Ram [Dwarf - Ironforge]
- Horse [Human - Stormwind]
- Mechanostrider [Gnome - Gnomeregan Exiles]
- Saber [Night Elf - Darnassus]
- Elekk [Draenei - Exodar]
- Raptor [Troll - Darkspear Trolls]
- Skeletal Horse [Undead - Undercity]
- Kodo [Tauren - Thunder Bluff]
- Wolf [Orc - Orgrimmar]
- Hawkstrider [Blood Elf - Silvermoon]
- Black versions of all the faction mounts. Mounts cannot cross horde/alliance barrier -- for example, a horde character cannot buy a Black War Tiger, and an alliance character cannot buy a Black War Wolf. Which really is a shame.
- Winterspring Frostsaber: Rep-grindable cat mount, white with pale purple stripes. Used to take 2-3 months to grind, but goes a little faster now that old-world rep has been buffed. You want this guy in Winterspring to start.
- Razzashi Raptor: 1% drop rate off Bloodlord Mandokir in Zul'Gurub. Like the Deathcharger, it's easy for horde not to notice this one, as the only difference from regular epic raptors is the coloring: green head-feathers and red armor.
- Swift Zulian Tiger: 0.6% drop rate off High Priest Thekal in Zul'Gurub.
- Deathcharger: 0.01% drop rate off Baron Rivendare in Stratholme. One of the rarest items in the entire game. Possible solo farming at 70 if well-geared, needs ~4,600 tries. (Frankly, looks best on alliance characters because a lot of horde players will mistake it for the Undead faction mount, since the only difference is color. To make a splash with horde, I recommend the tiger instead.)
- Brewfest Ram: Once a year during Brewfest, you can get the regular or epic version of this ram. Differentiated from normal dwarf rams by the Brewfest blanket on its back, the creamy tan coloring, and the fact that horde are riding it. Horde can no longer get this--they have a Brewfest kodo.
- Reindeer: Around Christmas, there's a quest to get some Holly, a non-soulbound reagent to turn your mount into a Reindeer until you dismount.
Level 70 Faction Flying Mounts
Level 70 Rare Ground Mounts
- Swift White Hawkstrider: Dropped from Kael'thas in the Heroic Mode of 5-man Magister's Terrace.
- Amani War Bear: 100% drop rate from the fourth chest in Zul'Aman's timed event. Will no longer be available at 80. This one is cool because it's a druid -- therefore, riding one means you've enslaved an indigent people.
- Reins of the Raven Lord: 0.8% drop rate in Heroic Sethekk when an epic flying druid is present to summon him. [Essence-Infused Moonstone] required.
- Firey Warhorse: 0.6% drop rate from Attumen in Karazhan.
Level 70 Rare Flying Mounts
- Ashes of Al'ar: 1.7% drop rate from Kael'thas Sunstrider in The Eye. Faster than other epic flying mounts by 30%.
- Swift Nether Drake: The top 0.5% Arena teams are given the title Gladiator and one of these mounts. Faster than other epic flying mounts by 30%.
Level 70 Reputation Mounts
- Talbuk [Ground]: "Riding" talbuks aren't armored, "War" talbuks are. That's the only difference. Both are 100% speed increase. Most difficult to get are the Dark talbuks -- they require grinding 300 Oshu'gun Crystal Powder and 100 Halaa Battle Tokens. The others are just 70-100 gold at Exalted (A-Kurenai or H-Mag'har). Colors are White, Tan, Silver (grey), Cobalt (blue), and Dark.
- Nether Ray [Flying]: Skyguard rep. The Skettis dailies and several Ogri'la dailies give you this reputation. Just grinding gold with them for the epic flying skill should get you to Exalted. I find these the second least attractive flying mount (first being Horde faction mount). Colors are Blue, Green, Purple, Red, and Silver.
- Cenarion War Hippogryph [Flying]: Cenarion Expedition Exalted. This is the exact same mount you use at flight points in Night Elf areas. A rather mottled dark blue-green, this mount is both prized and reviled for being expensive (price: 2,000g). Depending on who you ask, it's awesome or a waste of money, so getting one is a choice of taste, not status.
- Netherwing Drake [Flying]: You cannot grind reputation for these until you have the 5,000g epic flying skill. Then, once you hit Exalted with the faction, they give you a free choice of one. Any further Drakes must be bought.
(When WotLK comes out.)
Warcraftmounts.com -- Your best resource for mounts.