This week Blizzard Entertainment released the first major content patch for Mists of Pandaria (MoP), and right when I was beginning to get slightly bored, they drew me back in. While I haven't started the new raid yet (guild members having real-life issues this week) and the Looking for Raid (LFR) won't be implemented until this Tuesday, there's plenty to hold me over. (Update: I went into Throne of Thunder this week and had a blast. Lots of difficult trash mobs, interesting boss mechanics. Even LFR had a learning curve. The raid is enormous from what I've seen so far, which is just the first wing. My raid group was able to take down the first boss, Jin'rokh the Breaker, on normal but was slaughtered on Horridon.)
The first thing I did when logging on was pick up a short quest at Halfhill and take control of my farm. There were several tweaks that have made farm life a bit easier, such as planting four seeds at a time, less tentacles to fight , and running a plow over virmen to pop them out of the ground at 30% health. Additionally, a maxed farm offers work orders, which are used to gain rep; you plant things instead of running dailies.
Speaking of dailies, the Isle of Thunder is full of them. It reminds me a lot of the Isle of Quel'danas with a server faction progression to unlock new areas. As of today, I have three sets of dailies to complete, and if Horde doesn't want to scrap the entire time I'm doing them (this is usually the case on my PVP server), it takes about twenty minutes. I finished my other reputation grinds over a month ago, so I do not mind another one, especially on an island as packed with as many goodies and interesting details as the Isle--the development team has added waves to the water, after years of static oceans.
Other than dailies and world pvp, there are elite rares to track down or summon on the Isle of Thunder, treasure chests to find, and battle pets to obtain that have a unique appearance. A couple days ago, a guildie obtained enough shards to summon a rare, requiring a 5 man effort, and I received a key to enter a solo scenario. This scenario was a timed event, where I ran around avoiding traps and climbing obstacles to open treasure chests and nab as much loot as possible. In five minutes, I came away with over two hundred in gold, 10 Elder coins, 250 in rep items, currency to buy more rep, and several green items that could have, if I was into it, been used for transmog--I sold them for gold. I had a lot of fun in this scenario, weirdly reminded of Supermarket Sweep.
In just a few days of dailies and championing the new faction via Looking for Group (LFG) and scenarios, I am almost revered with the Kirin Tor Offensive. It's not a bad grind, in the least. Within a few days, I should have the commendation to make the grind even faster for alts; I more than likely will only do it again on my Goblin mage. (Update: I'm already exalted with Kirin Tor by championing them in dungeons and scouring the isle for rep items. Stage 2 offers a choice between a PVE or PVP set of dailies. It's an easy, enjoyable grind with solo scenarios offered each time a stage opens on the island, and I'm considering doing it again on more than just one alt.) Also in the Isle of Thunder there is a raid faction, which offers an item level (ilvl) 522 necklace for Valor Points (VP) at neutral, before a player sets foot inside the raid. On Tuesday, with the new LFR, casuals will be able to gain rep for that faction and unlock more VP gear.
Along with lowering the cost of the VP gear from the original MoP factions by half, droprates in the old LFR have massively improved. My shaman, who was stuck in MSV prior to 5.2, went from an ilvl 462 to 472 in a few hours and without a bonus roll. On top of that, in one of the chests I received when not getting gear, which used to only have gold, I received a Giant Sewer Rat, a pet I spent all of Wrath of the Lich King trying to fish up, as well as a couple Blood Spirits.
There is also the Isle of Giants to the north of Kun Lai Summit. While it doesn't appear to have much going on, it is overflowing with elite dinosaurs and Troll Dinomancers. I have spent a great deal of time there already, attempting to retrieve my Ancient Tome of Dinomancy. Unlike my guildies and others I've talked to on the island, I've been unlucky. With over two hundred and fifty troll kills, hours of grinding and receiving a plethora of armored raptor battle pets, I have not received my tome; it's become a grudge. Everyone else I've talked to received their tome and, consequently, their direhorn in under thirty kills.
Direhorns and pets are not the only valuables to be gained at the Isle of Giants. There are a bunch of rare elites that offer rep items and chests, a world boss named Oondasta, and if you have the time and wherewithal to obtain 9999 dinosaur bones, a mount.
Since the game is between PVP seasons, it's hard to gauge the true extent of the balancing that has occurred within the classes, but I have had a more enjoyable time in battlegrounds this week than any other time in this expansion. Though there is still the occasional disparaging battleground where one team highly outgears the other, the gaps in gear seem to be closing fast, which makes for improved, even competition. Games aren't as often one-sided; the scores are closer, even in AV this weekend. Though it's up in the air whether or not the trend this week will fade once arenas and rated battlegrounds return in full swing, I haven't logged onto my monk as of yet to see if low level PVP has been improved or worsened now that Blizzard has decided to scale all players within a group.
One ridiculous thing of note in regards to PVP, rogues have had their shuriken boosted to ungodly levels. They've basically become a ranged class with one atk, and I saw a rogue go 20-0 in a battleground that lasted less than five minutes. He went as far as sprinting behind players on mounts, spamming his atk, and killing everything in sight without getting close enough to stun or auto attack. As melee, I don't think it's intended for them to be PVP'ing farther back than hunters or casters with an instant ability that has no cooldown.
As with each patch, some classes received buffs; some classes were nerfed. For the most part, I find the classes that were buffed were the ones in need and the classes that were nerfed were the ones ahead of the curve, the overpowered, yet I have not seen or heard of a class being broken since the release of 5.2. While it appears Death Knights might have received a bit more love than other classes, boosting them into the flavor of the month, I know I'm happy with the classes I play most: my boomie, hunter, and shaman are doing fine...so far. I need to tinker on my mage though, as I believe Arcane is no longer as viable an option in PVE as Fire or Frost; I'll probably run Frost for both PVP and PVE until I'm geared enough for Fire. I saw a Fire mage solo very large, elite dinosaurs on the Isle of Giants, which, for everyone else, took groups.
On top of everything I've already noted, there are new recipes for crafting, including ilvl 522 gear and ilvl 458 PVP gear, championing factions for rep once per day with both a dungeon and scenario, improvements to Nat Pagle rep grinding, a fishing event, and a new quest chain for battle pets--I loved taking on a single, overgrown pet per battle (a total of ten) with three of my own to earn my Red Panda. The patch is so large I feel as if I'm forgetting things...
The question remains if the content will last and keep me enthralled. With the staggered release of the new LFR and my guild transitioning to the Throne of Thunder raid, I have my fingers crossed it will last to the next minor patch months from now, and because I'm having fun in PVP again, I'll have that to hold me over as well.