Sometimes you just don't have time to keep up with the ever-evolving world of the PTR, especially in this brave new era of superfast Blizzard content patches. So here's a rundown of some good stuff in 5.3, just in case you haven't been consuming the news like a voracious whale shark.
Let's get this out of the way first
This is not the Raid on Orgrimmar patch. This does build up to it in terms of story, though. Org raid is planned for 5.4. Also, if you're looking for specific class notes, you should check the official patch notes. This is more of a high-level, non-specific overview.
Also, if you're looking for a summary of the PvP changes, I'll try my best but I make no promises. I don't PvP unless I have to.
The big centerpiece of 5.3 is an experiment in new content that isn't dailies (finally). Battlefield: Barrens is a wide-open set of quests where you work with your faction and Vol'jin to either undermine Garrosh or help the Horde tear itself apart. Working with them yields new titles, "Darkspear Revolutionary" for the Horde and the fairly badass "the Hordebreaker" for Alliance.
To get started, you'll want to talk to Lorewalker Cho at the Seat of Knowledge in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms; in case you've never managed to find it, it's directly above the entrance of Mogu'shan Palace, which is between the two shrines. This will lead you back to the old world to do some questing - the Horde will survive a Kor'kron assault and retake Razor Hill for the trolls, while the Alliance will hook up with SI:7 to do some scouting and sabotage, before both sides convene again just outside Razor Hill.
Eventually, you'll circle back around to Pandaria again, to meet up with Seer Hao Pham Roo, culminating in some i502 boots.
NOTE: I have seen one source say that the Barrens are perma-flagged while you're in that zone at 85+; however, I have not seen this anywhere else, including in the patch notes, and I'm willing to chalk it up to the fact that on the PTR, the PvE and PvP realms are cross-realm zoned together until I see it live.
Heroic Scenarios are a new option for better loot and a lot of valor. Six scenarios (right now; more could be added later) are in the heroic scenario set, which you must group for with a group of three - no random people on this one - because it's more suited for a coordinated group. It also has a minimum item level of 480.
In exchange for more stringent requirements and higher difficulty - you won't be able to just run in guns a-blazin' for the most part - this new difficulty level offers additional valor for completing bonus objectives, as well as an item chest that has a chance to drop item level 516 loot - better than Raid Finder.
The six scenarios, if you were wondering, are all of the new ones in 5.3 - Battle of the High Seas, Blood in the Snow, Dark Heart of Pandaria, and The Secrets of Ragefire - as well as two older ones, Crypt of Forgotten Kings and A Brewing Storm. If you want to think of it another way: queueing for Heroic Scenarios means, at least for now, you won't get Theramore. For some of us, this is the most important point of all.
The slightly more alt-friendly pieces
- Leveling from 85 to 90 now requires approximately 33% less XP.
- There's a one-time quest at the shrine related to heroic scenarios; completing it gives you a loot chest with a guaranteed i516 item in it. You've also got a chance at an i516 piece per day from the loot chest from heroic scenarios before it reverts to the regular chest containing i450-i476 loot.
- Battlefield: Barrens, mentioned above, gives you i502 boots just for completing its full questline. On top of that, you also have the ability to pick up an i489 piece of gear per week, which have the appearance of old dungeon sets - for death knights, it's a recolor of the set they have when leaving the starting zone; for monks, it's a recolor of a leveling set.
- Challenge modes also have a chance at i516 loot now once per day (it comes from the challenge mode daily).
- Shado-pan Assault gear is shuffling slightly - belts are now available at Friendly, chest pieces at Honored.
- The "A Test of Valor" quest from Wrathion now requires only 3000 VP instead of 6000. Who am I kidding - this is probably a boon for some mains, much less alts.
- The upgraded heirloom items now cost 60% less JP, HP, and/or Darkmoon Faire tickets.
- Level 80 gear vendors were added to Hyjal (Iris Moonweaver) and Vashj'ir (Erunak Stonespeaker) NPCs to allow characters to more easily quality for the item levels for Blackrock Caverns and Throne of the Tides.
- You can now choose a spec to receive gear for in LFR, bonus rolls, and Pandaria quest rewards. Doing so will allow you to play in one spec and gear for another one.
- Herbalists and miners can now pick herbs and mine nodes in Pandaria from skill level 1. Doing so will yield bits of herbs and ore that you can combine into the real thing, somewhat like how skinners have always had scraps that can be combined into leather.
- You can do dailies for the Shado-pan and August Celestials immediately - you don't have to deal with the Golden Lotus ever again. Finally.
The voidbinders, better known as the item upgrade guys, are back in the capital cities and shrines where their holographic projections have been. There have been some changes to their services, most notably the prices.
- Upgrading an item upgradeable by Valor now costs 250 VP for 4 item levels, upgradeable twice - for a total cost of 500 VP to gain 8 item levels.
- Upgrading an item upgradeable by Justice now costs 750 JP for 8 item levels, upgradeable once, and is probably still a big waste of points compared to just converting to Honor and buying 476 pieces.
- Malevolent Gladiator's Conquest (season 12) and Dreadful Gladiator's Honor (season 12) items can be upgraded at their original prices.
- No gear from season 13 can be upgraded.
More things to do for Wrathion
For once you don't have to collect little orange bits; instead, Wrathion is going to send you to do a quest, which involves overcoming one of the Celestials' challenges - there's one for tanks, one for healers, one for ranged DPS (possibly just caster DPS - unconfirmed), and one for melee (and possibly hunters) - which will net you an item level 600 cloak.
A vague attempt at PvP notes
New battleground: Deepwind Gorge. Fight over mines, get the Gorgeous title for achievements.
Everyone now has a base resilience of 65%. There was already a fairly extensive Blizzard post on gear in PvP.
Finally, I get around to the most important system in the game.
- New pets have been added to the Throne of Thunder and the Isle of Thunder, as a reward for PvP pet battling, and to BC raids.
- The base chance to miss at the same level was basically removed. Congrats, your pets are hit-capped. In return, a bunch of the very basic abilities do bonus damage but have slightly reduced accuracy. Hit chance is, accordingly, displayed for all abilities.
- Those carp from fishing are now tradeable.
- The Etheral Soul-Trade is his regular size again, thank goodness. Now I can continue to bring him out in leveling dungeons and confuse people. Y CANT I SELL TO THIS GUY?????????
- All pet battle quests reward experience. This includes the dailies. The dailies on Pandaria also offer lesser charms and valor now. There's also a weekly quest for PvP pet battles.
- Bad luck streak protection has been added for battle-stones from pet supply bags and wild battles; each time you don't get a stone, you have a progressively better chance of doing so next time.
The two most important changes in the patch
- Bad luck streak protection was added to bonus rolls. Each time a bonus roll gives you a fail bag, you have a progressively larger chance of getting loot next time around.
- You can transmog gear from your bank and void storage now without pulling those items out of the bank (and without using addons for this functionality).