The public test realm has just gone live, and if you've got any characters on it (or if you'd like to go copy some), you can head on over to enjoy all of the patchtastic frivolity likely to descend sometime soon.
In case you're catching up to the rest of us, patch 3.0 is another large content patch specifically designed to transition the player base to the upcoming expansion Wrath of the Lich King. We won't be seeing Death Knights or Northrend (or at least, we're pretty sure we won't, unless they're planning on a big surprise). We will be seeing all of the 1-70 class changes, new features added to the default UI, barbershops, Inscription, a raid buff system overhaul, and more, in addition to four European servers closing due to Russian player migration. Read on for a quick guide to what you can expect:
- New class spells, talents, and raid features: hit our Skill Mastery posts to see coverage on new skills being introduced in patch 3.0. In addition, our class columnists have assessed skill and talent changes and how they're likely to affect gameplay: Druid, both "Big Red Kitty" and "Scattered Shots" for Hunters, Mage, Paladin, Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock, and Warrior. Raid leaders can also quit pulling their hair out over group composition, as most raid buffs will now be raid-wide...but it comes at a price.
- Inscription introduced as a new primary profession: Eliah Hecht nabbed some early information a week after the beta hit, and Daniel Whitcomb switched to Inscription there and wrote a guide to getting started and initial impressions. Elizabeth Harper from Ask A Beta Tester also took a lot of questions on Inscription here with a follow-up post here when it became possible to level it to 400 in the beta. As Eyonix notes in the original thread, you'll only be able to level Inscription to 375 in BC; once Wrath goes live and you have it installed, you'll be able to level Inscription to Grand Master.
- Stormwind Harbor: if you're Alliance, head over to northwestern Stormwind to see the brand-new harbor built to transport explorers to the Borean Tundra (if you're Horde, you can still go to Stormwind, I guess, as long as you don't expect a warm welcome). We have a full gallery if you'd like to see it but don't have any characters in the beta or on the PTR.
- Calendar added to the default UI: looks like Blizzard is treading on turf you once had to download Group Calendar to get, but now you'll be able to see when ingame events like holidays and the Darkmoon Faire are scheduled to occur. Eliah Hect has a video preview of the calendar in action.
- Barbershops: if you've been ruing your hairstyle or color choices since the day you created your main, or if you just think it's time for a change, barbershops will now be available in major cities. We've also got links to new hairstyle photos so you can plan ahead.
- New arenas: patch 3.0 will also see the introduction of the Dalaran and Orgrimmar arenas first announced at the Worldwide Invitational. Zach Yonzon has thoughts on their design and the type of gameplay they're likely to encourage. Not a ton of information since then on how (or whether) these evolved from when they were first discussed at the WWI panel, so if you see them on the PTR, please let us know how they turned out.
- One thing we won't be seeing anymore: Amani War Bears. Unless Blizzard changes this at the last moment, they're not going to wait for Wrath before taking the timed four-chest Zul'Aman reward out of the game. If you're still part of a group doing bear runs, or you have the opportunity to get one before the patch goes live, you'll want to get it as soon as you can.