Patch 3.0.2: Echoes of Doom is live today, preparing us for Wrath of the Lich King -- which is now less than a month away. The changes are vast and will affect your character in many ways. In fact, there are so many all at once that I find it a bit overwhelming, so here is a breakdown of what I think particularly applies to those of us with limited playtime.
But before we jump in to the list, allow me to be sentimental for a moment. In preparation for the patch, I organized most of my pets and mounts in one bag and took a picture for posterity. After the patch, and a little bit of double clicking, this bag will be empty. Why and more are after the break.
Pets and Mounts: One of the things that has always bothered me about my favorite MMO is that you get penalized for some of the more fun aspects of the game. Particularly annoying is the lack of space to collect lore items as well as companions and mounts. Patch 3.0.2 changes this by making Companions and Mounts skills on a Pets tab on your Character screen instead of taking up bag space. Just double click on the icons in your bag to "learn" them.
Currency: [Updated] I logged in to discover something else that frees up bag space. There is now a Currency tab on your Character screen that is the new home for Badges of Justice and Marks of Honor. No clicks required.
Talents: Total reset, dude. They are changing (though not as much as expected). There are new spells that go with them. Your talents will be automatically reset to zero so that you can respec for free. Check out your class column (listed in the right column of WoW Insider) for more information on your spec. Also see the Skill Mastery posts for specifics on new spells and skills. Even if you don't want to research all the newness for your class, at least remember you have to spend your talent points before you go off adventuring.
Stats: Fundamental stats are changing. Hit Rating is now one stat for both melee and spells and the same applies to Critical Strike Rating and Haste. Spellpower is replacing both Spell Damage and Healing stats. For more details, see Spellpower 101. This will change trinkets, enchants -- everything that could affect Spell Damage and Healing before. Take a look at your gear. You may be able to consolidate outfits, saving more bag space and probably becoming more effective.
Achievements: If you like the Badge system in City of Heroes, you will love WoW's new Achievements system. This really gives those of us who don't have time to raid something more to do with our play sessions. Not only can you earn titles from Achievements, some of them even award useful items. I loved badge collecting on my scrapper in Paragon City and I'm rather fond of collecting Badges in Club Pogo (What? No mocking my Monopoly addiction.), so I am definitely biased. But I really think that while this change benefits everyone, it is particularly great for casuals. Are you playing one-handed at 2AM while you comfort your infant? Take your level 70 back to do newbie quests in order to become an Ambassador. Only have time to chat while dueling outside of Ironforge or Orgrimmar? Then you can be Duel-icious. There are hundreds of achievements that cover everything from PvP to Fishing. You may never be bored again.
Inscription: Even though Inscription is a Wrath of the Lich King craft, it is enabled with Patch 3.0.2. This means that you can level it to 375 before the expansion is even released. Even if you don't want to pick up this new craft, if you already have an Herbalist, you can make a lot of money on the AH selling even the most basic herbs to people who want to power-level this skill.
Leveling: If you have a character between 60 and 70, leveling in Outlands is now approximately 30% faster.
Barber Shops: You are no longer stuck with the same hair choices you made when you created your character. While this isn't revolutionary or anything, I do think it is good to have in game. In fact, I think that anything they have in Animal Crossing: Wild World should be in WoW. If they start having loot float by on balloons that you can shoot down with a slingshot, you'll hear about it here first.
Odds and ends: There are graphics engine updates that will allow you to make things prettier -- or, unfortunately, give you errors. The latency bar is now incorporated into the Options icon and will change color according to your latency. You can mouse over the icon in order to get the same information as the old latency bar.
While sorting through and hopefully consolidating my druid's 3+ sets of gear will be fun and playing with the new talents will also be diverting, I am most excited about seeing what Achievements I have already earned.
Happy Echoes of Doom Patch Day!