The recent announcement of World of Warcraft's next expansion, Cataclysm, brought with it a whole slew of drastic changes to the game. You're probably familiar with them all by now -- but if you stopped paying attention to BlizzCon 2009 coverage after the welcome ceremony, you may have missed out on a ton of additional changes that will make their way into the almighty MMO around the time Cataclysm launches.

We've done our best to round these changes up into a single post -- as always, however, we have to defer to the experts over at Joystiq's Azeroth-obsessed sister site, WoW.com, for the super in-depth coverage. You'll find a bunch of links to their BlizzCon coverage embedded in our post after the jump -- curious parties are just one click away from total Cataclysmic enlightenment.

New Alliance Race: Worgen

Classes available: warrior, hunter, rogue, priest, death knight, mage, warlock and druid.

Racial abilities:
  • Able to switch between your two forms (Human and Worgen) at will instantaneously.
  • "Darkflight," which increases your Worgen form's movement speed by 70% for 10 seconds. Three minute cooldown.
  • "Viciousness," a passive skill which increases all damage done by 1 percent.
  • "Flayer," a passive ability which enhances your skinning skill by 15 points and allows you to skin faster.
The Worgen start out their adventure searching for a cure for their bestial form. Your first few quests will have you learning how to gain control of your volatile shapeshifting abilities. If you don't mind a few spoilers, WoW.com has more information on how your first few hours as a member of this new race will play out.


New Horde Race: Goblin

Classes available: warrior, hunter, rogue, priest, death knight, shaman, mage and warlock.

Racial abilities:
  • "Best Deals Anywhere," a passive skill which allows Goblins to always receive the best discounts with any vendor, regardless of faction.
  • "Better Living Through Chemistry," a passive ability which increases Alchemy skill by 15 points.
  • "Pack Hobgoblin," an instant ability which summons a personal assistant, allowing you access to your bank for one minute. 30 minute cooldown.
  • "Rocket Barrage," an instant ability which launches "belt rockets" at an enemy within 30 yards, dealing 30 fire damage. Two minute cooldown.
  • "Rocket Jump," an instant ability which utilizes the aforementioned rocket belt to propel the user forward. Two minute cooldown.
  • "Time is Money," a passive ability which increases attack and casting speed by 1 percent.
As hinted at by the trailer, Goblin characters start the game as survivors of a grisly shipwreck. Your first few quests will force you to rescue your green-skinned brothers and sisters who weren't quite as fleet-footed as you. Again, for more details regarding the Goblin starting zone, check out WoW.com.

New Secondary Profession: Archeology

Not much is known about the Archeology skill thus far. We do know it'll be a secondary skill -- meaning you won't have to drop your primary professions to pick it up. You'll be able to excavate secrets hidden in ancient ruins to create research notes, which you'll use to unlock new abilities in the new Path of the Titans character progression system. Considering said system is only available to max-level players, newbies probably won't have to worry about getting their Dr. Jones on any time soon.

New Dungeons and Raids

The Cataclysm expansion will ship with eight new 5-man dungeons:
  • Grim Batol: For level 85 players
  • Skywall: For level 80 - 82 players.
  • Abyssal Maw: Two dungeons designed for players level 80-83 and level 82-84.
  • Deepholm: For players level 80-83.
  • Uldum: Two dungeons designed for players level 83-84 and level 85.
  • Blackrock Caverns: For level 85 players.
Blizzard is also introducing heroic 5-man versions of two classic dungeons:
  • Shadowfang Keep: For level 85 players.
  • The Deadmines: For level 85 players.
In addition, Blizzard announced that four new raids would be unlocked when Cataclysm launches. Two were revealed during the appropriately named Dungeons and Raids panel:
  • The Firelands: An exterior raid involving the classic fiery boss Ragnaros.
  • Nefarian's Throne Room: A raid zone featuring Blackwing Lair's end boss, Nefarian.
Also, finding a group for these instances will soon become a lot easier -- Blizzard also announced during the panel that Patch 3.3 will introduce "cross-server LFG" for 5-man dungeons. Pick-up groups should be a lot easier to come by once this new feature is released.


New Race/Class Combinations

The launch of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will allow races to take on roles formerly unavailable to them. Here's the new combinations that players will be able to choose from:
  • Human Hunter
  • Orc Mage
  • Night Elf Mage
  • Blood Elf Warrior
  • Dwarf Shaman
  • Dwarf Mage
  • Undead Hunter
  • Tauren Paladin
  • Tauren Priest
  • Gnome Priest
  • Troll Druid
Player Stat Overhaul

Player stats are being simplified on a massive scale. Somewhat confusing, ambiguous values such as spell power, MP5 and armor penetration will be completely removed. Haste will determine resource regeneration, not attack speed. Stamina bonuses will be equally distributed over all armor types instead of mostly favoring plate gear. For more on these huge changes -- and the repercussions they'll bring to the game -- check out WoW.com's analysis.

Other Class Changes

Honestly, there's a bit too much "insider baseball" for us to get into here. If you're interested in how your particular class will be affected by Cataclysm, check out WoW.com's coverage of the "Class, Items and Professions" panel.

Flying Mounts available in Azeroth

Before, you could only use your costly flying mounts within the confines of Outland and Northrend -- now, you'll be able to tool around on them anywhere you darn well please.


Areas throughout Azeroth changed by the "Cataclysm"

As you probably discerned from the trailer, the face of Azeroth will be changed by the expansion's titular Cataclysm -- and it'll happen whether you purchase the expansion or not. Not only will this change the way future generations of WoW players experience the game, but it'll give veteran players a reason to go back and check out their now-ruined old stompin' grounds.

In addition, new high-level zones will appear across Azeroth following the release of Cataclysm, including Uldum, Grim Batol, and the great Sunken City of Vashj'ir. Little is known about these new areas, but we expect them to be geared for players nearing the game's newly raised level 85 cap.

Guild Progression and Talents

At last, your guilds will have a numerical method of tracking how totally awesome they are. Guilds will be able to earn new levels by tackling the game's more difficult bosses and dungeons. They can use this experience to unlock special guild talents -- perks which make future dungeon-tackling a tad easier. Blizzard mentioned some possible abilities that could be unlocked in this manner, including mass rezzes (handy for total wipes), instant summoning for all the members of a raid, or even a mass server transfer for your entire guild!

In addition, guilds will now be able to unlock new guild-specific achievements, and will be able to earn "guild currency," allowing them to purchase reagants and recipes, as well as certain custom-made vanity items (such as a battle standard imbued with your guild's insignia!

Rated Battlegrounds and other PvP Changes

PvP-minded players have been duking it out in WoW's Arenas for quite some time now, attempting to earn fantastic gear through brutal combat. Now, the game's mission-oriented battlegrounds will be getting the same treatment -- every week, one battleground will become "rated," allowing players to boost their own personal ratings, allowing them to pick up top-of-the-line PvP equipment and "Special epic ground mounts." In addtion, victories in rated battlegrounds will also boost your guild level!

Other changes include the re-introduction of PvP rankings -- a feature present when the game first launched, allowing skilled PvP players to attach ranks such as "Grand Marshal" to the front of their names. Also, Blizzard announced Tol Barad Island (a new PvP zone), and the "Battle for Gilneas" battleground, which will have the game's two factions struggling to gain control of Gilneas' various districts.


Mastery System and Talent Tree Updates

The talent tree system which allows characters to fully customize their characters is getting a major overhaul as well -- simply put, they're removing all of the boring passive talents which only boost certain stats. Now, each class' three specializations will be equipped with automatic "Mastery" bonuses which strengthen as you invest more points into a specific talent tree. For instance, a Rogue who invests a ton of points into the Combat talent tree will automatically receive increases to his melee damage and chance to hit. Other classes' specializations will receive similarly complimentary bonuses.

These bonuses can furthermore be improved by the player's Mastery stat, which will start appearing on certain pieces of gear. In addition, a player's Mastery stat also provides a few class-specific bonuses -- for example, a high Mastery value will lower ability cooldowns for Retribution-specced Paladins.


That's a metric ton of information for an expansion that was only announced two days ago -- and with an ambiguous launch window of 2010, we can expect to hear even more about the biggest MMO ever's upcoming changes in the next few months.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.