Like a freaky Weeping Angel cat who gets nearer and nearer whenever you're not watching it very closely, patch 4.2 is drawing ever closer. We obviously don't know exactly when the patch will drop, but we can be relatively certain it's ... soon. I'd be surprised if we saw the end of June before we're rocking out in the Firelands.
The upcoming patch is a content patch, which means that there will be new raids, new quests, and new stuff. The patch has class adjustments, nerfs, and balance changes to characters; you should definitely check out your class columns on WoW Insider to get a clue of how your character-based gameplay will change.
That being said, the upcoming patch promises plenty of huge quality-of-life changes for rookie and casual players alike.
Encounter Journal: In-game strategies
One of the biggest changes to WoW for more casual players will be the debut of the Encounter Journal. Using this feature, you can look up the basic mechanics of each dungeon's boss fights. It won't tell you the strategy for overcoming the encounter, but the journal will tell you what abilities you should expect.
This resource will be huge for the "just play" crowd. It's annoying when you're forced to tab out of the game to look up a boss on third-party websites. The journal will let you keep playing the game while in the game, without investing so much real-life time memorizing stats and powers on the internet.
Fresh, new daily quests
Patch 4.2 will bring players a whole new series of daily quests. This is content you can enjoy solo at your own pace, without being forced to group up with 24 of your closest friends.
As you work to reclaim and help regrow Mount Hyjal, you will slowly gain access to even more content. This progression is tied to your character, so you won't miss out on the experience while everyone else on your realm is blazing through the content as fast as possible.
The rewards for these quests look promising and helpful, providing a nice method for gear progression that isn't tied to raiding or heroic dungeons.
Okay, this is a touchy subject, so I'm going to try and be delicate. The current normal mode raids -- stuff like Bastion of Twilight and Blackwing Descent -- are being rebalanced to make them even more accessible. Much of the standard raiding playerbase is frustrated with these changes, but I'm focused on the idea that even more players will be able to get into the raids, do the content, and then progress to the Firelands.
While raiding nowadays is much more attainable than it was in the early days of WoW, the current raids have a lot of "do it right or you all die" mechanics. That's awesome for srs-bsns raiders, since it provides a lot of space for decision-making, skill tests, and interesting strategies.
Not to mention, there are a lot of raids right now. There are four raids, if you include the one-boss Baradin Hold. You can do each raid in an evening if you're blowing up the content and probably double up BH and Throne of the Four Winds in a single night, but that's still three nights of raiding a week. That's three nights of raiding to down all the content, if you're fully progressed and having no challenges. Any struggle at all in the instances, and it becomes a much longer raiding week.
For folks who are balancing trying to get in to see content with family lives, work, and other concerns, this can make raiding a little frustrating. I'm much more excited about having a manageable list of bosses each week than the 7-nights-a-week raid-fest we have right now.
More developments to come
There are more changes to come that will impact casual and newer players. Many of those details will become more obvious as the patch actually drops, but we can hope to see people relax a little more during heroics, maybe a little more gear put into circulation, and the prices on the auction house dropping significantly.
Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from how to control your character and camera angles when you're just starting out, to learning how to tank, getting up to speed for heroics and even how to win Tol Barad.