It's easy to feel overwhelmed the first time you log into patch 4.2. As the saying goes, it helps to take the time and read the patch notes. Patch notes are huge, however, and they contain a lot of information to digest all at once. All that complexity and new content comes crashing down on you the first time when you log in and things are different.
Here's your essential guide to logging into the game for the first time since patch 4.2. The first rule is: Don't panic. The patch is huge, but it's not so huge that it will radically change your life forever. I promise, stern-looking gnomes in stark uniforms won't spring from the alleys and beat up your character. You're in no immediate danger.
Let's go step by step through what you should be doing.
Check your mail
The first thing you should do when you log in is trot to your nearest mailbox and check your mail. There might be fun gifts waiting inside for you. Specifically, there are two types of mail you can get due to the patch: gold for valor points, gold for keys.
As we've beaten into the ground at this point, valor points were converted into justice points. If you would have amassed over 4,000 justice points after the conversion, the overage has been converted into cash money instead. That money will be waiting in your mailbox. You get 47 silver for each extra point -- not a bad jackpot if you were already maxed out on points.
The keyring was removed from the game. No more keyring. If you had keys in your keyring and those keys are no longer useful, you receive 2 gold, 50 silver for each of those keys. It's not a whopping amount, but it's a nice touch. The mail you receive says those keys were mysteriously floating in the nether. I kind of wonder how they got there, but I always like more free gold.
The Dungeon Journal
There aren't many huge changes to your interface, but there are a few extra buttons along the bottom. The biggest new button for rookies and casual players is the Dungeon Journal.
The Dungeon Journal is a huge new feature. By default, you press Shift + J to open it up, or just click the button in your UI. The Dungeon Journal is a comprehensive list of the bosses that you'll encounter in the game. I find the format a little difficult to read, but it sure is fun to scroll through all the different boss models.
While Blizzard isn't giving away all of its boss strategies in the Dungeon Journal, these little hints make a great heads-up.
Check your portal and quest area
The Horde and Alliance obviously have different locations for their portal area and quest boards. That being said, you'll find your new quest breadcrumbs in those places for all of the new, exciting patch 4.2 content.
You'll end up with a whole new series of daily quests. Unless you're planning on storming into the Firelands raids, these quests will probably form the majority of your definitive patch 4.2 experience. There's no need to rush them, but that should be a key part of your interest.
Fix your mods
The last but probably most important step into the new patch experience is to fix all of your broken mods. You can just click "Load out of date Addons" and see how your interface works out without much adjustment, but chances are, you have some downloading to do. Boss mods, damage meters, and all that jazz are due for an upgrade.
All the other stuff
Don't forget to check out our complete guide to the patch. You can just scroll down through the subheaders and look for the new stuff that interests you. It's probably the quickest way to make sense of the achievements and activity you see around you.
Most importantly, take it slow and enjoy the content patch. We only get these big patches every 6 months or so; there's no reason to blow up the content and rob yourself of a good time.
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.