With the final raid of the expansion upon us, plenty of players are coming back around to the game. After all, if you want to get the essential Cataclysm experience, it's now or never. It won't be too long before the world of Azeroth is overrun by pandas, monks, and even more pandas. So, if you're exploring Azeroth once more, here are the things you absolutely shouldn't miss.
Try out Tol Barad
Plenty of players wait until later into an expansion to get back into PvP. As the theory goes, once you've conquered the PvE content, then you can go deeper into the time sink of player versus player combat. If you were one of those folks, you might not have been able to enjoy Tol Barad before you quit.
Don't get me wrong -- Tol Barad can be a pain. You need to understand the strategy if you hope to win, and even being the Bruce Lee of PvP won't count for much if your team isn't up to the challenge. Every bit of Tol Barad PvP feels like a massive game of Follow the Zerg in which you're reduced to praying that your zerg is just a little better than the other guy's zerg.
Nonetheless, Tol Barad is an intrinsic part of the Cataclysm experience. It provides a lot of honor, and it's a moody, genre-steeped place to do battle. If you've not had the opportunity to rush Warden's Vigil, you're missing out on a little piece of Cataclysm.
Relive old instances
One of the things that Cataclysm did well was update some old instances to bring them back into active play. This includes The Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep, of course, which were available as soon as the expansion landed.
Even better, Blizzard added new refurbished instances about halfway through the expansion. We can now go back and revisit Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub.
These favorite raids from the earlier days of WoW remain the stuff of legend among WoW players even now. So when Blizzard had the opportunity, it returned those troll lairs to the player rotation. The new versions were challenging to pick-up groups until patch 4.3 hit. At this point, though, the Zuls have been nerfed sufficiently that you won't have much trouble completing them quickly.
Why are these a big deal? You don't want to risk missing these instances for the same reason Blizzard returned them to the game in the first place. They are cool. The Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep are both incredibly iconic romps through the legends of Azeroth, and both Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub provide an outdoor battle amid cannibalistic trolls. While you might be able to hit these instances briefly as a panda, it just won't be the same as tackling them now.
Here's the big thing about patch 4.3: the Raid Finder. You might have left WoW previously because you didn't have the time or schedule to devote multiple nights a week to raiding. You could have all the skill in a world, but if you can't get together with nine or 24 of your closest friends to advance your gear, you wouldn't get very far in raiding content.
Patch 4.3 brought the solution. The Raid Finder allows you to queue for raids exactly the same way you'd use the Dungeon Finder to get into 5-man groups. You can queue for any of the three roles, although you probably want to skip queueing as a tank unless you must. Tanks need to be a little more familiar with the fights that most members; an inexperienced tank can quickly sink a group.
Don't worry about the fights' being too complicated or difficult. The Raid Finder was created with casual players in mind. Whie you'll still need to do a good job, the fights are hardly insurmountable. Check out our 5-second guides to the Siege of Wyrmrest and the Fall of Deathwing. These guides were specifically designed to get you into the raid and fighting competently as quickly as possible.
A little other stuff
These three things are the big features that have landed in Cataclysm recently. You might also want to check out the Molten Front dailies, but chances are that if you quit the expansion in the middle, a repetitive grind of dailies isn't your style. Patch 4.3 also brought three new 5-man dungeons, which tell the story of how you get to raid the Dragon Soul in the first place. While these 5-mans are fun, they're all very short. They're a nice peek at story, but I'm not sure I'd call them a must-see before the expansion ends.
So if you're back before pandamonium strikes, make sure you hit the refurbished dungeons, Tol Barad, and the Raid Finder.
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.