How much has Pet Battles changed since the first time it was inadvertently released? The UI has improved tremendously. Mechanics, animations, and the whole works are much smoother.
So how does one get started? First things first. Your character needs to gain the ability to engage mini-pets out in the world. In order to that, you'll need to find your local battle pet trainer. In my case, I booked it straight to Stormwind and asked a guard where the nearest trainer was. You'll find Audrey Burnhep just northeast of the Dwarven District next to the Eastern Earthshrine where all the Cataclysm portal zones are. I ended up forking over 80 pieces of my hard-earned gold to earn the right to use my pets. (Note: This was with the faction discount, otherwise it's 100g.)
Aubrey will train you with cleverly designed quests to send you out into the world. The first quest she'll give you is Learning the Ropes. All you need to do is win a simple pet battle. If your pet somehow manages to fall in battle or is wounded, not a problem! The next quest Aubrey gives you is called On The Mend. She'll send you to Jenova Stoneshield, a nearby dwarven Stable Master in the Dwarven District. For 10 silver, she'll heal your pets and revive any that are down for the count. If you're far away from town and need to heal your pets, don't worry. If you bring up your pet journal, there's a button the top right allowing you to Revive Battle Pets. Sadly, you can only use this once every 15 minutes.
The last thing you need to learn is capturing pets out in the wild. It's the main way you can acquire new pets (other than buying them via vendors or selecting pets with real money). You need to damage the opposing pet low enough that you can capture it. There's a slight chance that the pet might be able to resist and shake off your attempt to capture it, but that hasn't happened to me just yet. Call it a hunch, but pet rarity might have something to do with that.
You'll be allowed to use one pet at the start. When one of your pets hits level 3, you'll unlock another pet slot. You'll get another pet slot when a pet reaches level 5. The maximum level your pet can get to is level 25. Your pet can only use three abilities, but you have a total of six to choose from when you unlock them at various levels.
Let me take a moment and introduce Team Matticus. I'll be icing a tough, meaty team with tanking attributes and hard-hitting physical attacks.
Team Matticus currently consists of Benny (Baby Blizzard Bear), Gnawty (Grunty), and Mini Matt (Mini Thor). Benny can easily Bash and stun targets to buy any extra time I need. Gnawty naturally regains health based on the amount of damage he dishes out (Recovery) and the ability for increased critical strike chance (with lower accuracy). If those two pets can't do the job, then it's time to whip out the finisher.
Mini-Matt will crush anything still remaining. If the Toxic Smoke doesn't choke the enemy pet to death, then the third-turn exploding Sticky Grenade will guarantee it.
When you're out in the world looking for pets and players, know the opposition and set your lineup accordingly. If you're in a region that's heavy with critter types, pick a pet with abilities that are strong against them or with defenses that naturally protect against them. Benny, my Baby Blizzard Bear, has Bite and and Maul, which are strong against critter types. But I wouldn't send Benny out against flying types because those two attacks be ineffective.
Here's where the real fun begins. You can engage in combat by looking for random critters throughout the world or right-clicking on a player's portrait and challenging them to a pet battle duel.
Once you're in, the interface changes, and you'll have control over the turn-based environment in how how to act and react. I'm actually unsure of how the turn order is decided. In all the battles I fought in, my pets always acted second.
The amount of experience points your pets gain will scale according to your opponents. I took my level 2 Blizzard Bear against a level 5 Albino Snake. I benched him after one round. Poor Benny the Blizzard Bear lost half his health. So I switched out Benny for Mini Matt (Mini Thor), who was level 6 and crushed that little snake. Benny gained substantially more experience and hit level 4. Gnawty gained the lowest amount of experience overall because I never chose him.
Pet economies are going to flourish. There are multiple qualities of pets. Rare pets are going to be stronger than normal or poor quality pets. Their stats will be higher which means harder hitting moves and tougher exteriors. There's a specific category for it in the Auction House (and the prices are rather inflated).
I know that not everyone likes the inclusion of the Pet Battle system in the game. But it's another engaging activity to do within the game that has a real easy learning curve and is mindlessly fun. I'm pleased with the direction this new feature is going. It'll give me additional things to pursue if a raid night gets cancelled or if I'm watching TV episodes and looking for something to do. Remember that you don't have to participate in pet battles at all. There's still a huge variety of stuff to do in the game. At the very least, I'd say give it a show. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Oh, and Team Matticus? Undefeated.
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!