World of Warcraft's latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, releases on August 14th at 3 PM PST. The 8.0 pre-patch is live now, with all of the class changes for the initial launch and many of the Legion features being moonlighted. Rather than spell it all out here, I recommend checking out the BfA 8.0 Pre-Patch Survival Guide.
Valor will be playing again on launch and Raiding, running Mythic+, and PvPing. Currently we have a tentative headcount of 10-15, and are hoping more folks will give it a shot. There's a new in-game feature called Communities which enables cross-server chat, and all content works cross-server (except Mythic raid before 100 guild kills), so we'll be looking to get everyone into the community regardless of server, but if you're looking to also join the guild then we're still on the Mok'Nathal server, Horde faction. Message me in-game, on voice chat, or on the site and I'll get you an invite link to the community. Valor has also migrated over to Discord (https://discord.gg/Qejf3N8), use that invite link or message me if it expires.
A new expansion is a great opportunity to try the game if you've never played it before, or jump back in if you fell off the wagon some time during Legion or prior. There were a lot of good updates in Legion, and some of those systems like Mythic+, Artifacts, World Quests, and Class Design are making their way forward to Battle for Azeroth with changes, while others like Legendaries, Tier Sets, and Spec-Specific Artifacts are not being carried over, which should make for a smoother gearing experience with more friendly off-specing and alting (on paper, anyways).
If you prefer video content to bring you up to speed, I've assembled a playlist of some BfA informational videos to take a look at, adding more as they pop up: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuhrakM0v5XURwJ1-Q-XcqAwqwAGz1Umh
I'll cover some of the key features and my thoughts on them, but you can find feature listings in the above videos or plenty of other sources.
Artifacts (Updated) (Index)
In Legion, every class/spec pairing had an Artifact weapon which you applied Artifact Power to in order to gain traits, including several major spec defining traits and a capstone trait at the end of each tier. Artifact Power was the primary resource accrued from all forms of play as a supplement, so it was intended to reward you for continuing to do all forms of content. Unfortunately it proved to be more of a grind and a gate, making it hard to off-spec or alt due to having to level a separate artifact, and at one point incentivizing Maw of Souls farming to max it out for progression minded players as the capstone grind trait was too powerful. Catchup and alt mechanics got better as the expansion went on.
In Battle for Azeroth, the Artifact item is now a Necklace, meaning that it's shared across all of your specializations. This instantly removes a major timesink/gate which made playing multiple specs difficult. It also means that weapons will once again drop from content. Azerite is absorbed into the necklace as you acquire it, and the necklace's growth enables the selection of additional traits on the new Azerite gear pieces. For a more in-depth look, see here. In the beta at least, it seems this will be easier to progress without grinding, and that catchup mechanics for alts will be present earlier on.
Class Design (Updated) (Index)
In Legion, most all classes and specs were overhauled and given clear identities, resources, rotations, and utility. The gameplay overall felt like an MMO should feel in 2018 with most classes being fluid and distinctive, and the addition of further mechanics through artifact traits and legendaries presented a lot of complex varieties.
In Battle for Azeroth, some of the variety and complexity has been curbed, but the core of the classes are carried over with some updates to some of the underplayed specs. Pain points for several specs were addressed to smooth out play patterns. Not all changes were necessarily good though, many off-GCD skills were moved onto the GCD, and it remains to be seen how that affects responsiveness in high level content. Since content will be balanced with that in mind though, it may make it friendlier for people without hyper reaction time. Many classes also received defining party buffs or benefits again, so the devs seem to want to move away from the homogeneity of slotting in classes they went for last expansion.
Tier Sets (Removed) / Azerite Gear (New) (Index)
In Legion, every raid had a tier set with 2pc and 4pc bonuses which differed for each spec. This is a fairly standard raid itemization approach which was present in many previous expansions and other MMOs. The system has its ups and downs, when it's best it gives you an incentive to run the raid for a transformational buff to your spec, but naturally it's impossible to make 36 bonuses equally valuable for every tier, so you had cases where people ran old raids for Titanforges of a better bonus, or skipped a 4pc set entirely in favor of better statted gear.
In Battle for Azeroth, tier gear no longer drops from the raid, you now can find Azerite Gear in the raid as well as in other forms of content. Helms, Shoulders, and Chests will drop as Azerite Gear, and each piece is empowered by your Artifact necklace and has several tiers of traits on the gear which you can select between. Different pieces drop from different content, so some of your targeted gear may be in the raid while others may be in Mythic+ or PvP. Bonuses may also favor forms of content, so min-maxers can optimize for the type of content they're doing. The system has a lot of potential to provide more choice and more sensible gearing, but it remains to be seen how it is balanced and how the traits come out.
Legendary Items (Removed) (Index)
In Legion, every class had access to 10+ different Legendary items, some common, some class-specific, and others spec-specific. These varied wildly in power early on, and in some cases greatly modified the way a spec was played. They were obtained randomly through any form of content, and gradually over the course of the expansion catchup mechanics were introduced. While the items were cool and the class changes they brought on were interesting, the method of acquisition was a constant pain point and they were a massive barrier to switching class and spec for most of the expansion.
In Battle for Azeroth, there are no legendary items at present. There may be a traditional generic legendary added later, but nothing like Legion. This should remove a major barrier to alting and off-specing, as well as a pain point of being worse off than someone who got luckier and got their BIS spec legendary early, though it does place more of a burden on the base class and spec design.
Added Content (New) (Index)
In Battle for Azeroth, two main new forms of content have been added in Island Expeditions and Warfronts. Island Expeditions are 3v3 exploration battles against the enemy faction (or AI) using randomly generated island scenarios, perhaps similar to Diablo rifts. They will be the primary source of Azerite Power, affording much more than dungeons. Warfronts team you up with 20 allied players to create outposts, secure resources, train troops, and assault enemy strongholds. Progress in warfronts gates access to special content such as world bosses, rare spawns, and quests.
Mythic+ / Raiding (Updated) (Index)
In Legion, Mythic+ was added and was largely met with rave reviews. It provided a means for small group content to be constantly progressed in difficulty which greatly increased the replayability of the dungeons, and the affix system made every week an interesting and different experience (or sometimes painful). Raiding was fairly standard, with LFR, Normal, Heroic, and Mythic difficulties available. There were 5 raids released during Legion, and most were solid in terms of boss design and difficulty.
In Battle for Azeroth, Mythic+ remains, but there will be some changes to the way keys work, and gear swapping will be disabled within the dungeon. Overall the system should be as good as it was in Legion. Raiding also remains largely the same, with two key changes. All content is now Personal Loot only, so gone are loot disputes and high-end guild split farming. This is a welcome change in general, and item trading is still allowed when you have a higher ilvl piece. Also, Mythic difficulty will become cross-server once 100 guilds have cleared the raid, which should be considerably quicker than in the past.
PvP (Updated) (Index)
In Battle for Azeroth, PvP servers have been removed and replaced with a "War Mode" toggle. Enabling War Mode flags you for PvP and provides a 10% bonus to all experience/reputation/currency gains, as well as access to your Honor Talents. Cache and bounty systems provide ways to focus the efforts of PvP minded open world players (kill 10 enemy players without dying and you'll find yourself marked on the map for the entire enemy faction). PvE players can still play with the mode off and shouldn't experience any real difference, the 10% gain from having it on should be offset by the inconvenience of dying at times. Honor is now also account-wide, and earning gear from PvP occurs in a gradual progression of progressively higher ilvl pieces each time you rank up, rather than dealing with random loot boxes, so gearing up via PvP should be fairly consistent.
Miscellaneous (New/Updated) (Index)
In Battle for Azeroth, there are new Allied Races to choose from, Pet Battles, Mounts, Transmog, and other collectible updates. Orcs can now be upright, Blood Elves can have yellow eyes. Professions are split by expansion so you don't need to level through past expansions to do BfA profession content. There are three new zones for each faction for leveling. Stats are squished so that numbers aren't as obscene. There will be another Order Hall / Garrison type system, but it's supposedly more optional than before and upgrades aren't as gated behind the war campaign progress.