While much of the World of Warcraft buzz around BlizzCon has thus far been focused on the pandaren race, monk class, and talent system overhaul, there remains the question: what are you going to do with all of it?
The World of Warcraft Dungeons and Raids panel recently kicked off to answer that very question. Who are the big bad guys you need to kill, and where can you kill them?
Three new dungeons were shown out of the nine total planned in the initial release of the expansion, starting with Temple of the Jade Serpent, the first dungeon you’ll encounter while leveling from 85 to 90. In this dungeon you’ll be tasked with defeating the Sha of Doubt, one of the elemental enemies threatening the shrouded continent and sacred pandaren ways.
The second dungeon previewed was the Stormstout Brewery. Chen Stormstout of WarCraft III fame is a revered figure within pandaren culture, and his brewery has been overrun by the Verming and Hozu, a couple of the less-than-savory races that also inhabit Pandaria. You’re tasked with reclaiming his family heritage… and his beer.
In addition to the three new dungeons that were shown, two classic dungeon crawls are getting the Deadmines treatment and will return in level-90 Heroic fashion. While they'll still be accessible in their lower-level form for those leveling their new pandaren, both Scarlet Monastery and Scholomance will be buffed up, spit-shined, and made relevant to max-level characters with new, challenging encounters and equally high-level drops. Scholomance is returning with a more streamlined layout and the Scarlet Monastery, too big to return as one dungeon, is being split up into two wings. The Graveyard and Cathedral are being combined into one level-90 Heroic dungeon, and the Library and Armory into another. Whitemane's Chapeau for everyone!
Are you yawning at the idea of more five-player dungeons? You may be interested in Challenges. This is a new time trial system coming in Mists of Pandaria for level-90 dungeons. The challenge itself may not always be difficult, but ranking will be. Do well and you'll earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal. Completing the Challenge on gold will incur a stacking debuff on future attempts: it’ll start with a 5% debuff, but if you manage to finish with a gold medal time on that run you’ll receive a 10% debuff on your next run, and so on.
In addition to realm-wide bragging rights, completing Challenges will award you with unique Transmogrification items and other vanity rewards. Oh, did we forget to mention that your gear will be normalized? Sorry, no gearing up or stacking items to get the best times -- your item level will be normalized so that even when the next raid encounter comes out and new gear drops, your world-record will stand until some other group of chumps actually has the skill to beat it.
Challenges will be enabled during any dungeon run that supports them, including those joined through the Dungeon Finder. To help get people together that are looking to achieve the same goals, a special flag will be available to only match you with others looking to do Challenges if you do use the Dungeon Finder.
One of the three new raids launching with Mists of Pandaria was also unveiled: Mogu’Shan Palace. This six-boss raid is located in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, and invites you to explore the hidden secrets of the elusive Mogu empire, one of the new indigenous Pandarian races.
In Cataclysm, Heroic dungeons were intentionally designed as gear and difficulty checks on the progression to raiding. In Mists of Pandaria, the Raid Finder will be the appropriate transition from running dungeons to Normal raids. Heroic dungeons will largely be tuned to be about as difficult as they were in Wrath of the Lich King, allowing players to fairly quickly down bosses in PUGs and hit their Valor Point caps. Valor Points will follow a new philosophy with 4.3, as a parallel way to gear up alongside the Raid Finder, but not as a fill-in for boss drops.
The overall goal for this expansion is that any time you log in, you should be able to make some kind of progress on your character. Whether that's through Normal or Heroic raiding, queuing for a Raid Finder run, hitting dailies for rewards and VP, busting out a scenario with some strangers, or joining some buddies for a dungeon Challenge, we want you to be making meaningful progression on your character. Some ways will be faster than others, but no matter what you choose to do, you'll be making progress.
The goals for dungeons and raids in Mists of Pandaria are to create epic and challenging experiences, but Cataclysm also helped us learn where we can improve with the new expansion. The Raid Finder will help with taking that first step into endgame content, and it will be available for all Mists of Pandaria raids. Beyond that, we want to create more easily understandable encounters and move away from mechanics that simply set up groups to fail, while still keeping them challenging.
We’re also looking to address some of the issues that came with how the zones and locations were spread out in Cataclysm. While that’s largely addressed with Pandaria simply being one continent, it also includes giving dungeons and raids more of a presence in the world. All of the dungeons and raids in Pandaria exist as actual locations you can walk up to and fly over, and aren’t just encapsulated experiences hidden behind a portal.