Blizzard released the well-anticipated 5.1 Patch, Landfall, for World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria on Nov 27. The main focus of this patch is story content, specifically questing and scenarios, but 5.1 does bring some much-demanded balance changes to PvP as well as the new Brawler’s Guild. Because of the slow nature of unlocking access to the Brawler’s Guild, an in-depth look at how it functions in practice will have to wait for another time, but luckily the patch contains plenty of other features worth noting.
The big star of Landfall is the redone Krasarang Wilds. The new Horde and Alliance fortresses take up huge swaths of land and are teeming with NPCs and enemy players. Unlike previous war zones, the quest hubs are not off-limits to enemy players, who will typically have to attack your fortress in order to complete their daily quests for the new Dominance Offensive and Operation: Shieldwall factions. Anyone on a PvP server will need to stay constantly wary of enemy players when questing in Krasarang from now on, as the high player volume and the PvP objectives make ganking even more common than usual. Trying to complete daily quests without a hostile encounter with enemy players is almost impossible, even on a lower population server.
Landfall brings a total of five new scenarios, though as four of those are faction-specific, a given faction only gets to play three of them. The new scenarios are enjoyable, but provide little the in the way of rewards when queued for specifically. Random scenarios can give epic gear now, so players have a much higher incentive to do scenarios than before; originally it felt as if a lot of time and work was invested for little reward.
The class that received the most significant changes is the hunter. Beast mastery’s signature ability, Bestial Wrath, no longer renders the hunter’s pet complete immunity to crowd-control for the ability’s duration, though it does break crowd-control on activation. By forcing beast mastery hunters to use their Bestial Wrath more carefully, makes BM’s burst damage feel fairer to other players because of the greater skill cap involved. Hunters did get a reduction in their burst damage by the Lynx Rush change, which makes it apply the damage as stackable damage-over-time rather than instant burst. But this change is offset largely by the increased attack power bonus of Aspect of the Hawk, various passive and skill buffs, and the major quality of life change that came from removing Aspect of the Fox by making it so Steady Shot, Cobra Shot, and Barrage can always be cast on the move. In PvE, this patch unquestionably buffs hunter damage and quality-of-life in all specs.
As for the most significant changes to other classes, mages have had the duration of Deep Freeze shortened to four seconds and the cooldown of Ring of Frost lengthened to 45 seconds and their Ice Barrier’s absorption nerfed by 25 percent. Considering the dominance of frost mages in PvP, the changes are welcomed by the community, many arguing they do not go far enough. Arcane gets a small damage damage boost, and fire is relatively unchanged. Discipline priests finally got back Focused Will, which has skyrocketed their survivability in PvP. The rogue’s Vanish had its cooldown reduced to two minutes and their Blind had its cooldown reduced by half to 90 seconds. Warriors lost the CC-immunity on Avatar (though it still breaks CC on cast) and Gag Order’s silence no longer works on players. While typically the first major patch of an expansion brings huge balance changes, Blizzard appears to be trying a lighter touch on the balance changes this time around. This change seems to work to everyone’s advantage, as the changes do not appear to have created any huge imbalances and are mostly accepted without complaint.
Pet battles received a few bonuses as well. The biggest addition is that of Battle-stones, which allow players to upgrade their pets to uncommon or rare quality. General purpose Battle-stones can be purchased for 1000 Justice Points and family-specific Battle-stones can be acquired from Pet Trainer quests. Both have chances to drop off of wild pet battles. Pet collectors and battlers also have new pets to seek out, as a bunch of pets have been added to the loot tables of certain raid bosses in Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, Ahn’Qiraj, and Naxxramas. Since Blizzard also removed the raid group restriction for entering raid instances and altered the mechanics of several unsoloable bosses, players can farm for the pets by themselves at their leisure.
Landfall achieves what it set out to do by giving players more content in a wide variety of gameplay avenues. PvP’ers get a huge world PvP zone to play with, soloists and story buffs get solid quest storyline and the Brawler’s Guild, and pet aficionados get new pets to play with. The lack of new raid content is not much of an issue as raiders still have plenty of content to keep them busy. By keeping the class balance changes relatively small for a “X.1” patch, Landfall also avoids overbalancing. Blizzard shows once again that they are not content to rest on their laurels and will keep pushing for new and better content.