On the public-test-realms now, World of Warcraft patch 5.3 is a story, balance and solo (or small-group) content patch. Some of the data has already begun pre-downloading on the Background Downloader for the live servers, so the patch is likely only a few weeks away now. Besides the reduction in the number of Lesser Charms of Good Fortune required for the weekly turn-in and the ability to set loot drops to a different spec when in LFR, 5.3 does not bring much newness for raiding content.
Before tackling the new story quests, players will have to finish a few new scenarios to finish setting the stage. Alliance members get “Blood in the Snow,” in which they help Varian and Moira Thaurissan fight trolls in Dun Morogh, and Horde members get “Dark Heart of Pandaria,” in which they discover a horrible secret while excavating in Pandaria. Both factions get access to “Battle on the High Seas” and “The Secrets of Ragefire,” the former of which is self-explanatory and the latter of which involves more setup for the final fight with Garrosh in the final 5.4 patch. Blizzard will also be trying out their new heroic scenario concept with “Crypt of Forgotten Kings” and “A Brewing Storm” in 5.3 as well. While some players have expressed concern that heroic scenarios would take away development time from dungeons, Blizzard has stated that they are completely separate and they can use different teams for each because scenarios do not require the same level of balance and difficulty as dungeons.
Probably the most controversial change in this patch is the removal of almost all resilience from player-versus-player (PvP) gear. All characters will have a based 65% resilience, no matter their gear. To still give PvP gear an edge PvP power will be increased on all PvP gear. All instanced PvP such as battlegrounds and arena will downgrade the item level of raid gear so that it cannot have an advantage due to the higher item levels of heroic raid gear. Concerns that this change will force raiding onto top-end PvPers are not without merit, and high-end raiders could end up with a substantial advantage in world PvP, but Blizzard is taking all these measures to keep conquest and honor gear the best in PvP, as they should be. This change aims primarily to increase the accessibility of PvP, so it might lead to a reduction in queue times for battlegrounds and arena.
Speaking of which, Blizzard is introducing a new battleground and arena in this patch as well. The new battleground—Deepwind Gorge—is a 15-man battleground situated in the Valley of the Four Winds which operates as a mixture of the base capturing of Battle for Gilneas and the payload gameplay of Silvershard Mines. The new arena, Tiger’s Peak, is set in the Shado-Pan monastery in Kun-lai Summit and has a couple smaller platforms and statues for the line-of-sight game and no gimmicks, so it’s a fairly straightforward arena. A Blizzard representative has already said that they are monitoring the data on which battlegrounds people blacklist with the in-game tool, and they will use this data to determine which battlegrounds need the most attention and updating. If worse-comes-to-worse, they might even cut one or more battlegrounds altogether.
Patch 5.3 continues the formula that Blizzard has setup of making even-numbered patches primarily for raiders and odd-numbered patches primarily for everyone else. While there is a fair amount of content here when it’s all laid out, this patch does feel somewhat light. With 5.3’s release likely coming within the next month and work on 5.4 presumably beginning soon as well, players might question how long of a wait there will be between 5.4—presumably the last major patch of Mists of Pandaria—and the next expansion, which has not even been announced yet. Especially in the matter of story, 5.3 is very much a setup for later events, so hopefully the payoff will be worth Blizzard holding back a bit in the present.