Welcome everyone, this is a kind of traditional article that gets done every few years as we all wait in the lull that inhabits the game after the last big raid patch of a cycle and before the next expansion. While we know there will be some additional content before Cataclysm, we also know it will not be huge, nor will it be another tier of raid content. This leaves many players with little to do for several months until Cataclysm is released.
Take a look around and I am sure that you will see the signs that the game is slowing down. My server has traditionally been insanely busy, with raids like ICC pugable the week each wing was released, constant TOC and TOGC GDKP runs going, and more. Now it takes forever to get a group, pretty much everyone will now be clearing ICC with the 15% buff and prices in TOC GDKP runs make them entirely useless as a way to get gold. Even more than any of those things, you see players in greater numbers taking breaks from the game. I have seen over a dozen close friends say cya when Cataclysm hits, and many more that were in the guild that left until then.
What about all of us that are not ready to just checkout of the game for several months though? Surely there are things to keep us all busy in this game; after all it isnt all about raiding. So, what is there to do
Usually one of the big things is to level any new character that you want to use for the next cycle if you are bored with your main. This is still a decent idea as new characters bring new challenges, learning, excitement, and knowledge. However, since Cataclysm is going to shuffle so much of Azeroth around, levelling another character from level 1 may not be in your best interest. You might be better waiting so that you can either try out a new race while doing it, or just to work through the reworked world and the promised better quest layout coming.
What is a good idea is if you have any characters that you left mid-game though that are in the 55-75 level ranges then levelling them is probably a good thing to do. These level ranges are not going to change a whole bunch (presumably) and getting these characters to level 80 will give you a new character to level with when Cataclysm launches. Doing this sooner rather than later will also give you a chance to gear them up at level 80 so that they will have an easier time with the level 80-85 content.
While I said earlier that most raid content is dead, that is probably only true for your mains. If it isnt true yet for your main character you should finish them up and complete your mains gear set. If you do not normally raid, or if you dont have a spot on an alt now is the time. Since many raiders have taken breaks from the game, it may be your chance to either get into a raiding guild to check raiding out: Multiple Partners - Getting into a Raiding Guild. You could also just start PUGing into raids to try them or to finish off all the ones you never finished if you dont need a new guild.
Something else you should focus on is getting together a solid set of levelling gear. While this doesnt have to be the best gear out there, since the new content will likely be very easy compared to current raid content, the better your gear the easier it will be. Remember many raiders never replaced a single piece when levelling from 70-80, keeping Sunwell gear all the way into Naxxramass. This could very well be the case again. Therefore start planning which spec you will level as and get the best gear possible together for it now.
For many players that could be a completely different gear set. For example I tank as a Paladin and have never really collected a DPS or Healing set, however it will be far faster to level as DPS, so it is time to collect a set. If you raid you can simply go on a few runs in your off spec to get priority on items. If you do not raid, running a number of random heroics can quickly gear you up through drops and badge items as well. Lastly, there are a number of great items that can be bought on the AH, and prices will surely fall as we get closer to Cataclysm as the materials devalue due to players knowing they will be replaced soon.
Another great thing to do to stay active in the game is to participate in Wintergrasp, Battlegrounds and Arenas! Play around with something new. If youre not a big PvP player, maybe now is the time to check it out, get into an arena team and play for a while. I know that traditionally I do not do BGs or Arenas all that often, but when the end of a cycle comes around I always enjoy getting into the Arena and busting a few heads. It is a completely different skill set and is a break from the regular game. The reverse could be true for hardcore PvP players, maybe it is your time to try out raids.
There are also a few fairly standard things that always work out well before an expansion. Collecting gold is always a win (check out the details in our Top 5 Gold Farming Methods), as we all know that the new items are going to sell for big money on the auction house. Even new crafting materials traditionally go for huge amounts for the first few weeks.
That brings us nicely to another standard thing to do, finish off any professions or level any new professions that you want to focus on in Cataclysm. Maybe you never felt the need to finish levelling tailoring or blacksmithing, now would be the time. You do not want to get into the expansion and find a cool new pattern that would really help you and not be able to use it. I somehow doubt anyone has the willpower to go back and grind old content for materials to finish a profession off while new content is waiting to be done.
Lastly, it may be time to look for a new guild or set your guild up for Cataclysm, whichever you think is best for you. I prefer sticking with a guild, but if you are going to change, doing so before Cataclysm will give you a chance to experience levelling with the guild and getting to know everyone. If you are sticking with your guild, it may be time to recruit to fill spots or just to bulk up for levelling in Cataclysm.
Hopefully you will see several things that are still fun and exciting to do in the game, and will not really need caffeine to stay awake and enjoy the game. I know that personally I still have a number of things I want to accomplish in WotLK and will likely be busy right until the release of the new expansion.
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