It has been a very long wait, but we are nearing the launch of World of Warcraft's sixth expansion, Legion.
We're seeing a pretty big overhaul of a lot of game systems. The pre-launch patch will be coming relatively soon (I'm really hoping for early July, as I'll be out of town for late July and early August,) bringing with it the system changes and, quite unprecedentedly, it will allow players who have pre-ordered the expansion to play their Demon Hunter characters.
So let's do a quick run-down of what to expect with the release of patch 7.0:
Legion has seen a pretty radical redesign of several specs, made all the more notable thanks to new animations and spell effects. Melee classes in particular will notice that their strikes pop much more distinctively than they had in the past.
In general, the design has reduced the number of baseline abilities for each spec, but there are far more spec-specific talents that will adjust your rotation, either replacing/adjusting existing abilities or granting new ones. You can opt into a more crowded action bar, usually, but if you don't, you'll usually find some interesting twists to existing abilities.
Rogues will notice the most surprising change, which is that Combat has been replaced by Outlaw. While Outlaw retains Combat's defining feature - namely that they use swords/axes/maces/fist weapons instead of daggers - but also leans in a little more toward the swashbuckler theme, with plenty of pirate-themed abilities including Pistol Shot, which is a central part of the new rotation. It is still a melee dps spec that dual-wields.
Tri-Spec and Talent Changing:
Changing specs is now extraordinarily simple - you just switch outside of combat as you would if you were dual-specced. Yes, this means that class trainers are basically purposeless now, but oh well. Just like dual-spec, you'll retain your action bar arrangements for each different spec, so you won't need to spend five minutes looking through your spellbook every time you switch. You can apparently mark one spec as your "primary spec" though I don't know what that does.
However, if you had gotten used to carrying around a stack of Tomes of the Clear Mind to swap talents all the time, this is actually more restricted. You will be able to change talents any time you like if you're within a "well rested" area like a city or an inn, but elsewhere, you'll need a new reagent (whose name I don't remember) that will be significantly more costly than the current Tomes. Basically, you need to pick your talents well before heading out into the world.
Healer and Tank-specific stats are gone. You might find a trinket that has an effect better suited to one of these roles, but you will, for the most part, only need to keep one set of gear unless you're a serious min-maxer on both specs. The exception here is weapons, especially when the expansion proper launches and you get your artifact weapons.
Rings, Cloaks, Necklaces, and Trinkets (the last one I'm not 100% sure about) will no longer have primary stats on them at all, meaning that you'll be able to use them for any spec (and it also means that anyone in your raid will be able to roll on any of them.) Tier 19 does have cloaks as part of the set, but we're not up to that yet.
Armor Types for Paladins, Warriors, Shamans, and Hunters:
Paladins, Warriors, Shamans, and Hunters will no longer have to wait until level 40 to upgrade to a new level of armor. Instead, most items that used to be Mail before level 40 are now simply considered Plate, and Mail duplicates have been made of the various Leather pieces that Hunters and Shamans would have used.
Though I'm not sure it will be exactly at the 7.0 launch or a week or two in, players who have pre-ordered Legion will be able to create their Demon Hunter characters, the game's newest Hero Class. Like the Death Knight, Demon Hunters start at a higher level and have a unique starting experience. They are limited to only Night Elves and Blood Elves, and they have entirely different voice emotes from other player characters of their races. There are several alternate character customization options, including tattoos, scales, horns, and blindfolds.
Demon Hunters have only two specs - Havoc is melee dps and Vengeance is a tanking spec. They combine demonic magic with vicious melee strikes to get their jobs done, and both specs have access to Metamorphosis, fully transforming into a demon temporarily to get a boost in combat.
Unlike Death Knights, who started significantly below the previous expansion's level cap, Demon Hunters will start at level 98, and over the course of their starting experience should hit level 100, allowing them to jump into Legion along with all the veteran characters.
With 7.0, each time you get a new piece of gear, its appearance will be added to a collection (the same window with mounts, pets, and heirlooms.) You can only gain the appearance of a piece of gear that gets soulbound to you and that you can/should use (so even though a Warrior can wear leather, you'll need to get the piece on a druid, rogue, or monk to attain the appearance.) From then on, that appearance is now unlocked for your entire account to use in transmogrification. Players will still only be able to transmog pieces they would be able to wear - so mages can't wear that tier 2 paladin set - but outside of class restrictions, anything your Shaman gets your Hunter will be able to wear too.
This will also retroactively give you the appearances for every quest reward for every quest you've ever completed, and I think this even includes defunct vanilla quests that were removed in Cataclysm.
Legion Invasion Event:
Over the course of the 7.0 patch, Azeroth will experience a forceful invasion by the Burning Legion. Doomsayers distributing pamphlets about the impending end of the world will walk the streets of Stormwind and Orgrimmar while both factions prepare for a joint assault against the main foothold of the invasion at the Broken Shore. Players will be able to participate in a massive joint-scenario (I believe it's forty players of each faction) that sets up a lot of the plot leading up to the expansion proper.
In addition, various zones throughout the old world will periodically experience Legion invasions (on the PTR it's Westfall, Dun Morogh, Hillsbrad Foothills, Tanaris, Northern Barrens, and Azshara. These invasions will see massive swarms of demons attacking, eventually teleporting in huge structures that can be removed by fighting your way into them and either destroying the fel crystals supporting them or slaying their demonic commanders. Players will receive a currency and occasional treasure boxes during each phase of the invasion, culminating in a big fight against a raid-boss-like commander. The currency can be traded to members of the Illidari who reward gear, a battle-pet, and transmog appearances.
The gear is item level 700, which should be useful for most players. Additionally, it looks like you can on rare occasion get a weapon from these invasions, and trading a good portion of the currency to the Illidari will yield a crystal that can upgrade your weapon to 725 (though remember of course that one of the first things you'll do in Legion is get your artifact weapon.)
Launch on August 30th:
Two months from today, the expansion itself will launch, allowing us to travel to the Broken Isles, quest in new zones, establish our class orders, run new dungeons, and leave our garrisons behind.