Blizzard is getting ready to release World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth’s first major content update on 11 December, bringing the game up to version 8.1 with lots of new things to see and do. Here’s what you can expect.

Alts, alts, alts

If you’re levelling any alts right now, you might want to stop. Patch 8.1 is going to bring about a ton of changes that will make the whole process easier, from the amount of experience needed to get from level 20 to 120 reduced to the levelling elixir Draught of Ten Lands being introduced to the start of Incursions – world events similar to Legion Assaults. Like Legion Assaults, Incursions will reward levelling characters with massive amounts of XP, making the process of getting an alt from 110 to 120 that much easier. Each Incursion will also reward the Taste of Victory, a levelling experience buff.

Patch 8.1 also brings account-wide flight paths. The 7th Legion Scouting Map on the Alliance side and the Honourbound Scouting Map on the Horde will grant the reader all available flight paths in Zandalar and Kul Tiras, even unlocked outposts. So, all in all, levelling is going to be a breeze.

Dat new content

New Islands, a new Warfront, and even a new raid are all coming in 8.1. We’ll continue the War Campaign, we’ll continue to visit random Islands for no apparent reason to collect Azerite for the war effort, and we’ll visit Darkshore again, this time to aid our Forsaken or Night Elven allies as they fight each other for control.

Most exciting, though, is the new raid. Siege of Zuldazar already promises to be so good and so much fun, literally everyone’s excited for it. Even Preach. The Jaina fight, especially, sounds like it’s going to be one hell of an experience. Whether getting together with a group to learn challenging raid tactics is your idea of a good time, or you care mostly about badass looking transmog, or you just love the lore like I do, Siege of Zuldazar seems like it’s going to deliver on all counts – so it’s worth gearing up, because if there’s one raid you’re not going to want to miss, it’s this one.

Buy all the things!

Sick of collecting Seafarer’s Dubloons with nothing to spend them on? Tired of limited ways to obtain Azerite gear? Bored to tears of doing Warfronts with not much to show for it? Hopefully, the new currency and vendors coming in patch 8.1 will solve all your problems.

The Island Expeditions vendor will accept Seafarer’s Dubloons and sells a range of cosmetic items such as mounts, transmogs, and pets. And yes, before you ask, you will be able to buy those sweet Battle for Azeroth tricorn hats for transmog – it comes in red, brown and blue, and costs 100 Dubloons each, so it’s time to get saving.

The Warfronts will have a vendor for each faction. These vendors will accept Service Medals, and they also sell cosmetic items – two cloaks (one ragged, one intact, each representing the faction’s colours), two mounts (including, on the Alliance side, the most gorgeous cat mount I’ve ever seen in this game), and one pet (both sell the same adorable little dinosaur) per faction.

The Azerite vendor will accept Titan Residuum, which you’ll be able to collect doing Mythic+ dungeons and through scrapping gear (it will only drop from 8.1 gear, so don’t bother to save gear). This vendor is long overdue, as it means you will be able to target and work towards specific gear or, at a much lower cost, gear slots.

Everyone loves you now… sort of

It’s finally happening. Account-wide reputation credit and rewards are here. And while this doesn’t mean unlocking a reputation on one character means all your characters are exalted with that faction, it does mean all your characters can enjoy certain rewards from that reputation – like reputation-specific transmogs or, in the case of Champions of Azeroth, the Heart of Azeroth upgrade that Magni offers.

Achievements like 100 Exalted Reputations will be account-wide now, meaning any of your characters can work towards collecting those reputations. In other words, getting that pure white unicorn, the ridiculously beautiful one, the one forged from angel tears and the innocence of snow, just got that much easier. All you have to do is log into each character with the relevant reputation at least once.

New looks

Not much needs to be said here, other than Dwarves and Blood Elves are getting their heritage armour. All you need is a level 120 Blood Elf or Dwarf. I’ll let you figure out which one you need to unlock which armour.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life

If you don’t want to know any story spoilers, stop reading now, because I have gossip and it’s juicier than a cactus apple. Apart from all the lore that should come with things like the new heritage armour and raid, patch 8.1 also introduces two very important quest lines – an Alliance one focussing on Tyrande, and a Horde one focussing on Saurfang.

Tyrande’s quest line is known as The Night Warrior, and it’s all about how she, well, becomes a Night Warrior, the special (slightly ridiculous) name for what turns out to be her goth phase. You’ll help Tyrande, fight Nathanos, and kill a val’kyr (or, at least, be around when Tyrande does). Once that’s complete, you’ll have a new look in the Night Elf character creation screen – as the option to become a Night Warrior is made available to all.

Battle for Azeroth’s pre-patch quite infamously left many players feeling less than thrilled with their leaders, with a lot of Alliance players who main Night Elves in particular feeling let down and even betrayed by their queen. This quest should hopefully repair a lot of the damage. As a Horde, all I can really say is Tyrande’s about to become the formidable and terrifying enemy I’ve always heard she can be.

Saurfang’s quest line is called The Fate of Saurfang and it’s about, you guessed it, Saurfang’s fate. Beginning with Sylvanas, you’ll be sent on a mission to find Saurfang, as Sylvanas is deeply concerned for him. Whether you choose to believe that or not is your choice. Literally. One of the most incredible things about this quest line, and something that’s caused a lot of buzz, is the element of player choice. Not comfortable with Sylvanas’s harsh and sometimes evil orders? You get to say no, and actually follow a slightly different quest line than you would have if you said yes. It might not have a huge impact on how events will turn out, but it does have a huge impact on how you feel about your role in those events, and that’s pretty much all that matters.

Oh, and remember Zekhan, that adorable troll kid from the Old Soldier cinematic? He’s in this quest line! That’s right. Zappy Boi is officially canon, and all is right with the World of Warcraft.