If you’re familiar with the game already, then chances are you know what’s headed your way. You’ve seen the changes to Azeroth brought in from The Shattering patch and you know what new content goodness to expect from tomorrow’s expansion.

The following are not suggestions on the best way to play your chosen class, there’s plenty of excellent and authoritative sites for that. These are preparations of the type that might have slipped your mind in all the expansion excitement rush. They are things you can do both in Azeroth and the real world to make sure you’re ready for tomorrow.

Back in WoW‘s first expansion, The Burning Crusade, the dreaded Demon Hunter Illidan once claimed, “You are not prepared!”

Is he right about tomorrow? Read on and find out if you’re ready for Cataclysm.

Tough Choices: Time to Make ‘em

1. Who First? It’s crunch time. What’s going to come first? Will it be the lure of the new races, Goblins and Worgen, that claims your early attention in Cataclysm? Or are the mighty powers of your favourite level 80 character too much to be restrained?

Then, if it’s the 80 to 85 route for you, who is going to have the honor of making it to the top of the pile first? While many players have a character that was their undisputed favorite from day 1 of vanilla WoW, having 2, 3 or even more level 80s is not uncommon for the dedicated gamer.

Unlike real families, they can’t all be your favorite – you must choose!

One Day, This Will All Be Yours

With the remade lvl 1-60 lands and new class combinations, as well as the introduction of the new races, the temptation to start a new character has never been stronger. Here’s a few preparation tips for helping your newbie character inherit a kingdom and give it the start in WoW life that your original level 1 never had.

2. Reserve Your Chosen Name: The rush of new characters that will be created tomorrow cannot be overstated. Problem is, each new character name must be unique, so if you’ve got an epic name in mind, create a character now in order to reserve it. Then, tomorrow when Cataclysm drops, simply delete your substitute hero to ensure that the name is available for your chosen Worgen/Goblin.

There’s nothing worse than settling for less than your perfect name. Especially if you have to put a bunch of unneccessary accents on the letters just to get close to your original choice.

3. Heirlooms: While they are very time-consuming to acquire, heirlooms are well worth the effort for a new character. As you gain in power with each passing level, so does the heirloom item. So prepare to burn your last stores of Justice Points in order to grab a fine heirloom to pass to your fledgling hero.

Getting the Guild Back Together

5. Gathering the Guildies: We’re on a mission from the Gods, it’s time to get the Guild back together. Much like The Burning Crusade and vanilla WoW before it, once players had experienced the majority of The Wrath of the Lich King, many guilds broke apart at the seams like a cheap woollen cape.

However, again like previous expansions, Cataclysm will lure many players who drifted away back for another round. With the whole range of new content right from lvl 1, now is the best of times to try and get back together with the people you’ve quested, laughed, loved and lost with.

So hit those contact details and see if some legendary heroes can be coaxed out of retirement and back to your guild.

Real World Obligations

6. Taking Time Out: You may be prepared to dive back into Azeroth but is the real world ready for you to dive out of it? Of course, everyone’s level of involvement with the game varies, from a few hours a week to the kind of time commitment that puts most personal hobbies to shame.

For those that plan to stay in Azeroth for more than a flying visit, spare a fleeting glace backwards through the portal into the real world. Take a look at the social calendar for the next month or two and sort the “must attend” events from the “no-shows”.

For the “no-shows”, you’ll need to craft a couple of careful excuses, because regardless of how good WoW is, nobody likes to be told that they’re being blown off for a raid, even if you do feel it’s your lucky night for drops!

For the “must attends”, well, consider them as “rest time” weekends for both you and your characters.

7. Sleep Patterns: Prepare to have them messed up good and proper. Perhaps try and sleep as much as you can today in order to put your body clock right out of whack. The sooner the better really, as Azeroth is no respecter of petty real-life work hours. When it’s time to break through a level up, the wee hours of the morning don’t seem so daunting.

The Long Awaited Exile’s Return

8. Back in the Swing of Things: If you’re just returning to the WoW fold after a long stretch away, then the landscape may look somewhat alien to you, both literally and in gameplay terms. The way each class carries out its given role has changed through various re-balancing shuffles and sidesteps.

Most major aspects of the game, from rewards and reputation systems to the way players look for groups, have changed dramatically over the course of the past year. Therefore, it’s worth dusting off your spellbook, scraping away the rust from your two-hander and heading out to limber up and stretch out with a few kills, just to get your bearings before the big game changer.

9. Farm a Little: There’s nothing like a little low level farming just to get your gold stack back on track. With the new flood of new characters, low level crafting materials and glyphs of all shapes and sizes have gone through the roof in value.

The Newly Initiated

10. Prepare for Takeover: As a final message to those who have never played WoW before and plan on logging in for the first time, there’s little more that can prepare you than tips (numbers).

This is because the game has become extremely accessible for the new player. The game naturally guides you from place to place, explaining new skills and abilities as it goes through tooltips and story-based quests.

What all the advice and guidance cannot prepare you for is the simple yet powerful force of WoW addiction. You may be a gamer, you may have ploughed hours upon hours into your favorite games, you may have even heard the stories of the newsworthy WoW addicts – all of this is a side note. When you look up at the clock for the first time in 4 hours and realize how quickly it went, that’s when you will understand its power.

The words of Laurence Fishburne, although they concerned the nature of The Matrix, could easily have been adapted for WoW:

“Unfortunately, no-one can be told how addictive World of Warcraft is… you have to see it for yourself.”
It is a power that can easily turn this…

into this…

… you have been warned.