Thanks for your question Bashiok, I’m SO GLAD YOU ASKED
Something that has continued to evolve over the life of the game has been end-game progression, and what’s required of your character to see what is at any one time considered the final raid. Originally it was a very linear path. You had to gear up through one raid before you could attempt the next, and the one after that, and so on. It meant that if you were even slightly behind the curve you could potentially never catch up. We began adding mechanics and options in Burning Crusade and beyond to ensure players could, with effort, have some ability to catch up. Fast forward to Cataclysm where we believe we went too far the other direction and a freshly minted 85 didn’t really have to do anything before jumping directly into Dragon Soul.
In Mists of Pandaria we want to get back to where we were in helping people catch up, but only through some effort in completing prior content. We don’t want it to be a linear A->B->C model again, because that causes a lot of undue burden on guilds attempting to catch up alts and replacements, but we also don’t want the Cataclysm model of being able to more or less skip straight to the end, invalidating everyone’s efforts who came before.
New characters coming into Mists of Pandaria will be going through Mogu’shan Vaults, Heart of Fear, and Terrace of Endless Spring, killing bosses, and gearing up before moving on. Due to that we’ll be adjusting the difficulty, as well as item drops, to make progression a bit quicker without shortcutting people directly to the Throne of Thunder raid. With the release of 5.2 enemy health and damage in the three prior raids will be reduced by 10%. We expect this to be a one-time reduction, and not a slowly increasing reduction as we’ve done previously.
In addition, item drops are being greatly increased, including those from Elder Charm of Good Fortune bonus rolls.
In addition, as stated in the patch notes, costs of 5.0 and 5.1 Valor items are being reduced by 50% and 25% respectively.
IN ADDITION! If you’re killing bosses in Normal and Heroic before 5.2 releases, and thus pre-nerf, you’ll actually get Feats of Strength honoring the accomplishments you made before the change – which is pretty cool. IMO.
With these changes we hope to see players able to catch up when coming into the game mid-expansion, or leveling an alt, but still putting in the time and effort to get to the latest tier.