We were having a discussion of how to fill the "2 blue gems" requirement for the [Chaotic Skyflare Diamond] over at Subcreation, when I noticed something that I find puzzling.
If you want a cloth hat with a meta socket, you have very limited options in Wrath content. There's the moderately cheap [Hat of Wintry Doom], which is crafted, but has two handicaps - it's only ilvl 187, which puts it a tier below heroic loot, and it has hit rating, which you may or may not need more of. There are a pair of heroic dungeon rares, both of which are good for about 100 spell power if you stuff a red gem in their respective sockets (which you may or may not be free to do, since you'll need two blue gems for the Diamond's meta bonus), only each spends a huge chunk of its budget on 50+ points of spirit. And there's the [Savage Gladiator's Silk Cowl] for those of you who are dying to spend 60K honor on a blue item with PVP stats. The ilvl 200 epics aren't any better, featuring three drops from late in Naxx-10, an arena epic that requires a 1735 rating, and an engineer-only hat.
Why didn't I complain about this when I did my Wrath gear guide? Because relief is possibly coming in the form of a pair of Wintergrasp mark reward items that have been languishing on the PTR's for over a month. I hadn't even bothered to check the alternatives, since I figured that a non-content patch wouldn't take so long to clear the PTR's, and I'm swimming in Wintergrasp marks for whenever it finally arrives.
From the current PTR build (9464, SS taken 1/16/09), the hypothetical Wintergrasp reward hats. I remain hopeful but suspicious for their appearance on live realms until it actually occurs, because PVP items of "Salvation" typically have spirit rather than haste (and Dominance typically has crit rating rather than hit).
Awaiting easier grinds
The hat isn't actually the only thing I'm waiting for in this supposedly minor patch. As of the most recent update, Blizzard has also decided to allow low level mobs to grant full reputation gain, which will dramatically improve the speed with which I can complete the Timbermaw grind. Meanwhile, both enchanting and tailoring (a profession I might not even be sticking with) are in line for substantial reductions in materials required for leveling recipes, which would make it much easier for me to gain the remaining skill points I need.
How long can a mini-patch take?
Though Blizzard has not breathed a word of this, it's possible that the extremely lengthy PTR for a bugfix patch may be due in part to the holidays. There were no new PTR builds for a decent chunk of time around Christmas and New Years, and perhaps some of the staff got a vacation with the worst of the expansion launch bugs behind them.
Things look like they're finally winding down now, though it's impossible to tell with Blizzard since they won't even confirm that today is NOT patch day before the servers go down for weekly maintenance - the major news sites are left to speculate based on the EU maintenance schedule, because it's certain that Blizzard would lose millions of subscribers in a fell swoop if they announced a patch day and then had to pull it for a bug. (After all, not having the weekly denial that the patch is today might be taken as confirmation.)
Still, it's a bit disconcerting to see a minor update take as long as this one has. How long will we be waiting for patch 3.1 (possibly - though Blizzard doesn't want to promise that either - to contain the much-awaited dual spec feature), if this is how long it takes to test some bug fixes, a few misc items, and a few balance changes? How much stuff will we have to put on hold while we wait for improvements to make their way to the live servers from the PTR's?
With February fast approaching, we're unlikely to see patch 3.1 go live before mid-March. I suppose four months from the Wrath launch to the first major content patch isn't bad by the low standards of the TBC era, but that's going to put ever increasing pressure on the content that's currently in the game as more and more players complete it. The shoes that patch 3.1 will be expected to fill are growing by the day, and it may have a hard time meeting those expectations.
A bonus, PVD exclusive, patch 3.0.8 preview: The buff for owning Wintergrasp is getting a new icon (distinct for the one for mana regen from your Ret Pally). This is NOT the kind of feature that's going to drive subscriber retention.