Rage of the Firelands, the second major content patch for Blizzard Entertainment’s massive multiplayer game World of Warcraft, went live on U.S. servers Tuesday, June 28, 2011. The patch contains myriad enhancements and content, including a new raid, a massive daily quest hub, and major storyline additions.

The Firelands raid

The cornerstone of patch 4.2 is the new raid: The Firelands. Home to Ragnaros, the Firelord, and his minions, this raid has players in groups of 10 or 25 face off against a series of six bosses, culminating in an epic battle against Ragnaros himself. This raid is outdoors, so players will be able to mount and evade packs of “trash” enemies and can choose the order in which they encounter the first four bosses; however, you have to defeat five and six (as well as the first four bosses) before you can get to Ragnaros.

In addition to the direct raid content, a quest line culminating with the reward of a brand new legendary staff, Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest, (legendary is the highest item rank in the game) can be completed with the help of your guild. Once a member acquires the staff, all guild members will receive a unique non-combat pet, Lil’ Tarecgosa.

There are also three new mounts available, but I can’t find any details yet.

Story, quests, and dailies

There appears to be three new quests or quest chains introduced in patch 4.2. The first, and least prominent, is a single quest given by an Orc boy, Jaga, or a Draenei girl, Vin (depending on your faction), in which you are asked to help retrieve five windswept balloons from around the city. The quest rewards a non-combat pet balloon. I was amused when Jaga floated away on the five balloons after I turned in the quest.

The second quest is a continuation of the story of Thrall’s (former Warchief of the Horde, now leader of the Shamanistic faction the Earthen Ring) battle to contain the elemental forces ripping Azeroth apart. The latest idea: team up with the Druids of the Cenarion Circle, led by Malfurion Stormrage, to attempt to heal the World Tree, Nordrassil, which hopefully will heal all of Azeroth. Spoiler alert: During the attempt, Fandral Staghelm, former Druid of the Cenarion Circle turned Druid of the Flame leader and member of the Twilight’s Hammer, abducts Thrall and casts his spirit into the four elemental planes: Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. Players must accompany Thrall’s wife (I assume, though I don’t think it was ever stated) to an area representing each plane to battle elementals and free part of Thrall’s spirit. After completing the quest, Ysera in Hyjal asks you to confront and defeat one of her green dragons who was guarding Fandral and let him escape.

The third quest line is the most epic. Malfurion Stormrage is leading an effort to invade the Firelands and set up a beachhead. The quest chain starts at the Sanctuary of Malorne in Hyjal (warning: you must complete all quests up to this point in Hyjal in the previously released content in order to get this chain) where Malfurion is joined by Hamuul Runetotem and Matoclaw. Players have to complete various single and daily quests to earn Marks of the World Tree which are, in turn, used to unlock additional phases in this chain. Each player’s phase is custom to them, allowing players of all play styles to participate in this new content; compared to previous daily quest hubs where the entire server progressed, this is a cool new feature. Once you have progressed through all the content, you will be rewarded with a Flameward Hippogryph mount.

Additional content

Patch 4.2 brings with it the next Arena Season (in the coming weeks), a new PVP option called “War Games,” where groups of players can skirmish each other, and a number of class re-balancing changes and bug fixes.

There is also a new user interface feature called the Dungeon Journal, which allows players to learn more about dungeons, bosses, their abilities, and the loot they drop. This is an awesome new feature for newer players just encountering content for the first time, as well as for veteran players who need to brush up on a boss fight before jumping in.

To see a little of what you can expect from Patch 4.2, watch the Rage of the Firelands trailer.

Have you experienced the Rage of the Firelands? If so, what do you think so far?

More news from Blizzard for new players: World of Warcraft now free until level 20 (GameSpot).