In the open Sunday thread Spinks asked "What about Wrath of the Lich King are you most excited about/looking forwards to? And which character do you plan to level first and why?". Good question, but I'd like to first tell you all what I am *currently* playing in World of Warcraft, before moving to my plans for the expansion.
My number one priority at the moment is to experience all parts of the world event leading up to the Wrath of the Lich King. The motivation behind that is simple: This event is only happening now, it will end with the release of WotLK, and anything I missed I will never have the opportunity to do later. Yes, there are parts of the event that are annoying: Logging on a bank alt and finding the banker having been turned into a zombie, or dying to a zombie attack myself. But then, I timed the respawn time of a flight master, and it turned out that he respawns in 2 minutes. 2 minutes! That is really a minor inconvenience compared to the greater good of making this event feel like a real invasion. I got more annoyed when it took me forever to do the new quests to gather necrotic runes and kill a shade of doom, because it turns out the shades drop epic gear, and as soon as a zone is under attack the undead there get heavily farmed, and the shades killed, which end the attack. The scenes at the summoning circles reminded me of the scenes at the dark portal when TBC came out: A horrible kill-stealing fest. Most annoying was when I spent 8 necrotic runes to summon a shade, and then somebody tagged it and stole it from my group. And these summoning circles don't respawn in 2 minutes, the timer seems to be over 1 hour.
When I'm not doing the pre-WotLK event, I'm enjoying the other new features of patch 3.0.: Inscription, achievements, and easier dungeons and raids. Big news: My warrior, who I nearly had given up upon before, is fun again. Before the patch he was stuck in a vicious cycle, where I wasn't invited to raids or heroics because my gear sucked, and I couldn't get better gear because I wasn't invited to raids or heroics. Now there are far more "casual" raids and heroic groups organized. And I'm doing some silly stuff, like tanking Onyxia, and finally finishing Magister's Terrace on normal, in case I ever want to do it in heroic. Plus I'm dealing more damage in solo play now, in spite of still being protection spec. So I went to Karazhan with both my mage and my warrior, and my "raider" priest even got to the third boss of Mount Hyjal. I got a couple of epic upgrades on all my characters, but honestly that isn't the most important for me right now. The important thing is playing in a group with strong cooperation, having fun. The gear is likely to be replaced soon.
Which brings me to my plans for Wrath of the Lich King. Because my motivation doesn't change, just because some expansion comes out: I still want to play PvE in groups, overcoming challenges that can only be beat by coordination of the efforts of several players. I'm looking forward to the new dungeons of Northrend, and I'm very interested how accessible Blizzard is going to make those first raid dungeons. From that motivation comes the answer to what character I'm going to play first: My priest. There is nothing to suggest that healers will be any less needed in WotLK groups. Maybe even more, if the addition of the Death Knight really solves the tank shortage there will be a healer shortage just behind. And I'm comfortable soloing and leveling up with holy spec, even if that might not be the fastest way. Given how many players who have a character who *could* heal will be using some non-healing build to advance fastest, I think I should be able to easily get into dungeon groups on my way to 80.
Most probably I will play the warrior and mage a bit in parallel, for example for their tradeskills, but the priest is certainly the first one I want to get to level 80. Which character will be the second depends very much on how things develop on the tanking front. I mean, if I hear a lot of shouts looking for a tank for dungeons, I'm certainly going to log my tank on and play. But if there are hundreds of Death Knights, and everyone considers them sufficient for tanking purposes, my warrior will be unemployed. That is the big disadvantage of preferring group play: It depends on what everyone else is playing, and who they want to invite into groups. That is especially true for me as casual raider, if I want an invite into raids although I'm not a regular, I have to be of a class / build that there is a shortage of.
I've played a Death Knight a bit in the beta, and it was great fun. The "phasing" nature of the first two levels, in which the Death Knight learns all of his spells and talents, in combination with telling his personal story, is one of the best parts of World of Warcraft. But it only covers two levels, and every Death Knight experiences the same destiny. And then he'll have to level up from 57 to 70 using content I know all too well, after already having played three characters to 70. In addition to that, Death Knights will be "flavor of the month" for a good while, and I don't foresee groups searching desperately for a Death Knight in preference of any other class. So I might make a Death Knight as an alt, for fun and for doing some tradeskills I don't have on the others, but I don't think I'll play that one very much, or level him to 80.
I don't know how long all this is going to entertain me. Probably several months. Which, one the one side, is great news, I'm having something to look forward for months. On the other side I'm pretty certain that Blizzard will not bring out a third expansion in 2009, and that I will get bored with WotLK before the next expansion comes out. I'm not really making plans what I'll play then. LotRO Mines of Moria? Warhammer Online? Some other MMORPG? Single-player games? I don't know. I'll decide that when the moment comes. In spite of what some other players think, choosing a MMORPG is not the same as choosing a religion. It's just a game, and the most important feature is to have fun. I'll play what is most fun at the moment. That might be WoW right now, but it won't be WoW forever.