Epic pets only being a loosely suggested idea was confirmed today, as Mumper mentioned on Twitter:
"Not planning on epics yet."It may still be something devs are playing around with, or perhaps they've scrapped the idea for the most part. There hasn't been any official "pet announcement" for WoD, so nothing has been set in stone yet. We'll have to wait and see, and even then things could change.
Personally, I would be ok without any increase to pet level and pet quality. With over 600 pets, and more sure to come in the expansion, it would be an absolute NIGHTMARE to level and upgrade all of them. Not to mention the imbalances it would cause in pet PVP (and even pet PVE to a lesser degree).
I would be quite content with keeping the max level and quality as it is. Unless, of course, some ingenious developer comes up with a way to upgrade and level without much hassle and in a way that doesn't break the game. That seems like a near impossible task, though.
So how will collecting and battling be affected (if at all) if pet level and quality remains the same?
With the fairly firm confirmation that the max pet level will not be raised in WoD, this means the wild pet level will remain at 25. The new zones will contain level 25 pets, which will drop down to level 23 when captured. I suppose this will give players a little bit of leveling they can participate in, but unless they add an absolute flood of wild pets, we'll level those pets to max in no time.
Collecting/upgrading the new pets may be slow going for some, giving them more to do. But for those that have been persistent in collecting stones and other reagents, they will meet most of their collecting goals pretty quickly.
It's a tough situation, because on the one hand many players don't want to undergo the task of upgrading and leveling 500-600 pets, but at the same time crave more content. The problem is that this mini-game revolves around collecting, leveling, and ensuring your chances for a successful battle are the best they can be (ie: upgrading). Without these mechanics, what's left for us to do? So is this a situation of wanting our cake and eating it too? Can we have shiny new stuff without sacrificing the current status quo?
One thing I could see devs adding is more pet-related achievements that reward new pets or nifty vanity items. It wouldn't appeal to everyone, but it would give a portion of the community something to work on and strive for. (*cough* I'm still waiting on that item/spell/ability where I can have more than one pet out at the same time. :P)
"Harder" trainer battles is also always possibility, although there are only so many ways to make an encounter "hard" without frustrating your audience too much. The "no healing" concept was done in Pandaria, and that received a bit of negative criticism for being too much in the beginning. But I think most gradually accepted it as being a limitation that did indeed create a difficult activity, yet was ultimately doable.
If done properly, other limitations in battles could create new difficult battles. "Use only X family-type" or "limit one pet per match" are two examples that I can think of off the top of my head. Will they meet the same reaction as the "no healing" mechanic did? Probably. "Harder" is relative, though, so not everyone will agree at first.
And of course breeding may still be a planned feature for WoD. That will definitely interest some, but unless a collector feels compelled to have a pet of every breed, I think it will mainly appeal to those interested in battling (specifically pet PVP). It's entirely possible that the breeding activity will have a desirable feature for collectors too, though. New colors/skins for pets is something that might draw the collecting crowd in.
This is all speculation, of course. We're still eagerly waiting for an announcement of pet-related features in WoD. Maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised with what's in store for us. The expansion is still a work in progress, so all we can do is wait and hope for the best.