Most everything we know about the new content update can be found HERE. I will pick out the important bits and talk about what they mean. If anything said is speculation, I will list it as such. Once thing to note before we begin. Every time anything happens that negatively affects the community, Arenanet has been right there to fix it in speedy fashion. Have a little faith, they've earned it.
So, onto the meat and potatoes of this article. Let's begin with what facts we know about Ascended gear.
Ascended Gear Facts:
Armor/Jewelry stats are higher than current exotic gear.
More stats means gear progression right? Not so much. Though it is true that the stats are higher in the same way Exotics are higher than Rares, the key thing to keep in mind is the lack of upgrade slots. Most builds in GW2 are built around a specific runeset and the extra abilities granted by the 2nd/4th/6th rune. You completely lose this ability in Ascended gear.
The standard upgrade slot for runes is replaced with an Offensive/Defensive/Omni Infusion slot. Infusion aids you against Agony and specific mobs in Fractals of the Mists. Outside of the dungeon though, you have slightly higher stats, but none of your ability boosts (like condition removal from Soldier Runes) from your standard upgrade runes.
There are two classes of people that will benefit from this new gear outside the Fractal dungeon. Those that use magic find and those that use pure stat based Glass Cannon builds (think Pow/Precision/Crit Damage). The boost will be minimal, but it will be there for those people. Instead of Superior Runes of Divinity, they will be able to earn a full set of Ascended gear and rock without the huge gold investment they currently need to make.
Do I have to wear Ascended gear to experience the new Fractals Dungeon?
Nope. This is mild speculation on my part, but here it is. Fractals of the Mists will not require Ascended gear and Agony resistance up to a certain point. There are 9 dungeons total and they are picked randomly. If you just do the first three dungeon and don't continue progression, you will be fine. Arenanet stated that you would only need Ascended gear if you continue to progress into the harder and harder versions of the same dungeons.
It appears they are making a type of Dungeon content that works in the same way SPvP works. Though similar to WvW and regular dungeons, it has its own gear and progression system and doesn't really interract with the outside world in any meaningful way.
NOTE: There has been absolutely no information on whether Ascended gear can even be worn outside the dungeon. In the same way SPvP armor doesn't display in the regular game world, Ascended armor may work the exact same way.
There were a couple little tidbits that seemed interesting but not really part of the above discussion.
First: Agony is condition damage that ticks away a percentage of your HP pool. This means Clerics and other Toughness type armor just got a significant boost in Fractals of the Mist dungeons. Builds that utilize that will do very well *COUGH*.
Second: They "also have plans to add more fun ways to acquire Legendary precursor items with a more “scavenger hunt” feel than they are acquired currently". This sounds like the recipes themselves are not changing, but there will be a path to getting your own Precursor outside of the RNG from the Mystic forge. Very excited about this bit of news.
Now Go Play
Hopefully that cleared a few misconceptions up and as actual facts come in, I will try to update this post accordingly. Can't wait to see what new stuff will be made available to us in the coming weeks. As always...
See yall in game!