Defining expansion features

Reading Shintar’s blog post about WoW TBC Classic and the mention of the pre-patch enabling people to already start a new Draenei or Blood Elf character made me think about what changes in WoW really mattered to me personally (and although I had heard about this change at the Blizzcon panel already, reading about it again gave me the idea for this post).

So let’s start with the Vanilla patches, because some of them brought some important things, although I was such a newbie that I probably didn’t even notice most of the important changes…

  • Patch 1.9.0 (January 2006)
    • Ahn’Qiraj raids (I went to the 20man one later)
    • Linked Auction Houses
    • Multiple Battleground Queues
    • Gates of AQ (read about this, didn’t take part)
  • Patch 1.10.0 (March 2006)
    • Weather effects
    • New Final Destination Flight Paths
  • Patch 1.11.0 (June 2006)
    • Naxxramas raid (not for me though)
    • The cost to unlearn talents will now decay over time
    • Temporary item buffs (e.g. poisons) will persist through zoning
    • Detect Traps is now a passive skill – Swirly Ball 🙁
  • Patch 1.12.0
    • Cross-Realm Battlegrounds (I was still doing a lot of PvP back then)

After writing the list I actually do remember a few things, the linked AHs were huge, especially as a newbie. Also the BG queues and being able to use the flight master and go AFK.

On to The Burning Crusade – the first expansion! In Europe it launched in early 2007 and I’d already played long enough to be actually excited and I’d been actively waiting for it.

  • Release (January 2007)
    • New races: Blood Elves & Draenei
    • Alliance Shamans & Horde Paladins
    • Flying mounts
    • New profession: Jewelcrafting
    • Arena
  • Patch 2.1.0 (May 2007)
    • Druid Epic Flight Form (Druid was my main alt)
    • Ogri’la & Nether Drakes – my first long grinds
    • The Black Temple raid
  • Patch 2.2.0 (September 2007)
    • surprisingly… nothing?
  • Patch 2.3.0 (November 2007)
    • Zul’Aman 10man raid
    • Guild Banks!
    • Vendor Discounts based on Rep
    • Blue exclamation marks for dailies
  • Patch 2.4.0 (March 2008)
    • Sunwell Isle zone & raid

While I didn’t immediately start a Paladin, many people did and it made complete sense to have both classes on both sides. Jewelcrafting shaped the meta a lot, depending on the expansion (not so much nowadays). Guild banks were a very welcome addition to the game and the dailies have been a staple since TBC. For Druid players flight form was huge.

Wrath of the Lich King, the second expansion is next:

  • Release (October 2008)
    • New class: Death Knight (never was a fan)
    • 51-point talent system revamp
    • Rogue Poisons don’t need reagents anymore
    • Achievements!
    • New profession: Inscription
    • Barber Shop!
    • Focus Frame
    • Pets & Mounts are spells/casts now
  • Patch 3.1.0 (April 2009)
    • Ulduar raid
    • No more dismounting in water
  • Patch 3.2.0 (August 2009)
    • Trial of the Crusader Raid
    • Raid IDs can be extended
    • 25man raids are no longer called Heroic, it’s 10+25 N+H now
    • Rogues can use 1h Axes now
    • Uninterruptible casts have the shield icon now
  • Patch 3.3.0 (December 2009)
    • Icecrown Citadel raid (one of my alltime favorites)
    • (Cross-Realm) Dungeon Finder

The first new class, being added to a 4 year old game. Some QoL improvements for Rogues. Focus Frame is so important in high-level play these days. Another new profession. Extending raid IDs is a big thing and the shift to less server identity in full swing here. Also achievements. Overall pretty much important and good changes.

On to Cataclysm, the third expansion:

  • Release (December 2010)
    • Revamped zones
    • New races: Worgen & Goblins
    • New race & class combos:
      • Dwarf Mages, Shamans, Warlocks
      • Gnome Priests
      • Human Hunters
      • Night Elf Mages
      • Blood Elf Warriors
      • Orc Mages
      • Tauren Paladins, Priests
      • Troll Druids, Warlocks
      • Undead Hunters
    • Reforging
    • New profession: Archaeology
    • Guild levels & perks
    • 3 new raids: BWD, BoT, Tot4W
  • Patch 4.1.0 (April 2011)
    • nothing?
  • Patch 4.2.0 (June 2011)
    • Firelands zone & raid
    • Dungeon Journal!
  • Patch 4.3.0 (November 2011)
    • Dragon Soul raid
    • New Legendary: Fangs of the Father
    • Raid Finder in its current form was introduced
    • Transmog! & Void Storage
    • Darkmoon Faire moved to Darkmoon Island

This expansion has the second key point why I though this post would be interesting, the new race / class combos, my Shaman is a Dwarf and I had planned to change my Blood Elf Paladin to Tauren for ages, but ultimately didn’t. Many people were in love with their Troll druids as well. The Dungeon Journal is immensely helpful and I love it and use it a lot. Also as a Rogue main of 5ish years I was very happy to get my Legendary Daggers, as we didn’t get any Warglaives.

And of course, most importantly I guess, Transmog! I had dutifully kept all my Tier sets from Vanilla, TBC, and WotLK and could finally display them.

And then Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion and my final one as a regular player:

  • Release (August 2012)
    • New race: Pandaren
    • New class: Monk
    • The big talent revamp with 6? rows with 3 choices each
    • Account-wide Achievements, Mounts, and Pets
    • AoE Looting
    • Cross-Realm Zones, further nullifying server identity
    • Poisons are changed again: Lethal and Non-Lethal
    • Dungeon Challenge Modes
    • Pet Battles
    • 11 Character slots per server
    • Sunsong Farm, the first weird type of housing
  • Patch 5.1.0 (November 2012)
    • Brawler’s Guild
  • Patch 5.2.0 (March 2013)
    • Isle of Thunder zone & Throne of Thunder raid
  • Patch 5.3.0 (May 2013)
    • Raid loot: Choose a specialization
  • Patch 5.4.0 (September 2013)
    • Siege of Orgrimmar raid
    • Flex Raid difficulty
    • Timeless Isle zone
    • Proving Grounds
    • Connected realms

Of course I tried out a Pandaren Monk like everyone else, but I never loved the class. It felt a bit like a gimped Rogue, despite being powerful. Account-wide achievements & mounts were huge for me, and the expanded character slots. Proving Grounds were fun and much better than Torghast, strictly optional and quick.

Wow, that was quite a list. As I stopped actively playing in early 2014, at the time of 5.4.0 and the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, I’ll also finish this post here. That’s nearly 10 years of WoW changes already! (although only close to 8 years for me personally). And this all started when I was thinking about how Blood Elf Paladins were introduced in TBC…

Giving the contents here a last hard look I’d categorize the bullet points into these categories: Rogue changes (incl Legendary Daggers), UI changes (Focus), Dungeon/Quality of Life changes (LFR, Dungeon finder, char slots per server), non-game-breaking awesome changes (Transmog, Pet Battles, new races & combos), and game-breaking changes 😛 (raid sizes, talent revamps, new classes).

I only included the new raids because that’s how I mentally sort my timeline (Expansion X, Raid Y) and only then can backtrace what year it probably was and which guild I was in, etc.pp.

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