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Sunday, March 3, 2019

What Could Have Been: World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

Regarded by some as the worst expansion in the then ten year history of World of Warcraft history, Warlords of Draenor had a development that saw an incredible amount of content get scrapped due to story rewrites, time constraints, fan backlash, and a lack of direction the likes of which the game wouldn't see until the 2018 expansion, Battle For Azeroth.

Development on Warlords began shortly before the release of Mists of Pandaria, with the idea for the expansion centering on the fallout from the actions of the former Warchief of the Horde: Garrosh Hellscream. Before settling on the idea for the Iron Horde and the alternate universe, the idea of having Garrosh flee to Outland and resurrect the old warchiefs to serve him floated. Another idea included the “Mongrel Horde”, which included the likes of Gnolls, Kobolds, and Murlocs serving the disgraced warchief.

Concept art for the Mongrel Horde, showcasing a Gnoll, Trogg, and Kobold.

One final idea was the “Dark Horde”, which has nothing on it, but would've presumably featured dark magic, such as the Warcraft universe's greatest evils: the Old Gods and Void Lords.

In the end however, the Iron Horde was settled on. With this, player's found themselves going back in time thirty-five years and into an alternate universe. Having escaped custody, Garrosh flees to this alternate universe and stops the Orcs in that timeline from drinking the blood of the pit lord Mannoroth, and rallies them to invade the timeline he's from with technology made by Siegecrafter Blackfuse—who was a boss in the final raid of Mists of Pandaria.

The expansion was met with an extremely large amount of criticism for its plot, with many feeling it was convoluted and ridiculous. However, as many would find out, the plot was the least of the expansion's issues.

Player's found themselves without much to do in the way of outdoor content on Draenor—the polar opposite of Mists’ obscene amount of daily quests. Aside from the grind of endlessly killing mobs for faction reputation and a single daily quest, players were left running dungeons or PvP was centered almost entirely on Ashran—Warlords’ big battleground that eventually garnered the nickname of “Trashcan”.

It didn't take long for Warlords to cause the game's subscription count to drop from 10 million to 5 million. Near the end of Warlords in July of 2016, when the pre-patch for Legion arrived, players found themselves in a state of disbelief. With two raid tiers, no new battlegrounds, and a 14 month content drought, Warlords had proven itself to be a catastrophe.

But why?

Some say the expansion lacked proper direction. Others say that the rewrites the expansion went through caused it. Some even say the expansion was simply outright abandoned early in development and all focus was put on Legion.

More than likely, it was the rewrites. But before we get to that, we must first focus on the expansion’s big pre-patch event. It was centered primarily on the Dark Portal—which is how the Orcs of Draenor originally got to Azeroth—once again opening. From it, the forces of the Iron Horde pour out and it’s up to the heroes of Azeroth to stop them. The pre-patch event offered a small quest line, a preview of a remake of the dungeon “Upper Blackrock Spire”, and not that much else. It wasn’t always like this though: there was a point when a phased scenario would take place in the community favorite raid of Karazhan. Players would journey there to discover the link between it and the destruction of the Dark Portal. This isn’t the last connection Warlords would have had to Karazhan, but for now: let’s get into the nit and gritty of this all.

Warlords’ plot was going to be significantly different than what was released. While players now arrive through a newly reactivated Dark Portal, they were to originally arrive via the “Chronal Spire”; a large hourglass that might have been utilized by the Bronze Dragonflight—masters of the game's timelines and time itself. From here, players would have stopped the Iron Horde from constructing the Dark Portal, only for us to presumably become stranded on Draenor. This idea, however, didn’t last long as some of the earliest builds of Warlords don’t contain the Chronal Spire in them. In the end, the original location of the Spire was replaced with the Talador subzone known as Zangarra. Amusingly, the Bronze Dragon, Chronalis, was placed near Khadgar’s Tower in Zangarra and forgotten about until patch 6.2.2 when he was finally removed.

Chronalis as he begins his descent when you'd enter Tanaan Jungle.
Chronalis as he's landed.
An unknown red orb that floated near where Chronalis was. Likely some sort of bizarre remnant from when the Chronal Spire was a thing.
The Chronal Spire.
After players arrive in Draenor, they'd presumably go through a small scenario and then go to the starting zones: Frostfire Ridge—which was then known as Frostwind Desert—if you were a part of the Horde. If you were a member of the Alliance, you'd be sent to Shadowmoon Valley. This would lead players through a grand total of five zones (including the starting one) until they hit level 100. These zones included: Gorgrond, Talador, Spires of Arak, and Nagrand. Also included were Tanaan Jungle and Farahlon, which would serve as max level zones. Many of these areas underwent extensive revisions and changes throughout development.

An early concept map for Draenor shown at Blizzcon 2013.
The Horde starting zone of Frostfire Ridge originally was named Frostwind Desert; an icy desert filled with purple sand that would be known as “Frostwind”. However, due to the sand repeatedly being mistaken for snow, the concept was scrapped and the zone was remade into a tundra that contained volcanic activity.

An insectoid race known as the “Scorpar” were set to make an appearance in Frostfire. Described as resembling the Nerubians of Northrend, which were used as placeholder models for the Scorpar. Their inclusion would have likely hinted as a much darker and more sinister presence on Draenor: the Void. However, for unknown reasons during the game’s alpha, they were removed. In spite of this, the presence of the Void remains prominent through the Pale and Cho’gall, and in the pre-patch for Legion, sandreavers were added to the shores near the Horde Garrison. Backing up evidence that their inclusion would have hinted at some more sinister is concept art for something called the “Void Giant”. No place holder model was ever used for such a creature and the closest that we ever got to a void-based creature in Warlords was the Hellfire Citadel boss of Xhul’horac.

Concept art for the Void Giant.

Easily the most controversial change to Frostfire however was that of Bladespire Citadel. An enormous, multi-floored building found on the western end of the zone, Bladespire Citadel is occupied by the Bladespire Ogre Clan until it’s retaken by the player early in the story as a part of the zone’s storyline. The citadel itself is notable as it was intended to be the capital city for the Horde. Inside, players can find two innkeepers, several vendors, and multiple floors that are fully rendered, but contain nothing of general interest beyond scenery of the Ogre kind.

However, during the beta for Warlords, Bladespire Citadel became one of the first victims to the great content massacre, and was scrapped in favor of Warspear on the expansion’s PvP island of Ashran. This caused an incredibly large amount of outrage from the game’s playerbase as Warspear, aside from being as nice to look at as ones local city dump, didn’t exactly create the sense of being stranded on an alien world; featuring an array of portals to the game’s main universe capital cities and housing numerous familiar faces. Ironically, a faction vendor for the Frostwolf Clan still sells an item that teleports the player to Bladespire Citadel.

Likewise, on the Alliance side in Shadowmoon Valley, the Temple of Karabor, which would later become the Black Temple. Unlike Bladespire Citadel however, the Temple wasn’t fully rendered and is instead barred off from player access. However, it’s possible for players to clip through the outside model and find a partially rendered, if untextured, hallway.

The unused interior to the Temple of Karabor during the Warlords of Draenor Beta.

In a painful bit of irony, a theme was made for the city, but is seldom used throughout the expansion, only being heard in a select few areas.

The Temple wasn’t the only thing to be removed from Shadowmoon Valley however. A questline involving the Worgen, a race of humans that are cursed to resemble wolf-like bipeds, was removed sometime during the expansion’s alpha. It would have centered on the daughter of the Worgen leader, Genn Greymane, going to Draenor to find a flower to stop the Worgen from becoming feral. For unknown reasons, it was replaced with a questline involving Fiona, a female Worgen that players accompany through the Eastern Plaguelands with her friends.

Another significant exclusion was a scenari o called the “Purge of Grommar”, which would have seen players fighting with Vindicator Maraad to defeat the Iron Horde. This bonus objective took place after the quest “A Threat We Can’t Ignore”. While in of itself not being that major, the look of Shadowmoon is drastically different than it is now.

Presumably the overhead view of an uninstanced Shadowmoon Valley.
The scenario map.
Grommar would be right next to Elodor.

Exactly why this scenario was removed is unknown.

Once players had hit level 92, they would be capable of going to the zone known as Gorgrond, the zone that easily went through more changes than any other. Prior to release anyway.

Gorgrond during the alpha for Warlords of Draenor.

An industrial area, Gorgrond is home to the Laughing Skull and Blackrock Orc clans. During the alpha, the location was largely barren, sporting little to no greenery. It also sported a train system that stretched through most of the zone. While not confirmed, it's speculated this would have helped players with traveling around the zone, or at least would've been something of a hazard while out in the world. As it stands, the train was, and still is, a part of the Grimrail Depot, which is a max level dungeon that sees players board a train and work to derail it.

However, at some point, things went sideways. Ideas changed, and so did Gorgrond.


Gorgrond as it is now.
The Gorgrond players know and experience today had its story layout completely revamped. What was originally intended to be the place players would learn of the motivations behind the alternate version of Orgrim Doomhammer and Vindicator Maraad, the former offering an explanation to him siding with the Iron Horde and his eventual betrayal to them, while the latter would offer insight into his hatred towards Orcs.

The once enormous train system was completely removed; now being nothing more than a single complete rail near the raid known as Blackrock Foundry, and a few destroyed rails scattered around the zone.

The docks—which serve as the location for the Iron Docks dungeon—were completely relocated, now being closer to a zone known as “The Pit”, which resides close to Blackrock Foundry, which grew enormously after the revamp. In the Docks’ original place is the Everbloom dungeon.

The end result of this enormous overhaul resulted in little more than a rushed, filler location filled with grindy bonus objectives, numerous loose ends, plot holes, and out of place wildlife.

The wildlife and overall greenery comes from the scrapping of Farahlon, which was, and still is, one of the most controversial and hated decisions in not only Warlords’ development, but the history of World of Warcraft.

Concept art for an unnamed creature; a sentient plant of sorts, likely from either Farahlon or Tanaan Jungle.

While nothing is known about Farahlon in the way of story, former game director Tom Chilton stated it was scrapped due to the story for Warlords changing and not matching well with what they planned. He also stated it would have been where boosted characters would have gone, but as development on Tanaan Jungle continued, the team realized that their vision for Tanaan matched what they had planned for Farahlon, but the former was superior to the latter.

This explanation enraged the Warcraft community as Tanaan had originally been intended to be released at the launch of Warlords, but was delayed for unknown reasons. While it was claimed it was always intended to be released after the launch, many never bought into the statement. Regardless, Farahlon’s scrapping became something of a meme among the community, though it can be argued the expansion as a whole had become one.

According to Tom Chilton, while Farahlon may have been canned for Warlords, the zone may be used in the future. He stated that the prison island of Tol Barad was planned for the game's second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, but wasn't used until the third expansion: Cataclysm. Half a decade later and that hasn't happened, and most believe it never will due to Blizzard doing everything they can to erase, or at least minimize, Warlords from the game's history.

One final change ties into the Scorpar that were mentioned earlier. Gorgrond had a quest involving something called “The Thing in the Cave”, which was described as a Qiraji prophet. The Qiraji, much like the Nerubian and presumably the Scorpar, would have indicated the presence of a much darker evil at work on Draenor. Unlike the Scorpar however, the quest involving the “Thing in the Cave” survived into the beta until it was removed. Gorgrond was also set to include sand worms that were the same color as the Qiraji, but they were removed alongside the Scorpar.

Once players hit level 94, they were sent off to Talador. For the most part, the zone didn’t change as much as others did, though two there were two notable changes done during development.

The first was the aforementioned death of Vindicator Maraad. In the main universe, he was in a relationship with the character of Yrel, who died during the genocide commited by the Orcs in the main universe. In this alternate universe, Maraad was set to once again be in a relationship with Yrel, and would have survived the Talador campaign. However, when the relationship was scrapped, so to was his life and he instead is killed off at the end of the story in Talador.

The second can be seen in the early concept map for Draenor: an area marked as “Shattrath Raid”. Shattrath City is the central hub in Outland. On Draenor, however, the city is surrounded by a large bubble and thus cannot be directly accessed. It’s unknown exactly what would have happened in the raid as no assets or files exist, but it’s generally assumed it would have been demon-themed as the city is surrounded by them, along with some Iron Horde members, in game. Interestingly enough, Lotharian Peacekeepers were at one point going to make an appearance during a Shattrath scenario, which hinted to some that the Sons of Lothar would make an appearance. However, they were removed and never returned.

Once players struck level 96, they were able to begin questing in the Spires of Arak. A mountainous region populated by the humanoid bird race known as the Arakkoa and the home of the Shattered Hand clan, Spires of Arak is the zone to be changed the least. Much of its main story doesn't correlate much to the Iron Horde and whether or not it would have prior to the expansion's rewrites is unknown. Regardless, its changes primarily come from the southern tip.

Known as Pinchwhistle Point, a small outpost and quest hub for the Horde, this otherwise nondescript location is home to a change that may have brought about another angle of the universe-hopping that drove the main story of Warlords. During the expansion's beta, the area was known as “Venture Cove”, which might have been a hint that the totally legitimate Venture Company had set up shop on Draenor. However, some tax collectors must've caught on because they were quickly run out of Draenor and back to being killed by lower level players as quest targets.

If the name was a hint to the organization's inclusion, the cause for their removal likely stemmed from the desire to keep the focus on the denizens of Draenor and not threats from back on Azeroth. This would last an entire seven months before the threat of the Burning Legion was brought in to partner with the alternate universe's Gul'dan.

At level 98, players were capable of questing in Nagrand—which served as a nostalgia trip to some.

An early concept map for Nagrand.

A significantly more lively zone, Nagrand was the home of the Warsong Clan. Lead by Grommash, father of Garrosh, Hellscream, the lands of Nagrand were home to exotic wildlife, Ogres, and elementals. With the rise of the Iron Horde, the desire for allies became a top priority for Hellscream, and thus the Ogres of Highmaul are prevalent frequently in the Draenor campaign, appearing in Gorgrond and Talador. This is one of the very few aspects of Warlords to remain the same during its development. Ironically, it also amounted to nothing as the ogre threat was eliminated in the expansion's first raid.

With the exception of a few locations named after ones from the Nagrand featured in Outland, much of the zone, like Spires, remained intact. This is likely due to its impact on the story being relatively inconsequential as it didn't have much to offer. Aside from being where players fight Garrosh Hellscream (again) and subsequently watch as Thrall kills him, the zone was more filler than anything else. However, it's likely Nagrand would have played a larger role had content patches not been sent to the chopping block.

Once the bells tolled one final time and the joyous feeling of level 100 washed over the player character, the world of Draenor opened up. This is where the vast majority of Warlords finds most of its content to be missing, and that content ended up stretching into future content patches.

An untamed world.

To start, there was Tanaan Jungle; home of the Bleeding Hollow Clan and the future Hellfire Peninsula. A lush jungle, Tanaan was described at 2013’s Blizzcon as being a primal and savage jungle. While World of Warcraft is no stranger to jungles, featuring plenty over its lifespan, Warlords of Draenor an opportunity to bring to life a new and awe-inspiring location unfelt to players. Due to the expansion's shiny, new models, the stage was set for something savage, primal, and terrifying.


Then came the delay; a delay that caused the umpteenth uproar from a community that at that point had begun to feel that disappointment was now simply clockwork.

As had become the norm by that point in Warlords’ arduous development, Tanaan was delayed for what would be seven months—a period that would lead to the one and only content patch for the expansion. It would be that content patch that would turn the one promising jungle into a mishmash of demonic corruption and wartorn chaos with the same level of direction as a drunkard attempting to navigate a hedge maze.

Prior to its release however, Tanaan Jungle bore something that no other content patch zone has ever had.

It was completely visible to players, much in the same way the Broken Shore was in Legion. Unlike that zone however, Tanaan Jungle was barred off by an invisible wall. In spite of the obstacle, some clever players were able to sneak their way into the unfinished zone, only to find nothing of particular interest; a hollow, incomplete shell containing only by the painful irony thanks to it being devoid of life.

A personal screenshot I took after the expansion went live of Tanaan Jungle.

Tanaan found itself lucky however as it wasn't the only location to be delayed. Several islands were scrapped, and the number of them only showed the Warcraft fanbase that Warlords had the potential to be something unparalleled in the way of not only quality, but quantity.

The first and most well known is Farahlon. As mentioned earlier, Farahlon was merged with Gorgrond, creating a mutant zone with many stories that didn’t mesh together.

A map of Draenor from the alpha.

Farahlon is described as verdant and gorgeous, filled with an immense amount of wildlife and the original home of the Laughing Skull clan. In the artbook for Warlords of Draenor, there's concept art for unused enemies known as the Fara and Farah. It's unknown if these enemies got their name from Farahlon or vice-versa. Regardless, the art is strikingly similar to the Genesaurs and Podlings that wander the hybrid beast that is Gorgrond.

In the way of what was finished of Farahlon, the location itself was off the shore of Gorgrond and rather small, which wasn't abnormal for a content patch zone. The zone itself had chat channels accessible during the beta if you went far off the northeastern coast of Gorgrond enough. Appearance wise, a  few arcane stone clusters were scattered around, showcasing what would later become Netherstorm. A few Iron Horde outposts were on the shore, which many presume would have been locations for daily quests.

The zone had a few mountains near its center, but well over ninety percent of it was untextured and had its name written in black ink across the entirety of the zone. During the beta, Farahlon was removed.

The second island of note lay just west of Farahlon and didn’t have a name. It was smaller than Farahlon, but extremely close to Gorgrond. A very small portion of the island was textured with a brown pallet, signifying that it may have either been intended to be a part of Gorgrond or a partner island to Farahlon for its content patch; perhaps being an island home to the Laughing Skull clan if they’d been forced off of Farahlon by the Iron Horde. Whatever the case, the island didn't last long and was removed during the beta alongside Farahlon. To tack on a personal story: I partook in the Warlords beta and was there fairly early on. Unlike Farahlon, this island didn’t have its own chat channels, but was clearly visible from the northernmost part of Gorgrond. My biggest regret during the beta wasn’t trying to explore either of these locations and instead bothering to beta test something that the developers didn’t bother attempting to fix.

The third island was directly south of Spires of Arak, and was around even after Warlords launched, although it was nothing more than a flat, untextured piece of land with nothing of interest. Exactly what the island would have been has never stated, though some believe it may have been an extension of the Arakkoa’s story. Its inclusion in the final product, even if for one patch, may have indicated that Blizzard didn't want to scrap it, but was forced to due to increasing focus on Legion.

The fourth island has a connection to a much larger land mass. Laying south of Nagrand were two large masses of land: one an island and another being cut off by the map. One was confirmed to be the homeland of the Ogres, while the other may be an island they claimed as their own.

The ogre homeland was never confirmed to be a part of Warlords as their story came ended after Highmaul—a raid that launched a month after the expansion launched.

The smaller landmass was removed in the beta and used the Outland location of Garadar, the hometown of the Mag'har Orcs. This was likely done to assist with scaling the size of the zone, which on the beta map of Draenor was considerably smaller than Farahlon.

Content wise, the Ogre homeland may have been planned to be a part of a content patch or something larger—perhaps a future expansion that has yet to come. Regardless, the island—and homeland itself—was ultimately removed, and all that remains is speculation, and small piece of land on the current world map.

Islands weren't the only content to be removed though. The Zangar Sea was scrapped at some point, though music was recorded for the zone, indicating that there was some development made before the sea was turned into little more than a shell of what could have been.

Scrapped along with the sea itself were two lighthouses that would have lit up the Zangar Sea. They were located around the center of the sea, though whether or not they would’ve functioned like actual lighthouses is unknown.

Also scrapped was something called the Fungal Whale; a precursor to the Fungal Giants of Zangarmarsh. This gargantuan whale is believed to have been a world boss.

Concept art of a Fungal Whale.

In the main Warcraft universe, the Zangar Sea became Zangarmarsh—a large Marsh with towering mushrooms. In the alternate universe, the sea separates Frostfire Ridge and Nagrand. However, aside from some mushrooms residing at the bottom, the sea is devoid of any content. In any other case, this wouldn't be a big deal, but the Zangar Sea has unused music that was left out of the final product, which has lead some to believe there may have been plans for another zone similar to the Cataclysm zone: Vashj'ir. If this is the case, it's unsurprising that those plans never came through to fruition as underwater combat and World of Warcraft don't have a very good history together.

There exist a few marsh locations in a handful of the zones. Whether or not these areas would have played into the story of the Zangar Sea—if it ever existed—is unknown.

One of the key features in Warlords was the Garrison—a base that the player commanded a total of twenty-five heroes from. It was with these heroes that the player could send them out on missions to bring back gold, resources, and other rewards.

Criticized for being grindy, unrewarding, and little more than a location for players to idle in until the game kicked them off, the Garrison was nonetheless brought back in Legion and Battle for Azeroth in the form of the Class Order Hall and the War Campaign. Both had the mission abundance and the number of heroes reduced greatly. Neither was particularly well liked.

When the Garrison was first announced at Blizzcon, it was described as being a place you could heavily customize; several plots of land were available for you to build certain buildings, such as a Stables, Barracks, Inn, Mage Tower,  and Lumber Mill. All of these buildings have their own purpose that would grant you special bonuses and perks, such as faster mount speed, having more followers, and being able to open portals to grant you faster travel around Draenor.

However, early on during Warlords’ alpha, the number of available plots was reduced. Blizzard’s reasoning was that they wanted players to have to choose and that internal testers complained the Garrison was “too large”. Many player’s disliked this as they believed their ability to customize their own base of operations was being taken away from them. Their complaints fell on deaf ears, as it always did throughout Warlords’ lifespan.

Another major point to the Garrison was its location. As it is now is limited to Frostfire Ridge for the Horde and Shadowmoon Valley for the Alliance. Prior to this however, the Garrison was intended to be placed in any of the zones that the player wished, allowing for a bit more customization. Within the game's files, there exist the locations that the Garrison would have gone. Along with this were alternate designs based around the various races of each faction; such as Tauren and Blood Elf designs for the Horde, the former of which is heavily inspired by Native American architecture and the latter of which is a more traditional fantasy look that’s more pristine (a stark contrast to the traditional rugged and tribal appearance for Horde races). I’m unable to find any images right now, but these videos by Hayven Games should give some insight.

Another aspect to the Garrison that was nixed was it not being tied to Warlords’ story; the end product having it being at the forefront and forcing you to utilize it every waking second of your life. This caused an extremely large amount of outrage—as if that was a surprise to anyone at that point. The Class Order Hall fell victim to this design flaw due to the artifact weapon, and was met with similar criticism.

The character of Yrel was one that had some people excited and others skeptical. Originally named “Eryl”, the character faced a massive hurdle due to being introduced in a series as old and developed as Warcraft; with original characters being difficult to simply introduce. Yrel's big thing was that she was to be a grand hero, and this immediately sparked some controversy that she was a Mary Sue; something that continues to divide players years later.

While some of Yrel’s story was undoubtedly axed when Warlords went through an enormous rewrite during development, one key part that was advertised was never addressed. Said part was simply stated to be “Yrel's Dark Secret”. This “dark secret” has lead to a bit of speculation, though it's generally agreed that she's the daughter of either Archimonde or Kil'Jaeden—the two top lieutenants of the dark titan Sargeras: leader of the Burning Legion. However, with no confirmation, the sudden villainization of Yrel in Battle for Azeroth, and the Burning Legion being defeated, many don't care at this point.

During the Q&A at Blizzcon 2013, a fan asked who the final boss of Warlords of Draenor would be. In response, Tom Chilton stated that Grommash Hellscream would be the expansion's last loot pinata. Alas, times change, and with the change to Warlords’ story came a change to its raids.

Within the Alliance Garrison, at the graveyard, there's a plate. Hovering over it reveals text that reads, Ray D. Tier. This references the aforementioned scrapped Shattrath City raid. While it was never officially confirmed to be in the game, it's been confirmed that a raid tier was scrapped—another victim of the expansion’s tumultuous development.

As it stands, Warlords had two raid tiers: the taking place in Blackrock Foundry and the second taking place in Hellfire Citadel. The former was Orc themed and the latter was demon themed. Some speculate that Hellfire Citadel took the demon theme of Shattrath and incorporated it into what was meant to be an Iron Horde themed raid.

A fragment of Grommash's planned boss fight exists within the game's files—a legendary, and visually updated, version of his axe, Gorehowl. This axe, while merely a placeholder, is believed to have been a drop from when he was planned to be the final boss—or a quest reward for a questline that was never made.

In the end though, Hellfire Citadel ended up lasting 14 months and contained a very rushed “redemption” moment for Grommash after he massacred countless innocents and attempted to take over two worlds. Said redemption moment was him taking up arms against Archimonde in Hellfire Citadel, because common enemies and what have you.

Towards the end of the beta for Warlords, a draknoid belonging to the Infinite Dragonflight simply named the “Infinite Vanguard” could be found outside the Caverns of Time—where the Bronze Dragonflight resides. Accompanying this draknoid was a time rift that appeared above Tanaris, where the caverns themselves are located. For reasons unknown however, both the Infinite Vanguard and the rift were removed when the expansion went live.

Strangely, Kairozdormu—the Bronze Dragon who helped Garrosh escape—gave the Dragonmaw Clan members of the Infinite Dragonflight to distract those at his trial in the novel “War Crimes”, which details the events between the end of Mists of Pandaria and the beginning of Warlords of Draenor. Despite that, the Infinite Dragonflight is never mentioned at any point during Warlords, and despite the Dragonmaw Clan having been given a model update with yellow eyes—which is associated with time magic, they never appear on Draenor. Though Warlord Zaela, the leader of the Dragonmaw Clan, was initially said to have gone to Draenor with Garrosh, Shokia, and members of the Venture Company.

Resting at the north of Gorgrond, tucked away from the barren wasteland that makes up half of the zone is Broken Horn Village. Home to several Laughing Skull Orcs, many of who are survivors of the Goren attack that takes place during the Gorgrond storyline, this nondescript location houses a vendor, innkeeper, and a surprising number of NPCs that have seemingly no purpose. Many believe that this location was meant to be the new capital for the Laughing Skull tribe after the storyline ended and players hit level cap, turning into a daily quest hub for Horde players. However, as is the case with the vast majority of content in Gorgrond, it was nixed in favor of the amalgamation that made it to the final product.

Throughout the course of the Garrison campaign, there’s a storyline that involves the alternate universe Gul’dan, who’s working to once again try and have the Orcs drink the blood of the Mannoroth. At one point, Gul’dan meets with Teron’gor (who becomes Gorefiend) and Cho’gall, both of who Gul’dan sends out to corrupt certain areas. Early on in the alpha, there was a fourth character there who many Warcraft players would have recognized: Medivh.

The last guardian of Tirisfal, wielder of Atiesh, and the first person to open the Dark Portal to let the Orcs into Azeroth, Medivh was corrupted by the dark titan Sargeras while in his mother’s womb and was subsequently killed by Khadgar, who went on to become the wielder of Atiesh.

In spite of this, Medivh lives on as a spirit in the tower of Karazhan, This makes his cameo all the more peculiar and mystifying to some, which some believing that his inclusion was the first indicator of Grommash having a redemption arc and Medivh potentially having been planned as the final boss of Warlords and not Archimonde. Whether or not this is true however remains a mystery.

On the topic of Gul’dan, the clan he ruled over—the Stormreaver clan—was slated to appear. Several NPC IDs connected to prominent members of the clan were datamined during the game’s alpha and an Archaeology artifact referenced them. However, in the end, they were replaced by the Shadow Council early in the game’s beta testing phase. In spite of this, the official Warlords webcomic showcases Gul’dan with a few guards wearing clothing akin to the garments worn by members of the Stormreaver Clan. Whether or not someone didn’t get the memo or it was too late to change the color of the clothing is unknown.

A much desired aesthetic for player characters in World of Warcraft has always been class accessories. When Warlords was announced, these accessories were announced along with it: quivers for Hunters, librams for Paladins, and totems for Shamans as examples. As players leveled up, these accessories would change in appearance; Hunter quivers gaining more pouches and librams becoming more holy in appearance.

Presumably an ammo pouch for Hunters.

Although this feature is still supposedly in the works, its announcement at Blizzcon alongside with Warlords has often been included as another feature was canned or at least delayed, though close to half a decade later, it seems unlikely it will emerge as was once described and instead be closer to a shell of what it could have been.

One of the more unusual pieces of cut content comes in the form of the Adventurer's Guide. Designed to assist the player in informing them as to what content is the most relevant and rewarding, this helpful little tool wouldn’t see the light of day until patch 6.2 in the form of the Dungeon Journal. Exactly why it was delayed and scrapped in its original incarnation is, as per the norm, unknown. Though the dungeon journal remains one of the nicest quality of life inclusions in the game’s history thanks to it being a way for novice players to learn up on certain threats when it comes to dungeon boss

Easily the most popular part of Warlords were its raids: all three of them. The final one, Hellfire Citadel, didn’t receive too many major changes, though the first two did.

Highmaul had easily the largest change. The first boss was highly controversial: Kargath Bladefist. Leader of the Bladefist Clan and one of the titular warlords of Draenor. During the beta, when you defeated Kargath, his bladefist was torn off and he fled the arena, his hand gushing blood. To many, this indicated he would return for a rematch at some point. However, when the expansion went live, he was instead killed. This change angered many players as Kargath was an iconic character and a fan favorite, though given the numerous other changes, it’s likely that whatever plans the developers had in store for Kargath were thrown out and he was axed off unceremoniously.

The second raid, and the first one to offer tier gear, was Blackrock Foundry. In the way of actual changes to bosses, there were major changes to the exterior of the raid.

From a video by Hayven Games.

Strangely, despite the size difference outside, the layout to the raid remained the exact same.

One of the big selling points for Warlords was that there would be new character models, something players had been asking for for years. Well, after a decade, players were getting them. Some were happy, others were livid since it was a major selling point, and that some other races weren’t getting updated models. One of those races were Blood Elves, the Horde answer to the Draenei that were released with The Burning Crusade expansion back in 2006.

While the Draenei were getting updates (thanks to the Draenei being a major part of Draenor’s story, both in the main universe and in this one), the Blood Elves weren’t. The reasoning behind this was that the models “weren’t ready” thanks to “time restraints”. Some players took this as the PR way of saying “we were too busy trying to salvage this expansion”. Others didn’t and genuinely believe they weren’t ready. Whatever the case, they were released a few months after Warlords launched. So at least this wasn’t shelved for as long as the Worgen and Goblin models, which would take another four and a half years.

A much more minor, yet still vehemently disliked decision was to not add in new and seemingly completed hair styles. Customization in World of Warcraft has always been something that players wished could be expanded upon, and while the barber shop offers players the chance to change their hair style and color, the choices aren’t exactly breaking any records.

So when the hairstyles above, along with several others and an array of armor pieces that were unique were datamined, players were upset, but couldn’t muster much in the way of anger. At this point, the idea of disappointment was the new “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature”. All player’s could do was hope that at some point, they’d be added and not left to collect dust in the game’s internal files.

Something that players could must outrage over was flying. One of the most controversial choices made when Warlords was announced was the option to not allow for player’s to take to the skies and fly like an eagle. Worse, there was the potential for the entire concept to be scrapped and for players to remain grounded until the day the game’s servers went offline, in spite of the fact that since the first expansion for the game, The Burning Crusade, flying had been readily available when players hit the new level cap; allowing for a quick way to get around the world, avoid undesired combat, to use all sorts of fancy new mounts. After all, all the cool mounts flew.

This decision was met with some of the harshest backlash in the game’s history and considering the scorn that the game’s community already felt towards the expansion, that’s saying a lot. Despite the excuse that the developers gave that they wanted players to “explore” the world from the ground and find all of the treasures that were scattered around the world, this didn’t calm any nerves or feelings for the average player, and the game launched without the ability for players to fly around the world. There was, however, a toy that would shoot players into the sky and allow them to glide for a brief period of time.

After roughly a year however, the developers gave in, and flying was introduced via a “pathfinder” achievement that required players to do certain tasks in Tanaan Jungle, such as hitting Exalted with certain factions and completing certain storylines. This method of unlocking flying remained in both Legion and Battle for Azeroth and while it was generally liked in Warlords, the more drawn out process in the other two expansions has been more divisive.

One final PvE removal that, while not major by any means, perplexes me nonetheless is the removal of an item called the “Mysterious Flower”. Looting this would yield a toy with a thirty minute cooldown that, when used, would give the user a flower. On its own, it’s nothing special: but when the player loots the flower itself, an Orc will appear and say, “The legends were true!” before being stabbed by another Orc.

This flower, and the mysterious Orc himself, is a reference to the “Flowerpicker Clan”, an easter egg from Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal. Exactly why this toy was removed is beyond me and what’s weirder is one Mysterious Flower remained in Talador despite having been removed everywhere else when the expansion launched. However, sometime after, it too was removed.

Player versus player, or PvP for short, is a big part of World of Warcraft. While not the biggest scene, it's always been something many enjoy. Battlegrounds are the most casual way to play it, and with many of them to pick from, there's at least one you'll enjoy.

Warlords of Draenor wasn't exactly a faction war centered expansion, and it wouldn't be until Battle For Azeroth four years later that players would get one—and look back on Warlords with fondness. Still, as is the case with any World of Warcraft expansion, there were reasons for the factions to clash.

Enter Ashran, the big PvP zone that was hyped up to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. A large island located east of Tanaan Jungle, Ashran is where the two faction cities/slums were located. If you went out an arbitrarily placed gate, you'd be queued up for what many consider to be the single worst piece of PvP content ever created in World of Warcraft's long history.

The Alliance city of Stormshield during the Warlords Alpha.

Prior to the two cities being made into the faction capitals, and during the alpha, the island itself was significantly smaller and had a colossal skeleton on it. At some point however, the skeleton was removed and the island was made larger. Thankfully, Ashran was eventually swept beneath the rug and forgotten about, and no one batted an eye. Much to the community's shock, or lack thereof considering the abhorrent level of content gutted by the point it came to light, Ashran was never meant to be the sole piece of primary PvP content; a total of five unfinished battlegrounds were found within the game's files. Queue the five stages of grief.

The first four battlegrounds were simply known as “SmallBattleground” and marked as A, B, C, and D. The first one is the only one to bear any semblance to Draenor and consisted of Bladespire Citadel and Gilneas, the Worgen capital city that’s in the Eastern Kingdoms on Azeroth. Exactly why they were paired up together is unknown, though it’s possible that the Worgen were at one point intended to try and make a presence in Frostfire Ridge.

The second map actually made it into the game during Legion. It’s of a snow-covered Arathi Basin and was one of the first PvP Brawls. Brian Holinka, who was the head of PvP during Warlords, had confirmed that this map might come to become something when it was originally datamined.

SmallBattleground C has absolutely nothing in it and still doesn’t, so whatever it may have been is entirely up to you to decide. However, if it’s anything like the former, it may have once been used to test a PvP brawl, or was intended to be used to test one.

SmallBattleground D also lacked anything in it until patch 6.2, which was when Tanaan Jungle was released, and now contains the map for the battleground “Deepwind Gorge”, which was a battleground from Mists of Pandaria. Exactly why a battleground from the expansion prior was what was added is a mystery, though it’s possible that this was another precursor to the PvP Brawl. After the Brawls proved to be a resounding success, Deepwind Gorge was given one in the form of Deepwind Dunk, where in players would retrieve basketballs and dunk them into the opposing teams net, while also performing the normal tasks of the battleground.

The fifth and final battleground was confirmed by Holinka to merely be an experiment on the part of the developers, but is the only one to have a name: Heroes Through Time.

Featuring scale models of ogres, humans, and orcs, this peculiar battleground is littered with several unnamed subzones, such as a workship featuring architecture belonging to the Goblin race and a small village. However, beyond that, the area is largely unfinished and to date, nothing has come of it. Exactly what the developers were potentially planning with it is likely to never be made full, especially with the idea of time travel having been largely tainted by Warlords’ failure.

To see what these maps looked like in game, below is another video from Hayven Games.

World of Warcraft’s PvP scene isn’t limited to just battlegrounds. A more intense and challenging part of it comes in the form of Arenas, where players are pitted against other players in, well, arenas. Warlords was intended to introduce something to help with the Arena scene in the form of Trial of the Gladiator.

Designed to bring the concept of the Arena Tournament realm into the normal game servers itself, players would take part in these limited time matches and challenge other players. It’s with this trial that you could enter, purchase the necessary gear, enchantments, and gems from a vendor and then go up against players who presumably match your arena ranking. Also being used, and as seen in the image above, would be tournament rules. You see: you’d only be able to earn an arena ranking on certain days of the week through rated matches; everything else would be practice matches and you wouldn’t earn any special prestige awards. As an added bonus, missing certain ranked matches wouldn’t affect your own ranking.

Trial of the Gladiator wasn’t met with the best of reception and was eventually scrapped. The main criticism from players was simple: the way the “trial” worked simply wasn’t player friendly and pre-set times to earn rewards wasn’t the best move. Not helping matters was the normal Arena system, which would almost certainly see a drop off in the number of players who’d partake in it when a more casual option was available that could offer equal rewards.

There’s a lot more content that was cut from Warlords of Draenor that I can’t include for a variety of reasons, mostly because it’s either very minor and isn’t exceptional (e.g. it’s something that would likely be cut out in a time crunch) or is repetitious. Perhaps in the future, I’ll revisit this and list off other, more miniscule things that were axed, but for now: Warlords of Draenor was one of the biggest throat punches that a now near fifteen year old game could have ever dreaded; a massive death blow that saw half of its subscriber base pack it up and flee like a volcano was about to erupt and obliterate everything in a hundred country miles and then some. While the follow up expansion is widely considered to be one of the game’s best, it still couldn’t amend for the gutted, shallow trash heap that was Warlords of Draenor. Though many now look back on that trash heap with fondness given the current state of the game thanks to Battle for Azeroth.
What could have been.


  1. Jesus fucking Christ... *shakes head*

  2. Tyler "Bio" RodriguezMarch 3, 2019 at 8:09 PM

    Goddamn. I've never played WoW but WOW what a shit show.