Manny and Joce navigate through all the BlizzCon news about the next WoW expansion, Shadowlands. They talk lore, systems, and the leveling squish, as well as your emails! All this and more on this week’s For Azeroth!

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Lore and World

  • We will be crossing into the realm of Death: the Shadowlands
  • Usually when people die a spirit healer will determine if it is their time and if so will usher them into the afterlife. At that time the ‘Arbiter’ will sort the soul into one of the realms of death. The realms of death are infinite but the expansion focuses on 4 (really 5)
  1. Ardenweald 
    • Ruled by the Night Fae Covenant
    • Realm of rebirth, dark reflection to the Emerald Dream
    • Themes are Enchanting & Beautiful, Mystical Celestial Forest, Afterlife for Nature Spirits, Fae
    • Races: Dryads, Treefolk, Sprites and the Winter Queen
    • Parts of this realm are connected to the Drust and Tyrande will be present
  2. Bastion
    • Ruled by the Kyrian Covenant
    • Realm of those devoted to service
    • Themes are Serene & Glorious, Bright & Airy, Ordered and Purposeful
    • Races: Kyrian, Stewards, and their Automatons
  3. Maldraxxus 
    • Ruled by the Necrolord Covenant
    • Realm of unbreakable spirits, military might of the shadowlands
    • Themes are Horrific, Barbaric, Flesh & Bones, Rot & Decay, Scourge
    • Races: The Necros, and Abominations 
  4. Revendreth
    • Ruled by the Venthyr
    • Realm of the flawed souls, that require repentance and redemption
    • Themes are Epic Fantasy Castle, WoW gothic, Neverending Gloom, Anima Harvesting
    • Races: Venthyr, Stoneform, and Dredgers
    • The zone is almost entirely indoors
    • In the center of these realms is Oribos: the Eternal City and the Maw (which is basically the 5th realm)
    • The most dangerous of souls, those considered beyond redemption, are confined to the Maw. This Realm centres around the Tower of the Damned, Torghast and is ruled over by “The Jailer.”
    • Before this point none have ever escaped. However, the players are able to enter and leave the Maw and so are dubbed “Maw Walkers.”
    • Oribos is the center of this realm. The Eternal City and its ruling Arbiter have attracted Soul Brokers and otherworldly entities making it a mecca of the afterlife. (READ: central city for the expansion)
    • Souls of the departed have found a home in each realm: Uther (Bastion), Maldraxxas (Draka, Thrall’s mom), Revendreth (Kael’thas Sunstrider), Ardenweald (formerly Cenarius)
    • Each soul holds the power of Anima (vital force) that is measured by how great a life a person lived: Great souls have a lot of Anima, humble lives produce smaller amounts
    • The mechanisms of death have been broken recently. Instead of the Arbiter doling out the souls the the appropriate realms, all souls have been going into the maw. This has made the maw disproportionately powerful and has left the other realms in need of aid.
    • We will be exploring the creation of Frostmourne and the Helm of Domination


    • The pre-expansion event will be the Scourge unleashed without the Helm of Domination to hold them back.
    • Bolvar will be helping fight back the Scourge and giving us insight into the situation. Bolvar has the power of life infused into him by the Red Dragon’s flames and has seen into the world of death through the helm of domination. Bolvar will allow all races to become Death Knights.

System changes


    • Covenants are the “build around feature” for this expansion. This reverses the smattering of smaller features of BfA (islands and warfronts confirmed left behind)
    • A end-game campaign unique to each covenant (like order hall campaign or war campaign) which starts at 60 for all characters.
    • Each covenant grants 2 abilities to your character that affect gameplay (one class specific and one covenant specific)
    • Soulbinding is the new end game progression system
      • Old school inspired progression tree
      • Conduits will play like relics of legion which can be switched out for additional customization based on your role or class
      • The current design is that Conduits are consumed upon use and are not slotted in and out freely.
      • Reported to have NO AP grind
      • Each Covenant has multiple different Souls (trees) from which to choose
      • Switching between soulbinds will be as simple as changing talents. They want players to switch between soulbinds.
      • Soulbinds are done in your Covenant Sanctum. Anima is spent to progress through the tech trees.
    • Cosmetic rewards: Upgradeable Mount, Pet, Armor Set, Transmog for cloaks
    • The upgrades to the mounts do not provide any additional functionality
    • Covenants Sanctums act as home base and are built up (referred to building up Shal’Aran in Legion)
    • Covenants are not just reputation grinds. No bar to fill to Exalted. It will be a more involved process. The champions are building relationships with the Covenant and the individual characters for the Soulbinding system
    • As you level the Covenants allow you to temporarily borrow their powers within their own realms.
    • At max level, you will choose one Covenant and switching between covenants is supposed to be weighty and costly 

Torghast, Tower of the Damned

    • Considered the 2nd major feature after Covenants
    • Roguelike experience with “endless, ever-changing halls”
    • Torghast levels are not procedurally generated (in order to maintain the quality and coherence) but there are hundreds different layout
    • Items and creatures in those levels can spawn differently
    • As you go, you will gain upgrades from concentrated Anima that change your abilities for the duration of the run but do not persist after the run
    • Can enter solo or in a party up to 5 players
    • Torghast is the primary source of runes for the legendary items.
    • The abilities in Torghast might be tied to your chosen Covenant. Some doors or pathways will be open to players of one covenant but not another.
    • They want Torghast to be a draw for the entire length of the expansion and so even when you craft the legendaries that you want there might also be mounts and cosmetic rewards available.
    • Though it is TBD there will be some sort of lockout on Torghast. They want you to try and do it at least once a week.


    • New craftable Legendaries will be on the level of impact as legion legendaries but without the RNG acquisition issues
    • You will obtain Runes as materials
    • Those Runes are taken to a Rune Forge and a Rune Crafter (that Blizzard continues to play up as being mysterious)
    • A targeted legendary effect can be crafted into multiple gear slots. So you could create legendary wrists or legendary boots with the same effect.
    • TBD if the effects will be as powerful as Legiondaries but they do want them to be sought after items that you want to craft and upgrade

Class Design

    • They want people to rely on classes bringing toolkits rather than specs of that class only bringing things. (maybe innervate for druids?)
    • No class changes in the show floor demo but unpruning is supposed to be a big initiative

Greater character customization 

    • New skin tones, tattoos, eye colour independant of face, altering faces, tails and other elements for races (currently a big work in progress)
    • Focused mainly on the original races not the allied races.
    • All new cosmetic options will be freely available without gating to unlock
    • No plans for “prestige” customizations at character creation (a la Night Warrior) for now.
    • Death knight specific customization is not a focus, they are a class not a race.

The Maw

    • The Maw is the max level zone like Suramar. It will have outdoor gameplay, but not regular story quests.
    • The Maw is meant to remain challenging throughout the expansion which draws inspiration from Classic.

8 dungeons

    • 4 leveling Dungeons
      • The Necrotic Wake 
      • Plaguefall
      • Mist of Tirna Scithe
      • Halls of Atonement
    • 4 Max level Dungeons
      • Spires of Ascension
      • Theatre of Pain
      • The Other Side
      • Sanguine Depths
    • The Other Side is a pocket dimension within Ardenweald that is home to Bwonsamdi

Initial Raid

    • Castle Nathria
    • 10 Bosses
    • Billed as Castle Dracula in raid form
    • Winged raid with the initial choice of descending into the Catacombs (3 bosses) or exploring the Royal Quarters (3 bosses) before unlocking the upper reaches of the castle (4 bosses)


    • Level squish will set max level characters to 50 from 120 
    • Shadowlands content will be 50 – 60
    • Leveling is said to be about 60 – 70% faster than live
    • They had played around with the number of levels based on their goals of having a cohesive story and having all levels matter
    • There is a unified New Player starting zone from 1-10: Exile’s Reach
    • Current players or any subsequent characters of new players can choose to once again start in Exile’s Reach or the original starting zones.
    • After Exile’s Reach but before heading into the BfA content, the team will have an intervening tutorial experience. This will teach navigating cities, finding flight masters, choosing your spec, and getting your first mount.
    • From 10 – 50 new players level through BfA
    • Current players or any subsequent characters of new players can choose ANY previous expansion.
    • They will be working to even out the pacing through the expansions.
    • Instances will have limited scaling to allow old content farming.
    • They are still working on the details of scaling and don’t want it to be a situation where Hogger is now a threat to players after the squish.
    • The Death Knight experience will be different for the new wave than from the first wow Death Knights. Bolvar will call upon the new wave in an in game cinematic and they will start at level 10.
    • Questing in Shadowlands will be linear so that a greater story can be told; starting in Bastion, moving through Ardenweald then Maldraxxus and finally Revendreth.
    • Alt friendliness built in. Alts can go to the quest zones in any order and will begin building up towards end-game rewards while leveling instead of upon reaching the cap.
    • All activities including World Quests are unlocked for alts once a single character has completed the initial process.
    • The realms are separate from each other and this might affect flying
    • The Maw is a different kind of zone than the rest of the expansion. It is a max-level zone with no inns or rest zones. Free-form outdoor gameplay. Ion says everything is dangerous and trying to kill you.


    • The level squish and many of the decisions for Shadowlands were made before Classic was even launched.
    • RNG seems to be generally reigned in. Core Philosophy focus on Player Agency.
    • Crafting professions getting more deterministic results. Example given is that you can use a crit gem and a haste gem as materials to create a piece of gear with crit and haste.
      • Want to make crafting professions more relevant in the endgame.
    • Weekly chest will no longer randomly pulls from a large pool. 
      • You select from several options (think discover for WoW)
      • Selection will be influenced by the content that you have done the week prior
      • Will always provide a universally desirable reward.
    • The team is not sure about bonus rolls with the new weekly chest updates.
    • Flying will be unlocked through Pathfinder in Shadowlands
    • They are looking to overhaul the World Quest system in what they are calling World Quests 2.0
    • Mission table or Offline progression are still TBD.
    • Spell customizations are not the focus at this time. They are focusing on spells for the covenants.
    • Tier Sets are not planned for Shadowlands
    • A Mobile Companion App is in development
      • Auction House functionality to come later!!