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I would hazard a guess that a vast majority of WoW players have never even been to Azshara. Honestly, since Molten Core is no longer a major raid zone and the Runes of Fire Lords just put themselves out, there really isn't much reason to. Those of us who raided in vanilla made weekly trips there to pick up our Aqual Quintessence, and I was also an herbalist, so I would spend another hour or so out there looking for Dreamfoil because of needing a bag full of mana pots to raid in those pre-potion sickness days.
Clearly, the zone was unfinished. There was one quest hub, if you could call it that, because there were only a very small number of quests there. Blizzard tried to bring people to the unused zone later on by adding in the level 50 class quests that led up to Sunken Temple -- but really, in the process of leveling, you could basically ignore Azshara and move on.
I hated the original Azshara because it was out in the middle of nowhere and fairly poorly designed. It was hard to get to places because of all the rocky cliffs, and passages up and down from the beach to the cliffs were too few and far between. It could even be dangerous at level 60 before The Burning Crusade's stamina inflation; lots of mobs feared and or put debuffs on you, and there were elites wandering around over huge portions of the zone.
Sadly the few fond memories I have of old Azshara are gone, as well. When Azuregos was up in vanilla, the entire zone would become a raiding guild, PvP fight zone as the top Horde and Alliance raiding guilds fought over who could tag him, killing flagged members of the group who got him, hoping to wipe them and inflict them all with the debuff. It could get fun and entertaining -- and one time, it even caused our server to be shut down.
Well, that has all changed come Cataclysm.
A whole new level for Azshara
Azshara is now a low-level zone for Horde characters, run by the goblins. A complete decimation of the zone's natural resources is in effect: strip mining, massive lumber harvesting, and there is a giant race track running through a good portion of the zone, making it look as if the goblins did their best to redevelop their lost home island of Kezan.
The map of the zone now looks pretty much like a sideways version of the Horde symbol. As soon as you zone out of the rear exit of Orgrimmar, you see the goblin work in effect. In moments of zoning out of Orgrimmar, quests find you hijacking a shredder, cutting down trees, killing night elves and even an Ancient. You help in the giant quarry that replaces the Azshara crater, killing basilisks and refleshifying (I believe that is the actual term used in the quest) miners who were turned to stone.
In the center of the zone lies Bilgewater Harbor, a former city in the box turned quest hub, flight point, and harbor. Basically, it is a harbor with a giant cannon pointed at who knows what, sitting right where the Bay of Storms used to be. Since this is a Horde zone now, there are also a few changes that seem minor but help in the idea it is now a Horde area. The Thalassian base camp in which you fought rogue blood elves in one of the unfinished quest chains of old Azshara is now the Darnassian base camp. Since the blood elves are part of the Horde and night elves part of the Alliance -- and since night elves wish to preserve nature while the goblins ransack it -- this fits much better with the reimagined zone.
A truly epic quest chain
As your low-level Horde character or high-level completionist character (talking to those Loremasters out there), you will kill numerous Alliance-based NPCs, mostly night elves but some gnomes too -- yay for punting! Many of the mob types originally in Azshara are still there, but their levels have been adjusted to fit the new zone. The giants wandering the hills are now level 20ish elites; there are chimera around level 18 to 20. Also there are still naga, and they are not happy about the new goblin incursion.
As you move through the zone, one of the most amazing changes is the effect of a post-Wrath storyline on the new Azshara. There is no "Lore ... LOL!" being done here; this is a true continuation of the actual storyline of World of Warcraft. Malygos is dead; the blue dragonflight is in shambles; Deathwing wishes to wipe the remaining blue dragonflight out completely. However, Kalecgos and Azuregos want to save them, and with your help, they work to fight off an invasion by the black dragonflight.
This quest chain is epic -- so epic that I do not want to ruin it with spoilers. If you play Alliance, make a goblin just to play through their starting area and Azshara; if you play Horde, make an alt or play through the quests on your main. The redesign of Azshara has made the most underused, empty, incomplete zone in World of Warcraft become a place you really do not want to miss. The blue posts saying they "brought the epic" and a complete experience to Azshara are not lying. It is a brand new zone. It is worth your time; you absolutely do not want to skip Azshara.
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