The other problem, of course, is that picking only five from the giant list of lore that we've witnessed in WoW means that there are countless other moments that are going to be ignored, and I hate that. But for my list, my personal list, you'll find very few of those giant, epic, sweeping battles that everyone would automatically call a pinnacle. I tend to like the more personal stuff.
5. The creation of Nightbane
The addition of Karazhan in Burning Crusade was something I looked forward to with a ferocity that has yet to be matched with anything else I've seen in WoW. It's not the tower, sitting alone and forlorn in Deadwind Pass -- it's who that tower belonged to. I've been a Medivh fan for a very long time, and finally being able to walk the creepy halls of his long-forgotten home was a moment of sheer joy for me. But Karazhan had its own attunement chain -- and within that chain was another chain, to unlock the boss Nightbane on The Master's Terrace.
What I did not expect, when obtaining my own urn, was a flashback sequence of Nightbane's creation. Medivh was the Guardian of Tirisfal, an incredibly powerful mage. And he also happened to be possessed by the spirit of Sargeras, something that didn't rear its head until Medivh fully came into power. But with the incredible powers of the arcane comes the unwanted attention of the blue dragonflight. Medivh was crazy-powerful. So much so that the Blue Dragonflight sent Arcanagos to stop him.
And in one moment, it was demonstrated exactly how much power Medivh had at his disposal. And after that moment, there's a glimpse of the "real" Medivh -- not the power-mad Sargeras-infested Guardian, but the very tired man, uncertain of his actions and barely in control. It was a cool moment, and entirely unexpected.
4. Honor, Krom'gar
The Stonetalon Mountains was one of those areas I always skipped in vanilla. There was barely enough content there to be considered remotely interesting, save for some tree-planting in the Charred Vale that I always took part in. The revamp of 1-60 content in Cataclysm proved to be the best thing that ever happened to this zone. The pinnacle of Stonetalon is the quest To Be Horde... in which Garrosh Hellscream confronts Overlord Krom'gar over his horrific actions in Stonetalon.
For one brief moment, it looked as though Garrosh understood. That the lessons learned from Saurfang were sinking in. Unfortunately, it looks like these days the lessons learned from Stonetalon have long since faded away. But for Horde players, Stonetalon remains an evocative look at Garrosh Hellscream, and the Warchief that almost-might-have-been.
3. Frostmourne and the Halls of Reflection
The final three instances of Wrath of the Lich King were utterly amazing, particularly if you happened to be Alliance. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing Sylvanas' quest for vengeance, but there is something far more personal and emotional about the journey of Jaina Proudmoore. Wrath was not kind to Jaina. Think about it -- she was deeply in love with Arthas, and had to watch him walk the slow path to damnation in Warcraft III, at which point Arthas ceased to be.
But despite his apparent death, there was a creature in Northrend who committed unspeakable atrocities, and he wore the face of Arthas. Jaina knew Arthas was no more, yet being confronted with the Lich King and having to stare at the face of her presumably dead lover ... well, it's no wonder she was emotional throughout Wrath. The Halls of Reflection not only brought Jaina and the Lich King face to face, finally -- it also dragged in Uther as well, and neatly hailed back to the days of Warcraft III.
And on top of that, there's that final gauntlet. Frantically trying to get away from a creature who didn't race at you and scream to scare you, but instead silently marched, step by step, towards you -- there was an air of menace and panic about that final gauntlet that had my heart racing. It was brilliantly done.
2. Thrall's journey home
I like moments that reflect back on the earlier RTS games. Number two is Thrall's journey to Nagrand. It was a slow build up in Burning Crusade that started from the moment you first discovered the Mag'har in Hellfire Peninsula. And it was the first moment that Thrall got off his duff in Orgrimmar and actually went somewhere. He discovered the last remnants of uncorrupted orc society, and he discovered his grandmother, the gentle Greatmother Geyah.
All of the quests in Nagrand were exceptional, but it was Thrall's arrival that put an exclamation point on the end of the journey. And when Thrall replayed Grom Hellscream's final moments from Warcraft III, that was just the icing on the cake. It was a fond memory from the RTS, but more importantly it was the moment that began Garrosh Hellscream's bizarre, incredible journey from depressed son to Warchief.
1. The Great Masquerade
Is there any doubt that this could be anything but number one, for anyone who played Alliance in vanilla? This was the pinnacle of storytelling in vanilla WoW. It was the moment that I first felt, as a player, that my actions had some sort of impact on the world around me -- that I was, in fact, a big damn hero. As I solemnly marched the streets of Stormwind with Reginald Windsor at my side, even the NPCs paid attention.
And the moment when Onyxia was at last revealed was a moment I will never forget. Watching Bolvar Fordragon tear through a fleet of angry dragonkin was like witnessing the hero I could some day become. I didn't know, when I first went on errands of finding lost bits of paper, that I would be bringing a hero home. I didn't know that Windsor's life would end when our journey was over. And when I witnessed all of these things, I was watching what was the pinnacle of storytelling at the time.
Sure, WoW's storytelling has progressed dramatically since those days. But for me, it all began in the throne room -- an older throne room, one devoid of statues of Varian Wrynn. It was me, Bolvar, and Windsor, facing off in a battle that was certain to be spoken of for generations to come.
These are just my five favorites. Given the sheer amount of lore we've seen in WoW over the years, I'm sure everyone else has their own favorites, too. If you've got a favorite nail-biting moment where the lore of the game took a life of its own, drop a comment and fill us in!