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WoW Archivist: 10 years, 10 amazing moments

Uldaman portal
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

In 2004, I bought a brown box with some discs inside it. On the cover was a close-up of a woman with crazy purple eyebrows and an angry bearded guy -- possibly Matt Rossi -- holding a gun. I didn't know anything about the Warcraft universe at the time. I'd watched someone play Warcraft III once (or was it II?). I remember chuckling at the peons' comments as they got to work. That was the extent of my experience.

I'd been playing Final Fantasy XI and I loved the concept of an online world. I was hoping for a game that was more accessible than FFXI but with all the cool monsters, grouping, exploration, and loot. I never imagined the journey that I was about to take, the people I would meet, the opportunities that would become open to me as a result of that purchase. Many of us who played back then had no idea what was about to happen to the gaming world because of that brown box.

world of warcraft game boxWith all the hoopla surrounding Warlords of Draenor, Archivist has been busy covering yesterday's precursors to current content, such as the zombie plague pre-expansion event, patch 3.0, and the original Upper Blackrock Spire. WoW's 10th anniversary events officially ended this week (after an unscheduled extension), and it is past time that I looked back on my own ten years in Azeroth.

Here are ten of my favorite WoW moments, in order.

1. Showdown at Uldaman. One of my first PvP experiences in WoW was a complete accident. In late 2004, a friend and I were questing in the cave outside of Uldaman in the Badlands. We were in our mid to high 30s at the time on our first characters. One of the mushrooms we had to gather sat behind an Alliance NPC. I went to right-click to gather it but instead I clicked the NPC and started attacking him. We were flagged for PvP on a PvE realm. We knew it was now open season on us. And on Khadgar-US, Horde players were heavily outnumbered by the Alliance.

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WoW Archivist: 3.0.8, the "disaster" patch

A Wintergrasp battle
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Any game that survives for 10 years and counting will have its growing pains. There will be moments when the urge to deliver the best possible content gets the better of the developers, when they reach too far but only figure that out after it's too late.

Wrath of the Lich King was so ambitious in scope, as originally conceived, that Blizzard simply couldn't deliver what they announced. Blizzard cut major features before the expansion even went into beta testing. Wrath's systems went live with patch 3.0.2 in October 2008, and the expansion hit live realms two months later. As with most expansions, there were early problems.

In patch 3.0.8, Blizzard tried to fix those problems. Instead, they made them worse. Far worse. WoW Insider called the patch a "disaster." Read on to find out why!

Wintercrash

Rebalancing the popular Wintergrasp outdoor battle was one of the patch's biggest features. Blizzard buffed vehicles and turrets to make them less fragile. The keep walls also became sturdier, while the final door received a nerf. Other adjustments and fixes went into effect.

So did a bug so catastrophic that players couldn't believe it ever found its way to a live realm.

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Filed under: Wrath of the Lich King, WoW Archivist

Looking back at the WoW Archives

We've reached the end of 2014, and 2014 held a special milestone for World of Warcraft: the 10th anniversary celebration. The game has built a rich history in the last ten years. Not just its in-game lore, but the history of the game itself and the community around it. WoW Insider's WoW Archivist has been reflecting on that history since early 2011 and now seems like a good time to revisit the best of the archives.
  • The Karazhan Crypt One of World of Warcraft's most infamous mysteries among old school players, the Karazhan Crypt is a creepy glimpse of content that was never released.
  • The Gates of Ahn'Qiraj The world event surrounding the opening of the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj was a server-wide effort, an in-game event the likes of which we're not likely to see again.
  • Talisman of Binding Shard, the lost legendary The Talisman of Binding Shard was a legendary item never intended to go live -- but it did. Only one person ever received it.
  • Indalamar the Warrior Numerous items have been named after Indalamar. Most of them use a simple reverse form of the name: Ramaladni. Indalamar was famous in vanilla WoW for his warrior shenanigans, many of which resulted in nerfs to the class. He also shared a guild with that sole recipient of the Talisman of Binding Shard.
  • Memories of Dire Maul The dungeon known as Dire Maul was the first dungeon to be added to the game after the launch of World of Warcraft. Players who look back on classic World of Warcraft thinking epics used to mean something -- recall Dire Maul, where its rare-quality items outclassed most early epics.
  • The legacy of Leeroy Jenkins Leeroy Jenkins made a comeback in Warlords of Draenor as a garrison follower. His origins are as ancient as they were viral.
  • The Corrupted Blood Plague An unanticipated exploit of a boss ability in old Zul'Gurub -- simply leaving the dungeon with a particular debuff -- triggered an in-game epidemic so catastrophic, world governments studied it.
  • The Emerald Dream, Outland, and other Z-Axis secrets In classic World of Warcraft, there were oodles of unfinished lands hidden away throughout the world -- tucked beneath the world's terrain, meant to be inaccessible. Enterprising players found them, and in some cases, entirely by accident as the game glitched when it couldn't determine a player's coordinates.
  • Massacre at the Crossroads Let's wax nostalgic about world PVP and the violent hotbed that was the Barrens.
  • 5 years of daily quests In June of 2012, we were looking back at 5 years of daily quests and the impact they had on the game's landscape. Now, going into 2015, Warlords of Draenor has almost entirely eliminated them. Is that a good thing?
  • Blackrock Depths, WoW's ultimate dungeon Not everyone loved Blackrock Depths, but it may have been the truest dungeon crawl World of Warcraft has ever had. Its vast spaces and myriad of potential paths and activities was beloved by some ... an enormous headache for others.
  • The evolution of Alterac Valley Implemented in classic World of Warcraft, Alterac Valley once ran for hours on end -- maybe even days. Nary a patch or expansion has passed without Alterac Valley balance changes. Seen by many as a shadow of its former self, we all must admit that a battleground that could stalemate for days could be infuriating.
  • Vanilla WoW's most hidden questline It's still sometimes rumored that classic World of Warcraft contained quests that no player ever discovered or completed. Given the game's long history of datamining, that's unlikely. However, some quests were far more hidden than others.
  • A raid exploit compendium part 1 and part 2 As long as players have been raiding, players have been finding ways to exploit them. Some exploits were more blatant than others -- some resulting in guild-wide bans.
  • WoW's craziest television advertisements Let's be real -- it can't get more absurd than night elf mohawks.
  • WoW's most terrifying secrets The Karazhan Crypts aren't the only creepy location in World of Warcraft.
  • WoW's most terrifying monsters The list ranges from murlocs to monstrosities -- mobs that scare us for their gameplay and those that have rather horrific stories.
  • WoW in China, an uncensored history part 1 and part 2 The history of World of Warcraft in China is rich in ways quite different from Europe or the Americas. Differences in culture resulted in alterations to select in-game models, a distribution dispute meant a delayed release schedule for certain expansions, and more.
  • The Martin Fury incident What would you do if you accidentally received an item that could instantly kill anything and everything?
  • The zombie plague event Much like the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj, an in-game event of this scale is unlikely to happen again ... though the zombie plague struck twice.
  • Flight You can fly! You can't fly! You can fly! You can't!
All of this is only a sample of the Archivist and the long history of Warcraft. If you're particularly bored this New Year's Eve, page through Archivists past like we often do -- take in patch notes from patches of old, get nostalgic for those days-long Alterac Valleys, and remember how far we've come.

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WoW Archivist: A Glyphmas story

Scrolls of glyphs
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Professions in Warlords of Draenor feel completely different than at any other era in WoW. Creating powerful items is no longer a matter of farming, luck, or gold. Instead, we have to produce their key ingredients via garrison work orders. Leveling crafting professions is no longer about creating a bunch of useless items that we instantly vendor or disenchant, and reaching max level is now a slow burn instead of a quick grind. This is the first expansion where I haven't hit max level on all my professions within the first week or two.

The profession that has changed the most is the most recent: Wrath of the Lich King's inscription, added in 2008. Even the interface changed: the glyph window was originally part of the spellbook UI, not the talent pane. Because of those changes, for a few very special weeks, inscription transformed the financial futures of countless WoW players. I was one of them. We called it Glyphmas, and it was magical.

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WoW Archivist: Upper Blackrock Spire

Whelps and eggs in the Rookery
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

You may have taken Upper Blackrock Spire, Warlord Zaela, but the classic version lives in our hearts, where your orc friends can't get to it. In 2005, UBRS was the dungeon everyone desperately aspired to run. They begged to run it. They paid to run it. They sat in capital cities for hours just hoping, dreaming, that someone, somehow, would put together a UBRS group.

The dungeon was the pinnacle of content for classic WoW's "nonraiders" and the gateway to raiding for raiders. Quests here attuned you for Onyxia's Lair and Blackwing Lair. (And who doesn't love a good lair?) Another quest allowed your Molten Core raid to summon Majordomo Executus. No endgame PvE'er could avoid UBRS, even if they wanted to. We didn't avoid it, though, because the original "Ubers" (OO bers), as players affectionately called it, was awesome.

What made it so special? Why was it so revered, and why are some players sad that it has been removed from WoW forever? Let's turn back the Empowered Hourglass to 2005 to find out.

Ascension

UBRS, like many of WoW's classic endgame dungeons, required a key to enter. It was not nearly as simple as grinding out some reputation -- click the link for the full rundown of just how painful getting this key was. Even the quest giver knew trying to get a key would be awful. He told you, "Understand this, mortal: the chance that one of the three generals of the lower citadel would carry a gemstone at any given time is rare. You must be vigilant in your quest. Remain determined!"

In early 2005, when many players were finally hitting the endgame, very few had a Seal of Ascension to grant UBRS access. To put this in perspective, by the end of classic, my guild of more than 200 people only had about five or six keys. If you had a key, you had two choices. You could hide in your guild and only do guild runs. Or you could advertise that you had one to your realm, find yourself on everyone's friend list, and get requests day and night, every time you logged in, to run UBRS. Even if you tried to keep it a secret, someone in your guild may have outed you. Once that cat was out of the bag, your WoW experience changed dramatically. You were now a realm celebrity.

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WoW Archivist: Epics

Bulwark of Azzinoth
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Leveling through Draenor has been a blast, but as a player from classic WoW, a few things have struck me as incredibly strange. Triple-digit numbers in the guild panel. Sending NPCs to do quests on my behalf. And most of all, getting epic armor and weapons from solo leveling quests.

Many players in classic WoW (and not just raiders) opposed making epics more available to players. They called Blizzard's evolving attitude a slippery slope. "What's next," they argued, "epics for doing solo quests?" They never actually imagined that would happen. In 2005 it would have been unthinkable. Eight years later, here we are. But it's all been by design -- an evolving design with many steps along the way. Let's look at how we got here, one random drop at a time.

The few, the proud, the epic

In early classic WoW, only one path allowed you to deck out your character in purple items: 40-player raiding. Other raiding didn't cut it. Bosses in the 15-player (later 10-player) Upper Blackrock Spire dropped rares. Even bosses in the 20-player raids, Zul'Gurub and Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, dropped mostly rares when they first opened their instance portals. Only their end bosses consistently dropped epic loot.

Outside of 40-man raids, a handful of bosses had a very small chance to drop an epic item. Emperor Thaurissan in Blackrock Depths had a tiny chance to drop Ironfoe. The "tribute run" chest from Dire Maul very rarely offered up Treant's Bane -- and I'll never forget the joy in my warrior friend's voice when it dropped for him, all those years ago. DM was also the source of the highly coveted tanking weapon Quel'Serrar, but the quest item to obtain it had an incredibly low drop rate.

Back then, even the recipes to craft epics (such as the awesome Force Reactive Disk) could only be obtained from 40-player raids.

Even if you were raiding with 39 of your closest online friends, earning purples was no picnic. With two drops per boss at first, odds of getting an item on any given run were slim. You could complete a full clear without a single drop for your class and spec. Each epic you equipped generally represented several weeks of endgame effort. When a player sauntered through Orgrimmar or Ironforge in head-to-toe purples, players knew this was a person who had spent many, many hours on that character.

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WoW Archivist: The zombie plague event

Zombies attack
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

We have one more week of the Iron Horde invasion event before we can take the fight through the portal to Draenor. Most players seem to think this event is serviceable, if unexciting. Like all such events, it lives in the shadow of the most memorable pre-expansion event in WoW's long history: the zombie plague. It debuted almost exactly six years ago, and Blizzard has never topped it.

If you need evidence, just look at the comments on the previous WoW Archivist about patch 3.0. I only mentioned the event in passing as a topic for a future column. Even so, readers posted more about the plague event than about any of the other 3.0 features like achievements, glyphs, or pally nerfs.

Shaking the foundations

Although the players knew some kind of Scourge-based event awaited us, no one knew the details or the scope. At midnight on October 22, 2008, it began. Argent Dawn members appeared in capital cities to warn us. "The Lich King is attempting to make his presence known," they said. "We must not let this occur."

At the event's inception, WoW Insider posted an article speculating on what we might soon face, and our hopes turned out to be prophetic:

Will it be a simple replay of the Scourge Invasion that brought Naxxramas to our shores for the first time? Or will it be something even more sinister, a world event that shakes the very foundations of the World of Warcraft as we know it?

Call us destructive, but we're kind of hoping for the second.

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WoW Archivist: Patch 3.0 -- Echoes of Doom

Patch 3.0.2 official poster
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Patch 6.0 is finally upon us. Like all pre-expansion patches, it has been both invigorating and chaotic. Almost exactly six years ago, a similar patch went live to begin a new era in WoW. Blizzard called Wrath of the Lich King's pre-expansion patch "Echoes of Doom." On October 14, 2008, this third version of the game gave us the brand-new achievement system, inscription and glyphs, 51-point talent trees, the zombie plague event, and TO THE GROUND, BABY. Read on to see what WoW was like for those turbulent few weeks before Wrath of the Lich King's launch.

Dalaran, where art thou?

Through all of classic and The Burning Crusade, Dalaran sat in northern Hillsbrad, but players couldn't see it. An opaque purple dome walled off the Kirin Tor from the world at large. At the time, the enormous structure was one of the most striking landmarks in Azeroth. Although a few quests hinted at what lay beneath it, players new to the WoW universe had no idea what was there.

And then it was gone.

All that remained was a city-sized crater. I remember making a pilgrimage to this site during the 3.0 prepatch just to see it for myself. We couldn't go to Northrend yet to see the city first-hand. We had to wait for the launch of Wrath to do that. But looking at that crater certainly fired the imagination. I couldn't wait to find out what had been lurking under that dome for the first four years of the game.

I have to say, the city lived up to my high expectations.

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WoW Archivist: Class protests and the Million Gnome March

Naked gnomes everywhere
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Betas make players nervous about their class. It happens every time. Blizzard makes changes, often drastically, and for better or worse some people hate the changes. I've been keeping my eye on the beta class forums since the Warlords beta began, and I've seen a lot of unhappiness this time around. The ability pruning that was one of Blizzard's major design goals for classes this year has removed depth from rotations, taken away both utility and cosmetic options, and in some cases radically altered or deleted abilities that players enjoyed. Beta testers have voiced strong opposition to many of the changes.

In ten years, I haven't seen players this up in arms about class issues since classic WoW -- an era when many specs and mechanics were simply broken in PvE, PvP, or both.

This past Friday, something happened that I believed would never again happen in WoW: an in-game class protest. With much more open lines of communication from developers to players in recent years, I thought the game had matured beyond the point where such things would ever be necessary. But here we are, almost ten years after the most famous class protest in WoW's history, and players once again felt the need to gather in Azeroth to voice their complaints.

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WoW Archivist: Bottlenecks

Gyrocopter jam
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Wherever thousands of players try to complete on-rails content, bottlenecks are inevitable. For Warlords of Draenor, Blizzard is trying to be proactive about eliminating them. Back in July, CM Zorbrix posted a "targeted feedback request" about bottlenecks in the beta. Given that the introductory experience is completely on rails before the expansion unleashes players into its less structured zones, this is a real concern.

WoW hasn't had the best track record when it comes to bottlenecks. As we help Blizzard loosen the bottlenecks of the future, let's revisit those of the past.

The great gyrocopter jam of 2012

Blizzard's server tech has come a long way since the game's launch. Lag and crashes are no longer rampant during expansion launches. But sometimes, other problems can prohibit players from progressing on Day 1. If we're talking bottlenecks, we have to start with the most infamous one in all of WoW, which also happens to be one of the most recent.

This was a problem that people saw coming. I found a thread on MMO Champion from September 2012 where a poster writes, "On Beta - everyone had to funnel through a single vehicle quest to proceed on the Jade Forest quest line. I'm a touch concerned that this is going to be way worse than any other expansion..."

And this guy was totally right. OK, maybe Mists wasn't as bad as The Burning Crusade overall, but the ironically named Unleash Hell was still the biggest -- and most dramatic -- bottleneck ever caused by a single quest.

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WoW Archivist: The classic Molten Core experience, part 3

Ragnaros

WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

If you missed part 1 and part 2, that means you were late for the raid and we're docking you 50 DKP. Next time get here early to help the warlocks farm soul shards.

OK, fellow archivists! We've cleared trash, we've decursed, we've pulled Geddon to Garr's room, we've brefriended the Duke, and we've doused every fiery rune. It's time to delve into the core of the Core to take on the Majordomo and Ragnaros himself, 2005 edition.

The invincible majordomo

Undefeated in battle, Executus rose through the ranks of Ragnaros's lieutenants to become the Firelord's majordomo. He did not appear until you doused all the runes, so the earliest raids on Molten Core had to stop after Golemagg and Sulfuron due to an Aqual Quintessence shortage.

After raiders repped up with the Hydraxian Waterlords and could finally summon the Majordomo, they were faced with an invincible warrior -- literally. Executus could not be killed. His Aegis of Ragnaros spell gave him a 30K damage absorb buff and healed him to full, so it was pointless to DPS him.

Instead, raids had to manage his eight adds: four Flamewaker Elites and four Flamewaker Healers. Mages were the key to this fight as they had the only reliable, long-term crowd control spell for humanoids. The fight required at least five tanks, one for the majordomo and one for each elite. All four healers were sheeped until all the elites were dead. Then the raid could kill the healers one at a time.

But it wasn't that simple. The fight had some interesting complications.

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WoW Archivist: The classic Molten Core experience, part 2

A rune in Molten Core
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

In the last WoW Archivist, we covered the early parts of Molten Core: the "attunement," the grueling trash clear to Lucifron, and the weird hunter-focused mechanics of Magmadar. As we left off, the raid had just reached its first rune. To douse the rune and (eventually) summon Majordomo Executus, you had to make friends with an angry royal guy made of water.

The duke of douse

Duke Hydraxis, as a water elemental, wasn't very fond of other elemental types, particularly Ragnaros or his fiery kin. His Hydraxian Waterlords were the first raid-based reputation in WoW. You could rep up with them before setting foot in Molten Core by killing certain elementals out in the world, but only up to just shy of honored. After that, you had to run MC to get additional rep. Trash gave rep until revered, but only boss kills got you through the slow grind to exalted.

Meanwhile, you could complete a small quest chain for the Duke. He first sent you to kill elementals in Plaguelands and Silithus, and then to obtain an item from Pyroguard Emberseer in Blackrock Spire. Further quests involved killing specific trash mobs and bosses in Molten Core. Hands of the Enemy quite literally asked you to bring him the severed hands of Lucifron, Gehennas, Shazzrah, and Sulfuron. Once completed, you could loot the duke's coffer and choose one of two very valuable fire resistance rings. At this point, the duke also gave you an Aqual Quintessence, one of the most famous items from classic WoW.

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WoW Archivist: The classic Molten Core experience

Lucifron
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Are you ready to return to the Core? Last week, we learned that Blizzard is planning a 40-player LFR version of classic's Molten Core raid as part of WoW's 10th anniversary celebration. Regardless of what they have in mind, the experience is certain to be very different than it was back in 2005.

Sure, you've probably solo'ed MC or cleared it with a few friends. But what was a Molten Core run like during classic WoW, when conquering Ragnaros and his fiery lieutenants was the pinnacle of endgame content? Read on to find out.

Zoning in

To access Molten Core at release, raids had to fight their way through the 5-player Blackrock Depths dungeon in order to access the raid. Today that would be impossible, but originally, dungeons had the same 40-player cap as raids.

Those poor, poor fools in BRD didn't stand a chance with three dozen+ players carving their way through. Since clearing it offered nothing but a timesink, Blizzard changed the Molten Core discovery quest into an attunement in March 2005. You had to reach the entrance of Molten Core once, and then you could port there directly by jumping out of a small window in Blackrock Mountain.

The game sometimes failed to register the instance transfer and you plummeted into a vast lake of lava. Yes, Molten Core could kill you before you even set foot in it.

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WoW Archivist: One night of payback in 2006

Theramore
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

An interesting aspect of the ongoing Ashran faction hub debate is the fear people express that their hubs will be raided by enemy players, since the new hubs are adjacent to a PvP zone. Blizzard pointed out that the hubs will be better defended by NPCs than the Shrines are now -- and the Shrines currently see few serious attacks on live realms, despite their close proximity.

On most realms today, little large-scale world PvP occurs, and even fewer faction raids. Faction raids were once a huge part of the game, even on PvE realms. You couldn't kill opposing players on PvE realms if they didn't want to be killed, but you could deny them their questgivers, flightmasters, and other crucial NPCs. And we did that, on both sides, throughout classic WoW.

Easy targets like the Crossroads, Astranaar, Grom'gol, and Refuge Pointe were raided almost daily. If your faction was heavily outnumbered, like mine was on Khadgar-US back then, it could be infuriating. We had our small victories at times, as I covered in my first Archivist column. But many days, all we could do was stand by and watch as the Alliance occupied our towns for hours at a time and took away our ability to level effectively.

On our first anniversary in 2006, my guild set out for some payback. Today I'd like to share that tale of classic world PvP, from the era when faction raids were serious business.

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WoW Archivist: Patch 1.11, Shadow of the Necropolis

This article was originally posted September 13, 2011. With the release of Hearthstone's Curse of Naxxramas, we thought it would be fun to look back on the initial release of Naxxramas in World of Warcraft. The original publication of this article also included the patch 1.11 patch notes, which we've removed here. If you're interested in seeing them, time warp back to the original.

Patch 1.11 included the original 40-man version of Naxxramas, which was the final raid zone of classic World of Warcraft. The game had seen no expansions yet. While we all knew it was coming, the idea was still foreign and nebulous to players who had limited prior experience with MMOs. "Green is the new purple" was something nobody grasped yet. Naxxramas was seen as the true pinnacle of raiding in classic WoW ... and in some ways, it's still seen that way by WoW's raiding veterans.

The trailer for Shadow of the Necropolis is probably the first patch trailer I remember in vivid detail, as it's one of the first patch trailers in which Blizzard tried to tell a story. Previous patch trailers showed off new bosses and new environments completely without commentary, merely showing off pretty pictures set to new music from the patch's soundtrack. Shadow of the Necropolis slowed things down a bit, showing you some of who Kel'Thuzad was in life and how he came to be lich lord of Naxxramas. Patch trailers have continued to build on what patch 1.11 started.

Let's take a look at what else this patch held, shall we?

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