Casually Classic: Why WoW Classic progression should end after Wrath of the Lich King


Considering that we are just in the early months of Burning Crusade Classic, I think it might be both premature and presumptuous to be looking forward to a Wrath of the Lich King Classic. But c’mon, we all know it’s going to happen most likely in 2023. There’s a sizable contingent of players who haven’t been that keen on old Azeroth or Outland who are champing at the bit to experience Northrend.

When Blizzard opens those frozen doors, it’s going to be a stampede. Let’s not even pretend otherwise.

And when that day arrives, when WoW Classic transitions into its third major iteration, I sincerely hope that Blizzard will have the wisdom to announce that this is as far as the Classic servers will go and leave us in Wrath¬†indefinitely. Here’s why it must happen.

As far as I see it, the whole purpose of WoW Classic is to take us back to an early era of the game before it was changed, modified, and reshaped into a far different beast than what players fell in love with back in the mid-2000s. While every successive expansion, starting with Burning Crusade, added and revamped plenty of elements of the game, historically the dividing line between the old era and the modern one of World of Warcraft is the division between Wrath and Cataclysm.

Like it or not — and a lot of players did not, thank you very much — Cataclysm took a familiar playground and bulldozed it to build something that the devs thought would be objectively better: a redesigned old Azeroth with better questing, improved graphics, and the ability to fly everywhere. Talent trees were squished, and other expansiony systems came out to play.

I’m not here to dunk on Cataclysm (and I suspect I’d be preaching to the choir, anyway), but I will argue that it irrevocably changed the world of World of Warcraft. It gave us an “after” to which vanilla, Burning Crusade, and Wrath was the “before.” Not only is the nostalgia for Cataclysm pretty much absent, but its inclusion into the Classic lineup would break the concept of Classic being a throwback altogether.

But Wrath? Wrath was World of Warcraft hitting its stride in a big way. Burning Crusade was a huge improvement in many ways over the original game, especially with reworked classes, flying, and additional talents. However, it was still mired in a lot of old, not-as-user-friendly design that wasn’t adapting to the times.

Wrath aimed its frozen cannon right at making World of Warcraft one of the most casual-friendly MMOs on the market and fired with all of its might. That expansions additions and improvements were legendary, including the LFG tool, achievement system, Death Knight heroic class, Dalaran, reputation tabards, a revamped Naxx, Wintergrasp, Inscription (and glyphs), 51-point talents, the barber shop, heirloom items for alts, pet and mount tabs, and more raid difficulty options. Just about the only thing that didn’t make it to launch was the lamented dance studio (R.I.P.).

It was an amazingly fun expansion that helped a game on the rise to explode in popularity and interest. Say what you will about “Wrath babies,” but this population boom was proof that WoW had connected on a whole new level with gamers.

And it’s this expansion that would serve as a fitting endcap to Classic. It wouldn’t need to go any further, not just because doing so would break the concept but because the base game plus the first two expansions constituted a massive pile of content that has and will keep players occupied for years. I can definitely imagine how a frozen-in-time (pun intended) Wrath Classic would have long legs even once Blizzard is done rolling out its patch phases.

Since that expansion gave players a lot of tools and incentive to roll alts (including heirlooms, easier dungeon accessibility, and a class that started at level 58), raising up new characters could lengthen one’s interest in the MMO for years to come. Tack on achievement hunting, mount collecting, and all of the other progression systems, and there’s so much there to do that it wouldn’t need to move past Northrend.

Just about the only post-Wrath system that I’d want to see brought back into Classic (even now) is transmog, but other than that, yeah, you can keep your pandas and Deathwings. This is where I want to live.

Stepping back into the MMO time machine of WoW Classic, Justin Olivetti offers up observations and ground-level analysis as a Gnome with a view. Casually Classic is a more laid-back look at this legacy ruleset for those of us who’ve never stepped into a raid or seen more than 200 gold to our names.
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