Casually Classic: Which version of WoW Classic is right for you?


Choice is a double-edged sword: Too little of it is restricting and frustrating, yet too much can lead to decision paralysis and feeling overwhelmed. Before 2019, your choice to play World of Warcraft was limited to a single option – retail. In the latter part of 2023, you’ve got five types of servers that may appeal to your playstyle.

With Season of Discovery launching this week, it’s as good a time as any to sort out all of these choices (aside from retail, as Eliot’s got that covered quite well), especially if you’re feeling a bit indecisive. Which version of WoW Classic is best for you? Let’s take a look at what each offers and what kind of players they’re aiming to appease.

Take with one hand and give with the other hand.

Classic Era

When Burning Crusade Classic came out, Blizzard retailed some vanilla servers for players who didn’t want to march forward into the expansions. While Classic Era initially languished, it’s since seen a strong second wind thanks to a community appreciating its simplistic charms and initiatives like the community-led hardcore ruleset and Blizzard’s Season of Mastery.

Today, Classic Era has a pretty devoted community that enjoys this no-frills experience. It’s the perfect server option if you want a tougher, rougher version of the game that harkens back to 2004. But you’ll definitely want to find a strong guild community ASAP, as most of the focus of these servers is in raid progression.

Wrath Classic/Cataclysm Classic

The main WoW Classic branch continues to be quite popular with those who enjoy moving their characters forward through each expansion as they’re re-introduced into the game. In this way, WoW Classic very much functions as a progression server, even if Blizzard isn’t calling it that. Currently it’s in Wrath of the Lich King, but Cataclysm is on tap for the first half of 2024.

If your focus is more on your character’s journey and not so much the era in which the server exists, these servers are probably best for you. You’ll be assured of the most content coming down the line and can enjoy the most modern amenities that WoW Classic has to offer like transmog and LFR.

Hardcore Classic

While this was running as a community mod for a while, Blizzard made Hardcore Classic an official ruleset in mid-2023. Using the Classic Era, Hardcore Classic gives player characters only a single life to try to make it to level 60. Any death will see that character either deleted or transferred to a normal Classic Era realm.

This is a challenging and exhilarating way to play WoW, with an almost completely different approach than you’d normally take. The community is enthusiastic, chatty, and mutually supportive, which is a good thing because you’ll need shoulders to cry on when your Orc Hunter bites it at level 42 after a couple hundred hours of leveling. It’s a ruleset that everyone should try at least once to see if the hardcore bug may bite them as well.

Oh look, quick development.

Season of Discovery

Launching today, Season of Discovery is the closest thing to a “Classic Plus” experience that we’ve gotten so far. Blizzard is taking the Classic Era and modifying it with discoverable abilities, time-gated level caps, and special raids. The community is expected to hunt around the world for runes and share discoveries with each other as the server advances into each of the four level tiers (25, 40, 50, and 60) every two or three months.

While there are a lot of questions about the long-term viability of Season of Discovery, there are a few reasons to recommend jumping into this right now, starting with the fact that it’s a fresh and experimental ruleset that’s going to generate a lot of buzz with the community. The level caps will help slower players catch up, while the worldwide scavenger hunt is expected to produce a lot of surprises and on-the-fly crazy builds.

If nothing else, it’ll be an entertaining way to pass a few weeks this December to see how it shakes out. I’ll be diving into Season of Discovery to bring you my thoughts on this in a couple weeks.

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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