*Note: I have been intentionally staying distant from information about Cataclysm as I want to experience it for myself. As such, there may be multiple factual errors about the contents of the Cataclysm expansion. I apologize.*
Well the time is almost upon us. Just 8 weeks remain until World of Warcraft: Cataclysm launches. 4.0.3 is likely to hit the PTR any day now. So what do I suspect it, and the expansion, will contain? Well here are my predictions for the future of World of Warcraft, during the Cataclysm expansion. Remember, anything in this post is a SPECULATION, and as such should be taken with a grain of salt.
4.0.3 November 23rd 2010
New races/classes are pretty much a given. New zones will be in this patch, but for the most, classes will stay as they are currently on live. Goblins/Worgen will not be available until you purchase the expansion, Archeology will not be available until you purchase the expansion, and Old Weather Flying will not be available until you purchase the expansion. Hyjal, Uldum, Twilight Highlands, Deepholm, and that one underwater place I can't spell will not be available until the expansion.
Guild leveling will almost definitely be included with this patch. And My prediction for the release date of this patch is . That will put it exactly 2 weeks before the launch of Cataclysm, just long enough for them to fine tune...
4.0.4 December 7th 2010
This will be a small bug fix patch that fixes any problems that popped up on the beta from the time the discs went gold, to the launch date, as well as including small updates that have since been put into beta builds. We got a launch day patch with Wrath that did exactly this, so I don't see why we would get one for Cataclysm as well. Cataclysm itself we already know will contain three raids, each with a "hard mode" version, Bastion of Twilight, Throne of the Four Winds, and Blackwing Descent. This is intended to keep us occupied, naturally, until...
4.1 Late February-Mid March 2011
Firelands is pretty much a given as being in this patch, since not unlike Ulduar, it was meant to ship with Cataclysm, but was pushed back "to a later patch" to get the game out sooner. Ulduar came out on April 14 2009, about 5 months after Wrath of the Lich King launched. I think Blizzard realized putting that big a gap between Wrath and 3.1 was a mistake, and thus, Firelands will come out sooner. If I had to guess it will also contain a new daily hub, not unlike the Argent Tournament, which will be expounded upon in a later patch, perhaps one in the Caverns of Time. Why the Caverns of Time? Well...
4.2 Late Summer 2011
A War of the Ancients Caverns of Time raid has already been announced, so naturally it's my guess for what 4.2s major raid will be. The previously mentioned daily hub will be expounded upon with this patch. We'll also get a new Caverns of Time 5-man instance if this patch, maybe even two. What could they be? I'm not sure.
4.3 December 2011-February 2012
Grim Batol raid. At this point the next expansion for WoW, be it "The Emerald Dream" or something to do with Azshara will have been announced, presumably at next year's Blizzcon. Thus 4.3 will be the last major patch for Cataclysm, just like 3.3 was the last major patch for Wrath. We will, naturally, take down Deathwing in this patch.
Here's where things get rather interesting. What do I think each raid will actually CONTAIN?
Bastion of Twilight It's already pretty well known that the final boss of this place will be Cho'gall, and the Final-final (Hard mode only!) will be *spoiler* Deathwing's consort, Lady Sinestra. */endspoiler*
Throne of the Four Winds
We already know this is a two boss instance, and the last boss is the Elemental Lord of wind, Al'Akir.
Aha, well this is where things get interesting since all that's known is the first boss for here. Who do I think the final boss will be? Well, does anyone remember the Zombie Onyxia/Nefarian models that showed up waaaaaaaaay back in the Alpha?
That's right. Zombie Onyxia/Nefarion two at once encounter. I mean c'mon, this is really obvious. Deathwing comes back and suddenly two of his kiddo's we've killed get zombie forms? Easy. Other than that I really don't think any major lore figures are going to appear. We already know a Golem is the first boss of the instance, and it's a five boss encounter. I suppose it's possible Onyxia and Nefarian are seperate bosses and there's a different final boss, but I'd be surprised. Some sort of Dragon Necromancer working for Deathwing is almost a given. If I had to guess I'd say his encounter will involve summoning undead dragon adds of various types, similar to the Freya fight, but that's just guesswork.
Again, we already know the final boss for this encounter. Ragnaros again. All I can say is the phrase "Molten Core was merely a setback" should definitely be worked into the instance in some form. If I had to guess for other specific bosses though, I'd guess at least one Core Hound, probably with a new model, and... Shoot, he's allied with Deathwing, maybe a Dragon boss? Lot's of elementals, obviously.
War of the Ancients
This one's gonna be interesting.
Ok, so, this is based on the War of the Ancients, which is a major thing in lore that ends with the whole world exploding. My guess is that the Infinite Dragonflight have gone back in time to try to stop that from happening. Thus we're going to have to make sure that the Well of Eternity still goes boom. Chromie, being the fan favorite that he/she is, will play a major role.
Now, if I had to guess, I'd say that boss wise we're going to see Mannoroth get an appearance, although it's either going to be a "survive for X minutes" encounter, or a "get him down to 1% health and he'll leave" encounter, since he can't die, obviously.
Multiple encounters will be random demons we've never heard of, and members of the infinite dragonflight we've never heard of. At some point I suspect we'll see members of the "good guys" attack us, since we're trying to make it blow up. The final boss, if I had to guess, will be a timed encounter where we have to kill waves of infinite dragonflight, and then an Infinite Dragon (Perhaps Nozdormu?) and get out of the cavern before the Well of Eternity does explode and kill us all.
Also, I suspect we're going to, at some point, fight a pre-corruption Illidan off alongside Malfurion Stormrage. Possibly as the "Heroic only bonus boss" ala Algalon or Lady Sinestra.
It's also possible that Deathwing (from our era) will make some sort of appearance here, since it's theorized that he may have some ties to the Infinite Dragonflight.
Hoo boy. Grim Batol is what it's all been leading up to. So what do I think Grim Batol is going to have in it? Well... Deathwing is OBVIOUS. Other than that, I'm not really sure though. I suppose we COULD see another old god here, one of the ones that corrupted him, as a bonus boss, but I doubt they'll do that. I have a feeling they're only going to use old gods as "real" raid encounters, with entire raids leading up to them, and they won't have a "bonus boss" that's harder than Deathwing for this, since he's the big bad for the expansion.
I suppose we might get a Goblin boss using a giant mech, since Deathwing's always been quite fond of using Goblins for slave labor. I could also forsee Deathwing's New Consort may be a boss, considering we'll have killed Sinestra by then. Also, a full grown Twilight Drake wouldn't surprise me, even though we supposedly destroyed all the eggs in Obsidian Sanctum, as it wouldn't be that far fetched for at least one to have survived.
Other than that, I don't really know. It's very hard to say what will appear and what won't. I suppose if the Dragon Necromancer who raised Ony/Nef isn't killed in Blackwing Descent, he could instead be a boss here.
Other Raid Content
The equivalent of VoA is almost a given here. Baradin Hold has one boss currently. I say with a large amount of confidence that it will get at least 4 by the end of the expansion.
It also would not shock me to see more Chamber of Aspects open up as one to two boss encounters as Cataclysm progresses. In fact, considering Blizzard appear to be adopting a multiple raid per tier system, and this expansion is so closely tied to DRAGONS, it would shock me NOT to see at least one Chamber of Aspects open up. Which one? Bronze Sanctum is a possibility for sure, releasing at the same time as War of the Ancients. Azure Sanctum could also happen, involving a new Blue Dragon trying to rise up as the new aspect, and side with Deathwing, perhaps to fulfill Malygos's wishes of killing all magic users. Emerald Sanctum is most likely going to stay closed until they do an expansion dealing with the Emerald Dream, though.
It also wouldn't shock me to see another old raid revamped for the 7th anniversary, ala Onyxia 10/25. Perhaps Gruul?
I suspect that like Wrath, Cataclysm will have several 5-mans released during it's course. As I said above, I suspect at least one in Caverns of Time. I also wouldn't be shocked by a 5-man taking place late in the expansion (perhaps the equivalent to HoR) on the island of Kezan. There could even be multiple ones, one taking place in the Undermine, now controlled by Deathwing, and completely destroyed by Mt. Kajaro, and one taking place inside Mt. Kajaro.
This whole expansion is going to be VERY lore heavy, I suspect even moreso than Wrath was. Keep in mind, this section is only going to be about lore changes coming with patches, and I DO NOT KNOW VERY MUCH ABOUT QUESTS IN THE BETA. As such this is probably going to be the section containing the most broad predictions.
War of the Warchiefs
Well one major faction leader already bit the dust at the end of Wrath (or more specifically, turned into a weird human/undead hybrid thing that is the new Lich King since he's unable to die, but not quite alive either) and Cairne was killed by Garrosh not long after the Cataclysm. But since Thrall is off picking flowers or some such nonsense, and Garrosh has declared himself new Warchief, I predict that one of these two Orcs will not live through the expansion. At some point during the final raid of Cataclysm, either Garrosh will die, and Thrall will return as Warchief, or Thrall will die, and Garrosh will be Warchief for another expansion. I really don't see them both living through this whole thing.
Personally I'm hoping Garrosh dies as the lore was much more interesting when the Horde were noble, and the Alliance were evil scum, instead of both side being warmongers.
Other Major Lore Characters Die
Who? I dunno, but hey this is a tough war, and chances of everyones survival are... Low.
Sylvanas? Maybe. Magni Bronzebeard? It's possible. Brann Bronzebeard? Eh, I doubt it. Like I said, I'm not sure who, but a whole bunch of people are going to die. Seriously. It's the Harry Potter 7 of WoW expansions.
War of the Ancients is a Lore Nut's Dream
We're going to see lots of major lore events, whether as encounters, or just Easter Eggs, in this instance. Queen Azshara, pre nagafication will make an appearance for sure, although whether we'll be fighting with or against her is up in the air.
But for new lore in here... Well that depends. If the infinite dragonflight IS involved in this, and I sure hope it is, because I don't want another raid without them in it, then we may finally get confirmation that Nozdormu is the leader of the infinite dragonflight, trying to prevent his own demise. If not... Blah. This is a pointless raid, story wise, and it's just there because it's cool.
The Elements are Displeased
We'll be fighting two Elemental Lords this expansion, Ragnaros, and Al'Akir. No big deal right? Well if we kill them in the elemental plane (which just so happens to be where we will be killing them) then they may or may not die forever. No one's really sure. We've never done it before.
So what happens if a Fire Elemental that big is extinguished forever? I don't think it's going to be pretty, whatever it is. I have a feeling the spirits of fire and air may not be very pleased with us and Shamans everywhere (lore wise, not gameplay wise) will have dire consequences in the next expansion.
Heavy setup for the next expansion
A lot of what happens in this expansion, will be setup for things in the next expansion, whether that be The Emerald Dream, The South Seas, or going on the offensive to some Burning Legion worlds.
I expect to see the number of players of WoW to continue to grow with Cataclysm since the leveling is much more accessible, and the legal trouble with WoW China seems to be dying down. They just hit 12 million a few weeks ago. I predict 13-14 million players by the end of Cataclysm.
Expansion 4 Announced At Blizzcon 2011
Yeah. There's a trend that's been going on, and it's pretty hard to miss. I would be SHOCKED if the next expansion is officially revealed before that. I'd be pretty darn surprised if it's any longer than that either.
TOR and WoW Coexist
This isn't related to Cataclysm specifically, but I predict that TOR will be the most successful "WoW Killer!" yet. It won't actually hurt WoW's growth, mind you, but I have a feeling TOR will manage to grab a comfortable 1-2 million users.
Cata Comes To a Close Late 2012
2 years seems to be the life cycle of expansions. I expect Expansion 4 will launch Q4 2010. That'll have been a full year of Grim Batol, just like we had a full year of ICC, and (almost) a full year of Sunwell.
Well, that's pretty much all of my predictions for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Let's see how much of this turns out to be true, and how much of it turns out to be completely and utterly false.