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One of the things I've noticed about the way World of Warcraft is developed is that, as players reach the current level cap and wait for the next expansion to drop, a series of placeholder patches are released that include dungeons and raids and increasingly superior equipment. However, each of these patches tends to include nerfs to its immediate predecessor, so the game's difficulty curve isn't so much rising continuously as it is perpetually unrolling.

As someone who only got into the game with Cataclysm, I found the leveling experience so easy that I blew right through Outland and Northrend without even noticing their higher-level dungeons and raids—yet as far as content density is concerned, those areas are significantly "deeper" than the wading pools I spent most of my time in: after using the Dungeon Finder and questing in Borean Tundra and Sholazar Basin, I had barely scratched the surface of the Icecrown quests before it was time for me to move on to Cataclysm zones, yet the Argent Tournament and various Icecrown Citadel dungeons and raids could almost take as much time and energy as I spent on the rest of Northrend put together.

What other content-deep locations did my rocket-jump to 85 bypass? The fact that Zul'Aman was transformed from a raid into a dungeon suggests these wells are ripe for developer recycling, and I'd like to experience this content the original way (or, as close to original as is possible in the year 2011) before they get remixed and rereleased.

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More generally, I think this is the existential mmo question. Games are left with once-populous zones that now serve little purpose for the 90% of players who are interested in the fastest way from 1 to {level_cap}. –  authenticgeek Aug 16 '11 at 16:55
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This doesn't really answer the question, but there are guilds that focus on a lower level cap (say, 60) in order to focus on that tier of content (because Molten Core was such a thrill?) - the best way to explore it may be to track down one of those 'progression' guilds, if you want to experience it as close as possible to "as intended". –  Kara Marfia Aug 16 '11 at 17:54
    
Even then, the experience is completely different. This may seem off topic, but I believe the closest way of experiencing those raids is to find a private server that hosts the content with the original patch. –  Domocus Aug 16 '11 at 21:57
    
@Domocus - that's much easier said than done both because of the difference in playerbase, and in the hassles of properly emulating a WoW server (Blizz certainly won't share that). –  Raven Dreamer Aug 17 '11 at 6:19

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

While a list of content is all well and good, the question asks: what was the 'end-game' content, and what's likely to be revamped? Maraudon was only briefly an end-game instance, and it was intended to plug a progression hole.

So, in order, this is where Blizzard intended level capped players to spend their time:

  • In vanilla WoW, one of the most lucrative sources for loot was the Dire Maul tribute run. This involves visiting Dire Maul North, and avoiding all of the bosses except for the final one. In Cataclysm, Dire Maul was revamped, but I believe the tribute run was preserved.
  • Timbermaw Hold was one of the primary rep grinds; it is mostly intact but considerably abbreviated in Cataclysm. It starts in Felwood's south; there is a Timbermaw NPC that will give you a kill quest to start the chain. It involves quite a bit of grinding on furbolgs in order to get bracelets that can be handed in for reputation. Previously, you had to travel through Timbermaw Hold to reach Winterspring, which involved either killing or being of sufficient reputation so you could flag yourself as non-hostile; thanks to Cataclysm changes, this is no longer required.
  • The Thorium Brotherhood gave blacksmiths special recipes for reaching exalted with them. Like Timbermaw Hold, this rep grind has been greatly abbreviated in Cataclysm. You can get a foothold with them by visiting Thorium Point in Searing Gorge; to continue past revered, you need to visit their deep cover operative in Blackrock Depths, in the back room of the Grim Guzzler, and give him a handful of Dark Iron Residue.
  • The Argent Dawn were one of the major rep grinds; this rep grind was partially removed in Wrath (chiefly Naxxramas attunement) and gutted in Cataclysm. It involved equipping an Argent Dawn Commission and killing undead, which would randomly drop scourgestones that could be turned in for reputation. You could also visit Stratholme and Scholomance and earn reputation for clearing the dungeon, and visit Light's Hope Chapel and pick up a crafting writ, which would give you a quest to collect end-game crafting goods. None of these methods remain in the game; revered with the Argent Dawn comes from following the Fiona's Caravan in Western Plaguelands all the way to Light's Hope Chapel, and there are repeatable quests at Light's Hope Chapel to raise your Argent Dawn reputation from there.
  • The last remaining reputation grind from vanilla WoW are the Cenarion Circle in Silithus. There are three separate sources for rep here: clearing the Ruins of Ahn-Quiraj raid; completing a Field Duty (a proto-daily) quest; and killing Twilight cultists and summoning elementals. This has been nerfed, but is, like the zone itself, mostly intact from vanilla WoW.
  • An NPC in Winterspring (for Alliance) or Un'goro Crater (for Horde) has a series of quests for you to earn a mount. The Un'goro Crater quests are a recent addition, but the Alliance NPC (the Wintersaber Trainers) is from vanilla WoW. This used to involve a rep grind; the reputation exists, but the mount is now awarded based on completing daily quests and exalted comes for free.
  • The Darkmoon Faire will be revamped in 4.3; check it out now if you want to see it in its current (terrible) state.
  • In Burning Crusade, several new factions were added, all tied to their own winged dungeon. A big part of the end-game was raising these factions to exalted. Special note should be given to Tempest Keep, which was intended as an end-game dungeon.
  • The Mag'har and Kurenai will give you a talbuk mount in return for killing a massive amount of ogres in Nagrand. The ogres also drop Obsidium Warbeads, which can be given to either the Mag'har/Kurenai or the Consortium.
  • Daily hubs were introduced in Burning Crusade; the first was the Skyguard, based in Blackwing Landing in Terrokar Forest. They have a few dailies (a bombing run and an escort quest that starts at one of four cages) and a quest chain that involves a fair bit of Cenarion Circle-style mob grinding, with a summonable end-boss that's mostly trivial for 85s.
  • The second quest hub is Ogri'la. This used to require a tricky quest chain to complete, starting in Shattrath and involving several elites; this is no longer required, but the quest chain is fun. It's entirely daily-based, and ramps up as you reach new rep levels; you also unlock additional Skyguard quests here. Make sure you check out the Shartuul event; it requires a Darkrune to start, and is still challenging. (It is, however, easily bugged, like many BC events.)
  • There's a quest chain that starts from an NPC in Netherwing Fields that will start the Netherwing dailies; you need Artisan Riding to progress beyond neutral and unlock the Netherwing daily hub. This was the most prestigious of BC content, and is still one of the most appealing rep grinds in the game.
  • The Consortium's rep grind grew in importance through BC. There are a few sources of Consortium rep, but the most important ones are in Netherstorm. You can grind for Zaxxis Insignias and clear Mana-Tombs, but the more notable area is the Ethereum Staging Grounds. There are Ethereum Prisons here that can be opened with Ethereum Prison Keys, available as random drops from the enemies here, or from doing daily dungeon quests in Shattrath. Eventually, you'll be able to unlock an extra boss in Mana-Tombs.
  • The Shattari Sun Offensive is the final daily hub in Burning Crusade; there's a teleport there from Shattrath. Blizzard enjoy revisiting this zone, so it's the most likely candidate to be repurposed in the future.
  • Sporeggar is a minor daily hub that involves killing naga and collecting plants from the Underbog.
  • There's an extra boss in Sethekk Halls that used to be part of the druid epic flight form quest. You no longer need a druid to summon him, and he occasionally drops the Raven Lord mount.
  • In Wrath of the Lich King, end-game reputations were mostly daily quest-based. The quest hub at launch was the Sons of Hodir, unlocked via a quest chain in Storm Peaks, starting with They Took Our Men!
  • The Kalu'ak have three settlements on Northrend's south coast, and give out a few dailies.
  • Sholozar Basin has two duelling quest hubs, the Frenzyheart and the Oracles. To unlock them you need to complete the quest chain, starting with The Part-Time Hunter, and choose which faction to ally yourself with by sparing them during the last quest. You can repeat this battle to switch sides at any time. (Most players stuck with the Oracles, as they can potentially award a green proto-drake as a reward; if you intend to do both sides and get the achievement for doing so, start with the Frenzyheart.)
  • The Agent Tournament, you've already run into.
  • Players were also encouraged to raise reputation with neutral factions by running dungeons - as far as I'm aware, these tabards still work in level 85 dungeons. If you're brave, you could try soloing level 80 dungeons.
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I appreciate the detail and analysis here. Answer awarded. –  jsnlxndrlv Aug 18 '11 at 5:08
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It bothers me how much of this list was from memory. –  Merus Aug 20 '11 at 13:32
    
Minor correction: it's Shattered Sun Offensive, not Shattari. (You're thinking of the Sha'tari Skyguard.) –  aearon Feb 1 '12 at 19:09

The main content wells/patches are as follows;

NOTE: This list only includes major updates i.e. 1.7 or 3.3 etc and only lists things that are still existent today, It also does not list content from the original release versions of the games e.g. 1.0 or 3.0 etc.

World of Warcraft

  • 1.2 added the dungeon 'Maraudon', the Gurubashi arena event, Helm and cloak graphics and the Winter veil event.
  • 1.3 added the dungeon 'Dire Maul and meeting stones.
  • 1.4 added the PVP honour system and random Elemental invasion events in Silithus, Un'Goro Crater, Azshara, and Winterspring (I believe these do still happen but are infrequent).
  • 1.5 added the original battlegrounds; Warsong Gulch and Alterac Valley.
  • 1.6 added the raid 'Blackwing's Lair' and the Darkmoon Faire.
  • 1.7 added the raid 'Zul Gurub' (Now a level 85 heroic dungeon) and the Arathi Basin battleground.
  • 1.8 added Silithus and the Hallows End event.
  • 1.9 added the raids 'The ruins of Ahn'Qiraj' and 'The temple of Ahn'Qiraj' as well as Tier 2 gear and linked auction houses.
  • 1.10 added weather effects and Tier 0.5 gear
  • 1.11 added Naxxaramas (which is now a level 80 raid)
  • 1.12 added Cross-realm battlegrounds.

Burning Crusade

  • 2.1 added the raid 'Black Temple', a new arena 'The Ruins of Lordaeron' and new quests with the Consortium, Skyguard, Netherwing and Ogri'la factions.
  • 2.2 added voice chat capability and options.
  • 2.3 added the raid 'Zul Aman' (which is now a level 85 heroic dungeon) and guild banks.
  • 2.4 added the Isle of Quel'Danas quest hubs and the raids 'Sunwell Plateau' and 'Magisters Terrace'.

Wrath of the Lich King

  • 3.1 added the raid 'Ulduar', Dual talent specialisation and the Argent Tournament quest hub.
  • 3.2 added the dungeon 'Trial of the Champion' and the raids 'Trial of the Crusader/Grand Crusader' and the Isle of Conquest battleground.
  • 3.2.2 added the revamped level 80 raid 'Onyxia's Lair'
  • 3.3 added the 'Frozen Hall' dungeons; The Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, and Halls of Reflection, It added the raid 'Icecrown Citadel', a new cross-realm dungeon finder and a new tutorial system and quest tracking system for the map.
  • 3.3.5 added the raid 'Ruby Sanctum'

Cataclysm

  • 4.1 added the newly revamped level 85 heroic dungeons 'Zul Gurub' and 'Zul Aman' therefore replacing their old level originals.
  • 4.2 added the raid 'Firelands', the Molten Front quest hub, Tier 12 Gear, New faction 'Avengers of Hyjal and the new Dungeon Journal system.

Patches 4.3 and 4.4 are expected but there are no details yet (as of the 16/08/11). If you want the full list of all the patches for World of Warcraft, you can visit this link;

http://www.wowwiki.com/Patches

Hope this helps.

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Your list is missing the opening of the revamped Onyxia's Lair in 3.2.2, as well as the Ruby Sanctum raid in 3.3.5a. –  user2974 Aug 16 '11 at 22:16
    
Thanks for reminding me i'll make the amendments. –  OliverBM Aug 16 '11 at 22:31
    
@user2974 To be fair, most people missed Ruby Sanctum. The idea of an additional raid after killing the Big Bad of the expansion is pretty lame. –  corsiKa Jul 7 at 21:52

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