Before Warlords of Draenor: Ranking The Best Expansions in WoW History
2. Burning Crusade: Nobody Was Prepared
Burning Crusade was a refinement of the original World of Warcraft formula, which is exactly what players wanted. Truth is, World of Warcraft was rough around the edges at launch and through Vanilla. Major patches only helped to remedy some of the problems. Burning Crusade was the first time in World of Warcraft‘s history that it would feel complete, and confident.
The feeling of walking through a portal into the torn world of Outland was truly spectacular. Gazing into the sky and seeing celestial bodies added atmosphere to the open-world experience. Dungeons were more plentiful and dynamic than ever before, making group play an absolute joy.
PvP was at its height during Burning Crusade. Balance was much better than Vanilla, and the introduction of Arenas added a competitive component to the game. The new Eye of the Storm wasn’t a fan favorite, but did help mix up the battleground rotation.
The feeling of walking through a portal into the torn world of Outland was truly spectacular.
Blood Elf and Draenei were added to the game, adding diversity to the character pool. More importantly, Paladin and Shaman would no longer be faction specific. This was instrumental to balancing the game both in PvP and PvE.
If there was one mistake Blizzard made it was introducing flying mounts. It was an idea that resonated well before it was implemented, but compromised the outdoor PvP experience and reduced the player density of zones. Instances became more important than ever before.
The new raid sizes would help make putting together raid groups easier. Karazhan was a great introductory raid that let 10 people enter, while the rest of the expansion’s raids were 25 man, versus the 40 man of Vanilla. As a result, filling a raid was not nearly as difficult.
The expansion would cap off with Black Temple, one of the best raids in World of Warcraft history. At the end was a complex battle with Illidan, capable of leaving a lucky raider walking away with a legendary weapon.
1. Wrath of the Lich King: Arthas Welcomes You
Thematically speaking, Wrath of the Lich King was the best era in World of Warcraft history. Living in Northrend with its well-designed zones and immersive lore was a treat for World of Warcraft players. There was something very cool about existing in a place where Arthas commands the Scourge. Warcraft fans were delighted.
Dual Specialization was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King after years of players asking for the feature. It has allowed players to dive into both PvE and PvP content optimally without having to spend huge chunks of gold over time through respecs. This addition benefited everyone.
PvP was relatively good throughout the expansion, although the addition of the fan favorite Death Knight caused some imbalances. Arena would receive some tweaks to make it feel more rewarding, and siege weapons would make their debut. Both Wintergrasp and Strand of the Ancients would feel different from previous PvP content, allowing players to knock down structures. They weren’t without their issues, though.
Wrath of the Lich King was an expansion that had great balance and something for everyone.
What many might forget is that Wrath of the Lich King added phasing to the game. This allowed Blizzard to tell stories in a much more focused manner, in addition to increasing the potential of quest design.
Blizzard began playing with the idea of raid difficulties during the expansion. So, raiding finally became a bit more manageable for regular folk, while the hardcore still had something intimidating to sink their teeth into.
Where Wrath of the Lich King really stood out is with its raids. Ulduar is still considered to be arguably the best raid in World of Warcraft history. It had better variety in its boss encounters than any other raid the game has ever seen, and some great loot, too.
Icecrown Citadel, the expansion’s final raid, was a spectacular finish. You could just how epic the place was by looking at it from outside. The raid’s final encounter was Arthas, the most iconic character of the Warcraft IP. The battle exceeded expectations with great mechanics that tested the teamwork of any guilds that challenged him.
Wrath of the Lich King was an expansion that had great balance and something for everyone. Its dailies and dungeons kept casuals entertained, while its endgame content would immerse the hardcore. It’s not only the best expansion in World of Warcraft history, it’s the one that was the most well put together.
The Real #1: Vanilla, The GOAT
Okay, so Vanilla is obviously not an expansion, but I just had to throw it in here. Being a player since launch, I have by far the best memories from Vanilla. This was a time when the idea of having a fun, easy-to-access MMORPG was truly revolutionary. Mingling with other players in a massive, familiar world was unlike anything else I had experienced. I was absolutely captivated, and made some great friends.
Sure, Vanilla had a lot of issues. Balance was out of whack (Shamans and Paladins could 1-shot if lucky enough), some raid battles were poorly tuned (hello Twin Emperors), and the lack of PvP specific gear meant that owning other players was reliant on how time you could devote to raiding.
Even then, Vanilla was the best time I ever had with World of Warcraft. As I look back at my hundreds of screenshots over the years, there was no World of Warcraft era that brought me more lasting memories.