Abusive Precursors: The Old Gods were always understood to be this, maintaining a veritable hell on Azeroth while they ruled the planet. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that their counterparts the Titans weren't exactly saints themselves, imposing strict order on planets they visited, and pragmatically killing everything and starting over if something goes wrong, to the point that even some of their own servants are becoming disillusioned with their attitudes and methods.
A more personal example (connected to the Titans, in fact) is the mogu. Several thousand years before even the sundering, the mogu ruled Pandaria with an iron fist and and made every other race (except the mantid) slaves dominated through fear. Their cruelty is the stuff of nightmares, from abuses to sending slaves to be fodder, to even putting their dead slaves' souls into statues brainwashed to serve them. And all this, justified by the not-altogether-inaccurate belief that it is the Titans' will.
Aborted Arc: Throughout World of Warcraft's history, there have been many apparently unfinished quest lines and plot elements. Some of these have since been revisited in later content, but some remain unresolved. When revisited, Blizzard at least tries to tie up the storyline in a dramatic fashion. Cataclysm in particular went to great strides to bring closure to many unsettled storylines from the original release. See the trope page for specific examples.
Though Cataclysm was good at tying up loose ends from previous storylines, and setting up threads for future expansions, there was an aborted arc in Vashj'ir. Several places in the game have the Naga plotting to overthrow Water Lord Neptulon, which they do using the kraken Ozumat. The Throne of the Tides dungeon has players rescuing Neptulon and fighting back against the Naga and Ozumat, but ends with Ozumat retreating and Neptulon just disappearing without a thank you, giving the impression that he had been abducted. A second instance, Abyssal Maw was supposed to finish the arc, but was dropped.
If you watch Ozumat flee, you can see that in his tentacles he is carrying Neptulon, so he really has been kidnapped.
Absolute Cleavage: Quite a few robes and vests early in the game. Females of any race have some pretty good cleavage, even the Gnomes and Goblins.
Averted later though - while heavy female armour is definitely more shapely than any male equivalent, for the most part it's realistically concealing.
Achievements in Ignorance: Grandma Wahl in the Worgen starting zone is able to shift back and forth from Human to Worgen long before the Night Elves show up to give Worgen the means to go back and forth at will. She apparently does this by the power of senility, as when she transforms to protect her cat she doesn't seem to be aware she's a Worgen in the first place, let alone in a Shapeshifter Mode Lock.
Acrofatic: The pandaren race. In fact, their surprising agility is part of their backstory: they turned out to be much, much better than the mogu in hand-to-hand combat, as the mogu favored huge, unwieldly weapons designed to inspire fear, on top of already being slow.
Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: A large part of the game's slang. All the dungeons are usually referred to by their first letters, for one. "lfm 1 mdd (fdk) 2 rdd (amage, mm) t4w 10" note A 10-man raid into the Throne of the Four Winds is searching for three damage dealers, one of them melee (Frost spec Death Knight) and two ranged (Arcane Mage and Marksmanship Hunter) makes perfect sense.
This can cause confusion when two dungeons or areas share the same initials. "DM" can mean The Deadminesnote For this reason, Deadmines is usually abbreviated "VC" for (Edwin or Vanessa) VanCleef, the final boss. or Dire Maul, TB can mean Tol Barad or Thunder Bluff, etc..
It also doesn't help when some things have more than one commonly used acronym, especially with compound words and words like "of" or "the". For example, Mogu'Shan Vaults is sometimes called "MV" or "MSV", and Terrace of Endless Spring is called "TOES" or "TES".
Activist Fundamentalist Antics: The Omnicidal Maniac cult Twilight's Hammer took on this role as they did their recruitment drive just before the release of Cataclysm. Oh, and [insert your own character's name here] got to run around shouting silly slogans as s/he infiltrated the cult.
Actually Pretty Funny: One server had a guild called "Razorfen Downs Syndrome" that was Bowdlerized to "Razorfen Downsized", and another guild called "Yakuza" Was similarly forcibly renamed because someone thought it was offensive. After Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging, someone on this exact same server made a character named "Saddam" and named their guild "Hanging with Saddam". As expected, someone reported them, but a GM said they actually thought it was really funny.
Adam and Eve Plot: One of the fishing dailies in Thunder Bluff is to restock the pond with fish from a nearby lake, and you have to bring back two pairs of fish, which are "randy" and "amorous".
Many of the items that Griftah sells, such as the Stone of Stupendous Springing Strides and the Talisman of True Treasure Tracking.
Each expansion has included a players-vs.-computer arena event. The last three are the Amphitheater of Anguish, the Crucible of Carnage, and the Arena of Annihilation. The Crucible of Carnage had alliterative quest titles and alliterative rewards for completing the event.
Addictive Magic: The arcane. There are even entire races addicted to it, such as the high elves, blood elves, and naga. Handling this addiction is one of the main reasons (if not THE main reason) for the schism between high elves and blood elves.
Very little is particularly scary for most people, because this isn't that kind of game, but amidst all the Money Spiders and Eldritch AbominationLoot Pinatas, there's at least one storyline where one questgiver is the ghost of a little girl who doesn't understand that she's dead and her hometown is in ruins. You wind up helping her find her doll, among other things, because she's lonely.
More traditionally, Harrison Jones, Brann Bronzebeard, and the Reliquary and Explorer's League factions.
Aesop Amnesia: Kul the Reckless at the Argent Tournament takes a band of aspirants to attack a nearby cultist camp, only to get them all captured, so players have to go in and save them. When Kul is saved, he might respond that he won't do anything that stupid again, but since the quest is a repeatable daily quest, he'll have done the exact same thing the very next morning.
Also, Drakuru, who remained a friendly, chipper fellow as he manipulates you into destroying the last remnants of a troll dynasty so that he could become a powerful warlord in service of the Lich King.
Affectionate Parody: A very subtle instance; the game is parodying its own players. In the Borean Tundra zone, there are enemy NPCs who work for the Great White Hunter, Hemet Nesingwary. Upon engaging combat with a player, these enemies will yell out things like "Just fifty more hooves and I'll have the new gun!" Replace all the nouns with more appropriate ones, and how often have you heard that said before? Or even said it yourself? Not to mention there are multitudes of slight knocks on the tropes of fantasy, sci-fi, video games, and pop culture in general throughout the game, always affectionate, of course. Keep clicking on an NPC, hilarity will ensue. Also, post-Cataclysm Hillsbrad has you act as a quest giver interacting with NPCs who act in exaggerated stereotypes of the clueless new player, the arrogant high level player, and the obnoxious low level alt.
Air Aided Acrobatics: The Molten Front area includes thermal vents in some areas, allowing characters to use the updraughts to leap much further than normal. Something similar appears in the Vortex Pinnacle instance, which takes place in a floating castle on the elemental plane of Air, and players are whisked from section to section by swirling vortexes.
Alas, Poor Villain: Arthas gets a send-off that focuses on his human side, rather than his Lich King side.
Alcohol Hic: If you get drunk in game, in addition to random 'S'es becoming "Sh'es, a "...hic" will sometimes be added to your lines in chat.
Patch 1.6 note: "You no longer spout profanity when talking about sitting while drunk."
All Deserts Have Cacti: Averted - the game has a lot of deserts, but only Durotar and southern Tanaris have actual cacti. Uldum, based off of Egypt, does not have cacti at all, nor do the endless dunes of Tanaris. The Barrens are more like the savannah, as was Desolace before the Cataclysm.
All Just a Dream: While aiding the Earthen Ring in the Twilight Highlands, you are summoned by Thrall to help him fight Deathwing at the Maelstrom, only for you to be unable to do anything, and are berated for your failure as Deathwing slaughters Thrall's fellow shaman, including his lover Aggra. After Deathwing attacks, you are awoken by a shaman in the Highlands who rescued you from a swarm of enemies that overpowered you and forced you to live out a nightmare.
All There in the Manual: Does it seem strange that character X popped up out of nowhere and is suddenly a major lore figure? Why are we forming a raid so we can go kill this other guy? Why is this the first time we're hearing about such and such? You'd actually know what was going on if you caught up on the Warcraft Expanded Universe.
...but not so much according to the playerbase. At least before Burning Crusade, people used to see these mysterious trolls and think, "...the Horde has trolls?" because before Blood Elves and rebalanced racials, the Horde was almost entirely undead, especially on a PvP server where undead were able to break crowd-control effects on them and become immune for a short while.
All Webbed Up: If you see giant spiders, you will have people cocooned in web, and usually there will be a quest to free them; unfortunately, the spiders trap almost anything, so sometimes when you break the web, the trapped NPC is a hostile mob.
Maexxna can do this to players in Naxxramas. In the Firelands, some Cinderweb spiders can drag players to their ledges once engaged.
Allegedly Free Game: The game is free up until level 20. You can stay at level 20 for as long as you please for free, although you're missing out on a lot of game. Oh, but you also have caps on your trade skill levels and how much money you can carry. And you can't use the Auction House. And you can't use chat fully.
The game used to have a 10-day free trial, but was changed to the level cap when Blizzard realised hardcore players were rushing through all the Vanilla content and missing a lot of the depth of the game as a result, while those who didn't rush, didn't see much outside of the starting zones.
All Your Powers Combined: The quest "Pick a Yak" in Townlong Steppes has you searching for a good yak. Until you do, you'll fight yaks with the prefixes Mean, Smelly, Angry and Stabby, then they get two prefixes each, then you fight a giant Mean, Smelly, Angry, Stabby, Very Bad Townlong Yak.
Alternate Timeline: One where Thrall died as an infant and Blackmoore conquered Lordaeron is featured in Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects. The fifth expansion set, Warlords of Draenor, starts with Garrosh going back in time to Draenor and creating a new timeline where the orcs became the industrial Iron Horde instead of falling into the Burning Legion's service. The Iron Horde plans on invading the main timeline's Azeroth.
Always Chaotic Evil: The Sha, who are literally the manifestations of negative emotions on Pandaria. They're awakened after being dormant for thousands of years when the Horde and Alliance bring the war to the island.
Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: The Eye of Eternity, home of Malygos, and the Celestial Planetarium in Ulduar, home of Algalon the Observer; when he's engaged, the dome of the room displays stars in space. When you fight Ultraxion in Dragon Soul, you are transported into the Twilight Realm, resulting in a similar effect. When you fight Ner'zhul in the Shadowmoon Burial Grounds, you end up on a platform in the middle of the Twisting Nether.
Amazon Brigade: There are absolutely no male night elf guards as a Continuity Nod to the fact that the Sentinels were an all-female organization in Warcraft III. The night elf priesthood is also mainly female. Inverted with night elf druids, who are mostly male, and by the blood elves who inexplicably have only male guards.
American Accents: The Goblin race has variations on a pretty awful New York accent to go with their fascination with violent explosions. As a result they often sound like they're about to hustle you.
They're goblins. They hustled you five minutes ago.
Patches and expansions generally add on new content relevant mainly to the endgame, but often enough they have added content to lower level areas as well. Before the Cataclysm expansion, the biggest of those was Patch 2.3, which made a lot of leveling content easier and added a lot of new quests to a zone in a level range that was particularly sparse on things to do. A character at the maximum level can go through that, breeze through the quests for 100% Completion, and find that The Man Behind the Man was... a dragon they killed 10 levels ago.
Also, there are many more quests in the game than you need to do to reach the maximum. Some quest chains are connected storylines and it's impossible to see the end without completing the whole thing from start to finish, but most have some kind of foreshadowing or backstory much earlier that a player might skip through expedience or simple accident. Until Cataclysm if you leveled up to 70 without questing in the Eastern Plaguelands, it was possible to go to Northrend and serve under Highlord Tirion Fordring, Lord of the Silver Hand and greatest paladin in Azeroth... then go back to Eastern Plaguelands and meet Tirion Fordring, fallen paladin, traitor, and hermit, who hasn't yet been inspired to re-form the Silver Hand.
Because Outland and Northrend content haven't been chronologically updated, new characters start their quest in a world ravaged by Deathwing, rebuilding after the Cataclysm and the defeat of the Lich King. Eventually, you go back to the (comparatively) distant past to fight Illidan and the Legion in Outland (although you could explain some of this by the fact that they're demons). Then, after returning to the present time, you then go back in time to fight the Lich King. After you're done there, you return to the post-Lich King world, and you'll be high enough in level to go through a few more zones.
The above is MORE complicated for Draenei and Blood Elves. Their starting zones were not updated in Cataclysm, and so they remove the initial post-Cataclysm snarl and replace it with their own - they start in the time frame of the Dark Portal having JUST opened in their starter zones, before leaving into the post-Cataclysm world, returning to the events of the Dark Portal and The Burning Crusade, fighting The Lich King, and finally emerging back into the post-Cataclysm world. Again. A similar experience also harms the Death Knight storyline in the beginning (their timeline looks something like Lich King > Burning Crusade > Lich King > Cataclysm). While understandable for the latter, Blizzard refuses to budge on the former, merely stating that 'their storylines will be revisited in the future'.
And Call Him George: XT-002 Deconstructor, in Ulduar. He's a Giant Robot with the mind and voice of a 6-year old, who fails to understand why he keeps breaking his "toys" when he plays with them. In a similar vein, Rotface in Icecrown Citadel yells, "I broked-ed it!" when killing a player.
And I Must Scream: Bolvar Fordragon's ultimate fate. He is forced to sit on the throne, frozen for eternity, while alive, in complete solitude, leading an army whose entire purpose is to do nothing and rot away. Arguably the worst part is that nobody but Tirion knows he is there, and he was sworn, at Bolvar's wish, to not tell, meaning rescue will NEVER come. The entire rest of the world thinks he died (for good) at the Wrathgate.
This could also be considered a mix between Sequel Hook and Cliffhanger Cop Out, as every piece of lore prior to this point, indicates that everything would be just fine without a Lich King - so it seems that this part was just tacked on to leave an opening for a sequel.
Gameplay and Story Segregation. This can be read as he erected a statue commemorating the fall of the Lich King, but they implemented the watchable cutscene for only the player's benefit.
It's heavily implied that being part of the Undead Scourge is like this as well.
Illidan's ten thousand year imprisonment was probably a similar experience.
The night elf Asterion, imprisoned (and immortal) at Bashal'Aran, is a text book example. In his own words: "For a thousand years and more I have stared at [the pillars keeping the barrier up], wondering if at long last I outlived even the stone, would I be free?"
With the shattering of the world he's disappeared now though and his location is currently unknown...
In the Dread Wastes of Pandaria, the Paragon Iyyokuk the Lucid gives a rather chilling account of his frayed sanity, with this as the primary cause.
Androcles' Lion: In a Thousand Needles quest chain, you free a group of baby wyverns. They follow you around for a little while, then leave. When you confront the Jerk Ass who had them imprisoned, they come out of nowhere, swarm him, lift him up, carry him over a cliff, and then drop him.
Players get in on the act too. New Forsaken players get a quest to collect the bodies of Scarlet Crusaders so they can be "recruited", and a daily quest in Northrend has players killing and raising members of the Scarlet Onslaught as ghouls for the Knights of the Ebon Blade.
This is also the case for the majority of the Crusaders post-Stratholme - Due mostly to the actions of player Death Knights, and the Ebon Blade faction. This can result in Death Knights who complete Loremaster be responsible for the Scarlet Crusade becoming Scourge, then eliminating them as Scourge in passing through Eastern Plaguelands...
Illidan, too, though he accepts his transformation as a necessary part of gaining enough power to fight demons.
And This Is for...: Sully "The Pickle" McLeary says this while planting explosives in a Hozen village, first for Amber, then Rell, and finally for Gizmo and Socks, but he is forgetting that the Hozen only beat up Rell. Amber was injured in a plane crash, which was shot down by the Horde who are aligned with the Hozen, but he doesn't know that. Gizmo was shot by Amber because she mistook it for some unfriendly wildlife, and Socks was turned into a statue by the Jade Witch.
And Your Reward Is Clothes: Many quests reward players with strictly cosmetic rewards, such as clothes or off hand items with no other use other than appearance. Also, one of the rewards of reaching exalted reputation with most factions during the Burning Crusade expansions was the faction's tabard, which also qualifies as Cosmetic Award if you don't like wearing your guild tabard.
Inverted in Wrath of the Lich King, where the tabard is the first reward you can purchase from each new faction, and wearing it in level 80 dungeons is a primary way of gaining further reputation with the faction. This continues to be the case with Cataclysm endgame factions.
Played straight in Mysts of Pandaria, where the rewards of Challenge Mode dungeons are medals that will let you purchase gear with no stats, for the sole purpose of transmogrification.
Some of the rewards you can get by collecting and redeeming Darkmoon Faire tickets include "replica" weapons and armor. They have generally poor stats and are only there to look cool. (And for transmogrification. Nostalgia for older players, remembering the early gear sets that most have long since deleted for bag space and are now unattainable due to the changes.)
Animal Wrongs Group: D.E.H.T.A., a group of radical druids in Borean Tundra who will attack players on sight if they kill any of the beast-type mobs in the zone, regardless of whether this death was in self-defense. In addition, their quests require players to kill some Anviliciously stereotyped game hunters, cut off their ears, and bring them back for a reward... when the player him/herself is likely one of those hunters, either in Stranglethorn Vale, Nagrand, or just north, in Sholazar Basin.
In fact, the final quest in the Borean Tundra D.E.H.T.A. line is The Assassination of Harold Lane - who was a quest giver back in Nagrand, in Outland.
Animate Dead: The modus operandi of the Scourge, obviously. The Death Knight class in particular has spells to produce ghouls from corpses, with the Unholy spec allowing it to be a full-time minion and the Blood spec also allowing the Death Knight to summon a small army of ghouls for a limited time. As of Cataclysm, the Forsaken are getting in on the act, as well.
Another Side, Another Story: Several contested zones have the same events played out from the perspective of the Horde and the Alliance, usually as they fight each other; averted in cases where players work for a third party as Horde and Alliance players get the same quests and story.
One notable case was the Camp Taurajo massacre in Southern Barrens. To the Horde, it looks like an overzealous Alliance General (nicknamed "The Butcher of Taurajo") sacked the little outpost and murdered the civilians, and are now looting whatever is left. On the Alliance side, General Hawthorne did sack the town, but only chased the civilian population away, who were unfortunately killed by the quilboar, which he regretted deeply; and the looters were criminals drafted into to pay their sentence, and took the opportunity to line their own pockets, another decision that Hawthorne regrets.
And he'll regret it more since one Horde quest has you killing him in vengeance.
Anti-Climax: The goblin starter story. At the end when you and Thrall finally defeat Trade Prince Gallywix, who has so far screwed you out of your life savings, tried to enslave you, successfully enslaved your friends and committed various other atrocities, you stand there intending to lay down some righteous retribution, right? Nope, Thrall has other plans for him, like letting him remain the trade prince without any real repercussions for what he's done.
The new Westfall quest chain in Cataclysm is a bit like this as well. You've uncovered the conspiracy Vanessa VanCleef has been brewing, have warned King Varian, and returned to Sentinel Hill to see it under attack from the newly reformed Defias Brotherhood. So what does Gryan Stoutmantle have you do? He says it'll take time to plan a counter-attack against the Defias and sends you off to Redridge instead. Um, okay. Let's just ignore the fact that Sentinel Hill is under attack and burning down. Thankfully you get some retribution later by killing Vanessa in the Heroic version of the Deadmines, but the ultimate fate of Sentinel Hill is never revealed.
The Dungeon Finder system. When the game was new, to make a group for an instance or dungeon that couldn't be soloed, players had to recruit strangers or ask friends to join them. To get to the dungeon, they had to fly or ride to wherever it was, even if it was on the opposite side of the world from the city where they recruited. Eventually, an expansion added an interface that would both form a group and teleport the entire group directly into the dungeon.
Being able to purchase gear. When the game was new, basically all gear was quest rewards, made by players with crafting professions, or dropped by monsters you killed. If you wanted an item that was only dropped by monsters and lots of other people did too, it could take you a very, very long time to get it. On the other hand, if no one wanted it, it would go to waste even if those people really wanted something else that the monster could have dropped. Eventually, monsters began dropping tokens for specific types of armor that a third of all classes could use, or even currencies that anyone could spend on whatever powerful gear they wanted.
In addition to the Gold–Silver–Copper Standard, the game has dozens of types of currency dropped by specific enemies or for specific factions. They used to be separate items and compete for inventory slots with gear and quest rewards, but have long since been organized into a tab of their own that takes up no space.
When a feature is important enough for gameplay, like automatically sorting outfits for different situations or clues towards quests, players often make and download third-party addon programs. When those features are important and basic enough, like both of the previous, Blizzard often incorporates a basic version of them directly into the interface.
Anti-Hero: The Forsaken and their queen, Dark Action Girl Sylvanas Windrunner, are often sympathetic - almost pitiable - but can be extremely vicious and amoral in their quest for revenge, security from persecution, and their own goals. There's also the (pre-Sunwell) Blood Knights, who were casually sucking away an angelic being's life force to protect their own desperate homeland. And finally, there's the majority of the Knights of the Ebon Blade, whose very mantra is Pay Evil unto Evil.
Darion Mograine: "Harness your hate. Make it useful."
Anti-Magic: Death Knights have Anti-Magic Shell, which reduces their magic damage taken, and Anti-Magic Zone, which can protect them and their allies.
Ko'ragh has a barrier that renders him almost completely immune to magic after being exposed to an ogre artifact unearthed in Nagrand. When the barrier is removed he goes to the center of his chamber to use a rune to restore it, during which one of the raid members has to absorb some of the rune's energy to give themselves a barrier that they must use to absorb the spheres of arcane energy raining down.
Anti-Poop Socking : You get more experience for killing monsters after a break. Some rather profitable repeatable quests can only be done once per day, as opposed to repeatable quests that can be completed as often as you have the requisite Plot Coupons in hand. In addition, the Chinese version, per official request of the People's Republic of China, halves your experience gain after 3 hours of gameplay.
Anyone Can Die: Gameplay-wise, almost every major (or minor) character can be killed by players repeatedly, though they are not truly dead until the lore says they are.
Outland, the continent where much of the level 60-70 content is located, was once a planet known as Draenor, the homeworld of the Orcs and temporary home of the Draenei. Following heavy losses in the Second War, an orcish leader opened several dimensional portals through which his people would escape the enemy and find new lands to conquer. The combined force of these portals ripped the planet to shreds, such that gravity does not even seem to work properly, and certain landmasses only remain because they've been chained down.
The End Time dungeon shows a Class 5 version of this should Deathwing win. Ironically, Deathwing succumbed to his own madness and winds up impaled on top of Wyrmrest Temple. Regardless, players must journey through this dungeon in order to reach the past and reclaim the Dragon Soul.
Should the players have insufficient damage output to defeat Deathwing's tentacles in the Madness encounter, he will begin casting the spell "Cataclysm" which, if it succeeds, destroys Azeroth.
Appropriate Animal Attire: There are dozens of sentient races in the game, with different ideas of clothing, usually based on how anthropomorphic they are.
The most human-like races, including the playable tauren and worgen are fully clothed.
The least human-like races, such as the murlocs and gorlocs, don't wear clothes.
There are several types of dragon, and the more humanoid they are, the more clothes they wear; naturally they wear clothes when disguised as one of the playable races.
Naga are serpentine creatures derived from elves who wear nothing on their snake-like lower halves. On the top half, males don't wear anything except for armor; female naga have breasts, and wear tops, except for some who rely on their scale covered Barbie Doll Anatomy.
Aquatic Mook: Cataclysm introduced Gilgoblins, a breed of Goblin that live underwater. Created by Hobart Grapplehammer, Gilgoblins are less intelligent than land based predecessors, but are just as greedy.
Arbitrary Minimum Range: All manner of ranged physical attacks, be they bows, guns, or crossbows, used to have a minimum range. If the enemy got too close, you were forced into melee combat. (This was removed in one of the expansion packs.) Certain turrets and siege weapons still have a minimum range, though.
Some bosses have attacks that they will not use on players in melee range. For example, Garrosh Hellscream will not use Desecrated Weapon on a player in melee range of them, but if they're even barely out of melee range, the weapon might fall on them, putting everyone near the boss inside a Desecrated void zone.
Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Hunters and Warriors can choose among rifles or bows. The competence and damage difference is negligible. That's of course, when they aren't using axes, swords or hammers...
Arc Words: The phrase "They do not die; they do not live. They are outside the cycle." has been said at least in part by three bosses, all creations of the Old Gods.
Wrath of the Lich King had "No king rules forever" repeated several times by different major characters.
"The eyes of Hellscream are upon you."
"The Hour of Twilight" in Cataclysm.
Also in Cataclysm, "Reborn in flame(s)".
Mists of Pandaria has "Why do we fight?" and "What is worth fighting for?", which ultimately lead to this scene.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the Northern Barrens an Orc running a Caravan trading post complains that Plainstriders (an ostrich-esque bird) are stupid, they can't fight, and they break the axles of his wagons. But his greatest problem seems to be that they are 'gamey' (so you can't even enjoy a meal of them once you've knocked them down).
Art Evolution: The contrast between art assets made for the game's launch and ones made in the later expansions is staggering—older art is borderline cel-shaded at times with an abundance of deep, dark lines, compared to recent art with more focus on smooth gradients and subtle, fine details. This isn't even getting into the increasing graphical fidelity, leaving the older and most recent playable races looking like they're from completely different video game eras. In the Warlords of Draenor expansion, the art style and level of graphical complexity of the new pandaren (described by the art director as the practical limit to what could be done with their graphics engine) is being applied to the game's early playable races, and the difference has to be seen to be believed◊.
The Artifact: Due to changes brought about by patches, sometimes characters who used to have some importance are no longer needed, but still stick around as background characters to make the place look lived in.
Gamon in Orgrimmar used to be a pickpocket target for training rogues, but when that job was no longer needed, he just became a joke NPC that people liked to kill for laughs; then the Cataclysm came and he turned the joke back on players, but he's still just a background NPC.
Resistance. There are several types of damage (fire, frost, nature, etc.), and players used to be able to gain resistance to a specific type through gear, potions, racials, and other mechanics. End-game raids such as Molten Core and Vanilla!Naxxramas actually required that (at least) the tanks wear lots of resistance gear, or a wipe was inevitable. This gear could take weeks to collect or gather the mats for. Today, resistance is gone from the Character screen, and only an occasional piece of lower-level equipment can still be seen that carries a resistance stat.
Rogues used to need materials to create poisons to place on their weapons or special powder to use for the Blind ability, but now that these have been made innate skills, Poison Vendors only sell Simple Daggers. If a player had any of those items in their inventory when this change was introduced, they instantly became utterly useless grey-quality items with flavor text lampshading their obsolescence.
Class trainers. In older versions of the game, you'd need to hoof it back to the class trainers around town to get new skills whenever you leveled up, and you'd have to pay money too. Certain very special skills had entire sub-quests built around them, like warlocks learning to summon imps or hunter getting their first pet. Now you get your skills automatically by leveling up, and start off with your first pet immediately, so now class trainers mostly just hang around as living tutorials for talents and as a way to reset your talents or class specializations.
Ezra Chatterton was a fan of the series who was dying of brain cancer, the Make-A-Wish-Foundation granted him a tour of Blizzard Studios, which in turn Blizzard created a NPC for him whom he voiced. Ahab Wheathoof a Tauren looking for his dog. Ezra since passed away, but the character is still there and is unkillable.
The Death Knights of Archerus was a book written about the first player-made death knights to hit the level cap during the friends and family alpha, and the three most popular of them (Jayde, Munch and Melt) were given NPCs and aided the player in utterly destroying the scourge forces during the quest "The air stands still" in Icecrown.
The Night Elf Mohawk, made famous by Mr T's commercial, was for a time an in-game buff, which changed your head to look like the Mr. T Night Elf Mohawk from said commercial. Now it is possible for Night Elf players to have that hairstyle by visiting a barber.
The achievements from Onyxia's Lair, the first two of which are from an infamous (and not at all work-safe) recording of a raid leader berating his team as they attempted to fight her, only to die when a player was feared and ran into the eggs, resulting in whelps spawning and killing everyone, and the third being named for a forum meme which originated from the fact that whenever a new patch was released in the original game, people would mistakenly think a randomly occurring attack happened more often:
Many Whelps! Handle It!note Cause 50 Onyxia Whelplings to hatch within 10 seconds of Onyxia's liftoff, and then defeat her.
More Dots!note Defeat Onyxia in less than 5 minutes.
She Deep Breathes Morenote Defeat Onyxia without anyone taking damage from a Deep Breath.
Thorim's "In the mountains!" line in Ulduar was referenced in a later content patch, with the Pit of Saron's second boss, Scourgelord Tyrannus, yelling "Perhaps you should have stayed in the mountains!" when killing a player.
"(Zone) was merely a setback!" Originated by Kael'thas, the line has been reused by Blood Prince Valanar, Hogger, Lady Sylvanas and Millhouse Manastorm.
Leeroy Jenkins is immortalized in-game by a dungeon achievementnote "Leeeeeeeeeeeeeroy!" - Kill 50 rookery whelps within 15 seconds and player titlenote "Jenkins", awarded for completing the achievement, as well as having his own trading card and miniature. In Warlords of Draener, you can get him as a Garrison follower.
A Druid called Alamo wrote two humorous "guides" in broken English on how to play the Druid class titled "Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!" and "ALAMO teeches u 2 Burnin Croosaid!" that quickly became popular among players in the year leading up to the release of The Burning Crusade, with the line "CAT DURID IS 4 FITE" being the most famous. Alamo was eventually made into a card in the collectible card game, which mirrored the barely-legible style of the original posts.
After a fan at BlizzCon caught the developers in a lore inconsistency and became known across the internet as "Red Shirt Guy", the error was corrected ingame, and the relevant NPC has been accompanied ever since by a "Fact Checker" wearing a red tunic, both in the game itself and in one of the leader short stories.
Players who die from standing in damaging effects on the ground (especially flames) or other easily avoidable causes are derided as "standing in the fire". In Cataclysm, there is an achievement for being killed by Deathwing (who randomly attacks zones, leaving behind large flames) that is called "Stood in the Fire", and Fandral Staghelm yells "You stood in the fire!" sometimes when killing players; one of his attacks creates a damaging circle of fire on the ground. And finally, heroic Deadmines achievement is called "Raid Ready", which is awarded when you manage to not get hurt by a rotating wall of fire.
invokedLocal Butt Monkey NPC Gamon suddenly gained a surge of popularity when he was remade into a near-unstoppable killing machine in Cataclysm, becoming a Memetic Badass as a result. In the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, Gamon helps players in the fight against General Nazgrim and there's special dialogue and an achievement if Gamon is alive when Nazgrim is defeated.
Atlantis Is Boring: Seemed to be the case before Cataclysm. Most of the underwater areas were quite plain, the few Underwater Ruins all looked similar and were inhabited by Naga. Cataclysm introduced Vashj'ir which features beautiful scenery and a continuous and very dark storyline that spans across all three of its subzones.
Not helped by the fact that underwater gameplay was very frustrating before Cataclysm; drowning, slow movement, line of sight issues and mobs that love to immobilize players and all. Cataclysm introduced unique mechanics in each underwater area, usually eliminating the first two problems entirely and the others generally avoided through design choices.
The Atoner: (Most of) The Horde. The Knights of the Ebon Blade in Wrath of the Lich King. The Blood Elves, or at least their Paladins, post-Burning Crusade. The Blue Dragonflight in Cataclysm, as they chose Kalecgos, a dragon who believes they must take responsibility for their actions in the Nexus War, as their next Aspect.
Attack Reflector: The Warrior ability Spell Reflect, plus a variety of similar abilities used by various creatures and bosses. Priests and mages can optionally enhance their magic shields to reflect damage, though mages' shields are limited to reflecting magic damage. Ozruk also has an ability that reflects spells back at players, and players must take advantage of this to reflect a damage over time spell on themselves to break his paralyzing effect and be able to move to avoid his Shatter ability. Windwalker Monks get the touch of karma ability, which converts all damage the monk takes up to thier max health in damage, making use of this ability when a boss uses their most damaging ability an increadibly effective (if somewhat risky) way of squeezing in more damage. In Mists of Draenor, the Hunter's Direhorn pets (Triceratops with the tail clubs of Ankylosaurus) are getting a new skill that lets them reflect spells back at the user(s) in front of them with their frills for six seconds.
Auction House: Forms a core part of the game's player-driven economy; one of the best ways in the game to earn gold is to play the market, following the basic rule of "buy low, sell high". Even if you don't become the WoW equivalent of a stock trader, you can still earn a lot of gold by selling off your unneeded stuff... or go broke in record time buying stuff.
Authority Equals Asskicking: In full effect for just about every raid and dungeon boss in the game, as well as all of the city leaders being ridiculously powerful.
Though there is a subversion in a new quest chain with Salhet, who is shown to be pretty much the worst soldier in Ramkahen but proves himself as an accomplished tactician and becomes a high ranking commander in the war with the Neferset.
Automaton Horses: The mounts never need rest, feed, air or in the case of mechanical ones, repair (not to mention fitting in your backpack for a good chunk of the game's history). The flying ones can hover indefinitely, in quiet defiance of logic (possibly because the controls for flying are the same as for swimming).
Averted in the Brewfest event, as the faster your mount goes, the more quickly it becomes tired, but eating apples is enough to restore its stamina. It's easy to go the entire Kharanos delivery (and Horde equivalent) in a constant gallop by hitting every apple bin, but you will have to pace yourself when barking for the Thunderbrews or Barleybrews, since they don't put out apples that their competitors might be able to use.
Vanessa Vancleef, the last boss in the Heroic version of the Deadmines dungeon, considers one of her primary goals to be revenge for her father's death, who was the final boss in the Deadmines dungeon before Cataclysm was released.
While he didn't need much of an excuse, the fact Stormwind had the head of Deathwing's daughter (Onyxia) as an ornament for a while did draw special attention from him when he returned to the world.
Awesome Mc Cool Name: Several. Lesser notes are a few flightmasters. The one in Westfall being named Thor and the flightmaster for the Horde outpost in the Badlands being named Gorn. There's also another one in Westfall called Hoboair; Sadly, the flying mount isn't replaced with a crate being launched out of a makeshift catapult.
A Lighter Shade of Grey: The Alliance compared to the Horde, in the light of recent actions taken by Hellscream and Sylvanas. It was more equal from Warcraft III until then.
Baa Bomb: Engineers can make exploding sheep, which will run at a target and explode. Engineers wanting to study Goblin Engineering will need to submit five of them for their certification exam.
Back Tracking: A lot of the quest hubs will have players going to a particular location to complete the objective and then return, only to give players more quests in the same location that could've been done at the same time as the original quests.
Badass: Horde players in the low 20s can meet a Goblin assassin who advises them to only accept a mission to kill an Alliance captain if they're ready to be a badass. The player character and she then grapple their way straight to the top of the building, kill a guy and his backup mage together, cut off his head, set some explosives, and while they go off, parachute their way back down together. It's like a Bruce Willis film. One possible reward is the Gloves Of Unmitigated Badassery.
The Bronzebeards brothers are all famous for their martial prowess; the oldest brother is a king and one of the faction leaders pre-Cataclysm, the middle one is a very skilled fighter, and the youngest is a famous archaeologist. Lampshaded in one of Muradin's quotes from Warcraft III, in which he says that with his older brother as King and his younger brother as a famous adventurer, he'd feel a tad awkward if he didn't kick so much ass.
Badass Normal: The hunter, rogue and warrior are known as "combat classes," meaning they have no magical, mystical, divine or demonic powers. They'll still kill you just as dead as anyone else.
Monks from Mists of Pandaria also count to some degree, with even their healing skills being based more on brewing. Though some of their Chi abilities are kinda pushing it, and as healers they do have a mana bar unlike the other 3 (hunters used to use mana until Cataclysm)
Badass Transplant: Kargath Bladefist and the rest of the Shattered Hand orcs in Warlords of Draenor have had their left hand replaced with a weapon after breaking their original hands off to escape their shackles while in ogre captivity. Similarly, Malkorok in Mists of Pandaria sports a sword for a right hand when he's fought in the Underhold.
Bad Future: The End Time dungeon involves going into the future of Azeroth and seeing the outcome if Deathwing prevails in destroying it. Can it get any worse?
Indeed, it can; Murozond, Nozdormu's evil future self, implies upon being killed that this is the GOOD outcome, which begs the question; What did he see that makes this the good future?
Bad-Guy Bar: Parties battling through Blackrock Depths will come across the Grim Guzzler, full of dark iron dwarfs reveling. This is one of the rare times you won't see them actively trying to kill you. Unless you piss one off.
Bad News in a Good Way: Professor Putricide is a subversion as he is a villain, so when he says "good news", it is good news for him, but bad news for the players; this is inverted when he is killed:
Professor Putricide: (at the start of the battle) Good News Everyone! I think I perfected a plague that will destroy all life on Azeroth.
Professor Putricide: (when killed) Bad news everyone... I don't think I'm going to make it...
Baleful Polymorph: Mages' "Polymorph" spells can turn an opponent into one of the following: sheep, pig, rabbit, turtle, cat, or penguin. All look different but are functionally identical: they make the victim unable to use any abilities or control their movement (mostly staying in the same spot). Meanwhile, Shaman have a spell called "Hex" that turns an opponent into a frog. Quite a few mobs and bosses have access to these spells as well.
Banned in China: The Chinese government has historically taken a dim view of MMOs and WoW in particular, and has cut off all access to the game nationwide on two occasions. (Too bad this doesn't stop gold farmers.)
Bar Brawl: The Goblins and Gnomes have a friendly rivalry going on at the Speedbarge, and they tend to mingle in the bar; a quest called "Bar Fight!" has you going to the bar, buying a bottle of grog, and smashing it over someone's head, causing the whole bar to erupt. The quest is a one time deal, but the description entices you to go back and do it whenever you want.
Bare-Fisted Monk: The class added in Mists, which all races except Goblin and Worgen can be. The Monk can tank, damage, and heal, specializes in Death By A Thousand Cuts, and only uses equipped weapons for the Chi-building Jab attack (and even then players can glyph the move so it always uses a bare-handed strike).
Barehanded Blade Block: Averted. Guardian Druids, who fight with their bare paws (pun intended), are completely unable to block or parry with them. Other tanks cannot parry without a weapon, nor block without a shield.
Played perfectly straight in Mists of Pandaria - all Monks parry with their bare hands, even while they have perfectly usable weapons sheathed on their backs!
Bare Your Midriff: Jaina Proudmoore, Sylvanas Windrunner (incidentally, these are the go-to female leaders for events for Alliance and Horde, respectively), and Alextrasza the Life Binder, among others. Also a recurring theme with player female chest armor in Vanilla and Burning Crusade. The males get a few as well.
Paladins are also infamous for their protective auras.
Battle Couple: Durotan and Draka, with the implication that this is typical of orcs, or at least Frostwolf orcs. Draka is surprised that Thrall made his own mate stay behind, insisting that war is when it's most important to have family at your side. Aggra later appears in Nagrand, after having made this same point to Thrall herself.
Battle Cry: Your character can do one with the /charge emote. In general, the Alliance uses "For the Alliance!" and the Horde uses "For the Horde!", and individual races have their own variations (such as "For Gilneas!" for worgen, and "Anar'alah belore!"note "By the Light of the Sun!" for blood elves).
Be Careful What You Wish For: Old school raiders have been bemoaning for years that "Molten Core was better back in Classic", so... enjoy your ten year anniversary Molten Core level 100 LFR run!
Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The achievement "Many Whelps! Handle It!" comes from the infamous "50 DKP minus" video... but Dives never actually said that. What he said was "Whelps! Left side! Even side! Many whelps! Now! Handle it!"
Beard of Evil: Many characters qualify for this, but the Sha of Doubt's white beard-like growths stand out in particular.
Bears Are Bad News: Invoked with bear-form druids; they are designed to "tank" enemies, and have several abilities designed to hold the attention of enemies.
Beary Funny: Some of the best parts of the game involve bears.
The Beastmaster: The Hunter class. One of its main mechanics and draws is the ability to tame a huge variety of creatures (and a large variety of each type of creature) to act as loyal pets and fighters. The pet adds greatly to the Hunter's damage and also keeps enemies occupied while the Hunter takes it down from afar. The Beast Mastery spec focuses extensively on the pet and its bond to the Hunter for a wide variety of effects, and BM Hunters can tame Exotic beasts other Hunters cannot, such as Devilsaurs, Core Hounds, Chimaeras, Worms, and Silithids.
Becoming the Boast: Kingslayer Orkus always imagined himself to be a great hero of the Horde, but fell well short of the mark. In "Heroes of the Horde", he takes on three Elite Alliance soldiers to buy players time to get Alliance war plans back to base, and dies as a proud, honourable hero.
Beleaguered Assistant: Grisy Spicecrackle, one of The Rokk's assistants. The Rokk is Shattrath's Cooking Master, and he keeps doting on Grisy to hurry up; this is one case where the master is not incompetent, he's just bossy.
In Vashj'ir is Felice to "The Great" Sambino. While he's a bit of a Kingslayer Orkus, Sam is competent, but he's so busy with his research that he leaves Felice to deal with the Giant Enemy Crabs.
Berserk Button: Mimiron, literally. To activate his Hard Mode you have to push a veryBig Red Button behind him (which is labeled with "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON!"). Doing this will activate the self-destruct mechanism on his lab and make him VERY pissed. Other bosses that feature similar "hard mode" triggers include XT-002 Deconstructor and Sartharion.
Warriors use Rage as their combat resource. They gain Rage by attacking, being hit, or pressing a button on their skill set that causes them to gain Rage. Basically, if you attack them, all you did was piss them off. They even have a literal Berserk Button ability that renders them temporarily immune to a number of mezzing effects.
The playable race of Trolls, as well as feral druids, have a racial/ability 'Berserk' the player can activate, another literal case.
Insult Coren Direbrew's brew and he will attack you.
Kill Runty and Beauty busts out a Raid-level 'Hard Enrage' that will surely wipe the party.
If you kill Shannox's dogs, he gains a boost to his attack that results in the tank needing considerably more healing to survive. When you kill Riplimb, he stops throwing his spear and starts driving it into the ground, making it a race against time to kill him before the damage-increasing debuff he puts on you enables him to one-shot you or drains your healer's mana.
In The Violet Hold, if you kill Erekem's bodyguards before Erekem, he will flip out and start spamming high dps attacks on the tank, going from a healer/caster to an enhancement Shaman.
In the trailer for Siege of Orgrimmar, Taran Zhu chews out Garrosh Hellscream by mentioning that his father Grom dabbled in powers beyond reckoning. That was more than enough to cause Garrosh to launch an attack against the Shado-Pan leader.
In the actual raid, one of the mechanics in the Siegecrafter Blackfuse encounter is that if the raid members destroy any of his creations he gets angry and gains an attack speed increase.
Better to Die Than Be Killed: In the Heroic Deadmines, Vanessa VanCleef insists on living and dying on her own terms; when brought to 1 HP, she pulls out a bomb, and blows herself up. This can also double as a Taking You with Me attack, since any player who stands too close will get killed, but there is plenty of time to escape.
Ashbringer. It isn't necessarily huge, but various people never seem to shut up about it.
Gorehowl, the weapon of Grom Hellscream (and now his son, Garrosh). An axe, but still enormous, and still famous.
Ashkandi, Greatsword of the Brotherhood is the second biggest BFS in the game. It even came back a second time in a different raid, though it was nowhere near as large the second go.
Gurthalak, Voice of the Deeps, a sword that drops off of Madness of Deathwing.
Big Bad: Each of the major patches and expansions has a different character that serves as that story arc's Big Bad. These include Ragnaros/Onyxia/Nefarion/C'Thun/Kel'thuzad in classic WoW, Lady Vashj/Illidan/Kael'thas/Kil'jaeden in The Burning Crusade, Kel'thuzad again/Malygos/Yogg-Saron/Anub'Arak again/The Lich King (obviously) in Wrath of the Lich King, and Cho'gall/Al'Akir/Nefarian again/Ragnaros again/Deathwing in Cataclysm. Sargeras, a rogue Titan, is the Big Bad for the entire Warcraft universe.
Although Sargeras is technically dead in every way but spiritually. As of the current place in the timeline, his role as the leader of the Burning Legion is currently occupied by Kil'jaeden, who didn't truly die at the end of the Burning Crusade. Doesn't mean Sargeras can't come back at full power at a later time, however....
Mists of Pandaria didn't have a main antagonist at launch, instead focusing on the conflict between the Alliance and Horde. Patch 5.2 pitted the Alliance and Horde against the mogu's reanimated racial leader Lei Shen, then patch 5.4 made the villain none other than Garrosh Hellscream, then-current Warchief of the Horde, tying into the "Horde/Alliance conflict being the real villain" motif.
Warlords of Draenor features a Big Bad Ensemble between Grom Hellscream of the Iron Horde and Gul'dan of the Shadow Council.
Ironically, he was added in the revamp. In vanilla WoW he would've been more believable, with the Eastern Plaguelands being one of the highest level zones.
Big Damn Heroes: Several quests have a battle in progress between friendly and enemy NPCs which is in a stalemate, or where your allies are supposedly losing; the player then comes in to win the battle, or just to prevent your allies from getting wiped out, depending on whether that quest uses phasing or not.
In some situations, the battle is between the Alliance and Horde, where players from each side act as Big Damn Heroes fighting against the players on the other side acting as Big Damn Heroes; the battle regularly shifts from one side to the other depending on how many Big Damn Heroes each side has.
The last quest in the caravan questline in the Eastern Plaguelands shows a member of the group about to be turned into a Death Knight and rescued by the arrival of yourself and everyone who joined the caravan.
Hamuul Runetotem, who had just recovered from being severely injured saves the player and Malfurion from Leyara.
Complete all the quests for the Valley of the Four Winds and Krasarang Wilds in Mists of Pandaria and you'll get a cutscene where the Mantid invade Stoneplow en masse, and your meager forces to be strengthened by the arrival of Chen Stormstout and everyone you helped in your journey through the two regions.
Bigger Bad: Sargeras for the Burning Legion and the Old Gods for just about everyone else.
Bigger on the Inside: Many raid dungeons and some regular instanced dungeons. Mostly averted as the inside of most buildings and dungeons are exactly as big as the outside suggests they are; however, anything Mage related tends to warp the fabric of space, and Karazhan is the most blatant example. On the outside Karazhan is a crumbling tower, but inside it is huge, with large open spaces like a banquet hall, theater and library, which clearly can't fit in the narrow tower. In the Broken Stairs section, which takes place in the crumbling ruins and are sized to match the tower's outside, players can look down the corridor leading to the Menagerie and see that it extends into an area that is open space when viewed from outside.
Big "NO!": Several, but one that stands out is in the Krasarang Wilds from Lorekeeper Vaeldrin and Sunwalker Dezco in response to Lyalia and Kor Bloodtusk, respectively, being slain.
Rotface does this in response to his pet plague-dog Precious being slain, which ends up being pretty funny due to his high-pitched voice.
Big Red Button: The newbie questchain for goblins make you push one of these in order to destroy an oil rig. Oh, and this button is VERY BIG! (Also very red. And the character comments on it.)
Mimiron from Ulduar is found in a workshop with a Big Red Button on the back, labeled "DO NOT PRESS". If you press it, it starts the encounter in Heroic mode. And Mimiron will berate you for pushing it.
Big Red Devil: Illidan is the most famous example. Several other demons including the Succubi, the Eredar and especially the Doomguard also qualify.
A male Draenei player character can be made to look like the classic cartoony depiction of the devil, as long as you'll accept "a distinctly reddish purple" in lieu of actual red.
Bishōnen: Blood Elves. Kael'thas Sunstrider. And how. Also applies to the High Elves, who are a separate political faction of the same race; what minor differences exist between the two are based on their different approaches to satisfying magical addiction.
Lampshaded aboard one of the ships traversing the Great Sea. One of the female sailors complains that the (male) high elf first mate is prettier than her.
Humans are not a popular race if we talk about handsome guys. The human male character has a tough look in his body and face, even if you choose to play a not Strenght based class, like magic users or Agility based clases like Rogues or Hunters. Always. But then, you enter the Arathi Basin battleground and the loading screen shows us this guy to the left who looks like he escaped from a Manga!◊ Some players wish humans could look like him, really!
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Vanessa Vancleef poses as the Saldeans' kindly adopted daughter, but is working to rebuild the Defias Brotherhood and avenge her father.
Bite The Wax Tadpole: As is customary with video games, neither the main title "World of Warcraft" nor the expansion subtitles are translated when the game is adapted into other languages. Unfortunately, this is causing the new "Mists of Pandaria" expansion to elicit quite a laugh in Germany, as Mist is German for "dung."
Badlands: Rheastrasza is destroyed, along with the egg she and the player worked so hard to keep hidden from Deathwing. The "sweet" part comes in when it is revealed that, though she and the egg were destroyed, it was all part of the plan: She knew Deathwing would find her, so she trusted the cleansed black dragon egg with another ally and replaced it with one of her own.
Wrath of the Lich King: The Lich King is defeated, but Bolvar Fordragon forgoes his salvation in order to become the new Lich King and prevent the rise of the Scourge once again.
The Siege of Orgrimmar: Garrosh is deposed, Vol'Jin becomes Warchief, and relations between the Horde and the Alliance seem to cool of to some degree, but Pandaria, the Vale of Eternal Blossoms especially, has a long road to recovery ahead of it, there's still a lot of tension between the factions, Jaina's personality shift to aggresiveness starts to show signs of becoming full blown Sanity Slippage, and Sylvanas, infuriated that a Troll is now the Horde's leader, is implied to be up to something sinister.
Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Female trolls have upright postures, Cute Little Fangs, and the option of being rather attractive; male trolls slouch, and have beak-like noses and huge tusks. And compare the willowy, horned female draenei to their hulking, catfish-whiskered kinsmen...or, to depart from playable races, the four-armed Naga Sirens to their dragonish male counterparts.
Especially strange with the Worgen, since it only exists when transformed and not in human form.
When Burning Crusade was first released, people were surprised at the lack of difference between male and female blood elves. A patch later, blood elf men became more manly in appearance... though they're still a little Elfeminate.
Black Magic: According to canon, most types of magic in the Warcraft universe are this. Although shadow and fel magic (used by demons, undead, warlocks, priests, and death knights) are explicitly derived from The Dark Side, even arcane magic (used by mages) has the twin drawbacks of being extremely addictive and acting as a beacon to attract demons to Azeroth — as the Highborne found out long ago. Also see White Magic in Q-Z.
Arcane magic is a little less dangerous to use these days, mostly due to the fact that the demons are ALREADY coming, The addiction is problematic, but the average mage seems to have it more or less under control (the Kirin Tor, for example, are one of the more prominant organizations on Azeroth, and is entirely formed of mages). The only faction we see really suffering from addiction is the blood elves who ended up going through withdrawal when their giant mana battery, the Sunwell, got destroyed.
Note that druids and Shadow priests use arcane and shadow magic, respectively, without invoking this trope, as druids' magic is powered by their connection to the stars, and priests' is psychic in origin, despite using the shadow descriptor. And paladins use holy power to fuel their various magical abilities. The spells are merely classified into the damage schools they are for the sake of simplicity.
Black Speech: The language of the Old Gods and their minions. Usually when they speak it to you in-game, it's translated into English.
Blocking Stops All Damage: Averted. A Miss, Parry, or Dodge will stop all damage, but a Block will only stop a fraction of it.
Blood Knight: Death Knights - quite literally. According to Word of God, if a Death Knight does not inflict pain on other creatures regularly, they begin to suffer 'wracking pains that could drive them into a mindless, blood-seeking hysteria.' So not only are they solely designed to do battle, they are physically forced to do so.
Interestingly enough, not the titular Blood Knights of Silvermoon themselves. While there would certainly be a few Blood Elf paladins who revel in combat, the order is more multifaceted than that, especially after the revival of the Sunwell and what appears to be a shift towards more traditional paladin tenets.
Thisalee Crow of the Druids of the Talon enjoys fighting and killing Ragnaros' minions, and is fairly excited when the player recruits the Druids of the Talon.
Blood Magic: Some of the Mogu, including Flesh Crafter Hoku, who can drain players' blood and use it to spawn adds that can be killed for a damage buff.
Blood-Stained Letter: In one of the questlines around Darkshire, pre-Cataclsym, you find a torn journal page that is described as being barely legible through thick blood. The updated version yields a book called "The Legend of Stalvan", noting the final blood-stained page has been added.
Bloody Murder: Blood Death Knights have several tricks to do with their own or other people's blood. Oddly, the "blood plague" disease is mainly associated with the Unholy tree.
Blue and Orange Morality: A great number of forces simply see mortals as plants in the Titans' garden, to be pulled or fertilized as the situation warrants.
Algalon the Observer rightfully sees that the Old Gods haven't been properly contained and has decided to "re-originate" the planet.
A common interpretation of the war between the Blue and Red dragonflights is that neither is good or evil, the former is simply trying to do its job (guarding magic) by killing all mortal magicians, and the latter is just trying to do its job (guarding life) by saving them.
Elementals, while often antagonists, are often said to be acting according to the natural behavior of their element; Ragnaros may want to burn down the World Tree, placing Azeroth in peril, but it is because it is in fire's nature to burn.
Brann Bronzebeard and later Harrison Jones are seen exploring newly opened lands.
One of the scrolls in Pandaria tells the legend of a Liu Lang, a young Pandaren who set out to explore the world beyond the mist riding on the back of a turtle.
Bond Creatures: Warlocks and Hunters both have pets that they tame/coerce/summon and spend a great deal of time developing; this is one of the primary attractions of those classes. Several other classes can also call upon temporary combat pets of varying use and potency.
Post-Patch 4.0.1, Frost Mages get their Water Elemental companion at level 10 as part of the Frost Tree speciality, and it's permanent when summoned.
Unholy-build Death Knights are an arguable example. All Death Knights can summon a ghoul to briefly assist them in battle, but the Unholy ones can keep it around as long as they like and have more control over it. However, there doesn't seem to be any bond with any one ghoul, since every time the Death Knight summons a ghoul, it's a different, randomly-named one.
Bonus Boss: Several, unlocked under varying conditions
Several dungeons have bosses unique to Heroic Mode.
Algalon the Observer in Ulduar, unlocked by doing the "hard mode" for the Assembly of Iron, then doing the "hard modes" for Hodir, Thorim, Freya and Mimiron to get their sigils.
After defeating Lockmaw on Heroic in Lost City of the Tol'Vir, Augh steals his loot and attacks. You must kill him before you are able to get the loot Lockmaw drops, although he is considered a separate encounter and you do not have to defeat Lockmaw again if you wipe on Augh.
Sinestra by completing the rest of the Bastion of Twilight on Heroic.
The upcoming Throne of Thunder raid has Ra-den, who will be unlocked the same way Sinestra was.
The opening cinematic of Wrath of the Lich King and the final cinematic of the Icecrown Citadel raid dungeon both feature King Terenas Menethil talking with Arthas.
The Icecrown raid itself opens and closes with "I see only darkness," once when you kill the gatekeeper and first boss Marrowgar and once when you finally kill the Lich King. Also counts as Arc Words.
The opening cinematic of Cataclysm features Deathwing getting new armor plates. The second to last boss fight of the final raid instance is all about tearing off those armor plates. Word of God stated that this trope was what they were aiming for with that boss fight.
The first time Thrall and Garrosh appeared in a major cinematic together - that is, the trailer for patch 3.1 - Thrall simply said "you disappoint me, Garrosh" in response to the latter's aggressive attitude toward Varian Wrynn. He repeats the exact same line, intonation and all, when confronting Garrosh after the latter's final defeat at the end of the Siege of Orgrimmar.
Thrall and Garrosh first met each other at Garadar, and Thrall showed Garrosh Grom's final moments at the village's Stones of Prophecy. In Warlords of Draenor, their final meeting - and Garrosh's death - are at the Stones of Prophecy.
Book Snap: The opening cinematic for the Burning Legion expansion featured a Draenei picking up a magic tome before doing this and setting off.
Booze-Based Buff: Alcohol will blur your vision, make your character walk crooked, and make you misjudge enemies' levels if you drink enough of it, but specific types of booze increase some stats temporarily. The chat box displays your intoxication level as feeling tipsy, drunk, etc. When you get to "completely smashed" you start to have hallucinations and your character starts vomiting. Additionally, some booze buffs have other effects, from breathing fire to slowing your fall in the Storm Peaks (in a possible Shout-Out to Family Guy's parody of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, "beer that never goes flat.")
All classes will start off the game with some kind of basic spell or ability (Lightning Bolt for Shamans, Frostbolt for Mages, etc.) that you will be using for the rest of the game. The ability might get upgraded (or even replaced, depending on how you spec), but it will continue to be your basic method of attack for most of your leveling, and maybe even end-game raiding.
Bags. Everyone loves cool-looking armor or an impressive mount, but few things are less visible or more valuable in the long run than huge amounts of bag space for picking up that one last item, be it a valuable weapon or simple Vendor Trash to sell for money.
Mount speed. A lot of players don't bother with fully training riding (going from 280% to 310% flying speed), especially with alts. Admittedly 5000 gold for a 30% increase doesn't seem like that much, but if you're traveling a lot, that extra 30% will add up over time.
And on the subject of mounts, there's the Druid flight form. The game is filled with incredibly impressive-looking flying mounts, such as a flaming phoenix or a skeletal ice dragon, yet Druids often end up going back to their plain little bird form for flying, due to it's insta-cast nature (there are exciting aspects to this as well, since being insta-cast means you can cast it while falling to save yourself, and indeed many Druids will fly at high altitudes, transform to their natural form to drop down low to the ground while maintaining their forward speed, and then going to their bird form to save themselves when low enough).
One particular case of Boss Banter involves a dysfunctional demonic couple in The Arcatraz named Dalliah the Doomsayer and Wrath-Scryer Soccothrates bantering with each other in a rather amusing, and deliciously hammy manner.
In the Spine of Deathwing encounter, he randomly says several taunts directed at the adventurers, rather than them being triggered by various events in the battle (such as the players dying, him launching an attack or him being taken to a certain HP milestone).
Deathwing: Ha! I had not realized you fools were still there.
Boss in Mook Clothing: In Mists of Pandaria there are a number of rare non-elite enemies (called Pandarian champions) that can be killed for an achievement and the chance for some nice loot, but they are generally much tougher than the other enemies in the area. They are specifically designed to be challenging for single players to defeat, and if you try to just stand there and hit them until they die like a regular mook, you will most likely lose the fight.
Trial of the Crusader is five back-to-back boss fights.
The Throne of Four Winds consists of a conclave fight, followed by the Elemental Lord Al'Akir.
Some of the holiday bosses take place in an existing dungeon and players are teleported directly to the room for the fight, like Coren Direbrew in Blackrock Depths, or Frost Lord Ahune in the Slave Pens; the latter has one trash mob before the fight, but close enough.
Bottomless Magazines: While ranged weapons used to require ammunition, they did not use it anymore as of patch 4.0.1. Sadly, this means that one of the major appeals of the Legendary bow, the fact that it generated its own ammunition, is now completely pointless.
Bow and Sword, in Accord: Prior to Mists of Pandaria, Hunters, Warriors, and Rogues could equip both bows and swords. Pandaria removed the ranged weapon slot, though to compensate the latter two were given a "ranged throw" type attack to allow them to continue to pull from a distance, and the hunter no longer had a "minimum distance" for ranged attacks.
Bragging Rights Reward: Any items that drop off of the current Big Bad on heroic mode (Lich King in Wrath of the Lich King or Kil'jaeden during Burning Crusade, or Kel'Thuzad during the original game), since those were the final bosses of their respective expansion. Partially subverted in that the gear you get from those bosses can make leveling easier once the next expansion is released, but if your gear is good enough to allow you to beat the Lich King on heroic mode, you'll probably hardly notice the difference between leveling with a weapon he drops and leveling without it.
A number of achievement rewards are cosmetic items; usually a mount, a tabard, a companion pet, or a title. Notable are the mounts such as the Rusted/Iron Protodrakes from Ulduar and the Frostbrood Wyrms from Icecrown Citadel, which you get as a reward for completing all the achievements in a single tier of raiding.
The Legendary Cloak questline in Mists averts this. Most Legendaries come from grinding the last tier of raids, so like the above gear example, it means you really don't need them to do the content. For the cloak, the questline started when Mists launched and has run through every patch since; but Wrathion will upgrade the player's cloak to the Legendary before entering the Siege of Orgrimmar, so they'll have it when they need it most.
Parodied during the Hallow's End festival. Real undead do not go around eating brains, but NPCs wearing a Forsaken mask will occasionally say "Braaaaains".
When you were turned into a ghoul during the pre-Wrath of the Lich King Scourge invasion event, you spoke the "Zombie" language instead of your normal one. To non-zombies, this language sounded like "... brains .... braaains".
The undead pirates in Tol Barad want you to be dead like them, and also say "Braaaaains", implying they want some. However, you still don't see any actual brain eating.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Just about anyone listening to the Old Gods' voice for too long. Deathwing himself is the most blatant example.
Likewise, just about anyone touched by the Sha.
Break the Cutie: Jaina, in spades. After Theramore was bombed, during the lead-in to Mists of Pandaria, Jaina went from being the biggest advocate of peace with the Horde to going on a total Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
Break the Haughty: Greymane's had it rough. After cutting his nation off from the rest of the world in spite towards the Alliance, he had to deal both with rebels who didn't agree with his decision, and more notably the outbreak of a werewolf curse that quickly spread amongst his closed-off nation. After most of the population and Greymane himself get infected with the curse, they come under attack from the Forsaken, and Greymane is forced to ask for help from the Alliance. Oh, and his son Liam dies in the fighting. Greymane's been eating a bit of humble pie since the Cataclysm hit.
Bribing Your Way to Victory: Entirely averted. When the game launched, there were no paid services at all. Now there are, but they don't offer any kind of advantage to the player and are mostly cosmetic.
Currently Downplayed since you can buy pets that are used in the pet-battling minigame introduced in Mists of Pandaren. And while you can get good XP from pet battles, it's not critical to the game experience.
You can also buy Level 90 character boosts, which even provide you with a set of gear appropriate for your character's new level, so that players who don't have endgame-level characters can actually play the new level 90+ content that the upcoming expansion introduces. However, at $60 a pop they are prohibitively expensive, and don't really put you at an advantage compared to level 90 characters who got there the hard way (in fact, since they have more experience with the game than a boosted character, the "normal" players still have an advantage). Thankfully, Level 90 boosts are given away as preorder bonuses for the expansion pack, so that players don't have to pay for One Game for the Price of Two.
Brick Break: Mists of Pandaria wouldn't be complete without barefisted monks breaking boards and bricks.
On the Wandering Isle, Jojo Ironbrow is looking for ever stronger items to break; until the player finds a Jade Tiger Pillar, which even he can't break. It becomes his favorite weapon.
In the Valley of the Four Winds, players undergo training where they learn how to break bricks; it becomes Chekhov's Skill when players use it to kill an enormous kunchong, by punching it to death from the inside.
Brick Joke: After you give the quest to Johnny Awesome, his Celestial Steed that he bragged about is found dead with its legs sticking out of the field in Hillsbrad with Johnny himself crying in a nearby house.
A better example is Kingslayer Orkus, after you dispense his quest, the NPC who gave you the quests to dispense offhandedly hopes "Maybe he'll drown?" Sure enough, the next time you see Orkus, he is drowning. In Shallow Water.
Bright Is Not Good: In contrast to the rest of the Sha being black and white, the Sha of Pride is azure and cyan. It's also the most dangerous of all prime Sha.
British Accents: The Gilnean accent for many peasants is so strong they sound like somebody crammed a Cockney down their throats. A popular phrase is, "get gabbin' or get goin'!". On the other hand, many Gilnean nobles sound like complete snobs, speaking with Received Pronunciation.
The accent even shows in a Worgen's wolf form as well as their human form, and it's the same for the Player Character too.
Broken Record: The rare encounter Bashiok (named after a Blizzard staff member) in Gorgrond has only one line, repeated many times with different inflections: "I am Bashiok!"
Brother-Sister Team: Cataclysm brought us two of these, both of them dragons. Blackwing Descent ends with the resurrected Nefarian and Onyxia, and Bastion of Twilight has the Twilight dragons Theralion and Valiona.
Brought Down to Normal: In terms of political power instead of super power, this happens to Goblin players. Players start out as the proteges of Trade Prince Gallywix, being groomed as the next trade prince(ss); but when Deathwing arrives to spoil the party, leaving you all on his ship fleeing Kezan, he decides you're more useful as slave labor.
The surviving Dragon Aspects at the end of Cataclysm.
Buddy Cop Show: Parodied with Asric and Jadaar; they don't catch the bad guy and they still hate each other.
An unnamed conflict in which the Troll empires battled the Aqir for thousands of years; this eventually resulted in the latter splitting into the Qiraji and Nerubians.
The War of the Shifting Sands, in which the Night Elves allied with the Bronze, Blue, Red and Green Dragonflights to force back the expansionistic Qiraji. They succeeded in driving the Qiraji back to their capital; however, for various reasons, the Qiraji were merely contained. This proved to be a less-than-spectacular decision.
The War of the Spider, in which the Scourge all but destroyed the Nerubians... and raised them as undead monstrosities.
The Gates of Ahn'Qiraj event, in which the Alliance, Horde, and numerous third parties forced their way into Ahn-Qiraj in order to destroy the Qiraji and their master, an Old God called C'thun.
In Feralas, the Horde encampments come under attack from the gnolls. Once you help drive them back, you pick up gnoll maps indicating that they were attacking you because they were losing territory in their own war against local Silithid invaders, forcing them to try to expand the other way (that is, into Horde territory).
In the fourth expansion you have the Pandaren and Mantid. Guess which one's the bug.
Bullet Hell: The Twin Val'kyr in Crusaders' Coliseum. The fight seems to be based off of Ikaruga, as the raid has to split up and avoid one color bullet while absorbing the other color for a damage buff.
Several bosses have this kind of mechanic, including Walden's Ice Shards in SFK and Cookie's barrage of food in the Deadmines.
The Imperial Vizier Zor'lok encounter in Heart of Fear has aspects of this with his Attenuation ability. (Particularly with double attenuation on heroic mode.)
Bullfight Boss: Icehowl, in the Crusaders' Coliseum. Crush, another Yeti, has similar mechanics.