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What Could Have Been / World of Warcraft

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World of Warcraft has had a lot of ideas that were eventually scrapped or replaced:

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    Vanilla and World of Warcraft: Classic 
  • The Vanilla game went through several iterations, but the general idea for the original endgame was that the game would have 70 levels, not 60, and included (in a rough order): Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj as the southern half of the Silithus zone, Temple of Ahn'Qiraj, Naxxramas, Karazhan, the Dragon Isles as a raid and a Quel'thalas zone next to it (based around a burnt and ruined Silvermoon), a single Outland zone, and a "Black Citadel" raid with Illidan as the final boss of the game. The Emerald Dream and Hyjal raid zones were also somewhere in this progression. Most of the cut raids made it into the first expansion, but Dragon Isles was completely cut and the Emerald Dream as a raid was scrapped until Legion.
  • Hero classes were a feature mentioned before the game was released. Many years since the initial release, they have only created two (Death Knights and Demon Hunters). Paladins were at one point going to be one, but ultimately made a normal class.
  • There are several missing or incomplete "hidden" levels including a copy of Undercity with no citizens, a creepy dungeon with drowned victims near Karazhan, an early incarnation of Outland with a set of portals that do not work, and a three-zone Emerald Dream area.
  • From the vanilla World of Warcraft manual, there were supposed to be dishonor points. The stuff certain players do on a common basis today in the game would have given them severe punishment (including being attacked on sight by their own faction's NPCs and even being exiled from their own cities) with this system if it were implemented past the open beta. By refraining from doing these actions for a long enough time, the stigma will eventually go away.
    "Even among enemies as bitter as the Horde and Alliance, there is honor. If you flaunt this honor and engage in objectionable PvP play, such as killing new players vastly inferior to you in level, or killing essential non-combat NPC's such as flight masters or quest givers, you will earn dishonor. If you accumulate enough dishonor through your criminal actions, you will be branded an outlaw. As a consequence, you'll suffer experience penalties, lose access to your own faction cities, and become so hated even by your own kind that every faction NPC will attack you on sight."
    • Though the reason for this being taken out is, ironically, to prevent another form of griefing. When there were raids upon opposing cities low-level players would be able to purposely get themselves killed from AoE attacks causing AoE users to rack up dishonor points. Instead of removing it, one could argue dishonor should have only been given outside opposing cities. Players would get dishonor ganking in places like Stranglethorn Vale, but in city limits or within a radius of a major opposing city, anything goes.
  • In an attempt to foster more role-playing, taverns and bars were planned to function as they would in a traditional RPG, where one could rest in a bed for the night, sit and have a few drinks, and wait around to form a party.
  • The Undercity was going to be a lot bigger then what was given at game release; cutting out what would of been a balcony level above the bank in the large circular area of the Forsaken capital. The reason for the cut was because Blizzard thought that the Undercity was already complex enough, and that adding the balcony level would make it a little too complex for players. Even today after eight years, you can find and walk around the Undercity's incomplete second floor.
  • Azshara was a pretty but barren vanilla zone up until its Cataclysm revamp. Before then, Blizzard was planning to add a battleground called Azshara Crater at the southern edge of the zone to give players some reason to come to the area. The battleground was never implemented, but what would have been the entrances to it stayed in the game up until the Cataclysm revamp.
  • The Mage city of Dalaran was probably planned to play some eventual role in its original place that never manifested. Instead, there is now an empty crater where it used to be, with the city taking flight and acting as the central hub in Northrend and the Broken Isles.
  • The Duskwood zone was originally planned to have a light-radius effect on the player as you moved around in the world environment throughout this area; something you'd see out of the Diablo franchise, and torches were to be an item you could equip to increase the size of the light-radius. Even today, NPCs around Duskwood can be seen holding what would have been the player-held torches.
  • The ability for player characters to learn additional languages was planned early but was not developed, likely due to the tendency of cross-faction communication to be insulting and profane. It seems unlikely that this functionality will ever be added. The Forsaken were originally able to speak Common and thus communicate with Alliance players, but this was removed with the introduction of Gutterspeak due to, once again, the tendency of cross-faction communication to be insulting and profane. Mages can now temporally learn the languages of their own faction with the Glyph of Arcane Language and the buff Arcane Brilliance, and potions now exist (Elixir of Tongues) that will let anyone understand players of the opposite faction for a short time (provided said players are speaking Common/Orcish as opposed to racial languages). Notably, Void Elves and Blood Elves, sharing the Thalassian racial language, are currently able to communicate cross-faction.
  • Protection Paladin in Vanilla was supposed to have more abilities to help them actually tank. For various reasons, Blizzard removed them during the Beta, but did not find a way to replace it. This meant the Protection spec had no aggro management system, making it effectively unusable for the release's history. It wasn't until Burning Crusade that the class was overhauled to actually be able to tank properly.
  • The game's comic adaptation was supposed to spinoff into two ongoing titles, World of Warcraft: Alliance and World of Warcraft: Horde. Instead of focusing on established game characters like the first comic did, these new titles would have featured a cast of original characters. However, DC Comics announced that the comics were cancelled in favor of a series of ongoing graphic novels, starting with Bloodsworn and Dark Riders, claiming that the new format would let them put a greater focus on art and narrative. The released books both included what would have been the first few issues of the cancelled comics. The graphic novels have also seemingly been cancelled as no new material has been produced since 2013.

    Burning Crusade 
  • Prior to Wrath of the Lich King, The Burning Crusade was quite bad about this; several characters that were slated for return were left out completely, and so-called "portal worlds" (completely different, presumably Legion-held planets that would have been accessed via portals) were excluded, though they were a bit selling point of the expansion. It wasn't until Legion that "portal worlds" came back during the invasion of Argus.
  • Pandaren were originally planned to be the Alliance race during The Burning Crusade. Midway through development, due to being irrelevant to Outland and possibly due to legal issues with China, the Pandaren were hastily replaced with the Draenei and wouldn't be added until three expansions later.
  • Demon Hunters were planned to be playable as early as The Burning Crusade, but were ultimately pushed back several years until they were able to be introduced in Legion.
  • The original Burning Crusade launch was going to be an event like the Ahn'Qiraj event where Warlocks would work together to try and open the Dark Portal, while other classes protected them. The Troubled Production and Demand Overload for said event however quickly removed that idea.
  • Burning Crusade was never intended to be the first expansion. Originally, the idea was to do an expansion set in the ocean/islands between Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, but limitations of the servers and maps prevented them from adding new locations to the original map. After the release of Burning Crusade, Blizzard managed to fix this issue (by putting Outland on a third "continent server", and not stretching the Eastern kingdoms area), but by then, the South Seas idea wasn't able to be done until being re-branded as Battle for Azeroth.

    Wrath of the Lich King 
  • One of the most clear examples is the Wrath Of The Lich King expansion's scrapped aspects. Wrath of the Lich King was pretty bad in this regard overall.
  • It was intended that there be a Gundrak raid and a third wing of Utgarde Keep. There are items in the game files that hinted that a third Utgarde Keep wing, and the Gundrak temple was supposed to have had a raid at one point in development (it should be noted that the Gundrak wing that is in the game is only the basement of the un-visited main building).
  • Crystalsong Forest was intended to be the home of the Argent Crusade tournament, as opposed to containing the floating city of Dalaran and nothing else, but Blizzard was worried about possible lag carrying over from the nearby Dalaran hub, and the area was left very barren of anything of interest.
  • The village of Unu'pe in Borean Tundra is a fully functioning quest hub lacking only the quests.
  • By far most painful, it was initially intended that the Azjol-Nerub kingdoms be an entire underground zone, stretching across Northrend between the Dragonblight in the south and Icecrown Glacier in the north, in which players would have significant interaction with Anub'arak, Arthas' third in command, and presumably deal with the sinister and desperate spider-like Nerubians who used to rule most of Northrend. Unfortunately, constraints that could not be overcome in the given product schedule forced this idea to be shelved, with some of the already created geometry folded into a pair of instance dungeons. Anub'arak is the boss of the lower level one. He has no effect on the game apart from that, though he comes back as a boss under the tournament. And there are a grand total of four living Nerubians in the game, and only one of them even has a name (though more were added in Cataclysm). This is particularly odd given that they introduced tons of new races in Northrend, but gave no presence to the race that people had known was there since Warcraft III came out in 2002. In a BlizzCon interview, Blizzard even admits that not turning Azjol-Nerub into a world zone was their greatest failure for the Wrath of the Lich King era.
  • The new Siege Engine UI allowed for a lot of interesting new mounted combat, but one thing they couldn't reliably get working in time was sieged aerial combat. Particularly bad because the physical box art for the expansion installation disk had a preview of the nonexistent plane siege vehicles, intended as a workshop machine in Wintergrasp, as part of their advertisement of said new UI/mounted combat.
  • The original plan for Death Knights was that you would convert a high-leveled character into one rather than rolling a fresh toon. This was scrapped due to concerns players would turn their character into a Death Knight and then decide that they liked their original class more. They then toyed with the idea of having a quest chain in Northrend where your higher-level toons would interact with what would become the freed Death Knights. In the end, they compromised and let people roll a Death Knight once they hit the prerequisite level of 55, and gave them a starting zone all to themselves which explained their back story first-hand.
  • The original idea for Runeforging was that Death Knight players would be able to customize the runes on their resource bar -for example, a Frost Death Knight might choose to give up some of his Blood and Unholy runes in exchange for more Frost runes, or convert a less useful rune into more flexible Death runes. This was deemed too complicated, so all Death Knights were given a standard rune layout, and Runeforging was changed to just being a Death Knight-exclusive free weapon enchant.
  • Another idea was to have Runeblades be their own separate weapon type, usable only by Death Knights. This was deemed unworkable at the time, and Runeblades were ultimately only implemented as cosmetic skins for normal weapons. However, the concept would eventually be revisited with Demon Hunters, who did get their own unique weapon -Warglaives.
  • Dance Studio
  • Originally, the vision for Death Knights was that each one was capable of being a Tank or DPS depending on the build. As a tank, Frost was meant to about increasing their defenses, Blood was supposed to be about health draining to survive, and Unholy would debuff the enemy and could sacrifice their Ghoul to restore HP in a pinch, while as DPS, Frost was meant to be a burst damage with minor AOE, Blood was meant to be a self-sustaining single target DPS with slightly less damage but more durability, and Unholy being a debuffer and Damage Over Time effects with an AOE focus. After players discovered that Blood was by far the strongest tank spec due to its self-healing, Blizzard decided to change the classes to be one specific role in the next expansion. Name; Frost and Unholy became purely DPS, while Blood became Tanking.

  • Cataclysm. Oh boy, Cataclysm. Despite Blizzard's denials, it is commonly accepted that the Cataclysm development team suffered a cataclysm of their own; the end result: tons of cut features and storylines. A collection of some cut and delayed content can be found on this video.
  • The biggest one done so far: Path of the Titans. Cataclysm was supposed to implement a feature called Path of the Titans, which would've acted as an alternative to the normal talent system to give even more customization to your character, and would have combined the new archaeology profession with a redesigned glyph system. This was heavily advertised and showcased at Blizzcon before the open beta for Cataclysm to be a progression path past the level cap, but the system wasn't found to be effective at giving the customization they wanted, and instead, it was scrapped and they chose to expand upon the glyph system introduced in Wrath. To expand on this: it was scrapped because it would've just become another "If you're this class, pick this path for the best DPS/heals/tanking". Glyphs and talents had already become cookie-cutter, so this would have just been another set of bonuses that you had no choice in. In expanding the glyph system, they added more room for choice (sort of).
    • Most likely related to this system were the two factions related to archaeology: The Explorer's League and Reliquary. The latter faction was created as a Horde equivalent and both were planned to have a reputation, which means quests and NPCs. This never came to fruition and they remain as flavor factions instead. Without the aforementioned Path of the Titans, since it was tied so heavily into the Archaeology profession, end result: Archaeology was a boring and tedious grindfest dependent on RNG.
  • A proper 10-20 zone in Silverpine/Gilneas for Worgen players, with their district being in Stormwind instead of Darnassus. The quests after the battle to retake Gilneas City make little sense, and the Alliance version of Shadowfang Keep makes no sense.
  • The Abyssal Maw dungeon/raid, which despite developer comments that it never made it past the concept art stage, could still be found in the game files with some editing, as seen here. The cancellation of Abyssal Maw is a sore spot for players, especially since it caused a massive Aborted Arc the developers continue to sweep under the rug, and also because it was replaced with two former troll raids (Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman) converted into 5-man dungeons. The Abyssal Maw was originally planned as either a dungeon or raid, with many players expecting it to come out with the Firelands raid tier. While the map was designed, the content never made it past early design phases and was dropped after Cataclysm ended.
  • A Silithus revamp, compete with quests that indicated that C'thun was active once again.
  • Boat races in Thousand Needles. This one eventually got a nod in the Traveler books, where the protagonists get involved in one.
  • The War of the Ancients instance was originally supposed to be a raid, not a 5-man dungeon.
  • Foreshadowing for a questline involving the return of Danath Trollbane.
  • Gallywix is not in the game outside of the Goblin starting zone, despite having a voice set that would indicate that he is supposed to be residing in his titular Pleasure Palace (which does not exist yet when you talk to him).
    • One small-yet-major change to the goblin starting zone was that, originally, the footbomb was supposed to fall into the volcano and destabilize it (in the final product, it was Deathwing that caused the issue, and the footbomb kick was instead an excuse to be looking in that direction). This would have given Gallywix's lines on the Lost Isles a completely different meaning; instead of him using you as a scapegoat (and becoming a Hate Sink as a result), he'd be reminding you of your part in the whole mess.
  • All references to Sylvanas mind-controlling any newly-raised Forsaken were removed near the end of beta, but some of the quests in Silverpine Forest and Western Plaguelands still show mind-controlled newly-raised Forsaken.
  • A rare NPC in the beta named "The Darkbringer" could be found in front of Uther's Tomb in the redone Western Plaguelands, implying that Uther had either been risen as a Forsaken or a Forsaken "paladin" who took up a twisted version of title was visiting his grave to spite his memory. Presumably to avoid the fanbase being convinced of the former and condemning Sylvanas even harder (see above) the NPC was removed before launch.
  • The Battle for Gilneas battleground was originally supposed to take place in Gilneas City, and the objectives were that each faction fought to see who could take the most districts of the city.
  • The Hour of Twilight dungeon was originally supposed to have faction-specific storylines, with Varian fighting Benedictus, and Thrall fighting Grand Magister Rommath, both having been revealed as spies for the Twilight's Hammer. In the final release it's only Benedictus as not just a spy, but one of their leaders, confronted by Thrall (and his deception having been revealed offscreen in a book, leaving this as a rather out of nowhere twist if you didn't read it) while Rommath's involvement or potential treachery was cut entirely. Many consider this a happy outcome, however, as this let Rommath have a moment in the limelight as a protagonist in the next expansion's storyline.
  • Worgen originally looked radically different, having defined hairstyles and softer faces, overall looking a bit more like a character one may see in the Furry Fandom. Early reactions from the playerbase were mostly negative (though how much was the Vocal Minority is best discussed elsewhere) and it resulted in Blizzard scrapping the faces and redoing them, as well as changing their plans for the not-yet-implemented female Worgen, to make both genders look more "fierce and werewolf-like". For many players, the rushed results for both genders were massively subpar and took until Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands to completely fix with updates and new options.
  • Draenei were intended to become the Alliance's second druid race to mirror trolls getting the class until worgen were implemented and were given druids instead. Unfortunately, draenei weren't given another class to compensate, making them the only pre-existing race to not get one or two new classes for Cataclysm.
  • In the planning stages, it was originally Ogres, not Goblins, planned to be the Horde's new race. This never left the pre-Alpha planning stages however, as the team was caught up over concerns on their size with smaller doorways, and were immensely hung up on what a female Ogre would look like. The latter has been cited by the team multiple times as the reason they decided to go with Goblins instead.

    Mists of Pandaria 
  • Monks were initially planned to lack an auto-attack mechanic, making up for it with stronger bursts of damage on their attack skills. Although this would have made them completely unique from every other class in the game, it was deemed a balancing nightmare and had to be scrapped.

    Warlords of Draenor 
  • Warlords of Draenor, before even being released, had some scrapped ideas shared by the developers. It went through several changes in the planning stages. A collection of some cut and delayed content can be found on this forum thread and this video.
  • The earliest idea has no Time Travel at all, instead Garrosh was meant to discover a magic horn and use it to resurrect the titular Warlords in an unexplored part of Outland. Then they decided that if they were going to bring back the Old Horde then they might as well bring back Old Draenor, so the Infinite Dragonflight got brought in to make that happen. Then they dialed down the amount of Time Travel- originally the players were meant to travel to AU Draenor with the help of the Bronze Dragonflight, and try and prevent Garrosh from ever opening a connection to Azeroth.
  • While Garrosh returning to make a new army had always been the plan, it was originally intended to be an army of all the NPC races players have been killing for years like kobolds, gnolls, centaur and troggs: there was a concept of him rallying a "Mongrel Horde" of kobolds, gnolls, murlocs and all the other quest fodder to be his army. After that they considered having Garrosh be banished to Outland where he'd find a "magic horn" that reforms it into old Draenor and resurrects the Warlords from the dead. The developers thought this was too confusing and settled on the time travel version we have now.
  • The moving of the capital cities from well-known lore locations (like the Black Temple, which in AU Draenor was still the pure Temple of Karabor) to generic outposts on the PvP hub Ashran. This particular change has not sat well with players, doubly so because it was casually revealed on Twitter after the previous BlizzCon made a big fuss about it.
  • Several other features (such as putting down your garrison in ANY zone rather than just your starting zone) are hinted at as being last-minute reworks, with cinematics referring to "campaigns all across Draenor" when you had barely set foot on the planet the morning before. Originally garrisons could be located in any of the zones but due to the difficulties of arranging this they were limited to the starting regions with limited outposts in other zones. Capital cities were planned for each faction (Temple of Karabor for Alliance, Bladespire Citadel for Horde) as well, and even largely constructed, but after it was decided to merge those functions into Ashran, they were left as nothing more than impressive-looking quest hubs.
  • There were also plans for a Shattrath raid, the zone of Gorgrond was completely different in Alpha, and there are various hints to expanded storylines (most notably the Pale Orcs/Cho'Gall/Void storyline) that ended up on the cutting room floor. And if the "Grommash will be the final boss" statement wasn't a lie, it seems that the post-100 patches were meant to shake out a whole lot different than they did. The Cho'gall and Void storyline being dropped is especially obvious when looking at World of Warcraft: Chronicle, published and written around the same time, which paints the Void as being the ultimate antagonist of the universe.
  • Two islands meant to be introduced in later patches were Farahlon, the entire landmass that would become Netherstorm and home of the Laughing Skull Orcs (referenced in a Garrison mission and could be seen in early beta before being removed), and Ashran, the home island of the Ogre Empire (which was purely Out of Focus after the Highmaul raid). Neither made it past early planning stages. Another item that would have made sense for a time shifted version of Outland to have but Draenor didn't get was Rock Flayers (which can be found on one super small Easter Egg island and nowhere else).
  • A plot threat started in Warlords as datamined dialogue before being dropped, teased again in Legion, and then ultimately being dropped entirely around the time of Battle For Azeroth involved a mystery around Worgen inexplicably returning to feral even after having partaken of the Ritual of Balance. Dialogue options and conversations between Varian and Genn would spring up time to time in every other patch's PTR, before vanishing into the ether again, ultimately leaving this possible plotline and the political tension (having your werewolf allies go mad and start eating people at any time wouldn't exactly be good for relations) untouched.

  • The Legion expansion had several major plot points change during Beta:
    • It's not clear if the character's ultimate fate was changed or not, but early builds indicated that Vol'jin was merely missing after the events of the Broken Shore, not necessarily dead (Varian Wrynn, on the other hand, was always straight up dead). In the final version, he dies onscreen in a very clear and unambiguous manner. Also, in the original version, it was implied Sylvanas had usurped control of the Horde in Vol'jin's absence. In the finished version, Vol'jin himself names Sylvanas his successor after she saves the Horde forces in Broken Shore, although Battle for Azeroth suggests he wasn't acting in his right mind when he did so.
    • Tirion Fordring was originally planned to be the Death Knight's Fourth Horseman instead of Darion Mograine. This one is pretty obvious, as the finished scenario still has them attack Light's Hope Chapel for Tirion's body. But a lot of players didn't like this idea, either because the preferred him as a Paladin, or they just thought it cheapened his death to bring him back so soon. Eventually the developers relented and changed it to Darion. But the scenario was already made and they didn't have time to scrap it and start over, so they used it anyway and just changed the ending so that a literal Deus ex Machina stops the resurrection and kills Darion, leading to him being made the Horseman instead.
    • The black dragon known as Ebyssian was originally planned to be Wrathion. Originally in Highmountain, Wrathion would appear during a story arc, ending with him using a titan time portal to bring uncorrupted (and still fertile) dragon eggs from the distant past, not just creating a new Black Dragonflight but also potentially saving the others from becoming a Dying Race. However, due to the confusing plot device (and probably a bit of fatigue regarding time travel after Warlords), this story thread was dropped and replaced with Spiritwalker Ebonhorn and had him testing Mayla's worthiness as High Chieftain while also revealing he's an uncorrupted black dragon and the hammer of Khaz'goroth can cleanse black dragon eggs of their corruption. He ended up being changed to a new character due to a combination of the timeline not working out (Wrathion being only a few years old would make it hard for him to integrate himself into Highmountain's society to the extent 'Spiritwalker Ebonhorn' had) and concerns that, after what Wrathion did in his last appearance, players wouldn't want to work with him again that easily.
    • Baine Bloodhoof was originally supposed to be heavily involved with the Highmountain zone story (akin to Tyrande and Malfurion in Val'sharah) but his role there ended up being completely cut from the game.

    Battle for Azeroth 
  • Azshara was going to have a much bigger presence in the expansion, especially during the early stages.
    • In the beta, there was datamined correspondence that reveals an alliance between Zul and Azshara going as far back as Cataclysm. This reveal would have explained a lot about Zul's prophecies, as well as taken loose story-ends and incoherent quests and retroactively turn them into a interesting plotline spanning several expansions, but it didn't make it to live.
    • Ashvane's deal with Azshara was initially going to be revealed much earlier, during the Siege of Boralus dungeon. Without this reveal, it's left unexplained how Ashvane got her hands on a sea giant and a kraken to attack Boralus, and the relationship among Ashvane, Sylvanas and Azshara in the 8.1 war campaign and 8.2 is much more confusing.
  • In the Beta, Jaina's hatred towards the Horde would've increased so much she would've been an advocator for the genocide of most of their races. She was completely rewritten at release. This early version might imply she was the one originally intended to go off the deep end, instead of Sylvanas, becoming as murderously hateful as Daelin did.
    • The Alliance's 7th Legion forces in the Vulpera zone were known as "Purge Squads". This implies that Jaina was trying to exterminate them for daring to join the Horde, and was using them as a test before extending her campaign against other races.
  • In the 8.1 PTR, "The Fate of Saurfang" quest where the Horde player decides where their loyalties lie had a datamined third option where the player says Screw This, I'm Outta Here! and go to enjoy a vacation at the hot springs on the Feralas/Silithus border while the conflict sorts itself out. This ending never made it live, and while the programming for it was in until the release of the patch it was never actually playable at any point. Since it was never implemented it might have also been a coy finger wag towards dataminers in the same way as "Kharazan 2: Electric Boogaloo" in Legion and never intended to be taken seriously to begin with. Either way the war campaign tying into the Saurfang/Sylvanas conflict later on meant this wasn't a feasable option for the player to take and have it make sense, which could be why it was canned.
  • Island Expeditions were originally supposed to be a second option to dungeons where the players would take their time exploring the islands, solving mini-quests and puzzles and generally being a very fleshed out experience. Due to not having enough time to properly test the features, the nuance and pace wasn't able to be realized and islands instead became a timed Zerg Rush to beat the enemy team to Azerite deposits and killing skull-marked mobs, with any "quests" being side objectives as simple as grabbing a nearby object and clicking on the quest giver. Especially unfortunate as, like Karabor and Bladespire Citadel in Warlords, Islands as they were envisioned - rather than as they were implemented - were marketed and talked about as a major selling point for the expansion.
  • Warfronts for Silvermoon City, Southern Barrens and Bilgewater Harbor were all planned (with the former even receiving Foreshadowing in the Nightborn recruitment questline), but ultimately dropped by 8.2 due to the highly lukewarm to negative reception to the Stormgarde and Darkshore Warfronts.