Since its November release date, millions of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands heroes have ventured beyond a shattered sky into the afterlife. While many players were initially skeptical of exploring the realms of death, community reception is much better than its predecessor Battle for Azeroth at this point.
From barely escaping the Maw introduction to finally defeating Sire Denathrius atop Castle Nathria, heroes have had no shortage of adventures during the past two months. With PvE and PvP activities in addition to throwbacks as far as Warcraft 3, Shadowlands has something for everyone whether they are a brand new recruit or returning veteran. But although players have finally exhausted everything included with the initial launch, there are plenty of new additions they can expect during 2021.
At this point, players know all five Shadowlands zones by heart after exploring every nook and cranny for weeks. Yet while everybody will still be spending a fair amount of time at their Covenant sanctums and the Maw, they can expect new zones to open up as the expansion continues. Though Blizzard may not have said anything about what areas will be added, there are several that have already been hinted at in-game.
With the return of the Drust during Ardenweald’s storyline and Covenant campaign, heroes once again heard about Thros, the Blighted Lands. An offshoot of the Emerald Nightmare, Thros is a unique realm mixed with Life, Death, and Void energy. The last time players briefly visited Thros was during the Alliance storyline in Battle for Azeroth, but the recent Ardenweald invasion and destruction wrought could mean a more permanent trip to Thros to end the Drust once and for all.
On another note, the Broker race has been a constant presence either as World of Warcraft vendors, enemies, or even allies as with the case of Ven’ari in the Maw. Players who have reached max reputation with Ven’ari know that a future confrontation with the unknown Broker realm is inevitable. Only time will tell if interactions with Azeroth’s champions results in a good deal for the Broker cartels or leaves most of them dead.
Finally, the Desmotaeron subzone within the Maw is currently inaccessible, even killing any players that manage to slip past the gates. While more of the Maw storyline and dailies are likely locked until next patch, Desmotaeron is another opportunity to add cosmetics or other rewards since everyone is only grinding Stygia for conduits and item sockets on their mains.
The launch Covenant campaigns may have recently wrapped up, but many players were left unsatisfied particularly at the Necrolord and Night Fae conclusions. Thankfully, there are plenty of directions each Covenant can explore in future patches. Though plotlines won’t focus exclusively on the Jailer’s forces, it seems each will have iconic Warcraft figures in the spotlight.
Uther the Lightbringer was initially part of the Forsworn until discovering their allegiance to the Jailer. Following the end of the Kyrian campaign, Uther is now working with the Paragons to understand the damage inflicted to him by Frostmourne. While the Kyrians will be dealing with Helya and her Mawsworn underlings, it seems inevitable that both halves of Uther’s soul will be reunited in Bastion. In Maldraxxus, the Necrolords managed to eliminate enemy leadership within the House of Constructs, force Kel’Thuzad to flee from the House of Rituals, and recover the Primus’ legendary armaments. With the zone mostly back under Covenant control, the next campaign goal could be to finally uncover how the Primus disappeared with the help of Draka and Alexandros Mograine.
At the same time, Margrave Krexus was prominently featured in Shadowlands marketing as a replacement for the Primus but got killed off shortly after players met him. Though his death is likely permanent, Maldraxxus is the origin of necromantic power so it would not be a surprise if Krexus manages to return somehow.
The Night Fae covenant has the most potential for diverse stories in their covenant campaign due to Ardenweald’s relationship with the Night Elves and Wild Gods. Going into Shadowlands, Tyrande Whisperwind was dead set on hunting Sylvanas down for Teldrassil’s burning after killing Nathanos Blightcaller with the Night Warrior’s power. Tyrande still isn’t planning to give up her quest for vengeance soon but hopefully players can save her with the help of Ysera, the Winter Queen, and other past Night Warriors.
Similarly, many players have speculated that Vol’jin’s spirit should have an even bigger role after his post-death appearance in Battle for Azeroth, Since the Night Fae campaign and Mueh’zala’s defeat in De Other Side, it seems Vol’jin will finally become a Loa with Bwonsamdi’s help especially after absorbing the last remnants of Rezan, Loa of Kings within the Maw.
Even with Sire Denathrius defeated, the Venthyr covenant still has many loose ends to tie up. Though rehabilitated, Kael’thas Sunstrider still has a prominent role to play as long as Kel’Thuzad remains a threat to the Shadowlands. And while the soul of Garrosh Hellscream was briefly seen in Revendreth’s Afterlives short, his continued absence hopefully means a redemption arc awaits the former warchief rather than being forgotten.
As with the last few expansions, the first content patch of Shadowlands should add a filler raid before heroes go back to fighting the Jailer. Most threats have been dealt with thanks to the Covenant campaigns, but a likely candidate is the House of the Chosen in Maldraxxus. Players only visit the area several times before it becomes a hostile world quest hub and the design is perfect for a mini-raid. Furthermore, Margrave Vyraz still controls the House and defeating him is the final step in reuniting all five Houses once again.
If Blizzard continues to follow the trend of one raid per zone, there is a strong case that the next important raid is located in Ardenweald. The Heart of the Forest was stated by the Winter Queen to be the one thing keeping the Jailer bound in the Maw. While the Heart was fully restored from its withered state in the Night Fae campaign, it is only a matter of time until the Mawsworn mount a full-scale attack that heroes must overcome. Considering the Jailer is the final boss in Shadowlands, an Ardenweald defeat in the story could segue perfectly into a Bastion raid and ultimately the Maw raid.
As Shadowlands rolls on, players can expect their characters to get even stronger thanks to content progression. To start, every soulbind should get additional tiers of conduit slots and abilities while the inclusion of new Covenant campaigns may also bring new soulbinds since most class specializations only have one viable choice at the moment. After experiencing Torghast and the variety of anima powers, it would not be a surprise to see classes get scaled down versions as new conduit options. Finally, players will continue to help the Runecarver (who many theorize is actually the Primus) restore his memories and hopefully gain the ability to equip multiple legendaries which would be gamechanging for many struggling tanks, healers, and DPS.
In the end, there are plenty of directions that Blizzard can go with Shadowlands in 2021. While patch 9.1 won’t be releasing anytime soon, players can expect it to arrive during spring and at least one other patch during fall or winter. As such, it is the perfect time to level up more characters and experience the full story of each Covenant.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is available on PC.