BizzCon launched to exciting fanfare, moderate disappointment, some controversy, but overall satisfaction. And in that controversy, we have Season of Discovery.
Season of Discovery is Blizzard’s take on Classic Plus. It has completely changed how classic will be played, and what at its core is that it is still Classic WoW. The changes are staggering and amazing.
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Quick Summary Of Content
The most exciting change of Season of Discovery is none other than the Rune Engraving system.
It’s a new class augmentation, where by exploring the world, doing quests, killing bosses, or whatnot, you are able to equip spells, abilities, some item effects, some abilities from other classes, some racial abilities, and some enchantment directly onto your armor, and acquire those passives or abilities.
When we start the game, the level cap is only 1 to 25, and we only have access to three armor slots: chest, legs, and hands. Whilst I will dive into runes for all classes later in this guide, some noticeable runes are Crusader Strike for Paladin and Wild Strikes for Druids.
Now, these two abilities are quite incredibly powerful whilst they alone don’t change the game. Considering that you can get three abilities like this at this power, at level 25 is staggering. This doesn’t even account for reaching max level and having the ability to unlock over 10 abilities, depending on if you can equip runes on weapons, shields, and trinkets.
But because discoveries are secret, and no one knows where they are. You’re probably saying it’ll be datamined. There’ll be 50 YouTube videos and 20 icyvein guides before Season of Discovery even launches. And whilst typically you’d be right, in this case, you’re wrong. Because one of the best decisions that Blizzard has ever made is the following chain: there is no public beta, alpha, or anything.
Every single person is going in blind. The only knowledge we have of the game is what they’ve said to us during BlizzCon, and the people that actually got to play the BlizzCon demo for the 10-man raid Blackfathom Deeps.
Another facet to the game is the following. There are now new tanks and healer combinations. The meta has been shifted, and many classes can do things that they couldn’t do before, like Shaman, Warlock, and Rogue tanking. Also, Paladin is fixed and can properly tank now......
Level Banded Content Phases
Now that you know what runes are, and you learn what the level cap at the start of Season of Discovery is, you’re probably asking, what does that mean?
It’s a new system that Blizzard has designed, called Level Banded Content Phases. And what this means is that Phase 1 of Season of Discovery is capped at level 25, and after a period of a few weeks, it will increase to level 40, the cap for Phase 2.
The phases are as follows, based on Blizzard purposefully leaking the next three 10-man raids, which are: Gnomeregan, Scarlet Monastery, and Karazhan Crypts after Blackfathom Deeps.
Now, though, based on the dev interviews, here we have the following phase bands. Phase 1 being Blackfathom Deeps at a level cap of 25. Phase 2 being Gnomeregan at a level cap of 40. Phase 3 being Scarlet Monastery at a level cap of 50. And Phase 4 being Karazhan Crypts at a level cap of 60.
Whilst Blizzard didn’t announce a Phase 5, I wouldn’t be surprised if Phase 5 was 40-man raids being redone. There could be a Phase 5, which starts at level 60 with a completely new 40-man dungeon raid, perhaps Dire Maul. And then Phase 6 is Molten Core remastered and onwards.
So, with those phases explained, why did Blizzard choose Phase 1 being level 25? Blizzard said that the feedback during the classic betas back in 2019 was that people enjoyed it and it was a fun time rediscovering, exploring and doing things at the level 25 cap back then. So, they chose their cap based on that, especially since it allowed them to redo and reuse old content, especially low-level content that people wouldn’t visit again otherwise.
Another major reason is since phases last a few weeks, assume between 4 to 10 weeks per phase, it means you’ll never be too far behind as a new player or someone with IRL responsibilities. You can always jump back, jump back out, play other games, not feel pressured or compelled to grind to max level immediately. You’ll have plenty of time to do that.
And the final reason is that they add exciting, unique and new content with each level banded content phase: new items, new quests, new NPCs and mobs, new discoveries and world quest, new PVP and more. And they can do this over the course of a year or two.
The other main reason is that it allows them to treat each phase as a mini beta within itself, testing what works, is overpowered, is meta, isn’t meta and allowing them to give breathing room to make each consecutive phase better and better.
With level banded content phases covered, let’s talk about the last bonus of the system. That is a new mechanic. There will be a massive XP boost to previous phases, allowing you to catch up faster or level up alt faster with every new phase. I don’t know what this XP boost will be, but I assume it’s 2x experience, maybe even as high as 5x experience. We’ll have to wait and see on that front.
Now that we know we’re stock at level 25 for 4 weeks minimum, up to perhaps as long as 12 weeks, what is the endgame for such a low level?
As I said earlier, there are now new 10-man raids, taking all dungeons and remixing them into raid content. And the first of these level-up raids is Blackfathom Deeps. They’ll be taking familiar settings and characters, giving them new mechanics, changing the quest around these dungeons and making it feel like a legitimate raid. Blizzard’s goal here was to make the world feel more alive, tempered and past, allowing us to take an Azeroth for all its glory and prestige.
Since Blackfathom Deeps got a full-on redesign, let’s dive into this exciting and wildly new content. Blackfathom Deeps is an ancient elven ruin with evil stirring within, familiar but mysterious. Most of you probably don’t even remember the bosses there. But even if you do, they are now completely different.
With a 3-day lockout, much like Zul’Gurub, we’re going to have plenty of time to master this level-up raid and figure out everything there is in there and every little secret. And there are plenty of secrets in Blackfathom Deeps, for example, the secret of the Black Feather Artisan, which sounds like an incredible crafting recipe skill set, as well as the mysterious new world buff Boon of Black Fathom.
And now, let’s dive into the bosses. BFD has seven new bosses, all fully reimagined encounters, and all quests and loot for BFD have been completely remastered and remade. You now have level 25 loot being better than perhaps even level 40 classic loot. Don’t quote me on that, as I don’t have a full item list, but what we did see is pretty incredible, since this is essentially level 25 raid loot and not dungeon loot.
But onto our first boss, who is Baron Aquanis, who is no longer a quest NPC and is now the first raid boss. He’s empowered by Fathom Stones, which have to be disabled, as well as jumping puzzles and a very obnoxious knockback. This knockback throws you off the platform, during which you have to jump puzzle your way back up, only for the ability to be off cooldown, so he knocks you down again. Kind of annoying as far as combat mechanics go, but it’s very interesting, nonetheless.
Then, we have Ghamoo-ra, now the second boss of the raid instead of the first of the dungeon. And he’s protected by a magical barrier, which we have to break through to be able to burn down the giant turtle.
The third boss is Lady Sarevess, a Naga Sea Witch with a retinue of Blackfathom Elite, and we have to turn her own spells against her to stop her from overwhelming us with unending adds.
The next four bosses we have almost no information about, but here they are: Gahz’rilla, the Void Murloc, followed by Lorgus Jett, and then Twilight Lord Kelris, before finally we confront Aku’mai, the Voidscale Hydra.
And that summarizes Blackfathom Deeps. I’m beyond excited to dive into this new content and see just how fun and intuitive it really feels.
Next, I would cover runes in more depth.
As I already said, they’re treating each phase almost as if it’s a beta in of itself, which means runes will only get progressively more wild and interesting, seeing how players lean into them and how the class balance turns out.
Since Rune Engravings can be found all over the world, from quests, dungeons, raids, bosses, PvP, and who knows what else, I can’t cover every rune at the moment, just those that we know of.
At level 25, we only have access to chest, legs, and hands. Runes are permanent essentially a new talent system, which can be applied and removed at will, with no limitations or costs. You simply have to be out of combat to apply and unapply runes. The greatest benefit that runes provide to the game, though, is the simple fact that formerly faction-unique bonuses, buffs, and racials are now available for certain classes, removing that faction buffer. They are also making talent respecs cost far less, but they didn’t tell us how much less as of now.
Every class has its own runes. There is an insane amount of new abilities for player to choose. But it’s going to be a great few weeks as everyone attempts to figure out the new meta, only for the next phase to come out and completely invalidate every single guide that people write. This is good for creativity, exploration and fun. It’s terrible for min-maxes and meta chases, since your meta will never be meta for more than a few weeks or months at best.
Class Design Goals
This all ties neatly into the fact that Blizzard wants to shake up the meta with Season of Discovery, changing the concept of metas and data mining.
Meta in Season of Discovery will never be consistent or stable and thus don’t chase metas. Otherwise, expect to level a new character in every phase and completely learn a new class every phase for the most OP and broken character of that phase. Some of you will do that, that’s for sure, though.
Nonetheless, Blizzard wants to give each class something to brag about. They want to stick with what’s popular in the sense of abilities, item effects and more. Rather than just give random or terrible runes to people, they want to let people let loose and have fun.
Some of the runes will be new and unique spells never seen before. Some will be from future expansions, but they did say that they want to stay true to classic overall and not introduce anything too modern. So don’t expect spells from beyond WOTLK Classic or maybe even Cataclysm. They want to focus on class fantasy and make sure every class feels true to its fantasy.
New PvP Content
Finally, we move on to PvP, the lifeblood of WoW for some people. And what they’ve done cooked up for PvP is phenomenal and amazing.
Allow me to introduce you to Ashenvale, which lore-wise is a hot spot of war between the Alliance and the Horde since the days of Warcraft 3. And now it truly is a war between the Alliance and the Horde, not just in quest or Warsong Gulch.
Welcome to the Ashenvale PvP Zone, a massive zone-wide PvP event that will completely change how Ashenvale operates and make it a bloodbath.
On the side of the Alliance, we have the Priestess of the Moon, the leader of the Alliance forces in Ashenvale. On the side of the Horde, we have The Farseer, the leader of the Horde forces in Ashenvale. These two bosses are empowered by numerous other clans, which buff each respective leader. And whichever side can figure out a bug and blitz through into the enemy boss and kill them will get the whole experience nerfed.
Jokes aside, like Alterac Valley, you will have to defeat the numerous camp bosses to make the Priestess or the Farseer a weak enough to be defeated.
And as a special unique feature at level 20, you’ll be able to acquire a mount solely for usage in Ashenvale as a PvP unique mount, so it’s not to make the massive Alterac Valley size battlefield and event take 7 hours to complete.
But unlike Alterac Valley, there is no player cap on an open world PvP event, meaning you and your teammates will be able to group together in a massive 5 FPS 400 MS experience, where you don’t know if your side is winning or losing because there are 800 people in Ashenvale pvping at the same time or layering.