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World of Warcraft Column: Blizzcon 2014, Warlords Release & More

By Reza Lackey on March 24, 2014

This week in the WoW Factor we look at hints of BlizzCon 2014, Warlords release date information and pre-order goodies, and we see what’s new in the official launch of Hearthstone!

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BlizzCon 2014?

Could there be a BlizzCon this year? While nothing has officially been announced, the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket page was briefly updated with new header text and a new title containing “2014.” The page was soon taken down and left us all wondering. Typically BlizzCon is announced around this time of year so if it’s going to happen an announcement could be weeks or even days away.

Siege of Orgrimmar Cross-Realm Raiding

Blizzard recently activated cross-realm raiding for you and your real ID / BattleTag friends. Now, regardless of what server you play on you can join your friends for Normal and Heroic raiding in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid. This is in addition to the Flex raid difficulty so now you can take on a greater challenge with your off-realm buddies. This change further breaks down what it means to be on separate servers when it comes to gameplay and player interaction. It makes me wonder at what point realms will even matter when it comes to actually playing the game.

Pre-Order Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor is now available for pre-purchase in both Standard and Digital Deluxe Editions for $49.99 and $69.99, respectively. Anyone who pre-orders the expansion will instantly have access to one free level 90 character boost. In addition, if you pre-order the Deluxe edition the in-game goodies will also become available to use right away. These are the Dread Raven Mount and Dread Hatching pet for WoW, The Grommash Hellscream and Blackhand portraits for StarCraft 2 and a Warsong Clan banner for your Diablo characters to display on their back.

Blizzard released this short video to promote the level boost that accompanies all Warlords of Draenor purchases (not the animation detail of the new character models):

With the pre-purchase announcement also came an indication of when the expansion might be released: Fall of this year. While this is a bummer, especially in light of Blizzard promising quicker content releases, one has to wonder how much content post-expansion is being developed alongside the expansion itself. Perhaps the idea with this expansion is to have more content patches during its cycle than any previous expansion. In a recent developer interview it was stated that in the weeks leading up to the expansions release the Iron Horde will be spilling through the Dark Portal. This has me thinking that we may possibly see a lengthy pre-expansion event. Even so, it’s too bad we’re going to have months of no new content - as of this writing, there are no announced plans for future content patches before Warlords of Draenor releases. Giving players their level 90-boosts early is clearly a move to give us something to do while we wait. Let’s remain positive though - the expansion very well could ship earlier than we think and there will of course be a beta to tide us over.

Hearthstone Releases

After months of beta testing Hearthstone has finally launched! Alongside its official release was a substantial patch that made many changes and improvements to the game. Some of the most anticipated additions are the rewards players can earn for Ranked Play. New animated card backs can be earned in a variety of ways such as achieving the legendary rank or simply participating in Ranked Play. All of the methods to unlock new card backs haven’t been announced yet but hopefully with the launch of the first non-test season next month we’ll get more information. Here’s what some of them look like:

Another reward comes in the form of golden, animated hero portraits and hero powers which can be earned by amassing 500 wins with a given hero in Ranked Play mode. That’s a lot of wins but consistent play with a given hero will eventually get you there and the reward is damn tempting. Here’s a preview of three golden hero portraits:

Another welcome change coming to Ranked Play is how the beginning of new seasons will work. In the past, all ranks are reset at the beginning of a season in which all players start at the lowest rank and must climb the ladder again. Going forward, for each rank a player climbed in a season, a bonus star will be awarded at the beginning of the subsequent season. This does two things to greatly improve the experience - obviously good performance in one seasons leads to a head start in the next but it also has you playing similarly skilled players from the start. With this change newer players won’t be spending their first several games getting rocked by former legendary ranked players as they begin their climb from the bottom as well.

For those of you playing both WoW and Hearthstone I imagine you’ve already heard about the Hearthsteed mount. This new mount is unlocked in WoW by winning three games in Arena or Play mode in Hearthstone. Super easy to grab and totally worth doing even if you aren’t an avid Hearthstone player.

For a full list of all the changes check out the official patch notes here.

Lastly, if you’re planning on picking up the Diablo 3 expansion Reaper of Souls, you’ll be given a few Hearthstone packs as well based on which edition you purchase. The digital and retail standard editions will give you one free pack while the digital deluxe and retail collector’s edition will provide three free packs.

What do you think about the long wait for the release of Warlords? What do you plan on doing in WoW in the meantime? Let us know in the comments below!

This week’s throwback item: Fahrad’s Reloading Repeater

Heartstone card of the week: Ancient of War

Further Warcraft reading:

Reza Lackey / Reza is a giant nerd who loves video games, board games, film and way too many other things. Works in the film industry, on some startups and thinks science is cool. Also launches rockets.

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