(For purposes of this discussion, two things are stipulated:
one: Wrathion is telling the truth; the Burning Legion are coming, and we will be fighting them in the next XPac
two: Instead of creating new zones to fight them, Blizzard will use phasing similar to what's going on in 5.3 to transform zones on Azeroth into areas where we'll be fighting the Legion and any associated baddies they pick up
If you disagree with either of these stipulations, please don't participate in this thread as you will not be able to do so constructively)
ADDED FOR CLARITY:
I want to talk about candidate zones. I don't want to talk about phasing or new continents or subscriptions lost. The point of the comment was to keep discussion solely focused on candidate zones, but obviously the need for people to express their opinion on matters that aren't being discussed is too strong to stop.
So I've been thinking about stuff and after reaching the above conclusions, I'm wondering what zones would be best suited for fighting the Burning Legion. My guess is that in most cases the BL will have already landed and possibly even conquered and we'll be fighting back.
I'm also thinking that Blizzard will do this for 10 zones in the game; 2 zones a level. Two reasons for this: qq about having to do the same zones over and over in MoP and to a lesser extent Cata (although the Deepholm requirement was worse than anything in MoP as far as I'm concerned), and also because the zones on Azeroth are smaller than the ones we see in Outland, Northrend, and Pandaria.
A few of the zones I'm favoring I'm doing so because of how they're currently developed (or not developed as the case may be). I'm also trying to decide if Blizzard is going to opt for Cata-style non-contiguous zones. I believe the lack of cohesion in story between the zones was a huge criticism in Cata, but I feel like that'll be tolerated because I think people will like seeing zones they know transformed. That said, I'm going to pair zones as best I can so that there are no zones way off by themselves.
Eastern Kingdoms: Arathi Highlands, Preceded by Wetlands and Hillsbrad Foothills.
Arathi Highlands seems like a no-brainer to me. The zone is already pretty empty since the Cata revamp. But there are two other key aspects of Arathi that appeal to me as a choice:
1) Horde vs Alliance friction - yes, even after the uneasy cooperation to overthrow Garrosh, there are still flashpoints in the Alliance vs Horde conflict. The Forsaken already have a small foothold. The Dwarves are trying to secure the Thandol Span and take back Dun Modr, and the Wildhammer may come down to help. The dwarf farmer on the coast. And someone has to cap the flag on Stables in the Basin. So if Blizzard wanted to keep the friction in game, here's a good place to do it.
2) The existing architecture: I already mentioned Thandol Span, but Thoradin's Wall and Stromgarde also provide already existing in-game elements that could be leveraged by either side in the conflict.
Arathi Highlands would be the second zone of the pair. The first zone would be Wetlands for Alliance and Hillsbrad for Horde. (So yes, my "pair" of zones actually encompasses three zones) I originally considered Wetlands alone as the paired zone, but I can't imagine Blizzard letting the Horde across the Thandol Span at this time (the original concept had Arathi as the first zone for Horde and the second zone for Alliance, so they'd be questing in different directions).
Wetlands would be good because it's wide-open and there's a lot of space for Blizzard to work with. Hillsbrad is less "ideal" from that standpoint, but it works similar in concept. And who knows, maybe Orkus will get a mention.
I love this area as because I feel it works on every level for the fight against the Burning Legion: they land in Arathi and push out West and South threatening Sylvanas and Khaz Modan.
I wanted to duplicate this effect in Kalimdor, but I feel Northern Barrens is out of consideration due to 5.3. Besides, we already have three zones nearby with Burning Legion concerns …
But we’ll save Mt Hyjal for a raid tier because everyone is probably sick of leveling in it. Instead, we’ll fight the Burning Legion in:
Northern Kalimdor: Felwood and Ashenvale
(Note: From here on out I’m going to go into less detail for time reasons and also because my developed explanation for the EK zones should give the gist of what I’m thinking)
If you’ve ever quested or camped the Minfernal in Felwood then you already know that traces of the Burning Legion remain. Ashenvale also some elements. In addition, these zones threaten Mt Hyjal, Moonglade, and Orgrimmar, ensuring all sides get involved.
Southern Kalimdor: Silithus and Ahn’Qiraj
Honestly, I’m not very happy with this choice except I love the idea of the big open empty Ahn’Qiraj area turned into an outdoor questing zone. But the area could really use a revamp to bring it up to the current time and here’s a nice way for Blizzard to do it. If the two zones aren’t large enough, Feralas could be added to the mix, although I like that even less because of the zone similarity with Ashenvale (plus they’d have to fix the geography to allow transit). I’m not considering Un’goro because of the next zone pair. It’s a shame that Desolace isn’t swapped with Feralas on the map.
This area does give Blizzard the opportunity to give us other non-demon mobs to fight as it could simply be AQ has “awoken” at the Burning Legion’s behest and the Cenarion Front (look! A new faction!) needs our help.
Northrend: Sholozar Basin and Northeast Borean Tundra
Since the Northrend zones are so large, the need for pairing is diminished. That said, I don’t think Blizzard wants to rephase all of Sholozar Basin (they’ll probably ignore the northeast corner of SB), so we’ll pair it with the Borean Tundra.
I’ll be honest here: I just want to fight alongside the Wolvar again.
But besides that, the zone is actually pretty unoccupied – even the scourge are absent except at the border with Icecrown. I can easily see the BL landing here. We’d start in Borean Tundra from the already existing Alliance and Horde quest hubs, and we need to fight the Burning Legion and stop them from digging up whatever is at the bottom of River’s Heart that absorbs all the water rushing into it.
Bonus: Wintergrasp could be reused as a world pvp bg.
There are a couple problems with this zone, however.
First off, what sort of presence is even left in Northrend? Is Fizzcrank Airstrip still in operation? Are the keeps still occupied?
Also, does Blizzard want to take the war to another map, or do they want to keep it all in EK and Kalim?
If Blizzard does want to present this as an incursion that threatens all of Azeroth, I see them having no choice but to bring Northrend into play. But doesn’t that mean Pandaria should come into play as well?
… you thought this was a segue into a paired set of Pandaria zones, didn’t you? Well you’re wrong!
The Final Pairing: Unknown – Or Not A Pairing?
I don’t think it’ll be Outland, but I definitely could be wrong there.
I don’t think it’ll be Pandaria, but like Mt Hyjal maybe they’ll save it for a raid tier.
The one thing we’re missing is a capital city truly threatened, but I have another idea for that which includes the words “world boss”, “random capital” and “shared loot lockout”.
So what other possibilities are there?
Well let’s consider what we’ve mapped out so far as to what zones you’ll do at a certain level:
90 – Hillsbrad/Wetlands or Ashenvale
91 – Arathi or Feralas
92 – Silithus or Borean Tundra
93 – Ahn’Qiraj or Sholozar Basin
The numbering may be confusing, but there’s only one more level left, 94. So really, we don’t need a pairing, just a choice of two zones. (Also, it doesn’t have to be 94; it could 90 or 92)
If we go with a non-pairing, these zones seem best suited to me:
Already a small Burning Legion presence. Nice wide open map. And more rep with the Cenarion Front (I’m totally riding my Cenarion Hippogryph the entire time to mock them since I’ve already got exalted with them twice)!
Eastern Kingdoms: Blasted Lands
Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
So those are my ideas. Let me know what you think or what other zones you’d consider as good places to fight the Burning Legion in.