Mention the word “vanilla” to almost any World of Warcraft player who has been playing since the beginning, and you’re sure to witness the person sink into their nostalgia filled memories, spinning tales about how much simpler and better things were back then. But while things were certainly simpler, were they actually better? What a lot of players don’t realize (or don’t want to admit) is that World of Warcraft today is so vastly different from the game it evolved from 13 years ago that you can barely even call it the same game. So when Blizzard announced World of Warcraft: Classic at BlizzCon over this past weekend, I felt inspired to revisit WoW 1.0 and show people just how different things used to be.
Before we jump into game mechanics, let’s start by saying goodbye to our Draenei, Blood Elf, Pandaren, Goblin, and Worgen friends, as well as demon hunters, monks, death knights, jewelcrafters, scribes and archeologists. None of these races, classes, or professions exist in vanilla, so get ready to play something else. Alliance shamans will need to make the move to Horde if they want to keep playing their class — ditto for paladins of the Horde.
Ready to adventure now? Great! But you better pick one spec and keep to it, respeccing is incredibly expensive. There is no toggle to switch between your three different specs — every time you want to play a different spec, you have to go to your class trainer in the city, unlearn all your talents, and re-allocate them, at 50 gold a pop. Then you have to drag them back to your bars. Once you have your spec sorted out, you had better get ready to spend a lot of time running as you won’t get access to a mount until level 40 and it’s only 60% speed. Epic mounts don’t come until level 60, they don’t fly and they’re 1000g. Only a thousand gold you say? The economy is vastly different in vanilla and it can take months of work to amass that type of money, especially considering daily quests don’t exist.
A lot of the shortcuts to leveling aren’t available either, as heirloom gear isn’t a thing, and even if a friend sends you a bunch of free gear, you have to have the weapon skill to use it. Every single weapon requires the user has the skill to wield it. So if you’ve only used daggers from level 1 to 40 and decide you want to switch to swords, you’ll have to whack away at low level creatures until you’ve leveled your weapon skill high enough to wield them, otherwise you won’t be dealing any damage.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to level 60! Your choices from here are either battlegrounds or raiding, as there really isn’t much of a middle ground as achievements, transmog and so many of the little niches in the game don’t exist.
So you want to PVP?
Three battlegrounds: Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin and Alterac Valley. No group finder, no arena. If you want to queue up for a battleground, you’re gonna be spending a lot of time in the Hall of Arms in Ironforge because you have to speak to the specific BG’s Battlemaster. Oh, and “random battleground” is not an option.
The honor system? That’s different too. A lot different. Acquiring gear and titles through the vanilla honor system is easily the biggest time sink in the game. It doesn’t require much skill, but rather lots and lots of time. Every player you kill, flag you capture, or battleground you win gives you honor points. Every player on the server is ranked every Tuesday by the amount of honor they received in the previous week. The higher your rank, the further you progress through the 14 ranks in the game, all the way from Private/Grunt to Grand Marshal/High Warlord.
As you work your way through the vanilla PVP system, you come to realize it’s less about killing the opposite faction and more about creating treaties with everyone else in your faction. On my server back in the day at least, there was an agreement with everyone who was trying to get Grand Marshal around who would be the next person to hit top rank, and where everyone else fell in the rankings. The server had to come up with “honor caps,” the amount of honor each person was to acquire that week to make sure the ranking was correct. This would ensure everyone hit their rank in an orderly fashion.
Of course, some people went rogue and tried to do it themselves, but it was next to impossible. One guy on my server did it, but he cheated and had friends and family play his account 24/7. Any normal person without the use of bots or account sharing would not be able to accomplish it alone. Even doing it the “right” way was incredibly time consuming: I was hopelessly addicted to this system and PVPed basically any waking moment I wasn’t raiding or farming for raids. I quit my job and dropped out of classes. And even I couldn’t stomach getting past rank 12.
So you want to raid?
You must have a guild to succeed in PVE. There’s no middle ground here. There’s no LFR, normal, heroic, or mythic difficulty setting. Dungeons and raids have one level of difficulty for everyone and that difficulty is HARD. If you want to raid you’ll need to find 39 other players, as outside of lesser raids like Zul’Gurub, 40 man raiding is the only option available. But before you can even get to raiding you’ll need to gear up by running the same 5 man dungeons over and over again for your class specific tier 0 set pieces, which is really the only gear that makes you viable for entry level raiding. Once you get to raiding don’t expect to get geared up quick as most bosses drop 2 pieces of gear for 40 people, as opposed to the 6-8 pieces we’re used to now.
Get ready to farm, farm and farm some more. Flasks and food aren’t the only raid consumables that exist here. You’re expected to have oil on your weapon, health/mana potions on every cooldown for as long as the fight lasts, a flask, an elixir, food and a resist potion. Speaking of resistance, every single raid will require you to have a different resistance to worry about. Get ready to farm incredibly expensive potions and farming Maraudon for that level 45 nature resist gear so you can finish AQ40.
Paladin: Welcome to holy spec! We hope you enjoy your stay, as no one will invite you to a group in any other specialization. Protection paladins essentially don’t exist, and even with the best possible gear retribution isn’t viable. You’ll see a small percentage of ret paladins and the occasional super rare reckoning bomb prot/ret hybrid paladin in battlegrounds, but 90% of the time they lack the gear to be any real threat. Your job as a paladin is to heal, provide Blessing of Freedom in Battlegrounds, and when the raid wipes you had better have your Divine Intervention ready to go. But let’s not forget the most important job of all, my little buffbot. That’s right there’s, more! Should you decide to raid you’ll be responsible for providing buffs to every class, every fifteen minutes. Count yourself fortunate as it used to be every FIVE minutes.
When your friends hit level 60 they get to scrounge together 1000 gold pieces and buy themselves an epic mount. You on the other hand have to find or buy a pristine black diamond, which are incredibly rare (and incredibly expensive). After that you’ll be on a journey to complete a long and difficult quest chain which requires you complete several very difficult dungeon quests. If you don’t have four other friends, don’t expect to get this done.
Hunter: You have three jobs; pull the boss, feign death and feed your pet.
Your pet is your life now. You’ll need to ensure your bags are always filled with pet food, otherwise the relationship will quickly sour and you’ll be useless. The other item to have a constant presence in your bags is ammo. Every ranged weapon requires it, so don’t forget to fill your bags as you’ll do zero damage without it. Oh, and if you upgrade your gun with a shiny new bow? All those bullets are useless. You’re an arrow man now.
Last but not least is your never ending question to gain full skill level with every weapon in the game because hunters can find a use for any/all weapons.
Warlock: Are you a packrat? Hoarder? Then walk away right now, this class isn’t for you. 80% of your bag space will at all times be allocated to individual soul shards. There’s no summoning portal, no healthstone pool and most importantly of all, summoning stones are useless. YOU are the summoning stone. That means you’re required to summon each and every player individually and provide them all with individually made health stones.
Your one reprieve will be PVP. Apply the Siphon Life dot to as many players as possible and then channel Drain Life. No one will kill you, you’ll wear everyone down and you will become a hated legend.
Warrior: Protection, protection and more protection. You are the spec and class in the highest demand. Everyone needs a tank and your spec is the only viable one to get the job done. You carry PVE on your back, and when it comes to Warsong Gulch the only other flag carrier people ask for is feral druids.
Fury warriors require the best possible gear to be viable, otherwise it’s a dead spec. Arms warriors exist in the world of PVP and nowhere else.
Rogue: Everyone in PVP hates you, literally everyone. Through Ambush you can one-shot kill almost any clothie and through the use of poisons, sap and blind you can annoy the s--t out of everyone else. Congratulations!
PVE is a mixed bag. You’re expected to sap NPCs for the group; the problem here is sometimes sap fails and the enemies see you when that happens. No problem, just Vanish! Well the thing about Vanish is it works correctly about 50% of the time in vanilla. Oh and you have to craft your own poisons and buy blinding powder. Being the biggest a-----e in the game when it comes to PVP makes it all worth it though.
Mage: My vanilla guild’s lowest rank was “Mage.” We used to have a saying: “f--k mages.” No one seemed to like mages in vanilla. Next to rogues they were without question the most annoying class in PVP. It was near impossible to catch one, they cast sheep with abandon, and PoM+Pyro mages were a nightmare to encounter.
Otherwise, mages are food/water vending machines who sit in trade chat all day selling their portals for absurd prices due to how difficult it is to travel around Azeroth.
Priest: If you don’t have Benediction no one respects you. If you aren’t a dwarf priest most Alliance guilds aren’t interested in recruiting you (Fear Ward). The only viable spec for you is holy, so if you don’t feel like playing it, don’t roll the class. But as holy you are the undisputed god of healing in PVE. Shadow can do some serious damage in PVP but it was incredibly gear dependent, so seeing a legit shadow priest in Battlegrounds was pretty rare. Discipline is just kind of there.
Druid: Balance? Never, nope, GTFO. Feral? Can’t reach the defense cap so you’ll never tank a raid, though you’ll be welcome in WSG as an alternative flag carrier. While you’re a decent enough healer you’ll never beat out the paladins and priests of the raid, so the really the only reason you’re invited to the raid is for battle rez and to be a little Innervate bot.
Shaman: Frost Shock, Grounding Totem and Earthbind Totem are easily in the running for the most annoying s--t you had to deal with as an Alliance player in PVP. Shamans were masters of interrupting your spells, slowing you down and negating your best spells. When it comes to PVE, restoration is the only viable spec and Tremor Totem was invaluable without the presence of Fear Ward.
And now we wait
So there you have it folks. As you can see, vanilla WoW was a vastly different game than what we’re running around in today. The rotation of spells you used were typically between 1-3, there was one spec every class HAD to use, two if you were extremely lucky. Getting around was more difficult and took way longer. Farming and obtaining wealth were incredibly time consuming and challenging. A guild was more or less required for any real level of success, whether it was PVP or PVE. Will that remain true for World of Warcraft: Classic? Personally, I hope not. I’d really love to see the classes balanced out. My other big questions around this custom version of WoW are:
- What version of the game will the Classic servers run on: a modified version of 8.0, 1.21, or a custom one?
- How will the talent system work? Which vanilla iteration?
- How will respeccing work?
- Will WoW tokens be allowed?
- How will players pay for WoW Classic?
- Will the game be free if you have an active sub?
Most importantly of all, when is World of Warcraft: Classic coming out?