This one might be short, might be long, just depends on what I think of as I go, since this is a very lightly planned stream of consciousness post.
Patch 8.2.5 for Battle for Azeroth is out. It’s getting a mixed reputation and review so far – I know a few folks who are going to bat for the writing, even! – but ultimately, it sets the tone for where we go from here.
Earlier, I had taken tiny amounts of speculation about no patch 8.3 and blown it up into a theory of how they would deliver the expansion and where that would take us, but I think that the obvious play now is clearly that Blizzard will keep the path and go to an 8.3 next.
Going forward, there will be spoilers for 8.2.5!
Why? Well, the story of Battle for Azeroth has a final turn to take, with the need to address Sylvanas’ actions at Orgrimmar (as disappointing and awfully written as they were), the progression of the Eternal Palace story as we find Azshara (and like N’Zoth), and the cleanup of the factions in the wake of the unity seen as the Fourth War (a sidebar rant, for a moment – how in the hell does Blizzard get away with calling a 3-battle conflict a war?) but mostly cleaning up the Horde, who is now leaderless AGAIN for the third time in 6 years.
My suspicion is that patch 8.3 is going to see an obvious change in targets, as our hunting of Sylvanas is almost certainly going to push us to summon N’Zoth fully, in one way or another (my hat is hanging on the “third death” of Alleria Windrunner), and that leading into the raid/dungeon/world content.
However, I suppose that’s not the only option on the table. Where could we go from here?
Full Black Empire – I think this is both somewhat likely and somewhat unlikely. My speculation is that N’Zoth is going to be our sole focus Old God for 8.3, and the Black Empire is either going to be a future development (if you pressed me today, 10.0) or left aside for now. I’d hinge this largely on Xal’Atath, who I think is somewhat likely to not be heavily involved with N’Zoth given her quotes as the Shadow Priest artifact in Legion.
Shadowlands – Equally unlikely as a patch, my full bet for 9.0 is on this content. The Shadowlands bears a lot of potential to show new zones, new takes on Azeroth, and seems to dovetail with Sylvanas the genocidaire. If (and that is a GIGANTIC IF) the Shadowlands leak is even partially true, it makes sense now more in context – Sylvanas’ goal is to bring N’Zoth to heel in service of death, and the Shadowlands “leak” suggests that Ny’alotha will be the entry point for the Shadowlands, which could perhaps fit. As a patch, though? Nope, I highly doubt it.
A Battle for Thunder Bluff – The idea of it seemed anti-climactic to me in a post-Legion 7.3 world, but possible as filler content. However, if there is one thing I can say about the BfA WoW team, it is that they have found new and surprising ways to disappoint me! So maybe! Sylvanas being excessively mad at Baine doesn’t seem to make much sense in the current lore – she imprisoned him but there doesn’t seem to be much to gain from going after him for Sylvanas. Perhaps a scenario, maybe a dungeon if Blizzard wants to visit this well, but I very highly doubt it, even from the BfA team.
Siege of Stormwind – This one has some weight to it. The novel Before the Storm showed a Stormwind battle as something Sylvanas most certainly wanted for a long time now, and I imagine that before this expansion ends, we are going to see that. Now, if it ends up being a raid, a dungeon, a piece of world content, a Warfront, or something else entirely remains to be seen, but I do not expect that this will be the full scope of 8.3. I could see it coexisting as a piece of content alongside Ny’alotha, but otherwise not on its own.
The only bit of lore speculation I’ll make is this – Sylvanas is living until 9.0 and she is definitely playing the Gul’dan role in that transition. We’re not likely going to challenge her or actually defeat her in 8.3 or 8.3.5, which I am willing to speculate will be a thing.
I could speculate about lore more, but honestly, there’s no point right now – if I get grounded and realistic, I’m likely to think of all the disappointing turns the story is going to take and I don’t want that right now.