While I was pleased to get the mount despite its questionable color scheme, there was something I was far, far happier about. I got all the tokens I needed, I got the mount, and at last, at long, long last, I never had to look at Tol Barad ever again. The only things I enjoyed from Tol Barad were getting a pet and two mounts, and the backstory that never really developed further than "Here is a mysterious island with some really strange stuff and ghosts on it." The story disappointed me, the mounts and pet were happily added to the collection, and as for the rest of it ... Well, let's just say I'm not holding any candlelight vigils for the zone.
In Mists of Pandaria, we don't have a Tol Barad. We don't have a Wintergrasp. And I am perfectly happy with both of those things.
This isn't to say that I hated Wintergrasp, mind you -- in fact, I really liked the zone. I liked the PvP it offered. I liked the objectives. I liked the dailies. I liked the idea of using vehicles and knocking down fortress walls, of storming the keep and claiming it for my faction. I even liked the bosses in the zone. They had a unique flavor, and each subsequent boss built upon the first in a way that really worked and tied in very well with the Wrath expansion.
And I really liked the way the zone itself worked. I remember fondly the minutes before a Wintergrasp battle began, when everyone crammed into that tiny war room in Dalaran and queued up with the mage to get in on the action. I liked the way the main bunch of players would split off into various groups, attacking different fortresses, building vehicles and marching them to the front gate -- or, on those days we were defending, mounting up and hunting down the opposite faction to make sure they didn't have the opportunity to storm the keep.
There was something so very server community about the whole zone, and there was something about how it worked with the Wrath expansion itself. It was an entire zone that was nestled between a ton of different leveling zones, and flying across Northrend invariably took you over Wintergrasp. You couldn't help but notice it was there, and you couldn't help being curious about what was going on down there, whether a battle was in progress or not. It was absolutely grounded in and part of Northrend.
The raid was pretty fun, too -- and the fact that it dropped random tier and PvP gear was awfully nice. It would have been nicer had it dropped tier tokens, so that there was more opportunities for various classes to pick up PvE loot, but it wasn't a huge detriment. My guild ran Wintergrasp pretty faithfully at the beginning of each raid tier, taking advantage of those bonus chances for tier loot. Once we'd gotten far enough into the raid tier, Wintergrasp became optional, but there were still plenty of us who chose to run it.
Tol Barad sounded like a really interesting concept when it was first introduced. It was a PvP zone like Wintergrasp, only the dailies were separate from the actual PvP portion of the zone. It meant that the main island dailies could be done by both factions simultaneously, instead of the lockout that occurred if your faction didn't possess Wintergrasp. And the PvP portion of Tol Barad had dailies available as well, dailies that were only available to the side that happened to have Tol Barad. So it was the best of both worlds, right?
I'm not sure where it went wrong, but it did. Maybe it had something to do with Tol Barad being so remote -- it never really felt like part of the Cataclysm experience. There was absolutely no reason to go to Tol Barad except to do the dailies and gather tokens. The raid in Tol Barad didn't really feel like it had any story or depth behind it -- it was just random bosses in a jail cell, with no real explanation for their existence.
And maybe that was the crux of it. While Tol Barad was an interesting zone, the flavor it had was lost due to a complete lack of story. I wrote a piece about the interesting flavor of the zone and the small bits of lore behind it, but none of the questions raised in that article were ever answered. There just wasn't really anything to care about as far as Tol Barad was concerned.
But Mists of Pandaria isn't including any kind of Tol Barad or Wintergrasp zone. We'll no longer have a particular bit of land to fight over, and we'll no longer have a server-based PvP area. To be perfectly honest, I'm not unhappy about this at all. While Wintergrasp worked on a unique level, the improvements that were made for Tol Barad really did nothing to enhance the experience at all. And for a low-population server like mine, whether Wintergrasp or Tol Barad, one faction almost always had it the majority of the time.
In a way, what Tol Barad morphed into was a Battleground that wasn't a proper Battleground at all. It didn't have an instance portal, but it may as well have, for all the effect it had on the surrounding world. The only advantage to having Tol Barad was the dailies it offered for extra chances at tokens and the raid itself, which contained bosses with largely PvP gear and a very low chance at an occasional piece of PvE gear.
We don't really need a non-instanced Battleground. That should be what the open world is for. Vale of the Eternal Blossoms actually works pretty well as a world PvP location if players really want it to be; the Horde and Alliance cities are fairly close together, making the possibility of skirmishes a pretty fun one that doesn't require a long trek. We don't really need a raid boss that drops PvP gear. PvP players are generally focusing on PvP and getting that gear via PvP, not raiding. We don't need a raid boss to drop potential pieces of tier gear, because we have the Raid Finder for that middle step between heroics and tier gear.
There's just no reason for an outdoor PvP zone anymore. I don't know if there ever really was. Wintergrasp and Tol Barad were fun experiments, but with a game that is allowing players from different servers to group together more and more, it seems almost silly to designate one particular area as a server-only PvP zone. I'm not really going to miss Tol Barad, nor am I terribly broken up about the fact that there isn't going to be a new one available.
But I'll still fly around on my really ugly mount every now and again, just because ugly has a certain charm.
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!