Friend of the Year: Lieutenant General Andorov
In all of Azeroth, we'll postulate there is no one nearly as helpful as the Lt. General, dubbed by some players "The Shirtless Wonder." He's an NPC that spawns in AQ20 after you defeat Kurinaxx, and he begins the fight that eventually brings General Rajaxx. If you've got Friendly rep with Cenarion Circle, Andorov provides the mother of all buffs: it heals for 200 hp every 3 seconds (jumped up to 350 hp with Amplify Magic on every raid member), and increases casting speed and attack power by 10%-- that's the kind of buff that will make the Rajaxx fight a cakewalk. In addition, he'll even tank Rajaxx for you when he shows up, assuming that your healers can keep him alive throughout the waves that come. And even before the fight starts, he'll happily sell you mana pots, health pots, and runecloth bandages (for those lazy raiders that forgot to farm), and a few blacksmithing formulas, including one heck of a shield. Now that's darn helpful, and, of all the NPCs in Azeroth, it makes Andorov our best friend this year. Oh, and remember how he said he'd kill you last?
Enemy of the Year: Kel'Thuzad
According to the stats, Drek'Thar is actually the mass murderer of the year, especially with AV seeing the traffic it has lately (to be fair, while Broken Tooth and Bangalash rank high-- likely because of Hunters in over their heads with pet aspirations-- Defias Pillagers still hold the real NPC record). But no one in the game currently is nearly as B.A. as KT. Look at this hax. He mind controls four people in the raid, and buffs them to help and heal him. He frostbolts for upwards of 9500 damage. He's such a bad guy he even has his own Mr. Bigglesworth (and trust me, you don't want to be around when that cat gets hurt). And even if KT was a knockover (which from all reports, he is not), he's on speaking terms with the biggest known baddie in the world of Azeroth, the Lich King, Previously Known As Arthas Menethil. When you're the first named character from Warcraft III to actually die in WoW, that's worth a lot, and it's why KT is our Enemy of the Year for 2006. Next year: Illidan? You probably aren't prepared.
Instance of the Year: Ahn'Qiraj
Players loved Naxxaramas this year-- the few that got to play it seriously, that is. From all reports, it's a great instance-- great lore, great bosses, and a real challenge to endgamers at the highest level of play. But for the largest number of endgame players, AQ was the place to be. While the opening of Naxx was seen everywhere, it wasn't as interactive as the AQ opening. Yes, AQ was laggy, but there hasn't been a World Event that big since the end of the open beta, and Naxx's opening just didn't match up in terms of participation.
Not to mention that with Ahn'Qiraj, we got not just a high level 40-man raid dungeon, but a 20-man instance to run through as well. While Eastern Plaguelands got a little bit of a boost from Naxx, the region of Silithus is completely different than it was the day before the AQ patch went live. And while Naxx has a lot of terrific bosses that require great strategy, AQ has that and introduced us to an actual Old God (a weakened and trapped Old God, but an Old God nonetheless). For all those reasons, while both Naxx and AQ are terrific pieces of content (instances that we're guessing players will be visiting even throughout their 60s), AQ gets the edge-- more traveled, more expansive, and more inclusive, it's our 2006 Instance of the Year.
Previously: Server, Guild and Instance of the Year. And reader nominations for all the categories. Tomorrow: Player and Addon of the Year.