The crusaders of Argent Dawn encourage players of both factions to fight the Undead Scourge and the Burning Legion. You often begin repping up with Argent Dawn around level 50. Reputation with this faction can be gained by completing quests, turning in Scourgestones collected from the Eastern and Western Plaguelands or from Stratholme and Scholomance instances. Scourgestones are only available to players who have the Argent Dawn Commission trinket equipped.* Pleasant, and non-bind-on-pick-up, items such as Crypt Fiend Parts, Bone Fragments, Cores of Elements, Dark Iron Scraps, and Savage Fronds can be turned in in stacks of 30 for reputation gain. By gaining reputation from this faction players earn the right to earn Superior and Epic Armaments of Battle.
You may become involved in an on-going war between troll clans. Players side with the Zandalar Tribe by vanquishing their enemies in twenty-person raids in Zul'Gurrub. Reputation is often gained by turning in Tribal Coins and Bijous that are looted from deceased members of other troll factions. Coins are not bind-on-pick-up items and in the heyday of pre-BC raiding they were often sold at auction prior to the burning crusade. In addition to epic gear, each level of reputation with the Zandalar tribe entitles the player to purchase a very special necklace for their class and some armor enchantments.
The Druids of Cenarion Circle (affiliated with the Cenarian Expedition in Outland) fight to protect nature from evil forces inhabiting the environment in Silithus. You can also gain reputations with Cenarian Circle by doing the Ahn'Qiraj raid instances. This faction grants players access to epic gear including Volunteer's Battlegear, Veteran's Battlegear, Stalwart's Battlegear, and Champion's Battlegear.
The Brood of Nozdormu hate you, but you can change that, by reengaging in the War of the Shifting Sands. You can win their graces by killing monsters in the (20 person) Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj (AQ 20) and the (40 person) Temple of Ahn'Qiraj (AQ 40).** These instances start off as closed on a server, but the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj are opened as players complete a number of quests. Unless you're on a brand new realm, the gates are probably already open. By completing quests for the Brood of Nozdormu players win the opportunity to win fabulous prizes (also known as epic armor). The good news is, as Bronze Dragons, the Brood of Nozdormu are really cool looking.
You may also rep up with the Elemental Hydraxian Waterlords. I'm not quite clear on the lore of this faction, but it's another chance to rep up for epic loot rewards. Early quests for this faction include environment quests in Sithilus and the Plaguelands, as well as Blackrock Spire instances. Reputation with the Hydraxian Waterlords is primarily gained by running the forty-man Molten Core instance, and killing Duke Hydraxis' sworn enemy Ragnaros. In addition to reputation rewards, killing bosses in Molten Core gives players access to Tier 1 dungeon loot.
A typical pre-Burning Crusade raid progression would go through twenty- and forty-person raids in increasingly difficult order. Each increasing level of difficulty required better and better gear. Essentially it was kind of a vicious spiral where players would gear up to run instances that allow them to gear up for the next instance. Typically a guild would warm up by running Zul'Gurrub and AQ 20, followed by AQ 40. As members got better gear they would move toward Tier 1 gear in boss mobs in Molten Core. Tier 2 gear dropped from Ragnaros in Molten Core, Onyxia's Lair, and Blackwing Lair. Tier 3 loot was awarded by running Naxxramas, a forty person dungeon above the Plaguelands.
I speak of these in the past tense as they have been largely forgotten since the release of the Burning Crusade Expansion. This is what most players spent the vast majority of their time doing when the levels were capped at 60 and players were limited to Azeroth. While some players still run these raids for nostalgia and occasionally gear, sadly they usually just collect dust. At this point this is mostly a history lesson, just as Karazhan, Serpentshrine Cavern, and the Black Temple will likely be after the Wrath of the Lich King is released. Remember that at one point in time these instances were as exciting and new as the Sunwell.
* Remember that you should swap out your Argent Dawn trinket for something more useful when you are not in the Plaguelands.
** Scarabs dropped in the Ahn'Qiraj raid instances are turned in for quest and reputation rewards for Cenarian Circle and Broon of Nozdormu factions.
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