Correctly, Blizzard loves to start new World of Warcraft expansions with a Big Explosion of some sort. In Legion, Khadgar teleports an entire city to float above an island chain. In Battle for Azeroth, there’s a tense ship battle influenced by a demigod. In Shadowlands, basically everyone dies. Seriously. Now, with The War Within on the horizon, Blizzard has conceived of another way to kick off an expansion with some proper fireworks, by completely demolishing a beloved in-game location.

Warning: Major spoilers for the inciting incident of The War Within lie ahead. If you don’t want to know anything about the story of the expansion going in, don’t read onward! Stay away!

So, I didn’t actually get to play through the opening scenario of The War Within. My alpha testing period began on a beach in the Isle of Dorn, trapped in the rubble of some sort of crash site. World of Warcraft is no stranger to opening expansions with wrecks or natural disasters, but as I played through the first few quests, I got the sense this was no ordinary crash site. The what that crashed seemed, uh, a bit more significant than a ship.

I had woken up, it turns out, in the ruins of Dalaran, the beloved capital city of two entire World of Warcraft expansions. Dalaran is a hell of a place to destroy. We were first introduced to the mysterious city in the original World of Warcraft, albeit behind an impenetrable magical barrier. In Wrath of the Lich King, the city took flight to become the capital hub of Northrend, floating above the Crystalsong Forest and leaving a giant crater in the Alterac Mountains where it had once stood. Dalaran remained in Northrend until the pre-patch for Legion, when it moved to Deadwind Pass to protect the Eastern Kingdoms. Then, when Legion kicked off, the entire city was teleported to the Broken Isles and given a major facelift to serve as the new capital. It’s been there ever since, and is a player favorite.

We don’t know for sure yet what happened to Dalaran to cause it to hurtle to the ground on the Isle of Dorn. Based on bits of alpha dialogue, it sounds like there was a Nerubian attack of some sort – but that doesn’t explain how Dalaran got above Dorn in the first place, given that the Broken Isles are pretty far away from there. What’s more, dialogue from characters like Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall suggests that the beloved mage responsible for watching over and guiding the city, Khadgar, is missing in action or even presumed dead. But it’s unclear what happened to him precisely, or if he might yet be saved.

All right, who did this? Let's clean this mess up on the double!All right, who did this? Let’s clean this mess up on the double!

Dadghar- sorry, Khadgar aside, Dalaran’s ultimate fate does seem pretty final. There are ruins of its buildings and towers scattered around the beach where you land, and it doesn’t seem especially salvageable in its current state. What’s more, this is what, the third, maybe fourth major city Blizzard has laid waste to? The Horde burns down Night Elf city Darnassus on Sylvanas’ orders at the start of Battle for Azeroth. Then, when both factions’ sentiment turns against her, Sylvanas chooses to drown Undead hub The Undercity in plague rather than admit defeat, making it totally unusuable. If you also count Gilneas’ destruction in the Worgen opening questline (though admittedly Gilneas has now been effectively reclaimed), that’s four capital cities destroyed! What’s next? A siege on Orgrimmar? Wait a minute-

All that said, Dalaran crashlanding into the Isle of Dorn in the wake of a Nerubian attack is a heck of a way to start an expansion, and speaks to the stakes of whatever it is we’re going to be fighting there. At least, that’s what game director Ion Hazzikostas said when I asked him about it yesterday:

We [Blizzard] didn’t do it. Blame Xal’atath. We are mere vehicles for the story. No, yeah, the stakes are high. And we don’t want to make large changes to our world or to the narrative or the characters in it lightly. But at the same time, they do need to happen from time to time. If there’s no loss, if there’s no actual change, then what are the stakes, really? And so as part of establishing a new existential threat to all of us going forward, there’s something to be said for shaking things up a bit and showing the scale and the capabilities of the foe we’re up against.

For now, Blizzard isn’t revealing much more of its hand on how we get to Dorn, and likely won’t until the actual expansion launches later this year. We’ll have to wait for The War Within to truly kick off to know the fate of Dalaran, Khadgar, and our own characters at the hands of the Nerubians…or whatever else. In the meantime, we did preview the alpha of The War Within and shared our impressions here, and you can read the rest of our interview with Hazzikostas right here.

Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to

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