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Blackrock Mountain was a big deal, back in Vanilla. It was where many of the original game’s seminal quest lines came home to roost, and housed possibly the best dungeon that would even be produced in the game’s lifespan. Years later and the place is a tomb, testament only to those who remember it as it was. It is skipped over during questing and only holds limited relevance when placed beside the wealth of more worthwhile content, and by that I mean the Expansion hubs that were designed to suitably reward effort. Blackrock wasn’t a hub, it was a stage, where truly epic stories started and finished. Going back to the place, running Blackrock Depths, LBRS and UBRS this week, it is also an appropriate metaphor for how this game stopped caring about our journey, and is now simply obsessed with the destination of max level.

Blackrock was where you went to do things: rescue Marshal Windsor (and swear at his inability to run until you were actually safe) whilst at the same time learning why it matters to clear trash beforehand. Lower Blackrock Spire was where you would find the Seal of Ascension, allowing (after much faffing and a trip to Duskwallow Marsh) you to enter Upper Blackrock Spire. Once you had that key, people would pay you loads of money to go open the door: I made TONS of pocket money that way, back in the day. It was also the only way you got into Blackwing Lair unless you attuned yourself to the Orb of Blackhand, which was another quest chain I can recall from memory. That’s without the Fire Resist tokens you could get in the Depths, the gear from the NPC in the Bar, or the specialist armour items just lying around… oh, and Finkle’s Skinner and Awbee…

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That quote from Benjamin Franklin is particularly apposite, on reflection: Blackrock was a place to learn. Before a guide became the crutch so many people seem unwilling to live without, word of mouth taught people how to play. Learning the layout of a dungeon wasn’t just for raiders or Mythic runs: everybody needed to know where to stand and what mobs died first. CC was mandatory, and not an afterthought, because things were bloody hard. It was even harder when you didn’t know the routes, or the procedure, or which mobs would aggro. Respect was gained on servers where you knew everybody, often by name. This is a game that doesn’t exist any more, because at that point, everyone assumed we’d never level past 60.

That single-server, fixed endgame mentality was responsible for a very great deal.

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Going back to see how LBRS has been gutted of the depth it once held, how UBRS was ‘redesigned’ for Warlords and effectively destroyed in the process… it makes grasping why players petitioned so hard for a ‘Vanilla’ version all the more understandable. Blackrock Depths, amazingly, remains largely untouched: the simple thread of NPC’s to guide you through the experience a touch that works without feeling too intrusive. However, when you remember the place as being so much more than it has now been reduced to… it is hard to not feel that this too is hollow, and largely left for show. I’d love to see things done with the quest items that are now simply grey vendor trash, explanations as to why Core of Elements needed to be collected, what Dark Iron Residue meant to a Molten Core raider… but all of this relevance becomes incidental when you don’t stop at 60 any more, and the real goal is 110. Without understanding that was all there was?

None of the depth matters. Blackrock is simply a stop on a longer journey.

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It’s not a pretty place either, graphically or otherwise. However, there is a gritty charm to the corridors and spaces, logic to the construction: there are spots off the beaten track and areas that still surprise. It was a Quest Hub before such places had a name, and a source of much excitement and enjoyment when the unexpected took place, which it often did. It also was full of dragons: they only now remain in the Lair, and that means as a Leatherworker this place not only continues to be relevant, but could become increasingly lucrative as Transmog becomes a lifestyle choice.

Blackrock is a vital part of the Classic experience, and if Blizzard want to get this right with the reboot, everything that was a part of that area, from 5 mans to raids, needs to remain untouched. If people want the experience unfiltered you don’t have NPC’s to guide the way or helpful markers on your map. Don’t allow the UI to help in any way, shape or form: this was uncompromising, gritty difficulty of a kind most modern players would refuse to take part in. This was the place where you learnt the tools that would allow you to raid, if you could find someone prepared to take you.

The legacy of this place and the content within remains potent, more than a decade on.

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