Part of the problem with bringing the World of Warcraft vanilla experience back isn't just recreating what the game looked like in 2004*. Blizzard also has to recreate the cadence of post-launch content, which means not throwing gear into the wild that will completely unbalance the whole world. So, earlier this morning, it wasn't a surprise to hear that some of the most iconic raids - Dire Maul, Blackwing Lair and Naxxramas - won't be included at launch.
The reasoning is pretty straight forward: Molten Core and Onyxia are a bit of a joke if you had access to Blackwing Lair or Zul'Gurub gear. So in a blog post on the WoW forums, a WoW community manager explained that the post-launch raids would be spread out over six phases, as opposed to the original four that was announced at Blizzcon last year.
At launch, players will get access to Maraudon, Onyxia and the iconic Molten Core raids, with Kazzak, Azuregos and Dire Maul being added in the second phase. The reasoning for including Maraudon, but not Dire Maul, was that Maraudon was launched also immediately after players started hitting level 60. It's primarily for balance though: the Dire Maul loot would completely ruin the challenge of the earlier raids, and the extra phases in general are designed to offer a better progression curve over the life of vanilla WoW.
The full list of raids that will be rolled out - at least for now - are:
Phase 1 (Classic Launch)
• Molten Core
• Dire Maul
• Blackwing Lair
• Darkmoon Faire
• Darkmoon deck drops begin
• Green Dragons
• Ahn’Qiraj War Effort begins
• Ahn’Qiraj raids open when the war effort dictates
• Dungeon loot reconfiguration: Tier 0.5 Dungeon gear, Relics, drop rates and location changes
• Scourge Invasion
The team is still working out how PvP content fits into the whole mix, and there's no scheduled date for what the gap between each of the phases will be. There's a chance that people will work their way through WoW: Classic content infinitely faster than they ever did in the game's original launch. Blizzard also has to work out the balance of power between items that were introduced after patch 1.10, when Tier 0.5 gear was first introduced, and bosses began dropping relics.
It's a ton of stuff to balance, and there's better than even odds that a lot of the game's post-launch will be spent fine-tuning all of this as well. Either way, it's worth knowing what you'll get when WoW: Classic will have when it launches later this winter (which probably means mid-August, if every other WoW release is any measure).
* - I mention 2004, not 2003, because that's the version of WoW that Blizzard are bringing back.