To kick off my coverage of World of Warcraft during BlizzCon 2017, I thought it would be fun to gather as much speculation information as I could from around the web and provide my own take on it! If you have any thoughts or feedback, please leave a comment below or tweet @PrestonDvorak.
Expect tons of spoilers ahead! Unless all these speculations are wrong, in which case, enjoy the stories? If you'd rather have coverage of what's actually coming, stop back tomorrow for my coverage of the Day 1 World of Warcraft panels, during which expansion information will likely be announced.
As no surprise, the biggest speculation is always what the next expansion will be. For months, my "amateur loremaster" opinion was the next expansion will be Old God/Naga themed, and while preparing for this article, it seems that may be the case! Note: very brief lore snippets are ahead! What's below in no way covers everything there is to know about the topics, but I wanted to keep on point with the expansion speculation versus a full lore overview.
Most notably, Wowhead datamined compelling support for the next expansion being centered around Kul Tiras, a human city-state that has been silent since the Third War, which took place about 5 years before World of Warcraft's time. Kul Tiras occupies an island that used to be located west of Dun Morogh before the Cataclysm expansion when Deathwing broke through Deepholm and sent it out to sea to a currently unknown location. Interestingly, despite the island's once close proximity to the Eastern Kingdom, it has never physically appeared in World of Warcraft. However, it was once home to the Proudmoore family, including Jaina and her father Daelin, which has gone on to play a prominent role in Azeroth's history, to say the least. Kul Tiras is heavily involved in pre-World of Warcraft lore, which I won't get into here, but I recommend the Wowpedia Kul Tiras page for a quick overview.
Kul Tiras is known for its naval prowess, which brings us to its connection with the naga. During the Third War, one of its forward naval bases on a Darkspear-held island was destroyed by two unrelated attacks carried out by the Horde and the naga sea witch Zar'jira. Later in the war, after Jaina formed a tumultuous alliance with Thrall and while on her way to investigate her father's attacks against Thrall and the Horde, she discovered one of Kul Tiras' new towns on the Eastern Kingdoms continent had been destroyed by naga.
The naga have also made several prominent appearances in the Legion expansion centered around trying to take the Tidestone of Golganneth.
Tidemistress Athissa was in charge of the naga assault in Azsuna and worked to claim the Tidestone at any cost. Eventually, she imprisons the hero and takes the Tidestone for it to be rebuilt by Queen Azshara herself. Thankfully, the hero is rescued by Prince Farondis after he confronts Queen Azshara and refuses to serve her.
Inside the Eye of Azshara, Queen Azshara conjured the Wrath of Azshara to guard the Tidestone while it's rebuilt. Fortunately for the fate of Azeroth, the heroes once again thwart her plans and recover it.
In a last-ditch effort to take the Tidestone, Queen Azshara dispatched Mistress Sassz'ine to the Tomb of Sargeras to stop the heroes form opening the seal bound to the Tidestone and take it back to the Queen. As you would expect, the heroes were successful and Queen Azshara's final play on the Broken Isles is thwarted.
Once you add naga and Queen Azshara to the picture, the Old God connection isn't far off. Naga are formerly night elves that were part of Queen Azshara's court, all of which were transformed by the Old Gods over 10,000 years ago into the beings we know today. During those 10,000 years, they've been building a civilization on the ocean floor, largely out of view and the affairs of the rest of Azeroth. The Old Gods themselves are parasitic manifestations of the Void that attached themselves to Azeroth in order to corrupt its world-soul. To help protect Azeroth, the Old Gods were imprisoned over 25,000 years ago by the Titans and their earthen minions. Unfortunately, some of them have slowly broken free of their prisons over the years, including C'Thun and Yogg-Saron. The tentacles that accompany the map texture above also hint at possible Old God involvement on Kul Tiras.
Several indirect references to the Old Gods and the Void have also been present throughout Legion, suggesting an increased frequency of Old God corruption.
When nearby Il'gynoth, the Shadow Priest artifact Xal'atath says "It appears the prison of N’zoth is not as strong as it once was. What you see is a tiny growth of the behemoth that may yet consume your world." This implies that N'zoth, one of the most mysterious Old Gods, may be breaking free of his Titan prison. It also suggests that Il'gynoth is one of the first manifestations of his power to be seen by Azeroth. During the course of the fight, Il'gynoth references "He, Him, His" in random quotes, almost certainly talking about N'Zoth. Finally, upon death, Il'gynoth says "N'zoth I journey to Ny'alotha." While not much is known about Ny'alotha, it is referenced a few times as a place there is "only sleep" and where "walks only mad things." It's speculated that Ny'alotha is located with in the Emerald Dream, or it could be N'Zoth's prison. Maybe we'll find out for sure in the next expansion!
Drak'thul was once part of Gul'dan's Stormreaver Clan but went into exile after the Clan was eradicated during the Second War, about 20 years before World of Warcraft's time. He has remained on the Broken Shore since than, and during the Legion expansion, served as the jumping off point for players to unlock Kosumoth the Hungering. At one point, Drak'thul speaks in Shath'yar, the language of the Old Gods, suggesting at least partial corruption by the Old Gods. This connection is further reinforced by his makeshift map showing the locations of Hungering Orbs, which lead the release of Kosumoth. Kosumoth itself is a C'Thrax, a race of powerful guardians affiliated with the Old Gods, which are normally found guarding the Old God's prisons.
After journeying to Ulduar, Magni learns that Azeroth itself is a Titan. This leads to several different adventures, but the most notable for expansion speculation is the trip to the Primordial Observatory. This location housed a security system and three seekers. The seekers were meant to quickly alert the Titans to corruption. Once inside, it's discovered one of the seekers is corrupted by the Void. This again suggests increased Old God activity as they try to work their way into Azeroth's world-soul.
More recently, upon journeying to Argus, we encounter Alleria who has been working with an ethereal called Locus-Walker to learn about the Void and why it's corrupting what's left of Argus. This culminates in Alleria consuming the heart of a void remnant and gaining the powers of the Void. While we don't fully learn what this means, there's always a connection between the Void and the Old Gods. Interestingly, Void is almost synonymous with corruption and negative energy, so it will be interesting to see if Alleria keeps control. Perhaps she and the Locus-Walker know something we don't!
With Vol'jin dead, the Darkspear storyline has a huge opening which hasn't quite been filled yet. Given Kul Tiras had run-ins with the Darkspear trolls in the past, it seems logical there will be more to see if Kul Tiras makes a resurgence. I don't have anything definitive to point to in-game, but Blizzard mentioned during BlizzCon 2016 that Vol'jin's storyline isn't over, and since then we haven't seen much of anything fleshed out.
While none of this definitely means anything, there are certainly stronger than usual hints at moving towards the Void and Old Gods. Considering the Legion should be all by eradicated after Antorus, the heroes of Azeroth will be in dire need of a formidable, larger-than-life foe to vanquish!
BellularGaming made a great video detailing a lot of the information above and move! I recommend you check it out.
Perhaps equally as exciting as expansion speculation this year is the datamining of sub-races. First noted by KayRule in this 8.0 speculation thread and then expanded in detail on BlizzPlanet, by Ian Bates (Red Shirt Guy), there is some credible evidence that sub-races may be in the works, or were at one point being worked on. These races include the Nightborne, Void Elf, Lightforged Draenei, and Hightmountain Tauren, most of which have appeared during Legion in one form or another. However, as noted in the BlizzPlanet article, the existing models would likely need to be redone to be able to equip armor like the existing playable races.
The Nightborne are the night elves from Suramar City, which we saw a lot of during the questlines and raid to take back Suramar from Gul'dan and the Legion. These would be available as a Blood Elf sub-race.
The Void Elves are a little more obscure, and haven't officially appeared at all during Legion (or at any other point that I'm aware of). It will likely be a connection between Alleria, and take on the appearance of something between her full voidform and normal night elf form. These would be available as a Night Elf sub-race.
Lightforged Draenei, as the name suggests, appear very similar to normal Draenei. The noticeable differences based on the those present on Argus are yellow eyes, light runes on the forehead, more developed horns, and golden accents on their hooves. These, of course, would be available as a Draenei sub-race.
Highmountain Tauren, as you'd expect, appear very similar to normal Tauren and are present all across the Highmountain zone. Noticeable differences compared to normal Tauren include horns that are more moose-like, body paint/tattoos, and an overall more furry texture.
While these sub-races are heavy speculation, sub-races have been a feature consistently requested by players for many years. I remember them being requested when the Taunka were introduced to the game with Northrend and the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. One big hurdle with Blizzard adding things like this is often how to introduce them in a way that makes sense with regards to lore. For all intents and purposes, these sub-races are neutral to the Alliance and Horde, so suddenly having them join one side or another could feel weird. Regardless of how Blizzard chooses to introduce them, I really hope to see sub-races going forward!
Be sure to stop back tomorrow to catch my coverage of the Day 1 World of Warcraft panels!