21. The Cataclysm will be prophesied
Blizzard have made it clear there will be a large scale world event, like the pre-Lich King zombie invasion, that heralds the launch of the expansion. It could be happening already. Players have reported random earth tremors shaking their screens from all over Azeroth. It's almost like there's something ready to explode out of the ground.
22. Entire zones are being rebuilt. Permanently.
Deathwing's emergence from the ground is the start of a new chapter in World of Warcraft's development. It's given the developers a chance to go back and assess what worked, and didn't, in the original continents of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. All of those zones will be touched by the cataclysm – and all players will see the effects. The effects will be permanent. Once the expansion launches, there's no going back to classic WoW. New, or returning players won't have to buy the expansion to see the changes, either. They'll be open to all, even if they just own the base game.
23. You'll be flying
The most common complaint for WoW veterans? That the flying mounts available in Outland and Northrend aren't available within the original world. That's changing. The new Azeroth geography means it's now suitable for flying mounts.
24. It's the end of brown desolation
Desolace is WoW's most boring zone. That's changing. Desolace is getting a greenwash, its ancient bone-dry sands replaced with verdant jungle. Speculation abounds that the botanical miracle is something to do with executed leader of the Tauren, Cairn Bloodhoof, not being as dead as he seems.
25. It's splitting Barrens chat
The most impressive change comes in the Barrens, the Horde starter zone. The new design gets rid of the large, sprawling areas and replaces it with two new, tightly packed zones. They're split horizontally via a river of red lava.
26. Darkshore faces destruction?
Long, thin and eminently skippable, Darkshore will be pretty much eviscerated by the events of Cataclysm. It's becoming a new front for Horde troops.
27. Thrall is off
Orc Warchief Thrall is leaving Orgrimmar to take up a meta-position as Guardian of Tirisfal. Unfortunately he's left Overseer Garrosh Hellscream, leader of the Horde expedition in Northrend, in charge. Garrosh has never quite got the hang of the Alliance/Horde ceasefire. Lok'tar Ogar! and all that.
28. War is back
One of Hellscream's first acts is to declare open war on the Alliance. “We're setting up a change in the attitude of the Horde,” says Chilton, “They'll become more reminiscent of the Horde of the past in terms of aggressiveness and attitude towards the world. This is the World of War... craft after all.”
29. Stormwind is rebuilt
Sadly there's no convoluted storylines for the Alliance (yet): all we know for sure is that Stormwind is getting a werewolf quarter for the Worgen to live in. “There are a lot of changes going into the Eastern Kingdoms and the traditional Alliance zones and storylines,” says Chilton. “There are definitely changes that happen to the Alliance structure too, but I wouldn't say they're as dramatic as those on the Horde side.”
30. The Horde are getting political
As well as setting his sights the Alliance Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, et al, Hellscream is also stirring up trouble for his own side. He'll execute Tauren leader Cairn Bloodhoof for treason, throw most of the Undead and Blood Elves out from Orgrimmar and then redecorate the city in tasteful black iron. Smell that? That's an epic shitstorm approaching.