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Everything we know about World of Warcraft: Shadowlands' Chains of Domination update

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is off to a great start. The new expansion takes players into a wholly uncharted corner of Azeroth's cosmology—the multiverse of heavens and hells known as the Shadowlands—and is promising some long-awaited showdowns with villains like Sylvanas Windrunnder. But Shadowlands came out back in November, and players are getting hungry for a substantial shakeup to its endgame grind.

Enter Update 9.1: Chains of Domination. The first major patch for Shadowlands was revealed at BlizzCon 2021 and, despite probably releasing in the summer (boo), it sounds like a big'un. It's bringing a new raid, new mega-dungeon, new subzones in the Maw, and the next chapter in Shadowlands story. There's a lot to cover, so here's what you need to know about Shadowlands' 9.1 update, Chains of Domination. 

When is the Chains of Domination release date?

Oof, starting off with the bad news, are we? Well, here's the thing: Blizzard hasn't revealed an official launch date (or given us a rough window) but Chains of Domination probably won't release until summer. That's a few too many months away, but it makes sense when you remember that a smaller patch, 9.0.5, is coming this March and is fixing up a bunch of systems and addressing some of players' biggest complaints. We'll update this section when we know more, though. 

So what's the big deal with Chains of Domination? 

Being the first big patch of Shadowlands, Chains of Domination is going to roll out a bunch of new activities and systems for players to explore. When it was revealed at BlizzCon 2021, game director Ion Hazzikostas and principal game designer Jeremy Feasel didn't have much to say about specific progression systems or nitty-gritty details. Instead, we got a general overview of the big new features. Here's what they are: 

  • A new subzone in The Maw is opening up called Korthia, City of Secrets.
  • The Maw is becoming a lot friendlier as the four Covenants are invading it and establishing a permanent foothold. Players will be able to use their mounts and, though we don't know how, disable the Eye of the Jailer so they can spend more time exploring the zone each day.
  • A new raid, the Sanctum of Domination, will have 10 bosses including Kel'Thuzad, the Terragrue (the big monster from Torghast), the Eye of the Jailer, and Sylvanas Windrunner herself.
  • There'll be new story quests and a Covenant campaign to complete, though it sounds like the Covenant campaign will be the same regardless of which Covenant you're in.
  • A new eight-boss mega-dungeon called Tazavesh, the Veiled Market will take players on an interdimensional heist through a mysterious Broker bazaar filled with strange mysteries and, oh yeah, a pirate dragon.
  • A bunch of smaller additions too, like more Covenant Renown levels and rewards, improvements to Torghast to make it less punishing, and a new season for PvP and Mythic+ dungeons.

Tell me more about the Sanctum of Domination 

Yes, master. So the Sanctum of Domination is the big new raid and Blizzard is saying it's going to have one of the most dramatic conclusions in WoW history. That's because, after being the main villain of World of Warcraft for the past few years, we'll finally get to fight Slyvanas Windrunner. We don't yet know what the outcome of this fight will be—will she die? Will she suddenly turn good at the last moment?—But we do know that the stakes are high.

Sylvanas is working alongside the enigmatic Jailer, a kind of god of the Shadowlands who was sealed away by the other four gods for being a huge dick. He and Sylvanas want to tear down the entire institution of death and the afterlife and build something new, which is why they worked together to tear a huge hole in the fabric separating the living world from that of the dead. Now, Sylvanas and the Jailer have conspired to abduct King Anduin Wrynn and have used nefarious magic to dominate his mind and make him a thrall, and during the cinematic trailer for Chains of Domination slave Anduin attacked the angels of Bastion and stole a key from them. We don't really know what that key is for or what Anduin's fate will be—and Sylvanas is clearly having second thoughts about this whole plan, too. All of these hanging threads are expected to be tied up in the Sanctum of Domination.

Beyond that, we don't know too much. The Sanctum of Domination is the highest floors of Torghast, Tower of the Damned. It's the big tower looming over the Maw, where the Jailer rules, and it houses the most evil and nefarious souls in the galaxy. Players are going to fight not only Slyvanas, but other minor villains like Kel'Thuzad too. Blizzard has yet to reveal the entire 10-boss roster.

How is the Maw changing? 

Love it or hate it, we're going to be spending a lot more time in the Maw in Chains of Domination. As part of the ongoing story, the four Covenants that players have aligned with are going to be uniting and launching a full offensive into the Jailer's territory to stop him from furthering his mysterious plans.

Again, Blizzard didn't have much to say on the specifics. But we do know that the Maw is going to be a lot less harrowing to explore and players will finally be able to use their mounts to get around. With the Covenant invasion in full swing, the Maw will be getting a total makeover to reflect the ongoing battle and new world quests and events will be swapped in to replace the old ones.

In addition to that, the Maw is being expanded with a new subzone called Korthia, City of Secrets. If you watched the Chains of Domination trailer, that's the giant landmass that the Jailer was pulling into the Maw using enormous, magic chains. Korthia will be the focus of the new campaign, with players exploring its ruins and meeting the few surviving citizens to discover more of the Jailer's plans. Players will also uncover a system to counter the Eye of the Jailer, the Grand Theft Auto-esque 'Wanted' levels that eventually force you to flee the Maw after causing too much trouble.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

What's about Tazavesh, the new mega-dungeon? 

Like previous mega-dungeons, Tazavesh is more like two dungeons crammed together with one unifying theme. This time around, players are exploring a market exclusively used by the Brokers, the mysterious and shady merchants of the Shadowlands. The first five bosses will be focused on exploring the bazaar itself and learning more about life as a Broker—oh, and one of the boss encounters is actually a dysfunctional mailroom that players have to fix so everyone in the Shadowlands can get their mail on time. Weird.

During the final three bosses of Tazavesh, players will be chasing the leader of a corrupt Broker cartel who is looking to secure a powerful and mysterious item for some reason. Again, Blizzard didn't elaborate much. What we do know, though, is that players will be traversing a series of portals to different locations around Azeroth like Boralus, and will get to fight a pirate dragon. 

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands BlizzCon 2021

(Image credit: Blizzard)

What else do I need to know about Chains of Domination? 

Tons of smaller features are coming with Chains of Domination, including fixes and overhauls to different progression systems. Here's a quick rundown of what we know so far: 

  • Torghast's reward system is being overhauled so that you can still get some loot even if you fail a run. The death counter and the Terragrue are likely going away altogether and being replaced by a different kind of scoring system.
  • Torghast is also getting a new wing to explore.
  • Raid loot is being overhauled in Sanctum of Domination to make raiders feel a bit more special because, well, raiding is really hard and they deserve a little something extra.
  • 40 new Covenant Renown levels are being added along with new cosmetic rewards, conduits, and soulbinds.
  • You'll be able to unlock the ability to use flying mounts in the four Covenant zones of Maldraxxus, Revendreth, Ardenweald, and Bastion.
  • Expect a ton of new mounts, pets, armor, and world quests, too.

Steven enjoys nothing more than a long grind, which is precisely why his specialty is on investigative feature reporting on China's PC games scene, weird stories that upset his parents, and MMOs. He's Canadian but can't ice skate. Embarrassing.