Each of WoW's expansions has had its big bad. Illidan, The Lich King, Deathwing: each a bigger threat to Azeroth than the last, each slain by players after a long campaign. Mists of Pandaria is the first major addition to WoW to lack a single overriding threat, and it's reasonable to wonder where Azeroth's adventurers will get their apocalyptic kicks in the world post-Deathwing.
Chris Metzen, Blizzard's vice president of creative development, describes the new villain of World of Warcraft as “war itself” - but war has a face, and the arch-baddie that players will be working to take down post-Pandaria will be the Horde's current warchief, Garrosh Hellscream.
Hellscream's downfall will mark the culmination of the series of patches to follow Mists of Pandaria, working in much the same way as previous villains. As the war between the Alliance and Horde engulfs not only the new continent of Pandaria but Azeroth itself, it's implied that fractures within the Horde will divide the faction.
“You're going to be dealing with what Garrosh has done, and Thrall's reaction to Garrosh” says John Lagrave, WoW's producer. “Thrall is the world's most powerful shaman. Garrosh is that world's most powerful warchief. That warchief and his vision are diametrically opposed to what Thrall has done with the defeat of Deathwing.”
Chris Metzen says that removing Thrall from the warchief's throne was unpopular with fans, but wouldn't give away whether or not the shaman will be returning to that role after Hellscream's defeat. He did however reveal that the climactic encounter with Garrosh for both factions will take place in a raid called the siege of Orgrimmar. That's right: the Horde are going to sack their own capital city.
Mists of Pandaria's launch date hasn't been confirmed, but it's planned for later this year. The timing on the post-release patches is still unknown, but the promise of an escalating war is exciting and reassuring news for anyone worried that Warcraft had run off with the pandas.