Everything you need to know about WoW: Shadowlands Season 1

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands launched on November 23, but the real game doesn't begin until December 8. That's the beginning of Season 1, which adds a bunch of new activities including a new raid, Mythic+ dungeons, competitive PVP, and new ways to earn rewards by completing specific objectives within these new encounters. Not only will players finally be able to strike back at Sire Denathrius in the Caste Nathria, but you'll also be able to push your party to its limits by running progressively harder dungeons in exchange for more powerful gear.

There's a lot to cover—especially if you're new to WoW or haven't played in a while—but this guide will break down everything coming on December 8 so you can prepare for the next phase of Shadowlands.

What are seasons?

What are seasons? 

Seasons are a relatively new addition to WoW and a way to help pace the endgame out. Instead of everything becoming immediately available when a new update is released, like it used to work, now certain features aren't activated until the beginning of a new season. This typically happens about two weeks after a major update or expansion release.

Similar to other games like Destiny 2, seasons and some of their unique rewards and features are temporary. Specific PvP gear and special mounts can only be achieved during their active season, and Mythic+ dungeons come with a special "seasonal affix" that modifies combat so dungeons still feel a little different even after you've run them hundreds of times.

A season typically ends just before the launch of a major update and is replaced with a new season that features new raids, Mythic+ seasonal affixes, and rewards.

The new raid: Castle Nathria

Castle Nathria 

The most exciting part of Shadowlands Season 1 is Castle Nathria, a massive 10-boss raid ending with a showdown against the villainous Sire Denathrius. It's here that players will face the most difficult fights in Shadowlands while also earning some of the best gear possible, but like all raids Castle Nathria is broken up into different difficulties so even casual players can jump in and see the fights without much effort.

Castle Nathria is broken up into four difficulties: LFR (Looking for Raid), Normal, Heroic, and Mythic. Each rewards higher tiers of armor and weapons, with Mythic Castle Nathria also adding special abilities to each boss to make them even harder. LFR is a special difficulty that doesn't require you to manually form a group but instead use automatic matchmaking. The raid is significantly easier since little to no coordination is required but the rewards aren't as good and the entire raid is broken into wings that are released weekly instead of all at once. 

Like previous raids, the launch of Castle Nathria is broken up into stages:

  • December 8: Normal and Heroic versions of the raid are available
  • December 15: Mythic and LFR wing 1 versions of the raid are available
  • January 5: LFR wing 2 is available
  • January 19: LFR wing 3 is available
  • February 2: LFR wing 4 is available

Raids are hard and you're going to want a guide. Fortunately, Wowhead has excellent raid video guides that break down each fight and their different mechanics. 

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Mythic+ dungeons

Mythic+ dungeons are available 

The second-most exciting part of Season 1 is the launch of a new Mythic+ season. If you're new to WoW, Mythic+ dungeons (sometimes called Keystone dungeons) are an ultra-difficult version of Mythic dungeons with special modifiers called affixes that give enemies new abilities or weaken your party. As if that wasn't bad enough, you also have to beat them under a certain time to actually receive rewards. The difficulty of these dungeons scales, though, so as you push into higher levels you'll have to contend with more affixes along with monsters that deal and take more damage. These affixes also rotate weekly, so one week you might face enemies afflicted with Bursting, which makes them explode upon death dealing damage over time to the entire party. Another week, you might have to contend with Volcanic, which causes gouts of flame to erupt beneath ranged players' feet, forcing them to constantly be on the move.

Not all of these affixes are bad, though. Shadowlands Season 1 introduces a new seasonal affix that will be active only in the highest difficulty tiers of Mythic+. It's called Prideful and it causes players to spawn a powerful Manifestation of Pride enemy after killing enough monsters in a dungeon. Killing this Manifestation of Pride gives players a massive damage, healing, and movement speed boost for sixty seconds. The strategy is to try and coordinate when Manifestations of Pride are slain to help give players the boost they need to complete the dungeon before the timer runs out.

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

New PvP rewards

New PvP rewards 

Ranked PvP will also be available in WoW starting on December 8. This will unlock new matchmaking playlists for ranked battlegrounds and ranked arenas, where you can fight to earn Honor and Conquest, two new currencies. PvP vendors are returning with Shadowlands and you can find them in Oribos where they'll sell ranked and unranked PVP gear that can be upgraded by spending Honor.

Players who complete enough matches in battlegrounds and arenas can earn the Vicious War Spider mount, while those who are in the top 0.1 percent of ranked 3v3 arena matches will earn the Sinful Gladiator's Soul Eater—an incredibly rare mount.

Battle for Azeroth's unique PvP armor sets will also be available for purchase in Boralus (for the Alliance) and Zuldazar (for the Horde). These cost Marks of Honor, a third PvP currency that is earned from lootboxes earned after completing PvP matches and a few other, more obscure sources.

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

New weekly rewards

The Great Vault 

Lastly, Shadowlands Season 1 also unlocks the Great Vault. This is a new way to earn powerful gear on a weekly basis by participating in raids, Mythic+ dungeons, and PvP. Each of these three categories will have three objectives to complete that will add a random equipment upgrade to the vault. Then, at the end of the week, you can claim one of those items. It's a little confusing, but it's essentially like playing a scratch and win lottery ticket. Completing objectives gives you more chances to get an item that you'd actually want.

The Great Vault is found in the Hall of Holding in Oribos.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.