WoW's Lead Level Designer Cory Stockton and Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer took the stage at BlizzCon 2009 to preview Icecrown Citadel and the new baddie lairs to come in Cataclysm.
Hail to the King, Baby: In the upcoming Patch 3.3, Icecrown Citadel will be added to the game leading up to the final showdown with Lich King Arthas himself, and we got a look at what was in store. A surprise announcement came in that not only would Icecrown house the 10/25-player raid where the heroes of Azeroth take the fight to Arthas, but that Icecrown would add not just one but three 5-player dungeons to the game. These three dungeons would have a continuing storyline running through them (and would have to be initially done in order) and would allow players to battle alongside Alliance and Horde heroines Jaina Proudmoore and Sylvanas Windrunner.
As for Icecrown itself? While it wouldn't house the (mind-boggling) 31 bosses previously rumored, Icecrown Citadel would boast an impressive 12 big bads, including "ultimate Frost Wyrm Sindragosa" and, of course, Arthas. The dungeon would have four floors, and a particularly cool sequence took place as players boarded an airship on the second floor. Alliance raiders would fight alongside King Varian Wrynn, while the Horde would accompany High Overlord Saurfang - and the two airships would race to the next floor in Icecrown Citadel, exchanging cannon fire and even boarding parties (using rocket packs, naturally).
On the third floor, the dungeon will be winged, with players able to tackle the bosses in any order they please - though they'll have to vanquish all of them before moving on to the top of the Citadel. The Crimson Paladins may be making another appearance, along with a Plagueworks wing and the lair of the aforementioned Sindragosa.
Of course, the pinnacle of Icecrown Citadel will be simple: It's you, the Frozen Throne, and the Lich King. Mercer cautioned that during the fight, the room might begin to fall apart and break away, and that if you fell, "it would be bad." Naturally, if you win, Arthas is going to get something a bit more substantive than the normal "Death speech, gasp, die." In fact, the way they spoke about it, there might be yet another cutscene...?
Raiders of the Cataclysmic Ark: Cataclysm will feature four 10/25-man dungeons: Grim Batol, Skywall, the Firelands, and a newly unveiled raid called Blackwing Descent - which, as the name might suggest, is a throwback to the Classic raid of Blackwing Lair.
Blackwing Descent will actually start from Nefarian's throne room at the top of Blackwing Lair - with flying mounts, players will fly all the way up Blackrock Mountain to enter it - and somehow, the son of Deathwing has survived his encounter with players back at level 60. Beyond Nefarian, though, Mercer mentioned that there might be "a possible appearance from some old friends." Can we say "Vaelastrasz," anybody? I knew we could.
The Firelands will be an exterior raid zone in the elemental plane of fire, the home of Ragnaros - who after tearing up Mount Hyjal, is now on the defensive as players storm his homeland to get their revenge. Still, it won't be so easy - Ragnaros here is in his element (literally), and will be at his full power, not summoned "too soon."
There will, of course, be new 5-player dungeons, and we got a very brief glimpse at three of them - Abyssal Maw is a two-wing dungeon accessed from the Sunken City of Vashj'ir, where a giant vortex in the middle of the zone will pull players who get too close down into the elemental plane of water. It's a very pretty, organic, coral-like room, with windows that look out to the ocean floor beyond.
The Halls of Origination are the first of two 5-man dungeons in the Titan city of Uldum (the other, the Lost City of Tol'vir, is an outdoor zone) and bring to mind similar dungeons back in Northrend - namely, the Halls of Stone and Halls of Lightning. It has a very Egyptian feel - kind of like "Blizzard does Stargate" - and the halls are rumored to house an ancient superweapon that everyone and their mother wants their hands on.
Finally, we took a look at Blackrock Caverns, the new dungeon in Blackrock Mountain - Deathwing has bored a hole all the way to Blackrock Mountain from Grim Batol, and is using it as a forward base for his Twilight's Hammer cult. It was their chance to "reinvent a fan favorite," but they didn't want to merely make Blackrock Spire a new heroic. Their goal was to make a completely brand-new dungeon that still continued the distinctive visual style of Blackrock Spire - tall spaces with dark bricks and metal that go on forever interspersed with rivers of lava. Blackrock Spire's nefarious Beast may have a brother, teased Stockton.
LFG Level 80 Onyxia, Any Server: The Brood Mother is returning for WoW's fifth anniversary as a little touch of nostalgia - she won't be a completely new fight but will have new abilities and mechanics, and will drop an entirely new loot table based off of her old ones - new helms with the Tier 2 art, the Burnished Quel'Serrar and Raging Deathbringer. "Her Deep Breaths will be more randomized than ever," and you will still need "More DoTs" than ever to bring her down.
The Onyxian Whelpling non-combat pet that all players will get for logging in during the anniversary celebration will attempt to Deep Breath like her mother, but will fail and blow smoke rings instead - apparently they've given the little critter some brand new unique animations.
A very interesting revelation, though, was the addition of "cross-server Looking for Group." Similar to cross-server Battlegrounds, this will enable Pick-Up Groups (PUGs) to hit up 5-man dungeons with players from other servers. While the technology is only limited to 5-man groups, they said that it could easily be expanded to bigger raids, and that they're shooting to get it into the game with Icecrown in Patch 3.3.
So, any Alliance out there want to hit up the Icecrown dungeons, eh?