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All World of Warcraft Expansion Durations: WoW Turns 18, Shadowlands Turns 2

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World of Warcraft celebrates another birthday today, as it is now 18 years old! Its 9th expansion looming just around the corner and the current one preparing to depart, it seems Shadowlands didn't end up being the longest running piece of WoW content, despite many players expecting it to be prior to the Dragonflight release date announcement.

So let's take another look at the expansion durations and maybe even pick our favorites down in the comments as well!

1. Battle for Azeroth


2 Years, 3 Months, 9 Days (832 Days Total)

We see BfA at the top here once again, outstripping the long-time record holder Vanilla by quite a bit. The expansion was certainly a controversial one, and started the Sylvanas-centric storyline that lead us to Shadowlands. In my opinion BfA squandered a lot of potentially good storylines, Azshara and N'Zoth in particular (and even the faction conflict could have been done much better), but it wasn't all bad and some players are looking back at it more fondly after Shadowlands.

2. Vanilla WoW


2 Years, 1 Month, 24 Days (784 Days Total)

The one that started it all, was even remade as WoW Classic, and is actually currently running as the Season of Mastery (for a little while yet). If we added all of those together, Vanilla would still be the longest running piece of WoW content to date, and presuming Classic Era realms continue indefinitely, it will always be! We can't really compare this one to the others, as it's the one that started it all and will stand on its own forever. Happy 18th birthday!

3. Mists of Pandaria


2 Years, 1 Month, 18 Days (779 Days Total)

While it was a controversial expansion at the time (due to to the perceived child-friendly theme/pandas), today it is very much looked upon as one of WoW's highlights and even served as inspiration for much of Dragonflight. Throne of Thunder and Lei Shen in particular are still considered some of the best raid content to date, and the expansion's aesthetic was praised even when the expansion was not, only receiving more compliments since. I'll admit, I was one of the Panda-deniers, as it's one of only two expansions I skipped almost in their entirety (I'll let you guess which the other one was), but have enjoyed it very much since then.

4. Wrath of the Lich King


2 Years, 24 Days (754 Days Total)

Many players' favorite period in WoW, WotLK was the first expansion to push a very strong narrative, and focus on the final villain throughout the entire expansion, giving the final confrontation atop Icecrown Citadel a lot more weight.  The story is very tightly connected to the Shadowlands one, and the inspiration of the expansion-long villain arc is certainly very evident. WotLK will probably go down as the high watermark in many players' memories, and it was factually the time when the game had the most players - and you can even replay it right now in Wrath Classic!

5. Shadowlands


2 Years, 5 Days (735 Days Total)

Shadowlands did manage to end up quite high on the list, despite only having two major content patches, as the pandemic affected a lot during the expansion. The wrap up to the Jailer's storyline left many players... let's say disappointed, as the retconned single most important character in WoW history didn't have a particularly special ending and just died like every other raid boss so far. Certainly one of the game's worst villains, he and Shadowlands did seem to push Blizzard into somewhat more light themes and a return to the adventure-style narrative and less of the cosmic ending of everything/permanent war stuff we've seen in the past, well,  6 years or so. The final afterlife judgement of Shadowlands is yet to be determined, as we need some space to get a better picture, but it's not looking good for the Jailer and co. at the moment.

6. Legion


1 Year, 11 Months, 14 Days (714 Days Total)

Standing alongside Wrath of the Lich King, this is most players' favorite WoW expansion, as we saw the culmination of the Burning Legion storyline unfold. With its extremely generous amount of content, Suramar as possibly the peak of intertwined zone and story design, and a... ahem, "passable" ending (no, I can't forgive random Sargeras cloud out of nowhere, no matter how awesome the cinematic was), it's still definitely one of WoW's best.

7. The Burning Crusade


1 Year, 9 Months, 28 Days (667 Days Total)

The first ever expansion, it opened up so many new avenues for the game to go in, and showed us how to fly in World of Warcraft. It also opened the doors to so many retcons - space goats on spaceships and all. I still love it very much, as it was my favorite time in the game.

8. Cataclysm


1 Year, 9 Months, 18 Days (658 Days Total)

While revamping the old world was a brilliant move, the expansion itself wasn't/isn't that popular, with a rather anticlimactic ending in the Dragon Soul raid. Spine of Deathwing may be one of the most frustrating raid encounters to date as well (although it's also still one of the best ideas ever), and we might be seeing a lot more of Deathwing in Dragonflight, if nothing else in flashbacks/memories.

9. Warlords of Draenor


1 Year, 9 Months, 17 Days (656 Days Total)

As a large part of WoD was scrapped, we never got to see the expansion as it was intended, but the introduction to player housing through garrisons was very welcome, and is definitely one of the ideas that should be iterated on come future expansions. Warlords may be a little similar to Shadowlands in terms of major content patches, as both seem to have been cut short to make the next expansion better. Here's hoping that means Dragonflight is as good as Legion!


And so here we are at WoW's 18th birthday with its 9th expansion 5 days away and looking very promising. Here's to another 18 years!


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6 hours ago, Wolf17 said:

What about BC (Burning Crusades)? that came out right after vanilla.

It's right there at No7 if that's what you mean.

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WotLK was it for me. That was the first xpac where I dove into raiding and went from a casual player to a hardcore. I loved everything about it and look back on that time fondly. I can't say I hated any xpac but WoD and MoP were the lowest on my list. WoD just felt unfinished (which was apparently for good reason which I just learned) and MoP was very pretty but I just never got pulled into it like other xpacs.

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