We’d previously talked about the strange additions to the “chrraces” file in WBDX that could be evidence of four subraces coming to World of WarCraft in the next expansion. Thanks to the crafty people in the MMO-Champion hype thread, and WoWhead, even more details on these strange entries has been uncovered. Already it was getting to be too much to keep updating the original article, and then another bombshell dropped. Christie Golden’s next World of WarCraft novel has a title and description that might shed further light on the upcoming expansion. I’ve decided to the combine the two into a single, pre-BlizzCon speculation extravaganza.

REMINDER: I’ve seen some confusion over this on places like Twitter and Reddit; nothing in this or the previous article is confirmed. While the file evidence is real, we can only make educated guesses as to what the details mean. 

First off, I should mention something Blizzplanet reader “MaybeHitler,” tried to inform me of in the comments of the first article. It turns out that while the “Void Elf” race uses the night elf log in and character creation screen data, it’s tied to a model which uses blood elf animations. WoWhead, in their coverage of the chrraces file, was able to datamine the model itself. Void elves use the blood elf model but without any skin textures. Two things can be drawn from this discovery. The void elf file is not a simple issue of Blizzard copy and pasting data from another race, as its a mixture of night elf and blood elf. Second, if void elves use blood elf animations but are listed under the alliance character creation screen, then my theory that they are some form of void-using high elves has strengthened.

On MMO-Champion’s Official Patch 8.0 Speculation thread, dataminers looked deeper into the four new entries to the chrraces file and uncovered more connections with playable races.

“Yup, other stuff from the database file that seems relevant:

Default classes also seem to be set for the 4 “new” races.

Nightborne: Mage
Highmountain Tauren: Hunter
Void Elves: Mage
Lightforged Draenei: Paladin

No surprise there, but this is also set for all known playable races. 

They also have a faction set, although this might be more copy paste on Blizzard’s part:

Nightborne: PLAYER, Blood Elf
Highmountain Tauren: PLAYER, Tauren
Void Elves: PLAYER, Night Elf
Lightforged Draenei: PLAYER, Draenei

In addition to the character backgrounds that were mentioned in the post above, they also have default low-res faction backgrounds for when the race specific backgrounds haven’t been downloaded yet.

Nightborne: ui_horde_lowres
Highmountain Tauren: ui_horde_lowres
Void Elves: ui_alliance_lowres
Lightforged Draenei: ui_alliance_lowres”

-MMO-Champion forums

Again void elves stand out for not having the default class of their log in screen parent race, night elves, which have druids as their default class. It’s also been noted that no highmountain tauren or nightborne NPCs currently in-game use these races, being considered regular tauren or not having a race designation at all in the nightbornes’ cases. Lightforged draenei NPCs are labeled as belonging to the new chrraces entry, however.

While the above could make the case for subraces even stronger, not everything uncovered points this way. MMO-Champion’s post on the subraces brings with it evidence in the opposite direction as well. Notably, the new races are not assigned race/class combinations outside of the default classes mentioned above, “other linked files” do not contain data that match them being playable, and “all four entries are flagged as being unplayable, set to a Neutral faction, and have reputations linked to existing reputations in the game.” At this point the evidence is strong enough to lean either way, and unless some major feat of datamining is accomplished I doubt we’ll have an answer until BlizzCon.

But as I mentioned at the start, there’s been another news item relating to the next expansion this week. Christie Golden’s next World of WarCraft novel finally has a title and plot summary. Both of which are very interesting.

Hella good title! 

The official summary, as seen on the amazon.com listing, reads as follows:

“An all-new, official tie-in novel to Blizzard Entertainment’s critically acclaimed World of Warcraft, from New York Times bestselling author Christie Golden

Taking place after the climactic events of Shadows of Argus, World of Warcraft: Before the Storm tells the story of what awaits the heroes of the Horde and the Alliance in the wake of their struggle against the demonic Burning Legion.”

Despite the short description and unfinished cover, there’s a lot to unpack here. From the summary its clear this novel is meant to be a direct lead-in to the next expansion, much like The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm, Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of WarWar Crimes, and Illidan before it. Of those four, three were written by Christie Golden. Knowing that the novel will serve as a prequel to expansion seven, we can look into the title.

“Before the Storm” could be figurative. It’s a common metaphor for a coming battle, “the calm before the storm.” I think it the title is meant to be taken literally. Looking at the book’s ISBN, we can see it was originally titled “Lightning Crashes.”

Image courtesy of MMO-Champion.

So if “the Storm” is an actual storm, what, or who is it? Two candidates immediately came to mind. First we have the obvious, the naga. Manipulation of lightning and storms are some of the most iconic abilities of their sea witches. Look at Lady Vashj, Lady Nazj’ar, Lady Hatecoil, and the Wrath of the Azshara, they all have spells and attacks themed around storms and especially lightning.  Speaking of the last two, the entire Eye of Azshara dungeon is a storm-wracked island where the weather grows increasingly severe as each boss is defeated. Lastly, there’s this quote from Mistress Sassz’ine:

“Not all storms come from the skies!”

The naga are a perfect fit, but as I said, someone else close to the seas, who has been getting a lot of pre-BlizzCon publicity, has a connection to the storms: Jaina Proudmoore. Few recall, in fact before this I didn’t think Blizzard even remembered (and they still might not), that Jaina has the Storm-Stave of Antonidas, a staff imbued with all the powers of the Thunder King. We created it for her back in Mists of Pandaria, during the quest Securing a Future.

“I can feel it … the Thunder King’s power courses through my staff. Best of all, you’ve forever disabled his infernal machine, leaving nothing for the Horde to claim as their own. When the time is right, I’ll use this staff to bring the walls of Orgrimmar crashing down around Garrosh Hellscream’s head. Thank you, friend. The Alliance is lucky to have you.”

-Lady Jaina Proudmoore

She never did use her new powers against Garrosh. Perhaps now she’s gotten a chance to turn them on another enemy…

Whatever its meaning, we can be sure that a storm is coming to Azeroth, both figurative and literal. Maybe the nightborne, lightforged draenei, highmountain tauren, and void elves will be drawn into the Alliance and Horde by this same conflict? Or maybe I’ve misinterpreted the evidence. After Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor nothing Blizzard does would surprise me.

We’ll know for certain very, very soon.

Part 1: Subraces dataminedPart 2: Before the Storm  

Hope you enjoyed this article. Please, support Blizzplanet via PayPal or Patreon, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch for daily Blizzard games news updates.

BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts

Ian Bates

World of Warcraft Writer and columnist for Blizzplanet. I am also known as The Red Shirt Guy (BlizzCon).