The Maw is World of Warcraft: Shadowland’s most polarizing feature. It gets more difficult to survive inside The Maw as players spend more time in there, and the zone’s Eye of the Jailer debuff eventually forces the heroes of Azeroth to retreat until the next day.
On one hand, The Maw does a great job of making players feel oppressed in an unfriendly area — after all, it’s the helliest version of World of Warcraft’s hell. But it’s not everyone’s favorite feature. “One of the fun things about shipping The Maw feeling sort of as oppressive as it does, is that it’s been a little bit polarizing in terms of how players feel about it,” said Jeremy Feasel, one of World of Warcraft’s principal game designers.
In an interview with Polygon prior to BlizzConline’s opening ceremony, Feasel and Frank Kowalkowski, World of Warcraft’s technical director, spoke about how The Maw will expand and evolve in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands’ upcoming 9.1 patch, Chains of Domination. The Maw is about to become a warzone, ironically making it a much safer place for the Champions of Azeroth.
At the start of Chains of Domination, The Jailer drags the Broker’s realm, Korthia, into The Maw. This fundamentally changes parts of the zone, as the Jailer grafts this new realm onto the side of the playable space, allowing players to explore a completely new area.
“We want it to feel like a contiguous space,” said Feasel. “So [The Maw and Korthia] will all be one seamless zone now.”
The 9.1 Maw will be a mix of new and familiar — although Kowalkowski confirmed that there will still be a pre-Korthia instance of the Maw for new characters. Players will assault these new lands alongside their Covenants, who will establish safe-zone bases inside the hostile zone.
These bases net players several boons. “An attack on this area, and bringing really all [the Covenants] forces to bear, pushes back a lot of that oppression,” said Feasel about The Maw’s current restrictions. “The presence of the Covenants and having a home base there is going to ease up the effects of the Eye of the Jailer. This will allow you to spend a lot more time down in The Maw.”
Players can expand their Covenant’s forces via side quests, like one focused on the Eye of the Jailer. Not only will this quest teach players why the debuff exists and the history of this mysterious entity, but it will also allow them to cleanse themselves of the debuff over time.
Players are also unable to use their own mounts in The Maw, outside of two very specific mounts that are difficult to come by. This makes The Maw especially tedious for slow classes like Paladins, Death Knights, and Warlocks. The war against the Jailer will solve that issue as well.
“Having the Covenants down here, in the space, is also going to allow your mounts to once again answer your call,” said Feasel. However, Blizzard confirmed that while flight is coming to the Shadowlands in 9.1, players will never be able to fly in The Maw.
Feasel and Kowalkowski want this new war in The Maw to make players feel liberated, like their Covenants are making a difference in the harsh world they’ve come to know over the past few months. “This feeling of the Covenants having this impact wouldn’t have been possible without things feeling a little bit hard to deal with before,” said Feasel.
While The Maw has certainly frustrated us and a legion of other players at times, Feasel certainly makes a good point. Players will need to wait and see how impactful these changes are when Chains of Domination launches later this year.