Welcome to Zoned Out In, the series where we visit a different zone in World of Warcraft in each new instalment. Today we embark on our first adventure to a zone that’s been around since WoW’s infancy; Stranglethorn Vale.
Nestled in the southern-most reaches of the Eastern Kingdoms, Stranglethorn Vale is a haven for those looking to hunt some big game in the lush jungles and intimidating ruins of the Gurubashi troll empire.
Stranglethorn Vale is one of my favourite zones purely because of how wild it is; there’s a great variety of wildlife, the land is uneven and no faction really has a good grip on the place. There’s no big Alliance or Horde presence, only makeshift settlements and the remnants of the great Gurubashi empire.
The paths are crudely carved into the jungle floor and something is waiting to kill you around every corner. You’re not in civilisation any more. Instead, you’re on the menu for every animal under the sun.
Stranglethorn is definitely a zone best seen from the ground. Travel above the canopy and all you’ll really see is a vast sea of green that extends as far as your view distance allows.
If you’re looking to track a raptor or ten, traversing the jungle by ground mount is your best bet.
Although Stranglethorn Vale was previously one whole zone, the cataclysm has since split it into two separate ones, Northern Stranglethorn and the Cape of Stranglethorn. However, aside from the addition of a maelstrom that bridges the two zones, not much has changed about the beloved jungles of Stranglethorn.
Those visiting for the first time will quickly note the zone’s somewhat difficult to traverse terrain, extensive kill quests and…
Low-level pvp and ganking.
Yep. If there’s one memory that sticks in my mind about Stranglethorn Vale, it’s this;
“Run. Get to Booty Bay as fast as you can”
Why? You’re in the jungle, baby. You’re gunna die.
This is because Stranglethorn is one of the first zones, along with Ashenvale and (up until the cataclysm) Hillsbrad Foothills, where Horde and Alliance characters are both able to quest in the same zone. For many players, this will be their first time seeing red.
Couple this with the fact that Stranglethorn is easily accessible from both Stormwind and Orgrimmar (via Ratchet) and you have a recipe for disaster, with lowbies calling on their max-level characters and friends to help them out in some good, old-fashioned world pvp.
As a member of the Alliance, it’s not unusual to visit the Rebel Camp at Stranglethorn’s entrance, only to find the npcs slaughtered by vengeful Horde. Even on this trip, I felt the need to avenge a level 31 who had been killed by a level 50 Horde.
Aside from low-level pvp, Stranglethorn Vale is also the home of the Gurubashi Arena, an ancient, gladiatorial troll colosseum.
In the Gurubashi arena, allegiances count for nothing.
Whether you are Horde or Alliance, anything goes once you step foot on this hallowed ground of blood-sport.
Stranglethorn Vale is where terrible pvp montages are made and dreams of a peaceful existence on Azeroth are crushed.
Even if you manage to reach the neutral goblin city of Booty Bay, it doesn’t guarantee your safety. Booty Bay is the Mos Eisley Cantina of Warcraft, filled with pirates, mercenaries and god-knows what else. Tucked away in a cove, Booty Bay is a pirate’s dream getaway at the southern-most point of the Eastern Kingdoms.
One of the great things about Booty Bay, despite it being a neutral city, is that anything goes and factions are free to attack one another. Of course, they’ll have the Booty Bay Bruisers to deal with, but it can be a small price to pay for a max-level looking for the blood of lowbies.
This isn’t Dalaran or Shattrath, if you start a fight here it’s going to be finished, one way or another.
Booty Bay really is a completely unique area of the game, there’s even this cool statue of Goblin Jesus on a small island in the bay:
Why are we here? Well, as a great man once said,
“Because inside pointless things there’s treasure”
Let’s move on.
Probably Stranglethorn’s biggest point of interest for many old-school players is Zul’Gurub, once capital city of the Gurubashi jungle trolls and former 20-man raid instance.
The Gurubashi were worshippers of the terrible Blood God Hakkar, a malevolent wild god of great power on Azeroth. Zul’Gurub was first added in patch 1.7 with the title ‘Rise of the Blood God’, the raid had brave adventurers fighting through the ruined capital, battling troll priests imbued with the spirit power of great jungle beasts before they could have a chance at bringing down the Blood God.
Although the raid was later converted into a 5-man dungeon during Cataclysm, much of its design remains the same to this day. Instead of the Gurubashi, Zul’Gurub is now inhabited by the wandering Zandalari, a tribe of trolls who have been searching for a new home (and causing trouble) since the cataclysm.
Although not my favourite troll dungeon/raid, Zul’Gurub has a unique aesthetic of tropical, Aztec-inspired culture that stands alone compared to the other troll-inhabited areas of WoW.
Moving on to a few memorable quests, I’m sure that there isn’t a more memorable quest hub in Stranglethorn than this place;
The camp of Hemet Nesingwary Jr. is where you’ll spend a lot of time counting your hunt totals; ten tigers, ten slightly more powerful tigers, one elusive tiger, ten raptors, ten slightly more powerful raptors… You get the picture.
The dwarf and his son like hunting and what better way to express it than to share their love for hunting with a budding adventurer?
Point being, there’s a lot to hunt in Stranglethorn and Mr. Nesingwary takes great joy in the challenge. Although you’ll bump into Hemet and his son on quite a few of their hunts across Azeroth and beyond, none are quite as memorable as the first.
One of the biggest reasons for this was the, now obsolete, quest The Green Hills Of Stranglethorn which required players to trek all around Stranglethorn Vale to recover pages of Nesingwary’s novel. Strewn across the entirety of the zone, this quest was quite a long one and represented a treasure-hunting style that isn’t really present in the game any more.
As many of you have probably noticed, the renowned hunter bears a strong resemblance in name to famous American writer Ernest Hemingway, who documented his journey through Africa in his journal titled Green Hills of Africa.
Whilst we’re on the subject of hunting, Stranglethorn presents a unique point of interest for hunters.
Hunters lucky and persistent enough with their tracking may find themselves in the presence of Tsul’Kalu The Earth Spirit, an incredibly rare white gorilla that is tamable by hunters.
Although I have never seen the beast with my own eyes, legends say he can be found stalking Northern Stranglethorn to the East of the Venture Co. Base Camp.
Here’s where you might find Tsul’Kalu, which we unfortunately didn’t, because he’s fucking rare.
After our long hunting trip, it’s time to return briefly to Booty Bay, because I couldn’t resist sharing with you the music that plays in the Salty Sailor Tavern:
We’ve covered a lot here today, so kick back with a mug of cherry grog, junglevine wine; whatever’s your poison, you’ve earned it.
So, that just about wraps up our first excursion. I hope that you got some good photos of your own and that none of you lost any limbs to the tigers, unfortunately we can’t guarantee anything on these trips.
Find yourself already wanting to get ready for our next trip? Not sure whether to pack sunglasses or snow shoes? Well, let me clear the air by showing you where we’ll be going next time:
That’s right, wrap up warm because next time on Zoned Out In, we’re heading to Kalimdor’s number one chilly destination; Winterspring.