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This article is about the event known as the Cataclysm. For the expansion, see World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
Cataclysm Art John Polidora

A landscape ravaged by the Cataclysm.


The damaged World Pillar in Deepholm.

The Cataclysm[1][2] (also called the Great Cataclysm,[3] the great upheaval,[4][5][6] or the Shattering)[7][8][9] was a chain reaction of natural disasters that struck Azeroth following Deathwing blasting his way from Deepholm into the world, breaking down the boundaries between the Elemental Plane and the physical world.[10] The damage caused to the World Pillar caused the Elemental Plane to collide with the physical realm,[11] resulting in drastic geographical upheaval, causing chaotic elementals to pour out into the world of Azeroth. Earthquakes, volcano eruptions and floods followed in his wake, killing thousands[10] and reshaping the face of the world.

It is also the era in which the stories of Cataclysm took place[12] and ended with the demise of Deathwing.[13]


After the war against the Lich King, War Against the Nightmare and the uprising of the shamanistic Earthen Ring, the world of Azeroth was threatened by the Elemental Unrest.

The unrest also caused a ship carrying some Bloodsail Buccaneers to take shelter near a patch of tiny islands as the seas heaved to and fro. After the initial elemental unrest passed, their leader, Admiral Eliza Goreblade, found a hidden pirate treasure of the Bellwether ship containing two Legion cutlasses, Fate and Fortune.[14]


Barrens divided

The Great Divide, one of many fissures in the land caused by the Cataclysm.

Main article: Patch 4.0.3a (world changes)

The coastlines of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms shifted, flooding some old lands and exposing new ones. Whole parts of the world, like Thousand Needles and a large chunk of Tanaris, ended up underwater. In some cases, tidal waves caused by the Cataclysm flooded or destroyed coastal settlements like Auberdine, Rut'theran Village, and Feathermoon Stronghold, forcing their residents to relocate — usually inland. Even far from the coast, fires, avalanches and lava eruptions changed some areas beyond recognition. The Barrens was split into two.

The tectonic shifts blocked some old routes, like the one between Badlands and Loch Modan, and opened some new ones through previously impassable mountains. The Cataclysm also damaged an ancient titan device previously hiding the Uldum complex, exposing access to it from Tanaris. Zandalar was thought to have been severely crippled.[15] Though this later proved to be an incorrect claim based on an inaccurate vision by Zul. It did, however, cause the region of Nazmir to lose elevation and become a swamp, and also destroyed the second seal holding the prison of G'huun.[16]

Far out in the ocean, the Wandering Isle experienced what Chen Stormstout described as horrible waves.[17]

The Cataclysm brought the Elemental Plane closer to Azeroth, bringing the world in direct conflict with the elemental lords — including Ragnaros, who, upon his return, assaulted Nordrassil, prompting Malfurion Stormrage to organize a defense of Mount Hyjal again.

The goblin island of Kezan and the self-isolated nation of Gilneas in the peninsula of the same name suffered greatly from natural disasters, leading directly to events that affected the existing balance between the Horde and the Alliance respectively, redrawing the political map of the world. Mount Kajaro on Kezan erupted, forcing an evacuation by the goblins. Earthquakes damaged the Greymane Wall that had protected Gilneas by land and a coral reef that protected them by sea, opening them up to invasion by the Forsaken and the rest of the Horde. Large chunks of of the lands near the sea also ended up underwater in a manner of seconds.

During his last battle, Deathwing tried to summon the final Cataclysm. After the Aspect's death, Thrall concluded that the Cataclysm is over.

The mists around Pandaria parted because of the Cataclysm.[18]

The Cataclysm didn't only change the land, it also changed the sea, rendering old weather, tides, and navigation notes useless.[19]


  • Although Dustwallow Marsh was not very updated and changed (only a highway added) in the game, the Cataclysm somehow affected the area lorewise.[20]
  • The island of Kul Tiras was originally stated to have been shifted out to sea because of the Cataclysm moving tectonic plates.[21] This was retconned by World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 3 which retroactively placed Kul Tiras near the Broken Isles, in its Battle for Azeroth location, before the Cataclysm.[22]
  • It was offhandedly suggested that one of the reasons the Cataclysm occurred was because the adventurers had defeated the Old Gods Yogg-Saron and C'Thun.[23]