I had the good fortune to log in late on Saturday night and find about 15 members of my guild tagged by the location Tempest Keep. I jumped right in expecting the group to quickly kill Kael’thas Sunstrider and disband for the night.
Boy, was I wrong!
Kael’thas is the final boss of Tempest Keep – The Eye (TK), a Tier 5 raid from the Burning Crusade. My guild in BC didn’t fully clear Tempest Keep but we spent a lot of time there – and in Mount Hyjal – instead of fast forwarding straight into the Black Temple for the lootz.
I guess you could say the equivalent would be a 25 man guild now spending time wiping in Ulduar instead of going straight from Heroics to Icecrown Citadel. We liked Tempest Keep and Mount Hyjal and we were quite happy to spend our raid time there.
I’m still happy to spend raid time there.
These days lots of people trek out to Tempest Keep in Outlands just to kill Kael’thas Sunstrider for the chance to drag the Ashes of Al’ar (the remnants of his pet phoenix, and an earlier boss in the zone) from his cold dead hands. And because you can skip every single boss in the zone and just go straight to Kael’thas – well, that’s what everyone does.
On a side note new players would be forgiven for thinking that you would get the Ashes of Al’ar from, well, killing Al’ar. I know that’s what I thought for a very long time. But you would be wrong.
I guess once you kill Al’ar, Kael’thas sneeks up behind your raid, gathers the ashes from the floor, then runs back to his room and council. Although this certainly doesn’t explain how you can get the Ashes from Kaelthas when Al’ar is still alive and flying around in circles.
I think most of the participants in this guild run were a little bit tipsy by the time I joined. They were very suggestible (hence why they had been dragged all the way out to Tempest Keep in the first place). So once we realised that the Ashes were tell and truly missing from Kael’thas’s corpse someone decided to totem pull Al’ar on the way out. From there it didn’t take much convincing on my part to talk the group into a quick Void Reaver kill for a chance at my Priest Tier 5 shoulders, too.
They’re angel wings for heaven’s sake. I must have!
We went on to do a near full-clear of Serpentshrine Cavern (the other Tier 5 raid instance with more yummy Avatar gear) and ended up in Mount Hyjal.
Finally I had my very first pieces of my Tier 5 Avatar set in my bags. I was absolutely thrilled. You see, every single PuG BC raid – run during Wrath, that is – that I’ve ever joined has stolen my tier pieces from me. Often by ninjas. Or greedy players who want to profit, or simply vendor a tier token belonging to some other class. But that’s another story.
Our group was made up of Classic raiders and both BC and Wrath babies. It was certainly interesting to hear what the newer players thought of Serpentshrine Cavern (is this a lot of trash or what?) and Tempest Keep (pretty!) and we spent quite a bit of time speculating what we could expect of Cataclysm.
The general consensus seemed to be that Blizzard are trying to roll back to the challenge of the Burning Crusade raids. It was funny to realise that people – myself included – still remember the tactics and strategies they used to defeat each trash pull in SSC/TK and Mount Hyjal. Can you say that about any trash in Icecrown Citadel? Hmmmm not really. Even the trash in Ulduar seemed fairly forgettable.
But one thing I think they have improved during Wrath of the Lich King is the raid zone designs. The layout of Icecrown Citadel, Naxxramas (although I’m loathed to attribute that to Wrath design) and Ulduar are superb. I get lost in all the BC raid instances and did at the time, too. The layout of each of the Wrath zones are quite logical and usually contain multiple wings – each ending with a boss – fanning out from a central room.
And just to make sure you don’t do too much running around Naxxramas, Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel all have teleporters to send you from place to place or recover quickly from a wipe.
The amount of mobs and distance you need to travel to get anywhere in Serpentshrine Cavern isn’t fun. The trash in Tempest Keep was a bit too nasty. I still get lost in the labyrinth that is Black Temple. A death on the timed trash in Mount Hyjal leading to a wipe meant you had to start all the trash all over again.
In Mount Hyjal the base camp is lead by Jaina – which is particularly annoying – and a bunch of friendly NPCs. Swarms of undead minions come racing over the hill into the camp and your raid has to kill them quickly or you’ll be overrun.
My guild really struggled with Mount Hyjal back in the day so rule #1 was simple: let the enemy come in close to your army and the NPCs will help. This seemed to be particularly difficult for our Rogues who liked to creep over the hill (and out of line of sight of course!), edging closer and closer to the enemy base just visible in the distance.
Well as you can imagine at level 80 things are a lot easier. We didn’t need help from Jaina or the NPCs and were, in fact, quite keen to escape the base camp. We went over that hill. And we went right up to the Abominations that guard the gates of the Undead/Scourge encampment. And we went right in past the spawn point for a look around.
What’s up there? A pretty convincing zigguarat set up and quite a few Elite Necromancers and such. A mini Plaguelands perhaps, or Naxxramas on grass. Unfortunately all the buildings were empty. But the facade was definitely convincing. View the screen capture in full.
Props to the game designers for that one!
We completed Mount Hyjal and I left one of the most fun raid nights that I’ve been part of for the last six months. Icecrown Citadel eat your heart out. I can’t wait to see what they’ve created for Cataclysm. This is the expansion when it might just all come together.
ps. In one night I’ve gone from 0/5 Tier 5 and 0/8 Tier 6 to 3/5 Tier 5 (missing the helm and shoulders) and 1/8 Tier 6 (got the helm now).