I’m currently clearing Heroic Steamvault each day for a chance at the rare tailoring pattern. The helm model that I would like to own for my future transmogrification look comes in two items available to me, as a Priest. The Battlecast Hood is one of those items.
The Battlecast Hood pattern eluded me, and Lathere for that matter, all the way through the Burning Crusade. It drops off the very last boss in The Steamvault, a level 70 dungeon and like many tasty patterns of the era its chance to drop in Heroic mode is higher than its chance to drop in Normal difficulty.
The Level 70 Approach to The Steamvault
I spent quite a lot of time in The Steamvault during the Burning Crusade. I do remember lots of important things about the instance and some not so important things. I know that the first Naga boss, Hydromancer Thespia, insults you by calling you a “warm blood”. I remember quite keenly the exact position of the chest you open to retrieve part of the Karazhan attunement key quest even though I only did it once or twice myself.
At the time we most certainly did not have dungeon maps. Click your map shortcut while inside The Steamvault during the Burning Crusade and you would have been presented with a map of Zangarmarsh helpfully reminding you that you are, in fact, still inside Coilfang Reservoir. No kidding.
These days The Steamvault has a map. It’s actually quite helpful and shows me that the first cavern you walk into is huge and that there are three bosses. It doesn’t tell you what order to kill those bosses or how you should get to them.
When I returned to The Steamvault at level 85 I came back without a tank. It’s easily solo-able. I’ve actually never played a tank.
I started clearing mobs just in the same fashion that I would have with a group at level 70: hug the right wall and kill the giant marshy dudes. Soon you reach a pivotal point. You have a pack of 5 Naga on your right, guarding a corridor entrance and behind those 5 are a smaller group of Naga that patrol said corridor. I know this well.
This was often the first wipe for a group of level 70s. If you took a step too far away from your hug-wall position you risk pulling extra groups. The Naga groups are filled with a nasty mix of melee and spell-casters, some of those spell-casters will heal and some will fear you to hell and back if you let them. The general method of dealing with this tricky spot was to kill both the 5 Naga protecting the corridor and then quickly kill off the patrol (someone would inevitably pull them anyway) just to create some breathing room.
You see, I never once, ever, actually went down that corridor with a group. You would only clear the entrance but instead of turning south to follow the corridor down you cut clear across to the north side of the cavern and kill the previously mentioned “first” boss. I never questioned this. I certainly never questioned why we would hug the wall and then madly dash to the opposite side. I just assumed, as a new player is likely to do, that we were following the most direct and efficient path through the instance.
After killing the first boss, and clicking the weird Naga organ looking thing behind her, you then jump into the lake and swim down a winding tunnel, do a near 360 degree turn up a winding ramp and head left to kill the “second” boss. Again activating the weird Naga organ looking device behind him.
Then you backtrack most of the way and hang a left and-
You Are Facing the Wrong Way
This is when I realised that something was off. From this point on and towards the now unlocked last gate/boss of the instance all the mobs are facing the wrong way. They are expecting you to come from the other direction. They are not involved in some kind of RP. They are not yelling at their slaves. They are quite simply set up to be approached from the other direction.
How did I never notice this?
All this time… The Steamvault has been designed so that you clear these mobs from the other side of the corridor. It must be designed that way. If the designers intended us to approach the instance in the same manner that is commonly held to be the one true way they would have faced the mobs towards an approaching party of heroes.
I wish I could put some kind of spin on this (you know, we’re sneaking up on these stupid, unsuspecting Naga) but finding these mobs facing backwards just pulls me right out of the game play. Whatever the opposite of immersion is… well I’ve felt it. Felt it while staring into the back of these Naga.
Something has clearly gone wrong. Well, not “wrong” but not as intended. Clearing jumping into the lake and swimming up a tunnel is some kind of shortcut – although not one I would recommend if you can’t turn into a mutated seal or walk on water – and perhaps there is a more intuitive, slower, method to navigating The Steamvault.
Fortunately for me – and you! – I have had many nights since to ponder the map of The Steamvault.
For starters I don’t believe that hugging the right wall through the first cavern is necessarily the intended method of clearing the start of The Steamvault. Frankly you can’t see shit. Your camera, no matter what distance you like to set it to, is always covered in moss and shrubbery. The walls aren’t straight which is mildly annoying. And it’s very easy to step right onto an enemy mob. And that’s at level 85! I’m sure I must have proximity pulled at least once doing this at level 70.
Unfortunately center of the cavern is patrolled by a group of fast moving Water Elementals. And I think this explains so much of how The Steamvault came to be Hug The Wall Vault. At level 70 you had to use Crowd Control to get through an instance like The Steamvault without losing your tank. And having mobs that will heal and/or fear you just make that even more important. But, at the time, Elementals were immune to near abouts all methods of Crowd Control. I think Druids could banish them or something but I only ever ran with Druid healers and usually asking your healer to CC was asking for no heals and certain death in the near future.
So in order to avoid a group that couldn’t easily be CCed, groups started killing off the Naga packs and giant moss lurkers (or whatever they are!) on the right side.
I did eventually take that corridor to the right (instead of dashing across to the “first boss” across the lake front) and cleared the way, face-to-face with my enemy. Surprisingly, it leads to the locked door sealing the final boss away from sight. But you can follow the path further and clear to the “second boss”. This way all the mobs are facing forward.
Could this be what was intended? Clear the center of the main cavern, turn left/north and kill a boss, walk south and enter the corridor go past the final gate and continue on to another boss.
Either method leaves you to backtrack. In fact the path I describe directly above contains quite a lot of backtracking. It sure as hell contains a lot more enemy Naga than the one used in practice.
And why create a way to swim to the mechanical “second” boss if you don’t want players to use it?
All these leads back to my hazy thoughts on knowledge transfer between players. I may not have been at the forefront of dungeon goers at level 70 but I certainly wasn’t months behind the rest of the server.
And even if you factor in all the reasons why it was hard to share knowledge:
- No cross-server dungeons
- No Dungeon Finder
- General unwillingness of tanks to tank for anyone outside their guild
- No call-to-arms
- Player trend to invest in one main and not alts
I can’t quite figure out how I learned my method of clearing The Steamvault. By the time I joined a group, and I don’t even remember the occasion, someone in that group already knew the way and I followed them blindly. That someone must have been a PuGed tank (possible but unlikely) or perhaps a more knowledgeable guild member who had PuGed with others.
I Blame The Internet
Blizzard have long pointed to the advent of knowledge sharing amongst the raiding community as a reason for the divide between memories of difficult raid content and actual difficulty of more recent raid content. The argument goes something like this (numbers below are made up):
At the time of Molten Core:
- Only 5% of players were experienced with the raid content in Molten Core
- There were fewer servers and overall much fewer players
- Guilds had not yet established long histories of credibility and authority
- Thus less people have first hand experience that they can turn into a boss strategy guides for other guilds
- Thus even fewer people knew whose strategies and guides were worth following
At the time of Icecrown Citadel:
- Close to 75% of players are experienced with the raid content in Icecrown Citadel
- Less than 2% of current players are both experienced with the raid content of Icecrown Citadel whilst also having played in Molten Core in its day
- There are more servers and high subscription of players
- Many guilds are established and have long histories proving their credibility and authority
- Many people are experienced first hand and are knowledgeable enough to put together a thorough boss strategy guide for other guilds
- Easier to establish credible guides and to watch them first hand from video capture
And of those 2% that experienced both raiding environments they compare the learning curve of figuring out their own strategy (Molten Core) vs following sensible suggestions from world firsts posted online within 24-48 hrs of the raid content being released (Icecrown Citadel) and mistakenly decide that the encounters in Molten Core must have been harder than the encounters in Icecrown Citadel.
I can see the reason in this argument and I think it’s absolutely correct – there’s just not a scarcity of raiding knowledge anymore.
And the only difference between the two scenarios is that we’re much less isolated to the knowledge available on our own server, the knowledge handed down to us from a Class Leader, and the knowledge that we learn for ourselves.
We take it for granted that bloggers and top players will share their knowledge, share their strategies, share their raid composition and share their expertise.
Dungeon Knowledge Transfer
And I think if it’s true of raiding, to a lesser extent, it’s true of the 5 man dungeon content too.
Although I do think that it’s almost taken for granted that guildies will consult another guild’s strategy guide before attempting a new raid boss (and I think that’s a shame). I don’t think it’s expected that players read up on a new dungeon before trying it firsthand.
While there are huge amounts of boss strategies for raids out there, Wowhead does a pretty good job of explaining how to defeat a bosses inside a dungeon. I guess dungeon bosses are just easier all around: less risk, less reward, less abilities, less phase changes etc.
It’s probably a good thing. I think I’d prefer to turn to a stranger in a 5 man and ask: “How do we defeat this boss?” and get a simple, straightforward reply that takes no more than a couple of lines of text.
It still doesn’t tell me what the original walk through of The Steamvault was. It doesn’t explain how the very first groups – with no outside knowledge – cleared their way through. Which way did they go first, instinctively? Which bosses did they kill first? Did they figure out the organ/gate unlocking mechanism? And it certainly will never tell me how we got from that to the widely accepted Hug The Wall + Water Walking approach that I take each and every night.
ps. No pattern yet