Death-who?

BIG DRAGON WHAT HAS FIRE IN HIM


The dear Zahrym has been awfully busy today: within a few hours of each other we’ve had a deluge of information regarding the new instances that are coming out in patch 4.3. According to these teasers we’ll be teaming up with the Dragon Aspects to combat Deathwing’s final assault on Azeroth. In a very interesting turn of events we’re treated to a possible future thanks to Nozdormu: a terrible timeline in which Dragonblight is a wasteland and Death Himself is impaled upon the towering spire of the Wyrmrest Temple. Here something is stopping Nozdormu from accessing the past and, thus, the Dragon Soul — the only artifact the Aspects can use to finally end the Earth Warder. The next instance takes place sometime during the War of the Ancients: here brave adventurers will attempt to steal the Dragon Soul away from the fount of arcane energy, the Well of Eternity. Afterwards, in the last of the new instances, players are returned to the present time to escort Thrall to Wyrmrest Temple to deliver the Dragon Soul to the Aspects.

All in all, these are shaping up to be very interesting instances. While the majority of the playerbase are going to be chomping at the bit to get a hold of new epic items, I’m going to spend most of my time taking screenshots and staring at all the NPCs I’ve never had the pleasure of, y’know, seeing in game (hi, Azshara!). It’s a very interesting build-up to the much-hyped Deathwing encounter(s), much like the three new Icecrown instances were build-ups to Icecrown Citadel and the battle against the Lich King. With these instances we’re getting a chance to rev the Hype Machine to eleven without the need for teasers or patch trailers. There’s a very big difference from seeing a preview and thinking “oh man, can’t wait to punch that dragon in the face!” and adventuring through timelines to retrieve the very item of said dragon’s demise.

Interestingly enough, both the Icecrown 5-mans and these new Deathing 5-mans take the story of the villains and expound upon them in ways we hadn’t known earlier. In the instance of Icecrown we found out that there must be a Lich King and that there was the possibility that a part of Arthas was still inside the metallic monster, holding him back. Both the Horde and Alliance got very interesting RP moments with either Jaina or Sylvanas and the ghost of Uther the Lightbringer (which, like all RP scenes in dungeons, got old fast) that delved a bit deeper into the enigma that was the Lich King.

Similarly, with the new Deathwing 5-mans, we see that… we see… um.

Well, nothing, if the previews are any indication.

Which is fitting for the Earthwarder: nothing to expound on the nothing we know about now. Sure, we know of his history and how he became who he was but little of his present condition. Like most of the villains in World of Warcraft, Deathwing is an insane monster bent on Azeroth’s destruction — a discerning feature, though, is how he became this way.

When the Titans bestowed their creations, the Dragon Aspects, with different faculties to watch over, Neltharion drew the lot of Earthwarder, the master of the soil and earth and the keeper of the secrets held within. Despite being a very large, black dragon with wings he was given sway of the ground and deep below: of the tunnels that cut through Azeroth to its core, of the fires which churned and powered the very planet, of the veins of magma miles and miles below. Everything below the sky was under the guise of Neltharion… and this was his undoing. Unlike his villainous kin, he was not driven mad by delusions of power or the loss of the ones he loved — sure, power was a part of it, but I don’t think that was in any way what really pushed Neltharion over the edge. What drove him mad was simple: it was meant to happen.

Being keeper of the tunnels and fathoms below the crust of Azeroth has a job hazard none of the other Aspects can contend with: the Old Gods. Chained below the earth by the Titans after Cyclopean battles, the Old Gods had little but whispers to aide them. Their mad jibbering had only one place to go: from the soil to the ears of the one who, for all intents and purposes, was the soil. He was doomed from the start. The only wrong he had done previously was being created. Whether or not the Titans had any idea that he would succumb to the insane piping of the Old Gods is not something we can speculate — but if they seriously couldn’t foresee a problem with putting someone in charge of beings whose only real power is to corrupt any and everything they touch, they’d be pretty terrible Titans.

TITANS: WE'RE GODLIKE AND ALSO HUGE DICKS

So here we have a dragon who succumbed to the work hazards of keeping the secrets of silent Azeroth: driven mad and emptied out by the whispers of the Old Gods. Unlike Illidan or the Arthas, there was no grace to this fall: Neltharion fell into madness hard and fast. Also unlike Arthas and Illidan, once steeped in insanity he had no goals barring the one held by his masters: the complete and utter annihilation of order and stability in Azeroth. Wanton, wholesale chaos is their goal — not the redemption of their race or proving their worth. Before the aqir began to worship the Old Gods they were without substance, more of an idea of chaos rather than beings with chaos as a goal. With their personification and entry into corporeal form came the need for harbingers and, once again, the dragon with his ear closest to the ground was the likeliest candidate.

But here’s the crux of this final goal: it’s boring. Speaking from a story perspective, there’s nothing more boring in a villain than goals this broad. Deathwing would be better suited in a long mustache to curl, cackling as he pressed the “GO” button on some mundane Laser Death Machine. He has none of the depth of Arthas or Illidan nor any of the emotional investment, which is odd considering that we knew about Deathwing long before we knew anything about the wayward paladin or Night Elf. All we’ve seen from him are steps towards Total Destruction, trying this or that plan, breeding this or that dragon, and while those are interesting distractions to fight and defuse, when the time comes to finally tear the magma dragon from the sky and bust his chest open for purple loot I’m not going to be looking forward to it like I had with Arthas or Illidan. I won’t care. I want his loot.

Given my theory that he was basically created to be driven mad by the Old Gods, there will be some sadness as I pry open his chest to loot him, but nothing else. No “FOR MURADIN!” or “IT’S KIND OF SHITTY WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU, ILLIDAN, BUT YOU’RE ALSO KIND OF A DICK SO HAVE A KNIFE THROUGH THE GUT”. No pageantry on my part. Just a cold desire to see him die and see the end of the expansion. Which is… so very sad.

Deathwing had so much potential. His best friend was Malygos — another Very Sad story, I might add — and his killer was standing not ten feet from him and he mentions nothing of it. No cries of vengeance towards Alexstraza. No mention of the children he’s lost. No sad desperation that he didn’t choose this, that he was chosen for this role by the Titans… Just the stock overuse of the word “fool” and a promise to see Azeroth born again in molten hatred. He was transformed, in the blink of an eye, from a calculating bastard to the Villain of the Expansion. He was, to turn a phrase, Transmogrified from a character with substance into a giant black box with the word $VILLAIN written on him in Helvetica.

Illidan had almost the same problem in Burning Crusade, if you’ll remember: he was rarely seen while leveling up and almost forgotten until his defeat in the Black Temple. Many players, upon reaching the final boss of the Black Temple raid, were left asking “wait, Illi-who?” because Blizzard had all but hidden him behind the shadows, casting him as the devious Man Behind The Curtain, a force unseen but “felt” in Shadowmoon Valley. They rectified this with Arthas in Wrath, but to a demoralizing degree: we saw him too much, interacted with him too much, were let off the hook by him too much. It made sense, in a way, when you defeat him, because you know that he wants you to fuel his Scourge war machine. Knowing that he planned to use you as generals to lead his armies gave me a sense of “oh, OK, kind of makes sense why he fled all those times when he could have easily tore my soul from my body”. Yet despite that it’s unfair to just forget the dozen or so times he look at you, Frostmourne in hand, and said “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you pesky players!” and Death Gated to safety.

Blizzard has a cycle: they do something wrong, they fix it a bit too much (overbuffs), and then they go back a little too much. We saw this with raiding: BC raids were a slog because you had to go through almost all of them to catch up before the great Gear Reset around Sunwell. Wrath came and Naxx was an utter joke and raiders were saddened. (Ulduar came back fighting, being fair.) Cataclysm comes out without an introductory raid, cockblocking many guilds at the three 4.1 raids. I feel like they did this with their villains. We went from “Illi-who?” to “oh God, him again” and then back to “oh, uh, him… that dragon… Death-something”.

I don’t care about Deathwing and that’s incredibly sad because I feel I could have, given the right direction.

- Bug

4.2

Hello, friends.

I’m late to the party! I know, I know, it’s terrible of me. (Was I supposed to knock and wait to be let in? I thought since we were cool I could just knock and open the door…) Look, I brought a case of beer and that CD you lent me a few weeks ago to make up for it. I couldn’t help but be late! I was away, I had shit to do, and I got really preoccupied with some movies. But I brought some gifts and I also brought something else: initial reports from the molten trenches of the Firelands. I know! How kind of me!

Patch 4.2 dropped a few weeks ago and in the ensuing weeks there have been a few guides here and there describing either the decor of the raid instance or the boss encounters. Until the dust settles in my little raid group and we get some things worked out I won’t feel right talking about specific boss strategies for different classes and specs, but I can share with you guys what I’ve taken from the patch and the instance in general. Nothing focused, just rambling thoughts.

4.2, class balance (or lack thereof! *rimshot*) aside, brought a few goodies to the table to share with all of us. To your left there’s a roast quail, glistening with the new PVP Season 10 sauce; to the right there’s the mashed potatoes and stuffing, served with dripping Molten Front dailies; and directly ahead there’s the hickory-smoked Firelands boar, mouth agape and stuffed with an apple, belly bursting with purple-texted goodies, each piece you can snatch full of odd boss gimmicks and tank swaps literally falling off the bone! I don’t know about you guys but I haven’t eaten all day (I’ve been saving myself for this meal!) and I’m starving. So, yeah, say grace and all that, but do it faster, c’mon too slow, oh come on THANKS DEITY WE APPRECIATE IT NOW MY STOMACH WANTS TO BE WORSHIPPED TOO.

Dig in!!

PVP

As an occasional PVPer I feel I should get my impressions of this out of the way before I offend too many people with my terribleness. Like many have said before me, the change from Season 9 to 10 was anything but graceful. Season 10 waited too long after Season 9 left before jumping on stage, and even when it did the landing didn’t quite stick – yes, a broken leg isn’t a pretty thing to look at, but at least it was apologetic and back on its feet like nothing happened. After the fiasco with the odd ilvls the Honor gear had I was surprised at just how much Blizzard wanted to make the mistake right again.

Now, I was in no way surprised when they apologized and said over and over again how it was their fault, their bad, so sorry guys but shit happens. What caught me off guard was their claim to refund people who paid for the lower ilvl loot for not just what they paid: but with 4k Honor. For those PVEers who don’t know a lick about PVP: that is a whole lotta Honor, guys. How they’re exactly going to decide on who gets the hefty sum is still up in the air, but the gist of it seems to be that if you bought Honor gear from the vendors before 4.2 dropped (and after Season 9 ended) you should get 4,000 Honor. We’ll see how strict they get with the offering, but as for now I’m looking forward to my hunter rolling in the grist when the Honor bank floods the streets with riches.

DAILIES

Oh man, dailies. I both love and hate dailies as a system for leveling up any aspect of my character. They’re mostly fun if I don’t set myself to doing them, y’know, daily, but therein lies the crux: when they’re new and there’s tangible rewards (I WANT THAT DAMN BIRDIE MOUNT) I kind of feel bad when I slack on them. Not this time, though: I’m saving myself from the hell the Argent Tournament put me through and just doing them when I feel like it as opposed to doing them per day.

(Sidenote: I did the Argent Tournament dailies every day when they came out and got Crusader just when others did. I spent all my tokens on tabards and pets. Then Cata shat on me and made the tabards cost silver instead of a fair amount of tokens. Not really upset at that, just thinking that I could have staved off my addiction to tabards for a few more months and I’d be riding around on a sweet birdie mount. Oh well!)

As for the dailies themselves, I’m finding them quite fun. “The Protectors of Hyjal” is quickly becoming a staple of my day and something I legit look forward to. I love the randomness associated with the quest and the possibility to meet some old NPCs I had forgotten all about. Of course there are also NPCs that I’ve gotten that I could never forget about: Calder Grey being the foremost in my mind. He’s literally one of the greatest and funniest NPCs Cataclysm has introduced me to and makes me proud to be a Forsaken every time he asks me what he likes most. (Hint: “Murder”. He likes murder most of all.)

I found the Leyara mini-quests kind of fun in that it’s reminding me that not everyone directly related to world events has a stake in things. She was Falstad’s wife before he died in Sithilus (torn apart by the mean old General, no less!) and was recruited when Fandral went extra-crazy (not just kind of crazy when he kept Malfurion locked up in the Dream and poisoned him). Seeing her kind of drove it home that you don’t have to be a major lore character to want to change things, even if you’re misguided and following a man who holds the position of Majordomo (something Ragnaros has a habit of… erm, dethroning his subjects of regularly).

The Molten Front provides a nice change of pace if you’ve never seen the inside of the Firelands raid. There are fresh dailies there and a bevy of achievements to get if you’re into that kind of thing (I am!). If you also happen to be a hunter and are a fan of either spider pets or pets that not everyone can get you’ll find a lot of things to either camp or pray are up when you’re doing your dailies. The taming challenges, while fun in theory, tend to get diminished as long as you have one or even two friends who are keen to help you. But what else could we ask for, really? You don’t want the challenges to require 9 or 24 other players just to get one measly PVP pet do you?

RAIDING

Molten Core 2: The Reckoning is, in my mind, leagues above and beyond most of T11. The fights are tough, like I thought T11 was, and the loot is great, but there’s still something about the raid that puts me in a great mood. Maybe I just remember Molten Core too fondly. And I do remember it fondly, for some reason. My rose-tinted glasses are affixed firmly before my eyes and I see nothing but rainbows and unicorns and new tabards as far as the eye can see. What difficulty of making sure 40 raiders were ready to go? What farming Azshara for hours on end to come up with raid consumables? Pffft! We ran in an killed bosses and got loot! We definitely did not spend an entire month on Ragnaros (not the instance, just a full month of wiping to one boss)! Heavens, no.

Now, I loved the hell out of Blackwing Anything and BWD tickled all the right nostalgia buttons in my brain to make me love the hell out of it. But it still felt like BWL. I was still fighting Nefarion and his minions, still putting to sleep the experiments he wrought, still having to kill dragons I felt really bad killing, still having to backhand dwarven constructs that somehow managed to stay alive during Nefarion’s reign of the upper half of the mountain. It felt too recycled.

Firelands somehow manages to take the motif of Molten Core (fire? check. elementals? check.) and make it new. Killing a whole bunch of trash to spawn Shannox can be annoying, but damn it it’s a fun little mechanic to get the kennel master of the Firelord out and about. Beth’tilac is also a neat gimmick and an interesting boss from a story perspective, if dry in the sense that I’m fighting Lolth but with more burning. Lord Rhyolith is interesting in that he’s an elemental as old as the Firelands AND that you have to steer his lazy ass away from the bad lava. Alysrazor seems like a lot of gimmick fun as does Baleroc. Hell, I can only think of Ragnaros as a boss that has gimmicks I’m going to come to loathe!

So far TSU TAIN GUU FAITAA has downed Beth and Shannox down regularly (twice and three times, respectively) and we’re making very nice progress on Lord Rhyolith. Afterwards we’re gonna pluck a burning budgie out of the sky and make her cough up purples. Beyond that? I don’t know. Baleroc seems like the obvious choice. At this point I don’t care, though. I’m having a lot of fun with 4.2 and the Firelands and I don’t want to overthink it like I tend to do with a lot of things.

You’ll get boss strategies tailored to whatever roll I end up playing (looking to be a holy paladin this tier! I’m pretty excited to heal again!), but not until I feel I’m ready to talk about it without a whole bunch of guessing. So give me a week or so and you’ll have a post about Shannox (who I can actually talk about as a tank, a melee DPS, a ranged DPS, and a healer since I’ve done all those roles for that fight!) and one soon after for Beth’tilac.

You guys can’t fool me, though: I know you don’t come here for the boss strats. Between all those things I’ll have more ranty fluff full of meta-musings on blogging and playing the game, same as I always have. And who knows? I know a baby bear guide that needs updating. Maybe there’ll be some of that, too!

- Bug