I know, I know. We’d all love to see Onyxia swoop down and engulf the entire Argent Coliseum in flames. If any Blizz developers are reading by the way, we would love you forever if anything like that was part of the revamped Onyxia encounter.
But that’s not what I was planning to talk about today. Point is, Onyxia is a raid encounter based in a single room. Granted there’s a long tunnel through which you have to go to reach it, but her cave is probably the same size as the interior of the Coliseum. For sure, she’s a three stage fight that was considered complex at the time, but the Coliseum has several bosses, some of whom are also multi-phase fights.
So why does everyone love Onyxia, but hate the Coliseum?
I’m making lists this week, so just for the record, this is why Onyxia was considered such a big deal by more longstanding players.
- She’s a dragon. Onyxia was actually the first real dragon that players encountered in Warcraft, anything you saw prior to that was dragonkin or a drake which is not the same. Dragons in fantasy games are always awesome, even if they appear in Tier 1 public quests. It’s a kind of rule of the genre. Onyxia set some of the standard expectations for WoW dragon encounters also – the fiery breath, the tail swipe, the fear, etc.
- Woven deeply into the lore from level 1. Onyxia turns out to be behind a lot of the problems you encounter when levelling as Alliance. With hindsight, we might wish that the Alliance had realised that she had a genius for practical politicking and annointed her queen rather than fetching the chin back from exile. Right back to the defias bandits in the starting zone.
- Handcrafted instance all about her. This part is true for the Coliseum also. But you interact more with Onyxia’s lair. You have to keep out of the whelp caves – whelps fly out of them in phase 2 and need to be controlled. You have to mind the gaps in the floor that flare up with fire in phase 3. You have to watch the flying dragon in phase 2 and make sure you’re at the right side of the room. The Coliseum on the other hand is just a room.
- Long keying quest chain with storyline attached. Some people love gating, others hate it, but making players do a long and involved quest chain certainly focusses the mind and makes the end boss feel more meaningful. (Anyone for jailbreak?)
- First multiphase boss encounter. I’m relying on my memory here but I know that Onyxia was the first boss encounter that I had seen that ran in several phases.
- Deep Breaths. Ah the legendary deep breaths in phase 2 that wiped half the raid if they weren’t paying attention. Were they really random or did you get them more often if you had two retridins and a moonkin in the raid? Who knows? But guaranteed after every patch, people would ask whether Onyxia was breathing more often. It was one of the first WoW raiding memes.
- See where she flies! Flying dragons that breathe fire onto the raid are cool. Also, need more dots.
- The loot. Everyone knows that dragons love to hoard epics and back in the day, Onyxia kept hold of the Tier 2 hats. Back when Tier 2 was associated with the hardcore magical mystery realm of Blackwing Lair, this was quite exciting. She was also tied in even further because in order to make cloaks that could withstand the last boss of BWL, you needed Onyxia’s scales.
Now, I have no idea if a revamped encounter can capture the magic. What it all adds up to is a sense of great excitement when you and your (40 man) raid first zoned into her lair. You’d all completed a long key chain and were on the verge of fighting your first ever dragon. Now it’s all old hat, we all chat to dragons on a regular basis and even helped kill an aspect. Multi-phase fights are the norm rather than the outlier, and our tanks can probably grab adds in their sleep. But I’d still rather fight Onyxia than the Argent Coliseum.
My personal gripe at the moment is that it scales badly for 10 man. We noticed this particularly with the first encounter, and the snakes. When only one person has the burning bile debuff that’s needed to counter the poison debuff and they just died … well, you’re in trouble. In 25 man, you have some extra debuff carriers which provides the raid with more redundancy.
Also, Faction Champions. PvP = ugh.