Gearing, Gating, Attuning. And sometimes I miss the resistance fights …

national (OK, which tank has a fire resist set?)

Rohan wrote a post at Blessing of Kings which has been on my mind recently. He asked, “Was Blackwing Lair Boring?” Blackwing Lair (BWL to friends) was the second of the old 40 man raids from Vanilla WoW. It featured a large amount of dragons, and a storyline about Nefarian, the Black Dragon who was trying to breed a new strain of dragonkin. It also involved the best looking tier set in the game’s history.

And we adored it. I have very fond memories of Blackwing Lair, and even when my 40 man raid was way overgeared for the instance, people still enjoyed the weekly runs and happily signed up for them.

So I was thinking some more about how raiding in WoW has changed since then. These days, you show up on your weekly raid night/s for a few hours killing with your friends/ guildies/ random people from trade chat and then you’re done. You won’t need to farm raid food unless you are keen, someone will probably bring fish feasts which provide enough for the whole raid. Your repair bills will be handily covered by a few daily quests or dungeons. You will probably want some potions or flasks, which are easily bought, and gold in the game has never been easier to come by.

Back in the days of BWL, the raids would be the focus of your raid group for most of the week, even when you weren’t actually raiding. You would spend more time farming to cover repair bills, or for extra buff items. You might be helping your guildies to farm up some resistance gear, or quest items that they needed to build legendary weapons like Thunderfury. And if you needed any flasks … well, the only places in the game where flasks could be made were deep inside the Scholomance, or inside Blackwing Lair.

I remember getting permission to use my BWL lock (to our cleared instance) to let my friends from non-raiding guilds come in and use the alchemy table. Blackwing Lair had another bonus for crafters too, it was the only place in the game where miners could learn to Smelt Elementium, a material that was used to make legendary weapons.

Crafters were also involved in creating the resist gear that was needed for some of the fights. We had tanks in fire resist gear to tank the drake bosses. Everyone needed their own Onyxia scale cloak for the last boss also. And in that way, BWL was tied both mechanically as well as thematically to Onyxia (another black dragon boss). You HAD to kill Onyxia enough times to provide materials for cloaks for your whole raid before you could attempt Nefarian. The raid needed good crafters who had collected the right recipes – which also either dropped in raids or were bought with reputation that was collected in raids.

Raiding wasn’t just about killing bosses and getting loot. (Just mostly.) It was about completing raid instances in the right order and learning how to use drops from one raid to help complete a puzzle in another. The raid game back then was designed to be able to focus people’s attention completely.

Overcoming Barriers Together


No one will deny that being forced to collect resistance gear could be tedious, time consuming and annoying. I don’t think many people enjoyed it and I doubt anyone was sorry to see the resistance fights disappear. But often, the rest of the raid group would chip in and help.

I remember in TBC that our raid group helped to collect the materials to craft frost and nature resist gear for our tanks on Hydross (a boss which required one tank with frost resist gear and one with nature resist gear). It was a way for people who had more time and energy to contribute to the raid effort, even if they didn’t raid so often themselves. (We were more casual back then.)

In many ways, I think Blizzard has been toying for a long time with the notion of letting crafters and non-raiders be a part of the raid effort. They’ve just not found a successful model yet.

In Wrath, BoE raid drops (ie. runed orbs, crusader orbs etc) can be used by crafters to make some extremely nice and desirable gear, all of which is BoE and can be freely traded and sold. In Ulduar, recipes were random and rare drops from bosses. In TotC, the recipes were still random drops, but were much more common and also BoE so can be found on the auction house. A rich crafter could quietly buy them up. And in ICC, the recipes are no longer random drops. They are bought with frost emblems (indirectly, they’re actually bought with primordial saronite which can be bought with frost emblems).

So it’s never been easier for a non-raiding crafter to make those raid items.

The other side to resistance fights was the sense that the whole guild/ raid was working together on an ongoing basis to achieve a goal. Barriers are annoying, that’s their whole point. To annoy you until you overcome them. But the sense of working together on a common goal doesn’t apply to PUG raids in the same way.

If your pick up raid needs a tank with frost resist, you won’t be motivated to help them to gear up. It’s much easier to just shout in trade chat, “LF1M tank for raid X. Need achievement, gearscore, and frost resist gear check before invite.”

Which is my roundabout way of saying that I don’t miss the annoyance and frustration of resistance fights. I don’t miss the feeling that I was letting the side down if I had been unlucky with nature resist drops, or didn’t have enough time to farm my primals on that particular week. But I do miss the feeling that my raid was a team that was working together on overcoming obstacles, and that team included crafters and non-raiding members too.

And I have high hopes that Blizzard’s plans for guilds in Cataclysm will bring that feeling back.

* Picture notes. I wanted images that showed people helping each other to wear protective clothing and overcome obstacles. I know these ones are (semi-)military but the alternatives were pictures of kids at camp and I was uncomfortable using those, even when they had a creative commons licence.

** PS. Screw you, Princess Huhuran and your nature resist grind. But damn did it feel good to get you down.

A blast from the past! And why we won’t get any more legendary tanking weapons..

One of my guildies has finally finished collecting the pieces he needs to build Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker (don’t try saying that when you are drunk).

This was THE iconic tanking weapon during vanilla WoW. It was one of the few legendary weapons in the game, it looked great, and the special proc produced a massive amount of threat — at least at the time. Not only that but carrying a Thunderfury meant that were an important enough person to your guild that 39 other people had decided to help you get the weapon. If you were a raider, you may well have known the names of all the toons on your server who had a Thunderfury. And there likely would not have been many.

My guildie is really just getting the weapon for kicks now. It’s been outdated for years (they actually had to nerf it in TBC because it was better than some of the level 70 tanking epics). But it still looks great, and it’s still pretty meaningful to anyone who was around back in the day.

The shared topic this week on Blog Azeroth is Memories of the Old Days. So I thought this would be a good excuse to show off about how my first raiding guild got a Thunderfury for our main tank, and it also shows how the core of raid design thinking has changed since then. Not only in WoW but in MMOs in general.

Rise, Thunderfury!


The first thing you had to do to build your own Thunderfury was to acquire two rare drops from bosses in Molten Core, and this is back when it was a 40 man raid. They were called the Bindings of the Windseeker. To give you an idea of how rare they were at the time, it was not unusual for a guild to have been running MC for a year and still not to have both bindings.

Only after one person had both bindings could they combine them and then start the next stage of the quest, which required a drop from the last boss in MC (fortunately this one was a 100% drop). After that, you needed 10 Elementium Bars. Now, Elementium only drops from mobs in Blackwing Lair (the next raid instance, also 40 man at the time) and to get to them you need to have killed the first boss in BWL.

Why is that relevant? Because Razorgore, the first boss, was a notorious guild killer. The fight was geniunely a step up from anything your guild would have seen in MC and because it involved 40 players and vast amounts of mobs, disconnects were also common. After you’d killed him, you could sweep into the next room and try to grab as many of the little goblins as possible … while they were running away. If you were lucky, some would drop Elementium Ore. But then there was another problem … you had to smelt it and none of your blacksmiths would have learned that from their trainer.

Nope, the trainer for smelting Elementium was deeper inside Blackwing Lair. About three bosses deeper in, to be precise, and wouldn’t you know it, the very next boss Vaelastrasz was also a noted guild killer. (BWL is a great raid instance but the difficulty is front loaded). Assuming you got him down, and Brrodlord and Firemaw too, you could clear your way to the goblin who knew the secrets of Elementium. Then one of your priests could mind control him and use him to teach elementium smelting to any of your blacksmiths who wanted to learn.

This is the point at which everyone learns that each bar of Elementium requires 10 Arcanite Bars as well as the Elementium ore and various MC drops. An Arcanite Bar can be transmuted by an alchemist but each one requires one arcane crystal, which is a rare mining drop from thorium nodes. So someone needed 100 arcanite bars to make their Thunderfury, it’s a lot of gathering.

There may have been people mad enough to do it all themselves but usually the guild would help out and people would donate crystals and spare transmutes at this point.

When you finally have all those bits, the last part of the quest is a mild anticlimax. You have to go kill a world boss, and it isn’t very hard.

Back in the day, my guild was the first alliance guild on our server to complete the Thunderfury quest – there were a couple of more progressed guilds but they’d been unlucky with the bindings drops. We were unbelievably proud of the achievement and that we’d been able to get this thing for our main tank. He was incredibly proud too. Lots of people had helped with the mining and transmuting. Everyone had helped with the raid bosses and on the progression through MC and BWL that we needed. I think I did the mind control on the elementium-teaching goblin.

And all I have to remember it by now is this crappy screenshot (what was I thinking?) Anyhow, this is a shot of the summoned elemental prince that you have to kill for the last stage of the quest.


I don’t think any dev would require that amount of coordinated effort from a large guild to get a single weapon again. In a sense, it’s just crazy. And to put a tanking weapon that good into the game is effectively disadvantaging any group that doesn’t have access to it.

Because raids are so dependent on their tanks, you have to be a little careful with what upgrades you give to them. Thunderfury was an amazing weapon and I’m proud that my guildie was able to get all the pieces for his – it took a huge amount of dedication even though the fights are a lot easier now. But please never do that again.