The Instance Group Returns to Northrend

Sort of.

As has been the case for much of 2013, we could only muster four out of five of the group.  Still, everybody has successfully resubscribed, patched, and logged into the game in the last week, so everybody is on board with the idea if not able to be present.  We are going to take another run at Azeroth.

So it was time to get the old team out, our original level 1 to 80 instance group, and do some warm-up exercises.  The planned group was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 80 Human Warrior Tank (missing)
  • Bungholio – Level 80 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 80 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Skronk – Level 81 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Ula – Level 81 Gnome Mage DPS

However, as Earl was out of town, we had to make do.

Alioto the druid is my latest character substitution into the group.  I had to change out because I ran ahead in levels with Vikund, my paladin.

Alioto is named after the former mayor of San Francisco because… well… I needed a name and that popped into my head and, more importantly on a very old WoW server, was actually available.  He is one of a selection of druids in WoW that have exactly the same dual spec options and professions.  I always seem to go feral for solo, healing for random instances, herbalism for harvesting, and inscription for a trade.  I actually have more such druids than hunters.

Even on the same server

Just on one server

But now I had a chance to change this pattern.  I cleared out my healing spec on Alioto and picked up the new… well, new to me… Guardian druid spec, which is for durids wat is bare.  Or bear.  I pretty much had to do that because, if you look at our line up, there are not a lot of other realistic tanking options.  Though, as things will turn out, the cloth wearing priest healer will do in a pinch.

The plan was a warm-up exercise to see if we could actually work as a team with the somewhat changed classes of WoW.  Our target was to scout out the three final 5 player instances in Wrath of the Lich King.  Those were added after we had “finished” the last instance… Utgarde Pinnacle… in the expansion.

Time to finish off what we started.

More after the break due to an excess of verbiage and screen shots.

So there we were.

As we were traveling to Dalaran to form up, we started trying to pin down the actual last date that the full original instance group last set out to do an instance.  Fortunately, thanks to achievements, that was easy enough to pin down.  We got the Northrend Dungeonmaster Achievement back in October of 2009.

Northrend Dungeon Master Achievement

Northrend Dungeon Master Achievement

Oddly, while the list view of achievements shows October, the expanded view says July.  Hrmm… that isn’t very helpful.  I wonder if that was because I was on with Alioto rather than Vikund, who actually earned the achievement way back then?  The unified achievement system has been both a blessing and a curse.

Anyway, October of 2009, which puts the original group on about a four year hiatus.  We did go run the Headless Horseman instance, but things pretty much tapered off for these characters after that.  I even had a summary post about the group up to that point.  Soon we were running a new group and the original characters went into semi-retirement.

So it had indeed been a while.

We managed to get ourselves to Dalaran, though one of us seemed a bit confused about how to get there.  It turned out that person was actually standing in Dalaran while asking about it.  We did managed to get into the same general area, and then headed off on our flying mounts towards Ice Crown, which is almost directly west of Dalaran.  Skronk had scouted the location earlier and flew out ahead to guide us in.

This charming location

This charming location

You can just see the tunnel leading to the instances at the end of the ramp from which the banner is hanging.

Inside the tunnel there was a quest to turn in and three portals, each with a thick portcullis in front of it, representing each of the final three instances.  The quest pointed us to the first of the three, the portal to the right, and we headed on in to The Forge of Souls.

The group in the Forge of Souls

The group in the Forge of Souls

There we did a bit of group discovery, figuring out buffs and health stones and what not.  I was even then arranging bear tank skills on my hot bar.  My primary bit of pre-work involved getting the minor glyph that randomizes the hair color on my feral forms each time I transform into them.  So you are looking at the pictures closely, you might notice my bear doesn’t always look exactly the same.

Once we got things a bit settled, there was nothing to do but get stuck into things.

The instance itself is fairly small and the path through it is narrow and linear.  Well, linear in that there are no alternate routes.  The path itself forms something of a stylized “S,” which stands for… something, I am sure.  Souls maybe?

An Old Forge of Souls map

An Old Forge of Souls map

That map doesn’t have the giant boss icons on it and pre-dates stainless steel, so you can’t get it wet.

We managed to roll up the trash mobs, though I was already having a bit of a problem with proximity pulls.  I would wander up to about the right distance to charge a group and the nearest mob would aggro and start in on me.  I had problems with that all evening.

Towards the middle of the “S” was the first boss, Brohjahm, the alleged Godfather of Souls or some such.  No, really, he has that title.

Bronjahm about to proc a special attack

Bronjahm about to proc a special attack

In an absence of any other plan, we went with, “Get him!” and rushed into the room.

As it turned out, Bronjahm didn’t have much of a plan either and we managed to knock him down in short order without any of us dying.

Bronjahm did have something nice for us though.

Druid robes

Druid robes

Well, nice for me in any case.  I am sure the rest of the group would have liked Papa’s Brand New Bag. (Cue comment about pop culture references and immersion.)  The Robes of the Cheating Heart aren’t exactly a feral druid thing, but they were such an upgrade over what I had that I went need and put them on immediately.

Flush with victory, we moved on, clearing trash to the second, and last boss in the instance, the Devourer of Souls, a fearsome Lawmower Man-like head apparition that will, presumably, devour ones soul.

Set to Devour

Set to Devour

Here we started to struggle a bit.  Or at least we ran into a fight that wasn’t a push over.

Shortly into our first attempt, I went from something of a state of equilibrium between taking damage and getting heals to a punishing health point draining burst of damage that killed me in nothing flat.  And once I was down, the rest of the dominoes fell and we were all dead.  This was where the question “Do warlocks still have soul stones?” came up.  Yes they do.  No we didn’t have one handy.

We released and headed back for the boss.  A soul stone was arranged for Skronk and we assessed what happened.  The combat log showed that I had been killed by Ula.  It turns out that our friend the Devourer will hit a player in the group with a spell that makes that player’s damage hit the Devourer’s target as well as the Devourer.  And since Ula was rocking the DPS meter, doing over half of our group’s damage for the night, having her hit me as well was a bit too much.

So we vowed to watch out for that spell and gave it another run, which appeared headed the same way until we backed up too far down the steps an the encounter reset.  However, we now knew what to look for and felt we could turn off the damage tap for whoever got targeted.  Meanwhile, the soul stone timer had about run out, so waited for that so Bung could create another one.

Waiting for our next attempt

Waiting for our next attempt

The third time through worked.  We all called out when that ability, Mirrored Soul, went up and who should stop doing DPS. (Always Ula.  The Devourer seemed to pick the high DPS person each time.)  The Devourer of Souls went down and we got the instance achievement.


Unfortunately, the loot drops were all for classes other than our own.  That was the theme that carried on going forward, with drops either being perfect for the absent Earl (plate, swords, shields) or the usual “nobody here wears mail armor” problem.  Ah well.

Then Jaina Proudmoore showed up to let us turn in the quests associated with the instance and to urge us forward to the next instance with a fresh quest.  We stepped through the portal in the back of the room and, hey presto, we were in The Pit of Saron.

(The Pit of Saron is not affiliated with Sauron, Mordor, or any pits built or otherwise administered under the direction of either of the aforementioned.)

We were actually confused for a moment at being dropped directly into the next instance, especially since Jaina took her sweet time getting there herself.  We actually went out and back in, confirming that we could just exit to Icecrown Citidel, before she finally showed up.  Then there was a little event played out before us where Jaina and her troops rushed ahead and got the tar knocked out of them by Scourgelord Tyrannus (not affiliated with Darth Tyranus or Tyrannosaurus Rex), who then mocked us a bit before retiring to his position as main boss at the back of the instance.

Jaina, who survived by hanging back and letting others do the actual fighting… she must have learned that from the rangers in LOTRO…, then handed us a couple of new quests which involved slaying various things and freeing alliance prisoners.  Then it was up to us and the instance lay spread out before us.

Unlike The Forge of Souls, The Pit of Saron starts out as a wide, sprawling instance and you can pick where you want to start in on things.

Another old map

Another old map

In the end though, you still have to get to the first boss first.  In fact, since my return to Azeroth, I have relearned the rule of quest prioritization.  When you are given multiple tasks where one is “kill a guy” and the rest are “kill this type of mob” or “collect this type of thing,” you should always head straight to the single target first.  The game will inevitably throw more than enough of the other items in your way to the single target that you will be done with them all at about the same time.  Many times I have killed the 10, the had to kill a dozen more to get to the singleton.

We did not follow that plan, which would have put us following the right wall, another rule for such games, but instead wandered straight out into the thick of things.  We managed to advance the two quests a bit, but ended up wiping because I messed up proximity again and pulled way too many mobs.  We had also flubbed the soul stone timer so had to run back, enter the instance, and rebuff again.

From there we began heading straight for the first boss, Forgemaster Garfrost.  As expected, we finished up the kill and free quests about half way to him, though we found we could continue freeing prisoners as we went and some appeared to help us fight now and again.  Anyway, no awkward “sixth slave” issue to be had, we freed all we passed as we advanced to the steps of the Forgemaster.

He is a big fellow

He is a big fellow

As usual, with no other clues about what to do, we just went up the steps and after him.  I am not even sure what really happened with this fight.  He jumps around his platform, he throw the big rocks slung on his back (over the shoulder boulder holder?), and has some special attacks, but in the end I just held aggro, Skronk healed like crazy, and Bung and Ula burned him down.  Boom, dead.

After that, Jaina showed up to rally all the alliance prisoners we had freed.  They then formed a cordon around the platform, then promised to hold that spot while we moved onward.  Some help.  We fought our way out of there, up a ramp, and on to Ick and Krick, a “Master Blaster” duo, with a gnome riding on and controlling a giant horror.  That fight went smoothly, with Ick going down.  At that point, Krick, the gnome, jumps off and gives a monologue before being killed.

At that point, it is all forward to Scourgelord Tyrannus, though you have to fight your way through an event in an ice tunnel.  In the tunnel, chunks of ice are dropping down and damaging you while summoned scourge charge at you.  We realized fairly soon that the scourge just keep coming until you make it to the end of the tunnel, so we surged forward, stopping to fight only when absolutely required.  Then, at the top of the tunnel, we were finally facing the main boss.

Scourgelord Tyrannus

Scourgelord Tyrannus

Jaina and her team joined us there and we listened to Scourgelord Tyrannus tell us our fate.  Jaina then took her troops and promised to hold off the scrouge that was now set to come up the tunnel at our rear.  To her credit, the team of freed prisoners did engage in a battle at the head of the tunnel while we  fought.

Again, in the usual course of things, we launched straight into the fight.  The Scourgelord jumps off of his dragon mount, Rimefang, to fight us.  The dragon flies around Reaper Drone and provides on-call fire support for Tyrannus.  Things did not go well and we wiped.

A look at the combat log showed that Ula had killed me again.  Tyrannus has an ability like the Devourer of Souls that puts damage from a flagged person on his target, which was me.  And Ula was still rocking the DPS, so I went down hard and quick.  So there was a revive and we lined up again to give it another try.

And we wiped again.  At that point, with the evening wearing on and Bung reporting his paper doll was up, indicating some of his gear was almost worn out, we looked up the fight to see if we could gain some insight into getting past it.  That gave us a strategy, which included me kiting Tyrannus around a bit when certain abilities were up.  A fresh soul stone was generated and we gave it another run.  Things seemed to go better, but it still ended up in a wipe.

At that point we were good for one more run before calling it a night.

However, we hit a sticky bit.  At the end of the previ0us fight I ended up dead way out where Tyrannus starts off.

Way out on the platform

Way out on the platform

Now, there is a gap of time during which Tyrannus is gone after the fight, during which you can safely get out there and ress those who fell in awkward places.  However, we dawdled a bit after the fight, and then Skronk started to ress the closer people until I interrupted him and asked him to come get me first before the repop.

However, too much time had elapsed.  Skronk got out there and started ressing as Tyrannus respawned.  Proximity did us in again and Tyrannus started his pre-fight monologue, putting Skronk in combat.  He was able to ress and heal me, but Ula and Bung were still down.  It looked like it was going to be a short fight.  But what the hell, we decided to use it as practice for the “real” attempt.

And so Skronk and I started running all over, avoiding incoming from Rimefang, hitting Tyrannus when he was soft and kiting him around when he was boosted up.  A couple of cycles in I laughed because we were closing in on getting Tyrannus down to 90%.  Some progress.

But we kept going.  I started getting the hang of kiting Tyrannus over the ice patches to slow him down while getting better at hitting him with all I had when the opportunity arose.  When he passed the 40% health mark I began to think we might be able to pull this off.  It was slow and I was wondering if Skronk’s mana would hold out, but we seemed to have the fight pegged otherwise.

Then disaster hit.  On a flee cycle I went one way while a Rimefang shot sent Skronk the other way and for a short time I was out of range of his heals.  At the same time I blundered into an ice patch and Tyrannus caught me and pummeled me to death.

It was a heartrending moment.  We had been doing so well.  We had enough in us to finish things off.  And Tyrannus was under 10K hit points.  We were sooooo close.

Skronk stands alone

Skronk stands alone

But Skronk carried on, running around the platform healing himself and hitting Tyrannus with shadow word pain when needed.  We all held our collective breath, watching the hit points on the boss slowly dwindle.  It was an agonizing count down, but in the end, as the hit points dropped into three digit numbers, victory was at hand.  And then the last tick of damage hit, Scourgelord Tyrannus went down.  Rimefang flew off.  The fight, and the achievement, was ours.


Of course the loot was, again, plate and mail.  Nothing for the team.  But we did not really care.  We were done for the night, ending on victory.

All in all it was good fun.  It was great to be back with (mostly) the old group and winning against the odds.

On the flip side, that we were able to finish these two instances as a foursome might be cause for concern.  If they were so manageable with four, then with five they might end up as a cake walk.  And then we end up back where we left off at Cataclysm, feeling like we were going through motions but not really facing any challenge.

Of course, there are some variables in play here.  Ula and Skronk were both 81, so their skills may have been boosted up above the curve.  I do not want to diminish Ula’s abilities, but as I said before, she was totally rocking the DPS meter, and that extra level might play into that.  Likewise, Skronk healing might have gotten a little help in that regard.  So we might simply be a bit ahead of things for a Northrend dunegon.  But we could always try the heroic version once we have Earl back.  And there is no saying how we will manage against the Cataclysm normal mode dungeons once we hit them at level.

Finally, as a side note, I pointed out in the group that we might have abandoned the Cataclysm 1-60 dungeons just a step or two too soon.  Having gone back and run them in Dungeon Finder groups recently, I noticed that they do start to ramp up a bit in difficulty after level about 40. We gave up on them  in the mid 30s.  We might have spent more than two years looking for that next game due to impatience at some level.  And we could have gone back to the original group when Cataclysm launched as well.  Such is life.

But we are back in Azeroth for now.  We shall see how we manage once we have the full group together.

6 thoughts on “The Instance Group Returns to Northrend

  1. gerfunkable

    The third dungeon in this series is pretty hard. The first “boss” area is really rough! Get ready to run away from the wall of death!


  2. bhagpuss

    Good to have the team back (or most of it). You and Tipa do this stuff so I don’t have to!

    As an outsider, perhaps the most interesting part of the whole long cavalcade is how hard it has been for the instance group to replace WoW. It’s plain that all of you individually enjoy and do very well in various other MMOs either singly or in various combinations, but for the full group only WoW and the extremely WoW-like dungeons of Rift have seemed to work.

    Also as an outsider to WoW, coming as late to it as I did and playing it so briefly, I find it fascinating both to read your adventures there and hear so many other bloggers and commenters waxing nostalgic about the game. I’m highly intrigued to see how this progresses and whether you can in this case go home again.

    Sadly, I doubt I’ll be seeing any similar re-run of my own seminal experiences in the Lost Dungeons of Norrath. That ship has definitely sailed.


  3. zimmy

    Ah these bring back memories :). Back in the day when these were just out they were quite a challenge and fun to do. The loot was nice as well !


  4. Rieth Mhide

    these were hard dungeons ( the heroic modes) back in their days, last boss in Soulforge always an IQ test on dungeon finder groups, and the pull in the other just after the 2nd boss, -when you start climbing before the tunnel- was always a suspect for a wipe on trashmobs which was even in WOTLK-times something of a rarity outside raids
    back than I used to run this in heroic raid gear and yet had problems to keep up groups in some cases
    damn you, now i feel like reviving my shammy :):)


  5. Matt

    The last one is significantly harder. Back in the old days it was an insta-drop for most tanks when it appeared (albeit the heroic version).


  6. R

    Yeah, the one wildcard that I missed while reading this is that I assumed you were doing the heroic versions… the normal versions are pretty easy for a competent group, even 4-manning it. The heroic versions are a step up, especially the last one.

    The last one was the group killer in Wrath. I’ve never seen LFD drop rates like I saw in there… the only ones who’d reliably stick around were tanks wanting the shield off the first boss but they’d bolt the second after that roll finished if the boss actually died. I actually enjoyed the challenge of healing that fight (I basically learned to Atonement heal in here, I got lots of practice and the dps was generally needed) but I got used to it taking 45 minutes to put a group together that didn’t drop the second they zoned in.

    Cataclysm ramped up the 5-man difficulty significantly. I could tell horror stories about some of my Cataclysm heroic experiences (samples: 2+ hour guild runs and a run with 5 of my raid group at the time that FAILED in a Zul, we eventually gave up) but… uh, I’d rather not, those aren’t fun memories. Still, if you’re looking for a challenge, it’s incoming. ;)

    (then goes away in MoP… but at that point I was more than okay with that)


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