I think it is a sign that the team is happy being back in Azeroth when we all show up for group night nearly an hour early.
Or maybe we all just felt we needed some additional warm up time.
Either way, our normal meetup time is 9pm and we were all in-game by 8:10pm. All five of us and not just the three or four who could make it. It was on like some sort of plumber vs. ape event. Our official group lineup for the night was:
- Earlthecat – Level 80 Human Warrior Tank
- Skronk – Level 81 Dwarf Priest Healing
- Bungholio – Level 80 Gnome Warlock DPS
- Alioto – Level 80 Night Elf Druid DPS
- Ula – Level 81 Gnome Mage DPS
And the first item on our agenda was to finish up the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Last week four of us delved into the final chain of three instances that wraps up the five person content in Icecrown Citadel. We managed two out of three, with the second one being a bit of a trial for us. This time around we would go for all three.
Ula, Skronk, and I got out to Icecrown Citadel and used the summoning stone to bring Bung and Earl to us. Somewhere along the line I guess the summoning stone requirements got reduced to just two people in your group being required to summon. And so, for the first time in at least two years, we were all together in a group and ready to do an instance in Azeroth.
(Humanoids in the picture above: Skronk, Alioto, Bung, Ula, Earl, Jaina Proudmoore)
We planned to run through all three. We wanted Earl to get the whole show and we figured that since we only had trouble with the final bosses on the first two as a foursome, that being a full group would speed things along. There was a thought given to trying it at the Heroic setting, but we opted for Nomal given that this was our return venture.
More after the cut due the usual verbosity and over use of screen shots in place of narrative. Plus I totally spoil the ending if you haven’t done it yet.
So in we went.
First up was the Forge of Souls. As before, we fairly blazed through the trash mobs and the first boss, clearing all that stood before us until we were left with just the Devourer of Souls. There we stopped and went over what we learned last week, when it took us three runs to finish it off. We had a plan and stepped in to execute it. However, with a full group, a warmed up healer, and a real tank this time around, the Devourer of Souls went down quickly and without much fuss.
The only thing to die faster was me. I got popped seconds into the fight and so spent most of it dead on the floor.
That was just the beginning of my struggle to come to grips with playing a cat form feral druid. There might have been a reason I switched from rogue to pally in the group back in 2007. I am so used to letting the tank go in first that I forget to stealth and get in position ahead of time. Also I find myself struggling to keep positioned behind the target mob so I can use my most effective attacks. And in groups of mobs I am always in the wrong spot. So I have to work to do to get up to speed on that. I was in 4th place when it came to DPS.
And, of course, boomkin is always an option, though that would make our DPS three soft casters. I can see that going awry as well.
Anyway, we were through the first instance in no time and took the portal through to the chain to the next one, the Pit of Saron. There we had to wait for a bit for Jaina Proudmoore to show up. I am not sure why she takes a few minutes to arrive. Maybe some part of the story was unfolding and I missed it. But eventually she showed up.
Jaina sent her team out to be slaughtered and, apologizing for that gaff, turned to us and tasked us with finishing the job. Last week we meandered around the front of the instance, which is a wide open room. This time we followed the standard rule of heading straight for the next boss as directly as possible.
Forgemaster Garfrost went smoothly enough, though with the running around Skonk was getting a little stretched keeping everybody in range with line of sight for heals. Likewise, Ick and Krick were quick once everybody stayed out of the sick… or the green slime. That brought Scourgemaster Tyrannus into play. Again forearmed, we were able to get through the trials leading up to the final battle well enough, charging ahead until we reached his plateau. There Jaina joined us again, declined to be part of the main fight, and pointed us towards the big boss.
We had another planning session where we tried to get across to Earl all that we learned in our struggle of the previous week. Eventually, we realized we were pouring a lot of information on him without much in the way of context and decided that what we really needed was at least a test run to illustrate what we meant. So Earl went out to face Scourgelord Tyrannus.
You can see me there, taking screen shots, not even stealthed yet, forgetting to go get into position.
The fight had us saying a lot of things, giving warnings, calling out potential moves, and then Tyrannus was dead.
Elapsed time for the fight was less than a minute. I guess it wasn’t that tough for a full group after all.
At that point, in a time frame less than some of those “Previously on 24″ intro segments, Earl was all caught up and we were ready to follow Jaina through yet another portal and into the final instance in the chain, the Halls of Reflection.
Through the portal, the first thing you see is Frostmourne, the blade of the Lich King, suspended alone in the middle of a great chamber, just like Krick told us back in scene 24. On the map above we are in the entryway just above the word “reflection.”
Well, you cannot hand such a tempting treat up there and not expect us to go get it. Though we actually had to prompt Jaina to go take a look, to ensure that it wasn’t one of those replicas that you can buy online. So Jaina went out and Uther, the spirit of authenticity popped up and assured her it was the real thing and mentioned how the Lich King might be defeated.
This, of course, would not stand with the property management team. The Lich King came wandering out into what might well have been his foyer to call shenanigans on Uther and dare us all to face his wrath or some such.
The Lich King grabbed his sword and ran off, Jaina in hot pursuit, this time leaving us behind to cover her back. At that point, the fun began as a wild fight opened up, with various waves of bad guys coming at us in prelude to the two bosses, Falric and Marwyn, each of who shows up at a different point during the event.
The fight was chaotic and had us running all over the room. After the first boss we started to get spread out and Skronk had to tell us to all stand on Earl to keep us in range and line of sight for healing. The second boss came up, we managed to knock him down, an the fight was over. There were a few tense moment, but I never felt we were in danger of wiping. Skronk was laying down the heals like a champ, using the Healium addon that I also favor. (It is a simple, non-automated approach to healing.) Things went well.
So I was sort of amused/confused when I read one summary of the fight over at WoWhead which said:
I think people may be overlooking just how rough those “waves” are. I think this needs to be made very clear.
This is not Violet Hold. This is not the Black Morass. You cannot just power your way through these waves with Blizzard, Fan of Knives, and Volley.
I think this dungeon – all of them in the Frozen Halls – is an attempt by Blizzard (the company, not the spell) to remind people that you still need crowd control and kill order in dungeons.
Now, the comment goes on to say that this is especially true in the Heroic version, but at least implies that the fight is tough in Normal and that you need to coordinate. And, of course, that was pretty much what we did not do. We just spammed AOE, ran around like a mob, and basically powered through on the back of Skonk’s healing. Of course that comment was also written four years ago, and two expansions and many class revamps later, I am guessing enough has changed that powering through.
Maybe we should have gone with Heroic mode.
Anyway, after that fight, we were given the quest we had all been waiting for.
Woo hoo, the quest that shares the name of the expansion. I am pretty sure we all thought that this must be the big event, the final epic end for the five person content. All we had to do is find Jaina and… um… escape?
Finding Jaina was easy enough. We had to blow through the Frostsworn General and his five oddly familiar companions, all of whom we bowled over without really breaking stride. And then it was on up to the end of the corridor where, as usual, Jaina was in over her head and had screwed things up yet again. The Lich King was pounding the stuffing out of her. So she put him in an ice block and told us we had to flee. So the finding part was over and the escaping part had begun.
So we headed out a side door and started to run away. The Lich King, once out of the block of ice (how does ice contain an icy guy like him) and after us. We could see him in the backrgound, stomping after us, waving his sword around, and calling forth minions… and walls of ice. He would bring down a wall of ice in front of us and Jaina would tell us to hold off the rapidly approaching minions while she broke through it. In what was probably a total coincidence, the time needed to break through a wall of ice seemed to be exactly the same amount of time it took us to defeat each pack that assaulted us.
Kind of a fun mechanic actually… it goes with the story and gives us a sense of tension. I am not sure, if we took to long, that the Lich King wouldn’t have caught up and killed the lot of us. Unfortunately, I had already looked at the map. If you look at it above, we went up the main corridor to the Lich King, then out the side door, along the canyon, and down the path to what was clearly a dead end. So when Jaina was saying we were almost out, I knew something was being set up.
Sure, we got to the dead end, the Lich King showed up, and Jaina threw herself at him, prepared to sacrifice herself so… that we wouldn’t have to go first? I am not sure where she thought we would head.
And then a huge alliance gunship popped up and scared the Lich King away.
I am not sure why the Lich King was sent packing by the gunship. It seems like he and his minions might have been able to bowl us over, run up the ramp, and take the damn thing over, turning him into the Northrend equivalent of a shark strapped to a rhinoceros, able to trample and devour all who faced him. And Arthas, he always struck me as something of a forward thinker, the way he handled all those problems in Lordaeron and such. But he just wasn’t going there today. And so the quest was complete, we had escaped, and were given the achievement.
We finally completed the Wrath of the Lich King 5 person dungeons almost exactly five years after we first found our way to Utgarde Keep.
We took a group picture with Jaina to mark the occasion.
The place is very deep into the blue color pallet.
After all that snow and ice, and still not being too far into the evening, we though we might make our first steps into Cataclysm as a group. If nothing else, the whole expansion is built around much warmer colors. The plan for that is to go through the overland (or underground… or under water as the case may be) as a group, finding our way to the various five person instances in the expansion. We also plan to use the ability to turn off experience should we find ourselves getting too far ahead in levels.
Looking at the instances by level listing, it looked like the first instance was in the Vashj’ir zone, so we headed that way, eschewing Mount Hyjal for now. Vashj’ir is the under water zone and is set in what feels like a tropical fish tank. It is very pretty and about as different from Icecrown Citadel as you could get. The perfect place for a post-Northrend vacation, once we got there. That involved passing through a bit of phasing.
There wasn’t much phasing, but it included a run through what might be my least loved quest in the game, the one at the Stormwind docks that takes you to Vashj’ir. And the reason I dislike it is that I picked it up at one point when I was at the dock trying to get to Darnassus. But once you take the quest, you are in a phased version of the docks and only the boat for the quest shows up. If you go to the Darnassus pier, you will wait there forever and no ship will ever show. Roll stock footage of me, sitting on that pier, wondering where in the hell the boat was. I thought I was back in EverQuest.
But that is a one-time problem, and Bung and I made it to the zone unhindered where we started our underwater adventure. Everybody else, it seemed, had already gone there. Once there, we tried to get ourselves coordinated and on the same quests. As usual, we found some of them were much speeded up by doing them in a group… the game shared updates across all of us… and others were slowed down by the fact that everybody had to loot something from various mobs and no sharing of updates occurred. Fortunately, the quests seemed to be more of the former rather than the latter, so we were able to push ahead.
I did get everybody together with the idea of taking on the whale shark that swims through the zone.
That was probably not the best idea. He comes up as level ??, which meant he was well out of our league. He got Earl in one shot and then turned on me for another one shot kill. Nobody else in the group had engaged at that point and saw the wisdom in not doing so. In cat form and buffed up I had about 30K hit points. The whale shark’s one-shot kill did me in with 740K over excess damage. That’s a killer.
Skronk ressed us and we carried on with the quest chain in the zone, deciding that finishing the quest that got us out underwater mounts would be a good stopping point.
Of course, I already had the mount, having done the zone with another character, but I still did the quest. I ended up with a token to learn the mount which I could not use because I already knew that skill. I never know what to do with those things. I hate to delete them, but I am not sure I need to keep them.
Anyway, we called it a night there. We are officially done with Wrath of the Lich King as a group and headed into Cataclysm. We shall see how this turns out.