Warlords of Draenor will be dropping in about two weeks, so it was clearly time for the long standing instance group to shake off the warm glow of summer and get back to work in Pandaria. Last week it was just Skronk and I online on Saturday night. We doubled that number this time around as Ula had resolved her authenticator issue and Earl felt a bit healthier, so the lineup for the night was:
- Skronk – Level 89 Dwarf Priest Healing
- Ula – Level 89 Gnome Mage DPS
- Alioto – Level 90 Night Elf Feral Druid DPS
- Earlthecat – Level 90 Human Warrior Tank
While it wasn’t a full group, Earl and I had run to level 90 and subsequently equipped ourselves with gear from Timeless Isle, so we were much more powerful than we would have been if all of us had been level 89. We certainly felt we had a shot at the last three normal mode, five person instances in Pandaria. We would have a mighty tank at least, which would no doubt help Skronk come to grips with the healing changes that hit with the 6.0 release. So this would work as a training exercise as well as a tour of the last few instances.
The first instance on our list was the Shado-Pan Monastery.
We had actually attempted this back in June with a four person group. After we looked into the Mogu’shan Palace, Earl couldn’t make it, so the rest of us gave the instance a try. The four of us managed to get to the third boss, the Sha of Hate, before we hit a wall. I just never got around to finishing the post about that evening… or the Mogu’shan Palace run. They are in my drafts folder still.
Anyway, we were set to pick up where we had left off. With Earl tanking, we blew through the first two bosses without problem and caught up to the Sha of Hate.
The Sha of Hate didn’t offer much resistance either. With gear boosted DPS via the Timeless Isle gear, the Sha of Hate was down. He barely had time to do any of his specials. From there we fought our way to the final boss, Taran Zhu.
More after the cut, because I run on as usual.
He took us a couple of runs to figure out. I had run the instance early in the year, as had Ula, with alts, but had forgotten how the mechanics of the fight really worked. And, honestly, I am not sure I could tell you how they work today. We came upon Taran Zhu in the misty courtyard at the end of the instance.
Once engaged, we were all given a new bar to watch and a button to press. Once the bar, representing hate, got high enough, you had to press the button to meditate, which would reduce the level on the bar. As we found out during the first run, fail to meditate and you give into your hate and lose control of your character. There were also purple orbs that Taran Zhu would knock us into and which would then toss us around. The first run was chaos. The second run went better. And by the third run we figured out how to get by and managed to defeat Taran Zhu and complete the instance.
That completed, we checked the list for the next instance, which was the Gate of the Setting Sun.
Initially I had no idea where the instance was, but once I looked it up, I realized I had been there many times. The entrance to the instance is by the flight point above where the Golden Lotus daily quests are. Since those are some of my favorite dailies… two of my level 90s are parked there and run them while waiting for Headless Horseman queue… I knew right where to go. There is even a summoning stone within sight of the flight point itself. So in we went.
As it turns out, my two favorites out of the daily quests are tied in with the story of what is going on in the instance. This was going to be both a stand up fight and a bug hunt, as we faced the army of the Mantid Empire coming out of the Dread Wastes.
While I do not have much to say about the fights, up until the last one, I will say that the instance itself was very nicely done, with story elements unfolding before us as we advanced towards the final boss. I especially liked the crumbling walls that opened up a path down to that fight.
The final boss, Raigonn, was the only place we had any problems.
Raigonn is a giant bug, and defeating him requires figuring out the fight mechanics. We quickly discovered that the cannon sitting about the room would launch you onto Raigonn’s head… except for that first one that put me back up on top of the wall… where we were instructed to attack his weak spot. However, we couldn’t quite figure out what that meant. Just attacking meant doing very little damage, even by the measure of squished stats. But we kept launching ourselves onto Raigonn time and again, chipping away while trying to work out what to do. We actually ended up knocking him down about 15% that way before Ula discovered that tab targeting would highlight his weak spot. However, by that point Earl and Skronk were down, followed quickly by Ula and myself. But at least we had an idea about what to do.
So we loaded back into the instance and went after him again, this time hitting the weak spot right away. That sped things up considerably and Raigonn was soon defeated.
As you can see, our group has discovered helms again, as people aren’t all on board with the new character models.
Then it was off for the final normal mode instance, the Siege of Niuzao Temple, which was way out in an area where none of our characters had actually been. Earl and I both knew the general area, having been through the zone, but finding the actual instance was another story. Eventually we found it in a tree some ways away from the actual Niuzao Temple.
Into the tree we headed up the spiral path around the edge, clearing it completely, before realizing that the first boss, Vizier Jin’bak, was there in the middle of the tree and that we could have just walked up to him and fought him right away.
We actually jumped down from the top of the spiral, landed on him, and managed to wipe before taking another run at him. He has sort of a reverse logic (for Azeroth at least) mechanic where you actually need to stand in his pool of gunk to keep it from being effective. For the first fight we avoided it in the grand “don’t stand in the fire” tradition before figuring that out. Once we had that down, he wasn’t a major threat.
Then we wandered around in the tree for a bit, going back up the spiral around the edge, until we found a wall we could attack, which broke us out onto the surface and the fight with Commander Vo’jak, which was more of an event. It was fun, a nice change of pace from the usual fights, and it seemed to be straightforward enough that we were able to handle it as a foursome. Dropping gunk on his minions would have been more effective with another hand, but we managed and brought down the Commander on the first run. There was some clearing of mobs to do after that, which fed into the quests for the instance, before we came up against General Pa’valak.
This was another fight where we had to wipe before we figured things out for the next round. Basically “don’t pick up stale bombs” to throw back at the bugs seemed to be the safest course of action, as running after old one got us blown up the first time around. Once we had that down, we were able to finish off the General.
Which only left Wing Leader Ner’onok, the final boss.
On the plus side, we managed to win this fight on the first run. The downside was that Earl and Skronk were blown away… literally… and died early on, leaving Ula and I to figure out what to do. There is a whole wind mechanic, which is what blew Earl and Skronk off the rather diving board looking location of the final fight to the deaths, which you have to fight against in order to attack Ner’onok. I went into bear form to tank him as Ula kept up her attacks. Ner’onok himself didn’t seem to be much of a menace… he didn’t do much damage and, once I could reach him fighting against the wind mechanic, he had no special defense. It just took a while as he kept changing positions which left Ula and I running back and forth into the wind until we finally brought him down.
Then I fell off the end of the platform trying to see if I could ress Earl and Skronk.
But we had finished. At least four of us now had been through all of the normal mode instances as part of the group. Yeah, we cheesed it a bit, having hit level 90 and geared up well beyond what these instances needed. But we’re tourists as much as anything.
Ula ended up hitting level 90 along the way so was able to get the flying in Pandaria skill. Skronk was close, but not quite there, so had to hitch a ride to pick up a nearby flight point.
I was a bit surprised that there was no achievement awarded for any of these last three instances in normal mode. Apparently you need to do them in heroic or via one of the challenge modes to get an achievement. While I guess I understand that, I sort of like the achievement as a time stamp for when I first did an instance. I guess this post will have to suffice for that.
Now we just have to get Bung on, leveled up to 90, and through these instances to wrap things up before Warlords of Draenor hits. There are just two weekends left before the expansion drops. If we get him on this coming weekend, we will do it as another foursome, as Earl will be running the New York City Marathon on Sunday morning, so won’t be staying up past midnight to muck around in WoW.