Category Archives: Instance Group

Tales of the Twilight Cadre instance group in Azeroth

Going Heroic in The Nexus

When we finished the final current dungeon in Wrath Classic and got the “been there, done that” Northrend Dungeonmaster achievement, I wasn’t sure where we would go from there.

Northrend Dungeonmaster List

Ula had suggested we might do heroics, and I was all in for it if people wanted to, but I wasn’t sure how committed we were as a group.  We did not do heroics back in the day.

Then the month of May was busy for a couple of us, so it didn’t really come up as an option, until this past weekend when we were all on and working on Argent Tournament stuff… I thought that might just be a “me” thing to do, but it is a good source of gold and opens up some gear upgrades… when Fergorin suggested we go try a heroic instance.

We had the time, and we were all together, and we were all level 80, why not?

When the question of which one landed, I suggested The Nexus.  It is probably the one instance we have done the most, so it would be familiar.  We remembered the bosses and their quirks.  It was also one of the instances we managed to do with a group of four, save for the final boss, so it seemed like it might be achievable.

So it was off to Coldarra.  Fergorin and Bjorid flew on out, then summoned the rest of us.  There was a question of how to start a heroic, though the dungeon difficulty selection in the group setting was found quickly enough.  Then in we went.

When the swirl has a skull, it is heroic

Once we got ourselves buffed up and ready, our first target was one of the patrolling dragonkin, which seemed a bit tough until I remembered that they are essentially double size elites.  And we did finish them off, it just took a bit longer, and needed a bit more healing, than I expected.

But once we got to the groups of normal dungeon trash, we did okay.  They were level 80, but so were we.

We hit the first boss, Commander Kolurg, which was a new one on us.  Kolurg is only in the heroic version.  He is there with two clerics, so we decided to kill the clerics first to eliminate healing, then finish of Kolurg.

And our plan would have worked too, except that we forgot that the clerics might fear us, which they did, and which caused us to run off and pick up some more adds.  Then things went south.  We hurried up to kill at least one of his clerics, but we needn’t have bothered.  Kolurg’s whole encounter respawns if you wipe.  So we had to clean up and try again.

The paladin’s ressing

After that we decided to pull Kolurg and his group as far back as we could to avoid additional unfortunate encounters.  That, and our original plan to kill the clerics first, worked out.

Kolurg and clerics down

We then cleared our way around to our old friend Grand Magus Telestra, who is probably the dungeon boss we have defeated the most times so far in our WoW Classic experience.  This is always a busy encounter, and a lot can go wrong, especially as she cycles through her routine a second time in heroic.

Grand Magus Telestra awaits us

We actually found out about the whole “do everything twice” aspect on the fly, but we managed to adapt and follow our plan… when she splits into three, slay the arcane version first… and managed to pull through to the end without feeling like it was a struggle.  We won.

Telestra down on the first try

You can also see the shine of my having raised my standing with the Knights of the Ebon Blade.  Ula and I both remembered to go buy tabards from factions that we wanted to raise.  I went with the Ebon Blade while she chose the Wyrmrest Accord.

Tabards on display

Our foresight was acknowledged by the rest of the group, who all put tabards on their shopping lists for next time.

We worked our way around to Anomalus, who like Telestra, was the same fight with just more of the same actions.  We knew the routine, followed it as we had in the past, and were rewarded with another boss down.

The only hitch was that, in jumping off of platforms to bypass groups of mobs, Ula managed to land in a little pocket of floor that was to low to climb out of.

Ula trapped in a pothole

Fortunately, Beanpole’s ritual of summoning was available and we were able to port her up out of the hole so we could continue on.

Next was Ormorok the Tree-Shaper, who was also a something of a “the same, but more of it” encounter in heroic.  However, things got a little out of hand on the first attempt… I misjudged his size and walked up too close to him before we were ready… and we were down again.

Down at Omorok

We had to release and run back through the instance, avoiding the mobs we had bypassed… and only getting tripped up on that once… to get another shot at Ormorok.  The second run, when we were prepared, was a success.

Which left us with Keristrasza, the final boss.

Keristrasza in her full glory after a past wipe

This was another fight with some mechanics we knew, the key one being the need to jump every so often to avoid the frost DOT build up.  We knew our positioning, we had ourselves buffed up, so we had at her.

And wiped.  At about the 25% health mark she enrages and puts out a huge burst of damage.  We had managed to overcome that in the regular version, but this time around it got away from us and I was down while she was still at 22% health.

Another release and run back, though at least she is at the front of the instance.

You have to go all the way around counter-clockwise to end up at the beginning and the final boss

We got ourselves setup for another try, with the same result.  I was down by about the time she hit 22%, and once I was down she finished off the rest of the party immediately.

Time was running by and dinner was at hand at our house, so we had time for one more run.  I had my lay hands skill ready and was going to hold that until I was in peril at around the 20% mark.  And, in the fight, that work… for a bit.  It nearly got us there, but I was out of potions and other options and Fergorin was out of mana, so we got her to the 5% mark, then it fell apart.

So close to victory

We were close.  It felt almost doable.  We just needed a little bit more.

But I was out of time, so we would have to come back another day.  In the mean time, we all went looking for some gear upgrades.  There were some to be had from the various faction quartermasters and other vendors.

Ula read somewhere that the suggested gear score total for doing heroics was 3,000 and, while gear score doesn’t seem to be a visible thing by default in WoW Classic… not that I can see, though there are achievements based on gear score, so maybe I missed it… but my Auctioneer addon does show me gear score in its detail view.

At Last, The Oculus Run

The time of dread was upon us.  Not all of us had memories of The Oculus from back in the day, but for those of us who did retain some sense of the place, it was not with happiness we recalled that time.

I actually cannot recall the run we did back in the day, but I remember a time when getting The Oculus as a Dungeon Finder groups was a sure fire train wreck.  I can recall spending an afternoon trying to get the instance done with a DF group only to have the lack of communication, knowledge, and the revolving door of people leaving after any minor set back turning the whole thing into a frustrating waste of time.

I also recall DF groups that would land in that instance and just mutually agree that we should just not bother.

Such were the foundations of my dread.  But we were going to give it a try.  So I flew out to Colderra in advance, just to get the lay of things.  And there, above me as I landed, was The Oculus, stacked up like an immense wedding cake… no doubt indicative of all the crumbs I had run into there in days gone by.

The looming tower over Colderra

I found the quest giver who had something for the instance and, as the rest of the group logged in for our run, they started the flight from Dalaran to our uncertain venture.  Only Ula had to be summoned to the meeting stone, busy as she was making 20 slot frostweave bags for us.

Very nice.

Our group for this outing was:

Ula still working away in Dalaran

Once we were all present we went to the instance portal, which is just above where the portal for The Nexus is in the zone.

We’re going in there

In we went and I started to get some sense of having been there before.  But it was still a bit misty, buried below angst and antipathy.

Here we are

We made it around the first arc that makes up the first level with only one death.  The initial mobs are mostly non-elite, but they are also all ranged and spread out and tough to round up and when people dump AOE on them, bad things happen.

Still, we made it and ascended to the second level where we ran into Drakos the Interrogator, the first boss of the instance.  He had a lot going on, AOE and an ability that yanked everybody to him, but we managed to muddle our way through.

Fighting with Drakos

On defeating him the three prisoners he held are released, and each one has a type of dragon mount you can ride.  You need to get one because flying is required to progress.  But you have to be careful.  While any of the three will fly you around, the one you choose now is the one you have to use for the final boss fight.

I had read ahead on that and made sure everybody picked the dragon that aligned to their role in the group; ruby for tank, emerald for heals, and amber for DPS.

Getting our dragon game on

Of course, they give you some dragons with attacks, your first thought might be, “Can I just blast mobs with these?”  And the answer is “no.”  You can shoot the dragons and welps that fly around the instance, who will attack you if you get to close, but normal mobs on the ground can’t just be swept away by aerial onslaught.

Also, it speaks to how the beta went that one of the three available buttons on the dragon riding console interface is one that asks, “Where do I need to go?”  The problem with a 3D flying instance is that it is much harder to channel people to the right mob if you can’t just stick them in a tunnel or box canyon.

Anyway, we went and did the next group of mobs the old fashioned way, feet on the ground, while we had to fly between platforms to fly them.

Along the way we got a drop I was not expecting.

Jeeves plans!

Making Jeeves is clearly on my list of things to do for Wrath Classic.  So the whole run was paid for by my calculations at that point.

Anyway, that all leads to Varos Cloudstrider, another angry boss on a platform.  We deplatformed him.

Varos Cloudstrider shall stride no more

As you can see, there is also a chain of quests that is supposed to guide you through the instance… but they still had to put that directions button on the dragon.

After that we were flying up to the next level to find Mage-Lord Urom.  There are no trash mobs, Urom is just standing there waiting for you.

There he is!

However, he doesn’t actually fight you.  Instead he summons trash mobs for you to battle.  I guess that is a change and gets past the “why don’t trash mobs standing within line of sight assist each other?” question that haunts any objective look at most dungeon layouts in WoW.

You fight his mobs three time, then he goes to the center of the area where you finally get to take him on.  He has an annoying frost bomb spell that is an AOE DOT that you want to get off of as soon as you can… but you’re slowed, because it is frost!

And then every so often just jumps to the center of the ring and lets go a big AOE that you need to duck behind cover to avoid, which is difficult if you’re on his frost and moving slowly, and even more difficult if you’re playing two characters.  Bjorid was the first to go down… but not the last.

We managed to get through to the last few percentages of him and bring him down, but not before he laid down another floor of frost.  Then the quest mob who guides you through the instance popped up right where Urom died, so everybody walked over to him… or stayed there with him in one case.  Everybody besides me.

I had seen the frost bomb go down.  It was hard to miss.  I knew if it was there it was still putting out damage to everybody standing on it.  Everybody but the quest mob I guess.  A few ticks of that and soon the whole party was dead save me.

Baited on a free quest!

That was quite embarrassing.  But it is a good thing the tank is a pally and can ress.

Interestingly enough, I went back to our 2009 run and found a similar screen shot.

Urom dead, along with most of us

That time Earl and I stepped out of the frost.  We’ve not gotten better over time.

Once we got everybody back together and buffed up again, it was time to face the final boss, Ley-Guardian Eregos, a dragon who flies around.  That meant getting on the dragon mounts who, when asked where to go, basically said they had it handled.

Just waiting for us

I did not believe them.

So I went and looked up the strategy for the fight.  Then we executed that strategy as best we could, because it honestly didn’t make a lot of sense, referencing things we hadn’t see since none of us could remember the fight from 2009.

Then again, it was mostly just DPS do damage, healer heal, and tank be the tank, so the details couldn’t be that meaningful, so off we went.

We go into the fight

And, it worked.  After a couple rounds the instructions made a bit more sense.  Also, we all did our thing and soon enough the boss was down.

Boom.  We were done.  We not only got the achievement for the run, but being the last phase one dungeon on the list, we also got the Northrend Dungeonmaster achievement.

Northrend Dungeonmaster List

The loot in the chest from the final fight was mostly so-so, though there was one jewel crafting recipe in there, and that is Fergorin’s trade.

Bracing Earthsiege Diamond

That was it.  We took a final screen shot with the defeated boss.

Victory in Northrend

Then we were done.  So the question is; what to do next?

Ula says she wants to try heroics.  But first we all have to get to level 80.  Meanwhile, Blizz does seem to be getting ready to test phase two. (Also in that post, game director pretty much admits Shadowlands wasn’t great.)

Hanging Out with Arthas and Culling Stratholme, as One Does…

Last weekend we were down to just two choices when it came to dungeons left unfinished for us.  We had The Oculus and we had The Culling of Stratholme.  That seemed like almost no choice at all because several of us have bad memories of The Oculus while we seemed to collectively have almost no memory of The Culling of Stratholme, save for it meant another visit to the Caverns of Time.

Well, not “another” visit, at least not in the context of WoW Classic, as we successfully avoided it by failing to get there as part of The Burning Crusade.

Even getting there was a forgotten art.  I was waiting for Ula to get on so she could get us a portal to Theramore so we could fly down to Tanaris and ride over to the caverns, when Fergorin mentioned that there might just be a portal to get there over in the Violet Tower in Dalaran.  And, sure enough, he was right.

Just step through to get there

You can find it just up the steps in the tower off to the left.

We hopped through and found ourselves in the right place, with the summoning stone outside so we could grab anybody who didn’t happen to be in Dalaran.

This all looks familiar

We got Beanpole out with us then, while we were waiting for Ula to get online, I went looking for how to actually get to the caverns.  I recalled there being a dragon one needed to speak to in order to get a ride, and I found him.  He actually had a quest.

That isn’t much of a cash reward…

What I had forgotten was that the moment you accept the quest you are mounted up on a dragon and flown off, down deep into the Caverns of Time, a long way from the summoning stone.

Welcome to the Caverns of Time

So I told everybody else to not accept the quest until the summoned Ula… though I suppose we could to done the warlock ritual of summoning if they had… while I wandered around down at our destination.  I did the welcome quest which has you walking slowly around the place and listening to a lot of dialog that was going in one ear and out the other… or would have had I been listening at all… or reading… is it even voiced?  I cannot recall.

Anyway, I did find which of the paths led to Stratholme.

It has to be this one

Meanwhile, the rest of the group was together, took the quest, and flew on down to meet me.  Our lineup for the run was:

The group

Bjorid had hit 80 to use a gun I had been able to craft with engineering which was a significant upgrade.  Given that Bjorid and Fergorin are both run by Potshot, having boosted auto-attack DPS seemed like a good idea.

We went into the instance, talked to Chromie, who is always in the middle of these time travel things, and emerged out of some inn keeper’s basement.

Look, we just got here…

From there it was out into the Lordaeron to find some tainted grain… it is always the grain… hey, it was the grain in The Last of Us as well… hrmm… until we caught up with Arthas going through management routines he learned from watching Office Space.

I am king, and unless you do what I say I cannot be king anymore

Yes, Arthas is going to destroy the city in order to save it and we were along to make sure everything went just as it was supposed to while Arthas did his thing.

Yes Arthas… hey, you want to just buy Twitter instead?

Meanwhile, the residents are unaware save for the after affects of the infected grain.

Arthas makes a joke

We started remembering bits and pieces of the run.  I thought this was another instance we ran just once back in 2009, but it turns out we did it again during Cataclysm in order to try and get a mount drop from the heroic version.   Anyway, the running around and fighting various groups came to us, though we managed to wipe on one mini boss.  Eventually though we wrapped that up and caught up with Arthas at the town hall, where we began to journey with him.

And he is in a freaking hurry all the time.  Our problem wasn’t fighting any particular set of mobs, it was Arthas becoming the second most aggressive escort mob after Pengail in the Lone Lands.

No, YOU are not making this easy

We ended up losing Arthas a couple of times because we would get stuck into some group of mobs with him, then he would be up and after the next group before we could recover, shouting for our help.

You know, you could just wait a moment or walk slower or something

Fortunately, if Arthas dies time just rewinds back and you meet him at the last checkpoint and get to chase him through all of it again.

We did find we could keep pace with him more easily if we just let him solo any non-elites he ran across, but elite we had to help him with.  And then he would be up and at them again.

Oh come now, just have a drink with us or something

Eventually we made it around town and to the final fight with Mal’Ganis, which was easier than chasing Arthas, though it was a bit of a tease.  You don’t get to slay him because he has things to do in Northrend.  And so does Arthas, who can’t wait to get headed to Northrend.

Have fun, we’ll… uh… see you later

We got some loot from the chest and the achievement for the run.

Stratholme culled

Then Chromie showed up to gives us a pep talk, thank us for the effort, and to let us turn in the quest for the instance.

She shows up in dragon form, but goes all gnome again

We had once again kept time safe from the meddling of… oh, I’ve forgotten who was up to no good this time. But somebody was about.

All of which leaves us with just The Oculus to do before we’re out of Northrend dungeons… or at least the dungeons available so far.  Phase 2 will bring a few more, but that might not drop until June if rumors are correct.

Dragon Tom Foolery

After out encounter with King Ymiron in Utgarde Pinnacle, Ula opened a portal to Theramore which, among other things, is the center of nostalgia in Azeroth.

He’s talking about vanilla WoW

Why Theramore, aside from the ability to make the joke above? Well, Theramore is a town on the edge of the Dustwallow Marsh, the location of one of my “things to do” items for Wrath Classic.

I am talking about Onyxia.

Onyxia slumbers

As our group lands at level 80, we’re in the zone to go poke at some of the raids back in vanilla WoW.  Onyxia tops the list because at some point her raid gets upgraded to level 80.  I have heard rumor that will occur when phase 3 of Wrath Classic kicks in.

So I had put the idea in the minds of the group and when we had some time left after Utgarde Pinnacle, Ula was able to get us into Theramore straight away.

There was still a ride across the swamp to deal with, and remembering that we had to convert our group to a raid in order to enter Onyxia’s lair, but otherwise we were able to stumble into he domain… which is honestly, pretty small.

Fergorin remarked that there really wasn’t much too it.  A passageway leads from the entrance down and around to her big open room, large enough to accommodate 40 friends looking to party, with only a couple of perfunctory trash mobs on the way in.

So there wasn’t much to do in preparation.  We made sure we had buffs up and went in and got her.

Playing with Onyxia

While her level shows up as “skull” even for us at level 80, he ability to damage us was pretty low.  Two expansions of DPS and armor upgrades, spells and buffs, and whatever else, meant that our group of five was more than up to the match and was never really in much danger.

I think we literally ran into and aggro’d ALL the whelps, but the repercussions were minimal as we AOE’d them down.

The middle phase of the fight, where Onyxia rises up and flies around her chamber was a bit annoying for me, the paladin tank, as my ranged attacks are pretty limited.  I was able to deploy the engineering rocket launcher on my gloves and the Gnomish lightning generator trinket I wear.  During that time Onyxia seemed to focus on Bjorid, our hunter, so between whelps I kept having to go taunt her off of him… not that he was in any immediate danger, but that is my job.

There was also her breath weapon being deployed during that part of the fight, which we tried to avoid.  But we had fire protection aura up to help mitigate that.

Then she came back down to the ground and I was able to get in there and do my melee tank thing and she was soon down.

Achievement cheesed

I find it interesting that they already have the “Level 60” notation in the title.  When we did this very same thing back in 2009, that wasn’t there yet.

And, of course, there is the loot.  Lots of stuff drops off of raid bosses.

The first items on the list

The gear is, of course, a couple of expansions behind the times.  I rolled greed on Doombringer, thinking it had a cool model, but it wasn’t all that special.

A lot of stuff went to Ula to disenchant.  The items in contention were Onyxia’s head, which starts a quest, and the Onyxia Hide Backpack. (We did not get the Onyxia whelp pet as a drop.)

Bjorid got the head, and I ended up with the backpack.

18 slots

A backpack that size would have seemed like luxury back in vanilla.  It is still the biggest bag I have currently, but I was at least able to shift bags around and take a 12 slot bag out of my bank storage and put a 16 slot in there in its place.

Then it was time for a picture.

Posing with Onyxia

Bjorid then skinned her and that was that.  But we still had things to do.

Ula got us another portal, this time to Stormwind, in order to run down the quest related to Onyxia’s head.  We had to go see the king.

Hey, remember us? We exposed Katrana Prestor in this room a couple years back?  Well, we have her head now.

The king sent us to the front of Stormwind to speak with Major Mattingly, who yelled out to the whole town about out victory.

Major Mattingly shouts

He goes on a bit and the head gets hung up in the arch.

There she is… not sure where Bjorid was hiding that head

The adulation of Stormwind was a bit underwhelming.

There was much rejoicing

We did not, however, get the Rallying Cry of the Dragon Slayer buff on us, despite Major Mattingly’s words.  I seem to recall them making some change to that buff back in WoW Classic, and I suspect that there might be a level restriction on it.

But the whole thing didn’t take that long.  We could go back and farm an 18 slot bag for everybody before phase 3 lands and she becomes a level 80 raid.  But that is another item off the nostalgia tour list.  Now to get the Leeroy Jenkins achievement.

Finishing up in Utgarde Pinnacle

We are getting down to the last few instances available to us in Wrath Classic.  This past weekend when we got together, there were three possibilities on the agenda, but really only one we were up for.  We’ll get to the Culling of Stratholme for certain, and we’ll even do the Oculus, if only for the sake of comedy,

But the next on the list for us was to finish up Utgarde Pinnacle.

Those following along might recall that we have been to Utgarde Pinnacle before, during the Lunar Festival, when we needed to get in and past the third boss, Skadi, in order to get to one of the elders required for the meta achievement.

Elder Chogan’gada deep in Utgarde Pinnacle

The difficulty there was that we were a little light in levels to take on the dungeon.  We were all level 76 or 77 at the time, and you need to be level 78 to even use the meeting stone outside the instance to summon people.  Fortunately, it is just upstairs from the Utgarde Keep stone, so we were able to assemble for that effort, which took some creativity on our part.

But now we’re all a level or more up the scale.

The group for our venture

So we were able to get there… I was able to use my engineer’s Northrend wormhole generator, which drops you right by the instance… and summon whoever was left behind and get going fairly quickly.

Into Utgarde Keep

We were all able to pick up the quests this time as well, because you have to be level 78 for that too.

Then we rolled on in.  We were not expecting too much difficulty, having gotten at least as far as the third boss when none of us were level 78.  This, of course, made us a bit sloppy because we had the power to absorb an add now and then.  This would, of course, wreck us later.

But we made it through the first boss, Svala Sorrowgrave without much issue.

Yeah, tell me about it

She even coughed up a serious upgrade for me, some blue plate wrists.

Svala’s bloody shackles

The name implies that she was wearing them, but I suppose even first bosses can get away with that sort of thing.

So we rolled on, clearing and collecting items for the “junk in the trunk” quest that three of us had to do.  It involves picking up bits and pieces along the way.

The second boss, Gortok Palehoof and his pets, was also not a big effort.

Go on Gortok

He and his pets were dispatched without too much angst.  Each has a special routine, but none surprised us.

Which led us to Skadi.  Him we had had problems with before.  But I think by this point we had also attempted him at least ten times, so we knew the routine.  We got sloppy, I called out the wrong side to stand on when the frost carpet was laid out for us, but we somehow managed to hang on, brought Skadi down off his dragon, and slew him.

Skadi’s end

We were now on the path to the final boss, King Ymiron.  There was just a bit of trash to clear on the way.  And that is where we wiped.

We took on a group of four, two shaman and two necros, and then pair of berserkers we hadn’t seen wandered in, and things seemed like they were under control until one of the necros feared us all just as Fergorin was winding up for a big heal that I really needed.  Feared you cannot use a potion or a health stone, so I went down, and then the rest of the party.  It was a wipe.

But we had a soul stone, so Fergorin could revive on the spot and ress me, and together we ressed the rest of the party.

Cleanup outside of King Ymiron’s chamber

We had at least knocked out the two shaman, so once we were all back upright, finishing things off in the room went quickly.  And then we went up the ramp at the other side of the room and were facing King Ymiron.

This is his place

I won’t say this fight was hard, because we managed to get through it on the first go.  But it was definitely a fight that made us work a bit for it, a fight where a serious screw up could have, would have, led to a wipe.  King Ymiron hits hard and has some special attack and towards the end of the fight gets all over the place.

King Ymiron beating on me… also, check out how deep that rug is

The onus was really on Fergorin to keep me alive.  But he managed it, and the king was thrown down.  One of the drops was a nice sword, suitable for a holy pally, so Fergorin got that.

The Jeweled Coronation Sword

Then it was time for a pic of the group at the throne.

The group at the end

That did not take us too long.  We had enough time to look into something else, so Ula opened a portal to Theremore.  But where we went from there is for another post.

Anyway, we did this better than our 2009 run at the instance, though I think that was largely due to having practiced on Skadi as many times as we did.  Back then we wiped on him even though the group was all level 80.

A Spark of Memory in the Halls of Lightning

We are at a point in Wrath where I am reminded that it was really the last hurrah for the idea of leveling dungeons along the way of your adventure.  Wrath opened up with a dozen five player dungeons in the tradition of vanilla and TBC, and we get another four as the phases unlock.

Once we get to Cataclysm we get fewer dungeons along the way, more at level cap, and we start getting special ones, like the old Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub raids re-cast as five person heroics.

There was certainly a reason for this change.  Our own travel through Northrend has required very little overland adventuring, even with us all starting at level 68 rather than 70, and we have leveled up into and sometimes beyond the levels of the dungeons.  The realities of managing an 80 level xp curve where Blizz wants people to get into the latest stuff and the plan to go to five level expansions for a couple of runs made the situation untenable.

Because, unless you’re going to do heroics at level cap, the instances can become a blur of one and done events.

I have strong memories of several dungeons in Wrath… Utgarde Keep and the Nexus for various reasons, and the Oculus for very specific reasons… but many of the other were things we did once back in 2009 and now, 14 years later, we’re doing once more.

Which brings us to the Halls of Lightning, which I actually bit more vague memories of from back in the day.

Riding up to the Halls of Lightning

Going back in the history of the blog… I am so glad I tagged every dungeon run with the name of the dungeon… so Halls of Lightning will bring up this run and the past two… I was able to see that we had to take two runs at this one.  We failed on the final boss and it was late and we had to call it a night on our first run.  So we spent a second week there on a return visit to finish it off.  By the second round we were all level 80 and managed to finish it off.

Which doesn’t mean I have any strong memories of the instance.  It was more a series of vague “we had trouble here” sensations now and then that came up.  But that was often guide enough for us, at least until the last boss.  We also came in at about the same level as we did in our first run at it back in the day.

The group

The first thing we noticed on arriving was that the first boss was there, wandering around the paths between us and the rest of the instance.

General Bjarngrim doing his rounds

He wanders around between a set of groups, seeming to get charged up with power as he visited each group.

The first floor map

That seemed like a hint that maybe we should take out those groups while the general was elsewhere before engaging with him.  We acted on that plan, taking out the nearest two groups while the general was on the far side of his patrol.  But after clearing the group in the lower right of the pentagon on the map, we ended up a little too close to the general on his walk back and suddenly it was on.

But we managed to power through it… mostly.  Ula got dropped, but on being revived she did win the roll for a new pair of shoulders.

Mantle of the Electric Charges

We went around and cleared out the last group, then turned to the Iron Cruicible room, which I remembered as some sort of event.  It ends up being a room with non-elites in it that respawn quickly, so if you sit there and try to clear them, which we did for a bit, you’ll never get to the far side of the room.  In the end we made a dash for it, cross the room, then made our way up to the second floor, where the remainder of the bosses reside.

Up to the second floor

The first boss waiting for us was Volkhan, whose name was changed for copyright reasons I am sure, whose location again triggered some deep past memory of trouble.

Volkhan works at his forge

Still, we took a run at him… and it did not go well.  We were not ready for his mechanics and barely disturbed his work.

Volkhan back to his forge after our brief interruption

His gimmick is summoning some golems who, when you burn them down to one hit point, he has explode for lots of damage.  Avoid the golems.  We read up on a couple of suggested ways to deal with it, but in the end I just pulled him across the room then kited him around in a corner while people steered clear of his helpers and we managed to bring him down.

Then it was around through the Hall of Watchers which, again, I somehow knew was going to be trouble… well, that wasn’t even memory, it was just the certain knowledge that in a room with a bunch of hostile looking guys frozen in place somebody had to become animated and attack us.  We made our way past there as quickly as we could and over to Ionar, who was clearly going to be dealing some electric damage.

He looks like a thunder storm wearing armor, what do you expect?

Bjorid was able to put up a nature resist group effect and, when it came down to it, we were able to get through him on the first run.  There is a point where he lets loose with some electrical creepy crawlies that wander around, but they were easy enough to avoid.

With Ionar out of the way, we went through the passage behind him and into the last big area which leads to the final boss, Loken.

Loken is kind of bored with the whole thing

Yes, there was some trash to clear along the way, but we managed that and were standing before Loken before too long.  Proving I pay some attention to what goes on now and then, I did recall Brann Bronzebeard mentioning Loken the previous week when we were in the Halls of Stone.  I don’t remember what he said, but the name definitely came up.

Loken has a couple of tricks up his sleeve.  He has an ongoing AOE attack that gets stronger the further away you are from him, and then a sudden AOE attack that you really want to run away from him before it hits.  So stay close, until you need to run away, then stay close again.

Also, he attempts to monologue you to death with how tedious it is to have to get up out of his big chair to deal with mortals.

The latter was survivable, but we managed to mis-time the former and ended up with just me standing there, embarrassed, with Loken down to 12% and little chance that I was going to finish him off.

We didn’t even have a soul stone, so we had to release and run back.  While we got ready again, I looked Loken up to see if there were any suggestions for the fight.  The clearest on I found just said fight him on the glowing line, so everybody knows where to be, then just back up when the big attack is coming, then let him come to you again once that has passed.  Rinse, repeat, and finish him off.

And it worked like a champ.  The first fight was chaos with us running all over, the second fight was all backing up every time I called out that the big hit was coming, standing just out of range, and picking up the fight again from there.  He went down, dungeon complete.

Halls of Lightning achievement

He dropped a nice wand upgrade that went to Beanpole.

After we rolled on that we went to take a final picture in the instance.

Loken’s end

We made it through, though we did wipe twice and, somehow, Ula and Bjorid managed to die an additional pair of times.

After this we will likely make our return to Utgarde Pinnacle to finish that off.  If nothing else, that will put off us having to face The Oculus.  That will be an adventure in and of itself.

Return to the Halls of Stone

Coming back to Northrend this past weekend we picked up where we left off on our list, which was with the Halls of Stone up in Icecrown.  We had been there, or at least a little ways into the instance, for the Lunar Festival.  Now we were back to finish it off.

First we had to get there.

We had all grabbed the flight point when we were there previously, but not everybody had a connecting flight point… and we are still in the classic era where you can’t just fly through undiscovered flight points.  That comes later.

But some of us could get there and use the summoning stone… if we could see the summoning stone.

Invisible Summoning Stone

I know I have mentioned the draw distance issue in WoW Classic a few times, but here is another example.  You can see somebody standing in the distance and some trees beyond them.  The summoning stone is right where they are standing, but you cannot see it until you close about half the distance from the flight point.

I know, it isn’t the worst issue in the game… I am starting to make a list of issues with Wrath Classic… but it can be annoying if you want to find specific things… like a summoning stone.

Anyway, we got there and were ready to summon.  Our group for the outing was as follows.

Halls of Stone group

Once everybody was summoned it was into the instance.  This time, rather than looking for an elder, we were there to clean the place out.

Map of Halls of Stone

You come into the instance at about 10 o’clock on the map and some vague memories of the place told me that the main boss was at noon and we needed to do something in order to get to them.  And then there was a quest marker on the path off at 3 o’clock, which seemed the likely source for unlocking.

With that in mind we decided to go counter clockwise from where we came in, starting in the Crystalline Quarry, which was where we found the elder on our past visit.

Up at the end of that swirl we found Krystallus, the first boss.

There he is

He didn’t have a mana bar or anything, so we decided to just have at him and see what came of it.  And it started off pretty well.  And then, about a third of the way into the fight he did something and all the casters, who were standing bunched up at range, died instantly.

No healing and down on DPS, the end result was inevitable.

Face down again

We decided to do a little research and discovered that he has a one-two set of abilities that turns everybody into an AOE bomb essentially, so if you’re all standing together, things go badly.

So we spread out for the second run, which ended up going much better… though when the fight ended my experience bar disappeared.  That was because I had hit level 80.

Level up on the boss kill

I had, perhaps, been hitting the Argent Tournament dailies a bit too regularly.  But now I couldn’t get any further ahead of the group at least!

That done, we moved around and headed down the 6 o’clock path to the Hall of Repose where we found the Maiden of Grief.  I guess repose means different things to different people.

Insert Uldaman/Ironaya reference here

Having looked up the first boss, I had glanced at the details of the second, which mostly mentioned staying out of her gunk.  It will rot your teeth, among other things.

There she is, rotting in her own gunk

While we fumbled the instructions… there was something about the tank and the healer running into the gunk at some point to break a stun effect… we managed to power through.

Repose achieved

Now it was time to head down the path at 3 o’clock where we ran into Brann Bronzebeard,  He was the quest giver and once we were ready we followed him down the path to the Tribunal of Ages.

Brann was anxious to get there

Down at the end at the Tribunal of Ages, Brann stops and waits for you to talk to him.  It seemed quite clear that he was going to do something and we were going to have to protect him through an event.

Welcome to the Tribunal of Ages

Again, vague memories of doing this back in 2009 or some were in the back of my head.  So we sent Brann off to do his thing… which seemed to mostly involve exchanging Northrend lore trivia with the Tribunal… while we tried to keep waves of baddies off of him.

Things got a little out of hand on the first run and Brann died.  Fortunately, like the rest of us, he just revives and shows back up again.  So we took a second run at it and, while not perfect… Ula died… we did managed to defend him and get the ear full of lore about Ulduar that the instance seemed keen to inform us about.

Having done that, Brann said he would meet us outside the door to the final boss, where he let us in and again we had to cover him while he fiddled with some equipment while the main target, Sjonnir The Ironshaper, fought us while summoning waves of helpers.

It was as chaotic as the last event, right down to Ula dying again, but we prevailed in the end and the boss went down.

Halls of Stone complete achievement

Brann had some nice upgrades for some of us when we turned in our quest to him.  After that we lined up and took a screen shot with Brann at the end of the instance.

It is all Brann in the end

While we had some hiccups, it was not a tough run.  Still, when I went back to look at my post about our run back in the day, we seemed to have skated through much more easily back then.  But we were also a full group of 79s then as well.

That leaves us with four more instances currently in Wrath to tackle, and four more that have yet to be brought into the game.  We still have a ways to go.  But we’re all closing in on the level cap.  After I leveled up Fergorin his 79 and Beanpole 78, so we’re almost there.

Through Violet Hold and Gundrak

When we got together this past weekend it felt like we had a lot of choices.  Having done sections of several dungeons as part of the Lunar Festival achievement run to get our titles we could have carried on at any one of several instances.

We didn’t have to stick to the strict order levels, we could go where we wanted!  We could have gone back and faced Skadi again just to show him who was boss.

Here’s Skadi!

However, we also happened to be standing in Dalaran practically in sight of Violet Hold and it was next on our list, our past attempt having gone badly, and nobody had a strong opinion in favor of going elsewhere… so we went to Violet Hold.

Our group for the afternoon was as follows.

Waiting for Beanpole to find the instance

We have worked on a level to get through Utgarde Pinnacle for Lunar Festival… and I had been doing Argent Tournament dailies… so we found ourselves a bit more beefed up than our last run at the instance.  We were all literally two levels up on that last run.  That, and the knowledge we had gained on the last run, made things a little easier.

You do six portal waves, keeping an eye to make sure nobody is attacking the door, then you get a boss.

Lavanthor shows up to disturb our pre-fight picnic

Then you do six more portal waves and get another boss… and I didn’t take a screen shot beyond the next boss appearing.

Zuramat the Obliterator announces his arrival

Zuramat the Obliterator announces his arrival

And then you do six more waves and end up with Cyanigosa, the final boss, who is a dragon and a slightly tougher fight… you have to get positioned to avoid the breath cone and tail cone… but ended up being doable without too much effort at our levels.

Prison riot put down

That got us the achievement and, according to the clock readings in my screen shots took us all of 20 minutes to accomplish.  I spoke to Lieutenant Sinclari at 16:26 and took the achievement screen shot at 16:45.

Violet Hold Achievement Done

That was so quick that it felt like a warm-up, so we decided to head to the next dungeon on the list, which was Gundrak.  That meant some flight time, during which cats were fed, and then we met up at the stone for the next run.

As noted, we had been here for the Lunar Festival, but we were not required to fight any bosses, the elder in Gundrak being in an area where you could sneak around the boss if careful.

At the elder behind the boss

We ended up fighting that boss… and winning… once… but this time around we were there to fight all the bosses that were available rather than just bypassing them.

You run Gundrak by slaying the bosses around the periphery, after which you work your way back to the center to make your way to the boss.  There are two ways in, so you can go clockwise or counter clockwise, but the clockwise entrance is close to the summoning stone, so we went that way.

Gundrak Map

Ignore where my marker is on the map, that is the side we did not come in through.

There is also another boss, down in the lower left of the map, who is only there when it is run in heroic mode.  We’re not there yet.

The first boss, down in the Den of Sseratus at 3 o’clock, is Slad’ran.  He has a bunch of snakes around him and, is a snake himself.  We cleared out his area and then had at him.

Doing the pull with my wrist mounted rocket launcher… an engineering item I made

His big thing is that he… summons snakes.  But we were already killing snakes, so it didn’t make for much of a change.  We managed to finish him without much effort.

Then we moved around clockwise to the 6 o’clock position to the Drakkari Colossus.  We had fought him before and had learned, along the way, not to stand in the purple goop that his elementals leave behind.  His routine is you fight him, then an elemental he summons, then him again, then an elemental, and then you finish him off.

With that knowledge… and the additional levels… the fight was much less dramatic.  We took him on the first go.  It was then I noticed that behind him there was an altar with a cog wheel if you moused over it.  Clicking that unlocked a beam that dropped a peg into a hole in the center of the instance.

The altar does its thing

Looking at that it was obvious that there were holes to be filled at 3 and 9 o’clock, which meant we must have missed the altar behind Slad’ran.  So we ran back and got that.  Then we moved back around to get to the boss at 9 o’clock, Moorabi.

Moorabi awaits

His thing is that he turns into a mammoth mid fight, which is visually interesting I suppose, but a bit awkward if you have pulled him back onto the steps so he ends up standing at an angle.

Mammoth with two short legs I guess

Like the previous two bosses, there was an altar behind him, which I activated, which was the final one to unlock the way to the final boss.

It was at that point I recalled something about not going back around to the Drakkari Colossus or where ever the ramp to the center was, but just bypassing some mobs by jumping off of Moorabi’s altar and swimming to the center of the instance.

Looking at where we needed to be

So I moved closer to the edge to see where we might land and took a step too far and fell off.  We were now committed to my half remembered strategy.

There are, of course, mobs in the water and they attack and some of almost died (me) because getting ashore on the other side means getting up a very steep incline that I picked the wrong spot to try and ascend.  But we ended up making it without loss despite my efforts.

Then there were just a few guys on rhinos between us and the final boss.  That seems to be the end boss motif, as even the final boss, Gal’darah, summons a spirit rhino to smack people in the party at random.

Facing the gauntlet of rhinos

Fortunately all the rhino riders were content to let their fellows die solo and were not all that tough.  And then it was time for Gal’darah, who like his henchmen, was not too tough.  It was a boss fight, but we powered through on our levels and that was that.  Soon he was down and we had the achievement.

And that is where he fell

He did drop a nice ring for me.

Gal’darah’s Signet

In fact, while there were a couple of items for the casters, the run seemed very much like an “upgrade the tank” event.

We took out final group picture… Gal’darah’s area seemed a much more epic background than his little corpse sprawled out on the floor… though you can still see him there.

Victory in Gundrak

And so we were done with Rhinos and the instance.  That took us about an hour to run, so neither it nor Violet Hold were exactly Sunken Temple or Wailing Caverns level commitments.  Still, they made for a decent afternoon’s fun.

Looking back at how we ran it in 2009, for some reason we went in the other side and did Moorabi first then moved around from there.  Something about snakes.  We also wiped once, but did run it a level below this run.

Next on the list is the Halls of Stone and then Utgarde Pinnacle again.  We’ll soon all be high enough to use the summoning stone there.

Look at me. I am the Elder now.

As the title no doubt gives away, we did manage to complete the Lunar Festival meta achievement and gained the Elder title.  How we got there is a tale of its own.

We left off last time having been thwarted in our attempt to get to the elder in Utgarde Pinnacle, having been unable to defeat the third boss in the instance, Skadi the Ruthless.

Here’s Skadi!

So we did some experimenting before our next group effort.  The first thing was to scout the other two dungeons that held elders, Gundrak and the Halls of Stone, to see if we had just one problem or three.

It looked to be just one problem, as three of us (four characters) were able to jump in and find the elder in those two instances.

In Gundrak, if you are careful, you don’t even need to fight a boss.  We came in on the right side of the map, the entrance closest to the summoning stone, and walked by the first boss, clearing trash as we went, and ended up finding the elder behind the second boss, the Drakkari Colossus.

Behind the Drakkari Colossus to the left

Standing back, we hit one of the elementals with a ranged attack, not sure how that would turn out.  To our surprise, the elementals all disappeared into the Drakkari Colossus, leaving the floor around him empty.

Daring to hope against hope, I tried walking around the very edge of his area, hugging the wall, to see if we could just slip by.  And we could.

At the elder behind the boss

Of course, having done that we couldn’t just leave quietly.  We had to see if we could take the boss as a four person group.  We managed, but just barely.

I survived… good thing I can ress

Over in the Halls of Stone we had similar success.  We did not have to tangle with any bosses, finding the elder up one of the side passages.

The elder just within draw distance in the side excavation

That accomplished, we turned our thoughts back to Utgarde Pinnacle and Skadi.

We did another three person/four character run at him, but this time we replace Wilhelm, my level 77 paladin with Irondam, my level 80 Death Knight to see how that would work.  We were able to get to Skadi with just four characters, which seemed like a good sign, and Irondam held up pretty well, being level 80.  I had to figure out how to tank with him, having really only solo’d him up to 80.

At Skadi we were defeated again, but we seemed to be doing better.  We had to get this done during the week because I was going to be gone over the weekend (off to Vegas for my wife’s birthday), so we picked a time last Thursday night to get all of us together.

In the mean time I went off to read up on how to spec and glyph and play a Death Knight as a tank, since I had basically just picked things that seemed interesting while leveling up.  The DK is over powered enough that you can get away with that.

We got together on Thursday night with this plan.  The group would go in with Irondam as the tank.  Meanwhile, I had parked Wilhelm just outside the instance.

Irondam with his Kalu’ak harpoon leading the party in

If we were able to get to the elder, Irondam would leave the group, log out, and I would log Wilhelm in, be invited to the group, then run through the cleared section of the instance to get the elder.

If we made it.

Oh, crap, the title.  I guess I can’t really build up much tension.  Yeah, we made it.

Potshot reported that healing Irondam was much easier once I did the respec and glyph update… and learned to play a bit.  I have read that protection paladin is actually the best tank in the game, but a DK isn’t far behind, and one that is two levels ahead has an advantage.  Also, in the test run he got three nice upgrades as drops, meaning he wasn’t just wearing quest reward green drops this time around.

That together got us to Skadi without too much effort.

At Skadi we at least knew what the mechanics were and the flow of the event.  That was a serious step up from our past runs.  We opted not to do anything fancy, so just fought our way up the path collecting harpoons as we went.  We even got to Skadi on our first go, but his whirlwind attack took out Ula and Bjorid, which cut our DPS pretty hard, so we went down before we could defeat him.

The healer and the warlock couldn’t close the deal

During that I did figure out that death grip would taunt Skadi off of the DPS while he was whirlwinding away, so the next time around I was able to use that.  And the next time around was a success, with Skadi defeated.

Whirlwind this

That opened the door to a set of stairs we had to fight our way down, but we could see the quest icon for the elder on the mini map.  He was below the stairs.

Irondam gets his first coin from Elder Chogan’gada

At that point Bjorid and Fergorin got the meta achievement and the title, Potshot having done the legwork already for that moment.  The rest of us still had some work to do… the first of which was logging Wilhelm in to go grab the elder.

Then we ran back to Gundrak with Beanpole, who had missed our previous venture there.  We let him sneak around to grab the elder, but in walking back his minion moved straight through the boss and set him off, so we had to fight him… and we wiped.  We were not ready.

We then ran the Halls of Stone, which gave us all the elders from Northrend dungeons.

After that there was some remedial work on my part back in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms as I finished up the other dunegon elders.  I died in Zul’Farrak because I had half the instance trained behind me after I got the elder and then got dismounted.  A couple dozen mid-40s mobs can bring down a level 78 paladin.

Maraudon was probably the most annoying, but I found my way there, slaying the princess along the way to get the achievement for the instance.

Blackrock Depths and Blackrock Spire were both pretty doable.

The elder in Blackrock Spire visible

Then I made my way over to Stratholme for the last elder on my list and the achievement.

The Elders All Found

And that was that.  Now the Lunar Festival is over we can get back to… wait, is it time for Valentine’s events already?  Okay, we might be going there next.

Searching for the Elder Title in Wrath Classic

The Lunar Festival arrived in WoW on January 20th and the group decided to divert from its current trajectory to do some work on getting the meta achievement for the event, which includes getting the Elder title.

That meant moving from doing dungeons to… doing some different dungeons.

The core mechanic of the Lunar Festival is an Azeroth-wide game of “Find the Elders.”  There are some other tasks for the meta achievement, including just being lucky and walking through the corpse of a boss in Moonglade.

Grabbing the Blessing of Elune

But most of the work goes into running down each of the elders.

Some are out in the open world, so there is little risk in getting to them.  They are just scattered, so travel will be required… and flight is needed for some of the ones in Northrend.  But that is mostly a time sink and not so difficult… at least if you know where they are.

My last elder for the Eastern Kingdom

My main gripe is that, once again, the draw distance limitation for character models is so short in WoW Classic that you cannot depend on seeing that light of Elune on them from any range.  You have to be able to see their quest marker to find them.

Six are in the major capitol cities, three alliance and three horde.  So three are easy and three have a bit of risk.  The Undercity was quick.  Orgrimmar was pretty the same run we did to Ragefire Chasm back in vanilla Classic, though much easier at level 77.

The elder in the Valley of Wisdom, outside of Thrall’s place

Thunder Bluff was the most annoying, but I managed to escape thanks to engineer skills.

Parachuting out of Thunder Bluff

And then there are the elders of the dungeons.  They are 13 elders who have been dropped into various dungeon settings, so you have to work your way to them.  Six of those are in vanilla instances, so fairly soloable for anybody geared up in Northrend.  Seven of them, however, are in Northrend.

That meant running seven mostly at level instances.  Fortunately, we had done four of them already and getting to the elder in them doesn’t require a dungeon clear.  You generally have to get past at least the first boss in an instance, but not even that in some.

So we set out and did the four we knew, The Nexus, Azjol-Nerub, Drak’Tharon Keep, and Utgarde Keep.

The Nexus didn’t require us to even fight a boss, just some trash, to get to the elder. Azjol-Nerub had us fight two bosses, including Hadronox, the boss event that was so problematic to us on our first run.  He was bugged… pun intended… this time as well, to the point that he died without any intervention on our part.  We just sat and watched, then jumped down the hole and found the elder.  Drak’Tharon meant two bosses as well and just staying clear of King Dredd when we found the elder.

While King Dredd is at the other end of his pen

Having worked from west to east, we ended up at Utgarde Keep, where we just had to dispatch Prince Keleseth.

That left the three dungeons hadn’t done before, and the closest, and hardest, Utgarde Pinnacle, was right there, so we thought we should give that a try.

UP is a level 80 instance and our group was all level 77, which meant we couldn’t even get the quests for the instance.  Oh well, we’ll save that for later.  It is also an instance I think we did exactly once and never looked back, so my memories are pretty vague.

So not only were we a bit under level… all the mobs are 79 or 80… but the elder is deep in the instance.  We would have to get past three of the four bosses to get to the elder.

The Map of Utgarde Pinnacle

This was going to be some effort.  And it was, though it wasn’t as bad as we might have feared.

We managed to get through the trash without too much drama, and took down the first boss, Svala Sorrowgrave, who is downstairs on that map, on the first try.  Go us.  We then worked our way around to the trophy hall and the second boss, Gortok Palehoof.

Gortok Palehoof’s trophy room I guess… or is he a trophy too?

We managed to defeat that event… just barely… though found out after the fact that we didn’t have to.  You can just walk past it.  But it did drop a nice chest upgrade for me… I just needed to get to level 78 to put it on.

The last boss however, Skadi the Ruthless, which is that blue streak on the east side of the map… that stopped us.

Skadi is an event and you have to fight your way up that ally against a constant stream of oncoming mobs while collecting harpoons and… it just wasn’t happening.  We took a few runs at it, even trying a work around that somebody suggest but which turned out to not be valid.  (If you collect harpoons, then restart the event, your harpoons go away.)

One of the critical items in the event was mana.  WoW Classic has another… bug, feature, change… where you can only use one potion per combat cycle.  No 2 minute timer, just one potion and you’re done.  This was easily a 5+ minute even for us the way it was working and we were hoping to be able to use multiple potions, but no luck on that front.

So we fell back to fight another day.  Utgarde Pinnacle is the barrier between us and getting that last achievement for the holiday.

Just dungeons left undone

We’re looking for a better plan because we have to get it done before the evening of February 9th, because the lunar festival shuts down on the morning of the 10th.