Warcraft: Classic Dungeonmasters

Last night our Alliance guild finished off the final Dungeon in the original ‘Vanilla’ (aka Classic!) set, Lower Blackrock Spire, a dungeon crawl par excellence.

When I used to tank pug, I was always glad when LBRS popped – though often I had to queue for it specifically as once you hit 58 the game decides it’s BC dungeons or bust. It’s a far more linear run than Blackrock Depths which makes it much easier with a PUG, but more importantly it’s full of interesting bosses, bonus quests, pet drops, and stunning multi-level design that absolutely nails the underground fortress feel.

Much like BRD, there are many spots in the dungeon where you can see where you will be going later, or where you’ve been previously, and plenty of tricks for backtracking and short-cutting if you want to. The bonus boss Urok Doomhowl is a great example, requiring you to have looted the head of a prior boss but also to have collected an unmarked pike to stick that head on. The designers obviously realised people might miss the pike, and cleverly allow you to jump down to a lower level path that leads you directly back to the pile of pikes… followed by a long jog back to your party. At least one way was fast!

LBRS is basically a dark Horde stronghold, which makes it strange to run as actual Horde, even if the minions and bosses are Horde traitors. Killing Orcs and Trolls doesn’t sit quite right. On the other hand, doing it as Alliance feels exactly right.


One thing that became a problem late in this sequence of runs was Blizzard’s 8.2 change to group XP, where having a level-locked person in the group meant no-one earned XP for the events during the Dungeon nor the quest hand-ins at the end. Apparently the change was made to foil people charging for level 110-120 boosting, but surely Blizzard could have made that only apply to the high level boosting.

Several of our members were using each run to level up, which worked perfectly with keeping pace on the dungeon level requirements, and that stopped abruptly with the policy change. We did work out you could disband the group, wait for a 5 minute cooldown, and hand in the quests for full credit, but that is a pretty dull thing to have to do and doesn’t help with the missing XP from all the dungeon mob and boss killing. It’s a pretty punishing change for groups like us who are working systematically through content.


The level nerf didn’t spoil our fun however. We finished the journey that started way back in Deadmines over a year ago, and earned our Classic Dungeonmaster achievement. The Blackrock dungeon duo are a fabulous end to an epic 60 levels of dungeoneering – our newest player commenting on how he was exhausted but exhilarated by the end of LBRS, with the achievement being all the sweeter for the tribulations Blackrock Mountain had put us through.

Now it’s time to unlock XP again and venture into the wilds of Outland and the many good Dungeons – and colourful outfits – to be found there.

Warcraft: Blackrock and a hard place

Our Alliance Guild ran Blackrock Depths this evening – or at least the first 7 bosses: it has 20 in total. I suspect this is the largest 5 man dungeon in Warcraft.

One great feature is seeing where you will end up…

Doing some research for the run, I was amazed to read that when it was originally released in Patch 1.3.0 in 2005 it would take 4-6 hours to run. That’s remarkable, and remarkable that people would have the stamina to do such a lengthy run. Especially given how much harder it would have been on release with mobs at level and no min-maxxing possible as this Dungeon would have been dropping the best gear in game.

…as you progress through the dungeon

Even just navigating it must have been a challenge, with multiple levels and an dizzying array of routes and obstacles. These days it’s much easier with Dwarven mole machines allowing fast travel to various spots throughout the maze.

With my Emerald Dragons Whelp allies summoned from this excellent sword

It has unique attributes like The Black Forge which is the only place in game where you can smelt Dark Iron Ore, and The Black Anvil which allows those bars to be crafted into items. And those two locations are deep within the dungeon, so you can’t just traipse down there to do a bit of crafting. It’s lovely that the gear you forged was largely fire-resistance, which set you up for the yet to be released Molten Core, the first Warcraft raid. The Forge is even located just before the entrance to the Raid as a hint and teaser. That kind of precise logical progression is sorely missing from the ‘retail’ game.

The scale is stunning

Places like Blackrock Spire are another reason Classic is going to be fascinating. When even the Dungeons are challenging marathons, it will be a real test of the capacity of the modern MMO player. Assuming it’s successful enough to move off Patch 1.12, which it surely will be given the current level of interest.

#Blaugust15

Further dungeoneering

Our Alliance adventures have continued apace, and we’re now down to the final seven before we can advance to the BC suite.

Seemed appropriate in a Monastery

We finished off the Scarlet sequence by cleansing Scarlet Monastery, another lovely piece of dungeon design, with the appearance of Lillian Voss being a highlight – and also a highlight of BfA as it turns out. One of Blizzard’s great strengths is allowing secondary characters to grow and feature through the course of many expansions, and Lillian’s story is one of the best. It’s not too spoilery to say her role as a shepherd for fresh Undead in BfA is superbly done.

Next up were the Razorfen pair, not as interesting but still good romps.

The last of many quillboar

Last week was the twists and turns of Maraudon. A strange mix of dinosaurs, centaurs, and noxious slime, and a very handsome elemental queen – and apparently the mother of the Centaur? My Tauren self was pleased to finish her off in that case.

During the Maraudon run I suddenly realised I was gaining XP, despite having switched if off at level 60 to allow us to continue queuing for the lower level instances. Somehow patch 8.1.5 had switched XP back on. I promptly forgot about it and then was horrified to ding 61 after killing Theradras. One of our party cleverly suggested a cursed DK could take the place of my Dwarf, and that seemed like the only way to continue, but I was very sad to have to abandon my Paladin. I raised a pleading ticket to Blizzard to reverse the level, not expecting it to be possible, but was amazed to find it was! They promptly downlevelled me to 60, and even froze the XP too. All praise to support rep Sehtovkt for the assistance, and Blizz for being flexible.

Don’t stand in the green

And finally, this week we ventured into Scholomance, another beautiful instance. There are so many great design elements in there, from the Flesh Horrors to the Bored Students, and the Gothic nature of the ruins themselves. After the Mists redesign, it’s also one of the few early dungeons that requires watching mechanics, not just tank & spanking – our returning friend Lillian Voss, cursed by Darkmaster Gandling, even managed to wipe our party. Our revenge on Gandling was all the sweeter as a result.

Foxy Azeroth

I finally finished off Nazmir, enjoying it more as the storylines all wrapped up – helps having the end in sight no doubt.

Surprised this construct took me seriously with my headgear. His is way more impressive.

I bumbled around choosing which zone to go to next, eventually settling on Vol’dun, as I was tired of Trolls. And oh boy was I glad I did. The first person you meet is this magical creature:

They’re called Vulpera, and they’re the best thing in WoW since the Highmountain Tauren. If this had have been the first zone I played, I think my entire attitude to BfA would have been different. Armed foxes!

Armed foxes fighting snake people!

Armed mounted foxes!

As many have said, if these guys aren’t the next Horde allied race then Blizzard are mad. I think it would even get Bhagpuss to stump up for a sub, given his #1 favourite race ever were the Vanguard Raki (‘Stocky foxes with a great backstory, characterful animations and the happiest faces’). I can’t wait to play one. Please Blizzard.


On the Alliance side, we ventured into Scarlet Halls last week, which is another great dungeon. It’s the first one that introduces more complex mechanics to the bosses, which meant we dutifully wiped a few times due to only being practiced in tank and spank. Suddenly having to deal with damage spikes and insta-kill mechanics was a whole new thing, but all the more fun as a result.

A breather before the final boss

The second run through had a memorable moment, when everyone wiped on the boss’s killer whirlwind mechanic except me. This left the boss on about 33% health, so I started popping all my defensive cooldowns, healing almost constantly, and doing very tiny chunks of damage to the boss and his adds.

Ironically his mechanic (where he whirls off on his own for ~20 seconds) made it possible, as I could heal almost to full each time before he returned. It’s my first experience of how a Paladin can just keep going and going whilst chipping away at the enemy and eventually wearing them down via sheer persistence. Otherwise known as boring them to death!

…and then I popped Consecration, followed by Flash of Light…then Consecration again…

From the other side

I tried, BfA, I really tried.

My Hunter main is sitting at 112, bogged down in the swamps of Nazmir. The storyline is mostly enjoyable, but like Syp, I tired of the brown and grey environment very quickly, and it seems to go on forever. I’m sure I’ll get to 120 eventually, but the swamp and the fact that Trolls have unfortunately never appealed to me means the expansion has really failed to get its claws in.

Poor Torga

Luckily, and somewhat surprisingly, I’ve been having great fun with my levelling Dwarf Tank. Trying the ‘other side’ has always been a long term goal, and I’m very pleased to be finally doing it. The Alliance really does have quite a different feel, despite fulfilling the same collect x of y quests, where there is far more emphasis on being right, and being the ‘good guys’ when compared to the barbaric Horde.

All of which is rubbish of course, but I’m embracing my Alliance righteousness: wearing ‘the Hordebreaker’ as my title and laying waste to any Horde that crosses my path. With the exception of Tauren of course – on one escort quest I kept the NPC alive rather than killing the Tauren warriors, though I’m not sure how sustainable this policy will be.

It’s been refreshing playing zones I’ve never seen too, all the Eastern Kingdom Alliance only areas, and now Darkshore (post-Cataclysm but pre-Sylvanas horrorshow). Some of the questing and storytelling is excellent, with the ridiculous Bravo Company of Redridge Mountains being a particular highlight. So too Duskwood (end of the zone to the other and back quests excepted), which included some lovely personal stories and a fun crypt section which was a brand new layout for the normally predictable underground territory.

Hey, wait a minute…

Dungeon runs have continued apace, and we’re now up to Scarlet Cathedral. It’s been great revisiting the dungeons in sequence and with a group of friends, meaning we can take our time to scheme and laugh our way through. Shadowfang Keep has probably been the pinnacle of the early dungeons – it’s terrific being on the battlements seeing out into Silverpine Forest – though the hilarity of pet-pulling half of Gnomeregan and the ‘rope trick’ in Blackfathom Deeps also rate highly.

All of which is making me fear it’s more likely I’ll end up experiencing BfA from the Alliance side before the Horde. Then again – our dungeon group has a pact to play all the dungeons together before advancing, so at one a week it will be years before we catch up to current content. Phew. For the Horde!

Ragefire Chasming

Tonight’s Alliance guild expedition took us to the centre of Horde territory, into the catacombs below Orgrimmar: Ragefire Chasm.

Ragefire Chasm extends deep below the city of Orgrimmar. Barbaric troggs and devious Searing Blade cultists once plagued the volcanic caves, but now a new threat has emerged: Dark Shaman. Although Warchief Garrosh Hellscream recently called on a number of shaman to use the elements as weapons against the Alliance, the chasm’s current inhabitants appear to be renegades. Reports have surfaced that these shadowy figures are amassing a blistering army that could wreak havoc if unleashed upon Orgrimmar.

From an Alliance perspective that last report doesn’t sound entirely bad, but then unleashing uncontrolled shamanic magic is probably bad idea, so in we went to clean up the mess the Horde have made.

One of these figures is much smaller than the others.

Compared to Deadmines, RFC is a quick and relatively unpopulated affair, with far fewer mobs and only tank & spank bosses – and the lava boss which I fell into fighting Slagmaw. Ahem.

We made short work of everyone, rescued our trapped operatives, and cleared the dungeon to allow our investigators start unravelling what foul magic the Horde had managed to stir up and subsequently lose control of.

The Alliance continue to be upright and relatively dull – the Horde quests want you to basically just kill all of the things, the Alliance ones want to do some research – but we’re in this for the long haul and I’m warming to our Hordebreaking role.

As we finished I copped some deserved ribbing for our guild tabard, which was dark red with a dark logo – my Horde bias clearly on show. So now we have a fetching new Alliance-blue number, with a clearly visible logo. Unless you’re a Dwarf.

For the Alliance!

Battle for…Deadmines

Tonight our troop of Alliance debutantes headed into our first dungeon, the deadly Deadmines.

Deep beneath the mines of Moonbrook in southwestern Westfall lie the Deadmines. Despite the demise of the Defias Brotherhood’s leader Edwin VanCleef at the hands of Alliance militiamen, the Deadmines is still the Brotherhood’s most secure hideout since Cataclysm. Here the survivors of Edwin’s crew toil alongside new recruits, so that the Defias juggernaut ship can be complete and the kingdom of Stormwind can be brought to its knees. All this is happening under the vigilant eyes of “Captain” Cookie… and Vanessa VanCleef.

Going back to Deadmines raised some old memories. Way back in the day I was escorting a Guildie through Deadmines in search of a Rogue twinking chest (is twinking still a thing?), and as he was busy looting while I one shot everything in sight, my young Rogue friend coined a nice term for what I was doing: PVE Ganking. The Defias mobs had zero chance, like an 80 whacking on a freshly minted level 1 in a PVP zone. That quickly joined our other favourites – Bag Rage (need more slots!), Drop Logic (“Maybe you have to kill the tar monsters in the tar for the teeth to drop?”), and Threading (for when you move through a group of mobs without pulling a single one).

It’s a great dungeon, and a great first dungeon if you’ve never seen one. Plenty of mobs and bosses, fun mechanics, and the lovely moment when you bust through the mines and emerge into a huge cavern with a fully fledged pirate ship ahead.

It’s also pretty funny for a dungeon – most are pretty standard heroic fare, but this one has ogres wielding kobolds as weapons, goblin bosses riding ogres in turn, and a murloc boss who tosses slowly rotting food whilst sitting in a cooking pot.

Cookie crumbled

Plus that murloc boss drops a weapon that is so ridiculous that Blizzard had to make a special rule to forbid it from being used for transmog.

The full Paladin fantasy

It was a great reunion for our group of players who used to play together regularly, with plenty of laughs and ridiculous situations, especially the revelation that our new player hadn’t realised he could change his characters appearance when he was created, so he has whatever the randomiser came up with – we had wondered about the haircut choice. But he’s a real character now, a budding hero of the Alliance, so he can’t possibly be changed.

One for all

We also had a friend join from Chicago where he’d moved many years ago, which was a great reminder of the power of gaming and MMOs to bring a dispersed group together. As the freshman noted, Warcraft is almost “a weaponised banter and nostalgia machine….really if you were all spread out it would almost be mandatory to play something like this.” We are, and it almost is.