Today I'd like to talk about another low-level instance that is very close to my heart: the troll city of Zul'Farrak.
Zul'Farrak is located in Tanaris, which lies pretty much at the end of the world if you're looking at it from anywhere significant (like a capital city). Your first journey to the zone will take a fair amount of time, but it's worth it: Where else would people get their fix of Noggenfogger Elixir? The quests in the area also have as much synergy as you're currently going to find in any part of the old world, which makes it a fairly pleasant place to level. (Pirate quests!)
Once you've actually got the flight path to Gadgetzan, getting to Zul'Farrak is easy enough, as it's only about a minute's ride away from town.
This is personal bias speaking here, but I absolutely dig any and all instances with trolls in them. I'm not entirely sure why that is - after all I play a troll myself and hearing their death noises has been known to make me twitchy on occasion. ("What was that? Am I still alive? Phew.")
Maybe it's because all the troll instances have a certain old-school adventure flair about them. "Indiana Jones and the secrets of Zul'Farrak", anyone? I could totally see it.
3. Story & Quests
Unless you want to get into troll lore in general, the "story" of Zul'Farrak can be summed up pretty simply: There's a bunch of bloodthirsty troll bastards who have lots of stuff. Let's take it! They are clearly evil anyway. Does a good adventurer really need any more justification?
As far as quests for the instance go, there are a ton of them; and almost all of them are available to both Alliance and Horde. Conveniently a lot of them can also be picked up quite close to the instance and don't have any pre-quests. It's interesting that they are without exception about stealing stuff from the trolls for other people. You're not the only one who wants a piece of those riches! (Though you could argue about the objective value of things like scarab shells and troll tempers.) This makes Zul'Farrak an excellent place for gaining a huge chunk of experience in your fourties.
Obviously people's ideas of what's the ideal length for an instance will vary a lot as it's very subjective, but I find Zul'Farrak's length to be quite close to ideal. With a competent group it shouldn't take all day, but you're getting a good chunk of content for your time.
Due to the instance's circular nature there is no single predefined route through it, so if you're short on time you can always just aim for the part you are after and skip other bits, thereby adjusting the length to your needs.
As just mentioned, Zul'Farrak is basically one big circle. This can be mildly confusing during your first visit ("Wait, haven't we been here before?"), but it's not too bad. There are a lot of walls, huts, nooks and crannies that make the instance feel like a real place, but due to the circular layout you can't really run into any dead ends.
Sandfury trolls are hard. Well, at level anyway. This makes Zul'Farrak a good place to practice playing your role in a group, because there's a lot to do for everyone. First off there are many patrolling mobs to watch out for, which can easily lead to overpulling if someone doesn't watch where they are standing. Most trolls will also try to flee when low on health, increasing the risk of unwanted adds even more. Slowing abilities and focused fire are key.
They also have a whole host of abilities to annoy you, like heals, totems and crowd control - their hex in particular is extremely overpowered, can be cast on the tank and doesn't break on damage, like, at all. Ouch! Dps needs to learn to help with things like interrupts and dispelling.
I'll be honest here and admit that many of the bosses in Zul'Farrak aren't very memorable by themselves. There's that basilisk guy, that zombie guy, that chief guy... but who even remembers their names? The only one that really stands out is Gahz'rilla, but that's simply because he's the only boss that isn't a troll, and seeing him emerge from his pool of water for the first time can be quite awe-inspiring to the average newbie. Plus, back in the day you needed a special item to summon him which was quite hard to acquire, so actually getting to see him felt special. Zombie boss can also be memorable if you've ever been in a party with someone who refused to listen to the instruction to not touch any of the graves.
However, there is one thing that's more epic than any other instance boss encounter that I can think of: the "stairs event". There's nothing quite like running up that pyramid, freeing the prisoners and just as you're congratulating yourself on another job well done, you turn around, look down... and suddenly there's a sea of trolls in your way. Then you have to spend the next ten minutes fighting your way out in a truly epic manner. For that encounter alone the instance is worth visiting.
You can't talk about Zul'Farrak loot without mentioning Sul'thraze the Lasher, an epic sword that is acquired by combining two rare blue boss drops from the instance. It's actually not that amazing a weapon, but at level fifty owning an epic still means something and is great for showing off. You do need to get quite lucky though, to see both halves of it drop and also win the roll.
As far as more ordinary boss drops go, Zul'Farrak still has some odd leftovers with questionable stats on them. I mean, were items with negative stats ever a good idea? And which class wants to spend their time meleeing with a staff? There's still some awesome loot for clothies and caster druids though, plus a few items for rogues and other lithe melee fighters. Any plate wearer not wearing heirlooms will also be happy to pick up some Big Bad Pauldrons.
The quest to kill Gahz'rilla also rewards people with an interesting trinket, the Carrot on a Stick. It's hardly amazing, but at low levels it's easy to not get any trinkets at all for a long time, so having something to stick into that empty slot feels quite satisfying.
In summary, Zul'Farrak is an instance with amazing atmosphere and some interesting and unique rewards. Since it's easy to get to and has a lot of quests to offer it's pretty much always worth a visit, even if you're trying to power-level. And it has the stairs event, which is one of the best five-man boss encounters ever and fun at any level. 'nuff said!
You'd Think I'd Know Better, Part XXVIII
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