Revisiting the Black Temple

Tonight my guild decided to visit the Black Temple again, partly for nostalgia reasons, partly to show some people around who had never had a chance to go there before. It was great fun, but it also highlighted how different TBC raids were to WOTLK ones in places.

For example almost all the bosses and a lot of the trash mobs were completely immune to taunt. I noticed this pretty quickly since I was tanking on my paladin, and our aggro-happy cat druid in particular was very good at pulling mobs off me again and again. He died a few times and always apologised somewhat sheepishly afterwards, saying that it was alright to let him die for getting aggro all the time. The thing is, it wasn't actually my choice. If people pulled aggro off me and the mob was taunt-immune, there simply wasn't much that I could do about it. It was oddly frustrating and made me feel... emasculated, which is quite a feat considering that I'm a woman. Maybe that's why Blizzard made pretty much every mob and boss tauntable in WOTLK, as part of their project to make tanks feel more powerful and fun to play? In hindsight I'm not so sure whether it was such a good idea though, considering how careless it has made people with their aggro. After all, if they mess up, the tank can always just taunt it back, right? I think this is another area where I'd like Blizzard to go back to forcing the dps to think a little, even if it comes at some cost for the tanks.

Nonetheless we breezed through most of the trash and bosses with ease. On Naj'entus I had fun dragging the boss all over the place to collect the spines, since most people didn't seem to know what to do with them. I still had my old "/use Naj'entus spine" macro too! Popping the bubbles was completely trivial, but I remember when you actually had to wait for the healers to get everyone topped up before doing it. Waiting for the healers? Another strange concept these days.

Supremus was an uneventful exercise in not standing in the fire (not that it really mattered), though the sight of the volcanoes still made me twitch. I remember dying to those buggers so many times back in the day; their radius always seemed to be larger than was visually apparent!

The Shade of Akama was a lot quicker than I remembered, but as easy as expected. It was also a reminder that some jokes never get old. "Nobody talk to Akama!" "What was that? Talk to Akama?" Hands up if your raid ever wiped to him because someone chatted to Akama when they weren't meant to. Yeah...

I didn't bother to explain Teron Gorefiend to people as I expected us to kill him quickly enough that shadow of death would never become relevant. Since our group was very small this didn't turn out to be correct however, and one of our healers nearly got buried in a pile of constructs but was fortunately able to heal through the damage. I can't say that I miss mechanics like that. Nothing like throwing one person in the raid into a finely-tuned vehicle and expecting them to figure it all out within two seconds or the raid wipes. When you need a non-WoW game to practise for a raid, something is a bit off. (Too bad the original flash file seems to be gone; I would have liked to give it a go again.)

I remember Gurtogg Bloodboil being an extremely challenging fight back in the day. People had to watch their aggro and healing was intense, with non-tanks being forced to tank at regular intervals and the bloodboil DoT requiring constant dancing around and targetted healing (back in the day before all those raid-wide heals, bah). Not much left of that, alas, but then encounters whose defining difficulty lies in how much damage they deal are always among the ones that are easiest to brute-force once you outgear them by a sufficient margin.

The Reliquary of Souls was where we had our first wipe - and in a somewhat hilarious manner too, as nobody bothered to interrupt the spirit shocks in phase two, which led to most of the raid being permanently disoriented and doing no damage, until everyone's mana bars eventually reached zero and we died. It was an obstacle that was easy enough to overcome, but once again the whole fight struck me as very... unlike WOTLK raids. We remembered that back at level seventy the boss had to be debuffed to slow his casting as well, otherwise it was impossible to stay ahead of the interrupts, but of course you can't have requirements like that in current content anymore since you can't guarantee that you'll have the right classes for it in the ten-man version. (We didn't have a rogue or a warlock in our run either.) Phase one was also interesting with its complete inability to heal, the random aggro switches and the enrages that used to be tanked by a rogue with evasion up. Again these struck me as things that simply don't fit into the current raid philosophy anymore. What, you can't blame the healers for not healing enough? Aggro isn't firmly in the hands of the tank at all times? Non-tanks tanking? I think it's a bit of a shame to be honest, as I'll always remember this as a very interesting and challenging encounter, and I think the fact that it can still wipe you at level eighty if you're sloppy says a lot.

Mother Shahraz nearly killed us as well, though this time it was because someone pulled before we had a chance to remind people of her fatal attraction gimmick, which caused several deaths. I had to laugh when the aforementioned feral druid hesitantly looked at the purple line connecting him to two other people and asked whether he was supposed to run towards them or away from them, and I couldn't remember either. Encounters like Yogg-Saron and Blood Queen Lana'thel have definitely conditioned us the wrong way for this fight!

We spent a little time scratching our heads in front of the Illidari Council, trying to remember what they were all about, seeing how even those of us who knew the Black Temple inside out had only killed them two times or so before. Eventually we just bumbled in and attacked things at random, and as we died a slow death to all kinds of annoying abilities, the memories came flooding back. Oh right, the rogue vanishes! The mage has all these annoying AoE abilities (which still hurt at level eighty by the way, at least if you don't bother to move at all), the priest needs to be interrupted etc. On our second attempt we planned things properly and the fight went a lot more smoothly.

Illidan himself was a pushover in comparison, though an ardent defender proc while tanking one of the flames of Azzinoth let me know that I was doing so very sloppily. We also giggled at the way he was sitting there, all emo with Gul'dan's skull in his hand... and his dialogue and voice-acting sound so much like a cliché villain, Azerothian Super Villains pretty much asked to be written.

Overall it was a very enjoyable trip down memory lane, but as I said it also made me realise that there are some things that I miss about TBC raiding, such as threat actually being a concern for dps, as well as the fact that the demise of twenty-five-man-only raids in WOTLK meant that a lot of the crazier mechanics, like rogue-tanking or large council-type fights had to be abolished because they couldn't realistically be transferred to a ten-man format. I mean, the closest thing we have to the latter at the moment are the Blood Princes in ICC, and even I admit that they are more annoying than fun on ten-man because there are so many specialised jobs to do that you have few people left to do any actual killing. But in the larger raids I always considered that kind of specialisation very entertaining, maybe because my first ever twenty-five-man raid boss was High King Maulgar, and I thought that the whole idea of having a mage tank, a lock tank, two hunter tanks and what not was simply awesome.


  1. Ah well, the feral druid really IS very sorry. But yes, I was thinking many of the same things. What occurred to me was that fights like Illidari Council and so on WERE the hard modes of their day, they were supposed to test the best raiders, so they were packed with mechanics that today seem odd or unusual. From what I remember, BT wasn't actually tuned quite hard enough (at least relative to Kael and SP), but that notwithstanding, it was supposed to have all the funky hard mode mechanics (because there was no normal mode). And some of those mechanics do return in WotLK hard modes, like untauntable heroic Lady Deathwhisper. Buy yep, agree 100% with the broad thrust of what you are saying.

    And at least cower is getting turned into a 10% threat drop in Cata, yay!

  2. I love Black Temple. Reading this made me miss BC raiding even more. There really aren't any fights right now that require the situational awareness of Bloodboil or Illidari Council.

    I hope we get some more T6-style bosses in Cata.