Random Karazhan Memories

I just noticed that I didn't even have a Karazhan tag yet before writing this post. The humanity! Like pretty much everyone who started raiding in Burning Crusade, I spent a lot of time in that place and it was a crucial part of my formative months of becoming a raider. I even remember one time, admittedly already towards the end of the expansion, where I did two full clears of the instance in a single day. Some guildies called me crazy for it, and I do remember feeling slightly dizzy afterwards.

But it wasn't always like that, breezing through the entire raid in a few hours. I remember repeatedly wiping on the trash to Attumen and being completely unable to get even the first boss down. I also remember learning to be sensible about aggro, because the last thing you wanted to happen when Attumen spawned or mounted up and the aggro reset was for you to stand out as the noob who couldn't wait for the tanks to get a solid grip on the boss (again).

I remember huddling on the stairs leading up to the ballroom, and having to trust the tanks blindly to pull the trash correctly because you literally couldn't even see what was going on up there. Most of the time it was fine, but sometimes there would be an exclamation of "uh oh" and we'd get more than we could handle. I also remember standing on those stairs when we first noticed that Blizzard had added music to the instance, and discussing our opinions on it.

I remember wiping a lot on Moroes as well, and learning how to kite, crowd control and use a focus macro. I'd position myself in a far corner and as soon as the tank pulled, I'd grab my CC target's attention with a Shadow Word: Death and then shackle it a safe distance away from any AoE. I was very proud of that at the time.

I remember Maiden of Virtue forcing me to fiddle with my UI and keybindings for the first time in order to be able to dispel her Holy Fire quickly enough so that people wouldn't die from it. Up until then the old point and click had always been good enough, but not anymore.

Everyone always seemed to love the Opera Event, especially the Big Bad Wolf - his "Run away, little girl!" was DBM's default warning for any bad effect that needed avoiding for a long time. Myself, I was never a big fan, and I vaguely remember never being very good at kiting him. My favourite was always Oz, because I loved how it gave different people different things to do, such as someone who did fire damage having to tank the strawman. I get the impression that a lot of people hated the idea of fights requiring specific classes though.

I remember the Curator and being exempt from flare duty as a shadow priest because we had absolutely no burst back in the day and switching targets actually harmed my main utility of regenerating other people's mana. I remember the trash afterwards that was immune to magic and all the casters meleeing with their staves and daggers.

I remember Illhoof's sacrifice always making me nervous and me reminding people to make macros to target the chains. Deaths remained frequent for a long time. I also remember what an extreme novelty it was to have a paladin tank the imps. Hah!

I don't actually remember anyone ever blowing up the raid by moving in the Flame Wreath in the Shade of Aran fight. Instead it was always people dying to the Blizzard, or the Arcane Explosion or what have you. He forced people to dance even back then.

I loved Netherspite because shadow priests were the best tanks for the blue beam after warlocks, and I enjoyed the way this enhanced my special class abilities. I became so fond of this boss that I was frequently happy to do the beam assignments for everyone during later runs, even if I wasn't the raid leader.

Wait, didn't I forget another dragon? Of course, Nightbane! I remember being so proud of getting my own Blackened Urn to summon him myself, and I felt my heart break when Blizzard turned it into a useless grey item in Wrath and encouraged me to vendor it. And yet another extremely gimmicky fight! Blizzard would never make a boss like that again, with a deadly cleave and an AoE fear on a short cooldown. I mean, you can't require a ten-man raid to have multiple fear breakers just like that! Outrageous!

The Chess Event: a fun little distraction, including the shame of "wiping on chess" (which we did, more than once).

And finally Prince Malchezaar and his infernal infernals. I remember wiping on him so many times simply due to bad infernal placement, and always people chucked it up to bad luck, though I could never quite shake the feeling that maybe we were just doing something wrong?

It's really kind of funny to remember all these little things. Karazhan is often cited as a "raid done right", and I actually agree, but at the same time it was chock-full of gameplay that Blizzard and many players would consider awful these days: Watching your aggro? How terribly un-fun! Crowd control? Boring and just slows things down. Having boss fights that heavily favoured or even required at least one of a certain class? Way too limiting! The thing is... while I understand why many of these things were changed, I don't think that their replacements are necessarily that much better. I mean, is needing a ranged dps with healing dual spec really that different from needing a certain class? And is it really that big a deal if your spec does kind of poorly on one fight due to its limitations, as long as there's another one where your strengths really get to shine?

Anyway, you might wonder why I'm feeling nostalgic about Karazhan in the first place. Before my boyfriend cancelled his subscription, we ran the place a few times for transmogrification gear, and after he stopped playing I wasn't in the mood to go back for a long time. However, I finally decided to go back to complete my druid's transmogrification outfit the other week, and it's been... interesting.

Opera still nearly kicked my butt on my own. Nothing like being little red riding hood on the Big Bad Wolf all the time, only having a chance to attack him for three seconds every thirty seconds or so. You'd think that he wouldn't hit that hard on a level 85 character, but it still adds up when you can't do anything to fight back or defend yourself for ages and ages. I was also terribly fail at interrupting Julienne's heals, but got there in the end.

But oh, the biggest problem when soloing Karazhan is definitely the Chess Event, that former joke. While Medivh moves his units all over the place and cheats left and right, you can only use one unit at a time, and you get a debuff that forces you to wait ten seconds before controlling another unit. And without your control, your pieces are dumb as rock, willing to auto-attack whatever's in front of them but nothing else - so if they get mutilated from the side, they'll be happy to just stand there and stare off into space until they die.

On my first run, it took me about four hours until I finally beat the game, and I was close to bursting into tears out of sheer frustration by that point. I had looked up a variety of guides online but nothing quite seemed to work. Yesterday I went back and beat it on the first try, though Blackhand only had 6k health left at the end. The sad thing is, I can't even tell whether I got better at it or whether it was just sheer dumb luck, as Medivh's moves can be quite random and screw you over big time at the worst moments.

The only things I've learned for sure are that the fire cheat always happens at roughly the same time, and you have to be ready to move your king (and/or possibly one other important unit) out of the fire patches as soon as they spawn, and that the castles are good pieces to push forward and then leave alone, as their main attack is a non-directional AoE and thus useful even if they refuse to focus on the "right" enemies. Otherwise it's largely about flying by the seat of your pants and hoping that your king and queen can kill the enemy king off before it's too late.

It's really funny how these things can work out, with the former joke boss becoming a soloers nightmare two expansions later.


  1. Never got ta Kara until I joined a guild what were finishin' up SSC, and usin' Kara fer badger of justice farming. Could still wipe though if'n ya weren't careful. Or if the mage popped his voodoo gnome trinket and the little buggers rampaged right through the next door and came back with friends....

    Soloin' the Big Bad Woof is annoyin' as crapdoodle. I makes gettin' dots on him me highest priority, and self-healin me second. And runnin' like a scared little girl me third.

    And soloin' Chess? Great googly moogly. I's about 2 fer 30 now I figger, and me last try weren't no better than me ... well, not first 'cause that were a diasaster, but no better than me fourth. Best I can figger, just keep tryin' and eventuallies ya gets lucky. Sometimes that happens sooners than laters. Eventuallies, Prince is gonna caugh up the right token and I can go back ta just Attumen fer the pony, Moroes fer the Opera, Opera fer the Juliet fer the sword, and call it a day.

  2. Karazhan was definitely a different place in a different time. Rather than mathematical balance, everyone got their niche. Maybe that made it too hard to form groups, but I rarely saw a problem there. So many people wanted to do Karazhan that the pool was huge.

  3. @Ratshag: At first I didn't even run from the Big Bad, thinking: "Hah, I'm the little girl? Oh well, I'll show him as soon as it wears off!" Three hits later and I was pacified again. Oh crap... you bet I learned to run after a while!

    As for Chess, unfortunately the only item my druid still needs for her outfit is from Chess. No escaping that one for me. :P

    @Kleps: I really miss the days of niches now. I was alright with "bring the player, not the class" at first, but at the end of the day you still need a kiter for some fights, or a great AoE healer, or X people with dual-spec etc. only without everyone having some really fun and unique class abilities anymore. :/

  4. Oh Karazhan ...yes, I think it is possibly the best designed raid in WoW. Certainly it's in the top 2. I wish they had continued to make more raids like this. I think this was a great start for true 10-man progression: separate dungeon, separate but equally important story, excellent encounters, great loot and all without needing to be too hardcore.

    This is the model they should have repeated.

  5. Karazhan was one of the best things WoW ever had. Let me explain you why.

    I've seen Karazhan mentioned on Blizzards web page early during vanilla, a long time before they even announced TBC. I did a quick google and found these scans:


    They are from 2005 and they mention what's planned for WoW:

    - Dire Maul (new 5 man)
    - Alterac Valley (BG)
    - Ahn'Qiray 40 (they do not mention the 20 version)
    - BWL (new 40 man)
    - Karazhan (was planned as multiple 5 mans)
    - Zul'Gurub (planned to be a 5 man)

    Back in those days raiding was 40 man or nothing (neglecting UBRS). They did not know that they will ever go down to 20, 25 or 10 man raiding. AQ20 wasn't planned. And Karazhan and Zul'Gurub were intended to become a 5 mans.

    And this explains why Karazhan, despite being released during TBC, didn't look like this love-less TBC stuff: Karazhan was designed by the A TEAM!

  6. Yep, for me Kara is still a great place, even back in the days we raided it so many times it was dishearting to go there again every week.
    But you're right, the place, the atmosphere, the fights, everything clicked together into place, even tough you required specific classes for some fights. Only Prince when the safe spot was removed turned into a random nightmarish fight (Netherspite was also hard until people learned which beams to take, when to switch, when to move away... but it's a really interesting fight), but the rest were pretty good, not hard to learn but still they were hard back then.
    I'm still using the point&click when healing... I feel hard to move into some Healbot or simmilar addon to make it mouseover&click+modifier keys when it's been working fine until now for me.