Retail Bullet Points

I haven't written about it in more than two months, but I thought it might be worth noting that I'm still playing retail on the side. Let's summarise the sorts of things I've been up to under different headers.

Playing the table game

The thing that actually keeps me logging into the Shadowlands client on a daily basis is, funnily enough, the adventure table. Ever since WoW introduced these tables reminiscent of mobile games back in Warlords of Draenor, I've heard people express nothing but scorn for them (at best they've seemingly been a feature players can just about tolerate), and to be fair, I didn't exactly love the first iteration of the system that I myself encountered in BfA content either. The table in the Legion class order hall was a bit better, but I've got to admit, I really like the Shadowlands version. I'd never played an auto battler before and only really knew about the concept from Wilhelm's posts about them, but I honestly quite enjoy it!

I do still have the casual long-term goal of maxing out my main's covenant sanctum features (something that I'm sure more regular players finished months ago) and I like the slow and steady trickle of anima that some of the table missions provide. I enjoy choosing which ones I want to do on a given day and then sorting my companions into optimised teams for each one. I love the collectible aspect of recruiting new companions and I love making their numbers go up, even if it doesn't serve any greater purpose.

I even tried to install the WoW companion app on my phone to manage my table through that, but it crashed every time I tried to log in so I eventually gave up. The only result of these login attempts was that according to my launcher I now apparently also have a US trial account for retail...

Korthia & Zereth Mortis

For a while, the husband and I kept going to Korthia once a week even after we'd unlocked the last bit of story, but our interest didn't last very long. Initially it was nice to be able to upgrade our gear by doing dailies, but the pace soon slowed to an absolute crawl, to the point where we weren't able to buy even a single upgrade per week, and that kind of made us lose interest. Why spend this much time grinding for gear that'll surely be replaced by the most basic rewards in 9.2?

Speaking of the latter, I'm sure we'll check it out and it will be fine, but the 9.2 developer video really was quite embarrassing. I got the feeling Blizzard was genuinely trying to do something different with it; e.g. I don't think they were featuring female devs "just for show" or anything like that, but it was just. So. Bad. Seriously, who signed off on lines about water "unlike any water that we've seen before", or extended talks about how unique everything about this new zone is, coupled with shots of a snail and a chicken? They really deserved all the memeing that people did about that.


Back in July, I wrote that the changes to Torghast didn't really impress me but that I could see the husband and me playing around with them a bit. For quite some time, we didn't. However, one of the changes introduced with patch 9.1.5 was that the weekly quest to rescue souls could now also be done in Torghast... and as that aligned with my desire to work on my covenant sanctum, I decided to give it a go again.

Since then the husband and I have been running a couple of Torghasts a week, with me swapping between my monk and my demon hunter, and it's actually been decent fun. Once we got a bit more comfortable with not worrying about deaths anymore and going faster, we eventually managed to achieve some flawless runs - though I do think it's annoying how heavily the score is weighted towards beating the timer - if you do so by a large enough margin, little else seems to matter.

At some point it struck me that I should use some of all this currency that I'd been gathering to upgrade my monk's legendary... and got supremely annoyed by both the gold cost involved in the process and the utter unintuitiveness of the user interface, which actually resulted in me buying the wrong materials at first. After that I quickly discarded any thought of getting a legendary for my demon hunter too because it just seemed like too much of a hassle.

I will say though that it's funny to me how my relationship with Torghast illustrates the many ways in which I'm seemingly the total opposite of the current retail player base. From everything I've read, they just wanted their legendaries and were annoyed at having to deal with "Chore-ghast" to get them... while I find the gameplay decent fun and then basically toss the gear-related rewards because they are uninteresting to me.

Guildies & Levelling

In September I mentioned that we'd formed a levelling group with some guildies from SWTOR. One of them dropped out after a while, but with the two that remained we did pretty well, completing all the original dungeons, all the Cataclysm ones and most of the Wrath ones, which has taken our alts close to fifty.

Our experience with the last Wrath dungeons was really odd though... we went into Forge of Souls manually with a group of four, something we'd done before with other instances, and got absolutely destroyed on the first boss. Being one person down means lower dps and all that, but we didn't even get close to having to worry about that because his constant AoE damage would just delete us. Somewhat bewildered, we exited and went to try Trial of the Champion instead, where we made it through the jousting event, but then wiped over and over on Argent Confessor Paletress, whose spammable main attack would shave off 70% of a person's health with each hit. I tried to research this online but couldn't find anything about scaling problems with these dungeons, only confirmation that the damage we were seeing was definitely off and we weren't just being bad. We haven't really decided how to proceed after that.


Another thing we've been doing whenever it's been on has been timewalking, something that hadn't yet been added to the game the last time I played retail before our current stint with it. It's certainly been odd for me whenever Burning Crusade timewalking is up, to see the contrast between doing e.g. heroic Shattered Halls in Classic and then the timewalking version in retail. It's no comparison of course, the retail version is still ridiculously easy when you look at them side by side, but the attempt at scaling the dungeons to current power levels is at least something. As an evergreen feature that provides almost nothing but cosmetic rewards, it's also quite at odds with the modern WoW team's usual priorities. I wonder how popular it is with players? It certainly strikes me as one of the modern game's better additions, and to be honest I don't know why they don't do more with this scaling tech.


Pessimism About Classic Wrath of the Lich King

I'm in a bit of a funny place with Classic right now, in the sense that I'm having a lot of fun with it, but it feels very much like all of that is happening inside a very fragile bubble. In general, Classic doesn't seem to be in the best of places. The killing off of my old home server Hydraxian Waterlords was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to server population issues for example, as people are using paid transfers to slowly depopulate smaller servers and making the faction balance on PvP servers (which are the majority) more and more lop-sided to the point where things can become unplayable for the smaller faction.

At the same time people are already talking about Classic Wrath of the Lich King, which - while nothing has officially been announced - seems guaranteed to be released either by the end of the year or early next year. And I'm not looking forward to that either, as I also said to Redbeard in a comment on one of his recent posts.

Wrath may have been many people's favourite expansion, but as I've previously stated on this blog, for me it was very much a mixed bag. It contained some good content, but it was also the first time in my time playing WoW that some changes and additions started to look genuinely unappealing to me. And what good there was, I already played for all it's worth back in the day - I ran something like 1500 five-man dungeons during original WotLK, for Christ's sake! Even if I obviously had fun with that to some degree, do I really want to farm those badges all over again? I think not. Personal taste in expansions aside, I also have a fairly gloomy outlook on the overall situation as far as Blizzard's handling of Classic goes and looking at the way the community has been developing.

I wasn't as put off as some by the introduction of the paid boost and store mount for Classic BC, but it was definitely a sign that the thumbscrews had come out in terms of monetisation, and I expect Wrath to be ten times worse, as original WotLK was when Blizzard first introduced store mounts - meaning they are part of the "legitimate" Classic experience and Blizz have no reason whatsoever to hold back. There also seems to be a general lack of care for the Classic experience in evidence already - I mean, how many months has that succubus death pose bug been in game now?

And as for the community... it's a complex topic, because it's one thing to talk about something like a server's community, but "the Classic community" is vast and diverse. Still, I feel that in general there's been a lot of complaining from the start about not liking certain features of Classic and vocal demands for convenience updates, which just makes me want to scream: you knew exactly what you were getting with this, if it bothers you so much, why are you even playing?! It can be frustrating to watch people claim to love Classic while also asking for it to be more like retail.

At the same time there's been a lot of over the top min-maxing going on as well as people seemingly treating the game like a checklist of chores, the sheer degree of which has honestly been quite shocking to me. I knew that this was already happening in OG Classic, but it seemed more contained then and not as wide-spread as it became with BC. Even if things have mellowed out now, as those who were the most guilty of this are either burnt out or "done" and have no more reason to log in, the way in which this transformed even people I like and consider friends into relentless grinding machines at the start of BC will remain with me for a long time and that's not something I want to go through a second time. Again, with the introduction of achievements and the additional streamlining that came with Wrath, I only expect this to get ten times worse.

Combine this with all the things I remember not liking all that much about WotLK the first time around, and I think everything will come together to make Wrath Classic a grade A shitshow:

  • With dungeons actively designed for easy AoE grinding and the introduction of the dungeon finder, people will feel the need to chain-queue for instances 24/7, leading to even faster burnout than people experienced in BC. The dungeon finder will also eliminate any remaining incentive to make connections or to group up with guildies for anything other than raids, unless you're literally already best friends and doing everything together anyway.
  • Everyone seems to forget that the majority of Wrath's first raid tier was Discount Naxx, which made sense at the time because hardly anyone had seen the original, but considering how many guilds cleared the real deal in Classic only a year ago, people will be bored with the nerfed version within a week.
  • The death knight meta will cause chaos... everyone always just seems to remember how much they personally liked the death knight play style, forgetting that there'll be thousands of other people wanting to be just as OP at the same time. There'll be all-death knight dungeon runs and battlegrounds, competition for raid spots will be fierce, and people will be thoroughly sick of everyone else playing the class in short order.

All this and more is why I don't think I'll really want to play a Wrath Classic... but the sad thing is, I'm considering it even so. And you know why? Because of my guild. The whole server transfer shenanigans highlighted to me that I've made some strong connections there that are not so easily let go, and I could see myself giving it at least a try for other people's sake... but I'm not optimistic that it will result in lasting enjoyment.


I'm the Tank! Or Am I?

My druid got her swift flight form this weekend, and originally I meant to make this a post about the awesomeness of the quest chain required to unlock it. However, after a quick search of the blog archives, I found that I already made a post to that effect almost twelve years ago. This was during Wrath, when you could already get the skill directly from the trainer if you wanted, but the quest chain was still in game as a piece of optional content.

My druid has been getting all my love lately as she's my most recent character to 70, and as my paladin is approaching the point of being as kitted out as she's going to get outside of progression raids, focusing on the druid seemed like the next logical step. She's also still a tank, so I've been doing a fair amount of bear tanking (though there've also been some dungeons where I got to tag along as cat).

On Saturday I took her to our weekly community Gruul/Mag run for the first time and it was pretty fun, even if I didn't get any loot. I was the least geared of the three tanks, so it made sense that I was given the easy jobs... but on High King Maulgar the main tank died and it was up to me to taunt him and save the raid!

To top it off, something similar happened on Magtheridon afterwards: One of the much better geared paladins in attendance was supposed to tank him, and I was told to only build some threat "just in case" (as sudden tank death is not uncommon on this boss due to how hard he hits). I did as I was told, happily mangling away at one of his legs and trying to stay ahead of the dps on threat but not really expecting it to be important, when suddenly the tank went squish here as well, and I found myself yelling for people to heal me on voice while I was trying to manoeuvrer Mags away from the cube I'd stood next to. I then proceeded to tank him for the rest of the fight and felt very proud.

Of course, in case that got my ego too inflated, I tanked heroic Sethekk Halls for my flight form quest right after and I must have died five or six times in that (and only about half of those were wipes). That put things into perspective for sure.

As a result of all this, I've found myself thinking about tanking a lot. In WoW at least, it's something that's been tied to a lot of anxiety for as long as I can remember... both for the people actually playing the role and those complaining that they can never find a tank. It's never been my main focus, but I did do a fair amount of it over the years... yet I could remember little of how I felt about it.

Consulting the blog archives for past me's thoughts was certainly enlightening... and not just because it was like slowly watching a frog boil, as my standards for what I expected of my group mates declined over time. It's funny to look at posts like this one from 2010 for example, titled "An exemplary UP pug", in which I excitedly recount the tale of wiping twice in heroic Utgarde Pinnacle without anyone rage-quitting and only one guy insulting me a bit! The height of positive social interactions in an MMO, everyone!

On the subject of tanking in specific, I found this quote from a post about tanking in early Cata enlightening: "I was a pretty decent tank in late Burning Crusade, but two years of racing through Wrath heroics while AoEing everything and calling that tanking has left its mark on me." So I was a decent tank in late BC, eh? I do remember kind of liking tanking on my feral druid, though I seem to have little evidence of it other than old screenshots demonstrating how hard it can be to see anything while tanking certain bosses...

Exhibit A, dated October 2008.

My feeling right now is that I do like tanking in BC in a similar way to the way I like healing. With the lack of AoE aggro generating abilities, it's not dissimilar to the whack-a-mole of healing in dungeons. Use mangle on this mob, taunt a second, stun a third... whatever's needed to keep them all off the squishy people. What makes it more demanding is mainly that it's not a direct UI interaction, but that you have to actually operate in three-dimensional space, making sure you're in range for a taunt, at just the right distance for a charge, and so on and so forth. Plus there's a general expectation for the tank to take the lead and do the marking and kill order/CC assignments - which again, I don't really mind, but it does require additional mental effort that results in me feeling tired more quickly after spending some time tanking dungeons.

Oddly though, the thing that bothers me the most about tanking right now is that I'm always at the mercy of people who might not care. For me, both tanking and healing are caring roles in the sense that they are about helping and protecting the rest of your party, and the more I care about them and they care about me, the more satisfying it is. (I know it's kind of a cliché that healers are more caring and therefore favoured by women and blah de blah... I'm not speaking for anyone else, just how it works for me.)

The thing is, in our little group of "dungeon regulars", almost everyone has a tanking alt, but I'm the only person who's willing to heal. This means that whenever I'm tanking, the healer will have to come from the outside. Sometimes it's a guildie and it's generally okay (though it can still be a bit anxiety-inducing if I don't know the person that well and they behave in - to me - erratic ways, such as the priest who absent-mindedly decided to wander ahead of me into the last room in heroic Slave Pens, body-pulling both groups of crabs and nearly wiping us), but pugs can be completely hit and miss.

The priest healing us through heroic Sethekk Halls for example was a pug and clearly not impressed. He died on the first pull when a big heal got him aggro on a mob and it hit him before I could taunt it back, something for which I immediately apologised, because even though he was a stranger, I cared and felt bad. But all the subsequent times I died (and I mean when it happened to only me, and the rest of the group survived just fine), he seemed more annoyed with me than anything. I mean, I may well be projecting - I know it's a tough dungeon to heal, and didn't want to complain. But I certainly didn't feel the love when I slowly watched my health bar deplete sometimes with no incoming heals for what felt like ages, just to go splat yet again and then see the rest of the group finish off the pull or boss without me.

So I'm kind of torn about staying a bear on my druid... I like having a tanking alt available when needed, and I do quite enjoy tanking in some ways, but there's also a big part of me that's considering simply going tree so that I can focus on healing people I like, and not having to entrust my (virtual) life to strangers all the time. Plus in one of those "that's just typical" situations, my attempts at gearing my druid have coincided with several other people suddenly deciding that they want to work on their tanking alts now, so that we'll have e.g. four tank sign-ups for Kara and no healers. It's just awkward all around.


One Dead Elf

I've never been as fond of the Kael'thas fight as of his counterpart Vashj. I find the encounter a bit gimmicky (more so than Vashj's core mechanic that is), and I remember everyone always being bored while having to wait for him to go through his whole RP routine on every pull, and for all the advisors to become active.

That said, he was one of Burning Crusade's big bads, and I'll always remember that missing out on my guild's first kill of the encounter back in summer 2008 actually made me cry. It seems so silly now to care that much about a boss kill, but this was at the height of my emotional investment in WoW and it was clearly important to me... or else I wouldn't still remember the whole experience so vividly almost fourteen years later, from having to sub in another shadow priest because of my suboptimally built custom PC shutting down from running too hot, to me curling up on the sofa in tears while also feeling somewhat ashamed of myself. Most of all I remember the friend from the guild who caught on to my distress and found just the right words to comfort me after.

I couldn't help but remember all that when I looked at the sign-up sheet for Monday's raid to Tempest Keep and considered that I was still only supposed to be a back-up. The initial sign-up numbers for the raid looked like I wasn't going to be needed and might therefore miss out on the guild first kill... which made me ponder that while these things don't bother me nearly as much on this re-run of the content, I did care and would at least prefer to be there. As it happened, a few people dropped out and I got to go after all, and I decided to use this opportunity to finally admit to wanting to re-join the raid team properly.

There are still some things that I'm feeling a bit conflicted about, but ultimately I've been showing up loyally for almost two months despite of not being part of the team "officially" and it's been nice. And as I said previously, I'd like to see Hyjal and Black Temple again, and get some shiny loot in the process too.

On our way to Kael I whispered the current hunter class leader (who is different from the hunter class leader I sometimes referred to in my pre-BC Classic posts) and said that I was going to talk to one of the officers after the raid about rejoining the raid team properly. "Or I can just do this!" he replied and immediately set my rank in the guild roster back to raider. I felt slightly embarrassed to be honest because I'd meant not to make a fuss about it, but with everyone quietly prepping for the next trash pull, the promotion popping up in guild chat was very noticeable and elicited some congratulatory comments. So there we have it. For the time being, I'm back in.

Our first attempt on Kael that evening wasn't too bad, even if I was struggling to find my feet a little, not having been there for any of the guild's previous tries. As the evening progressed, I have to admit I wasn't too hopeful that we were going to kill him that night after all, as things still seemed to descend into a bit too much headless chicken mode whenever all the advisors came back to life. A guildie whispered me to say that he was also thinking that things didn't look too good... but then we managed to get the boss down on what would have had to be the last pull of the evening anyway. I will say that it was more exciting than the Vashj kill at least!

In a turn of events that felt very symbolic, I also ended up winning the tier five chest right after my official return to raider, which is my fourth piece of the set, meaning that I could finally shed my Beast Lord gear to slip straight into the full tier five set bonus, which resulted in my huntress undergoing a noticeable visual transformation as well. A couple more weeks of farming SSC and TK, and then soon, Mount Hyjal awaits.


All Heroics Completed!

One of my vague goals for Classic Burning Crusade was to play through all the heroic dungeons again, even the unpopular ones. I'm something like 99% sure that I did them all back in the day as well, but I have no clear recollection or record of it, so I wanted to do it all again to refresh my memory. Last week I managed to complete this goal by finally being able to tick heroic Mana Tombs off the list, the last heroic I had yet to complete in Classic. (Not counting Magister's Terrace, which won't be out for a while yet.)

With that done, I wanted to write down some thoughts on each heroic.

Hellfire Citadel

Hellfire Ramparts

This is a very easy heroic and I kind of wonder why people don't do it for badges more often, considering that it's quite short as well. I mean, there are some trash pulls that are a bit tricky to get right, but I wouldn't expect that to be a huge issue? I can only guess that the lack of other incentives is the reason why it isn't more popular (no regular quests send you there and none of the loot seems particularly exciting).

The Blood Furnace

This one seems to be an unpopular one, seemingly based on many people having bad experiences with it early in the expansion and then being like "never again". For me however, it was the heroic that kicked off our little dungeon troupe running things just for fun and I'll always remember it fondly for that.

Standing at attention to hear our fearless leader's plan.

We've run it a few more times since then and it's always been a blast. Most of it isn't too hard anyway; it's just that cage event before the second boss that's challenging, but if you're there with friends even that's a good thing in my eyes, because it's challenging in a way that encourages you to make a plan and stick to it, and if everyone executes their part correctly, nobody dies and you all get to feel good about yourselves at the end of it. The felguards just before the last boss occasionally one-shotting dps players is just a bit of extra comedy.

The Shattered Halls

This is probably the most hated heroic that people still run anyway, mostly because both the quest for the Nightbane urn and the Tempest Keep attunement (now not needed anymore, but still gives a title) require you to come here. And to be fair, I kind of get it. It's a bunch of straight hallways full of trash in a way that makes it impossible to skip anything except some of those gladiators near the end, and there are many pulls that are just too big for a non-paladin tank to effectively hold aggro on. Doesn't matter how geared they are or whether they're the best player in the world, Swipe only hits three targets and Thunder Clap up to four - if there are more enemies than that and you can't CC them, you need to hit them individually and that just takes time that you might not have before they decide to go after the healer.

I've only tanked it on normal myself and on some pulls the mobs were definitely all over the place - it's just that on normal this won't wipe you. My heroic runs with non-paladin tanks have always involved a lot of frantic running around and I can't blame any tank for finding it stressful that one missed attack at the wrong moment might result in a dps - or worse, the healer - getting one-shot. Basically you need a team where everyone really works together and is willing to take some responsibility by using cooldowns, slows etc. on almost every pull and that's just a lot to ask. That said, as a non-tank I really don't mind it.

Coilfang Reservoir

The Slave Pens

Easily the most popular heroic by a mile. It's relatively easy and therefore pretty beginner-friendly, but that doesn't explain why people prefer it quite so much over e.g. Ramparts which is very similar in that regard. My guess is that it's got something to do with the SSC attunement quest requiring at least two visits of the dungeon (once to pick up the quest and then a second time to hand it in) and the last boss actually dropping some pretty good loot, not least a trinket that's pre-raid best in slot for many casters. Also, you can skip huge amounts of trash and I get the impression that people enjoy being able to do that even if it doesn't reduce the duration of the dungeon significantly when compared to other short instances.

Three frost mages and their pets is almost like having six damage dealers... who aren't very good.

The Underbog

If Shattered Halls is the most hated heroic that people do anyway, this is probably the easiest heroic that nobody ever does. Nothing except the timing of some trash pulls near the end is really hard and there's a lot of skinning and herbing to be done for those with either gathering skill. However, like Ramparts it has no quests telling you to go there while also being somewhat longer than the latter, so I guess that's why people rarely bother.

The Steamvault 

This is another fairly popular destination as you can skip a lot of trash and what remains is on a similar level to Slave Pens. The bosses are perhaps slightly tougher, especially the first one, but it's nothing too dramatic.


Mana Tombs

Nobody ever wants to go to Mana Tombs, which is why it was the last heroic I got to check off my list, and it took a lot of convincing to get enough of my friends and guildies to go along with it. The common refrain seemed to be that the first boss required shadow resistance gear on the tank, which I didn't remember being an issue back in the day so I handwaved it away.

Now, strictly speaking I was correct as we did kill him without resist gear, but we were fairly well geared and we still wiped about half a dozen times before getting him down, mostly as everybody needed to learn to be disciplined with stopping dps whenever the damage reflection shield went up as otherwise people would just kill themselves within the blink of an eye. I was healing on that run and I also just barely managed to keep the tank alive with non-stop Holy Light spam and with the boss dying just in time for me to be completely OOM.

The other two bosses were a relative cakewalk after that, even the last one with the add summons that I recalled being somewhat of a pain back in the day.

"Successfully healed through heroic Mana Tombs" flex.

Auchenai Crypts

There are some good drops for several physical dps classes in this one, plus a valuable enchanting recipe drops from the trash as well. Combine that with how short it is (having only two bosses), which makes it a quick four badges on days when it's the daily heroic, and I'd say this is a reasonably popular heroic. Not a favourite, but people do run it with decent frequency.

Sethekk Halls

Sethekk Halls can be pretty rough on heroic, with a lot of trash for a place that only has two bosses by default, and with many mobs having some pretty disruptive abilities, from knockbacks and mind-control totems to silences and fears. Both bosses are pretty tough on the healer as well - but there are two powerful incentives to go anyway: It's the other heroic needed to acquire the urn to summon Nightbane, and every druid who wants to get epic flight form needs to complete it at least once as well. The latter also involves summoning the bonus boss Anzu, who can drop himself as a super rare mount, which is something that always holds a certain appeal.

Shadow Labyrinth 

This is another one that's not very popular but people do it anyway, if only for the Tempest Keep attunement/Champion of the Naaru title. Reasons to dislike it are that it's on the long side and that there's a lot of unskippable trash, and like in Shattered Halls there are some huge pulls. While these are at least limited to the second boss's room, they are in some way even worse than Shattered Halls because even a well-geared paladin tank can't just AoE tank it all due to the enemy shadow priest mobs just melting people in seconds if uncontrolled. I remember on my first run of this, our dps group consisted of a hunter (me), a shadow priest and a dps warrior and we both wiped a lot and had to get quite creative with our crowd control plans in the end. That said, I do like a challenge.

Caverns of Time

Old Hillsbrad Foothills

This was the penultimate heroic I struggled to complete before Mana Tombs, also because hardly anyone ever wants to run it. The first time I heard someone talk about it, they said something like this (I'm paraphrasing a bit): "Heroic Old Hillsbrad? We tried that once, but the adds before the last boss kept one-shotting our tank. And we were already raid-geared at that point! Never again."

Still, for me tales of how impossible a dungeon is only serve to spur me on to want to see for myself - I guess because I always assume that people must have been doing it wrong and that I can do better (conceited, I know...) and in the end I ended up running it twice within a week or so, once on my hunter and once on my mage.

The first run with my hunter was quite a memorable adventure with a lot of mishaps along the way, though we interestingly managed to one-shot the encounter with the last boss. It sure was a fight to remember though... our tank did indeed also die on the second wave of adds, but we kept muddling through by using CC to the best of our ability, letting Thrall off-tank and so on. There is a short break before the boss himself engages, during which we could get the tank resed and healed up to start the main fight at full strength - and things did seem to go okay for a bit, until suddenly everyone was dead and I was the last person standing. "Feign death and let him tank!" yelled my levelling buddy over voice (referring to Thrall), which I did and which subsequently allowed me to finish off the boss. He did manage to put a deadly DoT on me just before dying, which I only just out-healed by immediately sitting down as soon as combat ended and stuffing my face with mage food. What a fight though!

I only remembered to take a screenshot of the carnage after I'd survived the DoT.

On the second run we did better during the first half of the instance but then wiped on the last encounter half a dozen times due to the adds always killing our tank, the healer, or both, but eventually we got it down as well.

The Black Morass

The Black Morass is another not very popular destination, but in a different way than places like Shattered Halls or Shadow Labs. There are a couple of good loot drops here that incentivise tanks and physical dps to return, and it's probably the easiest heroic to tank, seeing how all you need to do is pick up the big mob by each portal and try to cleave the adds to some extent.

The problem is that the dps requirements for a smooth run are very high, and it's very easy for a mistake to spiral out of control, at which point it's most likely a wipe and due to the timed nature of the instance the whole run's probably a bust (unless you were already on the last boss, in which case you have just enough time to run back and re-try him once).

I've had some runs with guildies that were super smooth and made the whole instance look easy, and I've had ones where my healer was constantly getting hit in the face by adds and we were falling behind on portals to the point that the next one was already opening just as we were engaging the current one. I also had one run which was super smooth until we popped a beacon on one of the portals which caused the tank to ignore the main mob (as it was being tanked by the summoned dragon), but then the beacon ran out before said mob was dead and it ran around killing half the group, nearly wiping us - just to illustrate my point about things being able to go south incredibly quickly. It's a weird dungeon, is what I'm saying.

Tempest Keep

The Mechanar

The Mechanar is another one of the heroics that's considered relatively easy and fast, though e.g. the fire lady can honestly be quite deadly! I guess the fact that the last boss drops a nice tanking sword adds to the appeal. Also, the robot guy is I think the only boss in all of BC's heroics that has completely different mechanics on heroic compared to normal (the Thaddeus-like charges vs. damage reflection shields on normal), which is quite peculiar now that I think about it.

The Botanica

The Botanica is a bit of an odd heroic in that most of it is not at all hard (with the exception of a few very disruptive trash mobs - but if you know what to look out for they are easy enough to handle), but quite long. At the same time though, it offers five badges for the effort, so the length is somewhat justified... I've found that people aren't overly fond of running this one normally, but when it's the daily there'll be a decent amount of groups, probably because a total of seven badges for an about hour-long run of an instance that isn't too challenging is not a bad payout.

The Arcatraz

The Arcatraz possibly rivals Shattered Halls in terms of unpopularity while still making people feel like they "have" to do it for the TK attunement chain/title. I do think that the difficulty is somewhat overrated though, because a lot of the trash consists of mobs that can be pulled as singles, meaning it's really not that challenging to handle. I'd say it's mostly the last boss that's rough, even if you're not worried about keeping Millhouse alive for the quest (but most of the time people do need that).

Beleaguered raid tank taking people through heroic Arca for their quest for the umpteenth time.

The biggest surprise to me here was the first boss, whom I remember doing an absolute ton of shadow damage, to the point that people recommended resist gear for him back in the day, yet he's never caused the groups I've been in any particular issues. This is an interesting contrast to the first boss of Mana Tombs, whom I don't remember being as bad as he is. I even have written evidence of that - I started this blog back in 2009, when Wrath of the Lich King was the current expansion, but BC was still in the fairly recent past back then, and one of my first posts was about rating the difficulty of BC heroic dungeon bosses.

In summary

I will say that Burning Crusade heroics are every bit as fun as I remember them being back in the day, and I plan to continue running them for as long as the expansion is around. I really love how much they defy brute force - though I'm not sure I want to say they are hard, exactly. Considering that I'm a woman rapidly approaching 40 who clicks most of her abilities, you don't really need to be a pro gamer to beat this content... but every boss and trash pull is a challenge that asks you to think about how to approach it, what to interrupt, what crowd control to use and when, and so on and so forth, and if you keep making bad decisions, there are consequences in the form of deaths and wipes.

Most importantly, everyone is part of that decision-making progress, and it really creates a feeling of working together. When I cast a heal at just the right time, when the tank taunts the mob just before it can hit me, when a rogue stuns the mob before it can fire off its most devastating ability, all of these things contribute to things coming together, and it just feels so good to me! Wrath of the Lich King felt very disappointing in comparison when everything descended into AoE fests where little seemed to matter other than running fast enough to keep up with your tank.