Well, I think that’s what it looks like the dragon is saying, anyway.
That is a Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquisher, and yes, that’s the Panzercow on the back of it. The 10-man raid that I tank for made one last run into Icecrown Citadel on Saturday afternoon to clear the final obstacle we needed to get 10-player Glory of the Icecrown Raider…heroic Sindragosa.
I know there are those who are strict 10-man raiders who say that having 25-man gear, as most of our raid did, “trivializes” the 10-man content. I can see that; we can pretty much roflstomp most of ICC on normal, even normal Arthas didn’t give us too much trouble. And the more straightforward heroic-mode fights pushed us a little bit, but still, we were making solid progress toward our raidleader’s goal of getting drakes before Cataclysm dropped. We even, amazingly, downed heroic Putricide after just five attempts. Some of the acheesements gave us trouble (Been Waiting a Long Time For This was particularly annoying) but not too much…we even got Sindy’s acheesement, All You Can Eat, by just zerging her down from 35% instead of actually attempting to do the normal tank-switch method.
Heroic Sindy, however, was a different matter entirely. It’s a brutally unforgiving fight, the already-intolerant mechanics turned up to 11 by frostbombs that can one-shot even the tanks, debuffs that cause casters to asplode, and frost breath that hits like a very icy truck once the Mystic Buffet is opened for dinner. We threw ourselves at Sindy hard week before last, without success. So if we were going to get her before Cataclysm released and everybody quit caring about “old” content, we had three hours on a Saturday to do it.
For two hours and fifty-six minutes, things didn’t look good for our heroes. We wiped, and wiped, and wiped. The best we’d done was get her to 18%. Phase 2, at 35%, was just not working. We couldn’t time the tank transitions right, or I’d forget a cooldown and get ganked by her frost breath, or a badly-timed Blistering Cold would slaughter half the raid, or she’d drop a bomb right on top of us during an air phase…it was always something. None of the attempts had that smooth, well-oiled feel to them that you need to beat a fight like heroic Sindragosa. I was frustrated and absolutely furious with myself. I hadn’t played in several days leading up to the raid and it showed. I made a lot of avoidable dumbass mistakes. I don’t think I actually cost us a kill at that point, but it sure wasn’t helping.
So then, there we were. 4:57 pm Eastern with a stop time of 5:00. The last attempt, on the last boss, on the last day, of the last raid before the expansion. One shot. All or nothing. It looked like fourth-and-11 on our own 41 with one second on the clock…time to load up three receivers to the left and let fly a Hail Mary downfield.
And we did it.
That fight, that three hours of stress and wipes, was, in a way, this entire raiding expansion for me in miniature. Starting off flailing and failing, making mistakes, then hanging in there and keeping on digging, grinding it out, persevering, and at the end, at the last possible moment, somehow it just all comes together.
I’ve always said that the two accomplishments I’m proudest of on Linedan in Wrath of the Lich King are his Loremaster title first and his one Arthas 25-man kill second. That hasn’t changed. This achievement, however–Glory of the Icecrown Raider–is a very, very close third. It took us several months, but our little 10-man raid that ran for just three hours, just one afternoon a week, ended up the expansion as 11/12 heroic ICC. That is an achievement to be very proud of indeed. And this one comes with a big, bony, loud-flapping tangible reminder that I’ll see as I enter the brave new world of Cataclysm.
So to Ghaar, Grizz, Tahlian, Dorritow, Nikara, and all the rest–and to our regulars who never were able to get their drakes, Ghorr, Alanth, and Seijitsu–thank you. It was a privilege to get hit in the face for you guys. See you on the other side.
Back before Wrath of the Lich King was released, the officers of The Anvil, the 25-man Horde raid on Feathermoon that I tank for, sat down and set one simple goal: The Anvil 25-man would kill Arthas before the next expansion came out. That was it. Everything, all the other raid instances, all our activity as a raid, was pointed toward that goal. Naxxramas, Ulduar, Trial of the Big Round Room…they were steppingstones toward Icecrown Citadel and our ultimate goal of doing something we’d never done before: beating “the” boss of an expansion while that expansion was still current content, and making the Lich King our Bitch King.
Now this was a stretch for us. Since the days of 40-man raiding, we’ve never been a cutting-edge progression raid…call us “hardcore casual” if you will. In vanilla, we never cleared Blackwing Lair, much less Naxxramas 1.0; Nefarian only died after The Burning Crusade came out. When we hit Outland, we stalled at the end of both Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep. Vashj eventually went down after six or seven weeks, but we never really even got close to killing Kael’thas until patch 3.0 dropped, at which point the fight instantly turned from a near-impossible exercise to a stupidly easy no-death one-shot. We managed to get 3/5 in Hyjal before 3.0 hit, but never visited Black Temple except for one visit post-patch, where we one-shotted the first seven bosses and couldn’t get past the Illidari Council. Linedan’s still never seen or killed Illidan, Archimonde, or anything in Sunwell Plateau.
Four months ago we dropped Sindragosa for the first time and took the teleporter up to stand before our final goal. That night, we began working on the fight. And through the summer, we kept at it. Again. And again. And again. I started likening progress on the Lich King fight to the Battle of the Somme…immense casualties for just a few yards, or in this case percent, gained. We extended lockouts and threw ourselves at him for three straight hours some nights. I counted fifteen wipes one night, that’s a 200 gold repair bill for me. We tried several different strategies regarding Defiles and val’kyr handling, with varying degrees of success. Time and again normal summer schedule issues ravaged our lists and left us frantically pulling in subs, or dropping back to clear lower ICC again, or even calling the raid entirely.
Last night, we faced down Arthas again. We started off with two excellent attempts that moved efficiently through phase 2 and got into phase 3 with most of the raid still standing. Our DPS was the highest I’d ever seen it, across the board. Unfortunately, both times things fell apart fast and we died quickly in phase 3, not getting Arthas below about 35%. Then we started backsliding into the pattern that’s dogged us the whole time…mistakes in phase 2, bad placement of Defiles, unlucky timing on the different cooldowns for valks vs. Defile, stuff like that. After a few more of those, we took a break, came back, and went at it again.
It was the sixth, or seventh, or eighth attempt, I’d lost track at that point. We started off same as the others–me on Arthas, our paladin tank Keltyr on the ghouls and horrors in phase 1. Phase 1 was dispatched quickly and smoothly, likewise the 1-2 transition. We hit phase 2, and the real fight began.
You know that feeling you get when you just know that everything is starting to fall into place? We had that. Defile placement wasn’t perfect, but it was workable. Everyone adjusted, standing behind Arthas, all facing the same direction to keep the valks clustered together. For once, the timers worked properly so that we weren’t all clustered up for valks and getting hit with Defile instead. We shifted, we adjusted, we moved in and moved out, and we got to 45% with everybody still up.
Then at 43%, here came the valks. And the shout went out from our Chief Cat Herder: “Forget them, burn Arthas down!” It was a crapshoot. If we couldn’t get him to 40% while dodging the upcoming Defile, we’d lose two DPS and a healer. Everybody ran for Defile, ran back in and laid into the Lich King while I drug him toward one edge…
..at the last possible second, he dropped to 40%, ran back to the center, and started the phase 2-3 transition. The ledge reappeared, and all three of our raidmates landed on solid ice with just mere feet to spare.
The spirits came up and we laid into them like we never had before. At the end of the transition, two were dead, one was at 30%, and the fourth was full up. I had the weaker spirit on me, so I headed back in and said hi to Arthas again, and phase 3 began.
The next few minutes are still a blur in my sleep-deprived mind. Phase 2 is barely-controlled chaos. Phase 3 felt like it removed the “barely-controlled” part. People were scattering everywhere to avoid Vile Spirits and Defile. We were handling tanking differently in the 25 than we did when I got Arthas in my 10, and I had only the vaguest of ideas when to taunt Arthas and move him. More than once I taunted Arthas and immediately got a Soul Reaper countdown, and only Keltyr’s fast action saved me.
Things were getting nuts. We had a death or two. The fight devolved into a screaming mass of taunting, moving, and keyspamming. Calls of “I can’t reach the tanks!” followed by another healer saying “I’ve got ‘em.” Vile Spirits exploding everywhere. “Defile, move!” “Spirits coming down!” “Gore’s harvested!” And all the while, I saw that big Threat Plate over Arthas’ head slowly count down numbers. Twenty-three percent. Twenty percent. Eighteen percent. Fifteen percent. Holy shit, are we actually going to do this?
I taunted him back at about 13%. I was getting ready to hit Vent and say “a million to go, guys, WE’VE GOT THIS”…and I died. I got too damn far away from my healers trying to get Arthas clear of the Vile Spirits, and there I was, in the Sprawl of Shame, with the Lich King at 12% health.
“Shit, Lin’s down!”
“Want me to pick him up?”
About four of us (me included) said “No!” at the same time. He was at 7.1 million health, under 12%, one tank up, don’t shift out to battle rez just burn his ass down. One million more health to go, dear God please don’t let me dying fuck this up now go go GO GO GO DAMMIT GO…
His health on the plate ticked over to 9%.
I won’t spoil the fight for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, but let’s just say, if you get him to 10%, you’ve won, despite appearances. There’s a pause for some in-game exposition that you get to watch. When that started, there was a second of stunned silence, as if all 25 of us couldn’t believe we were seeing what we saw, and then Vent erupted with screams. And just as quickly, was shushed…after all, many people there hadn’t had a chance to see the show before.
I didn’t say a word. I was too busy sitting there, staring at the screen in slack-jawed shock, my hands shaking and tears forming in my eyes. We had done it. We killed the Lich King.
Two minutes later, the hoedown was over, and the fight entered the last 10%, aka Pinata Mode. And then, it was truly over, cue the acheesement spam. At 11:33 pm Eastern time, Thursday, September 16, 2010, Arthas Menethil, the Lich King, whatever you want to call him, lay dead at The Anvil’s feet, and we sat in silent shock and relief while Cutscene Happened.
We were Kingslayers.
We had won the game.
I spent the rest of the evening in an advanced state of shock. It took my hands half an hour to stop shaking and I didn’t get to bed until well past 1:00. The happy crew gradually dropped off Vent and out of WoW, off to bed.
While that happened, I sat and reflected, and got hit by an incredible wave of emotion that almost started me crying. The realization of what we’d just done, and my small part in it, hit me.
A bit over four years ago, I first started running with The Anvil as a scrubstitute, a few months after the raid initially formed. I had no business being in Molten Core given that my gear was mostly greens and I was a pretty shitty warrior, but in 40-mans, you could carry scrubs, and after weeks of not being selected to go, my wife Rashona and I finally wormed our way in. Back then, our daughter Nublet was only an infant so Rashona and I basically had to alternate weeks to go on those Sunday afternoon MC runs…one of us raided while the other tended the baby. We switched weeks, sometimes we even switched mid-run if the officers were OK with it.
I hung in there and kept getting invites despite the fact I really did suck. My DPS was lousy, I couldn’t offtank rock elementals on Garr to save my ass (or anyone else’s), I wiped the raid running the wrong way on Geddon more than once. Slowly, on the long grind through Molten Core to Ragnaros and then into Blackwing Lair, I got better. Not good, but better.
The Burning Crusade came out. By the time I made it to 70, I was behind most of the other Anvillains. The Anvil had formed two 10-man Karazhan raids and didn’t have enough people for a third, leaving me and Rashonakitty screwed. Fortunately a friend of ours was starting up her own Kara (called “Dissonant’s Softcore Raiders”) and the wife and I came on as the two tanks. I went Prot, and never looked back. We helped take that raid from wiping all night on Attumen all the way to one-night full clears and lots of Prince kills. It was a fantastic experience.
When The Anvil went back to running 25-mans in Gruul’s Lair, I got in again despite the raid being overloaded on tanks. And somehow, I guess through just sheer attrition and my own stubbornness, by the time our TBC raiding career ended, I was the permanent second offtank.
Wrath of the Lich King brought us death nuggets, and one of our warriors switched to DK (realm first 80 DK, in fact) and became astoundingly good at DK tanking–so good that he pushed me down to the #3 offtank, in an instance (Naxx 2.0) where few fights needed four tanks and dual specs hadn’t come in yet. The raid officers kept me on, thank God, and we’ve carried four tanks all through Wrath (the original DK left and has been replaced by an even better DK), eventually going to a rotation system where we all take turns tanking and DPSing.
The Anvil took me in when I had no business raiding. They let me back in after I took time to head to greener pastures in Karazhan. They kept me on and rewarded my persistence with a permanent slot. They kept me on again when better-geared, better-skilled tanks “took my jerb.” They kicked my ass when I needed it and reassured me when I needed it. They had faith in me when I had lost my own faith in my ability to play this game. They gave me the room and opportunity to develop the confidence to turn, eventually, into a pretty decent warrior tank. They are my friends, and I’ll do anything for them.
And last night, the scrubby hybrid-spec warrior in the mismatched level 55 greens…now transformed into the fully-sanctified-T10-wearing badass tank he never thought he could become…tanked the bloody Lich King. And won.
All of the problems that were spinning around me yesterday are still there this morning. Our one working vehicle is still laid up at the mechanic and we don’t know how we’re going to pay to fix it. One of our cats is still a bit sick in his tummy and stinking up the place. We’re still broke. The house is a mess. I still have four projects at work in various stages of “oh shit.” None of that has changed.
But for a few magical minutes last night, none of it existed. There was nothing but a group of friends, accomplishing a task set in front of them, and culminating a journey that started four and a half years ago. Winning the game.
For now, the world can bite my shiny metal ass. I’m a Kingslayer, biatch.
It’s been a strange weekend here at the Bunker of Love, no doubt about that.
See, North Carolina has been getting hammered by a nasty heat wave. Now yes, it’s the South, and yes, of course it gets hot in the summer. I know this. I’m Virginia-born and -bred, with the added resume entries of surviving three summers near Washington, DC (why did we build our nation’s capital in a bloody swamp?) and seven years in Columbia, South Carolina, a place that you could use for testing manned expeditions to Venus. I know from hot, people.
But you see, the Bunker of Love, nice as it is, does not have central air conditioning. This is a small, old house with “character” (translation: a disturbing number of corners that aren’t 90 degrees) in an older neighborhood. It was built before the word “insulation” entered the national consciousness. Hot and cold just seeps in, despite our best efforts. And what’s worse, our computers are in the only available space for them–a converted sunporch that was added on sometime after the house was built. There are several large windows in this room. They’re old and single-pane. Do the math. We have two small window units (one in our bedroom, and one in the living room behind us) and one box fan trying to push the output of the living room A/C in here. It works reasonably well, as long as the temperature is a more normal, say, 90 degrees. 100 degrees with a heat index over 110, not so much.
And thus it was that on Thursday night, The Anvil spent three hours on Arthas with me as main tank, keeping one eye on the Lich King and one eye on the display of my Logitech G15 keyboard watching my video card temperature skyrocket, while sweating like a pig and trying to hydrate in between wipes. Yes, I know how stupid it sounds talking about sweating my ass off while playing a video game. Remember–I’m a fat white pasty guy, it was pushing 85F in here, and it’s the motherhumpin’ Lich King, people. Things get a little intense even for keyboard warriors. We did make some good progress, with some strategy adjustment on phase 2 of the fight, but we’re still getting our asses kicked by badly-placed Defiles or losing people to val’kyr. We’re consistently getting late into phase 2, and we got to see the 40% transition a couple times.
Friday hit 101 degrees. My wife and I ended up doing something I’m still sad about–we bailed on the raid due to the heat. I take my raiding commitments seriously. When I sign up, I show up, even if I don’t really want to. But with the temperature in the room pushing the mid- to high 80s, and my video card reporting 83 degrees Celsius just while sitting looking out over the porch at Ulduar, we both knew that a couple hours of this, and we’d be not only miserable, but making serious mistakes when we tried Arthas again. I can’t rationalize and say we did it for “the good of the raid” though. Fact was, it was just too damn hot in here.
Now, come Saturday afternoon for the 10-man that I MT on Linedan, the temperature had not abated outside–heading for 100 again. But since it doesn’t get really intolerable in here until about 5 or 6 pm, and the raid runs from 2 to 5, I figured I’d be able to hang in OK on our all-Arthas-all-the-time attempts. (Side note: I love extended lockouts. Awesome invention, Blizz.) So we got to work.
As you can guess from the picture up top, we got the bastard. Linedan is now, at least for a day, Linedan the Kingslayer. (Then I’ll switch it back to Loremaster.)
We got him, in fact, despite most of us never really having gotten good looks at phase 3, the Vile Spirits phase, before. I know that phase 2 is the hard part, and that phase 3 is easier, but still, we wiped a good 10 times in that phase before we worked out a strategy for saving me from getting my face eaten by Soul Reaper. Once we did that? I’m not going to say it was easy, because it wasn’t. But our killshot wasn’t one of those nail-biting super-close shaves. We just…got him. Fairly smooth, no big issues.
That fight is so much easier on 10-man than on 25-man. As are, in fact, most fights that require a lot of maneuvering. To me it seems pretty obvious why. You’ve got the same area of platform to drop Bad(tm) in, but 40% of the people taking up the room. You’re less likely to get a Defile in a bad place, and if you do, you’re less likely to get somebody moving through it or standing in it and expanding it. And yes, I’ll admit, a good chunk of us in this raid are wearing 25-man gear, and yes, having a nice big rack of ilevel 264 stuff does help compared to doing it in 251s or lower.
So now that Arthas has fallen in 10-man, I have one goal left in Wrath of the Lich King for Linedan…Kingslayer 25-man. That’s it. As soon as we get that, I will have accomplished everything I set out to accomplish for him in this expansion. I called it the Four Big Titles–World Explorer, Seeker, Loremaster, Kingslayer. Well, right now, he’s three-and-a-half out of four. We’ll keep raiding after The Anvil drops Arthas, I’m sure of it, and our 10-man is going to start on hard modes in at least a few fights next week. But after I get that 25-man Kingslayer title attached to Linedan’s name, everything else is just sprinkles on the cupcake, and the Cataclysm countdown begins.
For some unknown, masochistic reason, I’ve always had the long-term goal of getting Linedan both the Loremaster and Seeker (3000 quests completed) titles. Call me a “completionist,” call me a perfectionist, call me an idiot, whatever. But from the time I first saw the Loremaster achievement, I said to myself, “you will be mine someday. Oh yes. You will be mine.”
Apparently, 15 March 2010 is “someday.” After months of off-and-on work to backtrack through the old world, he is Loremaster Linedan, achieved when turning in overall quest number three thousand and ten in Stonard.
This title is the culmination not just of several months of going on quest-completing binges in zones seventy levels too low. In a way, it’s the end of a chapter–and the beginning of another–in Linedan’s entire story.
Linedan is five years old this month. When he first embarked on his career at Red Cloud Mesa in March 2005, the world was yet young and very, well, “vanilla.” Mobs outside instances were still elite. Escorts were group quests. Getting to Camp Taurajo required a long and marginally dangerous run instead of a short flight. And the world was a big, dangerous place for a simple Tauren warrior with no sugar daddy to support him. There were times, around level 13 or 14, where Linedan literally did not have enough copper to pay his repair bills, because I didn’t know anything about this “auction house” I kept hearing of, and was dying way too much.
Later on, about level 18 or so, I joined a guild called Hand of the Forsaken. HotF was the biggest guild Hordeside on Feathermoon at the time, but the majority of the members were level 35+. They were pushing their top people to level 60 and preparing to hit the endgame–Onyxia and Molten Core at the time–and there wasn’t a lot of time for a lowbie warrior who didn’t have anybody else his level in the guild to pair with. So I soloed through Lin’s 20s and 30s and into his 40s, always broke and always behind on gear. It wasn’t until I left Hand and joined an insanely fun bunch called The Sidewinder Band that I actually got to tank instances (they didn’t go well) and run a few group quests with people my level. A month later, Linedan was in Noxilite–the guild he’s still in today, four and a half years later–and finally hanging with a semi-regular group of friends with whom I could instance or do group quests.
I relived a lot of those memories as I went back to places he hadn’t been in years…or ever, in some cases. I marveled at the sheer number of quests that he hadn’t done in Stranglethorn the first time through because he’d always been alone. It felt like I’d had him there for bloody years, and yet he apparently never did any of the Nesingwary quests. He’d never killed the ship captains off Booty Bay, or the giant up the coast, or saved Yenniku, or retrieved that gnome’s damned Pupellyverbos Port from the sands of the Hinterlands. He ran through Silvermoon, Tranquilien, Durotar, Tirisfal, Silverpine…doing kid’s errands for a few copper.
He stalked the burning streets of Stratholme and the sweltering halls of Blackrock Depths, doing by himself in minutes what used to take five friends several hours. He “saved” Bronzebeard’s get from Dagran Thaurissian, and slew Baron Rivendare, and retrieved Atal’ai artifacts, and got some damn weird (and annoyed) looks from level 20s who watched him one-shotting bears.
Ironically, he still did most of it alone. I had a lot of help along the way, true, but in the end, Lin still cleared his final Northrend stumbling block in Icecrown by soloing all the five-man group quests there save one.
And so, after chipping away at it for months, last night, Linedan crossed the finish line. His reward is a title, a nice note from Cairne Bloodhoof, and a very ugly tabard. That title is now in front of his name, and will stay there in preference to any others–yes, even Kingslayer–until Cataclysm comes along. It’s one thing that I’ve done that actually feels like a significant accomplishment.
This will also play into Linedan’s roleplay quite nicely. Lin is clanless, and has been something of an exile from Tauren society because of it. Well, not only is he Exalted with Thunder Bluff and all the other Horde factions, now he’s got the Seeker and Loremaster titles to back it up, and that note from Cairne (which I saved). I haven’t decided yet how or if I’m going to use this going forward…maybe he’ll have a last name again? Who knows. Maybe I’ll finally integrate him back into Tauren society in time for Cataclysm to come along and go Cro Threadstrong on the whole apple cart.
Now what? I’m not sure. The next logical thing for me to work on is the World Explorer achievement. Outland and Northrend were no problem, of course, with flying mounts. Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms? That’ll be a bit tougher considering that I’ll be groundbound…and repair bills due to guard death can hurt when a death costs 12 gold, not to mention the chances of having to spirit rez. That means I’d have to go naked, or at least with no armor. Hmm.
So over the next couple of months, if you’re on Feathermoon, and you see a Tauren in a Pink Mageweave Shirt and a Haliscan Brimmed Hat riding through Alliance-controlled territory…could you give me a few seconds to make sure I get the discovery of where we’re currently sitting before you gank me? Thanks. I appreciate it.
This may not seem like much to people in the world of Wrath of the Lich King…after all, there are a ton of people running around with these achievements, given how easy cloth turnins and the Argent Tournament make it to gain rep with your home factions.
But you have to understand that Linedan is old-school, boyyyy…created in 2005, back in the day when quests in newbie areas gave a paltry 50 or 100 rep instad of the 250 or 350 they do now. He wasn’t Revered with Thunder Bluff until level 70. For most of his life, he’s had better rep with Orgrimmar than he has with Cairne and the boys. In fact, I’ve played that into his whole “disowned” RP persona…had I been able to, Thunder Bluff would have been the last Exalted rep he got and the last Argent Champion he got. Unfortunately, the Argents make you Champion for your hometown first before being able to do the others, and as the rep grinds worked out, he hit Exalted with Thunder Bluff not too long after he got it with Orgrimmar. After that, it’s just been a matter of grinding out newbie quests in Tirisfal and Silvermoon, and doing Tournament dailies, which I have slogged through with the same joy and verve that I approach doing status reports at work. Which is to say, not very much.
To give you an indication of how things have changed…Lin wasn’t Revered with Thunder Bluff until level 70. Latisha, my human alt prot warrior who is now level 67, hit Exalted with Stormwind at level 42. Even with the +10% human rep bonus, that’s just crazy.
I’m not sure if I’m going to work this into RP with Linedan or not. I haven’t quite decided if it’s time that the big guy got a last name again. In the meantime, I feel a small glow of accomplishment…and then realize that the Argent Tournament rep grind is not over. I’ve still got 4500 to go to get Exalted with the Sunreavers. Oh God, more jousting. And it’s all champions this time. Blaaaah.
And looming behind all of this is the Big Kahuna, the long-term achievement goal I have for him…Loremaster. 30 quests in Kalimdor, 120 quests in Eastern Kingdoms, and 20 quests in Icecrown are all that stand between me and that title. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s going to be one hell of a push to pull that off.