Move Out of the Rain of Fire, Dammit!

With all the crazy dungeon-crawling and time-travelling I’d been doing, I didn’t really notice that… DUN DUN DUN… The Mage They Call Jayne(z) had hit 67! Yay! Congrats to me! Go level cap!

Okay, it’s not as nifty a number as “60” or even “70,” but it’ll do. The only problem is… now that I’ve hit the cap, there’s nowhere else to go! Oh noes! Netherstorm, Blade’s Edge Mountains, and Shadowmoon Valley are all closed off. What’s a beta journalist to do?!

Well, finish up some quests, run some dungeons, of course. But that’s stuff I’ve talked about already at great length, and I’ll most certainly talk about it at great length in the future-suffice to say that the Auchindoun instances are lots of fun, with some nifty-nifty boss fights. A direct quote from our first attempt at the first boss in Sethekk Halls: “Ok, he hasn’t done anything yet, keep going, it’s going good, just kee-OH MY GOD ELEMENTALS.” Also, the Shattered Halls (level 70 Hellfire Citadel wing) is pretty damn fun. But, all things in their time.

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Speaking of Hellfire Citadel, I’ve covered the first two wings and briefly mentioned the third. But nowhere have I given any coverage to the fourth and final wing: Magtheridon’s Lair.

That’ll change!

…kinda.

When the leader of the beta guild I’m in (shout out to Fen an’ my BCT homies!) decided that we had enough level 67s wearing our tag, he got off his Dreadnaught-clad ass and said “Right, we’re gonna go pwn Magtheridon.” Got plenty competent raiders in the guild, all with good gear from live or from Beta… and hell, we’re only 3 levels below the cap. That couldn’t -possibly- make a difference, could it?

Heh.

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We get together a 25-man raid group comprised of as many level 67s as we can garner from the corners of our server. When we’re ready, we group up in Thrallmar (I miss staging from Kargath…), and to the bottom of Hellfire Citadel. Nestled in the back of the structure is a green swirly portal that can only mean one thing: it’s RAIDIN’ TIME!

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I’m aware of at least one foray into Magtheridon’s Lair made by those wackos on the PvE beta server, but they didn’t make it past the first trash pull. We, on the other hand, are raiders who chose to play on the cutthroat environment of a PvP server. On them thar PvE servers, they’re all /hug and /wave to the other faction… we, on the other hand, are /SET YOUR FACE ON FIRE because we’re just that awesome.

So, with our skills honed from dealing with PvP from day one… our blades tempered in the blood of the filthy Alliance… there’s no way we’ll fail as hard as some PvE carebears, right?

Heh.

So, yeah, about that first trash pull…

Initially, we’re all excited. World First Magtheridon kill, baby! But, since there are five mages in the raid, and only one Druid and one Warlock, he’s going to drop Cenarion and Felheart. I don’t care if that’s Tier 1, he’ll find a way to drop them anyway.

It’s certainly a cool-looking dungeon, even if I never actually get to see much of it. The spiky barriers and skeletons littering the entrance platform at the top of the giant ramp down to the rest of the Lair makes me think that the Fel Horde is quite desperate to keep a certain something inside…

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Once everybody’s here, we do the buff thing and get a move on. At the bottom of the ramp, we see three Hellfire Warders, caster-looking Orcs. My stupid Priest companions use their stupid Mind Vision to see stupid Magtheridon, but I’ve just got to take their word on it! Life is pain! Out of curiosity, though, why aren’t these orcs big and red like the rest of the Fel Horde? They look like normal, green, Orc thingies.

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We’re ready to go, healers are assigned, and… once we wait for the patrol to pass, we go!

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You may have realized from my incredibly subtle insinuation that we do not, in fact, get past this first trash pull. The pull is fairly hard, to be certain-but I really do think that being level 67 instead of 70 is a huge disadvantage. We’re very heavy on Caster DPS (a fifth of the raiders are Mages) and I can tell you that even with my talents and +hit% gear, my combat log looks like this:

Your Fireball is Resisted by Hellfire Warder.
Your Fireball is Resisted by Hellfire Warder.
Your Fireball is Resisted by Hellfire Warder.
Your Fireball is Resisted by Hellfire Warder.
Your Fireball is Resisted by Hellfire Warder.
Your Fireball hits Hellfire Warder for 396 (947 Resisted).
Your Fireball is Resisted by Hellfire Warder.
Your Fireball hits Hellfire Warder for 642 (642 Resisted).
Your Fireball is Resisted by Hellfire Warder.
Your Fireball is Resisted by Hellfire Warder.
Your Fireball is Resisted by Hellfire Warder.

And I can only imagine that other Mages are feeling much the same, and the Rogues getting glancing blows. As it stands, we just don’t have the DPS to kill them reliably before the patrol comes back-though we make it close at times.

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The Hellfire Warders themselves… well, to anyone who’s done Blackwing Lair, they’re buffed Blackwing Warlocks. They have a Rain of Fire that ticks for 2k, a 2k AoE Shadowbolt Volley… a Shadow Word: Pain that ticks for 600 every 2 seconds, and a weak Unstable Affliction that seems designed to screw with people who don’t pay very careful attention to what they’re dispelling.

Even with the level factor against us, we almost manage to get this pull down. We pull all three apart, with one tanked at the very top of the ramp, the other on the middle, and the last on the bottom where they start… this way, there’s no overlap on shadow volleys or Rain of Fire due to range and Line of Sight. We kill one, kill two… and then the patrol comes back and aggro’s the totems that a Shaman hadn’t redropped. Ouch. We call it a night and agree to come back when we’re 70 to go kick some demon ass.

After getting my hardcore PvE on, I think it’s time to go kill some Alliance. Whether Rebel, Unified Planets, or Lordaeron, killing Alliance is a time-honored tradition.

I return to Nagrand to discover that Halaa is currently held by those dastardly Allies. Well, looks like I’ve got a new objective!

There’s been quite a bit said about the new “Eye of the Storm” battleground as well as the Arena combat, but it seems like few people have been giving Halaa the credit it deserves for complete and unbridled awesomeness.

I’ve mentioned, in the past, the World PvP objectives throughout the rest of Outland. Zangarmarsh’s Twin Spires, the Bone Wastes in Terokkar, and the Fortifications in Hellfire Peninsula. They’re all fun to a various extent, but none of them compare to Halaa. At all.

Halaa is a town in Nagrand, directly West of the Horde outpost of Garadar, and Northwest of Telaar, the Alliance town. It’s in the middle of a ravine, with the only access points being four bridges. Halaa is unique thus far in the game as it is a town that is capturable by the different factions. Yep, that’s right-players can finally have an impact on the actual game world via PvP.

Holding Halaa offers some benefits. There’s a graveyard right by the city, which of course aids in defending it from assault, but is also a handy addition to exploring and questing in the rest of Nagrand. There are two NPCs in one of the Halaani buildings as well. One of them has a repeatable quest-almost every mob in Nagrand has a chance of dropping Oshu’gun Crystal Powder, and by turning 20 in to the NPC you’re not only rewarded with some coin and some experience, you also receive a Halaani Research Token.

These Research Tokens are redeemed at the second NPC. Killing a player in Halaa and the immediate surrounding area rewards you with a “Halaa Battle Token.” If you’re in a group, you’ll get credit for any and all kills made nearby, regardless if you actually participated. If you are not grouped, the token goes to whoever dealt the killing blow. Both of these tokens are redeemed at the second vendor for such things as 18-slot bags and gear (with a focus on PvP stats such as Resilience or Stamina).

The rewards are nice, but the reason to fight over Halaa is simply because it’s damn fun. Let’s look a bit closer at how you do it.

When a group takes Halaa, they spawn 15 guards (Blood Elves or Draenei depending on the faction). Now, these guards don’t particularly hit any harder than normal guards, but they’ve all got 700k HP. Which is quite a bit of health, and more than any small party of people should be expected to deal with. What can you possibly do?

Maestro, cue “Ride of the Valkyries,” please.

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Right outside each of the four bridges, there are “Destroyed Wyvern Roosts,” which assaulting players can interact with. After five or six seconds, they become full-fledged roosts… and by clicking on them, you get flown on a flight path crisscrossing the skies above Halaa with 10 Firebombs in your possession. These bombs have a 5 second cooldown on use, and are targeted like most other explosive devices. They explode in AoE for about 1k damage to both players and NPCs in the blast radius alike, but their real strength comes in the burning fire they leave behind. This fire ticks for 1% of a victim’s health every second. Now, even on the most well-geared Warrior, that’s only 90 every second or so, but on the guards, that’s 7000 a tick.

So, players get on their Wyvern mounts and swoop over the city, raining fiery destruction down below. Wicked cool, to say the least. It is possible, to be sure, for a single player to get rid of the guards.. though the bombs only tick for four or five seconds, it will take a very long time to kill all fifteen guards by oneself.

It is possible to defend the town-there are bomb carts next to each Wyvern post, and by clicking on them, you can make them unusable until fixed. Since only one player can be in the air from each Wyvern post at once, waiting until they land (and then killing them) is an excellent delay strategy.

Once the guards are defeated, though, then it becomes time to take the town itself. There’s a large flag in the center of Halaa, and like the EPL Towers / Outland PvP objectives, it will slowly change control to whichever faction has more people nearby. Since the defending faction controls Halaa (which means the nearby graveyard and the 5% damage buff) until the very last second when it changes hands, this part is actually harder for a simple ground assault to accomplish.

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You’ve still got those Wyverns, though. And while the 1% DoT isn’t particularly lethal to players, a 1k AoE with a 5 second cooldown is nothing to sneer at. Defending Halaa is then a mad dance of scurrying under cover during aerial assaults and then rushing out to defend a charge to the flag. Once the assaulting force is actually in Halaa, they’ve still got to cover the defenders that can resurrect all around them at any time. It’s quite chaotic and fun.

The best part is that it’s happening all the time. With the current world PvP objectives, rarely does anybody says “Hey, let’s go take the EPL towers.” With Halaa… when you see the number of guards drop from 15/15 to 14/15, if you’re in the area, you get a very strong sense of “Time to suit up, boys!” for both assault and defense.

It’s not perfect, of course-as it stands, assuming there’s not an egregious imbalance between a meager assaulting force and a horde of defenders, Halaa will almost always fall. There’s no way to help make guards respawn, and tearing down the Wyvern Posts seems an exercise in futility, as the enemy can rebuild them with a simple click of the mouse. Still, being able to actually bomb people from the air a la flying units in Warcraft 3 is cool, and having a town in WoW that’s actually capturable is damn nifty (and should fill a niche in the hearts of PvPers everywhere).

We take Halaa. Yay for us.

Now that I’m 67, it’s time to check out the Arena. But, that’s a tale for Next Time?…

Peace out!

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