Rock the Arcatrazbah

Level 70. At last, a full 61 talent points to spend. Every tool in the Mage’s arsenal (aside from, uh, the talent abilities) at my fingertips. I am a walking instrument of death and destruction, the incarnation of pure arcane frenzy, with the power to unmake the universe itself in my hands… lo, cast down your eyes, weak beings of mere flesh, for your overlord and superior stands before you!

In a really snazzy red dress, to boot.

With a flying mount.

…named Terrence.

While I’m on the subject, I must say that I’m rather disappointed with the Horde flying mount models-to be precise, the colors. Oh sure, the regular wind rider (Tawny Wyvern) looks fine, but the others? What, there’s one that looks a wee bit airsick-green, and the other is a pale sickly blue, like it’s been holding its breath while flying around Icecrown Glacier for too long. Meanwhile, the Alliance non-epic flying mounts look awesome! Not only do you have the standard bald-eagle!Gryphon, you also have a pure white snowy gryphon and a dark blue/black one. They look really cool, and I am jealous.

Not jealous enough to roll Alliance, though.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Though I was level 70 and certainly had enough coin in my pocket to take to the skies… at the time, the beta build didn’t include Shadowmoon Valley. Anyone who entered the Valley (crossing the bridge from Terrokar, or using Flight Form if they were a Drood) was immediately ported out. So, while there was flying mount content available to test, the mount vendors were in Shadowmoon-so no one could get one! The devs patched this by adding temporary vendors to Thrallmar and Honor Hold, although they would despawn after a server crash and had to be manually respawned by a GM.

I opened a ticket asking for them to be spawned, and a GM answered saying he would do so while I was in the middle of a Black Morass run. The GM in question then closed with the standard Blizzard response-except this one was punctuated by dancing Kirbies.

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Best GM ever? You decide.

There was a new addition to Black Morass, in the form of chrono-beacons that would summon a powerful elite Bronze Dragon to your aid when you dropped one. Everyone in the party who was on or had completed the quest could get one, which gave you five in total. They proved to be pretty useful against the little guys, though the bosses would go to them and immediately one-shot/despawn them, which we didn’t figure out until too late. However, they were helpful in the moments after the second boss, when you have multiple portals spawning at once. Unfortunately, it appears that the fundamental flaws of the Black Morass zone remained unchanged, but this made it a bit easier to deal with something unexpected happened. If your tank or healer disconnects you’re pretty screwed, but the chrono-beacons do give you a bit of extra leeway.

Once done with the Black Morass, I head to Thrallmar and plunk down my cool cash for Terrence, my new-found bestest friend in the whole wide world. Terrence isn’t fast, but, uh, he can fly. I actually find myself using Terrence over my Swift Olive Raptor because while the raptor is faster (100% as opposed to 60%), you’d be surprised at how much going “as the crow flies” cuts down on travel time. Avoiding mobs or enemy players isn’t a concern, nor is following a path or terrain.

I was playing on a friend’s computer, and another friend (who had never played WoW in his life) came into the room and was awestruck by the flying mount. It really is incredibly cool, and it opens up a huge dimension of freedom in travel. It’s unfortunate it isn’t useable in Azeroth, though understandable (trying to fly across the ocean, anyone?). It really does add to the impression of one big cohesive world, and it’s just kinda cool to park yourself on top of one of the gigantic floating asteroids in Netherstorm just because you can. The non-epic does feel kind of sluggish, but it’s awesome nonetheless. And should you have five thousand gold lying around, the epic flying mount is, simply put, the coolest transportation in the game. Only slightly slower than flight path mounts, and you can go anywhere.

Incidentally, most mobs will not aggro you while you’re on a flying mount, unless you ride right through them.

Doom Lord Kazzak is not one of them.

The day I got my epic mount, there were no mobs whatsoever in the Throne of Kil’Jaeden area, a crater walled off by mountains located in the very north of Hellfire Peninsula. It’s quite a cool area, though it was completely empty when I flew through it. I went back a few days later to find it completely populated with gigantic Eredar, Fel Reavers, two-headed dogs (of course) and Doom Lord Kazzak himself-as big and ugly as ever.

While trying to inch in for the perfect screenshot of the big guy, I suddenly see “Entering Combat” appear over my head. I see Kazzak yelling something. I don’t see much else because I turn and try and get the hell out of there.

Doom Lord Kazzak’s Shadow Volley hits you for 1856 Shadow damage.
You are afflicted by Twisted Reflection.
Doom Lord Kazzak’s Void Blast hits you for 4205 Shadow damage.
You die.

Yeah… uh… you guys are warned.

With Terrence at my side (figuratively, of course) I head back to Netherstorm to do some quests. There’s a little quest chain from the Stormspire asking me to help pinpoint the location of some snazzy super-awesome crystal of doom or whatnot via triangulation. By activating the triangulatory thingamabob, you are automatically faced in the right direction and have a minute-long buff put on you that allows you to see the triangulation point. The triangulation point does not appear on your minimap but appears as a random downward-pointing arrow (a la Hunter’s Mark) on the ground.

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I didn’t know that, so I discover the first triangulation point completely by accident. Afterwards, however, it’s simple to find the other two (though I don’t know if it’d be possible without a flying mount)… the three points intersect at a small mountain ruin, where there’s a named elite demon presiding over other, unnamed, non-elite demons. I’d ran into him before and was actually wondering when he’d become important, to tell the truth.

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Partnering up with a Warrior pal, the two of us make short work of Mr. Demon and retrieve the crystal to return to Nexus-Prince Haramad.

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There’s a fairly cool scene after turning in the quest where three emissaries from Kael’Thas come to ‘request’ the crystal from Haramad. He refuses, saying that he’s seen Kael’s true colors, and they attack, so you and Haramad must team up to kill them. Nothing particularly hard, but pretty cool nonetheless. Afterwards, Haramad admits that he’d been a fool for seeking a relationship with the Blood Elves, and asks that you take the crystal to A’dal in Shattrath as a gesture of good faith.

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Not only does A’dal reward the messenger with a nifty blue, you get a 2-hour-long buff that adds (some high number) of Attack Power and over 100 spell damage! Unfortunately, it doesn’t persist through death and there doesn’t seem to be any way to get the buff again, so I wouldn’t just head off and PvP without a plan.

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A’dal then tells me that Kael’Thas and his cronies are bad, evil, and must be stopped. I am utterly shocked and in no way saw this coming at all. Also, I’m being incredibly sarcastic. The big glowing thing gives me a quest to break into the Arcatraz, the highest sanctum of Kael’Thas (other than, uh, his even higher sanctum that’s the 25-man raid zone). In order to do that, I need a key that is currently in two halves, one held by the final boss of the Botanica, and the other held by the final boss of the Mechanar.

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So, it’s dungeon time!

You must be level 70 (or 68 if you’re a Druid) to go to Tempest Keep, because summoning is disabled on the platforms themselves, and the Meeting Stone is on the ground nearby. So, you need a way to fly… which, uh, is pretty self-explanatory.

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Anyway, I get a group, and to the Mechanar we go!

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Ooh. Pretty load screen.

In keeping with the general theme of Netherstorm, everything in Mechanar is very, very, purple. It’s certainly very cool-looking, very technological and futuristic. There’s lots of twinkling lights and flashing bulbs and electrical… things… so it looks pretty nifty. I imagine that there are people playing this game who will get intoxicated, go into the Mechanar, and just look up at the “ceiling” for hours.

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Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We start pulling, it’s pretty simple, killin’ Blood Elves like ya do. There are big arcane mechanical… things… around the zone that are more annoying to kill than their fleshy comrades. The most common type early on in the zone will randomly nuke someone in the party for 1k damage, and the nuke then does a second explosion/knockback for about 3k more damage to anyone in range, so you need to be a bit spread out. Also, these guys call for help when they get low on health, so you need to pull them far back.

Mechanar is a fairly simple dungeon. There are two paths from the beginning, one going right and one going left. Though they join up a bit farther down, the right path takes you directly to the “first” boss, Mechano-Lord Capacitus, while the left path takes you directly to the elevator leading up to the second and third bosses. It appears that Capacitus is completely optional then, though he’s a fun and hard fight.

There are also two demon “Gate-keepers,” one on each path. They’re not very hard fights and are basically glorified elite enemies, but they drop a Red and Blue crystal, respectively, which lets you unlock a cache right by the elevator for extra lewt. It’s free goodies, so I don’t see why you wouldn’t do it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself… again.

We start out by heading right, clearing mobs. Our priest has fun MCing the Blood Elves and using them to Mortal Strike for 4k. Yay for Mind Control! One of the more annoying enemies is a large-ish demon worker that does a Drill buff reducing armor… and it stacks, so eventually your tank will be taking hits like, uh, me-if you don’t get the driller down quickly.

The Gate-Lord isn’t hard at all, but he does do a little AoE buzz-saw-thing every so often that requires a bit more healing. Nothing too bad.

Mechano-Lord Capacitus is a bit tougher than his bodyguards. I’m assuming that there’s a Blood Elf or a crazy Gnome inside the machine, but as far as I can tell, Capacitus is just one big robot. Our Warrior, having run this before, says that Capacitus is a piece of cake. Apparently, he’d not done him since the recent patch, because Capacitus is a pretty crazy fight that requires you to be on your toes.

The big guy has a few abilities worth noting. The first is your standard melee/spell reflect shields, which he alternates between (with a 10-second or so period of complete vulnerability)… though that’s not a problem, we’ve seen it in Domo and quite a few BC bosses like Kalithresh and Pandemonius. Nothing too bad. And if it were just that, he’d be cake.

He spits out these flying bombs, that you can’t target and just go to a random location. It doesn’t seem like they actually go towards anyone in particular, they just fly out to a random spot and stay there for a few seconds-and then explode for 2-3k Arcane damage. Capacitus starts out by spawning these slowly, but the spawn rate quickly ramps up in speed. Players need to be aware of their surroundings, and if they see a bomb near them, they need to MOVE. A good comparison would be the Void Zone in the Four Horsemen or Kel’thuzad fights, or Kurinaxx’s Sand Trap… though there are considerably more bombs than any of those. Basically, if you have a group that just stands there and autoattacks or mindlessly spams Flash Heal / Frostbolt / whatever, you’ll wipe. Capacitus requires you to pay attention not only to your surroundings, but to the boss himself-nuking oneself to death makes you look and feel rather stupid.

I honestly love the Capactius fight. It’s fun and frantic. Kudos to Blizzard.

We head back along the left branch, kill the second Gate-watcher… but something is weird. The elevator up to the second floor isn’t going, and there’s a random human standing in the entrance without any clothes on.

Uh… o…kay? Whatever, it appears that we’re stuck and can’t continue. So… onto the Botanica!

Just as the Mechanar was full of machines, one might expect the Botanica to be full of plants.

They’d be right. Apparently, some of Kael’Thas’ people have a mean green thumb, and are putting it to a twisted use. Silly damn evil gardeners.

There are lots of Blood Elves about, but there’s a certain type called Bloodwarder Menders that I’m sure all casters will become rather friendly with. They have a self-cast buff that awards a whopping +295 spell damage/healing. Yes, it’s awesome and insane. Mages can Spell-steal it for a 2-minute version, but if you’ve got a Priest in the party… well, hello 30-minute uberness! They can also heal, so the Priest can MC the Menders without totally gimping the pull. (Assuming, of course, that the Priest is healing the run)

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I still had the A’dal buff during this run, and with the two of them together was able to hit some ludicrously impressive numbers. Fun times!

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The first boss is Commander Sarannis, a typical melee boss that really doesn’t do anything special except summon adds (including a Mender) at half health. She patrols up and down a slender bridge, so the hard part is actually the pull-there’s a group of random enemies just past her that might aggro if you pull her wrong, and she might aggro if you pull them at the wrong time. So, be careful!

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Once she falls, you continue-unlike Mechanar, there’s really only one path, it’s rather straight-forward-and kill all o’ dem dirty Elves. Blah blah blah, random trash mobs, clear and kill, clear and kill. Second boss ahoy! High Botanist Freywinn, a male elf who likes to play with flowers, is the next target. He’s more difficult than Sarannis, to be sure. Freywinn will constantly plant little seeds that sprout into the evil plants we all know and love / hate from Un’goro. They can be easily AoE’d down, but that’s not all. Ever so often he’ll turn into a Treant and start doing an AoE heal a la Tranquility-during this time, he’s immune to all forms of damage. So, you need to either kill the little adds as they spawn, or pull them around a corner out of LoS of the heal and AoE them to the ground. Other than that, it’s not too bad.

After Freywinn, there are no more Bloodwarder Menders, which makes me sad. Instead, there are just a bunch of stupid plants. Bah. I hate plants. You start to see Blood Elf corpses, though, and can see the plants killing their handlers farther on. Hmmm… I guess not everything is perfect in Botanica-land?

Continuing on and killing everything in your path, there’s a room with several Blood Elf warlocks and a bunch of satyr minions. Uh… okay? I understand all the plants and stuff, but where the hell did the demons come from? Did they just stop by with a keg asking if they could hang out? The dungeons in BC tend to have much more of a story than the current live instances, but there’s nothing really explaining the presence of the satyrs, unless I seriously missed it.

It’s been changed since then, but at the time we ran it, Warlocks could enslave those satyrs, and they certainly pack a punch. Hit like trucks with a considerable amount of HP. No, Warlocks, you can’t get a summonable satyr pet. Or green fire.

Okay, maybe the green fire.

The guy who paid for the hypothetical keg was Thorngrin the Tender, so he became the nominal leader of the satyr club. I’m not sure what’s so tender about him unless he’s a fan of writing romantic poetry or something-maybe he goes good with A1 steak sauce? He’s your standard satyr boss fight, and apparently the satyr club charter says that all members must possess an ability to teleport party members to an altar and hold them temporarily while dealing damage to them. Granted, Thorngrin’s is a bit more painful than his DM East companion, but… pretty damn similar.

Nothing too bad at all. Now the fun part comes in.

It looks like the Bloodwarders’ experiments turned on them, because there are plenty of dead elves around (that we didn’t kill, for once) and a bunch of angry, aggressive little… mutated……. things. These things are tougher than they look, because among other things, certain mutations have Death and Decay. Yes, that Death and Decay. Here’s a little hint for anyone running Botanica: if there’s something red and swirly around you on the ground, and you find yourself dying very quickly, RUN THE HELL AWAY.

Still, we have healing and they don’t, so we scrape by with some harrowing moments. Yet another boss waits up ahead, a large carnivorous flower named Laj.

I can see how Laj would be an interesting fight in theory, but it’s not really that hard at all in practice. Laj himself is on a platform with two ramps leading down to the rest of the room, with these little saucer-shaped glowing pedestals on top of each ramp. Ever so often, Laj will suddenly teleport back to his starting spot and clear aggro, while two non-elite flowers will spawn in the pedestals. They don’t move immediately unless they’re attacked. It’s relatively simple to just assign two DPSers to concentrate on killing the non-elite spawns when they pop up, and if they’re ranged they really don’t even have to move to continue DPSing Laj after the fact. If the adds don’t get killed quickly, though, it can all snowball on you.

Two AoE pulls of evil flowers afterward, we fight the final boss of the zone-the Warp Splinter, who’s a twisted Ancient of… something or other. He’s a big walking tree, okay? That’s all I know.

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Warp Splinter has an AoE volley that he does every so often as well as a, uh, reverse knockback (pull in?) that he’ll randomly target. That’s just standard and nothing particularly special, of course. Every thirty or so seconds, he will spawn five or six little non-elite Treants that slowly start wandering toward him (though can be pulled from their destination by heal aggro / being attacked). If any of them actually make it to him, he gets healed for roughly 4-5% of his life per tree.

There are then two main schools of thought in fighting Warp Splinter. You can break DPS and kill as many of the treants he spawns as possible before resuming DPS, or you can just burn as hard as you can on the big tree himself and hope to do over 25% of his life in damage every spawn. That, of course, will probably take a bit longer than the first choice and should really only be done with a high-DPS group.

Once Warp Splinter goes down, I get the first half of that Arcatraz key! Sweet! Hm, I’m going to have to do Mechanar again…

…but not now. Now, me n’ Terrence are gonna go exploring!

Catch ya later.

-Jayne(z) out.

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