Category Archives: World of Warcraft

A collection of Oddities, Rants, and other funny things about the World of Warcraft

The Problem of Faction Pride

A little while ago on Twitter I saw someone ask the question, “After the Burning of Teldrassil, how could anyone follow Sylvanas?” The idea being that since Warchief Windrunner eagerly committed genocide on twenty-three-thousand Night Elves – men, women and children – how could anyone continue to follow a person like that? It’s a question that actually gave me some thought.

I’m going to focus my talk today on just the player base and not the in-universe npcs and characters. Why? Well because ultimately when it comes down to it the answer for the NPCs is pretty obvious: they don’t get a choice. They’ll do whatever the writers want and there isn’t much of free will. If they need a reason to stay, the writers will concoct one. That’s how fiction works. No fictional character has autonomy. They and the situations they find themselves in are manufactured. The Horde follows Sylvanas, the Alliance supports their High King now, and Superman didn’t have to kill anyone. Okay? So let’s move on to the more interesting question.

Why did players back Sylvanas committing genocide? And by genocide, I mean the death of other fictional beings. But lets not kid ourselves into thinking just because the deaths were not real that we have card blanche to not care. When a character in Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion, Shadowbringers, stated that he viewed our characters, our NPC allies, and every other sentient person in the world as “Sub-human” and thus paid their potential deaths as no concern as an obstacle to his grand plan – there was some serious talk going down in the Final Fantasy fandom about this. Namely about how a character who wants to commit genocide gets painted fairly sympathetically in the end. A lot of people were not comfortable with that. Some people didn’t have an issue with that. Others were downright thirsty for the guy and that also raised a lot of questions.

My point being that the lives lost being ‘fictional’ isn’t an excuse to hand waive being okay with genocide. So what is it then? Well, at the risk of sounding like a senior who votes straight conservative on every election: That’s their team. Let me explain. The World of Warcraft has probably more than any other MMORPG that I can recall played heavily into the concept of ‘Faction Pride’ that whether you chose Alliance or Horde says something about you and indeed is something other players will judge you for. From Battle for Azeroth‘s ad campaign that pitted red hooded Horde players against blue jersey’d Alliance players, to stories of random jokes of saying “/spit” to a player of the opposite faction you bumped into the bus, all the way to Blizzard themselves egging on each faction at the start of every Blizzcon. Warcraft is built on your faction identity. No other aspect of your character is so publicly identified. The roots of backing your own faction dates to the earliest incarnations of vanilla WoW, where I distinctly recall heated arguments over Horde favoritism vs Alliance favoritism from the developers when it came to racial abilities, zone quests, and of course battleground layouts. You are the faction you choose to main.

So when it was announced that 23,000 people were murdered by having their homes burnt to the ground, it’s entirely likely that a lot of Horde players just heard “Warchief kills 23,000 Alliance in a single blow” and didn’t care much beyond that. It’s horrific, right? But who cares – your team won. If they don’t like it, that’s just typical Alliance whining again. How many Horde soldiers have died to the crappy defenses in Alterac? Alliance will just complain the moment something doesn’t go their way because Blizz spoils them. Sometimes they’re joking, and sometimes not. So is just that Horde players are bad? Not at all. It goes both ways. After all, would the Burning of Teldrassil been such a narrative victory for Horde players if they hadn’t just come out of switching/killing/watching their various warchiefs die multiple times? Hell, Voljin did jack all considering we were in an alternate timeline for his entire time as Warchief. Ultimately, the problem and the cycle that it perpetuates is one not of one side getting different or better treatment but of Faction Pride itself.

Other MMOs I play, I’ve never seen this level of animosity between the factions – and make no mistake every MMO post WoW has tried to do the whole faction thing at launch. Elder Scrolls Online has three factions and outside of the PvP Cyrodil zone it doesn’t really seem to matter much. Star Wars the Old Republic has its natural divide between Republic and Empire that is treated more like an organic rift that hasn’t done much of anything except prevent one side from winning in the narrative to the point where their latest expansion does away with the concept of faction pride entirely and lets you support whatever side you want. Jedi that backs the Empire? Sure. Why not. Final Fantasy XIV’s factions – the three Grand Companies – are a complete afterthought that is almost entirely cosmetic.

But you won’t find this issue in any of them. Not that it doesn’t come up, but its either a complete non-issue like in Star Wars because it’s Star Wars and we didn’t blink at the population of the Death Star getting snuffed we’re not gonna weep for a dreadnaught, or Final Fantasy XIV where actual meaning debate occurs in the wake of such a topic. Because no one is just rooting for their side. Their team.

Now this isn’t speaking for everyone who plays WoW. I’ve seen plenty of examples of people saying that Sylvanas actions during Battle for Azeroth is what convinced them to faction change their main. Which is a far better reason than liking the Alliance Garrison better than the Horde one (that was my reason by the way). In the end, it’s still a game with millions of players. There’s not going to be any universal agreement. But I wanted to talk about what I thought the answer to the question was. All I keep coming back to that: Faction Pride. It’s a toxic concept that I’ve seen take deeper root in World of Warcraft than anywhere else.

So yeah. uh… I can’t think of a joke to end this on. Shoot. Why did Pepe cross the road? Because someone used that whistle?

Not great, I know. Till next time people.

Beyond the Grave: a Starter Guide to Shadowlands Endgame

World of Warcraft’s newest expansion does a lot to remedy the “there’s nothing to do” problem. Which is great! Always having something to do is a great way to play a game. Unless you’re a completionist like me – then it becomes anxiety inducing at times.

However, I did notice that there is a sizable amount of people who are overwhelmed at all the stuff hitting them once. See most of the content doesn’t pop up until RIGHT at the start of endgame. The moment you ding 60 and finish the Main Campaign (the story), you are summoned to the hub city of Oribos to make a decision. From there? Well, it’s a water rapids ride into the content. You got a half dozen different currencies, you got tons of unlockables, and no shortage of directions you can go. How do you decide? How do you remember it all? Well, hopefully this little guide will help.

Choosing Your Covenant

The first thing you’re asked to do is join one of the game’s four Covenants. These are the factions you’ve been helping out through the course of the story. Each faction will grant you a Covenant Ability, a Class Ability, and also feature unique mounts and armor sets that are only usable when you are a member of that Covenant.

The Covenant Ability and Class Ability you already got to play with through the course of the storyline, but if you need a refresher you can ask the Representative of the Covenant you talk to before choosing to let you try them out again. They even provide targeting dummies to try them out on.

The Armor Sets and Mounts are a bit less ‘try them out’. You are shown an image of the armor set you’ll receive and the mount you’ll get. Both of these are unlocked through the course of the 9-part Covenant Campaign story along with other not-shown goodies like alternate back cosmetics, toys, other mounts, etc. There’s no universal “you get X at point Y” except the Armor Set and Mount. Everything else varies from Covenant to Covenant. One may get more back cosmetics as part of the story but no toys, others may get toys but only one back cosmetic. You’re also not shown the various recolors of the armor set you’ll be able to unlock through various Covenant Activities.

So which Covenant to pick? Well there’s a few ways to choose:

  1. Pick the one that gives the best/favorite abilities: Some people will always want to min/max and here it’s no different. WoWHead and other websites have a ton of think pieces on the absolute best Covenant for your class & spec if you want maximum power. You can also just go for the one whose powers fit your own personal play style the best.
  2. Cosmetics: This is honestly my personal pick. Abilities can be rebalanced, but looks not so much. Just remember that the appearance shown to you is the default color choice and each Covenant has THREE other recolors of that set you will eventually be able to get.
  3. Lore: Let’s be honest, there’s likely one Covenant that you either liked the zone, the story, the flavor or the characters of more than the others. That’s a perfectly valid way to pick. After all, you’ll be getting MORE of that in the Covenant Campaign.

Finally, I want to recite the age old proverb: DON’T PANIC. The choice is not permanent. You are not locked into anything. In fact, switching to a different covenant is as easy as talking to a different representative in Oribos and starting their quest chain. BUT! Do keep in mind that going back to a Covenant you left before is a more annoying task. Namely grinding out three random objectives to prove yourself to progressively higher ranking members of that Covenant before they let you back in. Usually stuff like world quests, rare mobs or dungeons. It’s not impossible. Just tedious. And not as easy as switching away to a new Covenant.

(Also keep in mind that Armor Sets and Mounts are Covenant locked. Switching to a new one means losing access to that armor and mounts.)

Covenant Activities: Hanging out with your friends

So now you’ve got a Covenant. What does that mean? What do you do? Well, you’ll get a nice tutorial quest chain to introduce you to your Covenant Sanctum and the various things it can do for you. Each Covenant Sanctum has 4 features with one always being Covenant Specific. Each one is devoted to either giving you things to do or making life a bit easier. They are:

  • The Adventuring Table: Oh yes, the Mission Table returns. With a slight twist. Instead of just matching symbols to overcome the various hazards, you must pit your squad of adventurers against a squad of enemies. Everyone has their own hit points and special abilities to help you or hinder the enemy. If you can wipe out the enemy squad with one of yours still living, you win! But yeah, most of this is set it up and let it go then check bank in 16 hours to see if you won.
  • The Travel Network: This feature will unlock teleportation spots around your Covenant’s home zone. The higher level the Network, the more spots you unlock. Tier 3 also gets you a portal back to Oribos in your Sanctum. Kyrians can use the Network via their Stewards. Necrolords can teleport to a Necropolis that laps around the zone. Night Fae get a daily quest from the grumpy old mushroom that runs their network. The Venthyr will get the ability to repair broken mirrors that can lead to treasure and a Armor Recolor.
  • The Anima Conductor: For 25 anima a day, you unlock a new activity in your home zone: rare mobs, treasure chests, daily quests, etc. Once you’ve channeled anima 10 times, you can permanently unlock one activity. These tend to have chance drops of mounts, transmogs, and unique and useful consumables. However, the Night Fae get a unique reputation with theirs – The Court of Night – that unlocks a Armor Recolor at exalted.
  • Covenant Specific Feature: These are all different but the all do have a Armor Recolor tied to them.
    • Kyrian – The Path of Ascension: In a weird combination of the Brawler’s Guild and Pet Battles, you take control of one of your Soulbinds and use their preset abilities to do battle the simulated memories of powerful enemies from around the Shadowlands.
    • Necrolords – The Stitchlords & The Abomination Factory: You craft up new Abominations with special skills that each grant you a weekly quest that rewards you with a crate that contains either crafting materials or a chance and an armor recolor. Craft up various cosmetic items to fashion up your various Abominations to make them feel pretty. The ultimate Abom has their own exclusive Armor Recolor you can get. Quests reward reputation with The Stitchmasters who sell a Necrolord weapon set transmog at Exalted.
    • Night Fae – The Winter Queen’s Conservatory: The Night Fae grow spirits as seeds, so it would make sense for their special feature to be a garden. You can find spirits out in the world or pick a greater spirit by completing a ‘Gather 1000 Anima’ weekly quest (Quest does NOT consume the Anima). You plant that spirit in the garden and it eventually grows and gives you items. As you level up the Conservatory, you can plant ‘nutrient spots’ that boost the spirits growth and allows for treasures to give mounts, pets, and an Armor Recolor.
    • Venthyr – The Ember Court: It’s time to party! Every week you pick the guests, send out the invites, prepare the Court’s aesthetic, pick out the guests favorite foods, and then wine and dine to make all the guests as happy as possible! The happier they get, the better friendships you have and then the more reputation you gain.

On top of the Sanctum Features, you also have your Callings. Callings are kind of like the Emissary Quests of previous expansions but aren’t limited to World Quests. A Calling can send you to do an elite world quest or dungeon, a number of world quests, open a number of treasures, or one that’s just do any of the above to fill a bar. I personally really like it because it’s less monotonous. You also can double them up when you get two Callings for the same zone to do two different tasks that occasionally overlap.

Return to the Maw: It’s Hell. You expected it to be easy?

The Endgame zone of the Maw is a pain in the butt. I won’t lie. Unless you’re a druid or worgen, you can’t mount up, everything you do raises the alarm level in the zone and each rank makes it harder and harder to quest there. But I can also assure you – It gets a bit easier as time goes on. You can unlock upgrades from Ven’ari the Broker that allows you to traverse the zone quicker (teleports, grappling hooks, etc) and nerf the threats somewhat (remove a lot of the alarm’s debuffs). You can eventually try and get a mount that drops from a rare or getting one from Torghast that you CAN use in the Maw. It EVENTUALLY gets better.

Luckily there’s not a ton of stuff you have to do in the Maw. Ven’ari has a set of weekly quests to increase her rep (unlocks more areas and upgrades), there’s a handful of daily quests that give rep, and your Covenant can either give you a Calling to come here and kill a few rares and a weekly quest to grab some souls out of the Maw and drag them back.

So yeah, the Maw sucks. It can get better over time. Luckily, you won’t be spending ALL of your time here like other expansion’s Endgame zones.

Ascending Torghast: WoW’s Rogue Like

The other half of the Maw is Torghast, a creepy crawlie tower where the Jailer keeps everyone locked up. There’s a storyline tied to this place that starts with Highlord Bolvar Fordragon in Oribos that reveals what happened to your Alliance and Horde friends who didn’t get away in the Expansion’s prologue. Beyond that, Torghast is how you craft your Legendaries in Shadowlands. Each “Layer” of Torghast you clear each week gives you a bit of currency you use to make Legendaries.

What’s a “Layer”? Well Torghast is divided into a bunch of Wings that have different enemies, traps, and flavoring. Each Wing is divided into eight “Layers” that serves as the difficulty for the wing. Layer 1 is the easiest, and Layer 8 is the hardest. Each “Layer” has 6 floors (Floor 3 is always a ‘break’ floor and Floor 6 is always a Boss.) Each Layer can grant you a reward of ‘Soul Ash’ (see below) once per week and if you do a Layer higher than 1 then you also get each un-rewarded Layer’s reward below you (Ex: Layer 3 will give you the reward of Layers 1, 2, and 3 if you haven’t earned any of those this week).

So whats in Torghast? Well just about anything. Every Torghast Layer run is completely random. The power ups you get are random, the layout is random, the enemies and bosses are random. So each attempt is pretty much a gamble. You might have a great run and you might have a TERRIBLE run. But there’s no loss for losing except armor durability and your time (lets be honest, you’re playing an MMO, we’re all losing time). If you’re familiar with the concept of a Rogue-Like that’s pretty much what you’re dealing with here. Each run resets you to default and you go through the floors of the Layers you build up new powers, abilities, buffs, etc in hopes to take down the Boss at the end.

There’s also the Twisting Corridors. The Corridors are unlocked by completing that aforementioned quest from Bolvar. Each Layer of the Twisting Corridors is 18 floors instead of 6 with 3 bosses instead of 1. The difficulty is definitely stepped up and with a bad build you can start getting one shot by monsters of the higher floors. On the other hand, there’s no currency tied to it. It’s completely optional. You can get titles, pets, and ultimately a mount that can be used in the Maw for clearing Layer 8. It’s just a fun side activity if you like the Rogue-Like nature of Torghast.

Dungeons: The Old Standby

Of course there’s the classic activity of running group content: Dungeons & Raids. Shadowlands at the time of writing has 8 dungeons and 1 Raid. Of the 8 dungeons, 4 are unlocked while leveling through the main story and 4 are unlocked when you reach 60. There really isn’t much to go into here because its been around since WoW has but there’s a few milestones you might want to hit if you like following this path:

  • Normal Dungeons: No item level requirement. Rewards item level 158 gear.
  • Heroic Dungeons: Group Finder requires an item level of 157. Rewards item level 171 gear.
  • Mythic Dungeons: Requires Pre-made group (No group finder) and rewards item level 184 gear.
  • Looking For Raid: Requires an item level of 170. Rewards item level 187 gear (item level 194 on last two bosses.)

Probably the only other thing I can think of note here is that you should that the Kyrian Covenant is the only one that REQUIRES a dungeon run as part of its campaign. It can be done on Normal though.

Currencies: Anima Makes The World Go Round

Shadowlands adds a ton of new currencies. You’ll probably notice fairly quick at 60 that gold rains from the sky and quickly rack up tens of thousands of gold for just doing normal everyday stuff. That’s because next to no one in the Shadowlands use the stuff. Gold is pretty much worthless in the land of the dead. Sorry Pharaohs. So here’s a quick run down of the currencies you WILL be using, where they come from and what they’re used for.

Anima: The big one. Almost everything costs some amount of anima, and usually a sizable stack of it. The good news is that you get it everywhere: boss drops, world quests, rares, dungeon quests. The bad news is that you only get a little at a time. There’s an anima drought going on and Blizzard wants you to know that. Bosses usually only give 35 anima, World Quests give 70-140 usually. There’s a few once-a-week quests that can reward more, but those usually top out at 250. Comparatively, you’ll need THOUSANDS to upgrade your Covenant Sanctum and THOUSANDS more if you want all the cosmetics, toys, mounts, and pets.

Grateful Offering: These come from your Covenant’s Anima Conductor. Whatever you channel your daily anima to: bosses, chests, quests. They’ll usually award you with a few Grateful Offerings. These can be exchanged along with Anima to various vendors in your Covenant for mounts, toys, cosmetics, etc.

Stygia: Stygia is the currency of the Maw. It comes from quests, rare mobs, reclaiming souls and even in very small amounts from regular mobs. You can use Stygia to trade with Ve’nari the Broker who hangs out in the little hovel you always enter the Maw at. She sells useful consumables in the Maw, as well as permanent upgrades for Torghast (account wide unlock) and The Maw (Character Specific Unlock).

Soul Ash: Soul Ash is used to construct Legendary items in Torghast. Once you’ve completed Chapter 2 of the Covenant Campaign you’ll be able to combine Soul Ash, a Vessel (created by crafters), two Missives (created by Inscription), and a Legendary Memory to create a custom made Legendary item of your own (limited to equipping 1 at a time for now.) You can craft bigger and better versions or upgrade existing Legendaries with higher level Vessels and even more Soul Ash. Soul Ash is rewarded for clearing a Layer of one any of the Torghast wings EXCEPT Twisting Corridors. If you complete a higher Layer than 1, you’ll get all the Soul Ash from the lower layers too, so feel free to tackle the highest layer you think you can. You won’t miss anything or have to rerun the lower levels.

Sinstone Fragments: Used as a currency to trade with the Avowed in Revendreth, Shadowland’s grind-mobs-until-blue-in-the-face reputation. They drop from the same enemies you get Avowed rep with – namely the ones around the Halls of Atonement in Revendreth. There’s only a handful of items that either let you gather MORE Sinstone Fragments, let Alts gather more, or cosmetics/toys/mounts.

Infused Ruby: These handy little gems drop from anything in Revendreth. They can be used to barter with the locals for various goods and services. Mostly small buffs, loaner fast mounts, consumables and that sort of thing. They’re also commonly used to unlock various treasures around the zone that can reward toys or pets. You can buy a map with Infused Rubies that will highlight any npc that will exchange Infused Rubies for something because it sometimes isn’t 100% obvious who will and who won’t.

Battle for Azeroth: Rise of the War Bee

So the internet has been a-BUZZ with the news of datamining the alpha build of the next World of Warcraft, Battle For Azeroth.  I took a quick peruse, mostly trying to see if there is any word on what classes that the Zandalari or Dark Iron will be able to play, when I saw something that caused my jaw to drop:

Bee Mount - Source: WoWhead

Source: WoWhead.com

That’s a Bee Mount.  That you ride.  Into combat.  A WAR BEE.  Now why is that shocking and/or amazing?  Well because long time readers of mine that remember the old ‘OddCraft’ days may remember a little post I wrote extensively about how BEES ARE THE GREATEST THREAT ON AZEROTH.  And now, eight years later, we have it all coming together.  In the Battle For Azeroth, we will be turning to Weapons of Mass Destruction – BEES.

Honestly, I’m just tickled that my little joke post may actually start to have some level of validity. May-bee we’ll find out that bees are some kind of ancient qiraji weapon that was unleashed on the world during the War of the Shifting Sands.  I don’t know.  But I do know we have war bees.  And that makes me happy.

Why ARE the Horde & Alliance Fighting After Teaming Up to Fight the Legion?

Note: This post was originally made on my Tumblr, but I figured I’d share it here as well.

I’ve seen this question bounce around a few times since the announcement of Battle For Azeroth.  So I figured I’d do my share of clearing up a misconception.

The Horde and Alliance didn’t team up to fight the Burning Legion.

They tried.  Namely the Assault on the Broken Shore.

It ended with the Horde retreating after their Warchief was fatally injured and the Alliance losing another King of Stormwind.  After that, the joint efforts collapsed since the Alliance blamed the Horde for the death of Varian, and the Horde has pretty much run out of fucks to give about reaching out to an Alliance that constantly blames them for crap going wrong.

Without the Horde and Alliance willing to work together to fight the Burning Legion, the duty fell instead to the Class Orders to rally their ranks and push back the Legion.  Hence why the Armies of Legionfall banner has the symbols of each of the class orders represented on it.

In short, the Alliance and Horde failed at teaming up and fell into their old hatreds while the Class Orders stepped up and joined forces under Khadgar and Illidan to stop the Legion’s invasion and ultimately assault Argus.  Hence why the only faction leader present on Argus is Velen – who has a vested non-political interest in reclaiming his homeworld.

I might be wrong in this, but while the heroes of Azeroth who are aligned with the Horde or Alliance have often worked side by side I don’t think there are many times that the Alliance and Horde as factions have been politically united on something.  In the Burning Cruside, it was much more of an effort driven by the Scryers and Aldor united as the Shattered Sun Offensive.  In Wrath of the Lich King, the Horde and Alliance were still duking it out over Icecrown while the Ebon Blade and the Argent Crusade made headway into infiltrating the Citadel. In Catalcysm, Faction animosity actually grew in the wake of the struggle for resources after the near apocalypse which ultimately came to a head in the Mists of Pandaria.  In Warlords of Draenor, the conflict and alliances between groups was much more centered on the native factions of Alternate Draenor with the Horde and Alliance not openly in conflict but just kind of helping things along for the locals, which gave way to the potential team up at the Broken Shore – where it hit the fan and set the stage for the faction war coming in Battle for Azeroth.

Update:  Since originally posting this on Tumblr, I was able to think of a few occasions that the Horde and Alliance worked together for one reason or another.  The first is the Battle of the Wrathgate where both the Alliance and the Horde fought against the Scourge as an attack on the Lich King’s back door.  However, it’s debatable whether this constituted a formal action by the Horde since it was really only Saurfang the Younger’s forces that joined the assault and that the forces of Overlord Agmar where more aligned with the radical tactics of Garrosh Hellscream and likely would have no desire to join an Alliance assault, and the Forsaken of Venomspite…  well…  they had OTHER plans.

The one event I could think of that was a 100% combined Horde-Alliance effort was the Might of Kalimdor, a unified army made up of the Alliance’s legendary 7th Legion and the Horde’s mighty Kor’kron Guard that fought during the ten-hour Ahn’Qiraj War after the Scarab Wall was opened.  This along with the War Effort that bolstered the Might of Kalimdor is probably the most clear cut example of the Horde and Alliance joining forces to confront a potentially world-ending threat (The return of the Qiraji after the War of the Shifting Sands nearly 1000 years before the first arrival of the Orcs).

Considering both times were led by a member of the Saurfang family, and even Varian was able to put his old grudges aside to let the elder Saurfang mourn the loss of his son at Icecrown Citadel, the High Overlord might be a good choice for an ambassadorship.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Illidan & Other Lore Thoughts From 7.3

!Patch 7.3 Spoilers Ahead!

Illidan “The Betrayer” Stormrage.  Imprisoned for 10,000 years for creating a second Well of Eternity at Mount Hyjal in an attempt to preserve the Night Elves’ magic and immortality after the War of the Ancients.  Consumed the Skull of Gul’dan to empower himself into a half demon monstrosity so he would have the strength to take on the Burning Legion’s second invasion. Forged an army of Demon Hunters and enslaved Demons to prepare for a third conflict with the Legion.  Used the Sargerite Keystone to open a gateway between Azeroth and Argus to force the champions of the world to deal with the demon threat once and for all.

Illidan is a character for whom the ends have always justified the means.  Even his own life has been regarded as but a tool to achieve his ultimate goal of eradicating the Burning Legion. For some, this can be a noble endeavor that one should risk it all to stop a unending evil in the universe.  However, this same traits can be that of a monster that destroys everything in his path to achieve that end.  It’s probably one of the best recipes possible for a divisive character that people will either love or hate.

Which brings us to the latest World of Warcraft patch, in which Xe’ra – the Naaru we have been working with through our Order Halls and has been showing us the past events of Illidan’s life to show us how The Betrayer was truly meant to be the Chosen One to end the age of demons – is destroyed in a confrontation with Illidan who has no desire to be bound to a greater power once again or playing the part of a chosen one.  The action shadows the conversation Illidan has earlier with the Prophet Velen where Illidan says that the Draenei have been using their faith in the Light to justify doing nothing in the face of the horrors that befell their people:

Not stopping the Eredar from dealing with Sargeras? Gotta trust in that Light.

Lead the Burning Legion in a chase across the Great Dark causing the eradication of world after world? Gotta trust that Light.

That’s the thing about Illidan that makes him such a complex character.  Not that his motivations or personality are very diverse or even terribly interesting but that despite the horrible methodology that harms countless numbers of people for the greater good – he’s usually right.  Without Mount Hyjal, Elven society would have likely fell apart. The Legion would continue to come to Azeroth until its world-soul was dead or corrupted. The Naaru are not the benevolent creatures people treat them as.

Some people have noted that there’s a quick mention that Xe’ra sealed Alleria Windrunner in a void pit for 60 some odd years for disobeying her.  Which is weird considering how kindly and nice the Naaru are, right?  Except we’ve known the Naaru weren’t to be trusted since the Burning Crusade.  Kirrik the Awakened, an Arrakoa who converted to Light worship under the Naaru A’dal from traditional Terokk/Shadow worship, says: “Those who have not given themselves over to the Light are mere servants of evil. They must be destroyed.”  These are the teachings of the Naaru.  Join us or die.

So was Illidan right to destroy Xe’ra? There’s definitely a worthwhile debate to be had there. Was Xe’ra wrong to try and perform a forced purification on Illidan?  Oh yea.  Of course, that would have been where the Naaru would draw the line as well I expect.  Based on what Kirrik the Awakened says, and the fact that he tasks you with such things as destroying Arrakoa eggs so they would not be born of Terokk instead of the Light, I would say that if Illidan resisted that Xe’ra would have simply destroyed him.

Stuff like this is why I never could get on board with the I-Hate-Illidan train or the Notice-Me-Illibeans-Senpai bandwagon.  He’s in neither camp.  Heck, I’d struggle to call him a Hero or even an Anti-Hero.  He acts more like a force of nature than anything.  He just acts in a purely utilitarian manner without worry about the consequences because the potential good outweighs any cost.  It’s like saying Voting is a hero or an anti-hero.  No, it’s just a thing we do as a society to improve things and it’s not perfect but damn it’s better than being gnawed on by a literal infinite number of demons.  I may have mixed up a few wires in that last sentence.

In another side note, the thought occurs to me that I have no idea why the Naaru are against the Legion.  The cosmology that Blizzard has set forth thus far is that the opposing element to Fel is actually Arcane, with them representing the spheres of Chaos and Order respectively.  The Naaru are born from the Light whose opposite is the Void with the Void Lords and Old Gods being the opposite of the Naaru.  But the Burning Legion – in its original incarnation – was started because Sargeras decided it was a safer bet to destroy worlds infested with the Void than chance them infecting a world-soul and creating a Void Titan.

So if the Burning Legion hates the Void, and the Naaru hate the Void…  Why do the Naaru hate the Burning Legion?  Other than apparently the Light is the natural enemy of all ‘negative’ elements since it also apparently can one-shot creatures of the Death domain when its opposite is Life (overseen by the Wild Gods like the Ancients or Loa.) The Light is overpowered.  No wonder they nerfed paladins to the ground, baby.

A final note on Illidan that I stumbled upon while researching some of this but couldn’t work it in anywhere else.  Apparently, during the Illidan novel, the events of Legion are foreshadowed when an elder naaru visits Illidan while he controls the Black Temple in Outland and shows him a vision of one possible future where Illidan leads the Army of Light against the Legion.  Illidan views his image as being cool, level headed and hopeful – and at that moment, because the vision showed him happy-ish, Illidan decided that he could not trust the Naaru.  And I think that’s hilarious.  Illidan is probably the most self-aware character in the game right now. “In the future I’m happy? I’m NEVER happy! You and your kind are liars!” “Chosen One? Are you kidding me? Have you seen my approach to problem solving?”

So what do you all think about Illidan’s recent developments?  Good? Bad? ‘I Hate Blizzard and Deliberately Seek Out Posts About Them on the Interweb to Voice My Displeasure’?

(P.S.  Kudos to the animation team at Blizzard.  From the blood on Illidan’s arm to the facial change when Xe’ra mentions how “Little” he got for his sacrifice – great subtle touches that sold that scene that for me)

Welcome the OddCraft Archive!

Basic Campfire Makes A Simple Statement

Long ago, in the distant past of 2008 – almost ten years now – I started blogging.  I did not however start with this blog.  The Land of Odd wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye back then.  When I first began, I had another blog titled “The World of OddCraft” or simply “OddCraft”.  It was a collection of thoughts and observations about the World of Warcraft which was pretty much the only MMO I played back then (I had a Mac, my options were quite limited.)   OddCraft slowly evolved into a series of “Oddities” that I had found in the World of Warcraft: References, strange details, weird doodads placed around the world, and unusual NPCs.  All of them organized by location, expasion, faction, etc.  Although page views rarely broke into the triple digits, I was quite proud of it and I had a small following of regular readers and commenters.

However, as time went on and more notable I grew disillusioned with the Cataclysm expansion, I withdrew from WoW and focused on other things.  Naturally, OddCraft didn’t update as much at that point.  I would still do posts here and there and it did eventually lead to the creation of the Original Version of the WoW Ironman Challenge (We didn’t include a ‘No Death’ clause.  Mostly because we were curious about what you could accomplish with the bare minimum, and the No Death thing seemed to encourage playing it safe over experimentation).  But yes, the original version with the original rules that were first laid out on Twitter by myself, Psynister and a few others were laid into stone on the OddCraft website.  It was also where we did the Warchief Election when it was announced that come Cataclysm the Horde’s leadership was gonna be shaken up.  Six different notable faces ran campaigns and debated on the blog and it ended with a big vote to decide who won to become the new Warchief of the Horde.

Ultimately, OddCraft was sadly more or less abandoned when I decided I wanted to write about far more than just Warcraft and the Land of Odd was created in its place.  But I never forgot about that old site that started things out.  That’s why I am proud to announce that we have officially imported all of the old OddCraft content right here on the Land of Odd in the ‘Warcraft’ section of the blog under ‘Oddities’.  All the old categorization still applied, and I’m working on fixing any images that were lost in the transition.  The old site isn’t gone, but this way my entire blogging history is now under one roof.

So fans of Warcraft, funny things or just people who take interest in some of the weird stuff that pops up in a big MMO, I welcome you to take a gander at the OddCraft Archive, now hosted locally on the Land of Odd!

LFR vs Normals: How Easy is Too Easy?

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So the big thing yesterday was the release of the first LFR wing for the Emerald Nightmare in World of Warcraft: Legion and the immediate revelation that the quest items for the Balance of Power questline were not dropping from it.  This was soon confirmed by Blizzard that these items were not intended to drop from LFR, and that the questline and the artifact appearances it unlocked (as unlocking the first appearance in any row is required to receive the other three) were reserved for those who tackled Normal or higher difficulties of the raids only as the appearances were meant to be a cosmetic reward for tackling challenging pre-made group content.

This sparked a massive debate across the internet and most of it could be boiled down into the age old ‘casual vs hardcore’ nonsense that has plagued gaming for years now.  However, the thing that struck me was more so the idea that people shouldn’t complain because ‘normals are easy’.  Wait.  Isn’t that the exact reason you said this SHOULDN’T be in LFR?  Because LFR is easy?  I saw this argument used dozens of times in the past 24 hours:

Content X should be gated behind difficulty Y because difficulty Z isn’t challenging. But people shouldn’t complain because difficulty Y isn’t challenging.

If you are confused by that statement, welcome to my world.  The only explanation I can get is that the ‘challenge’ comes from assembling a premade group and actually staying as a cohesive whole long enough to kill the bosses.  An easy task for those who have existing guilds and raid teams that they are part of, less so for those who are without.  The ‘challenge’ for them becomes convincing a guild to give them a slot on the raid team or the far more daunting task of convincing a pick up group to let them come along.

That latter situation is where the headaches come from for most who are complaining about this change.  Be it social anxiety, scheduling conflicts, or simply impossible recruitment requirements (Day 1 Emerald Nightmare ‘Plz know the fights’, item level requirements that eclipse what the content drops, requiring 1+ legendaries) finding a PUG is simultaneously easy to do and difficult to join.  Oh sure, there’s a group finder, but let’s hope you get lucky on whether or not you get an invite in any timely fashion.

The same can be said about Mythic Dungeons.  As a Retribution Paladin, I’ve managed to snag one invite to a Mythic after dozens of applications to join one. Which then promptly fell apart when the tank and healer bailed due to “low dps”.  However, Mythics are a gate for a number of quests including my professions.  But it’s okay, people tell me, Mythics are mind numbingly easy.  Perhaps but then the most difficult boss again becomes actually getting a group.

So what seems to be the crux of this whole thing seems less to be about what is easy or difficulty and more so a push back against matchmaking groups.  The Dungeon Finder/LFR tools make the process of getting a group too easy. So we must reward those who eschew convenience and reward them with cosmetics and their own dungeon tier that is completely optional except for when it is not (again with the Engineer profession quest requiring a Mythic dungeon – that drops ilvl 840 gear – to get a recipe that makes a ilvl 815 item.)

I suppose in some ways we’ve gone full circle.  We’re back to the Molten Core days where “wrangling the cats” was the hardest part of the job.  Only now you get exclusive rewards along with the better gear.

So am I upset about this? Eh. Maybe a bit peeved, but hardly anything I’d quit the game over.  Blizzard did confirm in a blue post that story/profession quests that require raids will be doable in LFR, so you won’t get locked out of finishing Suramar and getting the last Pillar of Creation.  It’s just the “Valorous” artifact appearance that is locked behind the wall.  And while my inner completionist screams “nooooooo!” I’ve long learned how to deal with him.  Mostly single player RPGs.

(I AM still irritated about that Mythic dungeon engineering quest though. Because that’s just dumb. 830 ilevel requirement to get an 815 helm? Who did that math?)

World of Wacraft: Warlords of Draenor – Legendary Ring Story Summary

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So with Legion, Blizzard decided to remove the Legendary Ring storyline from the game.  Since this storyline does a lot to set up the explanation behind the Legion expansion, as well as go into many of the motivations for staying around on Draenor after the destruction of the Dark Portal, I felt that it was deserving of a story summary so that people can have some level of reference if you want to know what went down in Warlords of Draenor.

Chapter I: Call of the Archmage

Upon reaching max level, you will find a familiar glowing friend wandering around your garrison.  This arcane construct brings word to you from Archmage Khadgar who requests your aid with a mission he has and asks that you come meet with him at his tower in Zangarra.  There he, along with trusty Watcher bodyguard Cordana Felsong, explain that to accomplish this mission he will need your help and to do so you will need a special tool that will help you along the way. A powerful piece of equipment that will not only give you the strength for the challenges that lie ahead but tether you to Khadgar so that he can keep an eye on you and your actions in the dire days to come.  He suggests the item be a ring and asks you to seek out the Arrakoa of Skyreach to retrieve a ring made of pure Solium, a rare metal heated and infused with the raw power of Draenor’s sun, to act as a base material for your new ring.

After fetching the material, Khadgar begins work on infusing your ring with new power and bringing out its own latent strength.  While working he explains that while the Horde and Alliance continue their battle against the forces of the Iron Horde, Khadgar has a different and far more threatening target in mind: Gul’dan.  The Orc Warlock who forged a pact with the demons of the Burning Legion and has a noted history of manipulating events from the shadows to get what he wants.  Khadgar wants to flush the warlock out of the shadows and the best way to do that would be to start by gathering powerful reagents for a tracking spell.  Khadgar requests that you retrieve a Core of Flame from the Slag Mines belonging to the Bloodmaul Ogres in Frostfire Ridge, the Core of Iron that is used to power the Iron Horde’s Iron Star trains that depart from the Grimrail Depot in Gorgrond, and finally to adventure deep into the Everbloom to extract the Core of Life from the closest thing on Draenor to the progenitor of life – a Genesaur.  Khadgar has also heard word from Talador that Gul’dan’s Shadow Council has infiltrated the hallowed halls of the Auchindoun and suspects that Teron’gor, Gul’dan’s right hand, is behind it.  He wants you to retrieve a sample of Teron’gor’s foul fel-touched blood to be used a focus for the tracking ritual.

In exchange for your assistance, Khadgar offers to empower your ring even further but to do so he will require additional materials.  This time he wants to imbue the solium with the magic from the crystals of the Apexis, an ancient Arrakoa civilization that first learned how to harness the power of the sun.  To enhance your ring, he needs precisely 4,986 crystals.  Any less than that number would be inadequate and the wizard insists that any more would be simply ridiculous.  You can trust him. He’s a mage. He did the math.

Once you’ve retrieved all the reagents, Khadgar will attempt to perform a scrying ritual to find Gul’dan only to find that the warlock is actively countering the spell leading Khadgar to deduce that Teron’gor’s death must have spooked the old orc into running.  Unfortunately, this means that Khadgar will need even more power to contend with Gul’dan’s magic and complete the ritual to locate him.  However, he has an idea.  The Archmage knows of a certain dragon – Kairozdormu – that came to Draenor’s past attempting to help Garrosh Hellscream flee his war crimes trial.  Since this modified timeline permeates with Kairoz’s influence, Khadgar should be able to use the dragon – alive or dead – to connect to this age of Draenor and spread his magical power across it.  So you head to the eastern hills of Nagrand where you find time-lost illusion detailing what followed shortly after Garrosh & Kairoz’s arrival in the past version of Draenor.  It would appear that the dragon’s plans quickly soured after arriving back in time as Garrosh immediately betrayed and murdered Kairoz.  However after meeting his bloody end, Kairoz’s angry spirit still dwells in its final resting place of the Time Lost Glade where his spirit and timeline has seeped into the very land of Draenor.  To master this power, Khadgar beseeches you to finish Garrosh’s work and end the dragon’s existence.  As the battle goes on, it is finally revealed why Kairozdormu freed Garrosh and fled to Draenor.  Kairoz saw something in his experiments on the Timeless Isle.  Something that drove him to seek out a way to make not just an army, but an infinite number of armies to fight against it.  To become infinite himself.  His first goal was to use Garrosh to convince Grom Hellscream to unite the Orc clans into becoming the first of Kairoz’s infinite army, but Garrosh’s backstabbing quickly ended that.

You return to the tower in Zangarra victorious.  Khadgar has tapped into Kairoz’s remaining essence and expanded his power and uses the Apexis Crystals you gathered to upgrade your Solium ring into a more powerful incarnation: a Time Lost Solium ring!

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Chapter II: Gul’dan Strikes Back

Armed with the ability to tap into the very essence of Draenor, Archmage Khadgar now needs a means to penetrate the powerful fel magic that Gul’dan uses to shroud himself.  To do so means having to delve into what the Kirin Tor would consider ‘fringe arcane science’ at best.  The knowledge possessed by the ogres of the Gorian Empire would fall under such a category.  Khadgar says that the Sorcerer King of the Gorian Empire, High Imperator Mar’gok, has mastered the art of something called “Felbreaking.” A technique designed to surpress and nullify magic including the vile powers of fel magic.  This knowledge would prove invaluable.  The Archmage asks that you venture deep into the ogre capital of Highmaul and retrieve a Fel Breaker’s Tome as well as the magical sigil of the Sorcerer King himself to help in learning the practices contained in the tome.  Khadgar also recommends picking up Abrogator Stones as you penetrate the ogre city.  These ancient and powerful magical stones that have been passed down through the generations of ogre mages would be a useful fuel to empowering your ring even further – a fair exchange for overthrowing an empire.

Once you have brought an end to the Gorian Empire and retrieved the requested items for Khadgar, the wizard will attempt once more to scry Gul’dan’s location.  Utilizing the fel breaking techniques to tear through the warlock’s veil, Khadgar finally makes contact with the orc.  The victory is short lived however as it seems that Gul’dan has been inquiring about the human mage he witnessed in the escape from Tanaan Jungle.  Gul’dan mentions Khadgar by name and mentions that it would appear that they have quite the history with each other.  This means that the warlock is now aware of the transgressions of the original timeline of your native Azeroth, where Khadgar killing his master, Medivh the Last Guardian of Tirisfal, shattered the mental link that the Guardian shared with Gul’dan and plunged the warlock into a coma that cost him and his Shadow Council control of the Horde.  Khadgar happily announces that they’ve located Gul’dan to which the old orc replies in jest that likewise he has found the Archmage.

Just then a figure draws out from the shadows and before Cordana has a chance to act an orc assassin stabs Khadgar with a poisoned blade. The assassin flees into the marshy lower levels of Zangarra and Cordana orders you to track her down.  You climb down the rocks into the swamp like valley and begin to play a dangerous game of cat and mouse before finally chasing the assassin to a cave and battling it out until either you perish from the poison in your blood or the assassin is captured. You return to the tower with the assassin – Garona Halforcen – in tow where you find Khadgar being kept stable by Jaina Proudmoore, the current leader of Dalaran’s Council of Six. You use the poison to quickly form an anti-venom to help aid in Khadgar’s healing and as the Archmage wakes, Jaina helps him up.  However, if you are a member of the Horde, Jaina will chastise Khadgar for allying himself with you and the Council does not approve of this choice either.  Khadgar will simply shrug it off and say that he needs all the help he can get on Draenor and it won’t be the first time he disappointed the Council.  However before Jaina departs, Khadgar makes one request that she helps transfer the power of the Abrogator Stones you gathered into your ring since he has been weakened by the ordeal.  The process turns your ring into a Spellbound Solium Ring.  Jaina wishes Alliance members well with their newfound power and threatens that she will be keeping her eye on you if you are a member of the Horde.

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Chapter III: The Foundry Falls

Now that he has healed, Khadgar is willing to admit that it was perhaps foolish to go after Gul’dan with magic alone.  Fortunately, an opportunity has arisen with Garona, the assassin you captured.  If he can find some means to break the magical hold that the warlock has on Garona’s mind, she might be able to assist bring down her master.  Khadgar has a plan but to enact it he must ask you to venture into the very heart of the Iron Horde’s war machine: The Blackrock Foundry.  There he will need you to pry out the heart of a primal elemental fury that fuels the massive furnaces below the foundry, steal a Flamebender’s Tome that describes the secret techniques that the Blackrock Clan uses to channel and control the powerful elemental forces of Draenor, and lastly to reclaim a magical Thaumaturgical Orb that was stolen from the Draenei during the Iron Horde’s siege of Karabor.

Once you’ve collected the three components, Khadgar will begin to pour over the Flamebender’s Tome that speaks of a ritual to the elements that required a sacrifice from the chieftan of a clan.  This causes the wizard to ponder on what Blackhand must of sacrificed to gain such knowledge and deduces that it must be his eponymous hand.  Khadgar asks you to break into the core of the foundry and kill the Warlord of the Blackrock Clan, then bring back his arm to utilize as a focus for the ritual to free Garona.

Meanwhile, Khadgar also has a plan to further enhance your ring by utilizing the knowledge sealed in three distinct Elemental Tablets that pre-date written history itself that hold the methods of tapping into the primal power of the planet itself.  However, the tablets will likely have shattered throughout time and thus will require you to find all the pieces scattered throughout the foundry to reassemble them.  Once you do, he performs a ritual to infuse the ring with Draenor’s elemental power.  However in doing so – he accidentally kills you.  While you are dead, you witness a vision of Gul’dan speaking to Grommash Hellscream.  The warlock taunts the warlord by telling him that the Iron Horde is collapsing under the assaults of the outsiders (that would be you) and even the foundry has now fallen.  He tells Grom to drink from the demon’s blood and that it will be the only way to guarantee success for Hellscream’s Iron Horde.  Grommash angrily declines and yells at Gul’dan to leave his sight just before Khadgar resurrects you with a pair of goblin jumper cables much to Cordana’s surprise that they actually worked.

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Chapter IV: Darkness Incarnate

With everything gathered from the Blackrock Foundry, Khadgar attempts to break Gul’dan’s hold on Garona by torturing her until she gives up the information on where Gul’dan is hiding.  In the wakes of the orcs screams, Cordana stops Khadgar horrified by what depths the wizard is willing to sink to and that he is losing himself in pursuit of the mission.  The Archmage relents, agreeing with Cordana that what is the point if they are willing to become just as vile as the warlock himself to accomplish their goals.  He however does have another suggestion: an Orb of Domination.  A relic used by the Shadow Council to ensnare minds into serving and joining their cause.  The old mage suggests that he may be able to reverse engineer the Orb and use it free Garona.  He directs you to a cavern below a Draenei village where the Shadow Counil has been using a orb to brainwash people and to bring the orb back to him.  Cordana is against this idea vehemently since using the orb would be tapping into the dark powers that they sought to stop in the first place, but the orb does its job and rips out Garona’s inner demons for you to battle and ultimately break the warlock’s hold on her.  In thanks, the assassin pledges herself to you and Khadgar while Cordana takes the Orb of Domination away to see it destroyed.

Garona leads you to Bladefury’s Command in northern Talador where Gul’dan was headed to a meeting with the Warlords of the Iron Horde.  You sneak in past the guards to discover what the warlock is up to.  There you witness Gul’dan overthrow the Iron Horde by subduing Grommash and convincing the other warlords of his ineffective leadership by bringing up the countless loses including that of Hellscream’s own son – Garrosh.  Turned by the warlock’s arguments, Kilrog Deadeye steps forth to embrace his foreseen fate and drink of the demon blood, his body twisting and breaking to reform into the first of a new Fel Horde.  Shocked by this news, Khadgar is terrified that history may repeat itself and Azeroth is now more in danger of the Iron Horde than before.  He asks you to use your resources as a General of your faction’s forces to build a shipyard to assault Tanaan Jungle from the sea while your allies assault the gates at the Iron Front.  Garona also agrees herself to your growing army and becomes a legendary follower.

With a foothold established in Tanaan and you and your allies primed to storm the gates of Hellfire Citadel itself, Khadgar suggests a two pronged attack.  First he wishes for you to rip the Tomes of Chaos, the foul books bound with tortured souls that are used to train new warlocks, out of the hands of Gul’dan’s followers.  He also wants you to use your shipyard to chase down Gul’dan’s flagship – ‘The Master’s Call’ – that has been scouring the seas of Draenor and charting the arcane leylines of the world.  That chart must not reach Gul’dan’s hands and could prove useful to the Archmage in bringing your ring to its apex of power.

Once you’ve collected all the tomes full of their disgusting pictures, Khadgar asks you to take them back to Cordana for proper disposal.  However when you arrive back at the tower in Zangarra, you find Cordana intently staring into the Orb of Domination which she apparently did not destroy.  She quickly dodges any question you ask about why she has the orb. She takes the books from you and begins to place them around the room to prepare to destroy them, but instead the erupt into a ritual circle of fel flame.  As the green flame engulfs the room, Cordana demands that you hand over your ring and that she needs it.  You decline with a choice of saying “No.” or “OH HELL NO.” and she declares that she will take it by force.  You fight with Cordana who unleashes both her Watcher training combined with the cinders of fel magics.  She screams that the Orb has shown her the truth: Khadgar is a just child who dabbles in forbidden powers too great for him to control. Gul’dan however has true mastery of these dark arts.  As you weaken her she breaks off the battle and states that nothing will stop Gul’dan and the Burning Legion from burning this world, Azeroth and every other world to the ground.  She opens a portal and walks into it saying that your leaders will ultimately betray you and that the Legion will be victorious.  When you return to Khadgar, he bursts into a rage against Gul’dan and his trickery before quieting and staring off at the horizon to mourn the loss of his bodyguard and friend to the darkness.

Now that the books have been dealt with and you have retrieved the ley line chart, Khadgar can identify three primary points of leyline connections: His tower in Zangarra which he knew since that is why he built it there, the Throne of Elements in Nagrand, and the Temple of Karabor in Shadowmoon Valley.  He says with this knowledge he should be able to bring your ring to its maximum potential and create something truly legendary.  The wizard is a bit apprehensive however after killing you the last time he tried to do this (which he apologizes for again) he will need some assistance.  Luckily, you have made powerful allies in your time on Draenor, and you head off to one of the leyline sites to perform the final ritual.  Members of the Alliance will travel to meet with Yrel and the rest of the Council of the Exarchs and the Naaru K’ara where they work with Khadgar to infuse your ring with the blessing of The Light and awaken it to its true potential.  For the Horde, you will find that the Frostwolf Clan (including the spirit of Ga’nar) has come out in mass to the Throne of the Elements to watch their shaman Drek’thar call upon the Primordial Elemental Furies to beseech them to give your ring their blessings.  With its power fully awakened, your ring has become a power unequaled on Draenor.  Khadgar only hopes it will be enough to stop Gul’dan.

With your ring firmly fastened on your finger, you assault the Black Gate and stop Gul’dan by defeating Archimonde the Defiler and sending the demon general back to the Twisting Nether, but not before Gul’dan manages to escape by being hurled through the very Black Gate that Archimonde had emerged from. No one is sure of where the warlock had escaped to, but Khadgar picks up the old orc’s fel charred walking cane and utters that he knows that this is not over.  He invites you to enjoy your victory celebration with your allies, but he must depart back to Azeroth to prepare for whatever will come next.

He hopes that you will be present and ready for when the call goes out for heroes once more.

Leave No Witnesses: The Lost Isles SI:7 Mystery

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If you’ve ever rolled a Goblin in the World of Warcraft and played through their starting area where Deathwing descends to erupt Mount Kezan after getting hit with a football (Or at least that is my interpretation of events) you’ll get a cutscene after boarding the ship to get the heck off the island where the goblin ship stumbles upon a fierce naval battle between the Horde and the Alliance.  Strangely enough its the Alliance who turns cannons on you first and blows the goblin shipped pack with you in the prison hold below due to being tricked into being sold as a slave.  Now of course this is a good reason for the goblins to want to join the Horde right?  That the Alliance are a bunch of jerks and the Gobbies were just sooooo innocent.  Of course the goblins had no way of knowing that it was the Alliance that shot them from below deck and even more interesting to me is the comment that the Alliance commander makes before they fire on you – No witnesses.  They want no witnesses to what they’re doing.

Why?

It’s no strange concept to anyone on Azeroth that the Horde and the Alliance have been at each others throats since the Wrathgate broke whatever hope there was for the vulnerable peace that was forged in the wake of the Third War and the Legion’s attack on the World Tree Nordrassil. So what were the Alliance doing that was so suspicious that they didn’t want any witnesses to their actions?  Well, we do get a few clues as we continue our quest to find a new home on the Lost Isles.  One is that the ship that attacked us was carrying a very important prisoner: Goel the World Shaman, Former Warchief Thrall or Green Jesus depending on how you want to view him. Thrall was on his way to the Maelstrom to help the rest of the Earthen Circle protect the churning hole in the center of the ocean from imploding the planet after Deathwing, that Old God driven mad dragon aspect of being a nuisance, destroyed the World Pillar in the Plane of Earth that held things together.  And wow wee does this sound like Chris Metzen’s D&D campaign notes when I write it all out like that.  I should steal some of this for my own campaign.

Back on topic, we also learn that the ship is being crewed and overseen by the SI:7, the Alliance’s black ops secret forces. Which would make sense if you wanted someone to go on a secret mission to capture the former warchief of the Horde and the current holder of the title ‘World Shaman’ that was made up just for him.  The real question comes in the form of WHY the SI:7 and in turn the Alliance would want to capture Thrall.  The Alliance leadership KNOWS he has stepped down from his position with the Horde and left Garrosh Hellscream to lead to rabble.  They KNOW that Thrall is on a diplomatic mission to aid the Earthen Circle to help stop the world – that place that they too live – from shaking itself apart. So why try and stop him?

I think the answer strangely enough comes 80 levels or so later on the opposite faction.  When doing the quest chain for the Alliance to head into the Twilight Highlands, you find yourself investigate some strange activity around Stormwind with the young Prince Anduin who has begun to take a more active interest in his people’s welfare.  Throughout the questline you make something of a disturbing discovery that the current head of SI:7, the man standing to the right hand side of the King himself, is a member of the Twilight’s Hammer – a cult devoted to the Elementals and Old Gods that seeks to bring about the End of the World.  You ultimate stop him and prevent an assassination plot on King Wrynn but this plot element may in fact be the missing piece to solving the question of the Goblin starter zone all the way back at the start of the game.

Allow me to speculate.  The SI:7, a powerful organization with little oversight that carries out secret missions for the safety of the Alliance and headed by a man who is secretly in a cult that wants to bring about the apocalypse, attacks and kidnaps the former leader of the Orcs who just so happens to be on a mission of peace to help stop the apocalypse.  They attack the Horde ships hoping to sink them and chock the whole thing up to inter-faction conflict while they secure their prisoner and inadvertently aid Deathwing in bringing about the Hour of Twilight (ie said apocalypse.) However, a group of goblins accidentally happens on the scene and knowing if the word got out that this was more than just two groups that hated each other attacking each other got out – especially by the hands of goblins who are by nature greedy, not above blackmail, and have had dealings with both factions previously –  well, you’d probably want to make sure that your secret activities of abusing your authority to help further the goals of an insane dragon would remain hush hush and thus give a simple order: No witnesses.

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I submit for your approval that the leader of the SI:7 ordered those ships to destroy any witnesses because they actively sought out Thrall’s ship and Thrall himself to stop him from ever reaching the Maelstrom.  Does my idea seem far fetched?  Perhaps, but remember this is the same expansion that required you to play an Undead to level 20 to find out what happened to the rest of the Worgen starting zone story as well. Or the truth behind the Tragedy of Camp Taurajo that required playing both the Alliance and Horde side of the story AND had additional information in the Jaina novel about what happened. The Cataclysm expansion is full of weird intersects in the story.  So is it that hard to believe that they planned this?  I would argue that no, it’s not.  In fact all the pieces fit together a bit too well for this to just be a coincidence in story telling.

Because I will say this: I don’t have a ton of love for the content of the Catalcysm expansion, but damn did it have some great story moments in there.

Looking Back at Warlords of Draenor

draenor

Well, with Legion just around the corner and the movie all abuzz across the internets (Good and bad), I figured it was time to take a look back at the latest expansion of the World of Warcraft and share my thoughts on what it did right and what it did wrong.

Garrisons:  Garrisons were one of those features I was dreading being utterly disappointed in. The whole idea had been trimmed, cut down, slashed and burned from the original pitch way back at Blizzcon.  From a customizable fortress that could be established in any zone and would have room for trophies and what not to… well, what we ended up getting. A static spot in your faction’s starting zone with the only customization being from a fairly limited number of building types into certain spots, the ability to change the race of the guards and a couple of the flags, and the trophies really just being spots for your pristine archaeology finds and “monuments” that are unlocked by doing super specific expansion long goals.  It was a shadow of the cool feature that we were told about.  And yet, I still love my garrison.  Granted, I love my Alliance garrison more than my snowpile in Frostfire.  But I do actually love my garrison.  I love being the commander of my own forces, ordering them out to complete tasks and then seeing them off as they march around.  I like seeing my followers and other characters I’ve met on my journey wandering around.  I enjoy setting my music and saluting my gnome guards.  I like building it up and fortifying my base.  I even liked defending it from attackers the few times I was able to get it to happen.  So much so that I actually kind of hope that my garrison hearthstone sticks around with me after the expansion is over so I can go back and visit my little corner of the world.

Past & Present Collide:  One of the more interesting things I liked in the expansion was to see where the things in Outland came from. I am still stumbling upon connections and putting together things when I’m out doing stuff.  It was only just recently that it hit me that the Podlings would eventually become the Sporelings of Zangarmarsh.  Or what was in this area before the world got ripped up.  The only real sad part to this was the fact that Farahlon was passed over and forgotten along with several other smaller islands that are clearly shown on the map but never added in game.

The Story:  Oh, the story.  What a mangled tale it did weave.  So much excitement, so many threats, and all of it – entirely – was for absolutely nothing.  Seriously, what were the lasting repercussions of this plotline? Garrosh is dead. Maraad is dead.  Gul’dan was thrown into the Nether so he can reach other universes.  Those are the three things that were actually accomplished in terms of the overall narrative of Warcraft.  Everything else? Those epic battles? Those heart warming reunions and soul crushing sacrifices?  All take place in an Alternate Universe that has zero effect on anything once we go home.  Talk about a dissapointment.  Heck, the Iron Horde never posed any risk after 30 minutes in Tanaan Jungle.  You blow up the Dark Portal in the intro mission. The Iron Horde now has zero threat to the real world from their weirdo elseworld. But now we’re stuck right? Nope. We can just open a mage portal across dimensions back home. lol.  WHY ARE WE BOTHERING TRYING TO SAVE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE DRAENOR? Nothing that happens can affect us beyond people from our universe dying (which they do).

How about this instead – it IS our Draenor.  The Timewalkers and the Bronze Dragons have temporarily locked it off in time so that we – the heroes – can go back, track down Garrosh and his accomplice and set things right before it has a chance to permanently destroy our universe.  Then there is an actual risk to us failing to stop the Iron Horde.  There’s a reason for us staying once you broke the Dark Portal and stopped the Invasion.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to end up being the same.  As long as the important plot pieces remain (Nerzhul becomes the Lich King, Gromm lives long enough to free the Orcs from the Blood Curse, Thrall ends up being raised by humans) you could pull a comic style reboot and brought the Movie plotline into canon with the games.  Maybe not flawlessly, but that would have at least been something. Instead we are left with a lackluster resolution with minimal lasting effects.  This whole expansion should have been a novel.

The Ending:  Speaking of lackluster…  WHY DOES GROMM GET OFF SCOTT FREE?  After using the Iron Horde to complete destroy Draenor, wage war on the Draenei and other citizens of the world, and murder and pillage as they see fit – he suddenly gets welcomed with open arms by those he and his chieftans have wronged just because Gul’dan is the bigger asshole?  I hate to go Godwin on this, but that’s kind of like the Allies welcoming Hitler into their ranks, saying let bygones be bygones, all because some space aliens attacked in the last few years of World War II. You don’t get a Get Out of Jail Free card just because there is someone worse than you.  And yet, here we are.  With that being the exact note the expansion ends on.  Gromm is the big damn hero that will help rebuild Draenor with the Draenei and there will be peace and butterflies.  I don’t even have words for how BAD that ending was.  Oh, but at least Gromm didn’t killsteal Archimonde. That makes it alright then, right?  God that ending pissed me off and the fact that more people weren’t pissed off also pisses me off.  You could have at least made it Durotan that extends the hand of peace!  He was willing to join forces to fight the Iron Horde.  All frickin’ Gromm did was get tied to a rock for not drinking EctoCooler.

The Legendary Ring:  Weirdly enough, the Ring quest actually did feel Legendary. Even though the whole thing didn’t even result in an item that you will ever be able to display to others.  The story behind the Ring was really what made it strong.  Joining Khadgar in his elaborate chess game with Gul’dan.  Khadgar who is old enough to actually be aware of the threat that Gul’dan poses (Having encounter him through Gul’dan’s dealing with Medivh in the First War and using the Skull of Gul’dan to close the Dark Portal in the Second War).  Khadgar dances back and forth on his morality quite a bit – stooping to torture, dealing in dark magic, and ultimately getting his bodyguard and confidante to be swayed over by Gul’Dan’s power.  It’s clear that this was the intended ‘real story’ behind the expansion given what we know about Gul’dan’s eventual take over of the Iron Horde and being thrown across realities to help instigate Legion.  A shame that once the expansion comes out, no one will ever be able to see it as they are burying the questline.

Getting Out in the World:  When Blizzard first spoke about the leveling experience of Draenor being less questing and more Timeless Isle, I was filled with dread.  That didn’t sound fun at all.  Racing with others to grab spawns and fighting for kills to grind.  Luckily, the traditional questing method did make it in but traces of the Timeless Isle are felt everyone. From the treasures to the rare mobs to the tedious rep grinding of 2 rep per mob, it was everywhere.  Luckily, there were improvements made.  The Rares spawned pretty quickly outside of the endgame areas, the chests were all account specific so you never had to fight for them, and it was kind of fun seeking things out.  However I did miss my dailies (Shut up, I like them) and was glad to see them return in Tanaan along with the option of grinding for the Saberstalkers.  However, I guess this just didn’t get that many people out in the world since all I’ve heard from the general player base was “We just sit in our garrisons”.

The Flying Achievement:  I liked it.  I liked the idea of once you have mastered the outdoor PvE elements of the expansion that you unlocked flying account wide.  So all of your alts will have it as soon as they enter Draenor.  I like that a lot better than paying 2000 gold per character at least.  Plus as an achievement fan, it gives me something big to work toward.

I guess what it boils down to was the fact that while the gameplay in Warlords of Draenor really succeeded for me, the story felt like it was a complete after thought and didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved.  The whole expansion kind of felt like just something to tide players over and test out some new ideas while Legion was being worked on. I came in without a ton of excitement, but I found some fun and a lot of angry ranting.  Which is… good?  I dunno. Certainly looking forward to Legion though.

 

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