Burning Crusade Redux: Best and Worst

Wrath of the Lich King is in full swing, and all of the serious WoW players have it installed by now. We got an early start on some of the features with patch 3.0.2, and we hit the ground running. My guild’s already cleared 10-man Naxx, and we’re hoping to clear 25-man this coming week. Level 80 heroics are already old-hat; the epics are flowing, and people have leveled their professions to 450. Dissent’s MT is already sporting a couple of pieces of T7 warrior gear.

People who even mention running the old instances are laughed at: I’ve watched many a flame session directed at some poor sap trying to get a ZA group together. Seriously, that’s nearly as bad as running UBRS! Plus, we all know you’re just after the achievement now that out-leveling and outgearing the place is so easy. What else is there to gain, but an empty achievement accessible to anyone who can get a bunch of level 80s together?

Hang on, people. ZA was fun! I remember reading previews of Zul’Aman, and I remember it being praised for its atmosphere, its storyline, its… General FUNness. So why shouldn’t people go back and run it?

In fact, there’s a whole lot of Burning Crusade content that’s well worth going back to see, if you missed it. Lots of it is even fun enough that I’ll definitely want to do it “just for fun” in the future, even though I ran most of the content to death before Wrath came out. Now, I know exactly what I’ll want to go back to see; but what about people who missed content? What’s “worth it”, and what’s just a waste of time? What can be pugged and zerged? What will take careful coordination by an experienced raid leader, and what (if anything) will require a full guild effort with carefully planned strategies, even at level 80?

Bear with me now, there was a LOT of content in BC. I’m not even going to look at quest lines, just instances and raids. I’ll do them in a few major categories, so you can skip past the stuff you know. If you’re going to tl;dr me, there’s a quick wrap-up at the end.

Instances

Let’s start with the instances (and when I refer to ‘instances’, I’m just talking about 5-man instances). Most people who spent any time at level 70 during BC will have seen most of the instances, but people who didn’t spend much time at 70, particularly those who didn’t get to 70 before wrath came out, will probably have missed most of them. All of the 5-man BC instances have heroic modes.

Hellfire Citadel: This hub in Hellfire Peninsula sports three instances.

Ramparts holds no real fond memories for me: the first boss is thoroughly boring; the second, annoying but uninteresting. The third boss, a dragon-rider (who calls his dragon down to join the fight mid-way through) is kind of interesting, but not worth the clear. That said, even a reasonably inexperienced group should breeze through to the end, and if the second boss fight tricks you up, you can skip it altogether. It’s worth noting that although the dragon-rider boss is probably the ‘last boss’, the second boss drops the primal nether, and you can do them in either order. I call Vazruden and Nazan the ‘last boss’ for two reasons: it’s the objective of the daily heroic, and there’s a shortcut straight to the instance entrance right by him, for a quick exit.

Blood Furnace has a few interesting boss fights, but my primary memory from here is slogging through trash. Not a bad instance at the time, but again, I probably won’t be going back ‘just for fun’. The final fight has an interesting setting: you’re in a chamber with a see-through floor; the view below is of Magtheridon’s Lair.

Shattered Halls was, compared to many of the other instances, pretty tough. The trash hit hard, the pulls were huge, and some of the boss fights were tricky. Very few tanks could run this place smoothly, and even fewer non-tankadins. This would be my pick of the HC instances to go back to, and it should be fairly straight-forward with a level 80 group, without being too boring. You may even lose a clothie or two on the two last bosses!

Coilfang Reservoir: Like HC, CR is a hub with three 5-man instances. It can be found in central Zangarmarsh, and you have to swim down a tube in the middle of a lake to get in.

Underbog is an easy run with medium levels of trash, and bosses with a few tricks. Particularly as most level 80 groups will be able to take multiple pulls together, the trash will hardly slow you up at all, and the boss fights are probably worth a run. The second boss has a trick or two to trip up the unwary group which charges in; sadly, you’ll have to go easy on your dps on the last boss, or you’ll hardly even see the fight. I’ve seen better-geared groups drop the last boss in a matter of seconds, even on heroic, although I’ve seen this boss wipe groups over and over where dps was a bit light. Heroic UB is probably a decent option for a group of 80s looking for a quick fun instance.

That said, I much preferred Steamvaults. It’s kind of a shame it only has three bosses, because it meant fewer badge-farming groups bothered. The trash is challenging, particularly if not pulled well, and the boss fights are fun. Hydromancer Thespia asks the DPS to pay attention for a change and keeps the healer on her toes, but isn’t too frustrating. Mekgineer Steamrigger is a bit of light AoE fun, and the final boss has a few little mini-DPS races too. All in all, one of my favourite instances, and one not to be missed. If you do one instance in Coilfang, make it SV.

Slave Pens is a quick little run, and was always considered one of the easier heroics. The bosses aren’t really very interesting, although there are a few trash pulls that are a pain. My call is: don’t bother.

Auchindoun: This instance hub, just south of Shattrath, sports three thoroughly unmemorable instances, and a fourth rather more interesting one.

Sethekk Halls, while relatively uninteresting, does have two points of note: It’s the instance for the final stage of the druid Swift Flight Form quest chain, and the second-last boss (which requires a druid who’s completed the chain leading up to it to summon) drops a very rare epic land mount. Sadly, these are about the only two reasons you’d bother. The bosses are a little tricky, and not particularly fun, and I never ran this place much.

Personally, I found Mana Tombs even less interesting, and can hardly remember a thing about the place. I almost never ran into pugs bothering with this instance.

Less interesting even than MT (in my opinion) was Auchenai Crypts. It was a nice quick run, punctuated mostly by boring trash.

The one gem in Auchindoun is Shadow Labyrinth (I even wrote an Easy-mode Guide for this place). There is quite a bit of trash, but the bosses more than make the run worth it. If you want a slightly-creepy shadowy instance to run, with great atmosphere, try this place. There are some nasty trash pulls which made this place a chore even for better-geared groups, particularly on heroic, but if you follow my guide, you should get through it well enough. The second boss is quite unusual, the third boss holds some really nightmarish memories for a lot of us, and the final boss may even prove somewhat challenging (on heroic) for a group of level 80s. If you want to experience some of the best of Burning Crusade instancing, do this.

Tempest Keep: This is one of the more memorable instance hubs, sporting three 5-man instances. Of note is the fact that none of the instances are accessible without flying (or a warlock summon). TK is located in eastern Netherstorm.

The Mechanar is famous for being thought of as an ‘easy’ heroic, and yet wiping many groups over and over (mostly on the later bosses). The trash is reasonably quick and easy, and I’ve taken part in plenty of clears on heroic mode taking around 20 minutes. That said, it’s not always an easy run: there are a few spots that a mis-timed pull can easily wipe a group, and the major bosses all have their little tricky parts. In addition, there are two mini-bosses that drop parts of a key to the ‘Cache of the Legion’, which provides access to loot similar to a boss. The third boss (commonly known as ‘the fire bitch’) can be particularly difficult for those who haven’t got much experience kiting while tanking/healing/dpsing, and she’s probably been the source of more wipes than nearly any other 5-man boss I can remember. The final boss is fairly easy, but there is a tricky gauntlet to run to get there (although it doesn’t reset if you wipe). Again, this is an enjoyable instance, and will provide some fun, and moreover quick, impressions of BC instancing.

The Botanica is another great instance (again, with an Easy-mode Guide by yours truly), and probably my favourite 5-man. The trash isn’t particularly short, but there’s lots of variety, and the bosses are interesting. Be prepared for some wipes if your tank doesn’t know the third boss well. The fifth (and final) boss is fun, but reasonably easy. Again, I’d recommend this as a fun ‘old-school’ instance, but only if you have a bit more time on your hands. Compared to twenty-minute heroic runs of mech, bot was seldom over in much under an hour.

The third instance in TK is the Arcatraz. This place felt a bit like a long slog through trash to a single final boss. The first boss was rather annoying and optional. The next two bosses were both in the same room, and rather straight-forward (unless your gear wasn’t up to the instance). The final boss is a quite interesting event, with a number of mini-bosses and a couple of NPCs, and if it weren’t for the long slog to get there, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Caverns of Time: This rather unusual ‘event-oriented’ hub contains two BC instances. It’s located in Tanaris, in southern Kalimdor; it’s painful to reach, although a direct teleport is available from the World’s End Tavern in Shattrath City if you’re at least revered with Keepers of Time.

Escape from Durnholde Keep lets the party participate in Thrall’s escape from captivity in the Old Hillsbrad Foothills. The story-line is interesting, and this is a must for the lore-junkies out there. The normal mode is an absolute walk in the park for a group of level 70s: you won’t even really need a tank. The heroic mode could be extremely difficult, depending on your group makeup, although it shouldn’t be a problem at 80. The final encounter consists of a number of waves of dragonkin, followed by a final dragon boss.

Opening of the Dark Portal (also known by its setting, Black Morass) allows the party to assist Medivh in the opening of the Dark Portal, another major event in Warcraft history. There’s a bit of easy non-elite trash to clear the area around the event, and the event itself is started by approaching Medivh. There are three ‘boss waves’, each preceded by five waves of trash. Each wave pours out of a portal which spawns in one of four locations, and consists of an elite mini-boss or boss, and various dragonkin trash. The only exception is the final boss (wave 18), which doesn’t have any trash. Trash will continue to spawn, and the portal remain, until the boss or mini-boss is killed. This is a reasonably easy instance once you get the hang of it, either on normal or heroic, and again, a definite must for lore-junkies.

Isle of Quel’danas: With only a single 5-man instance, this was a rather late addition to the Burning Crusade content. The isle is located at the very northern tip of the Eastern Kingdoms, and is most easily accessed by portal from Shattrath.

Magister’s Terrace on normal mode was on par with the easier heroics, and the heroic mode was probably the hardest 5-man experience in the game. The trash can be frustrating, particularly the larger pulls, and some of the bosses are tough. However: The last boss, Kael’thas, is without doubt the most fun 5-man boss fight of BC. And, unless you’re ready for one or two little tricks, it’s probably the most likely to wipe a group of 80s (well, on heroic mode, anyway). If you go back and do one BC instance once you hit 80 that you haven’t already seen, make it MgT.

Raids

The raid models have been different for each version of WoW. Vanilla WoW (before any expansions) had limited 10-man raiding, and really focused on 40-man raids. This proved a little over-stressful for the majority of players, and most raids were really seen, by most, as inaccessible to the average player.

Burning Crusade changed that, bringing more 10-man raiding experience, dropping the 40-man category, and introducing 25-man raids. While many guilds still struggle to sustain a 25-man raid team, it isn’t uncommon to see guilds taking a 10-man core with 10 or 15 social members and pugs into a 25-man raid, and downing bosses. BC saw a proliferation of ‘Casual Raiding’ guilds, and the new model in wrath will only serve to reinforce this trend.

WotLK has further improved 10-man raiding options, providing both 10- and 25-man versions of all raid instances. This means that guilds with 10-man teams can access all of the raid content, without having to struggle to pug another 15 players. The 25-man versions do provide better loot, however, rewarding those guilds that do manage the 25-man versions.

What all of this means, for people going back to do BC raids, is that some of the stuff is tuned for 25 level 70s. While you definitely won’t need 25 level 80s to manage it, I suspect some of the content will be very difficult, or even impossible, for a 10-man team. That said, if you can throw together 15 or 20 players, almost all of this stuff is definitely accessible to the casual player, although you will have to do some homework for some of it if you don’t have someone experienced along.

Karazhan

Karazhan was the first raid most players encountered in BC. It’s a 10-man raid tuned for players sporting mostly level 70 rare gear, and you could certainly walk in and down a boss or two without a single epic in your whole group. There are a few tricky boss fights, but nothing that a little homework won’t solve. Even so, you’ll be hard-pressed to put together 10 level 80s without having at least one or two along who know most of the fights. I imagine you could clear kara with a group of only 5 level 80s, or at least come close, although the chess event might be a challenge with only 5 players. This is a good fun raid, and if you want some light easy ‘old-school’ raiding, this is the way to go. An experienced and well-geared group of level 70s can clear this in two to three hours without difficulty.

Gruul’s Lair

This is generally considered the ‘next-easiest’ instance after Kara, however it is a 25-man raid. It was certainly the first 25-man raid most guilds worked on. There are only two bosses in here: High King Maulgar (a tricky multi-boss fight) and Gruul the Dragonkiller. Even the best-geared group of level 80s is going to have to either take along someone who knows the fights, or do some research: these fights cannot be ‘zerged’. If you do happen across a group going here though, I’d say it’s worthwhile: it’s a good fun instance, it doesn’t take long to complete (if the group doesn’t just chain-wipe), and Gruul himself is an impressive (and fun) boss fight. Unless you happen across a group, however, it’s probably not worth setting out to get a run together. It’s worth noting that the first boss fight is actually the trickier one: Gruul himself requires people to pay a bit of attention, but it doesn’t require the same careful planning as the HKM fight.

Gruul’s Lair is located in the Blade’s Edge Mountains in Outlands.

Magtheridon

This is similar to Gruul’s lair in a lot of ways. There’s only one boss, minimal trash, and it requires a similar gear level as well. Most guilds progressed from Gruul to Mag. The homework required for this place is a bit lighter, especially since they nerfed the ‘cube’ mechanic. You will need to read up on it a touch, and you need to dish out a couple of jobs to people (and failure to do these jobs on time can be a raid-wiper), but the whole fight is a little simpler than getting a Gruul run sorted out. I suspect that you’ll have more success running Mag without any experienced players than you would doing Gruul. If you don’t have much time but can get 15 or 20 players together, this is a great BC raid to have a stab at.

You can find the entrance to Magtheridon’s Lair at the foot of Hellfire Citadel, on its western side.

Zul’Aman

Now, ZA was actually introduced rather later in BC than most of the ‘later’ (harder) raids. It was actually introduced to combat the problem that there was nowhere for 10-man raiding guilds to go after kara, and also to be in a format more accessible to the ‘casual’ raider who can’t manage long sessions of raiding. While each of the bosses has something unique which has to be dealt with, the strategies are fairly simple, and the bosses are to some extent zergable (probably more so to a well-geared group of level 80s). It was placed to fill the gap between kara/mags/gruuls and the later raids, and to be accessible with gear from kara and heroics.

ZA is a fun instance with great atmosphere, and it is probably the number one raid I’d recommend. Kara is longer, trickier to navigate, and you’re more likely to have seen it anyway. If you want to go back and do one instance, and you want it to only require 6-8 players and be relatively easy, ZA is your raid. Oh, by the way, it’s located in the Ghostlands, in Eastern Kingdoms. It also sports the first well-known ‘non-boss’ boss: the gong boss. It’s mostly a problem if people are too impatient to get started.

Serpentshrine Cavern

Straight from the gong boss to the elevator boss: this one has claimed the lives of countless ‘noobs’. SSC, as its commonly shortened to, is a 25-man raid in Coilfang Reservoir, in central Zangarmarsh. Progression-wise, it comes after Mag/Gruul/ZA. Its layout is quite unusual, and if you’ve never been here, it’s worth grabbing a mate, creating a raid group, and going in for a look. If you can manage not to ‘noob-up’ on the elevator boss, you can have a bit of a look at the instance without pulling a single mob. Unfortunately, due to the unusual layout and tricky bosses, trying to raid here without an experienced leader is probably going to result in some serious wiping, even with a group of 80s. That’s if you can find your way to the bosses, anyway.

If you stumble across a group with a leader who knows what’s going on, this is a fun raid. I guess I’m saying that about all of the BC raids, but there’s a reason people go to so much effort to see all of this content. If you’re going to pick and choose bosses, do The Lurker Below (take someone who’s bothered to level their fishing skill!) for a bit of fun, and Lady Vashj (for something that’s more challenging).

The Eye (Tempest Keep)

Technically the 25-man raid in Netherstorm is called The Eye, but it’s more commonly referred to by the name of the instance hub, Tempest Keep. Difficulty-wise, it’s just a bit tougher than SSC. Unfortunately, there’s no tourist pass available: unless you have the group to down some rather nasty (and large!) trash pulls, you won’t see much. The boss fights in here that are worth seeing are fun because they’re complex: don’t try this without a few people who know what’s going on. A’lar and Kael’thas (the first and last bosses) are both enormously entertaining fights, and I’d say this is one of the more worthwhile raids to watch out for an opportunity to do. The second boss (Void Reaver, also known as ‘Loot Reaver’) isn’t very interesting and has some annoying trash to clear, and Solarian is just a bitch; don’t bother (your experienced raid leader won’t want to anyway).

Mount Hyjal

This instance, located in the Caverns of Time, is an absolute must-do for any lore buff. You get to fight alongside both Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall, and the instance culminates in you defeating Archimonde (hopefully). On top of that, MH is just plain fun, and has great scenery. It’s my favourite instance of the Burning Crusade. The whole instance is comprised of a number of waves of trash, followed by a boss; kind of like the Opening of the Dark Portal instance, but much more epic. Seriously: grab 15 or 20 mates and come zerg this. The trash, and perhaps the first boss or two, is zergable with virtually no knowledge of what’s going on (with a decent-sized raid group of 80s, anyway), but if you have access to someone who knows the strats, try to do the whole thing: the last boss is a whole stack of fun, if you don’t mind wiping a bit while you learn it.

Oh, and Mount Hyjal has a free tourist-pass as well; you can zone in and have a good look around without having to kill a single mob.

Black Temple

Prior to the release of the Isle of Quel’danas content patch, this was the toughest raid in the game. There are a whole bunch of different bosses, and you will need a raid leader who knows what’s going on. There are some very interesting boss fights, and if Mount Hyjal isn’t an option but you have a good group and an experienced leader, this place is worth a look. While you won’t get to experience Illidan as a progression fight at the intended difficulty, he’s probably still going to be a fun fight at level 80, and plenty capable of wiping a group that gets something wrong. After the 3.0.2 raid nerf, BT was clearable by an experienced group of 70s in 2-3 hours, but you should probably plan on taking longer if your group isn’t comprised mostly of people who’ve run the place dozens of times.

The Black Temple is located in eastern Shadowmoon Valley.

Sunwell

The pinnacle of BC raiding. This place was seriously hard, and I suspect it will challenge people even at level 80. I’d suggest taking at least 20 people along to here, and preferably a few people who know the instance. Mostly-inexperienced groups will wipe here, no matter how epic they are. There are some mechanics that can dish out some ridiculous amounts of raid damage, and to be honest, clearing this place will probably be hard even for a group of level 80 players. If you can field a 25-man team and have some spare raiding time each week, this place will give you some excellent experience in working as a team, and you’ll get a fairly prestigious achievement to go along with it if you can clear the place. Very few people have ever downed Kil’jaeden, and it will be a tough achievement even with the new expansion out.

Redux Redux

So, looking back at all of this, what should you see? What should you skip? I’m going to assume you saw nothing of instancing or raiding in BC; skip where appropriate.

Instance-wise, lore-junkies will want to catch both of the Caverns of Time instances. For nice quick runs, look at either Mechanar (in Tempest Keep) or Steamvault (in Coilfang); if you have more time on your hands, Botanica (again, in TK) and Shadow Labs (in Auchindoun) should be fun. Oh, yeah. Do Magister’s Terrace. There are very few experiences anywhere in WoW to match swimming around in an anti-gravity field dodging giant blobs while you try to dps a boss like Kael’thas. Oh, except possibly 2-manning him from about 40% to a kill on your first ever attempt. That was crazy fun.

Raid-wise, there’s a lot to see, and most of it is excellent. Zul’aman is a must-see; you’ll only need 6 or 8 mates at level 80 (or even fewer), and you can do it in a few short sessions if you like. With an experienced group, the whole place shouldn’t take much longer than some of the bigger instances; keep in mind that the timed event only allowed 45 minutes or so to down the first 4 bosses, and people were managing that at level 70, pre-nerf.

Even with only one other mate to form a raid group, you can have a bit of a look around both Mount Hyjal and Serpentshrine Cavern, and if you haven’t seen them, I’d highly recommend you take the time. In fact, grab 20 or so mates and go zerg some stuff in Mount Hyjal; it’s my pick of the BC raids, and you won’t need much strategy early on. If you can find someone who knows the fights to take the group through, you should be able to experience the Archi fight, which is great fun.

The Eye is worth a look for the fun boss fights, but you’ll almost definitely need a guide; the boss fights are very complicated. Jump in a group if you see one going, but don’t go out of your way. The same goes for Black Temple.

Sunwell is still probably going to be guild-only territory if you want to down a few bosses. The fights require learning, and you can’t simply out-gear and out-level it and hope to get by. If you do get the opportunity to participate in a Sunwell clear, however, go for it; only a very small fraction of the WoW population will ever see the later bosses in here.

There you go; Burning Crusade in a nutshell. It was a great expansion with some excellent content, and if you missed it, take a few hours here and there to see the sights. I think you’ll find it well worth the effort.

What do you think? Have I missed any real gems? Are you shuddering at the thought of setting foot inside Shadow Labs ever again? Is there a quest-line so compelling that it just has to be done? Do tell. In the meantime,

Happy Druiding,

Althura.

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2 Comments

  1. Kinzlayer said,

    November 26, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    tehehe, I never saw anything past Kael and Vashj so it will probably be awesome to see if there will be any “old-time” raids for MH/BT/SW but I do agree with you on SSC, some of my fondest memories were from there.

  2. Keith said,

    February 16, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    great post. Just as an aside, CoT is also accessible through a portal in Dalaran in the Violet Citadel.


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