Monday, May 9, 2011

Naxxramas, Eye of Eternity, Obsidian Dragonshrine, Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader, Icecrown Citadel: Level 80 - Wednesday, April 4, 2011

Wrath of the Lich King was released with three raids built in for Level 80 players, and three raids were subsequently added in future patches.  The entry raid for most players after hitting Level 80 is the necropolis floating high above Wintergarde Keep in Dragonblight, Naxxramas.  

This vessel, one of Arthas' most powerful weapons, is made up of four different wings, all radiating out from a central hub.  The four wings could be completed in any order, but they all needed to be cleared before the raid's final two bosses could be accessed.  The name of each wing corresponds with the Scourge's most powerful weapons, and in order of difficulty, the wings are the Spider Wing, where the final boss is a giant arachnid named Maexxna...
the Plague Wing, ruled by the fungal monster Loatheb...
The Military, or Death Knight wing, where the Four Horsemen await you, and most be defeated all at once....
and the Abomination wing, where you encounter Thaddius, a giant Frankenstein-like creature pieced together from the bodies of the Wintergarde victims.  
Once all four wing bosses are defeated, a portal turns on in the central hub that grants you access to the Frostwyrm Lair, where you encounter the giant frost wyrm Sapphiron...
and the evil Lich, Kel'Thuzad.
Some other unfinished business that was left to take care of was that of the renegade Blue dragon, Malygos.  With the Blue Dragonflight running rampant across Northrend, the Red Dragon queen Alexstraza had no choice but to kill the insane Aspect, and sends you into the Eye of Eternity to face him.  

This one-boss raid featured a three-phase fight, the first of which was a conventional ground phase, where a tank kept Malygos busy while damage dealers went to town.  After awhile, Malygos took to the air and began bombarding the raid with magic from above, so those on the ground had to take shelter in anti-magic shells.  Meanwhile, Blue Dragonflight minions surfed around on discs like Kit Cloudkicker, also attacking the group with magic spells, so members of the raid needed to hop on their own discs and kill them.  Finally, when all of his minions had been defeated, Malygos shattered the platform in a rage, attempting to send the raid members falling to their deaths, but drakes of the Red Dragonflight showed up in the nick of time to catch the players,  and the final phase of the fight began.  
While riding drakes, the players needed to both deal damage to Malygos and mitigate and heal through the damage that he was dealing out.  Eventually, Malygos is destroyed, and Alexstraza herself shows up to commend you for your efforts.  
The final raid included at Wrath's launch was the Obsidian Dragonshrine, beneath Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight.   
This was a fairly fast raid, generally taking only twenty minutes or so, and featured the main boss in the center of a large volcanic room, surrounded by guard drakes on three nearby mountaintops.  
This fight was unique, because players could decide to increase or decrease the difficulty to their liking by killing all three of the guard drakes, or leaving one or more alive.  The more drakes that were left alive prior to pulling Sartharion, the raid boss, the harder the fight was, and the better the rewards were.  
If all three drakes were alive, and the raid was successful in killing Sartharion, they were rewarded with a black drake mount, (only one per raid, so it had to be rolled on, or awarded to just one person.)
Ulduar was released about five months after Wrath launched, and this raid took you into the Titan complex in the Storm Peaks to do battle with some old friends, and a very nasty Old God, whose destructive influence is wreaking havoc.  

While the famed explorer, Brann Bronzebeard himself admits that he doesn't have the answer to Ulduar's purpose, he is sure that it's something important.  Otherwise, why would it be so well-fortified and guarded? Upon entering, you find yourself in the formation grounds, where Brann is preparing an expedition deep into the heart of Ulduar to discover its secrets.  
The path to the entrance is massive, and crawling with mechanical constructs, so you activate a number of motorbikes, siege tanks and other vehicles in order to fight your way in.  Things are going well, until you get to the front gate, and a giant vehicle called the Flame Leviathan stands in your way.  This is the first boss in the raid, and your group must use your vehicles' unique abilities to bring it down.  
Once inside the gate, you have some optional bosses on your way to the door that will lead you underground.  They are Ignis the Furnace Master, a giant iron dwarf blacksmith, who has constructed some surprises for you once inside, and has added iron plates to Thorim's mount, Veranus, to turn her into the hostile boss, Razorscale.  

The clockwork giant, XT-002 Deconstructor guards the main entrance.  
Once underground, the Titan architecture is on display.
One fight with a unique wrinkle is against Kologarn, a construct of Ignis, who is not only a boss fight, but also becomes the bridge to the next area once you defeat him.  
Your old friend Thorim appears again as a raid boss, as twisted by Loken's unknown Master, he and the other keepers are now protecting the evil deep inside Ulduar. Beating each of them will earn their pledge to fight with you against the final boss of the raid.  
At the end of the raid, you uncover the secret of Ulduar, which is that it was constructed as a giant prison to contain an evil Old God named Yogg-Saron that even the Titans were unable to kill. Appearing as a nightmare with countless mouths, the whispers of Yogg-Saron overcame his warden, Loken, who was able to subdue the six watchers and enslave them inside Ulduar to free Yogg-Saron.  
The patch that introduced Trial of the Crusader was released about five months after Ulduar's patch, and included the final pre-Icecrown Citadel Raid.  
This new challenge was unique, because unlike any other pre-existing raid with multiple bosses, the entire instance is made up of one room, a giant arena in Icecrown.  Tirion Fordring, aware that sending large numbers of troops against Arthas only increases his forces, has decided to send a small group of Azeroth's most elite warriors against the Lich King.  In order to prove yourself worthy, you must face the challenges in Tirion's arena...and even some surprises. 
The first encounter in the arena is made up of three separate fights in quick succession against some fierce beasts of Northrend, which include twin jormungars, or giant worms.  
Other battles include one against an eredar of the Burning Legion, summoned by a gnome warlock who has bitten off more than he can chew...
and a fight against the Alliance or Horde, depending on your faction.  Tempers are flaring between both factions at this point in the story, mostly due to the betrayal at the Wrathgate, although none of the leaders of either faction were behind it. Tirion's challenges are temporarily halted while Alliance players fight Horde NPC's, and vice versa, for the honor to continue.  Once you win, you face Tirion's final challenge, a battle against Twin Val'kyr.  
As you are being congratulated for your victory, Arthas shows up and destroys the arena, sending all of the players deep underground for a rematch against Anub'Arak, who is still upset about his defeat in Azjol-Nerub.  

Approximately one year after Wrath's release, the Icecrown Citadel raid was released, and players finally got a chance to take on the antagonist who had been toying with them through the entire expansion.  
You begin at the Citadel's base, where your faction leader and Tirion Fordring have managed to secure a foothold, although the way up is very imposing.  

The first boss is a dervish made up of the bones of fallen warriors and blue flame. 
It's a long way to the top, and Arthas, so you secure transport on your faction's airship from Icecrown.  
During the ascent, the tenuous truce between Horde and Alliance is shattered as you are attacked by the opposing faction's airship.  You must fight them off by firing your cannons at it, however, you also need to deal with foot soldiers who are teleporting to your deck, and enemy mages who are freezing your cannons, rendering them useless.  This is one of WoW's most entertaining raid fights.  
Once at the top of the spire, you are rudely greeted by the fallen champion of the Horde, Saurfang, who was killed by Arthas at the Wrathgate, and has been reborn as a death knight. 

Now, closer than ever to the Frozen Throne, you have a choice in the order you choose to clear the wings that will grant you access to the summit.  
The Plagueworks is a vile laboratory where Professor Putricide is experimenting with lethal concoctions to perfect the Scourge's plague.  

The Crimson Halls house the vampiric blood elves who serve Arthas, and their Blood-Queen, who is the final boss of the wing.  

Inside the Frostwing Halls, Scourge forces are draining the life from a green dragon whom they hope to reanimate as a frost wyrm.  

This boss fight is unique because, for the first time, your objective is not to kill the target, but to heal it to full.  Once you do, she kills her assailants and grants you access to Arthas' prized frost wyrm, Sindragosa.  
Finally, there's nothing left but to ascend to the Frozen Throne and face Arthas himself.  

After a fierce battle, Arthas instantly kills everyone in your raid, and gloats about how you have played directly into his hand, and proven yourselves to be the most powerful mortals on Azeroth.  His plans to reanimate you as his premium fighting force are ruined, however, as Tirion Fordring (rendered immobile by a large block of ice at the beginning of the fight) breaks free, and the souls captive inside Arthas' sword, Frostmourne, including that of his own father, return you to life and render Arthas helpless as you defeat him for good

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