Together in the Darkness

It was a Saturday night on which I actually intended to be grumpy and not to do much. Then, a certain paladin found out that the weekly raid quest is XT and suggested some Ulduar silliness, to which a certain sleepy bored huntress happily agreed. Grumpily, I joined the party, a bit disappointed that a deeper run seemed unlikely, as we were just 6 people. And then, bam-bam-bam, people came online and back from AFK and all of a sudden we had a full raid standing in the icy winds of Storm Peaks. “What’s the plan?”, asked one of those who just arrived. “Full clear. Yogg dies tonight,” responded I. Because there’s little I could not get ambitious about.

Our setup was very much ad-hoc. Some new members, some who have never raided before, some who have never raided Ulduar, some who were now playing a different class/role than in Wrath. Technically, that last part includes me, because for the first time, I entered Ulduar as a damage dealer. Most of our forays into Ulduar (not all, but most) have been cases of “we don’t have the numbers/composition for ICC, let’s go to Ulduar instead”. One of the reasons not to go to ICC could of course be a shortage of ICC-ready tanks, which meant that in the replacement activity Ulduar I was most certainly required to tank. For very similar reasons, I don’t think my favourite druid got to do anything but healing in Ulduar. Okay, to be fair, it’s not like I cared much about doing anything but tanking during Wrath, so even when there were alternatives, it would just make more sense for me to stick to tanking. Anyway, this time I was Fury. Yay!

Not entirely planned, we triggered Flame Leviathan’s hard mode. I’m not a friend of lengthy wiping on him trying to get the 4-towers achievement, but it turned out, you can overgear Lev when you only overgear him enough. The vehicles do scale – with item level. And as our item levels were close to 150% of what Ulduar was built for, he actually went down on the second attempt, after the first attempt brought him to 1%. Achievement! And a rather sweet feeling, as previous attempts to get that achievement didn’t end all that well for me.

Ignis, speed kill – check. On Razorscale we decided to try for the boring achievement. And failed. The plan is to carefully bring the iron dwarves in question to low health (about 10%, it seems) and then position them in her breath, which occurs only at the end of ground phases, i.e. fairly rarely (the progress on that achievement is “sticky”, so it can – and probably has to be, considering the enrage timer – completed over several attempts and even raid lockouts). Now, the problem with “carefully bringing to low health” is that while 100k used to be a sizeable amount of health back in the day, today it’s the equivalent of a weakly quest mob. Which means that they constantly ended up with either too much health, or our attempt to get them sufficiently low just ended in premature death. After a while it really got too silly, so I suggested to reset so we can at least get the speed kill achievement. Except, she wasn’t really up for being reset by such a mundane thing as us running away. We had to get out of the instance. Picture the distance from Razorscale’s lair to the entrance. Now remember that in combat, you cannot use mounts or teleporters. The result was a fairly prolonged Platoon-esque sequence on which we were running, running, running and she was spamming us with what looked like giant Frostfire Bolts, explosions and fire and everything included. And then .. then she enraged .. and the bolts started to hit .. really hard. We were running .. and running .. but there was no escape. Not for all of us, at least. I was hit and could only lie there, expecting the inevitable. I can still hear the screams…. Ahem. Luckily we’re still talking about a computer game here, and thus “the inevitable” was hitting the release button and flying back in. And since we’re rather vengeful, we went back and killed her on the first ground phase.

XT, Heartbreaker, boom, very bad toys. It was becoming apparent just how overpowered level 85 DPS is for Ulduar. Off we go into the Antechamber. Let’s go right, I say, so those who have not yet, can take a look at the corridor that leads to Algalon’s chamber. Because it’s pretty. Let’s kill the mob guarding the door so we can run around unworried. Hey, I’ll open the door to the Celestial Planetarium (why is it that even the location names in Ulduar are so awesome, you just want to say/write them?), so everyone can have a look. Because it’s pretty. Let’s watch the pre-encounter interaction. Because it’s cool. Hmm. “Can we kill him? Please?”, asks the aforementioned huntress, who was forced to pull out of the raid on which we killed Algalon in the last week before Cataclysm. “I think we’ll just wipe,” I say. Because there’s little I could not get sceptical about. I mean, come on, half of the mechanics on that fight are borderline insta-kill, and you need a while just to adjust your eyes to the visuals. Well, I was wrong. The combination of gigantic health pools and sizzling hot DPS basically meant that we had only one Big Bang, just before the phase transition, and then we just finished him off. Observed! And much deserved Reply Code Alpha for the yet again aforementioned huntress. Pints are on me.

Onwards to the Assembly of Iron, hard mode, Steelbreaker last. Steelbreaker goes down, we stand around waiting quite a while for our tank to explode. Then the Data Disc finds a new (and mysterious!) owner, and it all begins anew. On Kologarn, we didn’t go for achievements – in hindsight we should have had. In hindsight, when you send someone who has never been there yet forward for the scare effect, you are kind of relying on their sense of taking a few steps back again when that giant pops up in front of them. In hindsight, that reliance is not always justified. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say on the other side of the pond, and it’s not like we didn’t blow up Kologarn in less than a minute even without preparation, but for achievements, some coordination would have been required. We did better on Auriaya, went for the achievement that is part of the meta, which pretty much means “blow her up, don’t touch the cats”. According to WoL, she blew up in 37 seconds. Or, as I described it, “it’s a bit weird when you just about settle into your rotation and the Execute button already lights up”.

Doing Hodir without having a Worm Song was, of course, dangerous, but we managed. Hardly surprising that the hard mode of beating him within 3 minutes was crushed with 1:08 minute. Thorim, is no secret, was actually more effort not to do on hard mode even towards the end of Wrath already. No surprises here. On Freya we decided not only to knock down her hard mode, but also to get the achievement for defeating her within 20 minutes of engaging the first creature in the Conservatory of Life. We did. Mimiron Firefighter is always scary. Until you realise that health pools of 120k+ turn “constant heavy raid wide damage” into “mild inconvenience for healers”. Which, in turn, is mostly irrelevant, since you rip through phases like it’s going out of fashion. Rocket Strike, however, is still insta kill! And no, it wasn’t me to find out. Not this time :D. Thus the quest for the Algalon key was once again completed, and we now have 3 of those in the guild.

With the Keepers beaten back to sanity, it was time for yet another awesomely named section: Descent into Madness. We were facing a predictable problem with the Vezax hard mode – not killing him (long) before the Animus could even spawn. Funny aside: he looks exactly like Erudax (end-boss in Grim Batol), and you are tempted to say “Erudax on steroids”, until you realise that Erudax actually has more health and hits harder. So, everyone on auto-attack only, sitting there, cycling interrupts, while healer mana was being slowly drained, as there is no regeneration during the Vezax encounter. Then, finally, the Animus formed, we destroyed him and, racing the OOM, ripped through Vezax.

Shall we attempt One Light in the Darkness? Of course! Shall we even attempt Alone in the Darkness? Why not! And there we were. On one hand, overpowered beyond overpoweredness. On the other hand, hardly anyone knowing anything about the fight at all. I was the only one who was also present on our first and only previous Yogg guild kill from last summer. Raw power versus one of the most complex fights ever designed in its most unforgiving mode. Of course some of the previously important details just didn’t matter anymore – the explosions of the adds in phase 1 is barely a tickle now, constricting tentacles die from a single hit already. But others, like sanity, brain links and brain portals still need to be regarded and figured out. On the first attempt I was pretty much the only one taking the brain portals at all. On the second attempt others came with me but were profusely confused by what exactly to do. On the third attempt we were being a bit chaotic inside. And then it was so late that lids started falling already. One more attempt, we said. Just one more. No shame in not killing Yogg, it’s a very complex fight.

Now knowing and understanding what exactly needs to be done in each vision (I admit it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally understood where the tentacles in the LK-vision are hiding), we split directions and assignments and .. and it worked! So well, in fact, that the outside team remarked on a lack of tentacles. The trick here being: when you kill off the tentacles inside, no more spawn outside until the brain phase ends. In the second brain phase we pushed the encounter into phase 3, where the plan was: tanks keep the Immortal Guardians away and everyone else blasts Yogg, ignoring Luniatic Gaze and sanity (in hindsight, I should have recommended the healers to permanently turn their backs on Yogg – hindsight, aren’t thou great). It was looking good. Then we started falling, one by one. And it was still looking good. And then it was just myself and our tank neither dead nor mad, my sanity and Yogg’s health racing each other to the bottom. Sanity: 3. One last Execute. One last Death Strike from our tank. One last poison tick from the now mad rogue. And there goes Yogg-Saron, down into the nightmare he created himself. Much jubilation was had at the late hour of the night. Together in the Darkness.

Why write about it? Why write a lengthy and, admittedly, not very interesting post? For one, because while it’s certainly not as exciting to read as a 3 screen-page long rant about some random douche bag refusing to do something on a PuG run no one forced the author to go on in the first place, it is a good story in the sense of being a story about good events. For another, it meant a lot to me, personally.

I started playing WoW pretty much when Ulduar was just released. It was the grand mystic place one could dream of going to when one would grow big and strong. Of course, by the time I grew big, strong and raid ready, everything but ICC was “old content” already. But the mysticism of Ulduar stuck around, with all its outstanding names. Like “Alone in the Darkness”, which I always found a fantastic name for an achievement, on so many levels. Getting that achievement, even now, was almost as emotional as defeating Algalon to me. Those were the things I dreamed of when I thought about becoming a WoW raider.

Furthermore, from the team that achieved our guild-first Yogg-Saron kill back in summer 2010, only 4 people are still members of the guild. The others left under not necessarily the happiest of circumstances when we were gunning for the Lich King, and the guild and the raid team have been rebuilt rather significantly since then. It always bugged me that Yogg is on our kill list, but most of those people who really proved their worth and loyalty through tough times, who really put an effort into making it work, were never part of what a lot of veterans (of the game) are bound to describe as an outstanding encounter for a long time. We improved that situation last night.

The journey ended in Dalaran, with all of us present on the ceremonial handing in of the Algalon quest and looking up at the sky to witness the light show. Together in the Darkness. As it should be.

3 thoughts on “Together in the Darkness

  1. Colt

    You are wrong. It was very much an interesting post. I am sad I was not part of it, but very proud of the whole dang lot of you.

  2. Scraddog

    you had fun and you wanted to share with others the fun you had ๐Ÿ™‚

    I enjoyed reading that,

    *wonders off to have his face melted by neffy*


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