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WoW Archivist: WoW's first legendary quest line

Thunderfury falls from the sky
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Not every amazing weapon is legendary. WoW has seen plenty of great weapons come and go without a single orange letter in their tooltip. But let's face it: legendaries are the most interesting and coveted items in the game.

In patch 5.4, many players who have never before been able to equip a legendary item will have their first opportunity, thanks to Wrathion's schemes. The quest line for our legendary cloaks has been the longest and most elaborate legendary quest line to date, spanning over multiple tiers of raiding.

But how did it all begin? What was WoW's first legendary quest line? Let's take a look back to remember the legend of Thunderfury.

Legends of the Core

Molten Core originally had two legendary items. One was a mistake. The other was Sulfuras, the hammer of Ragnaros himself. Sulfuras had no associated quest line. A blacksmith forged the Sulfuron Hammer. Then, if you were lucky enough to loot the Eye of Sulfuras from Rags, you could combine it with the epic weapon to form the legendary version.

Sulfuras remained WoW's only available legendary item until patch 1.6. The patch added Bindings of the Windseeker to the loot tables of Garr and Baron Geddon. Looting one meant you could embark on WoW's first legendary quest line.

Like most legendary quest lines, the Bindings were limited by class. Only warriors, paladins, rogues, and, strangely enough, hunters could accept the first quest. The fact that hunters could pursue a quest line for a melee weapon did nothing to dispel the notion that "all loot is hunter loot." Despite the elemental lore behind the weapon, shamans were left in the cold, since they could not equip swords.

Of course, to obtain one Binding -- let alone two -- you had to be extraordinarily lucky. The bindings have an approximate drop rate of 4%. Because the left and right halves are not identical, you needed the two separate drops from both bosses to complete the quest line. The odds of accomplishing this were very low.
Thunderaan
Thunderaan's prison

Once you had one binding or the other, you had to journey to the far northwest corner of Silithus. There, you spoke with Highlord Demitrian, apparently a supporter of Prince Thunderaan. Thunderaan is the son of Al'Alakir the Windlord, the elemental king that we faced in Cataclysm's Throne of the Four Winds. Ragnaros fought and defeated Thunderaan, which is why Garr and Geddon have the bindings that contain the prince's trapped essence.

When you brought him a binding, Demitrian presented you with the Vessel of Rebirth. This legendary item officially kicked off the quest chain. Through the vessel, Demitrian claimed, Thunderaan could be restored. "Bring the world to its knees if you must!" he tells you.

The next step practically required that. Obtaining the other binding was but one part of it. In all likelihood it took you months of raiding Molten Core to get one.

You also had to defeat Ragnaros for the Essence of the Firelord. This was the easy part, although Ragnaros was no pushover for many raiding guilds in mid-2005.

Smelting your way to success

Finally, Demitrian required ten Enchanted Elementium Bars. Collecting the bars was not just a matter of hitting up the auction house (although the AH could help). This was a painful process, and the help of a large raiding guild was essential.

One crucial ingredient was an Elementium Ingot. These ingots only dropped in Blackwing Lair. Not coincidentally, BWL went live in the same patch as the Thunderfury quest line.

Creating each enchanted bar also took one Fiery Core, which dropped in Molten Core. Three Elemental Flux were mercifully vendor-bought items, but added 90 gold in costs, which was a significant amount of cash in vanilla.

Each bar also required ten Arcanite Bars. The recipe to transmute one Arcanite Bar had a two-day cooldown. Since you needed ten Arcanites to make one Elementium Bar, and you needed ten Elementium Bars for the quest, you needed a total of one hundred Arcanite Bars. That translates to 200 days' worth of alchemy cooldowns. Fortunately, you could usually find some on the auction house, but they were by no means cheap.

Gathering the materials was not the only step this quest required. You needed someone who knew how to smelt the raw ingredients into the finished bars. The smelting recipe also came from Blackwing Lair, and the method to learn it was unique, to say the least.

A priest had to mind control a goblin within the raid called Master Elemental Shaper Krixix. Once Krixix was under your control, you could command him to teach the recipe to a miner in your raid. When Wrath launched, Blizzard added a book to Krixix's loot table. You can now learn the recipe from the Goblin's Guide to Elementium.
Thunderaan defeated
The prince reborn

With the bindings, the essence, and the ten bars in hand, you returned to Demitrian. He was, in a word, stoked:

Even in dreams I did not dare foresee this day.
Behold, mortal.
BEHOLD HE WHO IS OLDER THAN EXISTENCE!
BEHOLD HE WHO HAS FACED TITAN AND GOD ALIKE!
RISE MY MASTER! BREAK FROM YOUR BONDS!

If you didn't have a raid with you as you turned in the quest, you soon found yourself face to face with Thunderaan himself, all by your lonesome. And very soon after that you were dead.

Completing the quest immediately summoned Thunderaan, a 40-man raid boss. Finding people to help put him down was not a problem during the classic era. When you told people in Orgrimmar or Ironforge that you were going to summon a one-time raid boss as part of a legendary quest chain, they would beg you to let them help. And anyone in the vicinity when he popped up would leap into the fray whether they were part of the raid or not.

It's a bit disappointing then, that Thunderaan was so easy. A group of 20 players could handle him. He had two abilities: a melee AOE knockback/silence and a chain lightning/stun that hit everyone within 45 yards. After all the buildup, the Prince of Air turned out to be little more than a tank and spank.

When you defeated him, his sword dropped to the ground and became lootable for the person who spawned him. The Dormant Wind Kissed Blade gave you the followup quest.
Thunderfury's proc in action
Blade of the Windseeker

When you returned to Demitrian, he cowered before you.

Please, do not harm me! Take it! Take the blade! Leave Demitrian to reshape his pathetic life!

You received Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker, and you were awesome.

Players considered Thunderfury by far the greatest tanking weapon in the game throughout vanilla. Back then, agility granted both dodge and armor, as well as crit. Stamina of course was always good. The two resistances were highly sought after for Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, and Ahn'Qiraj.

The proc, however, was what made the weapon so amazing for tanks. The proc hit five enemies for nature damage, so it was great at picking up threat on multiple enemies during a time when tanks had few options for doing that. It lowered enemies' nature resistance, too. That made them more susceptible to future procs but also helped other players deal more damage. Best of all, it slowed the attack speed of your target by 20%. A boss with that debuff dealt far less damage to a tank.

Most guilds lucky enough to have a Thunderfury gave theirs to the main tank. A few gave the weapon to melee DPS, but such players had a tough time with the sword. The threat from the proc carried about one Sunder Armor's worth. (That was a lot.) At the time, threat was often a bigger throttle on your DPS than class resources like energy. The weapon hit hard -- sometimes too hard.

Speaking as a player who mained a hunter through all of vanilla, I really hope no guild ever gave one to a hunter.

Thunderfury evolves

Thunderfury TCG cardThunderfury and its quest line have undergone several changes since its addition to the game. In patch 1.12 it became a one-hand weapon rather than a main hand, so it can now be equipped in the off-hand slot. Patch 2.0 nerfed the threat generation of the weapon's proc, which made the sword less painful for melee DPS to wield.

At Wrath's launch, death knights were added to the list of classes that could accept the quest line. The first known death knight to earn one, Dragoth on Frostmane-EU, did so about a month after the expansion went live.

One patch later, the quest became available to all classes -- and a warlock wasted no time getting his own. Today, anyone who loots the Bindings can get their own Thunderfury, regardless of class -- even though not everyone can equip it. Keep in mind you can only get the feat of strength if you equip the sword. Your guild will still get credit if you can't.

Thunderfury also became a WoW TCG card as part of the Dark Portal set.

The legacy of Thunderfury

All of TBC's legendary items dropped from bosses directly, without requiring a quest, a hunk of magic metal, or so much as a single haughty speech from a black dragon whelp. The change sparked a debate in the community. Players argued whether receiving a legendary should be reduced to luck alone, or if you should have to earn it by completing quests.

Blizzard settled that debate rather emphatically in Wrath of the Lich King: both Val'anyr and Shadowmourne required long, grueling quest lines in addition to killing some of the game's toughest bosses.

That has been the model for legendaries ever since, right up until today. Thunderfury's quest line was not very long -- three quests in total -- but it was the first. As we embark on the final stages of WoW's latest legendary quest line, we have to give credit to crazy old Highlord Demitrian for starting the trend.
After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.

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