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WoW Archivist: Tier 0.5, the epic conclusion

Incendius
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?

Last time on WoW Archivist, we reviewed the first half of the Tier 0.5 quest line, including the controversial 45-minute Baron run in Stratholme. As we left off, the ghost of Anthion Harmon had asked us to assemble the pieces of Valthalak's medallion. He sent you into Blackrock Depths with an enchanted banner to challenge the gladiator Theldren.

Laying down the law

The next step required a 5-player group to enter the Ring of Law inside Blackrock Depths. As you are being sentenced, you summon the Banner of Provocation. Theldren and his team step in instead of the usual BRD bosses. Now you were in for a scrap, and it was a wildly different fight that any other in classic WoW.

Theldren spawned with a mix of four teammates chosen from a pool of eight: Yes, you read that last one right. Lefty even had an ability called Five Fat Finger Exploding Heart Technique. Theldren himself was a warrior. Each boss had a potent set of class abilities. For example, Korv had Earthbind Totem, Fire Nova Totem, Frost Shock, Lesser Healing Wave, and Purge.

What made this fight so unique -- and so infuriating for many -- was that the NPCs had no traditional aggro table.

TheldrenA tank could not hold them. Instead, they actively sought out the most vulnerable members of your team -- cloth wearers and healers.

In order to win, you had to change tactics. You had to treat the encounter like a PvP battle instead of a boss. Crowd control, interrupts, and bursting down enemies were the keys here. If you weren't thorough with your CC, the battle quickly turned against you as the NPCs employed their abilities very effectively.

It made for a fun but chaotic fight. You had to use every resource in your class's toolbox. Those who weren't used to this type of battle had a steep learning curve. Since it was so different, some people despised this encounter.

Blizzard seemed to think one per expansion was the way to go, however. Priestess Delrissa in The Burning Crusade's final 5-player dungeon Magister's Terrace had a similar PvP-esque design. Likewise, the Faction Champions in Wrath of the Lich King's Trial of the Crusader offered the first raid-size, no-aggro-table boss. It's not clear whether the complaints finally reached a peak or Blizzard grew bored of the idea, but we haven't seen a similar encounter since.

Defeating Theldren meant you could loot the Top Piece of Lord Valthalak's Amulet from his corpse. An Arena Spoils chest spawned with loot.

Three kings

When you returned, Anthion revealed that the medallion contains Valthalak's soul. He sent you back to your faction's quest giver on the happy note that he would know rest in peace. You now upgraded your pants, shoulders, and boots. The boots were epic quality. The rogue boots had an interesting bonus: an increase to stealth.

Two pieces of the medallion remained to be found. On Anthion's advice, your questgiver sent you to seek out a gnome named Bodley. Since Bodley was last seen heading for Blackrock Mountain and never heard from again, the Extra-Dimensional Ghost Revealer once again comes in handy.

Bodley's ghost is so happy that you can see him that he agrees to help you on the spot. He says you will need a Hallowed Brazier and special coals to burn in it. You purchased the brazier from the Argent Dawn for 120 gold, but you needed honored reputation with them to do so. The special coals came from three bosses: the Kings of Flame.

The first two were straightforward: Lord Incendius and Pyroguard Emberseer were bosses in Blackrock Depths and Blackrock Spire. Obtaining the third coal, however, was ... complicated.

In Silithus, Twilight Cultist camps had stones that allowed you to summon bosses. To summon a boss, you needed a complete set of Twilight Trappings. Each piece was a random drop from the cultists. You needed a minimum of four sets to summon the Duke of Cinders. The first three sets let you summon bosses who drop Abyssal Crests. You could combine three crests with a Large Brilliant Shard to create a Twilight Cultist Medallion of Station. Using your fourth set with the medallion gave you a one in four chance to summon the Duke.

That's right -- if you summoned one of the other three elemental bosses, you had to start the entire process from scratch. You could guarantee the Duke if you also had a Signet of Beckoning: Fire. But obtaining those were not easy. In this quest line's heyday, people sold them for hundreds of gold on the auction house. Confronting the Duke was done safest with a full party, considering the time investment and his hard-hitting Flamestrike.

Brazier bosses

With the coal in hand, your brazier became the Brazier of Invocation. Bodley now sent you on four quests to gather four more items from all over Azeroth: Some of these locations had elite enemies and it was best to bring a friend or two along to grind for the drops.

Each item allowed you to summon a new boss inside one of four endgame dungeons:
  • Mor Grayhoof, the ghost of a shapeshifting tauren druid in Blackrock Spire. He had a Faerie Dragon Form in addition to cat and bear.
  • Jarien and Sothos, undead siblings in Stratholme. They had a nasty AOE fear and AOE Shadow Bolt.
  • Kormok, an ogre necromancer in Scholomance. He summoned waves of skeleton adds and had a Bone Armor ability that reflected damage back on attackers if it wasn't dispelled.
  • Isalien, the ghost of a night elf in Dire Maul. She summoned a hippogryph pet 10 seconds after the pull. You had to DPS the pet down while interrupting her heals.
These bosses were more difficult than average. Each one had a special loot table with items that could not be obtained in the dungeon otherwise. Because of this, the brazier allowed you to summon these extra bosses every time you ran a dungeon. It was a perk meant to serve as a big reward for completing the quest line so far. Some of them can still be summoned if you have the brazier.

Killing any one of these bosses yielded the left and right pieces of Valthalak's amulet, if you had the appropriate quest. The three pieces could be combined into Lord Valthalak's Amulet.
Bodley had a few more tasks for you before you could confront Valthalak. He had to attune the brazier. First, he sent you to Alcaz Island off the coast of Dustwallow Marsh. Back then, the island swarmed with elite naga. You had to kill the naga for 20 Bloodkelp (or stealth around and collect them from baskets). Then he requested 40 Blackrock Bracers, which dropped from orcs in Blackrock Spire dungeons, and one Flask of Supreme Power. The flask could be crafted by an alchemist. After this, finally, it was time to confront Valthalak himself.
Valthalak
The first 10-player hard mode

Lord Valthalak could be summoned in the lair of The Beast in Upper Blackrock Spire. Today we would consider him a 10-player Heroic raid boss. Back then, he was thought of as just a tougher-than-average dungeon boss. He was, by far, the toughest 10-man encounter in classic WoW. He was a challenge to solo as a level 80 player.

Valthalak had a brutal ability called Shadow Wrath. It chained to nearby targets, increasing in damage with each jump, and all the damage healed him. You had to stay spread out at all times and try to interrupt it at every opportunity. Shadow Wrath was so devastating that many groups chose to drain his mana completely so he was unable to cast this.

Necessary as it was, spreading out was not ideal, because Valthalak summoned Spectral Assassin adds. They channeled a spell on a random player called Defile. The spell was basically a stun: it rooted you and made you unable to use abilities. Unlike a regular stun, however, there was no way to break out of it on your own, even with a PvP trinket. Someone else had to interrupt the channel. If the assassins finished the ten-second channel, you died. And turned into another Spectral Assassin, which began to channel on another player. So, things could get out of hand quickly.

Good communication was essential to managing the assassins. Their channel couldn't be interrupted by normal abilities. You had to stun or disorient them -- crowd control methods that few classes had access to at the time. The best way to stop the channel was to kill them, but with multiple assassins spawning at once and ten seconds to get them down, that was a tall order.

Even with good management, if they managed to lock down both of your healers, Valthalak's AOE could kill several players very fast.

At 40%, he mercifully stopped spawning adds but went into a berserk mode with extremely high damage on the tank. Disarming him was recommended. At 15%, he began to spam Shadow Bolt Volleys that hit everyone in the raid for high damage. Healers were tested here. Guides recommended using Greater Shadow Protection Potions to survive this final phase.

Completing your set

Once you beat Valthalak, you returned to Bodley, who allowed you to keep the brazier for future use. He sent you back to your faction's original quest giver. There, you received the final Tier 0.5 upgrades: an epic helm and epic robes. Hunters had the most interesting set pieces here. They increased your pet's health by 3% and armor by 10%.

At the end of this exhausting 29-step quest line, Mokvar tells you, "There is a debt that I owe you, which I may never be able to repay." Then he becomes one of the wealthiest orcs in Orgrimmar, and instead of repaying that debt, he bribes your friends to kill you. Some gratitude there...

Even though the items can no longer be obtained, Blizzard updated Dungeon Set 2 in Mists of Pandaria. The +8 resistance bonus became a 5% bonus. I imagine this was done for level 60 twinks who still use the set.

You can purchase transmoggable replicas of the Tier 0.5 set pieces from Barum and Baruma at the Darkmoon Faire. An entire set costs 520 prize tickets.
Barum and Baruma
Policies on purples

Throughout most of classic WoW, epic-quality items more than lived up to their "epic" designation. Acquiring them took a dedicated raiding guild, luck, or a whole lot of gold. Blizzard had a much different stance on items in those days. Nonraiders were not meant to have more than one or two epics.

Even vanilla's two 20-player raids, Zul'Gurub and Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, weren't considered "raid-y" enough for full epics when they first launched. All bosses except the final boss had more rare drops in their loot tables than epics. Only in 40-man zones did every boss drop guaranteed epics.

The Tier 0.5 quest line represented a shift in loot philosophy. Earning epics became less about raw numbers and more about the skill and dedication of a group, regardless of size. This change paved the way for the epics that dropped in The Burning Crusade's Heroic dungeons and 10-player raids, and ultimately to the separate 10-player raiding track that debuted in Wrath of the Lich King.

In the history of WoW, Tier 0.5 stands alone. There has never been another quest line like it.
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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