Crucible of Storms Unlocks Today!

Deep beneath Stormsong Valley, and hidden underneath the Shrine of the Storms, an ancient and powerful evil has rested. Waiting for the right moment to reemerge after countless millennia. N’zoth has been described as the lesser of the Old Gods in terms of power, yet what he lacks in other areas he makes up for in cunning. The God of the Deep has been planning something, and making deals with some very powerful individuals. The most well-known is Queen Azshara, who originally made a deal with the Old God after the Well of Eternity imploded and drowned the queen herself and much of the remaining Highborne. Queen Azshara and her Highborne were transformed into the monstrous Naga, where they rebuilt their city and boded their time for 10,000 years… But another entity has taken the forefront recently, one that players who have finished the little intro questline for the Crucible of Storms raid will recognize.

Patiently waiting…

Courtesy of Baernklaw

Xal’atath, Blade of the Black Empire

Xal’atath is the mysterious artifact weapon that Shadow Priests wielded to fight the Legion during last expansion. After the wound appeared in Silithus, players used the remaining power in all their artifact weapons to stabilize the world and we assumed Xal’atath was lost as well. Surprise, surprise, the dagger winds up in Stormsong Valley in the hands of the Naga. Wielders of Xal’atath knew that the blade occasionally whispered to you, just like Old Gods love to do. That, and the fact that the Black Empire was a vast Old God civilization on Azeroth before the Titans brought order, tells us that Xal’atath is an Old God-like creature. Is she an actual Old God? Does she fight for the same team as them? Who is Xal’atath? We don’t have the answers yet. But this questline, in which we accidentally help and free her, helps to provide answers while giving me a whole lot more questions!

Xal’atath and her vessel

She is clearly a creature of void and very old, if her whispering is to be believed. After the player collects the three artifacts used for a gigantic storm ritual, they are lured to the bottom of the Crucible of Storms for a meeting with N’zoth himself. After Xal’atath delivers the three artifacts and you, “the Opener”, she strikes a deal with the Old God to set her free from her imprisonment. So, was she merely a herald for N’zoth who struck a bargain in exchange for greater power? Was her allegiance to N’zoth only as far as securing her freedom from the dagger? I think that the story is hinting to something else, and that Xal’atath has some big plans of her own. Now that she has been freed, there’s nothing stopping her from doing as she pleases. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see her again soon, because she tells us as much before she departs the Crucible. I have just finished the raid myself which might give us some answers, but really just a lot more questions.

The Crucible of Storms

This is a two boss mini-raid that serves as a good bridge between the faction war of 8.1 and the Naga and Old God-themed story in 8.2. Over the course of the expansion we have received hints and tidbits of Old Gods, just knowing that it’ll be a much bigger deal in the story. In fact, I believe that the faction war is laced with Old God influence and the disorder on the surface of Azeroth is ultimately helping the Old Gods regain power. This raid is excited more than just for the reason of story shift. Crucible of Storms is important because it is N’zoth. After wondering where a gigantic kraken-like Old God could possibly be located, we finally found him resting in the deepest part of the ocean off of Stormsong Valley. It’s fitting that he’s been hiding under a giant stone statue of a kraken, but I guess I thought it a little too obvious. But it’s from the Crucible of Storms that he’s been planning something that he says will change the world. And I believe him.

As we enter his “sanctum” (room with the largest Old God eyeball) and fight the final boss, he tells us that we show promise. That we are going to serve him well and help him achieve whatever his goal is. It’s almost as if he has been waiting for us there, and expected that we’d kill one of his most faithful servants. Uu’nat, Harbinger of the Void, serves N’zoth’s will. What if his ultimate purpose was to be slain by us, the Opener? And then, after the fight, we notice the Blade of the Black Empire is missing. When we alert King Anduin, he expresses concern that Sylvanas has somehow stolen the dagger. With that, she could cause even more damage and keep the faction war going. And what’s the deal with players receiving N’zoth’s gift? Are we walking around Azeroth cursed by the void, unaware that we are the reason for N’zoth’s arrival? The future is uncertain, except that Azeroth might never be the same. And what is the circle of stars?

What did I see?

Patch 8.1 – Tides of Vengeance!

The first major content patch finally went live on the 11th, and it was just what I needed as a player. I’ll admit that I had been in a bit of a slump with WoW and when I did log in, it was mostly to do my Emissary quests for my 1500 rep and then log out. I didn’t know how to feel either way about the patch, and I wasn’t particularly excited about the Darkshore Warfront after getting burnt out in Arathi (but I do enjoy killing rares for a chance at sweet mounts). I had forgotten that a very important part of 8.1 involves a quest-line where Tyrande undergoes the ritual of the Night Warrior, a very spooky process where most people who have attempted it in the past have died. Fun, right?

Becoming The Night Warrior

While there isn’t a lot of information yet about what being the Night Warrior really means, we do know that it’s Elune’s wrathful side and successfully invoking that side of her, like Tyrande did, means that Tyrande has become the avatar of Elune’s wrath. Elune is the goddess of The White Lady, one of Azeroth’s two moons, and is primarily worshiped by the Night Elves. Elune has different faces or aspects, and the Night Warrior aspect is probably the dark side of the moon.

This side of Elune is unsettling, to say the least. When we usually imagine Elune, we think of the gentle moonlight or the peaceful quiet of the forest. The goddess is not usually depicted as a warrior or even willing to fight at all, so Elune bestowing her wrath upon Tyrande is important. It’s also worth noting that in order to start the ritual Tyrande tossed the head of an Orc in a moonwell, which then turned an inky blue black. If you go to the updated Darkshore and look up at the sky, you can see the moon hanging high in the sky. It looks dark and imposing, and the sky itself seems to part for it.

Beautiful Yet Terrifying

Has Elune Forsaken Us?

The Ritual of The Night Warrior is not a gentle beseech for help by a Priestess of the Moon. No, invoking Elune’s angry side is a demand by a person who seeks vengeance. Tyrande, former High Priestess of Elune, is angry and vengeful and believes that Elune let Teldrassil burn. The Night Elves have worshiped and prayed to Elune for millennia, and have largely been peaceful nomadic types since the Shattering (Well of Eternity collapse). But the Night Elves are still battle hardened, being one of the oldest races on Azeroth, and have aided in battle as members of the Alliance. The burning of Teldrassil, their home since the War of the Ancients, plunged their world into darkness and chaos. I’ll admit that I’m excited to see some bad-ass Night Elf battles in the future, because they are truly skilled fighters.

We still don’t know who or what Elune really is. Until now, she has always seemed to be a benevolent goddess and an almost mother-like figure to the Night Elves. This new face of darkness is concerning, and I can’t shake the feeling about the new Night Elf eyes are just plain freaky. Not only was Tyrande altered in appearance and power, but anyone who bore witness to the ritual now sports dark blue eyes. I think that this new arc won’t end well for Tyrande, either with her being consumed with wrath or being a pawn of evil. The mysteriousness of Elune makes for a good story, and I’m glad to see more Night Elf-themed story.

It’s Not Just A Phase, Mom

The Darkshore Warfront

The second Warfront in BfA pleasantly surprised me! I expected a Warfront with an almost identical formula to Arathi’s, except with a different setting. What we got instead was an improved Warfront experience, gathered from trial and error. The whole thing feels stream-lined and just flows much better. Gathering resources isn’t nearly as tedious, and it seems easier to stick together and fight lots of stuff. I don’t know how different it really is from Arathi, but it seems much more natural, and I’m probably a little biased because I just love Night Elf content. Bottom line is I’m enjoying it and I didn’t get nearly as confused in Darkshore wondering what I should be doing next. It’s all “go go go” whereas in Arathi there seems to be some slow points. Maybe it’s just that everyone has gotten the hang of Warfronts by now, so there’s not as much of an awkward phase.

Where Did The Orc Head Go?
Lor’Danel Plague-ified
Getting Ready To Fight Sira Moonwarden

I’m not sure if the end-bosses will rotate like in Arathi, but killing Sira at the end is one of my favorite parts. She has a mechanic that I really like and uses the entire boss platform. I’m looking forward to more fun boss fights as it’s a big improvement from the bosses in Arathi, who weren’t very fun for me.

So What Do I Think?

There’s a lot more content to cover in 8.1, and this post inevitably turned into Night Elf Appreciation Day. For instance I didn’t talk at all about the new war campaign stuff for the Alliance, which is really cool. The new patch also added World Quests in both Warfront zones, which I’m super excited about and was hoping for. The two new raids, Battle for Dazar’Alor and Crucible of Storms won’t be out until early next year, so there will be lots to talk about when those are live. For now, I’ll leave you with my thoughts thus far…

I’m enjoying 8.1. This patch has done just what a major content update should, which is make me excited to log in and participate in that content. The Night Warrior quest-line set the tone for me and was a perfect introduction to the Darkshore Warfront. Being reminded of all the tragedy that the Night Elves have gone through since this expansion began really helps to associate the Warfront with certain emotions, and that’s really what I look for in games. With Darkshore came new rare bosses, mounts, pets, and toys, which are easy to get even if their drop rates are kind of low. The new series of war campaign quests were fun and give a little background into the upcoming Battle for Dazar’alor raid, and I hope that the Crucible of Storms gets the same treatment even though it’s only a two boss mini-raid. Overall, I’m looking forward to experience all of what 8.1 has to offer.

The Siege of Lordaeron

On Tuesday we got the conclusion to the three week pre-patch event leading into the new expansion. After last week’s disappointing amount of content, and the sheer confusion and anger seen from the playerbase, I tried my best to not get my hopes up. But with the Siege came a really cool scenario, one I was hoping for all along, and we also got several new cinematics all of which I thought were very well done. We got the excited, fist-bumping moment when Jaina road in to help the Alliance on a flying ship. Not just any flying ship, but the same ship she raised from under the sea, which was also her father’s ship many years ago. While I don’t have many pictures from the scenario itself, I recorded the whole thing which turned out to be twenty minutes. Because I’m having so much fun editing videos and posting them here, I’ll probably try to trim the clip down and remove the cut scenes. What I did do is make a short video of me exploring Tirisfal Glades and the aftermath of the battle.

Being able to fly all the way to Tirisfal and know that the whole place will probably be Alliance controlled next expansion made me giddy. There’s just something about playing through Warcraft 3 and seeing Arthas start the chain of events that led to Lordaeron’s downfall, and then being there in-game to see the Alliance reclaim it. I mean, sort of. As you can see, the whole blight thing is kind of a problem but I’m sure something can be done about that, right? I didn’t even have to add music to this video because the in-game music is awesome, and I’m not sure if it was always there but I’m assuming that it’s new.

If you were watching Blizzcon 2017 or keeping up to date with WoW news, you already knew that Lordaeron was going to be made uninhabitable. We didn’t know exactly how it was going to play out, but we knew that Alliance wouldn’t be getting a new hub. At least not yet! But even though I knew walking in to the scenario that Sylvanas was going to plague bomb the city, it was still shocking to watch. And if you have played through the scenario on the Horde side, you can see that even the other Horde leaders are surprised too.

Fallen Alliance Soldiers

Grieving Horde Citizens

I am still confused about Sylvanas’ actions, but there is no denying the toll those actions have taken on both the Alliance and Horde. It still seems to me that her motives have not been made clear yet. I could be overthinking the whole thing because I don’t like the direction Sylvanas has been going lately. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that the tragic character who has been through so much bad stuff is actually acting evil. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when she orders the blight to be spread even though Horde soldiers are still on the battlefield, only to raise them in undeath. But something about it doesn’t seem convincing enough to me. Sylvanas has never been a one-dimensional character, she has always been multi-faceted right from the start. The story of how she failed to save Quel’Thalas from the Scourge and took those emotions with her into undeath always intrigued me. Yet Blizzard keeps telling us to be patient, and the expansion isn’t even out yet so it’s probably too early to be drawing any conclusions.

Overall, I really enjoyed the scenario. I loved the cinematics and the thrill of seeing Jaina,  and seeing Anduin starting to grow into his duties as King. Something else that I liked, but wasn’t expecting, was the short exchange between Saurfang and Anduin. I was terrified that we were going to be forced to kill him, but instead he was taken away to the Sormwind Stockades (probably not for long). Anduin respects Saurfang and his values, which is why I think Anduin is going to help Saurfang usurp Sylvanas and become Warchief. Much in the same way the Alliance had a hand in helping Vol’jin become the Warchief. I think that would be a really smart move for the Alliance, and definitely for the longevity of the Horde. After all, we only have to wait four days to see where the story takes us.

War of the Thorns: Chapter 2

Yesterday part 2 in the three week time-gated pre-patch event went live on the servers, and I along with many other players crowded at the docks of Rut’theran Village just waiting for the moment the new quest would appear. After all the build up and frankly anticlimactic conclusion to the previous week’s questline, I was ready for an epic battle in which I knew would probably result in Teldrassil going up in flames. I was ready for some of the puzzle pieces to start fitting together, and for everyone’s question of who burns Teldrassil? to finally be answered. What we got instead were maybe four or five quests that really don’t do a good job of advancing the story or give us the epic battle that I’m sure many of us were expecting. Now there are things I did like about this week’s quests, but I’ll talk about those a little later.

When I started the first quest and discovered that the Horde have scaled the mountains of Felwood into Darkshore and took the village of Lor’Danel by surprise, I was excited. When I read that first quest I felt a sense of urgency to keep going and see what happens. When I reached the village I was given three quests which involved saving innocent citizens, and killing members of the Horde and taking out their leaders. After that there was a showdown between Sylvanas and Malfurion that left the demigod near death, but Tyrande arrived just in time and they were allowed to flee Kalimdor and seek refuge in Stormwind. It is unclear if Sylvanas is aware that Malfurion is still alive, as she entrusted Saurfang to finish the job for her. That whole thing confused and angered me because it struck me as lazy writing. Tyrande abandoned her people while Darnassus burned, something that seemed out of character for the High Priestess of Elune and leader of Darnassus. If she stayed and fought or went to help her people, that could have expanded the questline, but instead all we got was one last quest in which we attempt to save Darnassian citizens then we are rewarded with a mount for what feels like minimal effort. The whole questline probably takes around 15 minutes, if that, and was not an epic conclusion to the burning of the World Tree like we all wanted.

Defending Lor’Danel

The whole pre-patch thus far feels rushed, and the idea that the catalyst for war between the Horde and Alliance is the new Azerite resource seems forced. If Azerite is the driving force behind Sylvanas wanting to occupy Darnassus, then shouldn’t it be more present in the story? I understand that the expansion is still two weeks away and I really haven’t read what the War Campaign will be like, but Sylvanas’ reasoning for going to war confuses me. She expects the Alliance to submit to her after the burning of Teldrassil which is an, admittedly, terrible and sad outcome of this week’s events. In the Horde questline, she explains that she wants to control Darnassus in order to control the flow of Azerite leaving Kalimdor. While that makes sense to me, the importance of Azerite needs to be shown in game. After what happened in Silithus, I expected our pre-patch event to be there and involve us building up our small Alliance/Horde bases or something like that.

The Burning World Tree

Darnassus Burning

However, even though I main an Alliance character, it still bothers me the way that Sylvanas is depicted in these events. She is seemingly being written as a villain for no reason, when in fact she has done many good things for the Forsaken and is shown to care about their plight. Personally, I think she has some reason for her actions that is being hidden from us or she is being manipulated somehow by the Old Gods. Above all, I don’t want another Garrosh situation as that has been done before and would be lazy writing. I hope her’s is a story of redemption.

Even with my disappointment, there are things I did like about the events this week. If you were playing Horde, you got to see firsthand the Sylvanas Warbringers video, which was inserted into the final quest instead of a stand-alone video like the Jaina one. I have been fascinated by Sylvanas and her story since Warcraft 3, and seeing Blizzard tell her story in the Warbringers animated art style was great. We finally found out that the Elf kneeling next to Sylvanas is Captain Delaryn Summermoon, the Alliance questgiver from last week. Afterwards, I watched a fantastic video by Taliesin and Evitel Do Games that broke down the meaning of the video, and they talked about the reception of the pre-patch as well.

I also liked the final quest from the Alliance side, where players only have 2:30 minutes to evacuate 982 people from Darnassus. The futility of the quest is what makes it. It encompasses how Alliance players are supposed to feel when they figure out that they’ve lost. As a person who both mains a Night Elf and enjoys Night Elf lore, I felt sad. It was sad to see a city that always seemed so permanent and unchanging fall. It evoked the right emotions and I am not sure if we will be able to go back to Teldrassil and, if we do, I am not sure that it will be the same. After the burning and the questline was complete, and I got my glorious Hippogryph mount, I tried to take a portal to Darnassus only to wind up being ported to Darkshore instead. If you talk to a flightmaster, you will find that there are no flight points to Teldrassil anymore. This is a turning point, and I am waiting for next week when we storm Undercity and give the Horde a taste of their own medicine.

All in all, I was very disappointed by the events this week. I was hoping for some epic conclusion to the battle for Darnassus, and players did not get that. Horde players seem to have mixed feelings, many denouncing the actions of Sylvanas and others still fighting for her. The whole thing seems lackluster and is causing confusion among the players. Honestly, so far this pre-patch makes me scared for the quality of Battle For Azeroth and I hope that it is not a reflection of how rushed it feels right now. All I have to say is, I’m glad that the Kirin Tor Tavern Crawl was on the same day as patch day, because us players sure needed it!

War of the Thorns: Chapter 1

Part one of the multi-phased pre-patch to Battle for Azeroth was released yesterday, and it along with the first Warbringers video got me even more excited for BFA! While the questline itself was short, the story leading up to the burning of Teldrassil was intense. Aside from just the questline, completing it unlocked world quests in Darkshore in order to help players catch up in gear level.

Astranaar after being sacked by the Horde

Wall of Wisps at the entrance to Darkshore

Battle at the Wildbend River

Darnassian soldiers getting ready to join the war effort

As you can see, the situation does not look good for the Night Elves. The Alliance was taken completely by surprise with a diversion set up by Sylvanas, who had her gaze set on the World Tree the whole time. Sylvanas’ plan all along was to make the Alliance think that Silithus was important, and then turn her armies towards Ashenvale and marching straight into Darkshore instead. If the Horde controls Darnassus, then they control the shipments of Azerite being sent to the Eastern Kingdoms. Playing through the questline as a member of the Alliance, I was anxious to learn more about what might happen to Teldrassil. The burning of Teldrassil was announced at Blizzcon 2017 as a prelude to BFA, along with the siege of Undercity, but just how will Teldrassil fall?

Coming back and questing through Ashenvale and Darkshore made me reminiscent of a much simpler time for my Night Elf Hunter. I realized that Teldrassil and Darnassus might be changed forever in a week or two, and it might never go back to the nostalgic starting area that it has always been. As such, I revisited old questing areas and points of interest in Teldrassil after a long time away.

Darnassus in the rain

Shadowglen Selfie!

Visiting Shadowglen

Looking out from Rut’theran Village

Fishing on Lake Al’Ameth

Visiting the Oracle Glade

Darnassus from above

Visiting Dolanaar

Everybody’s favorite jerk

Going back and visiting Teldrassil made me realize just how amazing Azeroth was to me back then, and how it continues to amaze me today. I am anxious to see where the story takes us next week during Chapter 2, but I can relax a little knowing that I have made some great memories here.