Icecrown Citadel was supposed to be the pinnacle of raiding, the ultimate and bestestest instance not only for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, but also for the whole of World of Warcraft up to that point. I mean, you get to face the Wrath of Arthas yo, or the guy that used to be Arthas but now is a Lich and a king and has this cool new helm and blue eyes and... I don’t know, screw details and lore, I was there to kill bosses, and one thing I knew was that Arthas was going to be the most epic and insane fight we’ve yet faced. Additionally, the Arthas kill was one of the goals I’d set myself long ago and I know for a fact that it was the same for many of players in Ensidia at the time.
Icecrown Normal Mode
After all the preparation, meetings and sad attempts of motivating the raid, it was finally time to delve into normal modes and see what we can expect once heroics hit. We’d gotten some taste of it on PTR’s, but that lagfest is hardly a proper way of really experiencing content, so even though we knew how certain fights would look, no one even had an idea of the final difficulties and challenges that we’d have to overcome. Not like we were going to experience that in normal, right? I can say for myself, the second we started killing trash, the feeling was back, we were progressing again, the only time in WoW where I felt comfortable and really enjoyed myself. Soon enough Tun and I made up, we needed only three bosses to fix our problems and issues that we were bickering about for weeks and months of boredom, and I even stopped hating on the priest ballast for a second. Literally for a second. Normal modes were as expected a joke, and the most tragicomical moment was seeing gunship battle in all its glory on live servers. My god, was that a failure of an encounter. Up to then the trophy of the “worst designed encounter in any game ever” was proudly held by the car fight in Ulduar – whose name eludes me and for fear of getting flashbacks of horror I even refuse to look up its proper name. But gunship battle snatched that trophy and I bet it still has it, regardless of me not knowing any encounter past WotLK, nothing can ever be this boring and dumb, nothing! I’d rather clear Molten Core 700 times every evening with a rusty fork in my scrotum than have to do that disaster even once.
I honestly didn’t mind any encounter past the gunship debacle, in fact, all were solid except the healers-are-in-fact-dps’ers fightwere; a not so bold design choice that was in fact a gimmick we expected in every instance. And when it was finally there, the collective sigh of disappointment was such, that if a developer of that fight heard it, he’d surely fall into a depression only healable by extreme alcoholism and a gunshot to the face. Really? A fight where healers kill the boss and dpsers run around killing adds? Oh the boldness that had to take to pitch, I bet that boss meeting was a riot. YUCK. Ok, so two encounters sucked balls, but rest was ok. I really loved the Putricide fight, one of my all-time favorites I might add, and I pretty much liked the last quarter of the instance, there were some original concepts and definitely a lot of fights where we could see how they could be challenging when we finally got to heroics. Even though the stability of the server left much to be desired, it wasn’t as bad as it was in Ulduar, where on the first day you were lucky to see the server on the realm list, let alone actually enjoy the content.
72 hour vacation
There was pretty much nothing of note happening in normal modes really, all I remember was the child-like optimism I had about the heroic modes, even though deep inside I kind of did know the general impression would ultimately be ruined by gating and the limited attempt system, but who cares, I thought, a good boss is a good boss regardless of limitations – obviously not remembering what a disaster Algalon was. Eventually we stood in front of the Lich King, and there were these feelings of giddiness present, you know, what if we can really do something here in terms of world firsts. Sure, our raid could be better, motivation could be higher and bosses could be less bugged, but we had no idea how ready and hungry our opposition was, so this was it. Let’s kill this bitch, get world first normal and get ready for heroics.
When I woke up the next morning and skimmed over the guild IRC channel there was so much caps spam in anger and rage, expressed in vernacular that would make an early 20th century KKK lynching look like a kindergarten kids play date. After checking through my pm’s I still checked my email just to make sure if this isn’t some elaborate trolling, and surely as f**k it wasn’t. A mail by Blizzard Entertainment notifying me that I’ve been banned for 72 hours for the use of Saronite bombs in the Lich King encounter and thus making the encounter much easier than expected. My first thought was obviously “haha, so saronite bombs did it?” I didn’t join in the festivities of emo, rage and emorage that were present on IRC and Ventrilo; it was all so humorous to me. So Blizzard actually banned us for something we didn’t know about? While doing a broken fight with them watching us? After the last two major instances in the expansion had their main bosses being bugged beyond belief and both of them being killed first with an exploit? Did they really f**king ban us for a normal LK kill? This was so comical to me, and I didn’t even care to find out the details of it all. If ever, that was the moment of realization that I really REALLY can’t be bothered with this bulls**t anymore – namely WoW and Blizzards incompetence in dealing with the simplest of situations.
So what happened really? I don’t want to go into debates about exploiting or justification of anyone’s actions, we’ve been through it before so many times, it’s exhausting and I don’t really care about what people think about it anyway. The facts remain; we were progressing through phases of the fights steadily, until we came to the phase where Valkyries start carrying players of the ledge and throwing them over. Whoever did this fight knows that this phase is neither the hardest to figure out or the toughest to execute. People are grabbed, you kill Valkyries and people live, easy problem, simple solution. And on normal it’s even easier. In this phase of the fight the outer ledges of the room you’re fighting in are destroyed and the area where you get to kill Valkyries is much smaller than the full size of the room. But every now and then the ledges would rebuild themselves for no obvious reason whatsoever. Was it an intended mechanic or not was never really a question, since the boss had so many glaring and obvious bugs, not unlike every single other encounter of this magnitude and scale. But why was it happening was a complete mystery and not really a question we’d struggle with. Who cares, it’s normal, we have to kill the boss and go to sleep, and if we happened to do it first, that much better. If anything, regardless of how much a normal kill would really mean in the big picture, it surely wouldn’t hurt morale. We plowed through this phase with no issues whatsoever and eventually killed the boss, making a screenshot in which it was obviously shown we had a bugged ledge, a testament to how much we cared and thought about it, and went to sleep. Maybe we should have said that it was killed in a possibly unintended way, but that’s all politics, I don’t really remember how we handled it really, this was PR stuff and I never cared about PR.
But the fact remained; we got banned for the use of Saronite bombs, which obviously rebuild ledges in boss rooms. What? Our rogues, like many others, used engineering to boost their dps, where Saronite bombs were a usual item in their dps rotation. Apparently we knew that and purposely used it to exploit a phase of the boss that was too hard to handle without. Obviously, because we killed this same boss with our alts a few days later, but for our mains, it was allegedly too hard. Additionally, there were accusations of us purposely training engineering, because we knew about this exploit ahead of time, even before the instance was released, now that’s some insight! Some people are such morons, incredible.
Either way, we got banned and this was a huge blow for the morale. Members wrote blogs, complained on forums, expressed outrage in a million and one ways, but the outcome remained. 72 hour vacation, removal of all items and achievements from the boss and characters remain locked in the instance until next reset. There were too many spills of emo to count, my favorites were Kungen's blog about Blizzard’s bad design and Muqq’s twist on the Tigole and Furor rant from EQ days. I thoroughly enjoyed it to be totally honest, I feed on drama and this was drama of epic proportions. To the extent that I didn’t even care about the response of the public, it all became one big troll fest and fake outrage mixed with dissing competition and Blizzard. The whole ordeal would almost be a disaster for us, if we luckily didn’t have sufficiently geared alts with enough experience to replicate what we did with our mains. We cleared the instance, combining benchies and alts, proceeding to eventually kill Lich King – again.
This way we got access to heroic modes and stayed in the race, but the blow was struck. I can’t speak for the rest, but people I was close with and I lost any faith in Blizzard doing the right thing, even though we found this whole thing incredibly amusing. My problem was that while a heroic boss of a previous instance was killed through such a blatant exploit, and we got a three day break of emorage for a normal boss exploit we couldn’t even control, that’s just sad. Ok, you could say – and many will – that we could still wipe in every try the ledges bugged and that we could suicide all the people that didn’t get killed by Valkyries, but obviously anyone that says that has never been in any real world first contention. I mean cmon, we’re going to gimp our raid because Blizzard once again sucks in designing bosses and bombs build ledges? Please. Before someone misunderstands me, I understood why Blizzard did it completely (I just wish they banned people more often), I was just disappointed by the double standard they employed, and trust me, we were on the other side of this double standard too. We had some REALLY good treatment through the years from GM’s and devs, did I ever mention Kael’thas and entering Black Temple?
Luckily for us, normal modes were still easy enough for the alts, and even though morale was down and so many people proclaimed their intent to quit, we were still ready to roll through hard modes – until we got stomped by the second and fourth boss that is. But more on that next time, heroic modes were where the s**t hit the fan and we started to see the real face of the new Ensidia.