Long-time readers can probably guess what this post is gonna be about. Newer readers, let me introduce you to a little raid called Karazhan:
Let’s start from the beginning: entering this place. Let’s see if I can properly do this justice.
You hit 70. You do a bunch of regular instances. You get all your rep up to Honored (or, for a little while, Revered) by doing said normal instances. You try a heroic but it kicks your butt so you do more regular instances for a while. Then you finally start doing heroics.
And then you start to think about Karazhan.
The questline for the Karazhan key– which at one point, everyone in the raid needed to have to get in– sent you flying all over the place, solving puzzles and mysteries about this mystical tower.
Then you have to do an instance. Shadow Labs. Not a huge deal, everyone is doing this instance.
Then you have to do a second instance. Steamvaults. A slightly more irritating instance (for me anyway), but still not bad.
Then you have to do a third instance, called Arcatraz. The catch is that you have to be keyed for Arcatraz, and to do so, you have to complete two other instances: Botanica and the Mechanar.
Done yet? Oh no. Then you get to go do Black Morass. Meaning you get to go back in time and help Medivh do bad things, like let the orcs into Azeroth.
Then, and only then, do you get the key.
Oh, and what an adventure awaits you then, and what further quests, because that’s right, the quests don’t stop with the key. They send you into the tower, and then they send you in again, and again, and again. They’re there to help you get keyed for the later dungeons and get you your Violet Eye rep ring, but in my mind, they were fantastically interesting in their own right.
Everything about this place is magical. Not only are the aesthetics and design beautiful, but the bosses are, as well. An undead horseman. A castellan entertaining his dinner guests, just a bit miffed that you barged in unannounced. An opera, featuring three completely boss fights of which one was chosen at random each time you did it. A chess game wherein you took control of the pieces. The ghost of Medivh’s own father, mad with grief and guilt. A giant arcane guardian, reminding you in painful fashion that you are not where you should be. And these are just a few.
And the fight mechanics themselves were, in my mind, unparalleled. I hadn’t seen any of this stuff before, and most of it I haven’t seen since. Moroes involved an ungodly amount of crowd control; priests shackling and hunters trapping, gloriously trapping.
Curator, a gear check if there ever was one, and the source of more in-jokes with my longtime WoW friends than pretty much anything else in the game.
Shade of Aran was, without question, my favorite boss in the instance. Explaining it to somebody who had never done it before was always hilarious, because it took so freaking long and you knew the new person probably wasn’t going to live anyway. Flame Wreath jokes abounded, and the ceremonial “Playing of the Chant over Ventrilo” before the fight was held sacrosanct.
Prince Malchezaar, that infuriating fight that liked to drop infernals on your head, and quite arguably one of the most difficult raid bosses I’ve ever bumped up against for an appropriately geared group. Oh gosh. I remember the first time my guild downed him. At the end of the fight one person was still alive: the tank. We had a priest in Spirit of Redemption form, and the tank. That was it.
Sadly this promptly turned into massive quantities of loot drama and QQ regarding the T4 helm, but we won’t speak of that.
Have I mentioned though that Prince is still fiendishly difficult at 80 sometimes? Sheesh.
And chess, good ol’ chess, the one fight that actually gets harder as time goes on because you tend to bring fewer people into Kara these days so you have fewer people controlling the pieces. Chess, which once pooped me out into Curator’s room after the piece I was controlling died, and since I was the loot master and didn’t get back in time we couldn’t loot the chest. Everyone had their loot a few days of GM tag later, including a new pair of boots for me.
And the best part is that somehow, the magic of that place hasn’t disappeared. Oh supposedly Medivh sucked it all up at the end of “The Last Guardian” and all that’s left are specters of the past and some other bizarre creatures. I call shenanigans on this. Because somehow after all this time I go in there and Karazhan is just as magical as it was the first time. The mere music makes me teary-eyed.
A few of my sisters, who have actually played WoW for longer than I have, but considerably more casually, recently transferred servers to Silver Hand; one of the things that I think enticed them over the most was my promise of “I’LL TAKE YOU TO KARAZHAN. I WILL SO TAKE YOU TO KARAZHAN.” because they had never been. And the other day I did just that; took one of my sisters (the other isn’t quite a high enough level yet) through the entire place with the help of some buddies. She made out like a loot bandit, since she’s sitting at level 70 but WotLK-less, but even better, she got to go on a tour of My WoW Happy Place. (And no, Attumen didn’t drop it.)
(Yes, she’s in a guild called < Tawyn's Pet >. No, it was not my idea. I swear. Why are you looking at me like that??)
And after all this time, even when I am in my temporarly Tree disguise rather than my hunter one, I still stand by my man:
My oldest group of friends in WoW is about five- or six- people strong and we all met in some random Zul’farrak run a long time ago when we were all level 40ish. Burning Crusade was our fifteen minutes in the sun and Karazhan was our peak. Some of us have stopped playing WoW, or play it much less, but we all keep in touch outside of the game, and the near-mythical status that one raid– just one raid– has reached within our little group is undeniable. Scarcely a group AIM chat goes by where someone doesn’t bring it up, and one of my friends has started posting a weekly Karazhan “comic” (more like a graphic novel, really) starring our characters on a forum that we frequent; it’s quite amazing so far and has me awaiting each Friday the way a kid would await getting his comic books in the mail.
There are other really good raids.
But there is only one Karazhan.
P.S. What was your personal “ZOMGAWESOME” raid or instance? Comment about it here or post about it on your own blog– I’d love to hear! ^_^