Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Wrath Classic Phase One Raids Part 1: Welcome to the Uncanny Valley

The past two nights of raiding were, well, weird.

As in 'fever dream' kind of weird.

Have you ever had a dream where you were performing some action, and everything felt 'off' to you, as if you were talking to someone in the dream and had a sudden Uncanny Valley effect? Or that you were performing an action in a dream which is impossible in real life --such as flapping your arms and flying around-- but everybody in said dream just assumed it was a normal thing?

Yeah, that's what raiding in Wrath's version of Naxxramas felt like to me.

The original Vanilla WoW version of Naxxramas, intended for 40 people, had both that epic feel to it and a lethality that was legendary. Very few raid teams back in Vanilla ever finished Naxxramas*, which likely contributed to Blizzard reusing Naxx as one of the intro raids for Wrath of the Lich King.

But with that recycling of existing content came, well, compromises.

Blizzard had already committed to 25 person raiding in Burning Crusade as the "main" raid**, and they doubled down on it by deciding to create separate 10 and 25 person raids for each raid instance in Wrath. I presume the idea was to allow more people to see the raid content as it was "easier" to get 10 people together than 25 (or 40), but scaling down 25 person content to accommodate a raid 40% of the original size was going to be a challenge.

In the case of Naxxramas, there were already challenges lowering the scope of the raid from 40 down to 25 people, much less a raid with only 1/4 of the original raid size. 

I knew all this in the back of my head, and I'd quickly reviewed some of the fights beforehand, but I really didn't internalize just how much had to be lopped off in Naxxramas until I zoned in.

Or attempted to zone in.


Okay, I should back up a minute.

I spent some of the last hour before Sunday's raid trying to make sure I had all that I needed. You know, things like flasks, mana and health potions, stuff like that.

Or enchants to the gear I had.

Deuce, just like OG Cardwyn, had taken Tailoring and Enchanting as professions, and I'd diligently been raising the skill level up to at least reasonable proportions. When I say "reasonable", I don't mean "I went broke in game buying mats in the Auction House so I could level up my skills," but something I could achieve that would get me some enchants I could actually use. 

So, out of a Wrath Classic maximum of 450, I hit 430 on both Enchanting and Tailoring. I had access to the Enchants I needed***, and I spent those last minutes making sure that was done. So I hopped on a Flightpoint over to Wintergarde Keep, where Naxxramas was hovering nearby, and when I arrived I began riding around, looking for the portal spot on the ground just like Classic Naxx had. 

The only thing was that I couldn't find it.

"It's gotta be around here somewhere," I muttered, dodging Scourge in the killing fields underneath Naxx. In Classic, it was a one way trip. You got in, and if you didn't have a Mage, the only way out was to Hearth. There was no exit, which is one of the famous things about Naxx.

And, unlike just about any other raid instance, there wasn't a "Here it is!" identifying stone right outside the entrance to Vanilla/Classic Naxx either.****

I finally broke down and hopped on Google and queried where the entrance to Naxxramas in Wrath Classic was.


To quote Gruber when he accidentally pulled two trash packs at once in Classic Naxx: "Oh...... shit."

You see, I still hadn't picked up Cold Weather Flying, which is required for flying of any sort in Northrend. 

I hadn't needed it, because the zones I've been questing in have been accessible via riding, and I'd been summoned to the few 5-person instances that I couldn't get to via riding (Halls of Stone and Halls of Lightning). I could deal with just riding around, since I took forever to get a mount on my first toon in WoW Classic*****, and I was perfectly fine with riding in Outland. Or not having an epic (fast) mount out there, either. 

The cost in gold was also a deterrent, because while I originally thought it was going to cost 5000 gold for Cold Weather Flying --or that I had to get Epic Flying first-- neither were the case. Still, the cost was 1000 gold, and I wasn't going to rush to accumulate a lot of gold just to get Cold Weather Flying. Dailies were simply out of the question. I've been there, bought the t-shirt, and after doing dailies in Wrath and Cataclysm (and trying to do dailies in Mists), I simply burned out on it. 

There is no joy in Mudville
For Mighty Casey had struck out burned out on dailies
--Casey at the Bat - MMO Version

Besides, my life has enough work without me creating another part-time job for myself.

So... I hadn't gotten Cold Weather Flying, but I was gonna need it to get to Naxx. And suddenly my gold that I'd felt comfortable with while leveling my skills suddenly.... wasn't that comfortable.

Fun fact: you don't have to go to
Dalaran to pick up Cold Weather Flying.
This was obviously a post Naxx pic, if you
notice the gear Deuce has on, but this
screen cap was merely for demonstration.

I quickly pooled all my gold together and managed to purchase Cold Weather Flying.


Just enough for repairs. I think.
And yes, I still have the Spectracles
from TBC Classic in my bags.
Don't judge me.

I flew back to Wintergarde Keep, got in the raid, and... I got summoned to Naxx.



Yes, you fly up into the underbelly of Naxxramas, which is where the Summoning Stone actually is. And from there you can walk right into the instance. 

Will wonders never cease?

The interior of Wrath's version of Naxxramas is as it was in Vanilla: green, slimy, glowing, and depressing. What it wasn't was what struck me: Naxx was devoid of tons of trash mobs. 

If there was one truism about Naxxramas, it's that the trash mobs would kill you if you weren't on your game. It typically took only two of the wrong sort of trash mobs to doom the raid, especially if you were just entering Naxx for the first few times and hadn't received any gear upgrades yet.#

But in the new 10 person Wrath Classic version of Naxxramas, the mobs are few and far between. "Paper thin" was how one commenter in Reddit described them, and he's not wrong. I remember dying to Scientist packs leading up to Patchwerk, wiping on Spider packs leading to Anub'Rekhan, and having my innards splattered all over the walls by the Cultist packs leading up to Faerlina, but now... Nothing. 

I almost felt sad about that. Almost.

The size of Wrath Naxx was the same, but with the reduced number of trash packs, it became almost cavernously empty. Some of the packs changed, such as replacing the mobs between Gluth and Thaddius with single oversized giants instead of a group of 4-5 "normal" sized Scourge, and far more mobs were skippable than ever. 


The first boss I encountered, Anub'Rekhan, highlighted the changes between Classic Naxx and Wrath Naxx. Original Naxx had that fight beginning with a boss and two adds, and the fight strategy was to kill the adds then have a pair of the raid --tank and a Mage (me, typically)-- babysit the adds as they will spawn scarabs from their dead bodies at some point. (Adds will periodically spawn during the fight, and they too have to be tanked and downed and babysat just like that initial bunch.) If anybody dies in the raid, they will also spawn scarabs too, so the point of the Mage is to freeze the scarabs in place before they escape and start munching on the raid, and then the tank will round them up so the raid can kill the scarabs.

Fast forward to Wrath Naxx, 10 style, and you begin the fight with just Anub'Rekhan. No adds in sight. A pair of adds spawn during the fight, and the off tank can grab those so that the raid can kill them --just like in the Original Naxx fight-- but no scarabs spawn off of them. The only time scarabs will spawn is off of the body of a dead raider, which makes the Anub'Rekhan very much a tank and spank style fight. 

Most of the other Naxxramas fights are like that: there's a shell of the original fight in place, but mechanics have been removed or reduced to accommodate the smaller raid size. Well, and also the expectation that you could potentially finish the entire 14 boss raid in one night.##


What do I think of Discount Naxx?

For those of us who ran it in Classic, it feels like "almost" the real thing. I referenced the Uncanny Valley effect, where you get that uneasy feeling when you see a robot or video of someone very close to human, but not quite human###, and that is a pretty apt description. It's not the Naxx I knew; it's a reduced version of Naxx, and there's a shell there, but it's not the same thing.

I mentioned to a few people in raid at the end of Sunday that it felt that the original TBC Classic version of Karazhan was harder than the Wrath version of Naxxramas. "Oh yeah," one person replied. "Remember trying to clear that ballroom right before Moroes?"

"Or Nightbane?" Came another.

"Or Netherspite? Yeah, Wrath Naxx is much easier."

The Sunday portion of the raid concluded with us needing only Gluth, Thaddius, Sapphiron, and Kel'Thuzad to finish up. We'd wiped a few times, since we needed to work out the kinks with a raid composition that included two Mages (the previous week's raid not having any Mages), but in general it didn't feel like anything was out of our league.

But of course, Naxxramas isn't the only raid in Wrath Classic Phase One, and I'll continue these thoughts on those raids later.

*Of our WoW Classic raid team, only one person actually had completed Naxx back in the day. He was a member of the sixth raid team to finish Naxx, and his raid team pioneered the use of bringing world buffs to Naxx. On a PvP server, no less.

**With 10 person raids --Karazhan and Zul'Aman-- replacing the 20 person "catch up" raids in Vanilla. The hardcore early players of Vanilla will also point out that Blackrock Spire --Upper and Lower-- were designed as one whole instance but Upper Blackrock Spire being gated behind a door --you had to quest to get a key to unlock-- was originally a 20 person raid at launch. It was downscaled to a 10 person raid later in Vanilla, which was something I didn't know about. For all I knew, UBRS was a 10 person raid from the start, but that wasn't the case. 

***And Tailoring versions of the same, called Spellthread, for applying to Leg armor and Cloaks. As an Enchanter, I can even Enchant the rings I wear for a bit of an extra boost. The only people who can Enchant rings (or Tailors sewing Spellthread on their own cloaks) are the people who actually own the skill for their own rings; I can't sew Spellthread onto other people's cloaks, unfortunately.

****I know it was a 'feature' of Vanilla/Classic Naxx, but I suspect that it was an oversight due to the original design for Naxx calling for the entrance to be located inside the Stratholme dungeon itself. So, you'd have to run Stratholme --the side commonly known as the 'Undead Side'-- to get to the Naxxramas entrance. You can (or could) still see the entrance to Naxx, sitting unused, inside Stratholme in Classic WoW.

*****That was Azshandra, and I think it took her until L47 or L48 before she had enough gold to afford the Riding skill and the mount.

#Hence Gruber's "Oh...... shit...." moment, when as the raid puller he pulled a trash mob. Instead of coming right for us, one of the mob ran backwards in a small circle, aggroing a second mob nearby and they all rushed in. Gruber was famous for cursing up a blue streak all the time, so you knew things were bad when he very quietly said "Oh shit."

##This is very much a thing, as I've seen it numerous times already.

###Insert Mark Zuckerberg jokes here.

EtA: The comment about Gruber got chopped off. Fixed.

EtA: Fixed "flight" with "riding". Sheesh.


  1. Naxx just scales horribly. 25 almost pulls off an epic feeling and in fact does have a soft dps check with the first gargoyles as you go down one of the wings. I remember having issues killing it back during my first time. But parts are just empty, especially the long march to the Horsemen. It's so very noticeable that it was supposed to have more trash. Really wish I could have stuck out classic and seen Naxx40.

    Glad you're having a decent enough time though ^_^

    1. I'm also glad that Discount Naxx didn't swallow my questing buddy whole. She's one of our two healers, and having never been inside Classic Naxx, I was more than a bit concerned as to whether she'd be chewed up and spit out by the healing requirements.

      I should have had more faith in her; she was absolutely fine.

      Okay, not absolutely fine, she went OOM a lot on the boss fights, but some gear under her belt and she did much better my first week inside.

  2. I'm kinda glad now that I got to experience Naxx the opposite way round. As I noted while progressing through it in Classic, things like Heigan's gauntlet being part of the boss fight or Loatheb's healing mechanics being so different threw me for quite a loop considering I had only seen the Wrath version of those fights, but it just added to the raid's epicness.

    1. Agreed. Classic Naxx was truly epic. Wrath Naxx, much less so.