I don't usually post about WoW news, since so many other blogs and sites do a great job of it. But I had to post about Onyxia's announced return.
This is awesome news. I've been raiding on my priest since 15-man Stratholme was "progression content," and there has never been another fight like Onyxia's Lair. I'm sure nostalgia is part of it, but I think anyone who raided Onyxia in her native environment would agree that there's something special about her.
Everything about Onyxia's Lair was special. Preparing to raid there was a month-long guild field trip. Everyone needed to complete a long wide-ranging quest chain. You needed to travel far and wide (Winterspring anyone?). You needed to head into Blackrock Depths* multiple times. You needed to talk to the world's diplomats. You needed to confront a dragon in Stormwind, in the presence of great heroes, in one of the best scripted events in the game. And then, each week you and your guildies could all hop on a ship and sail off to Theramore, and then swim to the broodmother's lair.**
Once you got there, you got to see an awesome encounter. After getting past the warders, of course... I remember wiping to those guys more than once.
Phase 1 was straightforward. One brave soul tanks Onyxia. With their back to the wall, since she would bat them away like a cat swipes at a ball of yarn. Everyone else starts attacking her, and healing up any damage. Sounds like a tank and spank, but this was before threat meters, before stats like spell power, and before half the classes were half as viable as they are now. This was where we learned now-basic lessons like "Standing in front of a dragon is bad" and "Standing behind a dragon is bad" and of course "Pulling threat causes Onyxia's fire breath hit quite a few more people than it strictly needs to."
And for healers, all we had back then was Flash Heal (a mana hog), Greater Heal (with a frightening 3.5 second cast time), Renew (only one allowed on each player by the way), and Shield. Our top tier talents to help save the tank's life from this fire-breathing monster? Divine Spirit (single target buff), and Holy Nova (with 30 second cooldown). The strategy of the day was to spend all one's mana on Flash and Greater, then stand idle to regain mana while someone else stepped in.
But phase 1 was still pretty easy. Remember, there were 40 of us. But then she decides to take off (sometimes after eating an offtank or rogue). Then, phase 2: always an adventure. How long would she stay up there? Would she fly around a lot, or stay still and pelt us with fireballs? How many times would the hunters not look where they were going and get too close to the dragon whelps, who would proceed to eat us? And let us never forget the dreaded Deep Breath. Also known as, "Your raid is not a winner. Your consolation prize is a fiery death. Thanks for playing, come back next time."
Eventually Onyxia would tire of raining destruction on us from above. She would land, and be walked back to the tanking spot (sometimes after eating an offtank or rogue). Phase 3 was like phase 1, but with the added bonus of burning streams of lava all over, and a periodic raid-wide fear. Hmm... fear, plus nearby caves full of whelplings... it's almost like she planned it this way. Luckily, we overpowered Dwarves were there to save the day with Fear Ward (then a 10-minute buff, 30-second cooldown, only known to Dwarves).
And finally, if the stars aligned, and damage and healing were good, and the raid could avoid eating tail swipes and pulling the whelps, the broodmother Onyxia could be slain. An incredible accomplishment the first time for a guild, given all the prep time, and equally as satisfying each additional time. At least unless you found out she didn't have your tier 2 hat again.
I just can't write about Onyxia without waxing eloquent. It always struck me as a cool encounter, dripping with lore, strategy, fantasy, danger, and rich rewards. It's why we went there every week. It's why we ran Jailbreak 20 more times to attune initiates and alts so we could keep going there.
Just something about going into a cave shaped like the maw of a giant dragon, to confront a leader of the black dragonflight. Being tasked by the Alliance's finest to slay the dragon. Charging recklessly into her lair, where she lay waiting. Standing next to her, seeing her maul the tank repeatedly, hoping she wouldn't notice your side of the cave. Watching her take off and soar above us. Watching everyone launch their spells and arrows at her in the air. You don't get more Warcrafty than that, nor more high-fantasy.
Onyxia's lair has always been my favorite raid encounter. If Blizzard treats the old girl right for the upcoming anniversary, we're all in for a treat. And in the meantime, I'd encourage everyone to stop by the broodmother's lair. It's a very fun fight, even 3-manning it now at 80. You don't need a minipet and a mount and a new hat to enjoy this classic raid encounter.
Long live the queen!
*For newer players, to get a picture of BRD, start with Old Kingdom. Multiply it by ten. Ten times the twisty turns, ten times the little sub-zones with unique mobs, ten times the obscure quests, ten times the bosses. Make all of these sub-areas connect over and under and through each other, yet make it so you need to go through half the instance to get to any one thing you need. Then make every major quest chain in the game run through it at some point. Yeah, we spent a lot of time in BRD.
**After you did the quest chain and BRD runs 40 more times, for everyone else in the guild.