Last Saturday night found us with the Noob off sipping mai tai’s and becoming a lobstah in the tropical sun. That left the rest of us in the instance group somewhat at loose ends. Since we’ve all committed to staying about the same level, we decided against questing in Outlands for the evening. Still, when the entire group is together, its awfully nice to have a “goal.” Earlthecat, our tank had a suggestion:
Revenge. Baron Rivendare. Earl’s nemesis.
Earl you see has a bit of history with the Baron. Quite a bit of history as it turns out.
Long, long ago on a server far far away (well, a few clicks anyway), Earlthecat 1.0, Ula 1.0 and Uilleam (aka me, pre-Skronk) were the remaining survivors of our old 5 man group. Our regular group blew apart in the 50’s, so we all soldiered on to 60 (the cap at the time) and soon found ourselves in pug-atory. Pugs being what they are, Ula and I were doing other things. With the then-recent patch which allow gold rewards for quest turn ins when you were at the level cap (remember then?), there was actually still a fair amount of content which could be explored solo or in small groups for decent rewards.
Not so for Earl. He set a goal: complete his warrior’s Tier 0 “Valor” set. At the time, this typically required multiple runs through UBRS, LBRS, Strat and Scholo. In reality, it was mostly UBRS, Strat and Scholo in order to have a shot at the various BoP class items which dropped from the bosses there. The rest you could get from the AH.
Was a time when Strat and Scholo were raidable and 8 man pug groups (representing every class) were very common and eliminated any competition among a class if its set piece dropped. By the time we reached 60 though, Strat and Scholo were 5-man only making these items much more difficult if you didn’t have a supportive guild or devoted friends to help you through.
So, while Ula and I were off adventuring elsewhere, Earl set about collecting his set pieces. As I recall, he got started one weekend running Strat, UBRS and LBRS and ended up with his Helm of Valor, Spaulders of Valor and Breastplate of Valor after only that one weekend and had picked up several of the BoE items from the AH. I remember being amazed (and yes, maybe encouraged and a bit jealous) that completion of his goal was within reach. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all…
Then, the cruel lessons of statistical probabilities settled in. Something that has an 8% drop rate, always has an 8% drop rate. Each time. Every time. No matter how many times its attempted.
So Earl set about the task of getting his pants which drop from the last boss on the undead side of Strat: Baron Rivendare.
Back in the day, at level 60 (at least without epics), a Baron run was pretty challenging and often impossible with undisciplined pugs. Undaunted, Earl persevered in quest of his pants. And persevere he did. Well more than 60 successful runs (and many many unsuccessful ones) and the pants never dropped.
One particular low point– Earl had started a pug and for various reasons, eventually all of the pug members had to leave at different times during the run only to be replaced by other pug players (several times I recall). It was so bad that even after the his then-current group had gotten to the Baron, a couple of members said, “gtg, gg thx bye”. So Earl replaced them yet again with another group (myself included this time) in desperation. The Baron was finally defeated (again) and still no pants. It was enough to break a man.
So this time around, Earl was looking for some payback. Even a man down, we thought it was worth a shot and at least we’d probably get the key to the city from Magistrate Barthilas so when we had a full group, we could just use the service entrance to the undead side.
So our line up for the run was:
62 Warrior – Earlthecat
62 Warlock – Bungholio
62 Mage – Ula
62 Priest – Skronk
Missing our 62 Hula Dancing Paladin Vikund.
We got started at the main entrance and worked our way around to Elder’s Square (the starting point if you have the key). Since we entered through the main entrance, Magistrate Barthilas had spawned in Elder’s Square. Fortunately, Earl remembered to bring the Medallion of Faith we had gotten from our Scarlet side run earlier. As a result, he was able to talk to Aurius in the chapel and convince him to come to our aid should we succeed in engaging the Baron.
Like the “live” side of Strat, the undead side mostly consists of groups of a few elite undead mobs and and a group of nonelites. Brute force AoE was the way we were taking them out last time, but without our trusty Paladin and his consecrate, we had to be a bit more careful to keep the mobs grouped while AoEing them down. With Ula and Bungholio, we quickly perfected our Frost Nova/Rain of Fire/Blizzard technique to control the masses.
With no trouble, we reached The Gauntlet, a high traffic area that offers two different routes toward the Baron. To gain access to the Baron, you must first capture a series of ziggurats throughout the instance, each guarded by a boss. From the Gauntlet, one zig is left and one right. When you’re low level, the close proximity of the mobs and the constantly patrolling bats (along with the occasional roaming Eye of Naxxramas patrol) makes your placement a challenge.
With Earl’s expert pulling we worked our way toward the left ziggurat guarded by Nerub’enkan who offered little resistance. Next we cleared the area to the second ziggurat guarded by the Baroness Anastari.
The fight with the Barroness can be a challenge since she’ll repeatedly mind control party members and unload upon the other party members. Earl wisely pulled her far back to near the entrance to the Gauntlet and we proceeded to take her down. The fight can be a long one depending on how much MC she does and managing mana for casters can be tough. She eventually yielded and we moved on.
We worked our way down the route from the Barroness’ ziggurat toward the third ziggurat guarded by Maleki the Palid. The fight with Maleki isn’t particularly tough but his placement near several groups of casters can make for some unexpected surprises if you don’t watch where you’re standing.
Maleki dispatched we moved on and managed to aggro one of those caster groups we were hoping to leave behind just after starting another pull. We remained calm and between Earl and Bunholio’s Voidwalker, we were able to contain the damage somewhat though Skronk went down. Soulstone FTW.
We rested and bioed and moved into the passage way to the Baron’s ziggurat. Once into the passage way, a portcullis drops and you are commited. A host of abominations milling about outside the Baron’s ziggurat begin to approach on a timer so we got to work taking them down. The casters rested between pulls so we were at full power for each new group. Finally, when all the abominations are down, Ramstein the Gorger appears. Ramstein was a straight forward fight though he hits a ton.
Once we looted Ramstein, a host of nonelite undead rushes the group which we just AoE’d to oblivion. On the heels of that onslaught, 6 elite undead guards appeared. We were able to shackle one and Earl and the voidwalker were able to keep the rest corraled and eventually we were able to take them out though keeping the casters alive through the entire fight was a challenge.
Finally, we were at the Baron.
The Baron has a nasty aura which inflicts damage on anyone standing too near. In his ziggurat, his aura covers most of the room, so its key to keep him as far away from the squishies as possible and they from him as well. If thats not fun enough, groups of skellies appear throughout the fight and zerg the casters if not taken out with AoE or holy water. We managed to collect a few on the way, so we had alternatives to our caster AoEs.
As soon as we engaged the Baron, our man Aurius showed up to help in the fight! You can see him above joining the fray with Earl. The wheels stayed on as the fight wore on and we were finally able to take Mr. Big Business down though Aurius gave his last full measure.
Oh, and what of Earl’s pants? Well, I guess the Baron had the last laugh again: he dropped Shadowcraft Pants and Gauntlets of Deftness. Leather and Mail. The only two things our group can’t use.
Still this was a great run and reminded us how much care went into designing these former endgame instances which had to remain reasonably challenging to players over multiple runs. Earl still wants his pants and we’ve got a Pally that has an appointment with the Baron, so we’ll probably get another bite at the apple.