Remembering gaming's greatest moments
[Back in April of 2007, former Destructoid writer Chad Concelmo started a recurring series called "The Memory Card." The purpose was simple -- to share some of the greatest events in gaming history, and give them the respect they deserve. But in 2011 the series ended with no resurrection date in sight...until now. With Chad's blessing, please join us for Season 6 of the Memory Card - Chris.]
There's nothing quite like getting a massive group of people together for a collective goal. Sure, you need the right amount of leadership, loads of time, and there are the few occasional snags, but grouping up in an MMO when done right is magical.
In fact, some of the most magical and memorable moments I've ever had in my gaming career have been born out of MMOs, with one shiny achievement at the very top of the mountain -- a server-first Illidan kill.
Over the course of roughly three years, I cataloged the lives of every major World of Warcraft character I've ever played. You can see a select sample of pictures above from Kaironn, my Shadow Priest, from the very first level all the way up to the then-cap of 70. It was with this character that I would begin the journey into the Black Temple, completely oblivious to what the future held.
It started innocently enough. A friend and I decided to get into World of Warcraft after the Burning Crusade expansion launched, and since I had played the original here and there, we'd help each other out along the way to level 70. We had simple goals for ourselves, and to be honest, we never ever had a hard goal of reaching the cap. That is, until we met someone during college that happened to raid on our server.
He would tell us tales of how amazing high-level play was, how great his guild got along, and how they'd help each other out constantly -- he had even got in touch with other local members and hung out with them in real life. I had familiarity with raiding from my friends who did it back in vanilla (the basic version of WoW), but I never really experienced it myself -- even after hearing about how great it was, it was still in the back of my mind and not a priority. But alas, the seed had been planted.
I started to enjoy the game more and more as I leveled up. Low-level dungeons just weren't enough anymore! Once my priest became a Shadow Priest, I pretty much couldn't put it down. I'd do dungeon after dungeon with people, marking targets and explaining strategies to newcomers who had never been there before -- I was hooked. The only way to take this to the next level was raiding. It was inevitable, I just didn't see it at the time.
My friend's guild "Eden" happened to be the top guild on the server, so it would take a lot of dedication and time to slowly prove myself. There were three squads -- the top, the secondary squad that played backup to the top, and the third squad, which were mostly casual players. So naturally, I joined the casual team on a few weekly Karazhan raids (an entry-level, but fun 10-man dungeon), and apparently word got back to the top that I knew what I was doing.
One day I got a call from the friend who recruited me that made me very happy -- the guild wanted me to try out as a backup in a 25-man raid on a trial basis because someone else couldn't make it. "Amazing!," I thought a thousand times over. It sounds dumb to some of you out there, getting excited over a chance to be a backup in a digital dungeon, but I assure you it made my day. But I wasn't a backup for long -- I went to said raid, and promptly out-DPSed (damaged) the rest of the caster classes despite having worse gear.
The next day I was accepted into the core squad. I made it. And I didn't even know I wanted it.
By the time I was accepted into the lead raiding group, they had made it roughly halfway through Black Temple -- the toughest 25-man dungeon at the time that no other guild on our server had completed. Any Warcraft fan knows how important Illidan Stormrage is to the lore, so the prospect of fighting him got me extremely excited -- not to mention the fact that this was yet another opportunity to play with the guild in a higher capacity.
Day by day we made our way through the temple's bosses, getting stuck at the Reliquary of Souls for a spell, until we finally made it to Illidan -- the big bad of Burning Crusade himself (who would be later succeeded by Kil'jaeden). Illidan was extremely formidable, as the fight had multiple phases that had to be executed perfectly in order to bring him down. I didn't just want to beat him like I did with my personal favorite character Kael'thas Sunstrider in the weeks before -- I needed to.
Phase one of the fight is simple, but it can be screwed up pretty easily. At first, the tank just picks up Illidan and points him away from the raid, just like any other encounter. But periodically, he'll choose a random target and give them a debuff that causes their shadow to spew evil creatures -- forcing that person to isolate themselves from the rest of the group while ranged DPS brings them down. It only took a few tries to really get this down, but nothing could prepare us for what was next.
Phase two is where all hell breaks loose. Illidan flies up in the air and throws his mighty Warglaives of Azzinoth at the raid, spawning flames that have to be killed immediately. Melee and ranged DPS have to work in tandem together to make sure they bring them down. All the while, the tank has to have some fancy footwork to move around the blades and Illidan himself, while the whole raid dodges eye beams that can one-shot everyone, and the healers scramble to keep everyone alive. Phew! If it sounds chaotic, that's because it is.
From there, Illidan turns into his iconic demon form, at which point a Warlock with shadow resistance needs to tank him -- yep, this fight requires a Warlock, a tactic we had to figure out on our own, as we geared him up to prepare. Then the real fun begins, as Maiev Shadowsong swoops in and creates traps on the ground to move Illidan over. This phase is extremely nerve-wracking, as one small move can wipe the entire raid, forcing them to start back at the beginning.
After five days straight of trying, we finally did it. They say you can't beat MMOs. But truly, MMO goals and endings are defined by the user. In my mind, I beat World of Warcraft that night, and no one could tell me otherwise.
I remembered all of those phases because they are forever burned in my mind. As we took down Illidan and his health bar was confirmed to be 0%, I cheered over our Vent server so loud that my roomates in my college dorm thought something was wrong. I'll never forget it, I also typed "I LOVE YOU GUYS," and continued to talk to them into the night about how far we came.
Raiding isn't easy. In addition to knowing the fight inside and out and executing everything you need to do time after time, you need to account for variables -- most notably, human variables. Sometimes, tensions will run high. Someone might lose their temper and yell at someone else if they consistently fail or don't perform well enough. I don't envy my former guild leader and all of the decisions that she had to make, including all the cuts to the raid team. But I'd be a part of it all the same and do it over again if I had the chance.
After that, my raiding career had to come to a close. Bells of a special kind were ringing, and it was time to move on from college and plan my wedding. Naturally because I was finishing up my last semester of school with a double major and figuring out venues and honeymoon locations, I had to take a step back, which meant losing my raid spot.
But I will never forget all of the people pictured in the header at the very top of this page. All of them played a bit part in my enjoyment of MMOs as a whole, and I will never forget that night, as well as the many other nights that made me feel like I was a part of something, just hanging out and having a good time with friends.
Thank you, Eden.
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