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Editorial > WoW ClassicMay 31, 2021 4:00 pm CT

The best and worst encounters in the original Burning Crusade

The Burning Crusade had so many dungeons and raids that coming up with a list of the expansion’s best (and worst) encounters was practically impossible. There were so many encounters I wanted to include, but in the end I narrowed it down to five encounters that I loved and five encounters I hated.

But this list is 100% my opinion: the best and worst according to one Dwarf. I played all through Burning Crusade as a Protection Paladin and it had an enormous influence on my experiences and recollections of Burning Crusade encounters. While we would become known as fantastic tanks for 5-mans and indispensable for certain raid bosses, early on most players doubted our very ability to perform the role in any capacity.

So let’s revisit Burning Crusade by looking at my favorite and least favorite encounters.

My favorite encounters and instances in the Burning Crusade

It was much easier to come up with the encounters I enjoyed than it was the ones I didn’t.

Shattered Halls dungeon (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 1)

A key dungeon where Paladin tanks outclassed the other tanks.

Shattered Halls was an important 5-man dungeon you needed to run as part of the Serpentshrine Cavern (SSC) attunement process. It was famous for having several large packs of trash mobs, and the last pack before the first boss was generally seen as a test for your group. Warriors and Druids had little in the way of AOE tanking capabilities, so enter the Paladin who could AOE tank the entire pull.

Whenever a Warrior would whisper in Shattrath about what a waste my tank gear was, I’d simply whisper back “Shattered Halls.”

Chess encounter in Karazhan (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 1)

An early introduction to vehicle combat and an enjoyable respite.

The Chess “boss” in Karazhan, where each player took control of a chess piece to try to defeat Medivh, was such a unique encounter at the time. It was one of the first vehicle fights where your spell bar got replaced with abilities from the vehicle: in this case the chess piece you controlled.

It wasn’t overly difficult and served as a fun break before you took on the final boss: Prince Malchezaar and the legions he commands.

Magtheridon in Magtheridon’s Lair (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 1)

The “impossible to tank” boss that led to one of my best memories of TBC.

Protection Paladins in Burning Crusade had some significant weaknesses and several raid bosses in Burning Crusade were initially considered impossible for Paladins to tank. One of those bosses was Magtheridon.

For most of your raid, Magtheridon was about clicking cubes (harder than it sounds). But for tanks, it was about surviving the transition at 30%, when Magtheridon stunned the whole raid, did a big AOE, and then hit the tank with two heavy attacks. Most tanks survived by popping their survival cooldowns, and I would have loved to do that, if I had had any. Instead, I popped trinkets and quaffed an ironshield potion for bonus armor. Combined with my awesome healers, we survived the transition and killed the big lizard. That night, I got promoted to main tank of my guild. It was one of the top raid nights I’ve ever had in game.

I wound up main tanking all the “impossible” bosses (Nightbane, Gruul, Magtheridon, Kaz’rogal) as progression for my guild.  I was on a mission to prove Paladin viability, even if it was only to my guild.

Hydross in Serpentshrine Cavern (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 2)

A resistance fight with a tricky aggro drop — and some awesome stories.

Resist gear dedicated part of its secondary stat budget to decrease the damage you took from a specific school of damage, and for some encounters having a certain amount of resist gear was necessary. Collecting resist gear was a major part of raiding during vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade. I miss the metagame challenge of resist fights, where you had to configure your gear for your important tank breakpoints — like the Defense cap and uncrushable in Burning Crusade — while still having enough +resist to survive an encounter’s magic damage.

Hydross was a particularly challenging resist fight because in one phase he did all frost damage, and in one phase he did all nature damage. You needed two tanks decked in resist gear: one frost and one nature. As long as they had aggro, the tanks could change him from frost to nature by moving him over an invisible line — but Hydross would drop aggro each time he crossed the line. If someone pulled aggro during transition, he could cross the line again, making for an unexpected transition that spawned adds. Anything could pull aggro: DOT tick, HOT tick, melee, and even the weakest DPS weapon in the game, a wand.

If you’re wondering how a puny wand pulled aggro, well, mana was a big deal in Burning Crusade, and it was easy for anyone with a mana bar to go OOM (out of mana). But the Paladin debuff Judgement of Wisdom let casters wand the boss, doing a pittance of DPS but refilling their mana. One time we were working on Hydross and one of our Mages was wanding when we transitioned. He didn’t stop fast enough and pulled aggro which spawned a second set of adds. It was wipe city: population us. That Mage was thereafter known as the “Wand of the West.”

This was my Frost Resist set for Hydross.

Trash respawning was also a problem in the Burning Crusade days. There were only short windows of time to work bosses before the trash in the raid respawned and you had to reclear. And since Hydross’ trash was in the same area as the fight, which could be particularly dangerous. During one raid, near the end of a long night of attempts, our addons told us trash was about to respawn again. I was the first tank up, but I wasn’t ready to pull. Our raid leader said, “now or never” and I pulled with seconds to spare. That managed to be our progression kill.

Another time, I was having constant disconnects. I begged the raid to replace me, but no one else had the Frost Resist gear, so we went ahead. Just as I feared, I disconnected in the middle of the fight. If I lost aggro, Hyrdoss would cross and we’d wipe. But we got lucky: Paladin threat was mostly reflective damage and long DOTs (Consecration) and incredibly, I held threat while disconnected and we got through the Frost phase. I reconnected just in time to taunt him back from our nature tank. My tanking was legendary in the guild after that, and I have a lot of fond memories of the encounter.

Morogrim Tidewalker in Serpentshrine Cavern (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 2)

A key encounter for players’ acceptance of Protection Paladins.

Paladin tanks weren’t universally accepted until Wrath of the Lich King, but Morogrim marked a turning point. No other boss highlighted a Paladin’s unique strengths and advantages quite as well as Morogrim.

Periodically, Morogrim would call a bunch of Murloc adds who  would run straight for the healers. Guilds were bringing two or three Warriors/Druids to grab aggro — but recall that Warriors and Druids had limitedf AOE tanking capabilities. Eventually, guilds realized they could bring a single Protection Paladin who could grab all the Murlocs and quickly lock them down so the DPS could AOE them into oblivion.

Morogrim was the first boss that made some raid leaders think, “boy, I don’t how we’re going to raid tonight without a Paladin tank.” Morogrim gave many Paladins their first shot at raid tanking and allowed then prove that they were capable tanks. This would lead to opportunities to show off our abilities throughout Mount Hyjal, where the legend of Paladin tanking would take hold.

My least favorite encounters and instances in the Burning Crusade

Though I have plenty of fond memories of TBC, my glasses aren’t completely rose-colored. There were several encounters and instances in Burning Crusade that I didn’t enjoy for various reasons.

Mana Tombs dungeon (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 1)

Hey, Blizzard, Paladins are tanks, okay?

With Mana Tombs, it felt on the design team didn’t get the memo that Paladins were tanks. The dungeon had mobs with mana drains and mobs with Silences, both of which shut down our ability to generate threat. It turned the entire run into a constant frustration. It was like the designer never thought a class with a mana bar would try to tank the instance.

Warlord Kalithresh in Steamvault (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 1)

The drop that would not drop.

Warlord Kalithresh wasn’t a bad boss, exactly — his mechanics are reminiscent of the Lady Darkvein encounter in Castle Nathria. So why does he make the list? This naga refused to drop my Devilshark Cape, which was a tank’s best in slot cloak until they hit raids. I killed Kalithresh over 20 times before he finally let go of my cape — not a good memory.

Reliquary of Souls in Black Temple (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 3)

Where Blizzard used a heavy hand to enforce tank hierarchy.

During Burning Crusade, Blizzard explained that “when there were situations that other classes started to outstrip warriors [as tanks], we took steps to make sure the warriors still came out on top.” The design of Reliquary of Souls was one such step. During Phase 2, the boss would cast Deaden on the tank, increasing their damage taken by 100%.

The only way to avoid it was to use Spell Reflection. You absolutely had to have a Warrior main tank to complete the fight — making it a very frustrating experience for a Protection Paladin.

Teron Gorefiend in Black Temple (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 3)

An early personal responsibility fight — with real raid wiping potential.

Every raid has a “Johnny.” This is the one player who struggles with personal responsibility mechanics. For some fights, that’s not a big deal, but Teron had a vehicle phase where a randomly chosen player had to pilot a ghost. If they did well, the fight went as smooth as butter on a bald monkey. If they did poorly, you would wipe. You prayed to whatever deity you could think of that “Johnny” would not get picked, and even today these fights are frustrating.

Archimonde in Mount Hyjal (Burning Crusade Classic Phase 3)

One tank fights feel terrible and more heavy handed encounter design.

In Burning Crusade, the number of tanks you needed for an encounter varied between one and three. There was no dual specialization, and raids had a size of 25 players. So when your second or third tank wasn’t needed, they had to either shell out for an expensive respec, do low DPS in their tank spec, or sit out entirely.

Archimonde, the final boss of Mount Hyjal, was a one-tank fight, and that tank was going to be a Warrior.

Why? Because fear was another mechanic the developers put into ensure Warriors remained the top tank. Archimonde had a frequent fear which would send your tanks running while Archimonde stomped the raid. Though I’d conquered Nightbane’s fear mechanic in Karazhan, Archimonde had strict positioning requires and less margin for error. It was safer to let Warriors hit their “can’t be feared” button than risk running with another tank. For the fight, I slapped on my healing gear and let the Warrior take over. Once we had him on farm and I got my T6 helm, I would just drop raid after we cleared the trash — not a fun fight.

And Burning Crusade had so many more memorable encounters

So that’s my list of the best and worst encounters in Burning Crusade. There we so many more I wanted to talk about, but this piece is too long already. Blackheart the Inciter in Shadow Labs, Nightbane in Karazhan, Gruul in Gruul’s lair, Leotheras the Blind in Serpentshrine Cavern, Gurtogg Bloodboil in Black Temple, Void Reaver in Tempest Keep, Kaz’rogal in Hyjal — the list goes on and on.

What were your favorites? Was it someone from my list, or another one completely?

Originally published 3/24/2021. Updated 5/31/2021.

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