Tips and tricks to acquiring Time-Lost Proto Drake and other mounts that require open world camping
We’re officially in the pre-expansion lull, and as always many players will take advantage of the time to solo old expansions or farm rare mounts. Dragonflight has entered beta, opening up testing of the next World of Warcraft expansion to a new batch of player, but for those not yet in the beta — or those who need a break from the Dragon Isles and new talent trees — Shadowlands season 4 is still ongoing with its promises of fated gear and jellycat mounts.
For most of the prized rare mounts such as Invincible or Mimiron’s Head, farming is simply a game of RNG. You run the dungeon or raid repeatedly until it drops, or you get lucky with the Black Market Auction House. For some other mounts, however, it’s not as simple as rolling the dice — those like the Time-Lost Proto Drake or Huolon aren’t found in an instance, but instead in the Open World where you’re not only competing against RNG, but also other players. A decade ago it was a lot simpler to camp these rares, as your character existed on a specific server.
Nowadays, however, things aren’t that straightforward, and understanding the various configurations will make it easier to find the Open World mount you’re looking for. Here are some general guidelines if you’d like to take on the open world yourself, plus some specific tips for a few of the particularly coveted — but tricky — rare spawns.
One becomes four: War Mode and Chromie Time change up the open world
Before Battle for Azeroth servers were grouped into four types: Normal (aka PVE), PVP, Role-Playing (RP), and RP-PVP. The hard split between PVP and PVE servers ended with the introduction of War Mode in the BFA pre-patch, leaving two types of servers a character can be created on: Normal and RP, with Open World PVP a choice a player can toggle. To accommodate the two populations on a given server (WM Off and WM On), each server now had two phases depending on the WM toggle, and as a result any given server could have the same rare up twice. Because WM was uncommon to be turned on normally in old expansion zones, rare hunters found that they had more luck with it on.
The level squish coming into Shadowlands added another wrinkle to the mix: Chromie Time. Choosing Chromie Time when leveling a new character allowed you to level in any expansion before BfA with quests and mobs maintaining parity with your character level. Now a player could casually level a toon to 50 (this changes to 60 in Dragonflight) in say the Broken Isles or Outland without worrying about hurting their leveling speed — with a notable exception of end expansion zones such as Timeless Isle or Argus; rares in those zones hit a lot harder so if you’re farming Huolon you’re better off not doing it in Chromie Time. To allow this style of leveling, however, each server was given two additional phases in order to accommodate War Mode while in Chromie Time — now there were four phases for every server, meaning four chances for a rare to be up at any given time.
Chromie Time is inaccessible to players that have reached 50 or higher, but you could sometimes sneak into it by grouping with an under-50 character. If this was the final state of things, finding mount-dropping rares would be a breeze. However, long-time rare hunters know of the bane added in Mists of Pandaria called Cross-Realm Zones (or CRZ), but that’s not the only stumbling block out there.
Four becomes both infinite and zero: Cross-Realm Zones and Server uptime
Cross-Realm Zones are problematic for mount hunters because any given zone could have players from every other server in it simultaneously. What’s the point of camping on a low population server if players from a high population server are there as well? While this is generally a good change for those who prefer to see other players while they’re out leveling, for those who want the spawn points all to themselves it can become frustrating — and this frustration extends across all four phases. Fortunately, there is an exception to CRZ: the RP Server. RP Servers never connect via CRZ, allowing players on lower population RP realms a lot more freedom when camping for rares.
One thing to note is that a Connected Realm is not the same thing as CRZ. When realms are Connected they become technically a single shared server. This doesn’t mean that connected realms are necessarily more populated than unconnected realms, as the realms with the highest population tend to remain alone.
Of course, if the population is too low, there’s another unpublished feature of the system that can kick in: full despawn of the NPCs in a zone. If no players are in Storm Peaks or Spires of Arak for 20-30 minutes, all the NPCs are removed from memory until a player arrives again, at which point they are spawned. For someone camping Huolon this is actually great news, because it’s programmed to spawn immediately when the server comes up — kill it (don’t be in Chromie Time), log out for 30 minutes, repeat. However, for the Time-Lost Proto-Drake this is awful, because it’s timed to spawn only two-to-eight hours after the NPCs spawn, so the odds you’ll be able to find TLPD casually logging into an RP server is extremely low.
A few of the prior expansion zones are persistent, but not very many. To determine when the NPCs last spawned, I use an addon called NPC Time because it helps me judge whether a server is recently spawned or has been up for awhile (if you tend to play in a PVP setting, check NPCs that can’t be killed to be certain). If you plan on camping in the Open World you’ll want this or a similar tool, and even if you’re planning to camp on a server that’s part of CRZ you should have it handy because even those zones can despawn if left alone for too long as well.
The granddaddy of them all: the Time-Lost Proto-Drake
There are roughly a million-and-one stories about the Time-Lost Proto-Drake written, so I’m not going to add to its legendarium and instead discuss the camping basics. The important thing to know is that it a shares a series of four spawn points in Storm Peaks with a blue proto-drake rare named Vyragosa; nine out of ten times Vyragosa spawns instead of TLPD. Every two-to-eight hours one of them will spawn and start flying predetermined paths around the zone, the typical method of camping TLPD involves grabbing four other people so each spawn point is covered. The fifth person is there to sub for breaks — you can’t tag TLPD for an entire raid so there’s little purpose in having more than five in your group. If you’re attempting to get it solo, you can try to sit closest to all four paths, and occasionally fly around to look for it.
The ideal place to camp for it is on an RP server in the Chromie Time phase. War Mode on or off probably doesn’t matter if the population is low enough, just choose one and stick with it. If you’re in a group, make sure the entire group knows when TLPD spawns because everyone needs to be in range of it to get credit and loot the mount — if it’s Vyragosa, just kill her and note the time so you know to start being diligent again in two hours. The important thing to do is make sure someone is active at all times in the zone otherwise it will despawn, and then you’ll be resetting the spawn timer for it.
And that’s pretty much it — sit around and wait and hope RNG favors you with a spawn. With a 10% chance it may take a few days of diligent camping (or a few weeks of less-than-diligent camping) but there aren’t really any tricks to it outside of avoiding a populated zone and keeping the server active.
Watch out, it spits: the Grey Riding Camel
In the desert of Uldum prior to assault by N’zoth there exists a Mysterious Camel Figurine that when found will teleport you to Feralas where Dormus the Camel-Hoarder awaits; killing Dormus will grant you a feat of strength, the title of “the Camel-Hoarder” and a new camel mount. Of course, there are many places the Figurine can be found, and chances are high that the one you do find will crumble to dust when you pick it up.
While not one of the more popular rare mounts — lack of flying tends to do that — the Grey Riding Camel is one of the earliest puzzles and it’s an interesting hunt. There are 50 potential spawn points throughout Uldum and a 5% chance that the spawn is the desired one. The respawn timer is two-to-eight hours like the TLPD, but Uldum is a persistent zone so you never have to worry about it despawning like Storm Peaks can (although it can be in CRZ on non-RP realms). Of course, make sure you’re in the correct Uldum — if you see tentacles everywhere go speak to Zidormi outside of Ramkahen to see how Uldum once was.
The biggest help, however, is the Camel Spotter addon. While you still need to fly amongst the possible spawn points to see which one is up, it will help highlight spawns for you as well as track previous finds. With the Grey Camel in low demand, you probably don’t need to sequester yourself on a low population server to find it, although it can only be done solo (friends can help you kill Dormus, but they won’t get the mount). I was able to find it by learning the path between spawn points and checking to see if it was up a few times a day.
Beyond the edge of reality: the Voidtalon of the Dark Star
The Voidtalon is one of the trickiest mounts to obtain and the only thing keeping it from being uttered in the same breath with the TLPD is that, like the Grey Riding Camel, it cannot fly. It’s still a gorgeous mount for a Shadow Priest or Void Elf when grounded, and may be worth going back to Warlords of Draenor for that reason. That said, this is definitely a mount to plan for when camping.
The mount is obtained by clicking on a portal that sends you into a scenario instance where you can loot an egg that rewards the mount. The hard part is finding the portal — while all the spawn spots are known, the spawn requirements are brutal even by rare mount standards.
The first issue you need to contend with is that for the first 48 hours a server is up the portal can’t spawn. Once it does spawn it will only be up for 10-15 minutes; if no one uses the portal it can respawn again in a minimum of two hours, but if someone does use the portal and gets the mount, the minimum respawn is set to eight hours. When you add the fact that a zone can despawn due to inactivity — resetting the 48-hour timer — it’s a surprise that anyone is able to obtain the Voidtalon these days.
It’s not all bad news, though. For one thing, Shadowmoon Valley is a persistent zone and will not despawn automatically if no players are present (although you’ll want to use NPC Time or similar to verify that there wasn’t a reset during the week). Spires of Arak also tends to stay loaded due to Rukhmar farming, although on lower population RP servers or in Chromie Time it’s a lot more likely to despawn. Finally, the spawning of portals is zone-independent, meaning a portal can be up in both SMV and Talador at the same time — this lets you focus on one zone’s portals if you’d rather not fly around all of Draenor.
Interestingly Class Trial characters are eligible to enter the portal and loot the egg, so one method of farming is to create new trial characters on different servers to increase your camping odds. This method won’t let you use Chromie Time, but it does let you easily place characters on servers where you expect little competition. Personally I found the easiest thing to do was setup shop in SMV with five characters across different phases and cycle through them, checking all possible spawn points before logging out and trying on a different toon. I still feel lucky that I was able to find the portal when I did, but knowing how the phases worked definitely increased my odds.
Hopefully the information in this article gave you better understanding of how to navigate the Open World in order to find rare spawns. Good luck hunting!
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