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WoWOct 3, 2023 10:00 am CT

Emerald Dream’s Amirdrassil raid has striking similarities to Cataclysm’s Firelands. Here are a few that piqued our interest.

With World of Warcraft Patch 10.2 we will be getting a new raid, Amirdrassil: The Hope’s Dream, and here at BlizzardWatch HQ we’ve noticed some similarities to a previous raid, the Firelands from World of Warcraft Patch 4.2. We all know there is nothing genuinely new under the sun, everything is inspired by or borrows from something else, so raid instances and encounter designs are not immune to this effect — in fact, the similarities can deliberately evoke the past, and make us wonder about the future.

What’s Different?

While we’re focusing on the similarities, there are many substantial differences to note between the two instances. The first and probably most critical difference is that Firelands was the penultimate raid for the Cataclysm expansion, whereas it looks very much like Amidrassil will be the final raid for Dragonflight. The final raid of an expansion typically resolves the major story points of the expansion narrative arc and gives us seeds into the next expansion. The fights are often the most epic of the expansion, and we tend to be in the last raid of the expansion longer than any other raid of that expansion. The final raid of Cataclysm was Dragon Soul, an eight boss instance where we fought Deathwing in his dragon aspect — twice.

Firelands was a seven boss raid set almost entirely in an outside raid zone where the players had significant autonomy over what order they progressed the first five encounters. After defeating those, the path opened for the last two bosses. From what we have seen so far, Amirdrassil will follow the recent design of a first boss and a branching choice, merging back to a single path which is later available as a skip to the penultimate and last bosses.

There are also significant differences in the encounter designs. Amirdrassil has several encounters where we need to leverage healer abilities to assist our allies or to regain control of corrupted NPCs. We have a council fight, and many of the encounters have noticeable phases to them — more than were present in Firelands. Firelands — in addition to giving us agency over the boss order for the first five — also gave us a choice as to where we fought Shannox, a boss that patrolled and was summoned based on how much trash we had killed.

Where many of the bosses we faced in Firelands were creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire, most of the bosses from Amirdrassil are denizens of the Emerald Dream who have been corrupted and seek vengeance for perceived harms, or have been deceived as to who the enemy is, instead of simply being true to their nature as elementals.

What in Amirdrassil is similar to the Firelands?

Both Amidrassil and Firelands are tied heavily to the story of the Druids of the Flame and the Elemental Lords. In both instances we fight manifestations of both these factions. Both instances are located outside of the material plane where most inhabitants of Azeroth live. Firelands is located in the Elemental Plane; Amirdrassil is located in the Emerald Dream.

What sparked our conversation on similarities was noticing that the penultimate boss in each of the Firelands and Amirdrassil raids was a shapeshifting Druid of the Flame leader who had a chance to drop a new druid shapeshift appearance. Majordomo Staghelm dropped the Fire Cat appearance, while Tindral Sageswift will drop the Blazing Somnowl appearance. Both these opponents use different druid forms during the encounter, requiring the raid to respond to their radically different abilities.

Both the Tindral Sageswift and Alysrazor encounters use a ‘loot the feather’ to trigger flight within an intermission that is integral to completing the encounter. For Alysrazor only a handful of players would fly, for Tindral all players will need to travel to the next encounter location, but there will be a ‘ride along’ mode for people who find dragonriding challenging.

Then we noticed that — at least as a placeholder for now — one of the boss models appears to be been reused between the instances. The fire elemental Baleroc, the Gatekeeper makes a cosmetic reappearance as Smolderon. But this isn’t the only link back to the Firelands for this encounter — Smolderon is the new Firelord, taking over from Ragnaros whom we defeated in both Molten Core and as the last boss of Firelands. Where Ragnaros sought to burn the world tree Nordrassil, Smolderon seeks to assist Fyrakk in corrupting the world tree Amirdrassil to become a focus for the Elemental Plane.

While the Amidrassil raid will take place largely within the temple, fire will be a reoccurring theme throughout. The in-game encounter journal shows the boss models against flaming tower that has a strong resemblance to the entrance to the Firelands. Several of the bosses in each instance were allies to Azeroth and the Emerald Dream before being corrupted by the Elemental Plane, causing them to now seek to destroy that which they once swore to protect. This includes Alysrazor and Majordomo Staghelm in the Firelands, or Gnarlroot and Tindral Sageswift, Seer of the Flame in Amirdrassil.

What seems to be a continuing story?

In many ways, the Firelands continued the story of Molten Core, World of Warcraft’s very first raid instance, with us defeating Ragnaros for the second time. While Amirdrassil has many threads linking it to Firelands, it also continues the story of Dragon Soul, which is where the Dragon Aspects sacrificed their essence to no longer be immortal aspects in order to save Azeroth from destruction by Deathwing. In Amirdrassil it seems they will be restored, much as the World Tree will be renewed.

Another thread brought forward from Dragon Soul is linking the void to the madness of Deathwing and the corruption of the Dragon Aspects. This story thread is woven through Battle for Azeroth expansion and the Dawn of the Infinites mega-dungeon instance, with strong hints that Xal’atath being involved — either as an ally, or the directing force behind the corruption of Iridikron. It is highly likely that the void will feature heavily in the next expansion.

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