Feel free to turn this on, and keep reading:
This is a legendary far past its relevant time.
There will be no miracle advancement in our progression with this item in the hands of a competent player who been known to do a little too much to succeed.
This is a relic comes from an age of forming for Waypoint, that others before me abandoned because the challenges were daunting.
This is Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa's Rest:
There are many like it, but this one is mine.
Firelands dropped early July of 2011, a seven boss raid that is accused of cannibalizing another raid to exist, that asked its players to brave the harsh orange on brown on red on orange landscape to fight the harsh brown on red on orange enemies within for the rights to venture into Sulfuron Keep and challenge the harsh red on orange on brown master of the planes of fire, Ragnaros the Firelord.
Some called the raid "too difficult" and Blizzard agreed, cutting the difficulty of the raid by a sizeable percentage in September of that year. Even top end world-first raid guilds measured their attempts to defeat Ragnaros in the hundreds, and the harsh environment broke guilds that could not progress beyond its bosses. Every single boss could be a guild breaker, depending on where or how your guild played.
For a casual little guild called "Waypoint" that had mostly known ignorance from its peers, it was a trial by fire that saw: role changes, player responsibilities grow/evolve, and ultimately, an inner core of folks that can seem impenetrable from the outside because of how we struggled together - we fought together, a very real fellowship forged in internet fires and on 11 November, 10 players entered the Firelands and found victory over Ragnaros.
We didn't have much time between our success and the release of Dragon Soul, so there wasn't a whole lot of time to spend farming the Firelands before we turned our attentions to the new raid.
Also, there was that thing with two other players in guild challenged by the staff's brutal solo quest in the Nexus.
After we'd finished our business in Dragon Soul, we'd turned to the future of our raiding, and celebrated Cataclysm by returning to Wrath of the Lich King content to work on Herald of the Titans in Ulduar. And, nervously, awkwardly, began the shaky steps that led back to the Firelands, praying the third time would be the charm for us.
19 January, 2013, we completed the staff, had a walking parade through Stormwind, and baffled the server (we're getting really good at that) with the giant ghost dragon floating in the sky above, with a certain warlock dressed in the finest of Sunwell cloth.
The rest of the guild dressed up too.
Man, there's a hell of a lot of you.
Each stage of Dragonwrath asked for more and more of the player, of the raid group. There's a lyric from MC Frontalot's "Final Boss" about "fetching bullshit I've been littering the realm with" and YES. YES IT WAS. There was a lot of collecting, starting with the Eternal Ember stage, where you needed twenty-five. In 10N, which we raid, it wasn't a guaranteed drop. (Contrast: in 25s, not only is 1 a guaranteed drop, but you could get up to 3 off a single drop. This is a cool thing for 25s raiders!)
Following that, purchasing Sands of Time - three items, for a total of nine thousand gold.
Now, this is a really deliberate choice: the guild does not pay for anything of our legendary components. All of it is out of pocket from the player working on the legendary, as kind of a "buy in" - an up front fee because you've got to want it. This, honestly, just kind of happened: we never sat before and said, "Well, when we come up to legendary weapons, we need to handle it like THIS and ONLY THIS." Because we don't work like that, and I don't think we believed we COULD build legendaries to begin with.
Ultimately, the point of the "Buy In" is that a player who wants a legendary weapon is doing so as a good faith gesture: This is your legendary, but this is our project. Putting up the gold isn't a punishment: it's a trust investment, we're putting in our time and effort - you're putting in your gold. We'll finish the thing, together, but we have to know you want it.
And Dragonwrath, well, you had to want it.
Following the initial raiding, the gold expenditure, you walked to the next step: Through a Glass, Darkly.
So, you start this quest by going to the Nexus - the Wrath-era five player dungeon, yes - but you can't DO THIS if you've done the Eye of Eternity raid in the same lockout. Because you'll clear through the entirety of the dungeon, get kicked out, laughed at, and if you zone in again, nothing is there. The platform will fall through to your doom, and more laughter will ensue.
You are escorted through the Nexus by Tarecgosa, a blue dragon dedicated to helping you find your way through the area to uncover the secrets of why the event happening within is obscured. It's a hallway run, for the most part, where you're tested as a player: you have to control the adds, you have to keep up pressing your damage - interrupt that add, CC this additional enemy, there’s a third coming for you, but that boss, that boss can’t be left alone, have your felhound devour the buff so you can prevent him from leaving you a greasy spot on the Nexus’ floor, did you talent your self up right so your felhound could stand a couple hits from those adds it’s “tanking”? Don’t forget to keep up health funnel in quiet moments where you are allowed to breathe.
You aren’t allowed to breathe.
When you complete the quest, including a two million hit point boss, you’re entrusted with a weapon, the Branch of Nordrassil, as well as entrance into the next stage of the questline.
The second stage begins immediately after the first - to create a proper vessel to contain Tarecgosa’s spirit, Kalecgos charges you with returning to the Firelands, and collecting 1000 Seething Cinders from the bodies of the slain - or, the raid bosses.
Depending upon the size of your raid group, and the difficulty you raid in, you’ll earn as little as fifteen (10 normal), or as many as sixty-five (25 heroic), per boss.
For us, this was seven or eight full clears to attain.
For the quest, the story continued: The Blue Dragonflight gathered high above the Nexus, on floating platforms - above the massive powerful beam of magic that kept the rings of the Oculus afloat, there the dragons gathered, and there, Tarecgosa could speak through you - the Seething Cinders kept her life from fading, and allowed Kalecgos to further bind her to you: the Blue Dragon spoke through you, to cast her vote for the future of the Blue Dragonflight: And she’s seen what you have. Arygos, son of Malygos, would throw his lot in with Deathwing to doom the world. None other than Kalecgos would be capable of leading the flight.
Arygos’ bid for power over the Blues defeated, he flees, cursing all. “NELTHARION TAKE YOU ALL!”
(to stop being the storyteller for a second: a lot of folks expected this to mean Arygos would be a boss in Dragon Soul; instead we’ve a blue dragon faffing around somewhere being ANGRY ABOUT DRAGONS and that never bites us in the ass, nope)
The staff is upgraded again, becoming the Runestaff of Nordrassil, and with it, a unique proc: the staff will whisper the player, “I am with you, always.”
This begins the third phase, the final phase. The most hateful of all three phases, because even “collect 1000 cinders” was much faster when you were in the depths of it.
This stage took the longest, because of the Mists of Pandaria release. It took the longest because I found it harder than ever to ask Waypoint back into the raid at all.
It took the longest because I felt it had to be done by the guild. Because I wanted it to be ours. Because going to a site like OpenRaid would have done well, and fast, but to go far, you go together:
Collect 250 Smouldering Essences, siphoned from each boss in the Firelands - except Ragnaros, who technically, leaves no corpse. And, when you’ve done so, you are charged with collecting one last item: the Heart of Flame.
Rip and tear his guts for your legendary.
You’ve got to want it.
Firelands wasn’t an easy raid. It wasn’t a pleasant raid. It was harsh to look at, it was vicious to raid in. The fights were difficult at least, soul-crushingly so at worst. And, the difficulty didn’t lessen that much even as we moved beyond into Dragon Soul, and completed that raid as well. We could still go into Firelands, and the raid was still hostile and we’d have to face very real truth: the loose and fast (read: sometimes sloppy) way we raid can work against us, turning wonderfully chaotic into grindingly painful very quickly.
Its weird to say you can feel a tension in the air when there’s eight or nine other folks on the opposite side of the country playing a video game and using a push to talk interface to communicate, but whether the feeling of resentment actually existed or not, I felt it did. And I did too.
I wanted very little more than to be done with Dragonwrath, to have finished it. Every stage was an uneasy grind, a small panic of “who’s not going to be able to make it” leveraged against “Can I find someone quickly” - of worrying that “this is the week half the raid will decide not to show up” and of panicking “nobody wants to go to Firelands anyway.”
The last night we went to Firelands, I had done the math almost compulsively: I needed at least this many bosses in heroic 10, and we could afford to do ONE boss in normal if he were buggy and I’d have just enough siphoned essences that we could move on to that last stage, but then something kind of amazing: people showing up, people coming out. We didn’t run a 10 player raid, we ran a 25 player one. We didn’t HAVE 25, but we over geared and outlevelled the raid, and... it was fun.
I get caught up in the details of trying to keep everything going, to keep the guild - and by extension, the raid team - on rails, and feverishly hoping nobody notices I’m just making it up as I go.
But, sometimes, it's a moment like this, like these, that reminds me we're all coming together to do this. And it reminds me, you've got to want it. And that the wanting, is worthy of being matched by the doing.
It's okay to want.
It's better to get.
It's best, to celebrate this with your friends and loved ones when your friends and loved ones are one and the same.
Thank you. Thank you.
I still am in disbelief that I have it, that it's mine, and that we earned it together. I probably won't EVER believe it, if we're being really honest.
But, we're done, and it's over and we can get off Mr. Ragnaros' Wild Ride now.
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