Memories of Scholomance
I could make my way through Scholomance with my eyes closed.
That’s not hyperbole, by the way. A couple days ago, I pointed out the existence of Alanna’s Embrace to a guildie who loves pink, and she dutifully trotted off to farm it… except she’d never really been in Scholomance. She killed Rattlegore, then announced, “I’m lost.” I was locked outside by the instance timer at that point, so I couldn’t walk into her instance and help her out that way, but I successfully described the place to her (in enough detail that I could tell her to, for instance, which doors were wrought iron and which were wood) and got her to Ras Frostwhisper.
I spent a lot of time in Scholomance.
Back in Vanilla, before I started raiding, Scholomance was (together with Stratholme and Upper Blackrock Spire) the only endgame available to me. So I ran the place over, and over, and over, and over, trying to collect a full Wildheart set. (Not to mention a full Shadowcraft set, which I had to fight rogues tooth and nail for.)
I knew the place like the back of my hand by that point, even then – the route of every patrol, which mob had which abilities (and which pulls were most likely to wipe a group if mishandled), the optimal path to clear through the instance in the shortest time and still hit every boss, how to pull Rattlegore’s room without getting the boss prematurely and so on.
I even went to the trouble of getting a key to the place, which required a fair amount of time and effort, requiring a trek all over the world (from the Plaguelands to Gadgetzan to Un’goro and back) – not to mention 15 gold plus materials, which at the time was a fairly sizeable sum. I was sick and tired of waiting around at the instance entrance while the raid leader found somebody with the key who was willing to unlock the door (for a fee, of course), found a rogue with high enough lockpicking, or got somebody to jump off the top of the building and kill themselves close enough to the door that they could resurrect on the other side. So I figured I’d just get the key and put together my own damn groups.
And oh, yes, back then you raided Scholomance. Clearing it with a 5-man and getting your quests done was something you did only if you were a very good player with a very good group – clearing it for loot, well, people went the easy way and got a raid group together. Can’t really blame them, considering how many hazards there were in the place, although quests gave nice rewards both in terms of actual equipment and in terms of lore items. (Such as the Spectral Essence, which allowed you to see ghosts in Caer Darrow outside the instance, and which I deleted because of bag space and forgot to re-get yesterday – augh. Oh, well, nothing I can do about that now.)
The first room alone was fairly scary, and I saw more than a few raids wipe a few times in that room and then just dissolve. The mobs in there were placed pretty closely together, and almost every single pack had a mob that feared – and getting feared into extras would, more often than not, cause a wipe.
I also saw more than a few raids dissolve because of something else in that room. Well, two something elses.
The first was the Blood Steward of Kirtonos. She was one of the sources of Blood of Innocents, a reagent you needed to summon Kirtonos the Herald, an optional boss. If somebody in the raid wanted to kill Kirtonos (he dropped Valor boots), but the rest of the raid didn’t feel like clearing the entire first room to get at the Blood Steward (a common reaction, considering how painful that room was to clear and the fact that both Jandice Barov and Doctor Theolen Krastinov could also drop the Blood)… well then, people often took it upon themselves to pull the Blood Steward onto the raid, hoping the raid would kill it. Spot the flaw with that plan.
The second reason groups dissolved was the Lifestealing enchant formula. The drop rate, back then, was tiny. The formula was already BoE, and worth a ridiculous amount of gold on the Auction House. It would occasionally drop, and people would roll on it, and the winner would occasionally turn out not to be an enchanter (or the raid leader just masterlooted it to himself and dropped group), and hey presto, raid-killing drama.
(The same could happen with BoE set pieces, or even with bags, but that was by no means limited to Scholomance.)
If you made it past all that, hey, congratulations – where did you want to go next? The first room after that had Kirtonos’ perch on the side, if you could summon him:
But good luck with him, if your tank had never done him before or was an idiot – Kirtonos had a knockback, you see, and if he was tanked in the wrong spot, your raid could get knocked right off the balcony and out of the instance. That was always fun to watch happen.
Moving on, you had another large room with more trash, and then a choice of directions. To your right, a stone door that would open when approached and release a large quantity of rat critters (I’m not sure when that changed), leading to Jandice Barov’s basement. Ahead of you, a room full of plagued baby dragons, with a stairway at the far end leading down to Rattlegore. To your left, a metal gate leading to a square room full of zombies, which in turn led to the Viewing Room.
Jandice’s basement was frequently ignored, much to the chagrin of warlocks in the raid (she dropped the Dreadmist shoulders). Which was a pity, since her room wasn’t that hard to clear if you stuck to the right side and pulled carefully, and had a nice little hidden bonus…
…a torch which, when interacted with, would open a gate in another room. The gate had a chest behind it, and the chest had two guaranteed greens inside it, with a chance it would drop a blue in addition to the two greens. But her room had Diseased Ghouls in it (more on those later), plus Risen Aberrations, mobs that were immune to non-Holy spells, so people went “meh, I don’t wanna clear this”.
Rattlegore was a boss you had to kill, since he dropped the key to the Viewing Room, which you had to unlock to get to Darkmaster Gandling (the last boss in the instance, and the one that dropped the helm for all dungeon sets). If you had a rogue, you could skip him and pick the door open, but if you had a rogue, you most likely wanted to kill him anyway, since he dropped the Shadowcraft boots. So more often than not you ended up killing him.
(Shadowcraft boots, incidentally, were the cause of my very first loot argument. There was no rogue in the raid that run, and they dropped, and I wanted them and was the only one who could use them. So I asked for them, and the masterlooter gave them to me, and this one guy threw a hilarious stroppy fit. According to him, I was a ninja, and didn’t deserve the boots because I wasn’t going to use them anyway, and they should just be disenchanted and the shard rolled for. I less-than-politely told him where to shove it. Most of the raid didn’t care, a few people backed me, nobody backed him. He yelled a bit more, I stopped healing him and so did the other healers, he wised up and shut up.)
First, you had to get to Rattlegore, though. The room above him, the one with all the plagued baby dragons, was peculiar in that it had holes on either side leading down to the room below. Occasionally somebody would fall down one of these holes (how I have no clue) and pull Rattlegore and friends onto the raid. Other times, somebody would tab-target to Rattlegore or one of his trash mobs, drop a spell on them (because LoS blocking on the floor’s part was very buggy) and also drag Rattlegore and friends onto the raid.
Once you made it to his room, you had to very, very carefully watch the patrols and pull one single mob out at a time. Rattlegore’s Constructs hurt like hell, and so did Rattlegore himself: get a tank in a bit of a hurry, or one who doesn’t know how to pull the room, and you could get two or three Constructs at a time or – worse – one or two Constructs plus Rattlegore himself. I developed the habit of telling tanks to just sit back, let me pull, and just taunt off me, because ugh. The amount of wipes to mispulls was amazing.
Once you killed Rattlegore (and hopefully had somebody with a brain end up with loot rights on the Viewing Room key… I saw several raids dissolve because an idiot or a troll got the key and didn’t know how, or refused, to open the door), you would go back up and head to the Viewing Room. Before you could unlock the door, you had to deal with several pulls of mobs much alike the ones in Jandice’s room, composed of Risen Aberrations, Reanimated Corpses (you needed to kill them twice) and these here friendly guys:
See that green cloud of disease? It stuck around for a while after you killed them. At level, it hurt like hell. Even if you warned people in advance, more often than not they didn’t listen.
If you didn’t get wiped by a tank standing in the cloud of ick, you would get people dying after the pull was done because they went to loot. Invariably, the result was something which I’m sure every healer is quite familiar with:
To compound the difficulty, the room had a few Necrofiends patrolling around. If you weren’t careful, you would pull a pack, then the patrolling Necrofiend would link… and so would one or two other packs. Yeah, I ended up pulling that room for the tank most of the time, too.
Once you cleared this room, you got to loot Jandice’s freebie chest on the right side, if you’d been down to see her and remembered to click on the torch…
Did I mention you couldn’t masterloot chests?
In polite groups, people would /roll. In less-polite groups, somebody would ninja the chest. In stupid groups, the clued-in person who’d pulled the torch would quietly go and loot the chest and pray nobody noticed. I can’t remember many arguments over that chest, but barely any group bothered killing Jandice.
Then you unlocked the door to the Viewing Room, and you were faced with these terrifying creatures:
Yeah. Yellow mobs. I know, I’m quaking in my boots, too.
These guys were the source of one of the most unfounded bits of paranoia I have ever seen in World of Warcraft. Every time we entered the Viewing Room, somebody would invariably say:
“Don’t talk to them, they’ll attack you!”
Which, well, they didn’t. The only way they would attack – the only way at the time, in fact, to aggro and kill Marduk Blackpool and Vectus, the two bosses in the room – was to set off a Dawn’s Gambit. Then the students would, indeed, all turn aggressive and jump you – so it was something you did in the entrance of the room, so the tank(s) could hold them off and everybody could safely AoE. But they never aggroed just because somebody talked to them.
Where to from here? Across the room was the door to Ras Frostwhisper, who raid groups almost always wanted to kill, for reasons passing understanding – he did drop the Magister shoulders, though, and his trash wasn’t too painful to clear with a stupid group (unlike Jandice’s), so it was mostly uneventful.
Ras’ room also had the only alchemy lab in the game, required to create flasks, until they added one into Blackwing Lair a while later. If your guild raided, they most likely used flasks, and if they used flasks, the guild alchemist had to take a trip to Scholomance every time they wanted to craft them.
To your left from where you entered the Viewing Room was the stairway to the final room of the instance. You had to clear all six minibosses standing in the side room around Darkmaster Gandling’s study before Gandling would spawn, and some of them were arguably harder than Gandling himself.
The Ravenian was a pushover, although his trash periodically seemed to wipe their threat table (as far as I could tell, anyway – threat meters didn’t really exist at the time, and I never went back and checked after).
Instructor Malicia had this ridiculously annoying trash which would switch to a shade form and go immune to melee after it hit a certain health percentage, making it hard to clear if your casters were idiots. She also would constantly heal herself, making her hard to kill if your interrupters were idiots.
Lady Illucia Barov mind controlled and silenced. Frustrating to kill if the wrong person got locked out, but not overly so.
Lorekeeper Polkelt was a pushover. His trash, less so. Unstable Corpses exploded when killed. The way you dealt with them was by pulling them out of the room and kiting them around, keeping them slowed (with hunter traps, Blizzard from mages and so on) while AoEing them at a distance. Melee getting themselves killed like idiots was very, very frequent here (as was the dulcet call of “WTF HEALER????”).
Doctor Theolen Krastinov had more of the friendly green zombies for trash mobs. Yay, more death. He himself hit like a goddamn truck, periodically stunned the tank and frenzied at low health, making him quite hard to kill if you had inexperienced tanks or inexperienced healers.
Lord Alexei Barov… oh, God. The painful memories. He was the hardest of the lot and usually the first to be killed (both because he was the hardest, and because of the usual killing strategy). He would periodically do an AoE healing reduction which needed to be dispelled, and had a pretty hefty AoE damage pulse. He also came with two guards. The common strategy for killing him was this. A priest in your raid would shackle one of the guards, the tank would pick up the other guard and a mage or hunter got Alexei’s attention. Said mage or hunter then legged it the hell out of the room and kited the boss around Gandling’s study, while the rest of the raid dealt with the two guards. Once the guards were dead, the raid would leave the room and head to Gandling’s study. The tank would pick up Alexei and tank him at the bottom of the stairs, while healers and casters would stand on top of the stairs, still in line of sight and range of the tank and melee but out of range of the pulsing AoE.
If you got to Alexei expecting the mage or hunter in your group to be able to kite, only to be told that they had no clue how to do that – God help you.
Darkmaster Gandling himself wasn’t that bad, all considered. The worst he did was teleport a random member of the group to one of the side rooms, locking them in until they defeated a bunch of weak mobs – annoying if it happened to a healer at the wrong time, but not deadly unless your group was full of idiots.
Taking into account everything above, and considering that this was the only form of endgame available to me at the time, it was no wonder that I was starting to get bored with the place, and with World of Warcraft in general. I was, in fact, planning to cancel my subscription permanently once I’d collected a full Wildheart set (plus non-set items I wanted), because I had nowhere else to go from there – my guild at the time sort of raided, but had only killed one boss in Molten Core (Lucifron) with the help of another guild, and it didn’t sound like much fun.
Fate had other plans.
One very, very late night – I think it was 3am – I was asked by an acquaintance of mine to come do a few Scholomance runs. Fine, I said, i had nothing better to do than sit around in Ironforge anyway.
I got into the raid, headed to the instance and we started clearing – and one of the first things I noticed was this priest from one of the actual raiding guilds on the servers. In almost full epics.
“Oh goody” I thought “here comes the pro raider to grace us with his presence and lord his epics over us poor mortals.”
But I said nothing and just kept going.
Then the tank pulled too much, and we wiped – we made a valiant effort, but the healers ran out of mana and that was that. As we were running back, the priest complained vociferously about lack of Innervates, saying that we wouldn’t have wiped if he’s been given Innervates.
“Oh goody” I thought “he thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread.”
By that point I was quite irritated, but in the name of civility, all I did was off-handedly mention in the raid chat that I wasn’t specced into Innervate (at that point, I was the good old 0/30/21 spec, climbing up to Heart of the Wild in the Feral tree for increased mana pool and flexibility and only going deep enough in Resto to get Nature’s Swiftness), but I would’ve given it to him if I had it.
(The other druid in the raid’s response was, “you can give it to other ppl???”. Ugh, clueless idiots.)
To my great surprise, the priest, instead of reacting how I expected him to (“why aren’t you specced into Innervate, you worthless scrub”), whispered me politely inquiring what my reasons were for being specced the way I was.
I responded, and we got to talking, and a few weeks later I ended up joining the raiding guild (turns out he was an officer). He made raiding sound fun, and he seemed to be an intelligent, well-spoken, not at all elitist guy. (Okay, fine, to be truthful he was elitist, but in a way that matched how I felt – less “if you’re not in epics you’re a scrub”, more “if you have no clue how to play your class at level 60, you’re a scrub”.) Before long, we were chatting and playing together daily.
And to make a long story very, very short… I’m still raiding with him. Several years have passed, and several guilds, and sometimes we raided separately (or I raided not at all, or he raided not at all), but we still play together.
I’ve lost touch with everybody else I used to play with at the time. (I’ve wondered where they all ended up, but couldn’t find any trace when I went back to my old server to poke around. Most of them were casual at best, and I’m guessing they quit playing the game – like I would’ve ended up doing if not for the fact that I started raiding – once they ran out of content.)
The items I got back then – the Shadowcraft boots I argued about, the Cadaverous pieces I re-farmed this week, the various other bits and pieces I collected – I mostly got rid of for bag space, with the exception of my Wildheart set (which I turned into Feralheart through the quest chain).
But at least one good, lasting thing I got out of Scholomance.