East then north in Dire Maul

9th February 2010 – 5.39 pm

I admit that I am one of those RP weirdos who keeps a change of clothes for when I am in Stormwind and Dalaran. I feel much better walking around in a pretty dress and hat than stuck in heavy armour all the time, particularly when draenei are naturally so fabulous to begin with. I often won't change out of the RP clothes until I am in the wilderness, facing dangerous enemies. So it is that I am on the ship out of Booty Bay when I am told that I really ought to get some plate armour, what with being a tank and all. You would think that after gaining fifty-five levels and being specced in the protection tree I would have worked this out for myself, but I am a bit simple.

The ship from Booty Bay takes me to Ratchet, then a long flight sends me to Feathermoon Stronghold in Feralas, where a swim and short ride on my pony gets me outside Dire Maul, the target of the Filesystem Checkwits this week. I have arrived early, hoping to save a bit of time for us all by collecting relevant quests and being available to help at the Dire Maul summoning stone. It's a good plan, but thwarted somewhat by not being able to find the summoning stone. I am sure it was somewhere along the lengthy path towards Dire Maul, but even after a few rides up and down, and even in to the arena section of Dire Maul, the stone remains elusive. Someone else still needs to turn up before the stone can be activated, so I sit like a lemon hoping that the next Filesystem Checkwit can succeed where I fail at finding a sodding great chunk of rock, with a glowing rune, standing in the ground. And find it she does.

Qattara uses her keen elven senses to locate the summoning stone, although it's not where she remembers it either. We're just in time to summon Vulzerda, but not quick enough to stop Livya taking her 'secret Horde route' to Dire Maul, which apparently involves swimming in to an unnegotiable cliff before taking a more conventional path. Together again, Livya refuses to accept any apology for going to Blackrock Depths without her, and for us all making her feel short again by not having our nameplates within her tiny reach. But all is forgotten when she sees Vulzerda's fire totem. 'I shall hug him and squeeze him and call him George!' Livya squeals. It's quite difficult to tell the two of the fire-squirting midgets apart, and when Livya moves off to enter Dire Maul I get momentarily confused as to how a totem can run. It's not the only confusion, either.

Uncovered late in the original Azerothian adventures, Dire Maul is split in to three wings, much like Scarlet Monastery. In order to access two of the wings a key is needed from the first, Dire Maul East. Just inside the entrance, a mischievous imp, surely a tautology, waits to taunt us before running off through the various mobs that block our path. Our warlock gets disorientated briefly, thinking that it was her imp that rushed off ahead. Given Livya's imp's propensity to tackle mobs alone in both Zul'Farrak and the Sunken Temple it would not come as much of a surprise, Vulzerda imagining the imp shouting behind it 'noobs, I'm off to solo the place'. And if that weren't enough, we appear to be slaughtering much of Qattara's extended family, many of the elemental trees wandering the broken corridors bearing an uncanny resemblance to her own tree form. Vulzerda also nearly smacks Qattara in the face, worried that we had a runner but it only turning out to be our druid trying to loot a mob.

The entrance courtyard is passed through, the rogue imp chased a couple of times, and then Livya perks up. We get past the fantastic phase lashers, elemental plants that cycle through spell immunities brazenly to annoy Livya and her fire-based immolate or shadow damage spells. And her attempts to banish some of the elementals go awry, perhaps understandably when she is casting 'enslave demon' instead of 'banish'. But when a stealthy demon tries to ambush us Livya's spell becomes effective. Having Livya enslave demons is quite useful, for low values of 'useful'. Not happy with a demon rogue she enslaves a second one, unleashing the first from its chains of bondage and understandably causing it to start attacking us from within our midst. It is good that my paladin tanking focusses on AoE threat, allowing me to cope with Livya's fickle changes in demon choice. But when it isn't being churlish towards its captor, having a big demon fight alongside us is generally more useful and quiet than an imp.

By this point I am settling in to a comfortable rhythm. You have no idea how many times I've run this dungeon. 'Fourty-seven', replies Vulzerda. Okay, you have a really good idea how many times I've run it. Because of a couple of trinkets that were considered best for certain classes, I ran both the east and west wings of Dire Maul until I knew them like the back of my hand. It helped that I used to be a warlock, making my elemental- and demon-controlling spells useful for once, and the 'see invisibility' spell is only useful in one other place I know outside of Dire Maul West. With all of the runs through the dungeon a specific route was found that is most efficient in reaching all the bosses whilst fighting the least amount of mobs. I naturally settle in to the same route, making seemingly awkward diagonal runs through rooms and half-assuming, half-hoping my companions do the same. Of course, we are not quite at the old cap of 60th level, so it is inevitable that we draw more attention than if we were, but I am sure we still pass more mobs than we battle.

The imp is uncovered as actually being taller than Livya, for which we kill him and take the Crescent Key that opens the other wings of Dire Maul. Back up the corridor and around a corner, another imp is a humanoid in an imp suit, and his companion Lethtendris is defeated for her web, an item needed to complete a quest from Feathermoon Stronghold. A dash down a ramp and a couple of brief fights gets us to a water elemental boss, a vestige of the old mage class quest to attain what was once the highest level of water conjuring. Running across to the edge of the room and along a ledge avoids the rest of the mobs, and we encounter an actual demonic boss. This boss sacrifices a random party member, paralysing her and draining health quickly. That Qattara is sacrificed should not be a problem, as two more of us can heal, but sadly we are a bit rubbish and she doesn't survive the sacrifice. Vulzerda revivifies our druid, and Livya casts an 'ironic soulstone' on her.

Back up, along the ledge and across to the pool where the water elemental boss was, and a bit more sidling along a wall gets us to the main courtyard. Here we talk to a massive tree who agrees to smash open a door that bars progress at the other side of the courtyard. Many a time I have been in a group that has tried to dash along this path hoping to avoid the fast-moving trees, and as each time it has failed I instead take care to pull each group in turn. I can't be feeling myself. As for the others, they certainly are feeling themselves, Vulzerda suggesting a shout of 'I got wood' on getting tree aggro, and Qattara moaning about 'reaching for my wild growth'. It's a wonder I can stay focussed. But stay focussed we do, clearing the few last giant trees on the way to final boss Alzzin the Wildshaper. Livya's enslaved demon plays the part of the imp a little too well, aggressively running up to and nearly pulling the boss after clearing the surrounding mobs, but is recalled in time. The Wildshaper poses no problems, and we pause on our way out only to pick up a Felvine Shard, which probably can be used somewhere. The east wing of Dire Maul is clear, now what to do.

Ignoring a plea to head back to Blackrock Depths, it makes sense to continue our way through Dire Maul and head to the northern wing, Crescent Key in hand. Despite having been in the east and west wings dozens of times, the north wing of Dire Maul is a blurry memory for me. The most I can remember is perfecting a tricky set of jumps along walls to get to the library entrance, just inside the wing, without pulling any mobs. But I certainly have cleared this wing in the past. It all starts to come back to us as a group when a pack of dogs pounces on us whilst we are fighting only the second cluster of ogres, causing a wipe. Running back from the graveyard, which perhaps could be closer to Dire Maul than merely being somewhere in Feralas, we take care of the wandering dogs before enacting revenge on the ogres, and then take the opportunity to enter the Dire Maul library. The Athenaeum gives us the chance to sell superfluous items from our inventory as well as complete the quest to find Kariel Winthalus for an elf in Feathermoon Stronghold. 'He's not really 'lost', is he?' points out Livya. 'Either that, or these are the worst librarians in the world.' She's not wrong, as the skeleton is only four feet away from one of the librarians, who informs us of Winthalus's demise with criminal nonchalance. They could at least sweep the bones in to a corner if they aren't going to bury him.

It's back in to Dire Maul North, and there are ogres aplenty to kill. We manage to get the key to the main doors and let ourselves in, where a goblin wants to be set free. There is an opportunity here to disguise one of us as an ogre and clear the instance in a secondary way, for different rewards, but it requires having some ogre tannin and I don't know how to get that. It turns out that releasing the goblin gets us the tannin, meaning two visits to the instance are required. Although a little frustrating, it isn't as bad as some quests that require multiple visits, because at least the return visit will involve seeing the instance in an entirely different way. And, as luck would have it, it looks like we're coming back anyway. The ogres get powerful quickly, all being 59th or 60th level elite mobs, with similar level demon minions, and as our average character level is 55 we struggle to make every hit count. One unfortunate over-pull goes a bit awry with spellcasters and demons flying everywhere, causing many deaths. Even though Qattara revives me mid-combat, and uses Livya's soulstone herself, the ogre warlocks' use of a banish spell unfortunately removes either tank, healer or DPS from the fight at different times. Ultimately, I am the last Filesystem Checkwit standing, banished and surrounded by angry-looking ogres. It doesn't end well. But we are not vanquished yet.

We run back to Dire Maul for another attempt, enjoying the real challenge of being under-level for the instance, when the arena master yells that The Razza is taking on any challengers. The arena in Dire Maul is one of the few open areas where anyone can attack anyone else. It is like PvP but where Horde vs. Horde and Alliance vs. Alliance can occur. It is also where a rare boss spawns every so often, offering some good quality loot for the added risk. And it is where, years ago, my party got ambushed by a supposedly friendly guild when we were close to defeating one of the rare mobs, so they could take some stupid loot for themselves. Not that I'm bitter. These days, Dire Maul is as good as deserted, and taking on The Razza seems like a good idea. We jump in to the arena and defeat the rare boss, picking up a couple of nice items as a reward, before heading back in to the north wing of Dire Maul. But the dungeon appears to have reset. The ogres at the entrance are not simply respawns, as the first boss has reappeared, which is peculiar. The dungeon shouldn't reset simply because we left it, as there is a specific option to reset instances in the user interface, so I am not quite sure what has happened. But it is getting late, so we go out to Feathermoon Stronghold in Feralas to turn in our quests and decide a plan for the following week.

It makes sense to continue our journey through Dire Maul, going back to the north wing at the start of next week. There is even the chance of making the ogre suit, now that we have the tannin, although it will take some research to see how to do this. I consider resting at Feathermoon Stronghold for a week, but remember that I am now 56th level and could use some training, so use my hearthstone to return to Stormwind like the other Filesystem Checkwits. It seems to be naked draenei day in Stormwind, with more than tails exposed in every quarter of the city. I consider joining in, but of course I need to wear plate, being a tank. Oh well. Vulzerda takes time to clear out the guild bank, as useless gems, leather and herbs are getting in the way of a few hundred snowballs. And I try really hard not to smite the paladin trainer when he only offers two incremental improvements to useless auras as the entirety of my training. I'm glad I came back now, as I can look forwards to repeating the long return journey to Feralas next week with no discernible class improvements. The ogres will pay for this.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.