Phase three marks the delivery of two raids: Mount Hyjal and the Black Temple. We will cover those, but first I want to cover an additional set of content that was made available (or, more accurately, was populated) in this phase, as well as some key accessibility changes made in this phase.
First is the ease of acquiring crafting resources for phase one and two crafted gear. Longtime readers (read: masochists) will remember the Netherstrike gear I made prior to raiding in phase one. A key material for the crafting of these items was a Primal Nether, which was a rare drop from normal difficulty dungeons and a guaranteed one-of drop at the end of heroic dungeons.
In phase two, Nether Vortexes were a key part of crafted items, including the must-have crafted epic item of the phase, the Belt of Blasting. Up until Phase 5 came along and made all the gear before it obsolete, this was the belt to have, as the stats and sockets on it were incredible.
In phase three, both of these key items became available for 10 Badges of Justice. I'll cover off what "Badges" are, in a later article, but for now you should consider them to be a currency with a limited scope of use. You can trade them in for a very small amount of useful gear, that will largely be made obsolete in this phase.
Phase 3 brought with it two significant changes to gear acquisition for PvP. The first was allowing for PvE raid tokens to be turned into PvP gear. This helped to breathe a bit of life into older raids, stretching out the lifespan of older tokens. Borderline unusable PvE tokens like T4 gloves became somewhat useful for those wishing to PvP casually, due to the class-specific equip bonuses on those items.
The second was to jack up the honor rewards for the PvP dailies. These included the Hellfire Peninsula towers, the Terokkar Spirit towers, defending Halaa (which didn't get done because trading 20 kills is way too much of a muckabout) and the daily battleground.
Whilst the idea of doing PvP today for die-hard PvE players may be somewhat heretical or, more than likely just unnecessary, many of the weapons available for honor helped to plug gaps otherwise very difficult to fill normally. The Merciless Gladiator off-hand sword was incredible for Rogues, and both feral druids and protection warriors got a ton of mileage out of PvP gear due to resilience being more valuable, per point, than defence rating, when reducing enemy critical hit chance.
In fact, for phase three and four, it was recommended that aspiring tanks complete 10 arena games each week, as the pieces they recieved were excellent threat off-pieces.
The warrior set in particular, looked awesome:
Whilst the traditional methods of generating wealth, such as farming in-demand resources or selling finished raid consumables has not changed, except perhaps a touch of deflation thanks to the Skettis and Ogri'la dailies, The big focus of today's article is the Netherwing Ledge daily area.
It ties in somewhat with the Black Temple, being the location of a large contingent of broken slaves, and the Dragonmaw, allies of Illidan.
Of course, TBC gives you nothing for free and you must attune yourself to the dailies.
Before I talk about that in too much detail, a touch of trivia. Netherwing Ledge prior to the launch of this phase was an empty rock in the corner of Shadowmoon Valley. You could see a high-fantasy runway - and I did wonder what that was for.
You also kill a ghost dragon, Vhel'kur, here as part of the "Teron Gorefiend, I am..." quest chain.
The attunement process for the Netherwing consists of a handful of quests, culminating in a group quest to kill a miniboss. As per usual, you'll be able to do a big chunk of this yourself and then need your friends to help. You could also do this quest chain as early as phase one, just without the payoff of access to Netherwing Ledge.
First, in the Netherwing fields to the east of the Scryer outpost (and to the south of the Aldor), you'll find Mordenai, part of the Netherwing, in his human form. He tasks you with feeding the drakes that are circling, hungry but unwilling to land, indicating something is wrong.
Mordenai then directs you to seek the patron of the Netherwing, Nelthraku. He paints you a grim picture of the Netherwing. They don't want to land because the Dragonmaw Orcs, empowered by Illidan, are imprisoning those that come into convenient net range.
Old mate Nelthraku sends you all over the shop to help the Netherwing in their fight against the Dragonmaw. He tasks you with killing orcs in the nearby Dragonmaw Fortress, as well as going to Netherwing Ledge itself to gather crystals. Standard fetch quest stuff.
It is a lot easier to complete these quests outside the phase three launch peak period, because at that point there are orcs and Dragonmaw Ascendants that will two-shot you with their huge two-handed weapons. Also there's lots of players hoovering up everything in sight.
Empowered by your success and plot armor as an MMORPG player, Nelthraku sends you to free some drakes in Dragonmaw fortress using the crystals from Netherwing Ledge, and then sends you to see his consort, held prisoner by the villain of the piece, Zuluhed the Whacked.
It helps to gather up a dungeon group at this point, as Zuluhed is an elite level 72 heroic-dungeon boss. Karyunaku baits him in with the promise that she'll submit to his will for partial control of the Netherwing. But what happens instead, is you show up, and with some clever manipulation of the arena (he organises an ambush of his own) involving moving Zuluhed into one of the nearby orc-filled rooms, you kill him.
He drops a key, you use it to free Karyunaku, and the next thing you know, you're out here grinding in Shadowmoon Valley for gold.
Well, not quite. Mordenai tells you to head to the ledge and tells you the Netherwing magic will cloak you - more on what that means in a moment.
In a very "the rich get richer" scenario, you need maximum flying skill to unlock the next set of quests. Which cost 5,000 gold. But, hey, you have to spend money to earn money, right?
Whilst on the Netherwing ledge, you'll be disguised as a Dragonmaw Orc. It also turns your mount into a Netherdrake, which is awesome.
The idea is that you're gaining the Orcs' trust, but undermining them from the inside. So the quests that you complete for the Dragonmaw gain you reputation with the Netherwing.
As a "raw recruit", you don't get very many quests. Depending on your professions, you'll get one daily for each gathering profession, but you can only complete one if you have too gathering professions. So if you have herbalism and mining, you can only turn in the mining quest or the herbalism quest, not both.
If you have no professions, there's also a generic item that all enemies drop on the ledge, Netherwing Crystals, that form a second daily. You do need thirty, though, so this quest can be very grindy if it's the only quest you're trying to complete.
Yarzil the Merc, a Netherwing dragon in disguise, gives you two quests for picking off Dragonmaw to help the Netherwing directly. One of these isn't too bad, but was impossible at launch, thanks to the volume of people trying to complete it, which involves trying to kill Dragonmaw transporters to recover relics.
The easiest way to do this was to park yourself near a transporter spawn point and hope to tag the Transporters before someone else did. The drop rate for the relics was reasonably high, but if competition for the spawn points is high, you were wasting your time here.
The second quest involves killing Shadowmoon Valley wildlife for an item which poisons the Dragonmaw Peons around the ledge. The problem with this quest is it takes an age to gather the items and then a second age to use them. I did this once, realised how much time it took to complete, and never did it again.
All the enemies on the ledge also have a chance to drop Netherwing eggs. These can be turned in for reputation with the Netherwing, but don't give you any gold. It's still valuable for gaining access to more quests on the ledge, as the number of quests available to you increases as you move through the tiers.
At the friendly reputation tier, you gain access to three more quests.
The first two are in the Netherwing mines - an admittedly quite deep and complex system of mines on the ledge which are fun to explore. The quests are generic "gather X of Y" and "kill X of Y" quests and aren't anything to write home about, but they're pretty convenient to get through in a hurry, and have a high gold yield.
There's also some one-off quests down in the mines, too. Some Murkblood miners and foremen have been driven insane by the emergence of a Netherwing dragon underground. You have to kill them. For humane reasons, of course, and not because it's another injection of filthy lucre.
You also uncover a plot hatched by the broken miners to rebel against the Dragonmaw. So, because you never learned anything from countless rap artists, you snitch on them.
But it turns out the Netherwing and the Broken know there's a hero with MMORPG plot armor coming to help them, and so the foreman you approach cuts his own hand off (well, he says he does, the model doesn't change.) I wonder if he knows that he's stuck there forever anyway.
Up top, the foreman sends you to Netherstorm to gather a particularly rare piece of leather to construct a Booterang. You then fly around Netherwing ledge, throwing it at peons who are lazy and not working. Top score!
I made a macro for this one, as the normal process of clicking on a peon and then using the item was way too slow, and during peak periods, this quest was quite competitive.
As you move up the reputation tiers, you also gain access to a trinket, which scales with your "rank". It's pretty rubbish, but it eventually you recieve version of the trinket which gives you 45 stamina - excellent for mitigation sets whilst tanking. The active ability may as well not exist.
Once you reach honored, there's some real fun to be had. Kind of.
You get a quest chain from one of the Dragonmaw subcommanders to go and kill an eredar relation. You construct a cannon of souls, using some obscure expensive engineering materials (In late phase four, for my second Netherwing grind, it cost me about 120 gold.) and an item from a specific quest in Terokkar forest where you kill spirits.
Soul cannon in hand, you head to the Twilight Portal in Nagrand and gun Reth'Hedron down from your flying mount. At last! A use for that part of the region!
There's also a daily quest to go there and kill X of Y. Not very interesting, and a long way from Shadowmoon Valley.
It's only worth doing if you really need the gold or the reputation. Otherwise, it's not worth the effort.
You also unlock a fun series of races on Netherwing Ledge. Remember that airstrip you observed on the way in? Yes, it's kind of used, sort of.
You "race" against different NPCs, increasing in difficulty. As a fun callback to classic World of Warcraft, two of the NPCs you race against are the wing commanders from Alterac Valley, who are out of a job because no-one goes there anymore.
(Except during AV weekend.)
Eventually you get to race against Captain Skyshatter, who is ludicrously hard, and requires you to have a movement speed enhancing item and probably a paladin in your party for Crusader Aura, just to have the privilege of beating him. Which I never did, because the only reward is a movement speed increasing item which you could make in phase one.
Maybe I'll go back and do it as a status symbol.
Once you hit revered, you're on the home stretch for a very special reward.
First, you get the +45 stamina trinket. Awesome. Now if you're tanking, you'll die so very slightly less often.
You also gain access to one last daily, which changes depending on your factional loyalty. The cliff's notes is that the Dragonmaw want to lay an ambush, but are also really bad at communicating with one another.
You, as the inside agent, present evidence to the Aldor, or the Scryers, that the Dragonmaw are planning to attack and kill everyone. So, rather than just waiting to be massacred, they get you to help fight them off and then present the medals to the Dragonmaw commander to prove that they're all dead. It never occuring to the Dragonmaw that if their ambush was successful, maybe more than one attacker would have survived.
This quest is quirky. Firstly, it can be done without outside help, even though it has a recommended difficulty of three players. Classes with good gear and high damage output will be able to get through the attacking Dragonmaw NPCs without much difficulty whilst they're occupied by the defenders.
Secondly, on the off chance you do die (or you got it in your head that it might be a good idea to do dailies as a tank class...) The graveyard is right next to where the quest is happening, and you don't automatically fail if you die. So you can resurrect and keep pecking away at the attacking enemies until you complete the quest. This does cut into your margins, though.
That covers off all of the Netherwing dailies. But apart from exchanging time for gold, what else do you get for your efforts?
Well, if the trinket wasn't good enough for you, once you finish the grind all the way to exalted, Overseer Mor'ghor, the leader at Netherwing Ledge, wants to show you off to the Highlord of the Dragonmaw.
You know. Illidan.
Anyway, drama aside, Illidan isn't a fool, and when the Overseer excitedly tells his boss about all the good work you've done for them, he exposes you almost immediately. He starts yelling about how the Overseer is a moron, and things don't look great. Or, they wouldn't if you didn't have MMORPG player character armor.
Regardless, before Illidan or Mor'ghor can "kill" you, Yarzil intervenes and scoots you all the way back to Shattrath City.
When you get to Shattrath, for your deeds in service to the Netherwing (and also all the raw materials you pumped into the Dragonmaw...) You get your choice of cool glowy pastel Netherdrake. Of course, choose wisely, as after the choice is made, that's it.
Of course I went for purple, because purple is awesome and seemed to fit the theme of the expansion, and the second time around I went with cobalt, because blue is also awesome.
Because it's impossible to move an MMORPG world forward, you can still come back and complete the dailies. Which you definitely should if you need to pay for raid consumables, or you're a big spender and want to attend your server's GDKP (or, several GDKPs if there's more than one.) The gold yield to time invested is reasonable. Not great, just reasonable.
(Editor's note: That would change in phase five, when gold for time invested would shift into maximum overdrive.)
There is one other lore tidbit in the Netherwing Ledge. I don't know if it was done deliberately for those that have exceptionally long memories, but there is an encounter with Lady Sinestra. Unless you're a diehard robe and wizard hat kind of person, it will mean very little to you, and meant very little to me.
Long story short, she makes a representation to the Overseer of Netherwing Ledge about the procurement of Netherwing eggs. She mentions Nefarian, a raid boss and lore-significant character from Blackwing lair, there's some veiled threats, and it's all very ominous. The whole encounter ends without much of anything, and leaves a loose thread.
Turns out two, expansions later (i.e: Cataclysm), all the eggs bought from the Dragonmaw were taken back to a stronghold belonging to the Black Dragonflight. The very same dragonflight headed up by Deathwing - you might have heard of him. Anyway she appears as a raid boss and all the eggs she nicked, hatched, and raised, play a part in the Bastion of Twilight instance.
Maybe if we continue on into Cataclysm, you'll get to see an article making the link between the two.
Beyond the Netherwing, phase three also marked the release of epic-quality gems. Quite powerful, and dropped in large quantities by mobs inside of both phase 3 raids, these marked a step up in powerlevel for dedicated raiders. The gem cut recipes were also available relatively cheaply from the Caverns of Time, provided you went into the raid instance to buy them, giving players access to a (nearly) instant, cost-effective boost in key stats.
But we'll consume the succulent meat of phase three, the raids, in another article.
Catch you next time,
Did you like this article? Did you hate it? Go over and keep the discussion going on the official Vulkan's Corner facebook page! - whilst you're at it, leave a like!