Remedial Dungeoneering: Molten Core

            In addition to putting Monday Morning Mid-Laner on hiatus for the time being, I’ve decided to take a break from the Feeding Log and ranked LoL in general until Season 4 gets a little more settled in and I have some time to sit down and really figure out what the hell I’m doing.  In the meantime, I’m going to focus on learning Dota 2 behind the scenes and will hopefully be able to deliver some content on that in the coming weeks. 

            For now, though, I’ve been playing a lot of WoW and looking for a way to write about what I’ve been up to in Azeroth, and the idea came to me to do a temporary column about my favorite thing to do in MMOs: shameless tourism! In this case, it’s the old raids and dungeons that are getting my attention, and so for the next stretch of time I’ll be writing articles here where I go into some of the lore, gameplay history, and current impressions of the places based on my own experience and research.

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Uh, I’ll just show myself out.

            Given that I’m doing this in order, then, the first and most obvious destination is the granddaddy of all traditional raids, the long storied Molten Core (40).

            Molten Core’s lore is rather simple. Ragnaros is the Firelord, and this is where his slaves essentially call him into the normal world from his home plane. Majordomo Executus is his chief lieutenant, and is required to call Ragnaros out in order to beat him up and take his lunch money. The players invade Molten Core, bully Executus into summoning Ragnaros, and then give Ragnaros a black eye, forcing him to retreat back into the Firelands.

            At the time, this dungeon represented the pinnacle of PvE in World of Warcraft. Featuring general mob design that required an enormous amount of stacking of a particular stat (fire resist), a 40-player requirement, incredibly powerful loot and bosses that required a heavy degree of coordination, Molten Core was everything that a high end raiding guild wanted out of an endgame dungeon.

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Bad move, Executus.

            The loot in particular remains somewhat legendary and difficult to obtain to this day. Chief among the items to be gotten by running Molten Core were the two legendary weapons Sulfuras and Thunderfury, ridiculous and garish looking items that will provide a player with a degree of nerd cred to this day if obtained and transmogrified onto the appearance of current level weapons. The quests involved in obtaining Thunderfury in particular remain very onerous and time-consuming, and at the time, having one of these weapons may have been the greatest accomplishment in swag acquisition in the game.

            Mechanically, there’s a fair amount here that’s novel, if not a little blunt. Stacking fire resist has a kind of nostalgia to it in and of itself, as there are no fights in current content that require players to amass a huge amount of a particular stat. That kind of gameplay concept is as much a forgotten relic as this dungeon itself. Some elements of the trash design remain in raids to this day; mechanics like the Core Hounds’ revivals requiring players to really pay attention during certain trash fights are echoed in modern raids like Throne of Thunder. On top of that, the requirement of leaving Executus alive during his fight in order to keep him around to summon Ragnaros is a unique mechanic that hasn’t really cropped up in much content since this.  From a design perspective, Molten Core was the WoW design team’s magnum opus at the time, a creation of the sum of all their PvE sadism and cunning.

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Pictured: Pretty much everything you’ll see in Molten Core.

            If only the look  and feel of it were a little more interesting. Molten Core may as well be a jumbo-sized carbon copy of Ragefire Chasm in appearance, featuring nothing but brown caves and lava. Given that this dungeon is essentially the core of a volcano this kind of aesthetic makes sense, but as the pinnacle of PvE content, it was a bit disappointing to engage in a raid that was far less artistically interesting than many of the 5-player dungeons that preceded it. The Core Hounds at least are a very iconic looking enemy, and Ragnaros himself is still a fantastic model, but their surroundings simply don’t deserve them. For the first truly epic encounter of the game, they could have done a bit better than “fire cave.”

            Presently, there are still a few decent reasons to run Molten Core. Like all old raids, there’s an element of catharsis to running in and obliterating things that used to take hours and dozens of players to clear, and it’s pretty funny to go swimming in the lava, as its damage was a flat amount and doesn’t scale to modern health amounts. There are also three mini-pets that can drop from various bosses, added in patch 5.1 as part of the “Raiding With Leashes” achievement. The addition of transmogrification to the game has also made it useful to come here to accumulate pieces of Tier 1 gear for a visual set, and of course, there’s always the allure of assembling the components to the great Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker.

            Molten Core might not look like much, but it’s still the pinnacle of original raid content, and keeps a special place in many long-term players’ hearts. It can be found at the bottom of Blackrock Mountain, and is worth checking out for anyone above level 70 or so who wants to take a stroll through history.

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