With the latest World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard's stated aim has been to get more people involved in the game's top-tier "raid" dungeons. It's made all of them accessible to 10-player groups, and attempted to smooth their notoriously steep difficulty curves. In the first of an occasional series aimed at the novice raider, we present a tour of Lich King's "starter" raid, Naxxramas, in its 10-man version.
The little-seen pinnacle of Blizzard's 40-player raid design, the Naxxramas Necropolis makes a welcome return in new expansion Wrath of the Lich King, now serving as an entry-level raid dungeon for 10- and 25-player groups. Hovering ominously over the south-eastern area of Dragonblight, it is home to Kel'Thuzad, right-hand man of the Lich King, and his legion of unpleasant minions. While some of the encounters have been tweaked and simplified from their original versions to reflect the smaller group sizes and a less strict class representation, the principles remain largely the same and can provide a considerable challenge for those unfamiliar to them and/or new to raiding.
With the expansion directly addressing many of the issues of group composition and "class stacking" that affected raiding in the past, raiding is no longer so strictly balanced around assuming specific classes, talent specs, and the abilities available only to them. Blizzard has said that its intention now is for groups to "bring the player, not the class" - and as a result, this new incarnation of Naxxramas demands very little in terms of arranging groups, and class stacking is unnecessary for quick progression.
The only real requirement now is that you have two tanks and two healers - the rest is up to you. Naturally, things may be easier with certain abilities available to call upon, but as long as the raid is skilled and geared to an appropriate degree - say, at least all blue-quality gear from level 80 dungeons - and is able to grasp the mechanics of the encounters, any reasonable combination of classes and talent specs should be able to succeed.
The Arachnid Quarter
Generally considered the easiest of Naxxramas' four wings, the Arachnid Quarter contains 3 bosses lurking amongst enough spiders to make an arachnophobe out of anyone. The first of these is Anub'Rekhan, a giant scarab-like creature. He begins the fight alone but regularly calls for guards to assist him which must be quickly picked up and killed before returning attention to Anub'Rekhan. Other than his guards, he has three abilities of note: firstly, he sends a trail of spikes along the ground to impale anything in their path, so everyone should avoid bunching up; secondly, anything that dies during the fight, be it guards or players, will spawn dozens of vicious scarabs soon after which will swarm your healers if not dealt with; and lastly, roughly every minute or so, he will begin to cast Insect Swarm, a deadly aura that destroys anything close by, so the tank must run to the other side of the chamber in a manner than prevents the Insect Swarm coming close to the rest of the group, as the slow-moving scarab lord chases after.
Defeat Anub'Rekhan and you should soon find your way to Grand Widow Faerlina and her entourage. Unlike most fights where the boss has guards nearby, these should not be killed immediately, as they play an important role in the battle. While having a rain of fire and volleys of poisonous bolts at her disposal, Faerlina's deadliest ability is her Frenzy, whereupon she will increase both the damage and frequency of her attacks to the point where your tank will soon crumble. However, killing one of her worshippers after it occurs will nullify the effect and return her to normal for a while, so they should all be held by a second tank, and one killed by the raid whenever necessary. Due to the limited number of worshippers, Faerlina's frenzy cannot be dispelled indefinitely, so the group cannot take too long to kill her.
The final boss of the Arachnid Quarter is Maexxna, an ever-so-slightly large spider. The most testing encounter of the area, she unleashes dozens of spider hatchlings, will randomly place a player in a poisonous cocoon that must be broken quickly if they are to survive and, worst of all, uses a web spray to completely immobilise everyone for 8 seconds at a time, putting the tank in dire peril as she continues to attack. To make matters worse, the closer she gets to death, the more powerful she becomes, so those 8 second periods become unbearably long as she rains blows on the tank while everyone watches helplessly. Survive this torturous final 30 per cent, and with her death a portal on the wall becomes active and the raid can return to the centre of the necropolis to decide the next place to go.