There, on the horizon to the Northwest, do you see it? Daggers of lightning spear through clusters of dark clouds filling the air with electricity you can feel crackling against your skin. Thereâ€™s a sense of foreboding that clings, and something else…
Act I: The Premise
Let me tell you a tale. To set the scene, Rise of the Thunder King: Patch 5.2 is live and weâ€™re a week into the new content. Itâ€™s a typical afternoon and as I fire up my computer, I can feel relaxation set in as my mind ponders the many things I hope to accomplish in game.
Act II: Adventure is Not a Four Letter Word
Iâ€™m itching to head to the Isle of Thunder, but I know I have time to weave in a few other day to day quests and tasks. Being a farming nut I have some crops I want to tend to first!
The Valley of the Four Winds has always felt like a place of such great harmony. My kinship with The Tillers of the Valley was quickly forged the very first time I traveled through the area, and I quickly worked toward becoming Exalted with the faction. Being Exalted with The Tillers and having all four plots unlocked, I was able to purchase the farm, and Iâ€™m happy I get to call this place home (not to mention set my Hearthstone here!).
Right, first thingâ€™s first: Itâ€™s time to till! The crops I planted yesterday are ready for harvest, and I want to make sure I plant some more today before heading out. With the patch you can now take work orders for various factions, allowing you to gain rep just by growing crops! I begin plowing my field, and much to my delight with each pass of the plow the Squatting Virmen are knocked out of their Occupied Soil, stunned and damaged. Huzzah! This is the point where I realize Iâ€™m doing a silly happy dance and force myself to stop out of embarrassment. To no oneâ€™s surprise, Luna gazes at me suspiciously while Shaggy just snorts and gnaws on his cud.
After quickly planting whatâ€™s left of my seeds and clearing away obstacles from my growing plants, I hop onto my Jade Pandaren Kite and make my way to the Shado-Pan Garrison. The portal to the new island is near the Shado-Pan garrison, and since I still want a Shado-Pan tiger of my very own, itâ€™s time to exact some revenge for the Watchers on the Wall! With Tenwu of the Red Smoke at my side and our stealth giving us the edge, we swiftly work through the Sraâ€™thik leaving a trail of lifeless bodies in our wake.
As I head to the portal, members of my guild begin to chatter about tomorrowâ€™s scheduled raid in Heart of Fear. Though weâ€™ve dipped our toes into Throne of Thunder Normal, weâ€™re all pretty casual and still have some gearing up to do before we can make real attempts on the new bosses. A couple people are sharing some tactical ideas with one of our raid leaders. For me, I just make sure I hit hard, avoid standing in bad things, and toss a battle rez should the worst happen. But their impassioned planning gets me thinking: â€œTomorrow, Unâ€™sok . . . tomorrow you will meet your demise.â€ (Youâ€™ll have to picture me with my GRRR face on and my fist clenched in the air for this to be properly dramatic.)
Act III: That Lesson About Being Prepared
After tidying up whatâ€™s left of my Shado-Pan tasks for the day, a group begins to form to take on the Thundering Isle in force. We are unable to ignore the haunting calls of the mogu, the Zandalari, and the terrifying Thunder King. More importantly, the quest hub progression needs our help as our realm works together to conquer Lei Shenâ€™s stronghold, and compelled by our patriotism, we set off. Arriving at the armada just offshore, weâ€™re greeted by a mass of Kirin-Tor and Sunreaver Onslaught leaders, each one providing instruction as to the materials they need and creatures to be decimated. If weâ€™re to battle our way into the Throne of Thunder, now is the time to step up! We report to Lorâ€™themar and he provides us the option to assist in either PvE or PvP quests for that day, and upon completion weâ€™re to receive a chest full of useful items. Today we choose PvE, although certainly many around us have clearly gone the PvP route with yellow-flagged names showing their intent.
Weâ€™re all pretty familiar with each other so this should go fairly smoothly. Moving together like a pride of lions, we weave in and out of every obstacle leaving a trail of destruction in our wakes. A few of us earn some green drops from the kills, otherwise theyâ€™d be sharded or auctioned, but these hold a specific significance. Some of the green items that drop on this island use the old Zulâ€™Aman raid item appearances, perfect for transmogrification. We complete one of our tasks, then another, and itâ€™s at this moment we finally pause. Just up the path in front of us is the Saurok Cave, and something just doesnâ€™t feel right. Weâ€™ve banded together against some pretty vicious foes in our past, but for some reason, this island gives us a chill of fear weâ€™re not too familiar with. Steely and determined, we press forward and continue our attacks.
Trouble! As weâ€™re managing a mass of mobs, along comes a rare spawn which puts a strain on our crew. Fortunately, just up the way is another group of adventurers and they join in to help us take down the beast. Whew! We wipe the sweat from our brows content that weâ€™ve finally completed all of our quests. Itâ€™s a moment we can relish and finally catch our breath. Our Druid tank breaks the relaxing silence as he notices a few mysterious items in his inventory. They are called Shanâ€™ze Ritual Stones and can apparently be used to summon a powerful rare creature. Itâ€™s at this point I can picture us all having the same look: Eyes squinted with determination, each of us looks around and we nod in unison. Letâ€™s do this!
Tucked away off to one side of the island is a small clearing. It is here we realize weâ€™re able to begin the summoning ritual. Eager for the chance to earn mounts, items, and rep-granting insignias our party chat fills with hopes for the coming kill. Suddenly, popping out of what can only be described as nether, a vicious brute by the name of Korâ€™dok appears before us. Before we have any time to consider our opponent the fight has already begun, and after an epic battle it concludes. A couple of us get bags filled with gems and enchanting materials, while the tank manages the unthinkable and wins a mount, a three-horned dinosaur formed of the darkest crystal, and guild chat erupts as he links his prize.
As we make our way back towards the armada, I notice a strange key in my inventory. Examining it more closely, I soon discover that it belongs to the Shado-Pan. The rest of my group goes on without me to take on their own adventures for this night, and after a quick discussion with one of the Shado-Pan leaders Iâ€™m snuck to a secret location. Itâ€™s a single-player scenario, and itâ€™s full of treasure! Glorious and ornate, the room is a spectacle to behold. Littered about me are chests bulging with gold and powerfully rare antiquities, but I have only a short time to grab as much as I can, and the traps that protect the chests are designed to slow my progress. I make it out, alive, with arms full of riches and items.
Eager to continue my evening I queue for the first wing of the Throne of Thunder Raid Finder: Last Stand of the Zandalari. These new encounters test our group fearlessly, and the experience is too much for some to bear. As we fight on we pick up new valiant adventurers, and fight on until weâ€™ve nothing left to fight. At the end of it Iâ€™m an ilvl 502 trinket richer, and find myself doing that same embarrassing happy dance from earlier.
Honestly, I cannot do any of this justice, so I will leave you with these parting words:
Whispers float on the winds of this island of a fearsome reptile, of a celestial spirit that guards a gateway, and of a legend that will weigh heavy upon the minds of triumphant heroes. And while each of these rumors is intriguing, what Iâ€™ve shared is but a day in Pandariaâ€”a day that barely scratches the surface of whatâ€™s to come. I can feel my heart begin to race at the thought of the adventures I will have, and the places I'll explore, once Patch 5.2 comes. And while this story is fiction for the time being, soon it will be reality, and the Isle of Thunderâ€™s mysteries will be revealed!
*Chad "Crithto" Wingerd is a Community Manager for World of Warcraft, and is not a pug in real life.