Last week, we finally escaped the morass of World of Warcraft's beta to discuss patch 1.2, the first major content patch of the post-release game. We're going to take a break from patches for a while to examine some other myths and legends that arose in vanilla WoW. Today, we're going to look back to one of the legends of Molten Core.
Molten Core is rather unique in that it's the home of more than one legendary item. Both Thunderfury and Sulfuras have their roots in Molten Core, though one does require items from Blackwing Lair to complete; Blackwing Lair hadn't even been implemented yet when players started receiving the first pieces of these legendary items.
Everybody knows about Thunderfury and Sulfuras, though. Not as many people know Molten Core once had a third legendary.
A legend born
Blackwing Lair was not in the game at launch, as mentioned. It was the headlining feature of patch 1.6 in July 2005, roughly half of a year after the launch of the base game. Despite being released so long after the game's launch, Blackwing Lair was tied to Molten Core more closely than any other raid instances the game has ever seen since. For example, Molten Core contains both halves of the Bindings of the Windseeker necessary for crafting Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker, but you can only acquire the Elementium Ingots required for crafting it in Blackwing Lair.
In addition to legendary item hooks, Molten Core had another interesting tie-in with Blackwing Lair: Ragnaros, the final tier 1 boss, drops pieces of tier 2. More importantly, prior to Blackwing Lair, Molten Core was your source for the entirety of both tier 1 and tier 2 armor. Tier gear did not have unique art for months and were just palette swaps of green- and blue-quality items. Whether you received tier 1 or tier 2 armor from a boss like Garr was a total crapshoot until patch 1.4, when they took tier 2 out of Molten Core completely -- pants off of Ragnaros excepted.
As you can probably tell, raid itemization in the first tier of WoW raiding was truly a mess. It wasn't just a struggle against poorly itemized items (which was certainly the case back then), but it was also trying to pick through the very odd decisions made by developers who weren't necessarily sure how their raids should be structured yet. They had their vision, sure, but ultimately some decisions were made in a rush by the seat of their pants.
Within all of these itemization oddities was the item we're talking about today lies the third legendary from Molten Core: the Talisman of Binding Shard.
The Talisman of Binding Shard was a legendary necklace (not a weapon!) that has dropped once, and only once, in all of World of Warcraft history. It is an item that was never meant to exist on live realms. The item dropped March 23, 2005, a full four months after the launch of the game, for the guild Nurfed of Archimonde (US). Take note of that guild name, because you'll be seeing it quite a bit in upcoming additions of the Archivist.
When the item dropped for Nurfed, they were pleasantly surprised to see the legendary drop, but it's unlikely that anybody was more surprised than Blizzard themselves. There are only two times in WoW's entire history that we've heard about an item "oops" on that scale: Talisman of Binding Shard and the Martin Fury fiasco years later.
The Talisman (tooltip to the right) was given to Noktyn, one of Nurfed's tanks. It was an ideal tanking necklace for the time. It came before the days of +defense on gear (which was then eliminated in Cataclysm, interestingly enough) and largely before stats like dodge and parry appeared on items, too. It was all about the raw stats. In the days of Molten Core, it didn't get much better than the Talisman. Strength, agility, stamina, heaps of fire and nature resistance for all of vanilla WoW's raids, and a damage shield to help a tank with threat generation. It absolutely did not get better than that --not to mention the item had a visual spell effect on your character, the only necklace in the game to actually augment your appearance.
Immediately after this item appeared on live realms, Blizzard hotfixed it off of Baron Geddon's loot table. Though this item was never seen again (and will never be seen again), Noktyn was allowed to keep the only one that ever dropped. Unfortunately, Noktyn has server-transferred his character in the years since the Talisman has dropped, and the character that once held the legendary necklace has gone inactive. For that reason, you won't see it on the official armory any time soon.
Why did this item exist?
We'll never be sure why Blizzard created this item that was never meant to be seen. Perhaps the team was just messing around with learning how to itemize legendary pieces, and this was just a behind-the-scenes learning tool. However, Blizzard development has created quite a few playing-around items that are itemized much less ... reasonably -- Martin Fury and Martin Thunder (since renamed Martin's Broken Staff, for reasons we will explore another day), for example. Those items have always been clearly marked as development tools, but the Talisman of Binding Shard really is quite reasonable.
One explanation is that since the Thunderfury quest chain couldn't be completed until Blackwing Lair was implemented, the Talisman of Binding Shard could have been an artifact of early concepts for that quest.
Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker, is gained via releasing Thunderaan, son of Al'Akir, from the Bindings of the Windseeker. You release Thunderaan, defeat him in combat, and wrest the blade from his corpse. When Ragnaros imprisoned Thunderaan in the Bindings of the Windseeker, he entrusted the bindings to two of his minions: Garr and Baron Geddon.
Before Blizzard settled on the Bindings of the Windseeker as quest items, it's very possible it was considering the idea of assembling multiple legendaries to unlock a legendary weapon. It is a Talisman of Binding and has a nature-based spell effect attached to it. It fits Thunderfury thematically and could have been one small piece of the puzzle to gaining Thunderfury.
If that theory is true, it raises another question: Was the Talisman of Binding Shard just one of many items created for this purpose? Could there be legendary rings, trinkets, or armor that we've never seen that once existed for the same purpose as the Talisman of Binding Shard?
We could also be aiming too high. Rather than the Talisman of Binding Shard's being one step toward unlocking Thunderfury, maybe it was Thunderfury before Thunderfury. Maybe Blizzard planned Sulfuras to be Molten Core's legendary weapon and the Talisman of Binding Shard to be a legendary piece of armor but ultimately decided Thunderfury was a better idea, and thus we ended up with two legendary weapons -- and an unspoken rule that all legendary items will be weapons.
Either way, we don't really know why this item was made or why it was removed. What we do know is that this item is perhaps the only item in World of Warcraft truly deserving of the title "legendary."
The WoW Archivist examines the WoW of old. Follow along while we discuss beta patch 0.8, beta patch 0.9, and hidden locations such as the crypts of Karazhan.