The Burning Crusade offered several tiers of raid content, but unlike classic WoW, those first few tiers were available upon release. Vanilla WoW didn't offer all that raid content right up front; players had to wait for BWL, AQ40, and ultimately, Naxxramas. This didn't mean you could just hit level 70 and waltz on into any raid content you wanted, however. There was a progression between tiers of raids, and the tier loot reflected that progression.
Players were expected to complete Karazhan, Gruul's Lair, and Magtheridon's Lair (roughly in that order) in order to move on to the next tier of content. In order to guarantee that order of progression, Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep both required attunement chains to be completed before raid groups could enter. These chains required items from -- you guessed it -- Kara, Gruul, and Magtheridon. Serpentshrine and Tempest Keep both offered pieces for a new set of tier, tier 5.
Like tier 4 before it, tier 5 is split between the two raid zones so that raiders would experience both raids before moving on. Vashj's watery retreat, Serpentshrine Cavern, was the first stop for most raid guilds. Handily located in Coilfang Reservoir, the raid didn't require flight to get to.
At this point, the tier system of loot had been pretty well established. To this day, players collect tokens for gear and turn in the tokens. Other methods of obtaining the tier pieces have now been introduced, but the start of the token system found its start back in AQ40 and classic Naxxramas and later morphed into the much easier and more refined version we were presented with in Burning Crusade raids.
The raid zones for tier 5 tokens also contain recolors -- look-alikes of tier 5 gear in different color combinations. You could almost look at it as a precursor to the normal/heroic color differentiations in tier that we started seeing in Wrath. Tier recolors aren't restricted by class, so if you want a cloth-wearing priest to look like a 'lock, you can pick up the recolored version of tier 5 and pass for one.
Tier 5 is again another five-piece set. It's designated the same as tier 4 -- Champion for paladins, rogues and shaman; Defender for druid, priest and warrior; and Hero for hunter, mage and warlock. Multiple sets were offered for those with multiple specs. The only difference between tier 4 and tier 5 is that tier 4 is the Fallen token set and tier 5 is the Vanquished token set. Tier sets for the different classes are as follows:
- Druid Nordrassil Regalia (balance), Nordrassil Harness (feral), Nordrassil Raiment (resto)
- Hunter Rift Stalker Armor
- Mage Tirisfal Regalia
- Paladin Crystalforge Raiment (holy), Crystalforge Armor (tanking), Crystalforge Battlegear (ret)
- Priest Avatar Raiment (healing), Avatar Regalia (shadow)
- Rogue Deathmantle
- Shaman Cataclysm Regalia (elemental), Cataclysm Harness (enhancement), Cataclysm Raiment (resto)
- Warlock Corruptor Raiment
- Warrior Destroyer Battlegear (DPS), Destroyer Armor (tanking)
- Death knight No tier for you. Don't worry, Wrath is coming soon enough.
Serpentshrine Cavern is located in the Coilfang Reservoir, and it'll require a swim to get to. For those familiar with Burning Crusade heroic dungeons, it's the same location as the Zangarmarsh heroics. The entrance to Serpentshrine is dead center as you swim into the zone; a large waterfall masks the portal. Walk up to the waterfall and it will melt away, letting you zone in. But watch out -- Serpentshrine Cavern also marks the first appearance of the devious and deadly elevator boss. In order to get down to the lower levels and into Serpentshrine proper, you need to take the elevator down. It will never be there when you zone in. Trust me.
The interior of Serpentshrine can be fairly confusing to those who have never been inside before. There's the main cavern with plenty of trash, but there's also a set of caverns to the north that wind behind the main cavern. Check the map above for a good look at the layout and the path we'll be taking through the zone. Ready? Ride the elevator down, take the next elevator up, and let's head to the first boss.
Hydross the Unstable
The first boss of Serpentshrine is at the end of the first path you take into the main cavern. Hydross is a giant water elemental, and he offers very little in the way of a fight other than the annoying tendency to throw players into Water Tombs every now and again. He also summons adds; they can be killed easily. Poke him until he dissolves, then have a look at the loot.
Tier drops No tier here!
Items of interest Cloth-wearing classes might want to take a look at the Robe of Hateful Echoes -- it's a recolor of warlock tier 5. Speaking of warlocks, you should take a look at the Boots of the Shifting Nightmare, a match for your tier 5 set. Priests, the Wraps of Purification are a good match for your tier 5 set. Leather-wearing classes, the Shoulderpads of the Stranger are a recolor of rogue tier 5.
Mail-wearing classes might like the look of the Ranger-General's Chestguard -- it's also a recolor, this time of hunter tier 5. The Blackfathom Warbands are a recolor of shaman tier 5. Plate-wearing classes should check out the Brighthelm of Justice for a recolor of paladin tier 5, and the Pauldrons of the Wardancer are a recolor of warrior tier 5.
As for weapons, Hydross has none -- but he does have the Fathomstone, a sparkly blue crystal off-hand.
The Lurker Below
In the center of the main cavern, you'll notice a ring floating in the water labeled "Strange Pool." In order to start the encounter, the Lurker must be fished out of the pool, literally. You'll need to equip a fishing rod and fish the pool until the boss pops out, and then quickly swap back to your weapons before the fight starts. Doing so will also net you the achievement The Lurker Above. Once he's out of the water, the fight is again relatively easy. He likes to knock people back, and he will also occasionally cast Spout while spinning in a circle. With three people, we killed him before he cast the first Spout.
The water surrounding the Strange Pool has a lot of nasty fish that will attack you upon entering the water. You can kill all the trash on the platforms above and boil the water to get rid of the fish, but it's not necessary.
Tier drops The Lurker has no need for tier.
Items of interest The Cord of Screaming Terrors is the belt match for warlock tier 5. The Velvet Boots of the Guardian are a match for mage tier 5. Druids looking for bracers to match their tier 5 set will want to pick up the Grove-Bands of Remulos. For rogues, the Boots of Effortless Striking are a match to your tier 5 set. The Tempest-Strider Boots are a recolored version of shaman tier 5. The Glowing Breastplate of Truth is a recolored version of paladin tier 5. Warriors, pick up the Bracers of Eradication if you're looking for a match to your tier 5 set.
The Lurker Below offers one weapon, the Mallet of the Tides, a shell-themed, one-handed mace in teal and gold. Very shiny!
Leotheras the Blind
Head north and take the ramp up out of the pool of water; you'll see a pathway that continues to the north. Take a left at the end of the path and head around the rocks and into the inner caverns to find the next boss, Leotheras the Blind. Leotheras' room is full of trash. You'll want to clear the packs that are closest to him. Leotheras is being held in check by a group of adds. Kill the adds and he will break free and begin the fight. He's not a terribly difficult boss, but he does have a Whirlwind ability that can drop your health pretty fast. He'll target someone to chase while he's doing the Whirlwind; simply run away from him if he's targeting you.
At 15%, he will split into Demon Form and Humanoid Form. Ignore the demon, kill the elf, and collect your loot.
Tier drops Leotheras drops tier 5 glove tokens for all classes.
Items of interest Leotheras also drops Orca-Hide boots, a perfect match for druid tier 5. The Coral-Barbed Shoulderpads are a nice recolor of shaman tier 5 for mail classes, while the True-Aim Stalker Bands are a recolor of hunter tier 5. Warriors, pick up the Girdle of the Invulnerable if you're looking for a match to your tier 5 set. In addition, Leotheras drops the Fang of the Leviathan, a main-hand sword in blue and silver.
Follow along to the next page where we fight a gaggle of murlocs, one very grumpy giant, and the Lady of Serpentshrine!