An interesting question in the Tanking forum about a month back spurred an article for readers here about which title they find most reassuring on a fellow player. The discussion that ensued was a reminder that you can't get some of the more popular picks anymore, and just why they meant -- and continue to mean -- something in the first place.
Sad to say, these titles are no longer accessible, unless you manage to find some far-flung server at the end of the universe where no one's bothered to kill Sartharion at all.
Classic World of Warcraft wasn't known for an abundance of PVE-related titles. While it did have a wide array of battleground titles that reappeared later in Cataclysm, the one PVE title you could get from classic is pretty much the definition of inaccessible.
- Rewarded by: Completion of the Scepter of the Shifting Sands quest line with the quest Bang a Gong! done within 10 hours of the Ahn'Qiraj gates' opening.
- Difficulty: I think we might politely describe it as insane.
It's the least they could do, given the maddening grind that getting the Scepter entailed. You can see the now-vanished quest line in detail here at Wowpedia, and those of us who've done it will suppress a shudder looking back. If grinding up thousands of bug parts didn't drive you to the nuthouse, you'd probably lose it during your millionth consecutive run of Blackwing Lair in the fruitless pursuit of Elementium Ingots, or maybe at the 50th chimaerok kill without a tenderloin drop. Adding to the frustration was that the average player doing all of this probably never had a shot at the title at all. The scarcity of the various materials guaranteed that raiding guilds racing to beat each other typically completed one or two Scepters at most.
Which is not to say the quests were without their pleasures -- they were a wonderful bit of lore from start to finish, and Azuregos deservedly became one of the most beloved characters in the game -- but the underlying design behind them was a pretty bad deal for the dozens of players who toiled behind the scenes so someone else could get the title.
For most of BC, PVE titles were still pretty thin on the ground until the Wrath content patch. The two below were actually late additions to reward players who had done attunement chains that Blizzard decided to remove.
Champion of the Naaru
- Rewarded by: Completion of the Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep attunement chains.
- Difficulty: Variable. Some steps were harder than others ... much, much harder.
Why? The average raiding guild had to "key" each new recruit that came down the pipeline before the player could enter a tier 5 raid at all. Entering SSC required The Cudgel of Kar'desh, obliging a guild to return to Karazhan and Gruul's Lair for Nightbane and Gruul kills. Entering TK required a much longer quest chain culminating in three heroic challenges (Trial of the Naaru: Mercy being the most difficult by far) and a Magtheridon kill. Pre-nerf Magtheridon, in a sign of further things to come in BC, was a coordination nightmare that took a year off your raid leader's life each time you did it.
Hand of A'dal
- Rewarded by: Completion of the Battle for Mount Hyjal and Black Temple attunement chains.
- Difficulty: Again, variable.
Hand of A'dal was one of the most popular picks on the "most reassuring title to see on a player" article. So does it deserve the accolades it's gotten? I think so. Vashj and Kael'thas were among the nastiest bosses the game had ever seen, and required an intense amount of raid coordination and situational awareness from players. While it would be a stretch to say that anyone sporting Hand of A'dal is necessarily an amazing player, odds are still good that you won't catch them eating glue in a corner on the average raid night.
Titles really took off with Wrath and haven't stopped since. Most of the "vanished" titles in WoW come from this period, when Blizzard experimented with different models for granting dungeon and raid titles, and finally decided against granting them for realm-first kills.
- Rewarded by: A Tribute to Dedicated Insanity, which required players to complete Trial of the Grand Crusader on 10-man without any gear from the 25-man version.
- Difficulty: Medium to high.
That was the context for both Argent Defender and its tier 8 equivalent, Herald of the Titans. Want to prove you're a rad dude with 10-man content? Fine, said Blizzard. Take off your 25-man gear and we'll talk. Actually, making sure that no one in the raid was wearing anything beyond a certain ilevel (245 for Defender, 226 for Herald, with a few exceptions) was just as much a nuisance as the raid itself.
Strangely, Herald of the Titans still hasn't been removed, although your character still has to be at level 80 in order to get it.
- Rewarded by: A realm-first kill of Algalon the Observer on 25-man.
- Difficulty: Very high.
On the plus side, any guild that managed to do it had already knocked off several requirements for Glory of the Ulduar Raider, but that was cold comfort when your "reward" for gaining entrance to the Planetarium was a touchy fight with an equally touchy Algalon, and the title itself was only yours if you managed to do it faster than anyone else. Algalon was a nightmare at the end of a parade of nightmares.
Champion of Ulduar/Conqueror of Ulduar
- Rewarded by: Successful completion of Ulduar-10 or Ulduar-25 respectively without allowing any raid member to die on a boss fight.
- Difficulty: Medium to high depending on the raid's gear.
- Rewarded by: A realm-first kill of Kel'Thuzad in Naxxramas-25.
- Difficulty: Variable. Guilds that had experience with classic Naxxramas didn't find much in their way.
Conqueror was a more involved undertaking than its Malygos and Sartharion equivalents, as there were 14 bosses and an awful lot of trash standing between you and Kel'Thuzad. However, any guild that already had experience with Naxxramas from either the classic game or nostalgia raiding during BC wouldn't find significantly different mechanics to trip them up.
- Rewarded by: A realm-first Alone in the Darkness kill of Yogg-Saron in Ulduar-25.
- Difficulty: Insane ... much like most of the raid would be past a certain point while learning the encounter.
All that stood between you and this brilliant title was one of the most infuriating encounters Blizzard has ever programmed. It took the world's best guilds about four months to do it, and even toward the end of Wrath, there were servers that still didn't have a Yogg+0 kill.
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
- Rewarded by: A realm-first kill of Anub'arak in Trial of the Grand Crusader-25 with all 50 attempts remaining.
- Difficulty: Extremely high.
Not only did you have to beat everyone else on the server to a kill, but you also had to do it right the first time. Any blown attempt, and you'd be staring at "49 Attempts Remaining" on your screen with the knowledge of another wasted week.
The Immortal/The Undying
- Rewarded by: Successful completion of Naxx-25 or Naxx-10 respectively with no deaths on boss fights.
- Difficulty: That depends. Is "That Guy" in the raid tonight?
The Magic Seeker
- Rewarded by: A realm-first kill of Malygos-25.
- Difficulty: Medium.
Screw it. Just make everybody get to 80 as fast as possible, tell them to head for Sartharion, and go for --
- Rewarded by: A realm-first kill of Sartharion-25.
- Difficulty: Low to medium.
It's kind of a shame, because I still think Obsidian Slayer is one of the more badass titles the game has ever produced.
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