With all the controversy over flying in Draenor (and lack of it until patch 6.1), flight is a major topic in the WoW community these days. Veteran players remember a time when taking to the skies was merely a dream -- one that The Burning Crusade made real, at least in Outland. Along with flying mounts, Blizzard decided that druids should receive new shapeshifting forms that allowed flight.
The forms came in two speeds: the base Flight Form and the Swift Flight Form. Rather than making the latter a trainable skill, Blizzard instead provided druids with one of the longest and most epic class-specific quest lines of all time: the Swift Flight Form chain. Seventeen quests long, the chain made a versatile shapeshifter out of you whether you wanted to be or not.
Like many others, the SFF chain became a casualty of the Shattering and can no longer be completed. It is well worth revisiting, however, so let's let fly!
Ex-Druid of the Talon
The quest chain began at any druid trainer once you hit level 70 and acquired 300 riding skill. Your trainer sent you to the Cenarion Refuge in Zangarmarsh, to seek out a former Druid of the Talon named Morthis Whisperwing. Warcraft III players recognized the name: Druids of the Talon were a night elf unit who could shapeshift into stormcrows.
Morthis sought an apprentice to train. He told you of an ancient druid, a guardian of the Emerald Dream, who knew the locations of ancient relics required to learn the form. Your first task was not exactly a thrilling adventure. You had to gather herbs for a potion that could awaken this druid from the Dream. Completing the quest required 10 Ancient Lichen and 10 Dreaming Glory, which could be gathered by an herbalist, and 10 Bogblossom.
With the potion in hand, your next destination was Moonglade, which druids can travel to instantly using the spell Teleport: Moonglade. Clintar Dreamwalker slept in a barrow in the southeast corner of the zone. There, Cenarion Dreamwarders protected the barrow from angry lashers. You fought your way past the endless battle and found Clintar in the depths. When you gave him the potion, his spirit appeared.
Rather than cooperating and inhabiting the body, however, the spirit wandered off to gather some important items. Your job was to guard the spirit until it could accomplish this task. The quest confused many players, since the spirit spawned quickly and just as quickly floated away about its business. At the final item, the Aspect of the Raven confronted you. It had a lot of health, but did not present a difficult challenge.
With the three Relics of Aviana in hand, Clintar sent you to Dreamwarden Lurosa, who sent you back to Outland and Morthis Whisperwing.
Troubled by the appearance of the raven in the barrow, Morthis wanted to identify this new threat to the Emerald Dream. He told you about a new cult of arrokoa in Blade's Edge who worshiped a raven god, and sent you there to investigate.
At the Evergrove, Arthorn Windsong had a complex task. She asked you to take an object called a Seer's Stone and combine it with the eye of an aether ray to speak with Sai'kkal, the ghost of an arrakoa elder. Using it buffed you with Aether Sight for 5 minutes, but it also debuffed you for ticking damage that had to be healed up while you searched for Sai'kkal. Once found, Sai'kkal talks of a tablet called The Book of the Raven, stolen and shattered into pieces by the Skettis clan:
Rokkaram, is that you?
Forgive me for questioning you, my son. My sight isn't what it once was, but the raven has blessed me with a long life.
Soon it will be time for you to take my place. I have taught you all I know. My only regret is that I didn't prove worthy enough to recover our sacred Book of the Raven.
The true believers have lived in shame since the day our treacherous cousins in Skettis stole the book from us, shattered its tablet, and buried the fragments in their wretched city!
Pray that the raven will choose you to restore it, my son. Be faithful and remember always the prophecy, "From the dreams of his enemies shall the raven spring forth into the world."
The sparrowhawks were no fools, however. Perhaps recognizing that the net was made just for them, they would fly away when you approached. You had to use your stealthy Prowl ability to get close enough to snare one.
Elaira then trained the captured sparrowhawk, who had the busiest day of its entire life, to respond to a whistle and search for the Raven Stones. Off you went to Skettis to locate the eight tablet pieces. Unfortunately, the sparrowhawk had not minded his lessons as well as you might have wished. The quest was buggy. The bird often arrived long after the whistle had been blown and/or found nothing. The cooldown on the whistle was 45 seconds, so this quest took some unlucky druids a long time to complete.
The raven's rivals
Back at the Evergrove, Arthorn translated the reassembled tablet. She said that the raven had bound the spirits of its three greatest rivals -- eagle, falcon, and hawk -- within shrines. To defeat the raven god, you had to obtain the essence of each rival.
This part of the quest chain involved defeating the three shrine's guardians. Each battle required you to master various class-specific abilities, reminiscent of the demons that hunters had to defeat during vanilla for their Rhok'delar quest chain. Unlike the hunter quests, however, you could bring friends to help if you wanted to.
Arthorn also gave you a hint about what you would need to do. The first challenge sent you to the eagle spirit's shrine in Terokkar. Arthorn warned you, "The armor and endurance of your bear form is well-suited to this fight." That was the key to this shrine. Upon clicking it, you faced an arrakoa called Guardian of the Eagle. He cast a hard-hitting starfire spell and summoned large packs of fiercely pecking birds.
The fight was challenging, but Bear Form armor and Demoralizing Roar greatly reduced your damage taken. Barkskin and Thorns helped, too. By defeating the guardian, you acquired Essence of the Eagle. Then you had to blow your trusty sparrowhawk whistle to summon your old feathered friend. He conveyed tidings of your success to Arthorn, who then offered you the next challenge.
At the falcon shrine near Skettis, you faced another guardian. This time, Arthorn suggested, "Use the speed and grace of your cat form to defeat the guardian before it reaches full strength!" Druids who foolishly decided to ignore Arthorn's advice found themselves victims of the guardian's special ability. Every time you cast a spell, he Hexed you into a frog. Unlike the shaman spell, this hex didn't break on damage, so the guardian could thoroughly whoop on you in your helpless amphibian state.
If you succeeded, another quick exchange of sparrowhawk tweets sent you to the final test: the hawk shrine. Arthorn warned, "Forsake physical attacks and call down the fury of the stars to defeat this foe." As expected, this fight required you to make use of your ranged DPS and resto skills. The guardian hit like a truck in melee, so you had to keep him rooted. He also spammed both a magic-draining poison and a curse that doubled your damage taken. Removing these debuffs as soon as possible was essential.
Fortunately, the guardian was vulnerable to spell damage. Thus, nuking him down was possible even without caster gear, provided you kept him and his aggressive debuffs at bay. Druids who struggled here could downrank Roots to rank 1 to save mana and bring plenty of mana pots to chain-chug (neither of which is possible today).
After obtaining the three essences, Arthorn gave you a trinket blessed by the bird spirits: the Charm of Swift Flight. Originally it granted a 10% speed bonus, which was handy enough for players to macro it into their Flight Form buttons. The trinket was changed in Wrath to a mana cost reduction. Needless to say, the nerfed version was no longer worth the macro.
Arthorn sent you, freshly entrinketed and bearing the unfortunately named Arthorn's Package, back to Morthis. Arthorn was oddly fixated on getting credit. "Please," she said, "tell Morthis how much of a help I've been to you. I fear he will not see my hand in this work!"
Morthis was less concerned with Arthorn's help and more with the threat of the arrakoa's raven god. He told you that you needed a special Southfury Moonstone to contain and then unleash the essences when you confronted Anzu. The stone could only be obtained in Azshara.
This quest initially seemed easy. No one guarded the stone. When you looted it, however, a goblin popped out, stunned you, stole the stone, jumped off the cliff into the river, and swam away. Once the stun wore off, you had to switch to Aquatic Form and chase her down. If you read about the quest ahead of time, you could also use a PvP trinket to nullify the stun. Most druids argued that you shouldn't cheat it, however, since chasing Rizzle Sprysprocket was so much fun.
Rizzle did not give up without a fight. She dropped mines in her wake. One blasted you up out of the water. If you switched to Cat Form in midair, you would take less falling damage from landing on the bank. The other rooted you in ice. By shifting in and out of Aquatic Form you could break the root. The river also contained speed boost buffs that you could swim through to help you close the gap. Once you did, Rizzle forked over the rock.
Showdown with Anzu
Morthis then infused the moonstone with the three essences and bade you to slay the raven god Anzu inside Sethekk Halls. The dungeon journal gives us a very ominous description:
Defeating Anzu required a full party. Given that Anzu drops one of the coolest ground mounts in the game, finding willing players wasn't difficult -- especially since, back then, only a druid with the proper item could summon him. (Today, Anzu is always available on heroic difficulty.)
A mysterious avian deity worshiped by some of the more savage arrakoa, Anzu is a being whose origins and powers are unlike any other member of Outland's fallen pantheon. The Naaru are silent regarding this malevolent creature, for Anzu's ways are hidden from even them.
The buffs make it seem like the raven god could be toppled without too much trouble, but you needed them for a reason. Anzu had a formidable arsenal of abilities: an AOE stun, a knockback, a DoT, a cyclone CC, and a debuff called Spell Bomb that did shadow damage and drained mana whenever you cast a spell. Spell Bomb had to be decursed immediately.
At 66 and 33% health, Anzu banished himself for 1 minute. During this time, Brood of Anzu adds rushed to his aid. It was essential for the druid to maintain both the Hawk and Eagle abilities during this phase to mitigate damage and kill the adds before the minute was up. Otherwise, your party would have to deal with both the adds and the boss at the same time. Many druids set up macros to hit the various avian helpers with healing spells during this hectic fight.
Anzu was so difficult that it took Blizzard only a month to nerf the adds and many of his abilities, in patch 2.1.2.
When you returned to Morthis, he declared you "worthy of the knowledge guarded by the Druids of the Talon." He taught you Swift Flight Form and also gave you Idol of the Raven Goddess. Originally, the idol wasn't a relic item with simple stats on it -- relics weren't added until Wrath. Instead, it was an excellent trinket that granted a raid-wide benefit depending on which form your druid currently held: melee crit for cat or bear, spell crit for moonkin, and healing for tree.
Morthis also allowed you to keep the moonstone. That way, you could summon Anzu any time you wanted, making you instant BFFs with mount collectors.
The forms for swift flight remain some of WoW's best models. One guy thinks so, at least. Blizzard later added a bat form for trolls and a raven form for worgen. Swift Flight Form also allowed some rather unfair world PvP tactics back in TBC days, and remains controversial for its instant getaway utility.
Swift Flight Form became a trainable skill in Wrath of the Lich King so that new druids would not have to complete the long chain. The chain, however, remained in the game until Cataclysm, and many druids chose to experience it firsthand long after it became unnecessary. Those who did now have a feat of strength to prove it.
The Swift Flight Form chain was one of Blizzard's greatest quest lines. It drew on every form available to druids and made you use every trick in the druid's arsenal -- many outside your comfort zone -- in order to progress.
I know that Blizzard is often reluctant to spend resources on class-specific quest lines such as this, but the Swift Flight Form adventure makes a case that such things can be well worth the developers' time. I hope that we continue to see more like this in the future!
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