The OverAchiever: Pimp thy ride

As you've probably already read, players will be able to purchase 310 percent flying speed from trainers in Cataclysm. While this is good news for people who hate raiding, think arena was shat into existence by the most sociopathic among the development team, or spent School of Hard Knocks trying to drown themselves in the nearest body of water, the bad news is that buying your way to super-fast flying will run you a cool 5,000 gold.

Outrageous, says this dyed-in-the-wool cheapskate. For anyone else who'd rather die than part with a centavo of hard-earned gold, the good news is that having even a single 310 percent flyer in your stable is enough to get you the skill free. Fortunately, there's plenty of time to snag yourself one of these coveted mounts before Cataclysm hits, and just as fortunately, each mount is the reward (or subject) of an achievement.

Strategy guides for obtaining each of the remaining 310 percent mounts is definitely beyond the scope of this article (although I'll probably devote an edition of OverAchiever to nabbing the Rusted Proto-Drake, above) but we can take a visual tour of the fast flyers that any hard-working player can still get in Wrath of the Lich King.

What are your options?

As the Black Proto-Drake and Plagued Proto-Drake were removed from the game in patch 3.1, and previous gladiator drakes are equally unavailable, your current options are all below. No 310 percent flyer is easy to get; you will have to be very lucky, very skilled, or very patient. Or, like me, you can return to raiding after nine months when you get a new computer, and your guild's so happy that it doesn't have to recruit another druid that it bum-rushes Ulduar for a drake.

Ashes of Al'ar

The phoenix mount dropped by Kael'thas is among the most universally desired of all flying mounts. It's beautiful, you can see it from a mile away, and in a game where recolored models are common as dirt, it's still unique. That distinction will be lost (though just a bit) in Cataclysm when the Dark Phoenix becomes available as a guild achievement, but the original version is special for more reasons than just that.

For anyone who's a relatively new player and may not be aware, there's also a lovely, though heartbreaking, story associated with the phoenix's presence in game. The very first set of ashes on the live servers went to a young player named Ezra Chatterton, who had visited Blizzard headquarters as part of the Make-A-Wish program after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. He helped design a quest, the arena season two gladiator bow, and voiced the Mulgore NPC Ahab Wheathoof. Afterwards, he was given the world's first phoenix mount months before anyone had a prayer of beating Kael. Sadly, Ezra passed away in October 2008, but his character, Ephoenix, is now the Elder in Thunder Bluff for the Lunar Festival, eternally accompanied by a phoenix pet. So just so you know -- this mount has some serious history.

The drop rate for the ashes is thought to be around 1 percent, and Tempest Keep is still on a weekly raid lockout, so you'll probably be farming Kael for a long time before you see one.

Rusted Proto-Drake

I adore proto-drakes. I think they're the most badass mount in the game and that a lot of brilliant animation and art went into them. It honestly wouldn't surprise me if they were the brainchild of a bored artist who'd wandered out of a Reign of Fire screening wondering if he could make dragons even cooler.

The rusted drake is probably the easiest of the current 310 percent flyers to obtain, and I'd argue that it's one of the most visually interesting mounts around. While 10-man Ulduar is no longer as difficult as it once was, it's still not the sort of content any reasonable person expects to PUG and steamroll. Fights like Firefighter, Knock, Knock, Knock on Wood and a hard-mode Yogg are still respectably tough, but if you can get the hang of them and run with an experienced group, selling drakes each week is a nice moneymaker.

Eventually I'd like to do a full guide on the Ulduar-10 achievements necessary for this bad boy, but for the moment let's move along to its 25-man counterpart ...

Ironbound Proto-Drake

The Ironbound is the 25-man version of the Ulduar drakes and is technically a copy of the raid boss Razorscale. Lore-wise, the deal with the armored proto-drakes is that Ignis the Furnace Master (also a raid boss) and his iron dwarf underlings have figured out how to fuse plate onto the drakes' flesh without somehow affecting their ability to fly. Razorscale is not necessarily the first of these experiments, but she's almost certainly the largest and most powerful. Assuming you've quested in Storm Peaks, you've also seen her before she was "turned"; she was Thorim's mount, Veranus, and the broodmother of all Storm Peaks proto-drakes. Both she and Thorim are captured and dragged to Ulduar at the end of a lengthy quest line, and her fate there is not a happy one.

If you complete the designated achievements in Ulduar, Brann Bronzebeard will mail you one of the armor-plated drakes along with the following note:

Dear <name>,

I hope ye're doing well and that ye've had time to recover from our shennanigans in Ulduar.

Me lads from the prospecting team happened upon this poor 'alf dead riding-drake hatchling. Must've been an Iron Dwarf experiment of some sort.

We've patched him back to health and you'll find he's not so wee anymore! None of us knows much about riding anything but rams and pack mules and since we owed ye one for what ye did back there... we thought perhaps you'd accept him as a gift.

Brann Bronzebeard

Aww. I always found it sweet that you get to ride something that's essentially a rescue.

Mimiron's Head

For the moment, Mimiron's Head is a 100 percent drop off a Yogg-Saron kill in Ulduar-25 without any Keepers active. In Cataclysm, it's going to become a random drop, as player health and damage increases will cripple most of the encounter's dangers and make farming the head a lot easier than it is now.

I've written about "Yogg 0" in this column before, and the achievement you'll get for a kill (Alone in the Darkness) made No. 10 on our 25 most evil achievements series. While the fight's considerably easier than it once was, Yogg 0 and heroic Lich King are still about the last encounters I would ever want to do without raiders who already knew it cold. Farm Yoggy if you must (and download this if you're really serious about it), but if you're forming an inexperienced Ulduar raid purely for the purpose of farming this mount before Cataclysm, don't go into it with any illusions over what the learning curve's going to be like. That said, how can you not love the flavor text on this thing?

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