WoW Archivist: The most painful attunement of all

Scott Andrews
S. Andrews|07.20.12

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WoW Archivist: The most painful attunement of all
Onyxia breathes deeply
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Attunement has been a hot topic across the WoW blogosphere of late, and WoW Insider has been no exception. Some believe that attunement is an archaic concept that only serves as a pointless, artificial gate to content. They appreciate the fact that Blizzard has almost entirely done away with attunements. Others see attunements as opportunities for extra content and a way of filtering lazy players out of raid groups where they don't belong. They want attunements to return.

Attunements used to be a big deal in WoW. As the first steps toward endgame raiding, completed attunements were a hallmark of a serious player.

Lest we forget what we're debating, I thought it might be the perfect time to revisit the single most grueling and aggravating attunement process in WoW's history: Horde-side Onyxia.

The longest journey starts with a single step

The quest line began in Kargath, the Horde outpost in the Badlands. No yellow exclamation point marked this quest. To obtain it, you had to climb to the top of a tower and speak to an NPC named Goretooth. I don't mean just right-clicking him -- you had to navigate through a few pages of dialogue. He then handed you a letter, which finally gave you the first quest, Warlord's Command. WoW Archivist The most painful attunement of all

Goretooth asks you to kill three bosses in Lower Blackrock Spire. You also had to find an item called Important Blackrock Documents. The documents item would despawn as soon as someone looted it. Thus, only one person at a time could complete the quest. So if you were running LBRS with five people and they all needed the documents, you had to reset the instance and run it five separate times. The documents were a random spawn near any of four bosses in the dungeon, so any given run could take up to a full clear to obtain them.

The follow-up was a quest called Eitrigg's Wisdom, a simple travel quest to speak with Eitrigg in Orgrimmar. The only problem was that Eitrigg, like Goretooth, had no punctuation over his head, so finding him could be a challenge. Once you clicked through a conversation with him, a question mark finally appeared -- over Thrall's head.

Thrall, outraged over Rend Blackhand's continued existence as a living orc, sent you to kill him. If you already possessed a key to Upper Blackrock Spire or knew someone who did, you were golden. If you didn't, well, you had a whole other attunement to complete before you could continue this quest line.

The rewards for Rend's head, at least, featured a choice of three excellent trinkets.

WoW Archivist The most painful attunement of all
Everybody hates Rexxar

This already seems like a lot, but we're just getting warmed up. When you return Blackhand's head to Thrall, he tells you a story about the unmasking of a member of Stormwind's royal court as Onyxia in human form. Alliance players got to see this unfold firsthand as an actual event. Horde players got a wall of text. Sad face.

Thrall sends you on the most dreaded part of the attunement chain: talking to Rexxar. Rexxar was not a static NPC who stood there waiting for players to interact with him. No, Rexxar had stuff to do. He patrolled all the way through Desolace and into parts of the two adjacent zones, Feralas and Stonetalon Peaks.

Of course, you had no way of knowing where he was when you arrived in Desolace. You were limited to a ground mount, which for most players in early WoW meant a normal-speed mount, not an epic one. The first step was always to ask in the zone's chat if anyone had seen Rexxar. Some people would help and tell the truth. Others would send you on a wild goose chase around the zone. Some avoided Desolace as a leveling zone because they got sick of players asking them to be their personal Rexxar GPS.

I remember it took me over an hour to find him at one point. There were no two ways about it -- finding Rexxar was rough.

Once you finally located him (and assuming a high-level Alliance group wasn't lurking nearby to kill him the moment you approached, out of sheer, sadistic glee), he would send you across the world to speak with the Mistress of Deception in the Western Plaguelands. Myranda sent you back to UBRS to collect 20 dragon eyes. This wasn't particularly difficult. It just meant organizing another UBRS run.

Myranda then made some kind of sticky, eyeball-based disguise so you could talk to the dragon Emberstrife. Fortunately, Emberstrife was right next to her. Dustwallow Marsh used to be next door to Western Plaguelands, right?

Emberstrife's Den
Test of friendship skulls

If you hadn't seen quite enough of Azeroth already in your quest to face Onyxia, then Emberstrife had good news! Once you slid into your fancy eyeball suit, he sent you to kill three dragons in three different zones. Considerately, he gave you all three quests at once so you didn't have to return to him each time.

These three dragons were not soloable. They generally required at least three players to kill, more safely with five. Killing them wasn't really the difficult part. It was convincing four of your friends to travel to Tanaris, Winterspring, and Swamp of Sorrows to help you do it. A fun way to troll your guild in vanilla was to mention Test of Skulls in /g and see how many members immediately panic-logged.

With all three skulls in hand, you returned triumphantly to Emberstrife. The dragon claimed, however, that three skulls were one shy of the four he needed for a complete dragon skull tea set. He sent you to nearby (haha) Wetlands to kill yet one more unsoloable firebreather.

Keep calm and find Rexxar (again)

Emberstrife provided you with a Dull Drakefire Amulet -- not to be confused with the actual Drakefire Amulet that provided Onyxia attunement. How could you polish up this bad boy? Better ask Rexxar!

After another endless search, Rexxar sent you back to (where else?) UBRS. This time, you had to kill the dungeon's ultimate boss, General Drakkisath. This was a big hurdle for two reasons. One, players going into UBRS for the head of Rend from earlier in the chain would often drop group as soon as they had this quest item. Two, Drakkisath evidently suffered from anemia. He would only drop a small amount of blood items. With 15 players in a UBRS run, the limited bloods often went to the highest rollers. If that wasn't you, you had no choice but to run the entire dungeon again -- and hope people stuck with it past Rend.

If you won the Drak blood lottery, you had earned the pleasure of seeking out Rexxar one more time. He would offer you the real amulet and, at long last, the glory of facing Onyxia in battle!

The Alliance version of the quest line only sent you into Blackrock Spire once, didn't require you to find a roaming NPC at all (let alone three times), didn't ask you to kill a single elite dragon (let alone four), and only sent you across the ocean twice, to obtain and complete the very last quest. Assuming you start out in Orgrimmar, the Horde version required a full dozen transoceanic crossings.

General Drakkisath in UBRS
Onyxia, Onshmyxia

I'm sure you're asking, if it was so annoying to get attunement, why did people bother? Onyxia was the sole source of tier 2 helms and dropped some other good items, including a coveted 18-slot bag. She was also a crucial part of the Quel'serrar and Rhok'delar quest lines. Finally, she was an incredibly fun fight!

By contrast, Ragnaros was the only other boss that dropped tier 2 prior to Blackwing Lair, and he required a successful Molten Core clear. Without lockout extensions, you had to make it all the way to him within a single week, whereas Onyxia only required about five minutes of trash clearing. Ragnaros was also more difficult than Onyxia overall.

Onyxia has been one of the most popular and (literally) enduring bosses in WoW. She made a reappearance in her original form in Wrath, had a cameo as a "memory" in Wrath's Trial of the Champion dungeon, and then came back as a zombie reanimated by Nefarian.Onyxia's severed head

The attunement through time

The attunement did become slightly easier over time. The documents were made lootable by everyone with the quest in patch 1.7. The Great Rexxar Hunt came to an end when he completed all his chores and moved to Blade's Edge in The Burning Crusade. An NPC named Rakaro (presumably after the Game of Thrones character) replaced him in the quest line. Rakaro could be found, mercifully, in the same place every time.

Blizzard finally removed this attunement in Wrath. The game has never seen its like since. If you're feeling nostalgic for it, you can watch an interactive video of the Horde-side process with hilarious commentary by Wowcrendor. I wouldn't say my memories of this quest line are fond, but I certainly have a vivid recollection of it.

I don't think anyone is calling for an encore of this quest line -- or anything like it -- in WoW today. However, a few brief, soloable attunements that are chock-full of lore wouldn't be such a bad thing, would they?

After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.
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