It was the first caster legendary available to players, but the amount of time and devotion it took to get almost guaranteed that only a tiny piece of the player population actually obtained it. Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian wasn't a particularly fancy weapon by today's standards. It was simple, smooth staff topped with the carving of a raven and quietly adorned with a bit of ribbon. But to those that followed Warcraft's lore, the simple design was easily recognized as the staff of one of the most powerful casters of all time.
Atiesh was the epitome of everything a caster desired, largely because of its roots within the history of Warcraft. This wasn't just a simple staff; this was the weapon of choice for the last known Guardian of Azeroth, the wizard Medivh. Medivh was featured heavily in the original Warcraft RTS games but hasn't been seen since the end of Warcraft III. Atiesh, on the other hand, was seen by many -- and craved by many more. And the fate of this unusual staff ties in with another legendary weapon most never encountered: Andonisus, Reaper of Souls.
Due to the actions of his mother, Medivh wasn't alone in his human body; he was sharing it with a piece of the spirit of Sargeras. As for Atiesh, it was forged from the seed of hate and wielded by each Guardian of Tirisfal in succession until the line ended with Medivh. The fact that Medivh was possessed by Sargeras meant that the staff itself grew tainted and corrupt, as well. After Medivh's death, the staff was taken to Dalaran.
Its return to Dalaran was met with a series of deaths. Almost every mage who came into contact with Atiesh met their end in one fashion or another. The Council of Six met and decided that the weapon was far too powerful and needed to be locked away, sealed behind powerful magical wards where it would harm no one. They appointed a Watcher to keep an eye on Atiesh's magical prison and make sure that no one broke through the wards. Her name was Archmage Angela Dosantos.
The staff likely would have stayed in stasis forever had it not been for the arrival of Archimonde in Warcraft III. Archimonde's first act on Azeroth was to destroy Dalaran and in the process, the failsafes on Atiesh's prison, presumably shattering the staff. After Archimonde's attack, nobody could locate Atiesh. Dosantos left the Kirin Tor, intent on fulfilling her role as Watcher and retrieving the staff at all costs. She joined the Argent Dawn when she realized the pieces of the staff had been retrieved by Kel'Thuzad, who intended to reassemble the weapon for his own dark purposes.
This is where players came in. When Naxxramas originally launched in vanilla WoW, players could hear the tale of the staff from Dosantos herself. Upon making the journey to Naxxramas, they discovered another who had taken a vested interest in the staff. Tarsis Kir-Moldir was a Highborne, one of the few who recalled with clarity the War of the Ancients and the time before when Queen Azshara reigned supreme over the night elves. Tarsis was the only mage who had held Atiesh and lived -- but the unending power that the staff held was far too much for him.
He devoted his life to finding the staff and nearly succeeded. When Dalaran was nearly destroyed, the staff was shattered into 42 pieces, and Tarsis had succeeded in finding 20 of them. He tracked the others to Naxxramas and was quickly attacked by minions of Kel'Thuzad, who stole the 20 pieces away. Players encountered Tarsis, mortally wounded and madly babbling about Atiesh in the entrance to Naxxramas. Tarsis didn't want the weapon for good. He wanted to bring it all back -- the Highborne, even Queen Azshara. Tarsis wasn't exactly sane.
And though it took far longer than the rest, Tarsis did meet his end just as any who had held the staff before him. He died in the entry foyer of Naxxramas, his mad task unfulfilled.
But Tarsis did have one piece of valuable information: Kel'Thuzad didn't hold all the pieces. A group from the Argent Dawn managed to steal away one of the final pieces of the staff. It was being held by none other than Brann Bronzebeard, who had last been seen in the deserts of Silithus. Any player who explored Ahn'Qiraj already knew that Brann's last reported sighting had been near the walls of the great Temple. Brann found a way in, but he hadn't been seen since.
And so players had a monumental task ahead of them -- they had to find the 40 shards of Atiesh's frame in Naxxramas. Once it was put together, only the head and base of the staff were missing. Players were charged with finding someone who could help locate the other remnants -- Anachronos. The bronze dragon pointed players to Kel'Thuzad in Naxxramas for the head of the staff. As for the base, Brann had it when entering Ahn'Qiraj but lost it somewhere inside. For players, this meant a successful kill of C'thun.
One both pieces had been retrieved, there was still the small matter of the staff's corruption. It would need to be cleansed and the demon that dwelled within the staff defeated. Players traveled to Stratholme to find a consecrated patch of earth. Upon placing the staff on the ground, they were confronted with Atiesh, a demon who wielded two blades. One of these was Andonisus, Reaper of Souls. Atiesh dropped Andonisus during the fight, which allowed a player to pick up the weapon and use it against the demon. When Atiesh was defeated, players returned to Anachronos and were rewarded with Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian -- whole, complete, and no longer corrupt.
Mages, priests, warlocks and druids could wield the staff. Each version of the staff had a different colored ribbon. The other unique aspect of this staff was that it could be used to create a portal to the foot of Karazhan, Medivh's former home. Atiesh wasn't really a flashy weapon, but the staff would occasionally cause ravens to circle around the caster, a reminder of its former owner. And players who held it when fighting the Shade of Aran, the ghost of Medivh's father, were rewarded with a special line.
Very few players today actually own this staff. The amount of time it took to obtain and the necessity for a 40-man raid for most of the chain made it a very rare item to see. As for official lore, the staff was passed to Medivh's son in the Warcraft comics. But for those who have held the staff, those who obtained it so many years ago, they hold in their hands a reminder of a pivotal point in Azeroth's history when Guardians wielded untold power, now lost in legends past.
For more information on Medivh and the Council of Tirisfal, visit Know Your Lore.