WoW Archivist: Many memes, handle it

Scott Andrews
S. Andrews|01.18.13

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WoW Archivist: Many memes, handle it
Unmistakable directions to Mankrik's wife
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?

Last week, Archivist celebrated the Ulduar raid, including Thorim's famous IN THE MOUNTAINS speech -- one of Wrath's most memorable memes. In its eight years, World of Warcraft and its players have spawned dozens of memes. Today, Archivist remembers some of the best and most enduring. If you've ever wondered where some of these memes come from, read on!

The earliest memes

WoW memes began almost instantly after the game's release. One of the first was Mankrik's wife. For an early Horde quest in the Barrens, the orc Mankrik sent you to locate her. His directions were rather vague, so many players had trouble locating her. It didn't help that she wasn't an upright and alive NPC, but rather a dead body laying on the ground -- killed by marauding quilboars.

Confused players asked where they could find her in the zone's chat. Many, many players. Because the massive zone spanned 15 levels, everyone leveling through it saw that same question asked over and over again. It got to the point where people would ask just to troll the chat channel.

The quest is no longer in the game, but players can now visit her grave near Grol'dom Farm.

Trolling Barrens chat became something of a hobby for early players. Many in the Horde didn't know about the other leveling zones across the ocean. Some who did ran up against the ongoing Tarren Mill/Southshore lagfest wars and took the first boat back to Kalimdor. The combination of a captive audience and a high saturation of new players made the Barrens the perfect zone to troll. In time, Barrens chat became its own meme, even inspiring T shirts.

Of course, the most famous WoW meme of all time was also one of the first. The Leeroy Jenkins video has already been covered in its own Archivist column, so I won't go into detail here.

Of course, the Leeroy video was staged. Another famous vanilla-era recording, the Onyxia wipe, was all too real. The audio featured a raid leader named Dives, who delivers uncontainable scorn and rage in a fun Finnish accent. In the audio, he first provides profanity-laced instructions, then completely loses his mind over a mistake, and ends the wipe with a scorching tirade. His phrases 50 DKP minus, Many whelps! Handle it! and More dots! were instant classics. The latter two both became achievements during Onyxia's second incarnation. The recording reached new levels of hilarity when an enterprising player named Alachas created an animation for it. The guild, Wipe Club, later released a "best of" video.More dots T shirt

Onyxia's most dreaded ability in those days was Deep Breath. Players had a lot of superstitions about what would trigger a Deep Breath. It was believed that placing multiple DOTs on the boss would increase the time between breaths (which is probably why Dives keeps demanding them). Every time the game got patched, someone on the forums would claim that "Onyxia Deep Breaths more" than she did before the patch. Eventually, players began to post that claim mockingly in any thread alleging a stealth buff to a boss. This too became an anchievement.

Molten Core had its own memes. One of the first came out of an odd situation. Core Hounds were trash mobs in the zone that could be skinned for Core Leather, a necessary component in many recipes for fire resist gear that were helpful versus bosses like Ragnaros. Like any other mob in the game, the hounds dropped random gray vendor loot that were assigned to one player. In a raid of 40 players, a lot was going on. Few people noticed when a trash mob had loot for them, but the skinners couldn't skin until the bodies had been looted. Thus, the Loot the hounds! meme was born.

Molten Core also gave us the first raid boss meme, from Ragnaros' infamous awakening speech. The full line is "TOO SOON! YOU HAVE AWAKENED ME TOO SOON, EXECUTUS! WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS INTRUSION?" (and yes, he uses all caps). Players of course latched on to the "Too soon!" parts, but what made the whole exchange so great was how Ragnaros came across as an angry middle manager, and Majordomo Executus as a disappointing cubicle chump who doesn't understand why his boss is mad -- right up to when Ragnaros kills him.

Other vanilla bosses had memorable lines that approached meme status, such as VanCleef scolding us as Lapdogs, all of you! and Herod's terrifying run away moment, Blades of Light! It's a well-known fact that placing an exclamation point after any line of boss dialogue gives it a 20% greater chance to become a meme.

Not prepared for setbacks

Perhaps because we hear them so often, boss speeches have been the origin of many WoW memes.

Illidan's speech became a meme before he was even patched into the game. In the trailer for The Burning Crusade, Illidan warns players, You are not prepared. Players took the phrase and ran with it, applying it to everything from Blizzard's server problems during the early days of the expansion to literally every other conceivable or inconceivable concept. Yes, this was one popular.

Karazhan's Big Bad Wolf gave us a sound bite that isn't so much a meme anymore as a crucial raiding asset. If you've ever wondered why Deadly Boss Mods sometimes yells at you to "Run away little girl, run away!" then you can thank the BBW.

In his original form, Kael'thas was memorable more for his insane difficulty than his speeches. It wasn't until he returned from defeat -- during the same expansion -- that he became meme-worthy. The minute his Magister's Terrace version cryptically claimed that "Tempest Keep was merely a setback," a meme was born. The nonexplanation became the go-to whenever a WoW boss (or anyone or anything else) inexplicably returns from the dead. Blizzard paid tribute to the phrase's popularity during Icecrown Citadel's three princes encounter, where Valanar explains that "Naxxanar was merely a setback." At they had the excuse of being undead . . .A diagram for facing Jaraxxus

Wrath had its share of boss memes as well. In addition to a few from Ulduar mentioned last week, we had Jaraxxus, the boss who name-checked himself every time you pulled him. You face Jaraxxus! spawned remixes and it's own Facebook page.

Players found multiple things hilarious about Marrowgar's Boooonestooorm announcement -- and really, how could you not? The voice acting is over the top, the word itself is hilarious, and out of context it becomes even more so. During Tier 10, players would break into conversations by announcing a Bonestorm of their own.

While Bonestorm was beloved, many phrases in Icecrown Citadel became memes because they were so very hated. One of very few blemishes on the raid was its penchant for unskippable "cut scenes" that triggered prior to certain bosses -- on every single pull. The most egregious of these was certainly the Saurfang encounter. As with Thorim's long speech, one phrase really stuck out. This time it was We named him Dranosh. The line goes on to say, "It means, 'heart of Draenor' in orcish." Players, of course, reinterpreted the name in many different ways, most commonly "It means, 'We just wasted ninety seconds.'"

The only thing more annoying than unskippable cut scenes is perhaps repetitive boss shouts that grate in the headset. The less said about Sindragosa's Your pathetic magic betraaaays you the better.

Soon, bears and campfires

Many of these boss memes peppered the official forums, but the forums have also spawned quite a few memes of their own. Perhaps the ultimate forum meme comes from Blizzard itself, but isn't actually a trademark: Soon™.

Many don't know this, but in the earliest days of WoW, Blizzard actually gave projected dates for things like patches well in advance. Blizzard being Blizzard, however, they rarely met these deadlines. Players would then slather the forums with angry, irrational reaction posts, calling Blizzard's CMs "liars" who "broke their promises." To end the cycle of disappointment and forum rage, the CMs stopped giving out dates and reduced deadlines to a binary system. Either something was coming "soon" or not soon. The CMs relied on the "soon" gambit so many times that it has earned both a capital S and a trademark.

Hand in hand with missed deadlines and other traumatic events were players threatening to quit the game. Quit posts have never really gone out of style, much to forum users' consternation. During WoW's first few years, however, they were really out of control. Perhaps as a way of discouraging others from posting similar silly threats, players discovered the only relevant reply: Can I have your stuff?

Complaints are ceaseless on the forums, but few were as perfectly reasoned as a thread in 2007 about a change to mining nodes. Blizzard planned to make mining the node aggro nearby mobs. Apparently some players thought that was unfair, because other types of gathering didn't inherently draw aggro. As the argument went,

Skinning a bear should aggro every bears
in a 40 yard radius. It makes sense, you are actually skinning their best friend.

Something about the ungrammatical phrase "every bears" -- or perhaps the compelling argument -- caught players' fancy. The thread soon grew to epic proportions. Players made similar arguments about "disenchanting a boot should aggro every boots" etc. The phrase has appeared in one of Blizzards' April Fools' Day jokes, and a forum troll using the meme in an insulting joke eventually led to CM Tseric leaving the company.
Basic campfire campaign poster
Many people thought Blizzard was joking when they said that Garrosh would become the new warchief of the Horde. From emo teen to 'roided out warmonger, Garrosh didn't exactly have the kind of track record Hordies look for in their leadership. A forum thread by Vacant on Eldre'thelas offered 50 better alternatives, including Gamon, a Sickly Gazelle, "that unclickable goblin girl who pedal-powers the Northrend zeps," and the Basic Campfire. People scoffed at first, but the campaign picked up a lot of steam, with support from blogs, The Daily Blink, the MMO Champion community, and WoW Insider's Allison Robert. Personally, I'm a Gamon man.

Ghostcrawler in all caps

Greg Street, aka Ghostcrawler, is the lead systems designer for WoW and the inspiration behind two of the game's most enduring memes. The first came about in the fall of 2008, shortly before the launch of Wrath but after the expansion's class changes had gone live. In a beta forums Q&A about ret paladins, whom many players perceived as extremely powerful at the time, Ghostcrawler posted,

Q: Are we going to nerf Ret?
A: TO THE GROUND BABY. Okay, not really, but sometimes I can't resist. We'll see how much that quote comes back to haunt me.

As it turns out, that quote didn't just haunt him -- it turned all the furniture in his house upside down, made the walls bleed paladin tears, and then possessed his dog and bit him. Yes, Blizzard had to nerf ret paladins drastically. One could even say to a level approaching sea level. When it happened, ret paladins immediately made reference to his "joke" that now seemed cruelly prophetic in hindsight.

Ever since, "to the ground baby" has become the rallying cry for posters calling for nerfs -- or for players mourning the enfeeblement of their favorite spec. The Tanaris quest To the Ground! and the achievement of the same name are references to the meme.
Ghostcrawler nerfs you
In the spring of the following year, a forum post complaining about mage nerfs went so far over the top with QQ about what Blizzard "promised" them that the usually calm and reasonable Ghostcrawler couldn't help himself. His initial reply was merely


At first people were taken aback by the sarcastic bluntness. Then we all realized how hilarious it was, and a legend was born. The phrase has since become synonymous with excessive complaining. The WoW Insider crew rocked custom "Ghostcrawler promised me a pony" T shirts at BlizzCon 2009.

Later, during the 2010 Winter Olympics, players asked for an Olympics-themed companion pet, claiming that "Ghostcrawler promised me a moose." The moose meme even made an appearance at the Games themselves.

Ultimately, Ghostcrawler delivered. We got our pony in 2011. We're still waiting for the moose, though.

WoW has had so many memes that no single column could possibly cover them all. Someday I will write a followup with more. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to share your favorites below.

The WoW Archivist examines the WoW of old. Follow along while we discuss the lost legendary, the opening of Ahn'Qiraj, and hidden locations such as the crypts of Karazhan.
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