Chronicles of Warcraft Heroes: The Second War of the Shifting Sands

chroniclesIt was 7pm and time to login. Every night. The War Effort was already underway and my guild and I decided to do some dungeon runs, to put in our work for the server. Those were the days we dreamed of being a “top” guild, another awesome piece of our rich server community of awesome guilds. Even though we weren’t likely to open the gates, we would be part of the effort to get it done, no matter how small.

Each night I logged in and each night we watched the numbers on the World of Warcraft site go up and up and up ….each server had it’s own progress and by comparison we were pretty average, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We were genuinely glad to just be there for this epic, world-wide event. I’d never experienced anything like it up until then and the idea that other guilds in other countries were also working hard around the clock to open their gates seemed surreal. Me and my guildies watched eagerly to see who the first servers would be.

silithus-cenarionholdBack then Death N Taxes was among the most famous world-wide guilds along side such stellar company as Nihilum, Fury, Ascent and dozens of others. I don’t know the guilds to open the first gates, but I know that whichever servers opened them first would have a shot at world first Temple of Ahn’Qiraj kills. Each server had to collaborate, designate a scepter holder and complete the questline. Raid guilds were the real muscle behind organizing the resources to make it happen. If you think organizing 40 players is too much, try a thousand. Working across timezones, different languages, continents is a heroic feat all it’s own, but players, with the help of the internet, did exactly that for the race. These heroes coordinated other guilds and all the little players on their servers using the forums, quest turn in schedules and teaming up at weird hours for the major battles along the questline. n a very real way, at the time, each server to open the gates represented an intimate community of players who knew each other by name. These were servers with master craftsman lists, Honor System schedules, and regular open world combat. From the day this event was unleashed upon the Warcraft community, opening the gates signified some up-and-coming server right through to the release of the Burning Crusade.

It’s true that The War Effort, as a quest from a technical standpoint, amounted to little more than cloth and metal turn-ins for the average player, because …well, that was where the tech was and players didn’t begrudge the game for this. Part of the experience of MMOs is the fantasy, so trying to evaluate the fun-factor of the War Effort by looking at the available quests will always understate the excitement of the event itself. Players were creating lore in real-time and that wasn’t lost on us at all. The Effort was about the game changing, about our actions translating into visual progress and leading to grander adventures. As the Second War approached, our top raiding guilds were required to do the leg work on the questline while the rest of us gathered the resources our forces would need. We all anticipated the day we’d bang the gong. We all knew who our Scarab Lords would be. This was a moment in Azerothian history made epic by our enthusiasm  and we were pretty damn glad to take our places in the tome.

The Story Before Us

180px-Sceptreoftheshiftingsands

The Scepter of the Shifting Sands

It was the War of the Shifting Sands that gave us the Silithus we inherited. By the time we, the new heroes, reached its borders it was just a quiet, sandy, dessert, a grave with spare insects clinging to life under the sun. On the surface, it looked abandoned, dry as bone with almost no inhabitants save for the watchers of Cenarion Hold. It was a dreadful place to be sent. But beneath the surface an ancient threat was growing. Those spare hives weren’t what was left, but a sign of an emerging threat.

The deepest memory of the War of the Shifting Sands was left to us by Fandral Staghelm and the Bronze Dragon flight led by Anachronos. Fandral lost his son Vandral, who was crushed before his eyes by the Qiraji leader General Rajaxx. This was the place that destroyed the Fandral of old and brought us the Fandral we know today, the leader of the Druids of the Flame.

anachronos_wow

Anachronos

To contain the threat and end the war, Caelestrasz, Arygos and Merithra flew into the thick of battle, into Ahn’Qiraj itself to buy the Night Elves time to create a magical barrier around the city with the help of Anachronos. Sealing the Qiraji behind this barrier, Anachronos then created a golden gong from a scarab, and a scepter from the limb of a fallen fellow dragon. The scepter was given to Fandral who, in his despair and rage over the loss of his son, smashed the scepter against the magical barrier and walked away from the Elves and the Alliance.

This is how the Scepter came to be shattered into pieces and this is where players were charged with it’s re-assembly. This is where the questline for the Scepter of the Shifting Sands began and where players made their debut into the canon.

Fandral Staghelm during the War of the Shifting Sands

Fandral Staghelm during the War of the Shifting Sands

It asked us to invade Blackwing Lair on a quest ominously titled “Only One May Rise”. It was time to nominate a single hero among us to become our Scarab Lord and fulfill the prophecy, to chose who would bang the gong to re-open Ahn’Qiraj for us. Of course at the time, we didn’t know what all of this meant …but we did learn that only one could rise and that one person had to deputize others to aid them in completing the quest chain.

This quest is terribly long so I’ll sum it up. Each server had to gather each shard of the scepter from four dragon flights: Azuregos, Eranikus, Nefarius and Anachronos. The best suited heroes among us for this task were raiders, who naturally had the responsibility of entering these raids and doing all the fighting while us lesser mortals picked Mageweave and fish from the sea.

Insane Fandral Staghelm

Insane Fandral Staghelm

Alls fair in fame and glory and the truth is that when this questline was released players were wild about it. It filled us with purpose and made the world feel more alive. For all of the game’s limitations back then, this event was the first to fold players into the lore, put us in the midst of Azerothian history, and allow us to be actors in the story in a really intimate way. To this day, the Second War was the first and only game event which required server communities to unite behind a singular goal.

For the heroes among us who had the grave task of confronting these ancient powers, they were on the bleeding edge of content. They saw what only a handful from every server got to see: the unfolding of events, live. They experienced true adventure in that they were discovering the knowledge that would allow other players to open their gates in the future.

The Second War Begins

The Scepter of the Shifting Sands is whole once more, <name>.

It must be you who uses the scepter. It must be you who heralds the next age of your people.

You must wait for the armies of the Horde and the Alliance to arrive in Silithus before you may ring the Scarab Gong.

High Overlord Varok Saurfang

High Overlord Varok Saurfang

With the Scepter assembled, the date of the battle was announced to everyone on the forums and we all vowed to show up for battle. High Overlord Varok Saurfang, the legendary horde leader, commanded our forces and headed the Might of Kalimdor for the war. Varok had been Orgrim Doomhammer’s second in command, and now he was fighting side-by-side with us. He’s the brother of Broxigar, the only mortal known to physically strike Sargeras himself! However, the servers, in the words of Illidan, were not prepared. Still, in the game, in our minds and fantasies of the event, it was pretty epic to be in the company of such legends. Once our forces were rallied and the supplies transferred to the frontlines, the gong was struck. The battles immediately began, phat loot was immediately found, and we had 10 hours of a non-stop invasion of southern Kalimdor! The time window was to allow other players who had assembled the scepter to bang the gong and get their reward as well. But it was rare for more than a couple of players to do so as far as I know, because the quest took monumental effort. kill-chart-AQ40Usually, one person would bang the gong. That person would be forever known by their legendary title of Scarab Lord and they’d ride into battle on the legendary Black Qiraji mount. Thus the Second War of the Shifting Sands began with the restoration of the scepter by the players.

After 10 hours of beating back the Qiraji advance, our beloved raiders set out for the Ruins and the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj and they were victorius. C’thun went down swiftly and the Second War came to a close. C’thun’s days were numbered …somewhere in the next four months his death was prophesied. This video is one guilds dramatic adventure through the Temple itself which perfectly captures what most raid videos fail to: the drama of the raid instance itself and how the players are perceived to intervene in it. Depending on how long you’ve been with the WoW community, you’ll recognize this one from it’s title and author so kick back and enjoy. The editing is still better than most WoW raid videos released today! It’s also fully-captioned.

AQ40 was considered raid 2.5, releasing between Blackwing Lair and Naxxramas. It featured some of the most unique bosses to grace the game, even if some of them were just plain weird. Viscidus, for example, needed to be frozen solid in order to defeat him. This also had, until then, the most godly trains of trash roaming through an instance, and the longest hallways. Still, this video is worth the 20 minutes you’ll spend watching it and it captures something very important that’s easy to forget when we reduce raids to epic treasure chests, spreadsheets, and world firsts. Invading the Temple was just the final act of a prophecy given us a thousand years before WoW.

The Second War of the Shifting Sands was one of our first entries into history. It was the first and only event of it’s kind and for that it stands out in player history.

If you’re a WoW veteran I’m sure you have your own personal chronicles and I’d love to hear them. How did you leave your mark on Azeroth?

Scree Tags: #WoWChronicles #wowlore #worldofwarcraft

One thought on “Chronicles of Warcraft Heroes: The Second War of the Shifting Sands

  1. Ahn’Qiraj was an interesting event on Argent Dawn, with the gong ringing at 10pm Server Time, most of the invasion happened while the server was due to be asleep. It makes one of the few times I’ve pulled WoW all-nighters.

    More interesting from my standpoint were the Green Dragons that followed in its wake. I was part of a lower tier non-guild affiliated raid group, but our group had pretty strong ties to another non-guilded raid group. The green dragons had a tendency to spawn in the afternoon when most of the raiding guilds had 10-15 people on. Our less insular mindset allowed us to team up with the other guild and work together (along with a handful of PuGs) to take down 2-3 of the dragons before any of the major players had a chance to mobilize, as well as the mindset of a ragtag group of folks sneaking in and taking stuff earmarked for the highly organized top end guilds.

    I’m sure they had a very different perspective on that than I.

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