Scattered throughout this blog are countless mentions of old attunement quests. Jailbreak. Attunement to the Core. The BWL attunement. The Black Temple attunement. They’re all over the place. I even wrote about keys last year.

Apparently, attunements are currently being discussed in the blogosphere. I’ve been wanting to jump in since day one, but I feel as though I don’t have a ton to contribute to the discussion, because I’ve already talked about attunements. A lot. (Seriously.) Then again, why should I let that stop me? ;)

The latest round of attunement discussion arose due to a few blue posts by a European Community Manager, Draztal. In essence, some people are clamouring for the return of attunements because it’ll “give people something to do”, to which Draztal responds with challenge modes, scenarios and pet battles, amongst other things. Others claim that attunements were great for explaining why we’re fighting these bosses and that lore is missing, to which Draztal responds that some people didn’t care about the lore and found that attunements were just “getting in their way” because they would be declined entry into raids that required attunements.

One of the more interesting parts of his posts was this, his second-to-last post:

I doubt it was very fun for the players that were being told “no, sorry, you need to get these attunements to join our guild” and was being rejected when he said “but noone is running these right now because it’s not current content anymore”.

Was it fun when it was current content? For some. For some others it was just another unnecesary wall preventing them from getting to the content they really wanted to do (raiding).

I’m not kidding when I say this: I could write a thesis about attunements.

But because I like you, I won’t inflict that upon you. ;) Instead, let’s talk a little bit about what I think is important about attunements and why I think they should exist, along with what changes I would make to them.

But first, let’s look at…

ATTUNEMENT HISTORY

Level 60 was the first level cap. As a brand-new level 60 character, you could not enter into Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, The Temple of Ahn’Qiraj (*) or Naxxramas (the 40-man version) without first doing various attunements. (* Technically, once someone on your server had done the excruciatingly long and difficult Scepter chain, you never had to do an attunement to get into what was called AQ40, but neither AQ20 nor AQ40 were available until someone had done that quest chain and banged the gong.) There were no heroic dungeons at 60, so there were no other kinds of attunements. (There were several key quests, mind you, but only one person in your group needed the key. They were pretty optional, although I had ALL the keys and loved them dearly.)

You could enter Zul’Gurub (20m raid instance) and The Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj (also known as AQ20) without any attunements (so long as someone had done the Scepter chain) once you hit level 58, but hitting max level did not magically imbue you with the ability to do, well, anything. No one was going to pug AQ40, so that forced a player to either continue to do 5-10 man content (by which I mean dungeons, including UBRS) or start getting into ZG/AQ20 runs (either pugs or guild runs) or work on their attunements to get into more challenging content.

In Burning Crusade, where the level cap was 70, there were reputation requirements to earn the heroic key of the various dungeons available. You had to hit Revered (initially, then later, this was brought down to Honored) with the associated faction in order to get the heroic key to literally unlock the heroic version of the instance. So for the heroic versions of Hellfire Ramparts, The Blood Furnace and Shattered Halls, you needed to be Revered with Thrallmar or Honor Hold, for example. (Shattered Halls also had its own key quest!) In addition to this, the first entry-level raid, Karazhan (a 10-man raid instance) had an extensive attunement process that everyone had to go through on every single toon they wanted to bring into the raid. (14 months after BC’s launch, they lifted the requirement that everyone have a key.)

While Gruul’s Lair and Magtheridon’s Lair did not require attunements, one typically had to start gearing up through Karazhan before they could hope to get Gruul or Magtheridon down.

Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep were the Tier 5 instances. This is where, perhaps, attunement nay-sayers who lived through this time may have a point. The Serpentshrine Cavern attunement was relatively straightforward: You had to go to Heroic Slave Pens (thereby being Revered with Cenarion Expedition), kill the first boss, find the captive Skar’this and get his quest.

His quest asks for the Earthen Signet (a drop from Gruul) and the Blazing Signet (a drop from Nightbane in Karazhan, a boss that required at least one person in the raid have done a series of quests for — in essence, its own attunement). Maybe I lied about it being straightforward…

Still, that’s “all” that was required for Serpentshrine Cavern access. It wasn’t too complicated; if you were killing Gruul and Nightbane regularly, it wasn’t a big deal to get these drops and get attuned. This attunement was lifted in June of 2007, just five months after Burning Crusade’s launch. (As such, I never did this to completion, although Kurn had the Blazing Signet at some point.)

The tricky part is Tempest Keep. Hands down, this sucked. And I never actually did this attunement either, because it was lifted in June of 2007 as well.

Long story short…

- Excessively long quest chain, then:
- Trial of the Naaru: Mercy: Heroic Shattered Halls
- Trial of the Naaru: Strength: Kalithresh in Heroic Steamvault, then Murmur in Heroic Shadow Labyrinth
- Trial of the Naaru: Tenacity: Heroic Arcatraz, rescue Millhouse Manastorm
- Trial of the Naaru: Magtheridon: Kill Magtheridon

Now let’s be clear, here. This was pre-LFG. This was back when even finishing a single Heroic Shattered Halls run was a crapshoot unless you were with a competent group, which usually consisted of a prot pally tanking. Heroic Mumur was painful. And doing Heroic Arcatraz was an exercise in masochism. Even I think Tempest Keep attunement was rough. People who did this got the Champion of the Naaru title. Champions indeed; I have a great deal of respect for people who did it, even at the end of the expansion.

Two of the Tier 6 instances, The Battle of Mount Hyjal and the Black Temple, had their own attunements, as well. (Sunwell Plateau did not.)

Hyjal required you to kill Lady Vashj in Serpentshrine Cavern and Kael’thas Sunstrider in Tempest Keep, commonly known as the Vials of Eternity quest. This was pretty straightforward, although no easy task. Black Temple attunement was considerably more annoying. It consisted of a LOT of quests, an Arcatraz run, a 5-man quest, a trip to Fathom-Lord Karathress in Serpentshrine Cavern, killing Al’ar in an Ashtongue Cowl in Tempest Keep, killing Rage Winterchill in Hyjal and basically that’s the worst of it, followed by some more questy stuff in and around Black Temple.

For being attuned to both Hyjal and BT, you got the Hand of A’dal title, since both of these attunements were no longer needed as of March 25, 2008. (This is why I tend to default to wearing my Hand of A’dal title, and I do it proudly.)

(Looking back, how in the hell did we manage to get everyone attuned to stuff? We did the BT/Hyjal attunements for most of the guild, but good gravy, in retrospect, I’m suddenly really impressed with the BC-era Apotheosis!)

Wrath of the Lich King arrived and, as is typical of Blizzard, pretty much all attunements were thrown out the window. What do I mean by that? I mean that Blizzard will find something they enjoy (in this case, attunements) and will introduce it all over the place and then when the community complains enough, they’ll swing way over to the other side of things and have very little of that thing. Another example would be the reliance on interrupt mechanics in Tier 11 content: Omnotron, Maloriak, Nefarian, Halfus, Ascendent Council, Cho’gall, which is half of the normal encounters in T11. All of these fights required people to interrupt basic boss abilities. Interrupting played an important part of precisely one encounter in Firelands (Alysrazor), or 1/7th of the encounters in Firelands.  I don’t think any actual interrupting goes on in Dragon Soul boss encounters… Anyhow, I digress. My point is that Blizzard will really overuse something they particularly like and then will throw it out the window entirely in newer content. I think moderation is the key, but what do I know?

So attunements in Wrath got thrown out the window, basically, after the attunement craziness in Burning Crusade. You dinged 80? Great, you can now enter every single raid instance and are automatically able to do heroic dungeons. The one exception is that you had to get the Key to the Focusing Iris from Sapphiron in Naxx in order to be able to do Malygos in Eye of Eternity.

Later, the raid leader had to have cleared all of Trial of the Crusader (defeat Anub’arak on normal) in order to attempt the heroic version of that raid, which was also known as Trial of the Grand Crusader. You also had to have the raid leader have killed Lich King on normal to activate heroic modes in Icecrown Citadel. There were also specific things you had to do in order to be able to face Algalon in Ulduar, but by and large, attunements didn’t exist and those that did certainly weren’t anywhere near the level they were at in Burning Crusade.

In Cataclysm, the only form of “attunement” is in terms of accessing certain bosses. You can’t do Sinestra (heroic only) if you don’t do Heroic Cho’gall. You can’t do Heroic Ragnaros without doing the previous six bosses on heroic in that particular reset. You can’t do Heroic Spine (or Madness) without doing the previous six bosses on heroic in that particular reset, either. And you can’t swap things to heroic without the raid leader having cleared things on normal.

Geez, that got long. But it was important background information to show how much attunements have changed over the last several years!

WHAT KURN THINKS IS IMPORTANT ABOUT ATTUNEMENTS

I feel that attunements have two major facets to them that are often overlooked, particularly by the more “entitled” crowd, which (I am generalizing here) is, in my observations, more likely to consist of “newer” players to the game than people who played in Vanilla or Burning Crusade. (Some of the players who dislike attunements certainly lived through the attunements of Vanilla and BC, though. Let’s not forget that not all attunements were “fun”, even for someone like me who is generally in favour of attunements.)

The first facet is that attunements act as a barrier to entry and I’ll talk a bit about why I think this is desirable. The second facet is what I will call the “Fire-Forged Friends” or “Band of Brothers” element.

BARRIER TO ENTRY

One part of an attunement process is the barrier to entry, which means that you can’t ding max level and zone in. There’s something to be done first. I like this for four reasons.

1) A sense of anticipation. Nowadays, you ding max level and can, more or less, walk into any raid instance. (LFR currently requires a 372 ilvl, but using the same-server raid finder tool has no such requirements and pugs don’t always check people’s gear, etc.)

Where is the fun in that?

For me, and for a number of people with whom I’ve played over the years, attunements for opening up raid content was often a solid step on the way to becoming a raider. It’s really hard to remember a time when I didn’t raid, but I assure you, there was such a time. It was spring of 2006 when I was wanting to start raiding, after my brother had guild-hopped (from the guild I had just joined!) to a guild that was working on Molten Core.

I was all of level 53 or 54 when he left the guild. I wasn’t attuned to the core, I couldn’t even pick up the quest (which I snatched up quickly at level 55!).

So I was not yet a raider. But I wanted to raid, so I did my homework, read up on the quests at Thottbot, then started in on various quest lines, such as Dragonkin Menace (the starter quest for the Onyxia attunement) and started making progress on various attunements.

Getting attuned to Molten Core was a huge rush. I was going to be able to go in there and kill these huge, epic bosses! … I just needed 39 other people to go with me.

My guild at the time started out small in Zul’Gurub (no attunement needed) and then started in on Molten Core in the summer and recruited and recruited and while we only ever fielded one single 40-man Molten Core raid, we did a lot with around 30-35 people. We did spawn Majordomo Executus twice and attempted Onyxia a few times. Possibly the greatest accomplishment was actually attuning everyone to Onyxia and Molten Core, to be honest… but the sense of accomplishment for completing the attunements was huge. It was a big step towards becoming a raider, because, well, not everyone COULD be a raider. If you were attuned to various raids, it was a huge boost for you and your guild. I remember this group of three guys who applied to our guild — holy paladin, rogue and a DPS warrior. They had three-manned the Onyxia chain together. Including Jailbreak. This was hugely impressive and based primarily on that, we invited them to the guild. They were excellent players and how they tackled their attunements proved that to us.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with delaying the start of raiding by adding an attunement. It adds to the sense of anticipation. It adds to the idea that you’re working towards a goal rather than just walking in and hitting a loot pinata.

2) A chance to actually gear up for the content. Okay, this is one of my pet peeves. Drives me up the effing wall. Using PVP (or other, inappropriate gear) to fool the item level checker drives me nuts. I think that the one time this is actually okay is if you have heirlooms that work from 80-85, which are counted as level 1 by the item level checker, but by and large, when someone buys a couple of PVP items to fool the item level checker, I get pissed. (I swear, this game has had a negative effect on my blood pressure.) By putting attunements in, you give people the opportunity to run dungeons that are appropriate to their level before they group up with others in LFR or heroic/etc dungeons. I am ALWAYS careful not to be a drag on my group. Always. Kurn is always hit-capped (as is my mage), for example, while I do my absolute best as a healer to help out with the mechanics of a fight (interrupting, if I can, not standing in bad, explaining things if people don’t get it). I’m that person who loves to CC to make life easier for people. I would CC regularly in Zul’Aman’s 5-man dungeon version on my paladin, by using Turn Evil on (essentially fearing) the demon guy in the temple. I love dropping traps on Kurn. I even used to kite General Drakkisath in UBRS (until the ever-awesome Toga decided to do that for us, more often than not). In short, I am basically a team player as soon as you throw me into group content.

What Blizzard did in Cataclsym is introduce the item level checker to sort of make sure that people weren’t running into various dungeons while completely unprepared. Unfortunately, since PVP gear had a higher ilvl, people quickly realized that they could have an ilvl of, well, 0, so long as they had a full set of PVP gear in their bags.

If you have an attunement, you give people a chance to get gear that will legitimately help them before they move on to more challenging content. Want to make sure someone has a great weapon? Make it a reward for the last bit of the quest. Give them armor along the way, or a trinket, or something. There should be both an emotional gain (the satisfaction of doing the attunement) as well as a material gain (gear) in order to encourage people to actually do the attunements, especially on more than one character.

3) The possibility of gaining for experience on your character before hitting content. Let’s face it, tons of people have zero idea how to play their characters efficiently for group content. If you want to quest on your own, that’s fine. As soon as you enter group content, if you’re not playing in a way that allows you to do appropriate DPS or healing for the content, you’re screwing other people over. Tanks are not immune to this either, obviously. (I am talking to you, DK tank I once had in Vortex Pinnacle, who focused on one mob alone, not spreading any diseases or dropping D&D, which meant that even a holy shock on him meant that ALL THE OTHERS would turn, as one, and beat the crap out of me.)

By delaying entry into a raid setting, you give people the opportunity to spend a bit more time learning how to play their class by being asked to complete an attunement. Sure, these same people can grind out VP on a weekly basis to get gear to bypass ilvl requirements legitimately in Mists (since PVP gear will have a lower ilvl. Level 90 crafted PVP gear seems to be at 450, while heroic gear from a dungeon is 463. Epic PVP gear is 464. Raid Finder gear is 476/483. Normal raid gear is 489/496. Heroic raid gear is 502/509.), but with the crazy amount of things you can do at 90 for Valor Points, that doesn’t necessarily mean that people will be engaging in relevant group content too much before trying to jump into LFR or pugs and making life miserable for those who DO know how to play their classes.

4) It can be used to artificially extend the content’s life. Let’s be serious. It’s July 13th. On Tuesday, July 10th, Apotheosis cleared Heroic Dragon Soul in 2h24m. And that was with a few screwups on H Zon’ozz due to some miscommunication on my part. Dragon Soul launched on November 29th. That means we’re approaching the 8-month anniversary of Dragon Soul. The nerf is about to go up to 30% next week. This is tired, stale, old content for many people. If Blizzard cannot provide us with new content, then why not try to extend the life of the content? I’m not talking about something ridiculous like having one new boss available per week, they way they did with Trial of the Crusader, but maybe various wings opening more slowly, the way they did in Icecrown Citadel (albeit without the limited number of wipes, which only forced the more hardcore people to level and raid with alts before getting the strat down and then downing the boss in their main group). Or, you know, a form of attunement. Maybe in order to get into Throne of the Four Winds, you would have had to clear Bastion on normal. Or in order to spawn Nefarian, maybe you would have had to do a questline that included Heroic Blackrock Caverns and a quick trip to an instanced Blackwing Lair, where you might have been able to see Nefarian retreat into Blackwing Descent? See Onyxia be reanimated? How much cooler would that have made Blackwing Descent?

I don’t mind a long attunement quest chain, obviously, but what if you started doing one when you’re two levels from max level?

What if there existed, in Mists of Pandaria, a long attunement quest chain that started at level 88 that you could work on ’till you got to level 90, then were asked to run, I don’t know, three specific heroics in order to be attuned and then that’s it for attunement? It would give XP as you were getting to 90, with some nice rewards now and again (especially at the end) and it wouldn’t be dramatically difficult, but it might give people the opportunity to learn more about what they’re about to do, or even, I suppose, what they’re about to be able to do.

I’m thinking out loud and this blog is already almost 3500 words long, so I’ll move on to my next section.

FIRE FORGED FRIENDS” / “BAND OF BROTHERS” ELEMENT

Do you know what I remember most about killing Lady Vashj, apart from the 15k crit Lay on Hands that saved our tank’s life at ~3% on the boss left? I remember the people. I remember one of the tanks dying, getting a battle rez and then dying in poison. I remember the “west side” of the platform, which got three of the tainted elementals, and I remember exactly who was on that side (WEST SIDE STRONG SIDE!). I remember the cries of joy and sheer triumph that came from my Vent, practically deafening us all.

These were people I had sweated with through the rest of SSC. These were people I worked hard with to defeat those other bosses. These were the people I was technically working with the complete the attunements to Hyjal and BT.

I remember the Onyxia attunement — running Jailbreak over and over again. I remember getting the Blood of the Black Dragon Champion from Drakkisath to finish off that attunement, and how they were limited drops that only a couple of people could get. I remember working with the same people over and over again, getting better at working together as a team, accomplishing these steps in attunements for people. I remember saying to apps “Not attuned to the core? No problem, we have a team that can take care of that for you,” and they were like “REALLY?”.

It was a bonding experience. We fought together, side by side, getting bosses down through sheer will and, occasionally, dumb luck. Every single step we took together, through attunements and into raid instances, felt important and everyone learned so much about not just their characters, but their fellow guildies.

Do you know that, to this day, I can basically tell which add Majik is going to sheep and I can trap another one? I’ve been playing alongside him for so long that I can anticipate just about everything he’s going to do. Part of that is because we’ve played together a LOT, including attunements.

These memories of attuning yourself to a raid, they’re not worthless, especially if you’re doing it with your friends or your guildies. They’re part of the journey you’re taking together.

Maybe I have a different perspective on things because I wasn’t always a raider and I’ve always viewed the steps to becoming a raider as being particularly important. Maybe I put too much emphasis on that epic six-hour BRD run when I got attuned to the core. Maybe I should forget about those last-minute, 30-minute pre-raid attunement runs for MC, even though we got GOOD at them and had a blast.

I don’t think I will, though. We’re coming to the end of my WoW career and what I will remember is not dinging 80 or 85 and running heroics. I’ll remember Majik dying on his Jailbreak run and having to do it over again. I’ll remember being in awe at the sheer size of Blackrock Depths as this hunter and paladin dragged me (on Kurn), my guildie (a paladin) and a pug mage through everything, including an Emp run. I’ll remember getting Hand of A’dal after killing Kael’thas Sunstrider. I’ll remember the journeys I’ve taken with so many people over the years, and attunement is a huge part of some of those journeys.

CONCLUSION

I think that attunements would be nice. I think that you could even have guild-level attunements or, my preferred option, account-wide attunements. No one liked doing Jailbreak a second time or running through BRD to get attuned a second time or doing the crazy BT attunement for a second character. (Am I weird if I liked doing Karazhan attunement a lot? I thought so.)

More than that, though, I think attunements served a purpose. I think they could still serve a purpose.

I just don’t think Blizzard and I will ever agree on the subject and that’s just one more reason why I’m calling it quits after Cataclysm.