As requested, so it shall be… for Twitchie and other WoW’ers
Is it odd to measure the value of a group or team by the ability and success of a Zandalari Zul’Aman (ZA) Bear Run? No. But there’s more to the value than just high dps (damage per second), excellent tanking and extraordinary heals. It has to include attitude, understanding and winning strategy. Running for Bear is an adrenalin rush, an endorphin fuelled state that literally makes my hands shake.. which not necessarily a good thing considering I need those hands to push the right key and not end up forcing a button mashing exercise. What is a Bear run exactly? It’s a ‘dungeon’ run, with four other players, against the deafening tick of a clock demanding the slaughter of the first four bosses who are protected by a significant number of adds (‘Adds’ are additional creatures whose sole purpose is to block your access to the boss, preventing you from beating the clock). The prize, when successful, is the opportunity to win the Amani Battle Bear mount, complete with his own stack hat helmet. I use the term ‘dungeon’ for lack of better word – and according to Borgapedia it IS a dungeon, despite looking more like a zoo, with relatively feral and mutant beings, some resembling actual animals.
I’ve had three successful bear runs. The first was a pure pug (pick-up group), with another four unknown toons from other realms and/or servers. Pure pug.. you always prepare for the worst. The term ‘fail pug’ on the tip of your tongue ready to roll out of your mouth, based on past experiences and a wasted three hours as toons rage, quit, drop group. But on this occasion the planets shifted, stars aligned and magic happened [insert jazz hands and spirit fingers here]. The first lot of adds at the beginning is generally the indication of whether or not a Bear run will occur, everyone watches the dps meters and the clock. The reason this group ran so well is, in spite of not knowing each other, we understood one another, all reading from the same page, at the same pace – telepathy at its most magnificent. We ran, fast, pulling only what we needed to, avoiding all the rest, leaving all the loot behind as the sacrifice to achieve the bigger goal. Those with CC (crowd control) abilities knew instinctively where and when to use them, we instinctively knew the order for Nalorakk (boss #2, Bear Boss) and the ranged dps instinctively killed scouts without the need to ask. It was fast and furious, a confident tank pulling groups of two mobs and keeping aggro, amazing heals keeping up with tempo and sustained hurt and high dps’ing, the three dps’ers individually pulling no less than 17K, or in my case closer to 20.2K. The clock ticks at its steady rhythm, completely mocking your own heartbeat as you race toward the finish. The team kept together, silently agreeing to an unspoken rule of ‘no man left behind’. The tank using strategies I had not seen before and they worked. This team worked. We achieved the Bear run with just under 2 minutes remaining on the clock and had we been on vent, or mumble, I’m sure nerd screams would have been heard. I didn’t win the prized Bear on that run. But, in all honesty, winning the Bear feels very secondary to just the ‘Hell Yeah!’ achievement of beating the god damn clock. It’s amazing how much I relax after the race has been run, the final two bosses of the dungeon, Hex Lord Malacrass (boss #5) and Daakara (boss #6), greeted with more of a ‘Oh, Hey’ rather than ‘DIE M^%&$F*CKER’!
The second Bear attempt was half pug as I teamed up with two friends. This run was a little different. I don’t think anyone expected it to be the race it turned out to be, it was all very casual until Jan’alai (boss #3 Dragonhawk) was annihilated. Seven minutes remained on the clock, that’s when it all kicked in. Taking lead from the tank, we followed his moves, leaping over the first lynx pack and running for the water. Time ticking loudly in our ears. We began the lynx gauntlet, tank pulling two mobs, then another two, we wasted no precious time in killing the honey crème coloured cats. Racing into Halazzi, the fourth and final required boss, with four minutes to spare and ‘it was on’. Everyone pulling what they could out of their toon. This is where I fell down. My dps was dismal on this fight as it had been all through the run, I felt awful, guilty, my hands shaking as a result of frustration and embarrassment more than the adrenalin I’m used to. We achieved the bear run with seconds to spare, we all rolled for the prize, I won it – undeservedly so. I held on to that prize for the longest time, waiting until it could no longer be traded to another player before ‘learning’ the mount. Had Hennypennie not logged off so soon after the run, she may very well have a Bear mount. Since this run, it probably should be noted that I have reconciled winning the roll, it’s the prize for all the other times where I have done exceedingly well in Zul’Aman.
The third run, a surprising and welcome invite to run a random Z with <Fidelity>. As soon as I recognise the ZA muted green and blue load screen I breathe a sigh of relief, ZA is just so much better (for me) than the sister dungeon Zul’Gurub and when you’re with such an elite group of players you know a Bear run is imminent. Game on. If successful, and seriously how could it not be – a confident tank, fabulous healer and three toons capable of pulling incredible dps – then this run was for Borgthor, his Bear. Strategy? Just fast, no one left behind, an expectation that everyone knew what they were doing and knew their role. Granted, I think I recall Jondayla battle rezzing me a couple of times (omg, thank you!). I passed on every single piece of loot, after all this was their guild run and any loot, or subsequent disenchanted mats, were of better use in their guild bank than me as an individual. We plucked the feathers from Akil’zon (boss #1), skinned Nalorakk making a very nice bear rug for in front of the fire, extinguished the flames of Jan’alai and, with a minute to spare, had Halazzi mercilessly defeated. Bear run achieved. Instant relief. The teasing and hysterical laughter from the clock abruptly stopping. And, must admit, sheer relief I didn’t stuff up too badly.
The Zandalari Zul’Aman Bear Run is not just a test of your own toon, its capabilities, but also as a real person, the patience and understanding required, a capability (and demonstrated ability) to appreciate other players, their skills. It is a run that contradicts your overall feeling of pugs and it forgives you for thinking so harshly about them. It is an excellent run where I feel as though I can truly contribute to a team. ZA is indeed a favourite of mine, not only for what is achievable as a team and individual but mostly for the incredible graphic artwork, cool tones of moss greens against the warmer hues of blue and greys that whisper sweet-nothings. No burning of the retinas here. Waiting for the random dungeon finder to change so it’s not so random.. I would live there, stay safe at the starting point but then venture out to play in the waters, chase frogs, lie back in the green grasses and cloud watch.