Have you played World of Warcraft: Cataclysm to the point where the heroic level instances are boring, but you don't have the time to put into a full 10- or 25-player raid? With patch 4.1 (known as Rise of the Zandalari), Blizzard has released two new 5-man heroics: Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman. These 5-man heroics are actually more like 5-man raids in that they have a much grander scale and require slightly more work than the heroics we've faced so far. They are not unlike the Frozen Halls instances of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion in relation to the rest of the heroics of that patch, except that these are only heroic level and have six bosses each instead of the two to three in the Frozen Halls instances.
Rise of the Zandalari appears to be a launching pad for a much larger storyline concerning the original troll tribe: the Zandalari. Eons ago, the Zandalari was divided into the Amani, Gurubashi, Sandfury, and Drakkari empires (and many smaller tribes) and then eventually forced into exile after wars with the night elves. While the Sandfury and Drakkari empires have been virtually wiped out over time, the Amani and Gurubashi are still present and have been reinforced by Zandalari troops to reclaim all of Azeroth for the trolls. Some of this story is told in the new patch 4.1 trailer, and the rest can be learned through the new introductory quest line, which starts in each faction's major city and proceeds to Stranglethorn Vale, the home of the Gurubashi tribe.
These new heroics, with their raid-like style, also require more advanced gear than the heroics we've been playing for the last four months. Blizzard sets requirements on heroic participation based on an Average Item Level. Each piece of armor and each weapon a character carries has an item level statistic. For example, gear obtained through level 85 regular instances commonly have an item level of 333; gear obtained through patch 4.0 heroics have an item level of 346; and raid gear, some crafting gear, and some reputation gear are 359. These new patch 4.1 heroics require an Average Item Level of 346, which means that players should be well schooled in patch 4.0 heroics, have reached exalted with Cataclysm factions, and perhaps have crafted or purchased some crafted items. Raid gear doesn't hurt either.
Zul'Gurub is a rebuild of a World of Warcraft Classic (level 60) 20-man raid instance. The instance layout has been simplified slightly to allow for easier pathing and movement, but the layout remains largely the same. Some bosses remain from the classic 20-man, but others have been replaced. In addition, there are weaker bosses and other named characters scattered throughout the instance, which are easier to kill than the primary six, but are requirements for the new quests available at the entrance to the instance.
Zul'Aman is a rebuild of a late-Burning Crusade (level 70) 10-man raid instance. All of the bosses from the original raid are back for this encounter except for Zul'jin; he has been replaced by a new leader, Daakara. Many fight mechanics have been updated, as the bosses have learned from their previous defeats and have figured out some new spells and abilities to take players down.
Both instances have all new item level 353 gear, which drops from bosses, randomly from "trash" kills, and from quest completion. These instances are taking one to two hours while players get used to the new mechanics, but I expect that time to shorten to around an hour in the coming weeks.
Give these heroics a try
If you quit World of Warcraft because you were bored with Cataclysm, come on back and give these new heroics a try -- they'll challenge you again like they did as raids. If you haven't tried World of Warcraft, or haven't played since well before the Cataclysm, now is a great time to come back. If you're interested in one of the six Horde races, sign on to the Duskwood realm and contact a member of Technologia, the official unofficial guild of TechRepublic -- we would be happy to have you. Feel free to contact me (Inferious) or any officer or veteran you see online for an invitation.
Have you tried the new Rise of the Zandalari instances? If so, let us know what you think in the comments.