How World of Warcraft's new dragon race brought a 10-year-old loot system to its knees

WoW Reins of the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent
(Image credit: green.gc8 / Activision Blizzard)

This story was originally published on the Hobby Drama subreddit (opens in new tab). We commissioned the author to republish it here with minor edits.


“Unto you is charged the great task of keeping the purity of time. Know that there is only one true timeline, though there are those who would have it otherwise. You must protect it. Without the truth of time as it is meant to unfold, more will be lost than you can possibly imagine." — Aman'Thul's blessing to Nozdormu, Dragon Aspect of Time.

On November 28, Dragonflight (opens in new tab), the ninth expansion in the popular MMO World of Warcraft, released. Our story follows the calamitous ramifications that came from the overlooking of one line of code in the weeks before this expansion's launch. But in the words of the titan Aman'Thul, there is only one true timeline, and the events which will eventually set this story into motion begin more than 10 years ago, on September 25, 2012.

Part 1: Out of the Mists

On September 25, 2012, Mists of Pandaria, the fourth WoW expansion, released. Players rushed to explore the newly-discovered island of Pandaria seeking riches, adventure, and of course, mounts.

What are mounts (and why should I care)?

Some of the rarest mounts in the game are owned by less than 1% of the playerbase

For those who haven't played WoW or similar online games, players tend to focus heavily on making sure that their character looks cool. Whether it's to stand out in groups and show off, or because players enjoy dressing up and decorating their avatars to fit the story they want to weave around them, character appearance and accessories are a central aspect of the game. Much like in real life, people in-game dress up to impress both others and themselves.

There are a lot of ways to do this, but one of the most common ones is collecting mounts (the vehicles that players use to run, swim, and fly around in the world). Mounts are large, flashy and, unlike armor and weapons, don't become obsolete when a new expansion releases. And when you get a mount, you can use it on any of your characters. Like other rewards in the game, mounts come in varying degrees of rarity, with the least attainable often being the most coveted, and some are incredibly rare. Some of the rarest mounts in the game are owned by less than 1% of the playerbase years after their introduction to the game, and ones that can be traded outside the game can go for absolutely obscene amounts of money. (opens in new tab)

Not all players farm mounts based on their prestige, mind you. Some simply go after mounts that they think look cool. At present there are over 900 mounts (opens in new tab) in the game, ranging from dragons (opens in new tab) to an undead flying horse named Invincible (opens in new tab) to a giant robot helicopter head (opens in new tab), so rest assured that there's something for everyone!

However, every once in awhile you get a mount that's both obscenely rare and that the community thinks looks especially cool, and suddenly everyone wants it, either so that they can fly around on it, or so that they can flex on the noobs who can't.

WoW Sha of Anger

(Image credit: TheFinalHero (Wowhead) / Activision Blizzard)

Back to Pandaria: Enter the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent

It's 2012. As players storm the shores of Pandaria, many charge towards a new world boss called The Sha of Anger, one of a pair of newly added and extremely difficult enemies that randomly spawn in two of the game's outdoor zones. The Sha can be killed every 15 minutes, but can only be looted once per week, with the chance to award high-quality armor (among other things). Many players are hunting down the Sha to get said armor (their old gear having become obsolete with the new expansion), but many more are after a more elusive prize listed on the boss loot table: The Reins of the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent (opens in new tab).

The Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent is coveted because of its visually striking design and bright colors. It both looks good and stands out in a crowd (literally glowing with bright white light), which means everyone wants it. But as more and more of the unwashed masses spill upon the continent of Pandaria to slay the Sha in an attempt to get their very own photonegative dragon, one thing becomes clear. It's rare. Possibly more rare than any mount added to an enemy's loot table before. Unlucky players who didn't get the mount on their first try will have to simply wait until the weekly loot-lockout resets on Tuesday to try and kill him again, or bring their alts (additional characters on their account) to kill him for extra tries.

Someone runs a database search and discovers that nobody in the game of 10 million players has the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent yet.

The weeks pass by. Players begin doing the new raids and out-gear the armor offered by the Sha of Anger, but he continues to be beaten to death nearly as soon as he spawns by a massive, rabid community of increasingly frustrated mount hunters. The more kills players rack up without seeing the mount, the more rare they realize it is, which makes getting it all the more prestigious and increases the desire to farm it further. Someone asks Blizzard to confirm the mount is actually in the game and there isn't some hidden requirement to unlock it, which Blizzard does, insisting that it just has a low drop rate.

Weeks turn to months. Someone runs a database search (opens in new tab) and discovers that nobody in the game of 10 million players has the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent yet. They take this information to a forum post that's directed at Blizzard. The community becomes upset as they realize they've been farming a mount that may not actually be in the game yet. Blizzard realizes they made a mistake.

How Blizzard broke the Sha's loot table (the first time)

The Sha of Anger's loot table was supposed to work as follows:

  1. When a player kills the Sha of Anger for the first time each week, the game internally rolls a random number ranging from 1 to 100.
  2. If the game rolls a 1 to 59, the player receives gold and nothing else happens.
  3. If the game rolls a 60 to 100, the player is marked as receiving a piece of loot, at which point the game rolls a second random number to determine what piece of gear the player is awarded from a weighted loot table of class-specific armor (so that a rogue doesn't accidentally get paladin armor, which they can't use). The Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent is on this loot table as an incredibly low drop.

In reality, though, Blizzard either never added the Heavenly Onyx Serpent to the loot table, or accidentally set the weighted chance of awarding it to 0. (They never clarified which they had done, only that they’d made a mistake and fixed it).

So we're a few months into Mists of Pandaria and all is finally right with the world (of Warcraft). The Sha of Anger has begun dropping its mount as intended. Overjoyed (and irate) players flock to kill him with new found hope and optimism and soon discover a second, far more horrifying truth…

It's still insanely rare.

The reason Blizzard took so long to realize the mount wasn't dropping was because, even when correctly added to the loot table, it was so rare that it almost never dropped. The game doesn't officially publish any sort of drop percentages for its loot, but estimations made by players put it somewhere between a 0.02% to a 0.01% drop rate. That means that on average, the Sha will drop one mount every 7,500 kills. It has one of, if not the, lowest drop rate of any mount in the game.

When it became clear just how rare this mount truly was, many players (such as myself) gave up on farming it. It just wasn't worth the hours of camping and thousands of attempts it would take (spread out over multiple years or multiple max-level alts) to farm the Sha for such a tiny chance at getting the mount, no matter how cool it looked. Others made as many characters as they could and parked them at the spawn points to get as many kills as they could each week, racking up thousands of kills over hundreds (or thousands) of hours of farming.

And the world (of Warcraft) spun on. The Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent remained one of the most prestigious mounts in the game due to its unique look, bugged introduction, and tiny drop chance. After 10 years of farming, it's owned by less than 1% of the game's playerbase, and when it occasionally appears on the Black Market Auction House (an in-game market where a single instance of a rare non-tradeable item is made available for purchase at auction with gold) it regularly goes for the game's maximum gold cap of 9,999,999 gold (currently valued at $900 (opens in new tab), based on the WoW game-time token’s US regional price).

“You must decide which path you will take. Which story you will tell. An ancient enemy has returned. You will play a part in the events to come and you will have to make a difficult choice, as we did. My story is already written. But yours—and that of all Dracthyr—is only beginning to unfold.” —Nozdormu, Dragon Aspect of Time

Part 2: The unwitting Herald(s)

On September 11, 2022, nearly 10 years to the day from the first explorers setting foot onto the shores of Pandaria and beginning the long chain of events that are now so close to their culmination, a redditor by the name of Jibbles2020 (opens in new tab) will make a post that unknowingly heralds the impending chaos.

Jibbles is playing on the Dragonflight beta, a test version of the new expansion that a small group of players are invited to try out before the official launch in order to test the functionality of new systems and gameplay mechanics. Importantly, items earned on the beta cannot be kept when the beta closes and are not transferred to your main account.

Today, Jibbles is trying out the new race/class combination added in the Dragonflight beta, the Dracthyr Evoker. After completing the introduction questline, Jibbles finds himself flying through Pandaria and notices that the Sha of Anger is up. “Why not?” he thinks to himself, landing and quickly dispatching the boss that he outlevels by five expansions.

The unthinkable happens to Jibbles.

He gets the mount.

WoW Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent

(Image credit: Jibbles2020 / Activision Blizzard)

What would be a cause of boisterous celebration at any other time leaves a bittersweet ache in Jibbles' chest. The cruel whims of 'RNJesus' have decided to award him a mount dropped every 1 in 7,500 kills on a test account he will lose when the expansion launches in a few weeks.

Jibbles takes this painful irony in good spirits and posts about his horrible luck on the WoW subreddit where, amazingly, another Reddit user, Bodehn (opens in new tab), mentions that the same thing happened to her while testing her Dracthyr on the beta.

The community shares a laugh in solidarity with these two players, and at the astronomical luck (both good and bad) it must have taken for both of them to get the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent within a day of one another on a temporary server that will close within a month.

None among the posters or commenters consider that this could be anything more than a fluke: a freak accident that befell two unfortunate beta testers. Some commenters joke about how this is a prime example of why you should never kill a boss that drops a rare item on the beta. Others speculate that it would be funny if Blizzard made drop rates higher on the beta as a joke. The posts drift off the front page as posts inevitably do, replaced by news of new features and content and release dates in the ever-changing whirlwind of information and excitement that comes with an expansion on the horizon. Jibbles and Bodehn, and their bad luck, are all but forgotten.

“It is time! I will expend everything to bind every thread here, now, around the Dragon Soul. What comes to pass will NEVER be undone!” — Nozdormu, Dragon Aspect of Time

Part 3: Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The timeline that follows is reconstructed based on the progression of information recorded in forum, Reddit, Discord, and WoWhead posts related to Dracthyr and The Sha of Anger over the course of the evening on Tuesday, November 15. Stories told from the perspective of a specific character are speculative retellings based on an accurate timeline of when and how community knowledge about the event developed, and are informed by my experience as a mount farmer of 12 years who has participated in the discovery of similar bugs and exploits over my time playing the game. All events not related to a specific hypothetical character are completely factual.


It's 6:15pm, Eastern Standard Time.

After an extended maintenance lasting most of the day, phase two of the Dragonflight pre-patch has come online and is available to play on the live US/Oceanic servers (EU servers will not have access until tomorrow, as their maintenance is on Wednesday). With it comes the Dracthyr Evokers, available to players a few weeks ahead of the official expansion launch if they've pre-ordered Dragonflight.

It takes about an hour to get a newly-created Dracthyr (who start at level 58) through the introductory questline and to the level cap of 60, at which point they are set loose to explore the world at their leisure.

We do not know who first saw the Sha spawning in Kun-Lai Summit and decided to pause for a moment to try their luck.

It's 7:15 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

Dracthyr pour into the capital cities of Stormwind and Orgrimmar en masse. Most unlock the ability to fly and head to kill elemental lords that have been added for a limited-time pre-patch event which also opened today. Others head to the city training dummies to test out their new class abilities. Others still begin flying to old raids and dungeons to farm armor sets that they think will look good on their new lizards.

We do not know how the event, 10 years in the making and mere minutes away from its grand culmination, began. We do not know who first saw the Sha spawning in Kun-Lai Summit and decided to pause for a moment to try their luck. Perhaps it was a player in this last group, flying to some old raid in search of a staff or a pair of pauldrons. Perhaps it was one of those still camping the Sha weekly, hoping desperately for the mount and seeing their new Dracthyr as just another weekly 0.01% chance at the prize that has eluded them for so long. Perhaps it was even Jibbles or Bodehn, hoping to relive their moment of glory.

We do not know how the event that is now at long last upon us began.

But we know what followed.

It's 7:20 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

The Sha of Anger dies, as it has done every 15 minutes for the past 10 years.

The mount farmers, fewer tonight due to the multitudes that have taken a break to enjoy the pre-patch festivities, are given their standard gold and long-worthless pieces of armor.

But this first Dracthyr, who has killed the Sha of Anger for the first time, receives something different.

They received the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent.

Players take notice. It's common to ride a new mount in celebration upon receiving it, and a character's guild is automatically notified in the chat window when their guildmate receives an especially rare drop such as the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent. At first, the luck and humor of Blizzard's new dragon race receiving this elusive dragon mount amuses those farming, offering the mix of curses and congratulations that so often follow a fellow player receiving a rare reward.

See more

It's 7:35 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

The Sha of Anger dies, as it has done every 15 minutes for the past 10 years.

A second Dracthyr, either encouraged by his comrade's luck or simply making a quick pit-stop to try their hand at rolling the dice of fate, is among the masses who have beaten it down. Around them stand the mount farmers, many of whom were present at the kill which occurred at 7:20 pm and have since switched to another alt for another 0.01% chance.

This Dracthyr, too, has received the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent.

In a game with as many random numbers as WoW it can be hard to differentiate what should be attributed to luck from what may be the result of something more. But this is odd.

Mount farmers and guildmates alike have seen a Dracthyr get a mount that should drop once every 7,500 kills twice within the past hour, and each must have been the character's first-ever attempt.

See more

It's 7:50 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

The Sha of Anger dies, as it has done every 15 minutes for the past 10 years.

Five Dracthyr stand around it this time, and while not every one receives a dragon, two do. Oddly, none receive armor.

Calculating and estimating drop rates is something that almost becomes second nature to long-time WoW players. Knowing how likely you are to get a mount, pet, or piece of armor allows you to more efficiently decide how to best spend your time in the game in order to reap the maximum number of rewards possible, or be the most likely to receive the specific reward you want. Dedicated mount farmers are especially adept at calculating these rates, as knowing your odds of receiving a mount allows you to estimate the average amount of farming time required to get your coveted prize.

The most accurate way to determine an item's drop rate is to review data submitted by other players about whether or not they received the item after killing the boss. If 500 players kill a raid boss and 5 get a mount, it is likely that the boss has around a 1% chance of dropping that mount (assuming all players had equal odds to receive the item, as is usually the case with rare drops such as mounts). As with any statistical estimation, the larger your sample size is the more accurate your estimation will be. While a sample size of two Dracthyr is too small to rule out coincidence, a sample size of five begins to afford a very rough idea of odds.

It appears that Dracthyr have a 40% chance of receiving the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent.

It’s 8:05 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

The Sha of Anger dies, as it has done every 15 minutes for the past 10 years.

20 Dracthyr stand around it. Six ride glowing black and white dragons. Once again, none have received armor.

Only six riders indicates that perhaps the drop rate for Dracthyr isn't quite 40%, but the sample size is still too small to make anything but a rough estimate.

One player, an avid mount farmer who has hunted the Sha for years and is intimately familiar with the way its loot table operates (due to the bug that occurred 10 years ago) has just realized what happened.

(Image credit: Tyler C. / Activision Blizzard)

How Blizzard broke the Sha's loot table (the second time)

If you recall, the Sha of Anger’s loot table works as follows:

  1. When a player kills the Sha of Anger for the first time each week, the game internally rolls a random number ranging from 1 to 100.
  2. If the game rolls a 1 to 59, the player receives gold and nothing else happens.
  3. If the game rolls a 60 to 100, the player is marked as receiving a piece of loot, at which point the game rolls a second random number to determine what piece of gear the player is awarded from a weighted loot table of class-specific armor (so that a rogue doesn’t accidentally get paladin armor, which they can't use). The Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent is on this loot table as an incredibly low drop.

Note that each class has their own loot table in order to guarantee that each is able to use any armor awarded to them. What then, hypothetically, might happen if a class simply did not have a loot table?

  1. When that player kills the Sha of Anger for the first time each week, the game would internally roll a random number ranging from 1 to 100.
  2. If the game were to roll a 1 to 59, the player would receive gold and nothing else would happen.
  3. But if the game rolled a 60 to a 100 and that player were marked as receiving a piece of loot, but the player in question did not have a weighted loot table of class-specific armor from which the game could choose a reward, then, hypothetically, the game would be forced to award the only piece of loot automatically added to each class's table. The Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent.

WoW: Dragonflight

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

It's 9:35 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

The Sha of Anger dies, as it has done much more quickly every 15 minutes for the past two hours.

A cloud of 40 Dracthyr riding 40 black and glowing white dragons rises from the corpse.

Another sixty Dracthyr sit down and begin a 20 second logout animation. Most of these Dracthyr have never sat before in their brief 65 minutes of existence. Many will never stand again.

News of the glitch has begun to spread like wildfire on private forums as players attempt to tell their friends of this unique opportunity to get one of the rarest mounts in the game. Most are careful to not announce the discovery too loudly or too publicly, knowing they likely have mere hours before Blizzard notices its mistake and rapidly corrects it, and the more openly they discuss what they've found, the sooner it's likely to be fixed.

The clock is ticking. Game breaking exploits like these tend to be fixed in hours, not days, and all know it will not last to the next loot reset occurring on November 22, almost seven days away. A 40% chance is far higher than the typical 0.01%, but it's not a guarantee, and while players can farm a coin that allows them to reroll for a second drop to improve their odds, many still find themselves among the unlucky few who did not walk away with a mount. These players know that if they want to benefit from this oversight, they need to do it now. But due to the high level that a Dracthyr starts at, the game prevents players from making more than one on any specific realm.

Unless, of course, you simply deleted them.

Hours after their painstaking creation and minutes after first stepping foot on the foreign soil of Pandaria, many of the Dracthyr unlucky enough not to have secured a mount for their player are unceremoniously destroyed. Their deaths make way for the creation of new Dracthyr with new loot lockouts. No such time or consideration is taken in the creation of this second wave, a randomizer allows players to create their draconic cattle seconds faster, and those seconds could be the difference between making it to the Sha before Blizzard realizes and fixes their disastrous mistake. Where a few hours ago players leisurely explored the new introductory questline (opens in new tab), taking in the sights and scenery so lovingly crafted by the developers, now a garish wave of blues and purples and whites and golds races through it with one unifying thought in their minds.

Escape.

It’s 10:20 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

The Sha of Anger dies, unceremoniously dispatched by waves of fire and a flurry of hundreds of flashing chromatic draconic fists within moments of its triumphant return. Many that felled the monstrosity are themselves dispatched mere seconds later in the midst of the resulting vortex of black and glowing white, having utterly failed in the singular purpose for which they were created. From the ashes of their destruction yet another generation of garish lizards rise and begin the 45 minute sprint to their own demise.

WoW Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent mount

(Image credit: Wowhead / Activision Blizzard)

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

It's 1:01 am, Eastern Standard Time

The primary news aggregation site for WoW, WoWhead, has posted an article (opens in new tab) notifying the playerbase that a loot issue has been discovered with the Sha of Anger that is providing Dracthyr a higher than normal chance to receive the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent.

Commenters report (opens in new tab) that Blizzard fixes the issue within minutes of this article being posted.

It’s 1:20 am, Eastern Standard Time.

Thousands of brightly colored Dracthyr who have just finished their most recent mad dash through the introductory questline are joined by thousands more that have just read the new WoWhead article. They kill the Sha of Anger almost before he can finish speaking.

Each receives 38 gold.

The window of opportunity has closed.

“Know that even as things appear to unravel, they do so with greater purpose.” —Nozdormu, Dragon Aspect of Time

Part 4: The Day the world (of Warcraft) stood still

It's November 16, 2022, 9:00 am, Eastern Standard Time.

Players across the United States and Oceanic realms are waking up to the news, which is now being posted and discussed on all major sources of WoW information and conversation, that there was a window of time yesterday where one of the rarest, most prestigious mounts in the game was obtainable in a coin flip. And most of them missed it.

Fortunately, the WoW community is renowned in the gaming sphere for its capacity for level headed discussion and mature presentation of—I'm just kidding, they lost their fucking minds.

"I just quit the game," Olsofa (opens in new tab) wrote in the comments on the Wowhead post about the change.

"Another joke, after some people had to do over 10k attempts for them," Esploratore (opens in new tab) wrote in the same comment thread.

Why insult how I play a game when you want the same reward for doing nothing?

Necisam

"Yeah, glad I didnt purchase [Dragonflight] yet, played the beta.. I'm done if they dont remove these mounts," Olsofa (opens in new tab) added.

"Welp. So someone has like 2,000 attempts or more since [Mists of Pandaria] dropped, but some guy just [does] this and gets Nalak, Sha, and Galleon mount. Truly a classic move by Blizzard," Onedash (opens in new tab) said.

"They need to remove the mounts people got as Dracthyr," Necisam (opens in new tab) wrote. "This is ridiculous. I farmed the Sha of Anger for years on dozens of toons to get it, around 8,500 attempts. People shouldn't be able to log on and get it in one try because of a bug. Don't get me wrong, I'd do it too if I were them. But Blizzard needs to do right by a major community in their game. I'm really frustrated right now. It's shitty that people are being awful about people being upset about this. Y'all didn't play by the same rules. Why insult how I play a game when you want the same reward for doing nothing?"

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight Alexstrasza

(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

In addition to frustrated US and OCE players who missed this bug, EU players, who had never even had the opportunity to attempt it because the error was fixed before their version of the pre-patch went live on Wednesday, weigh in.

“Already fixed, big sad for EU and the people who missed it," Drogaz123 (opens in new tab) wrote.

“25 kills a week, for years," Tyvendaal (opens in new tab) said. "Just for US to get it via a bug that gets hotfixed before EU even comes up. Those mounts had better be removed. Or compensate everyone else. This is insulting."

I hope people get to keep them.

Cheepgaming

There were, of course, the occasional revelers…

“YEESSSS After so many years I finally got the mount due to this bug," Hakubox (opens in new tab) wrote.

"Finally got the mount after 30 attempts, glad I tried this before it blew up," Yidzbun (opens in new tab) replied.

...who are  met with even more calls to have the mount stripped from them.

Fairelmaine (opens in new tab) put it simply: "They better remove the mounts."

"This is not fair," Srapid (opens in new tab) added. "Either let it go for a day so others can have a chance or remove it. Already at 1.5k kills and tired of doing it :("

Some amongst the playerbase see bugs like this (and their subsequent exploitation) as just another part of the game, especially on patch days, and are happy to see their fellow players get an opportunity to secure such a rare reward they otherwise wouldn't have gotten.

"I hope people get to keep them," wrote Cheepgaming (opens in new tab).

"Good job to all the people that got the mounts. To the rest of the miserable whiners... Get a life! Stop bein so miserable!" Arxemoros (opens in new tab) said.

A few people wanted Blizzard to go the other direction and give everyone the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent.

"The only way for Blizz to make this right would be to give us all the mounts as well," Lakai99 (opens in new tab) wrote.

"They should just give the mount to everyone or at least increase the drop chance to 1%" Srpd7 (opens in new tab) said in a Reddit thread about the bug.

Dracthyr standing in starting zone

(Image credit: Fraser Brown / Activision Blizzard)

Calls to have the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent be raised to a 1% chance (the normal drop chance for rare mounts) have been common for years, and with the player base debating how best to address this issue, many suggested it as a solution that would allow lucky Dracthyr to keep their mounts, but give other players a better chance to get a dragon of their own going forward.

“No mount/pet should've been lower than a 1% drop chance, period." Luck4 (opens in new tab) wrote in the Wowhead comments. "Introducing 0.01% drop chance collectibles was a mistake."

However, when bugs like this one have popped up in the past, Blizzard has generally displayed a policy of quietly fixing them and not addressing the issue further, either with a public response or a rollback of the awarded items. Some players resign themselves to the belief that Blizzard has done all it will do on the matter.

"This is the perfect time to fix all of these low drop chance mounts to something like 1/100. All world boss mounts & Love Rocket should be standardized to either 1/100 or 1/200 like every other mount drop in the game," Drogaz123 (opens in new tab) suggested.

"I agree, but they won't do it. Remember when the fishing mount in Battle for Azeroth had a high drop chance at the beginning of the expansion? Ya. I missed out on that bug also," Floranna (opens in new tab) said.

And this person (opens in new tab), who had no idea what's going on and really just wants the undead flying horse: "Any chance this works for Invincible?"

(It doesn't.)

WoW Invincible mount

(Image credit: Garvin (Wowhead) / Activision Blizzard)

For the second time in as many days, the unexpected happens.

It’s November 16, 2022, 10:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

After a day of anger, bargaining, and depression (which is honestly hilarious when you remember this is about dressing up virtual paper dolls) the WoW community is moving towards a resigned acceptance that Blizzard will stay silent. The Dracthyr that were lucky enough to kill the Sha in time will keep their mounts, the drop rate will stay as abysmally-low as it's always been, and the world will spin on. For many, the prepatch experience has been soured slightly by the feeling that they've just missed their chance to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Then, for the second time in as many days, the unexpected happens. Blizzard releases a list of hotfixes (opens in new tab) (small adjustments or bug fixes made to the game outside of a major patch), and buried among them, with no other mention of the chaos that has occurred over the last 24 hours, is one sentence:

"The drop chances for Son of Galleon's Saddle, Reins of the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent, Reins of the Cobalt Primordial Direhorn, Reins of the Thundering Cobalt Cloud Serpent, and Solar Spirehawk have been greatly increased."

It is not clear what "greatly increased" means.

It doesn't matter.

It’s 10:15 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

The Sha of Anger dies, as it has done every 15 minutes for the past 10 years.

Two hundred players of all classes (although there are probably a few more Dracthyr, since it never hurts to hope a little) stand around its body. Each waits for the second it takes for the game to assign loot with bated breath.

Two players receive the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent.

The drop rate is around 1%.

After 10 years, spanning six expansions, the dream of the adventurers that first set foot on the shores of Pandaria so long ago are finally realized.

The Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent is farmable.

"Compared to all else that has happened, it is a small change to the timeline, and one of which I approve." —Nozdormu, Dragon Aspect of Time

Epilogue

WoW Kun-Lai Summit

(Image credit: BlacKcuD (Wowhead) / Activision Blizzard)

So what of your humble narrator?

Well, dear reader, it's not a HobbyDrama post without a little personal investment on the part of the author. For you see I was one of those players that stormed the shores of Pandaria more than 10 years ago in hope of securing a Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent of my own.

When the community finally determined just how rare the mount truly was, I gave up on farming it. Instead, like Jibbles or Bodehn or that first Dracthyr, I limited my attempts to the occasional pitstop on my travels. I racked up a few hundred kills between my alts this way over the past 10 years, but like a person buying a Powerball ticket when the pot gets large enough, I had never seen these kills as anything other than a fun shot at a mount I never actually expected to get.

I was among those who suggested Blizzard raise the rates to 1% over the years, as I don't think any reward in a game like WoW should be so rare as to make it unfarmable. But much like with my occasional Sha kill, I never expected these recommendations to bear any fruit.

I was not, sadly, among the garish waves of sacrificial drakes that felled the Sha on that fateful evening of November 15. I'd played for about an hour when the patch went live and leveled my Dracthyr through the starting area, but as those second and third Dracthyr were first discovering that something had gone wrong, I was logging off for the evening.

I logged onto my character, flew to Kun-Lai Summit, and waited.

When I woke up the next morning to news that I'd missed a coin toss for a mount I’d wanted for the past decade, I was bummed that I'd missed my chance, but happy for the players that had been luckier than I had been. Glitches like these (and the stories that come with them) are part of what make patches fun, and at the end of the day we're all just trying to make our virtual little paper dolls look as cool as possible. I expected Blizzard would ignore this glitch now that it was fixed. “Exploit early and often,” is a saying in the WoW community for a reason, after all.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the news that Blizzard had raised the drop rates, even if we didn't know what they were yet. Like any good researcher, I knew the only way to find out our collective odds was to contribute by adding yet another player to the kill data that is so critical to have, so I logged onto my character, flew to Kun-Lai Summit, and waited.

It's Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 10:15 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

The Sha of Anger dies, as it has done every 15 minutes for the past 10 years.

I stand among two hundred players of all classes, waiting for the second it takes for the game to assign loot with bated breath.

The loot window continues its animation for a half second longer than usual, telling me I've been awarded a piece of loot and the game is now rolling a second die to determine what I’ll receive from my class-specific table.

The window flashes to display the piece of loot that's been selected for me.

I have received Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent.

(Image credit: TheMentelgen (Reddit) / Activision Blizzard)