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The race to beat World of Warcraft Classic's latest raid turns into all-out war as players resort to dirty tactics

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

For the past week, World of Warcraft Classic's hardcore guilds have been racing to be the first to open the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj and unleash the insectoid horde that lurks within. Behind those ancient gates is WoW Classic's latest 40-person raid, where top-tier players can challenge nightmarish bosses like C'thun and earn even more powerful gear. But as guilds raced to open the Gates and begin the next phase of WoW Classic's endgame, one guild resorted to dirty tactics by abusing the in-game reporting tool to try to get one player banned. As revenge, hundreds of players banded together to wage war against that guild, denying them a shot at earning one of Warcraft's most prestigious prizes. 

Enemy at the gates 

While servers worked to gather the necessary resources, WoW Classic's most hardcore guilds were racing to complete an epic, 31-part questline to build the Scepter of the Shifting Sands.

Opening the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj is not for the faint of heart. A thousand years earlier, the Qiraji were imprisoned within their kingdom after trying to destroy the continent of Kalimdor, and they've spent those long years building their strength with help from their god, C'thun. Opening the gates was one of WoW's most ambitious world events ever, requiring entire server communities to work together. At the same time, hardcore guilds raced to complete a daunting series of quests to rebuild the mystical Scepter of the Shifting Sands to ring an ancient gong that would break the seals on the Gates and unleash the Qiraji armies on Azeroth.

The first part of the event is called the War Effort. It requires the Horde and the Alliance to cooperate and each gather an enormous number of crafting resources in order to prepare for the conflict with the Qiraji. Alliance players need to craft 800,000 linen bandages while Horde players have to amass 250,000 of the rarer mageweave bandages—and that's just the start. With cooking ingredients, herbs, leathers, and ore, players are looking at around 3,850,000 individual items that have to be turned into quest givers.

Back when the gates were first opened 15 years ago, that took the fastest servers 19 days to collect, but WoW Classic players were prepared. The Sulfuras server was the first to complete the War Effort requirements and it only took them 14 hours. That's thanks to a large guild called Grizzly From Reddit, which orchestrated a massive effort and was responsible for 98 percent of the resources turned in, according to Wowhead.

Above: This unofficial, fan-made trailer does an excellent job of establishing the stakes behind the Ahn'Qiraj world event.

That's the easy part, however. While servers worked to gather the necessary resources, WoW Classic's most hardcore guilds were racing to complete an epic, 31-part questline to build the Scepter of the Shifting Sands. Doing this would involve completing several of Classic's hardest 40-person raids as well as killing enough insects in Silithus—the zone where the Gates are located—to turn in a whopping 42,000 of their carapaces.

The first player to craft the Scepter of the Shifting Sands and ring the gong to open the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj will trigger the Ten Hour War, unleashing hundreds of monsters on Azeroth for—you guessed it—10 hours. At the end of that war, the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj will officially open (along with an easier 20-person raid) for everyone. But that one lucky player who rang the gong will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind Silithid mount, called the Black Qiraji Battle Tank, and given the in-game honorific of Scarab Lord, perhaps the most prestigious title in all of Warcraft history. Anyone who also completed the Scepter of the Shifting Sands can also ring the gong during the Ten Hour War and earn the mount and title, but once the war ends both become unavailable. In the end, only a handful of players will ever complete this achievement per server.

Bloody betrayal 

"We have put countless hours into this grind and it is unbelievable that it could all be completely ripped from us because of this."

Jpo

It's here where things began to turn nasty on Sulfuras. With so much at stake, tensions were high and guilds were looking to get an edge in the race. Three days ago, Blizzard addressed reports that guilds were using exploits to grief their competition and slow their progress as they worked to build the Scepter of the Shifting Sands and ring the gong.

One of the accused on the Sulfuras server was Alliance guild Grizzly From Reddit. Despite completing the War Effort almost single-handedly, Grizzly From Reddit had allegedly betrayed other guilds on the server and was now trying to ensure any would-be Scarab Lords were unable to ring the gong and earn the mount.

In one part of the associated questline, at least 40 players have to work together to kill a boss known as Twilight Corrupter. Here Grizzly From Reddit made a concerted effort to block the progress of other players by cheesing the boss and making it nearly impossible to kill. Because Twilight Corrupter is fought in the open world, anyone can join or interrupt the fight—which is exactly what Grizzly From Reddit was doing in order to sabotage any attempt to kill it.

One of the potential Scarab Lords trying to kill Twilight Corrupter was a player named Souffle from the guild Amnesty. Because building the Scepter is such an enormous task, only a few players per server are willing to put in the time and effort playing almost non-stop to complete each quest. But dozens of other players will often rally behind them to help complete group activities like killing bosses or completing raids. On the WoW Classic subreddit, one of Souffle's allies explained that their only option was to amass an army of 200 Horde players to smash through Grizzly's frontlines and kill Twilight Corrupter as quickly as possible. But just as Amnesty and its allies prepared to break through Grizzly From Reddit's defenses, Souffle was suddenly disconnected from the game and given a message that his account had been banned.

The Black Qiraji Battle Tank is an enormously rare prize that only a few WoW players will ever own.

The Black Qiraji Battle Tank is an enormously rare prize that only a few WoW players will ever own. (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

In his post on Saturday, redditor Jpo shared a video from Souffle's point of view showing what happened. It was a devastating loss and, in the confusion, players began accusing Grizzly From Reddit members of filing false in-game reports against Souffle to get him banned. The claim was that, if enough reports were filed in a short period of time, it could trip World of Warcraft's automated reporting system and result in Souffle being automatically banned without human oversight. It's not clear whether this exploit actually works, but WoW streamer Asmongold demonstrated it might be possible years ago after he got his audience to file a massive volume of reports against him, resulting in him being temporarily muted on public chat channels.

"Due to the time constraints of the grind it is incredibly important to us that this ban is overturned as fast as possible," Jpo wrote. "We have put countless hours into this grind and it is unbelievable that it could all be completely ripped from us because of this. We were even worried about this happening and tried to hide who our Scarab Lord was. False reporting is a serious issue especially in time gated events."

The incident sparked massive outrage from players on all sides, who felt like Grizzly From Reddit had crossed a line. Later that day, Blizzard community manager Glaxigrav said they had completed a full investigation of the event and determined that Souffle's ban was not a result from mass reporting—though the actual reason for their ban was not disclosed. "After reviewing the accounts in question, we can confirm that the actions did not happen as the result of abuse of the reporting system," Glaxigrav explained. "While investigating the accounts involved, we did discover evidence of some players who were attempting to file false reports with bad intent and have actioned those accounts for abuse of game systems."

Though Grizzly From Reddit wasn't successful, many of its key members received three-day bans for trying to exploit the reporting system. The fact that the guild even tried doing so was enough for many on the Sulfuras server to turn against it. Sometime earlier this week (it's not clear exactly when), Souffle's ban was overturned. There's been no comment from Blizzard as to exactly why he was banned in the first place, leaving the whole situation feeling unresolved. 

Despite the delay, Souffle was able to complete the Scepter of the Shifting Sands and be the first player on Sulfuras to ring the gong. Because so many members of Grizzly From Reddit had been suspended, the guild ended up far behind the competition. With the Ten Hour War in full swing, they'd have to rush to complete the final steps to ring the gong themselves. But after resorting to such underhanded tactics, several of Sulfuras's top guilds were determined not to let that happen.

Below: A perspective on the war from the Horde side.

This means war 

It was his Destiny

(Image credit: Bungie)

One of the original Scarab Lords from 15 years ago is actually Luke Smith, game director of Destiny 2. Long before he worked at Bungie, Smith was a hardcore WoW player who played day and night with his guild to complete all the steps required to build the Scepter of the Shifting Sands. Read about his own journey to become a Scarab Lord in our interview.

On August 4, an army of nearly 600 Horde players mobilized to stop Grizzly From Reddit and its allies from completing the final stage of the quest to build the Scepter of the Shifting Sands. In the deserts of Tanaris is a Bronze Dragon named Anachronos who players can talk to after completing the preceding 31 parts of the questline. Anachronos bestows players with the completed Scepter they can use to immediately ring the gong. But there's a catch: Anachronos is a neutral NPC who can be attacked by either Horde or Alliance players. If Anachronos is in combat, other players can't talk to him.

For ten hours on Tuesday, nearly 600 players from a range of Horde guilds worked to lock down the area surrounding Anachronos. Players would take turns attacking him, keeping him locked in combat, intentionally avoiding dealing enough damage to kill him. Meanwhile, hundreds of others surrounded the area and attacked anyone who came close—especially if they belonged to Grizzly From Reddit.

After alienating so many other guilds, Grizzly From Reddit could only muster 300 Alliance players to try to break through the enemy lines so its would-be Scarab Lord could talk to Anachronos. Multiple WoW Classic streamers documented the fight, which lasted the entire length of the Ten Hour War. Despite multiple attempts, Grizzly From Reddit was unable to break through and complete the quest—denying them the title of Scarab Lord and the Black Qiraji Battle Tank forever.

I'm sorry that Grizzly chose our previously awesome server to come to and royally fuck it up for everyone.

handsupdb

Above: A perspective on the war to shutdown Grizzly From Reddit from completing their Scepter from fellow Alliance characters.

Naturally, the WoW Classic community has exploded over this turn of events. "Karma, Grizzly. Eat it. As a Sulfuras Horde main, all I have to say to you guys... L O L," wrote one player on the subreddit."

"To all the other Alliance players on Sulfuras: I truly am sorry it had to come to this," wrote another player. "I'm sorry that Grizzly chose our previously awesome server to come to and royally fuck it up for everyone. I'm sorry that a single guild on your faction managed to drive the entire server to the brink of disaster. But I'm not sorry for the horde finally doing something about it. You have the power to make those fuckers pay, make sure they're welcome nowhere ever again and we can go back to the way it was—fun."

Even days later, the Classic subreddit is full of memes mocking Grizzly From Reddit and praising the Horde guilds who successfully denied its players the title of Scarab Lord. So far, however, Sulfuras seems to be the only server that fell victim to vicious backstabbing and war—though most popular servers have already completed the event. Though there's been drama in other servers as guilds struck under-the-table deals to earn the title, the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj world event seems to have passed without much fanfare. But it's fascinating to see how WoW Classic is rewriting history as it relives a moment that shaped World of Warcraft nearly 15 years ago.

Steven enjoys nothing more than a long grind, which is precisely why his specialty is on investigative feature reporting on China's PC games scene, weird stories that upset his parents, and MMOs. He's Canadian but can't ice skate. Embarrassing.