How Blizzard's new lizard broke a 10 year old loot system, started an in-game genocide, and sparked a player war in their first 48 hours of release.

“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.”
  • Nozdormu, Dragon Aspect of Time

On November 28, Dragonflight, the ninth expansion in the popular video game (and frequent Hobby Drama subject) 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 Nozdormu 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 World of Warcraft 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)?

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. 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.

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 in the game, ranging from dragons to an undead flying horse named Invincible to a giant robot helicopter head, 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 that can’t.

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. They 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’s loot table: [The Reins of the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent].

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.

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 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.

Oops, no dragons! - How Blizzard broke the Sha’s loot table (the first time)

So what happened? Well, 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.

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. In reality, 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. 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 ten 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 USD 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.”

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 u/Jibbles2020 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.

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 user, u/Bodehn, mentions that the same thing happened to him while testing his Dracthyr on the beta.

The community shares a laugh in solidarity with these two players, and 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 astronomically 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!”

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 the 15th. 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/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 2 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.

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 (of Warcraft) at their leisure.

It’s 7:15pm, 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, ten 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 in vain 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 7:20pm, 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 have 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.

It’s 7:35pm, 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 7:20pm and have since switched to another alt for another 0.01% chance.

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

When bugs, especially beneficial ones, are discovered in World of Warcraft, the process is often more akin to the breaking of a dam than the flipping of a switch. 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.

It’s 7:50pm, 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 best your time in the game should be spent 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. But while a sample size of two Dracthyr is too small to accurately estimate anything beyond the fact that something has gone wrong with the Sha of Anger, 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 8:05pm, Eastern Standard Time.

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

Twenty 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 with a sample size this small variations are bound to occur.

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 ten years ago) has just realized what happened.

Oops, all dragons! - 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 as normal 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.

It’s 9:35pm, 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 fourty Dracthyr riding fourty 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 their mistake and rapidly corrects it, and the more openly they discuss what they’ve found, the sooner it is 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 occuring on November the 22nd, 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 that do 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 to have not secured a mount for their player log out and are unceremoniously destroyed. Their deaths make way for the creation of new Dracthyr with, most importantly, 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, 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.


It’s 10:20pm, 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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

It’s 1:01am, Eastern Standard Time

It’s 1:20am, 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.

The window of opportunity has closed.

Part 4: The Day the World (of Warcraft) Stood Still

It’s November 16, 2022, 9:00am, 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 World of Warcraft information and discussion, 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 World of Warcraft community is renowned in the gaming sphere for their capacity for level headed discussion and mature presentation of-I’m just kidding they lost their fucking minds.

“Welp.So someone has like 2k attempts or more since mop dropped,But some guy just do this and gets nalak,sha and galleon mount. Truly a classic move by blizzard.”
“They need to remove the mounts people got as Dracthyr. This is ridiculous. I farmed the Sha of Anger for years on dozens of toons to get it, around 8500 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?”
“it's absolutely asinine that people think that mounts gained through a VERY OBVIOUS EXPLOIT should not be removed - what's even more crazy are the people saying "i didn't get to the exploit in time, so i think you should give everyone the mount for free to make it fair". the mounts should be removed. if you want it, go farm it or buy it like everyone else did. i really hope blizzard does right by the people that put actual effort into getting these mounts over the span of multiple years. this is just sad and gross.”

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 & the people who missed it] (”
“25 kills a week, for years. 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.”

There are, of course, the occasional revelers…

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

“This is not fair. 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 :(”
“Exploited mounts should be removed, because as it stands right now it's both spit in the face of those who spent thousands of attempts to get it and those who would still try to get it after the exploit. What is the point of trying to get it now, as even if you get super lucky and manage to obtain it now, it would be meaningless as people would just assume you got it through exploit by default.”

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.

“Honestly they should leave it. The 15 min wait simulator is stupid and puts pressure on people to just sit around 15 min at a time on an army of alts every week.”
“good job to all the people that got the mounts. To the rest of the miserable whiners...... Get a life! Stop bein so miserable! ”

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

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 suggest 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.

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 they will do on the matter.

“I agree, but they won't do it. Remember when the fishing mount in BFA had a high drop chance at the beginning of the expansion? Ya. I missed out on that bug also.”
“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.”

And this guy, who has no idea what’s going on and really just wants the undead flying horse.

(It’ doesn’t)

It’s November 16, 2022, 10:00pm, 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 (of Warcraft) 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.


For the second time in two days.

The unexpected happens.

Blizzard releases a list of hotfixes (small adjustments or bug fixes made to the game outside of a major patch) that went live a few minutes ago.

Buried among them, with no other mention of the chaos that has occurred over the last 24 hours, is one sentence:

It is not clear what greatly increased means.

It’s 10:15pm, 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.

After ten 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.”


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 ten 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 the 15th. 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.

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. 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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

It’s 10:15pm, 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.

You live your life, make your plans, you and some champions mess with eachother, then comes the final confrontation... and you die.

You awake 15 min later. Confused, but no time to ponder cause youre about to find the champions! Though they seem.. different? You die.

You awake 15 min later. The champions are different again, but you also remember encountering them? Your memories are overlaying th same past interaction but with different champions. You die.

You awake 15 min later. You think you are blessed! You are in a time-loop, and cannot die! You will have infinite tries to defeat these foes! You defeat them and will now move forward with your plans!! The champions have died!

You awake 15 min later. You are even more baffled. You try to change location. But you cant leave. You try to call allies, change your strategy, anything, but you cant. New champions appear and you can only go through the motions. You die.

You know, I'm always glad when a bug is semi-ascended - when a mistaken loot table, or EXP table, or wrong spawn location, makes things better for those who did not get to take place. And, in the end, I am glad you got your Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent!

Also, I agree - something being so rare that farming it is basically pointless is not fun. Making it more accessible? It's good!

This was so well written and engaging, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I appreciated the repeating line "The Sha of Anger dies, as it has done every 15 minutes for the past 10 years." It really gives it a sense of dramatic buildup, and the quotes from the time dragon are cool too! I dipped my toes in WoW years ago but haven't played since the huge controversy around harassment of employees in the office, have things gotten better since then?

Per whether the issues of harassment were resolved, I think it depends on who you ask but generally yes, for at least the time being. Basically everyone who was named once the allegations came to light was fired, but blizzard had known about the allegations for years and didn’t act beforehand. Which raises the question of how committed they are to addressing harassment going forward Vs responding to public backlash.

If it looks familiar, it was orginally posted for about 45 minutes a few days ago before being taken down. (I may have accidentally done some slight blatant rule 12 violation)

Anyway, we are now outside the 14 day waiting period (And it's mod approved, so please don't delete it this time, guys😘) so the post has returned for readers everywhere to tag and enjoy! Happy reading!

Excellent writing. Solid technical basics, purposeful and confident structure, prose that strikes an excellent balance between explicative and playful, and the strategic use of repetition for emphasis ("The Sha of Anger dies...") hooks the reader into the journey and also serves as a great thematic touching point to emphasize the pure butt-numbing grind of what's being talked about. Really great write-up with really great composition!!

This means there must be concrete conclusions and no new dramatic happenings within the last 14 days and consequences cannot include “it remains to be seen” or “time will tell”. Drama that is fresh and/or ongoing may be posted in the weekly Hobby Scuffles thread.

I spent years trying to get two specific mounts in WoW; the Time Lost Drake and ... I can't even remember the name of the other one but you basically had to spend time farming rep with frogs or something and then do quests every week for a chance to get an egg you could incubate and have a chance of the mount hatching.

In about four years of trying to farm the Time Lost Drake I at best only saw messages that someone had killed it and once I actually saw its corpse ... but that's it. The other mount became a running joke amongst my friends as they all got it after about at most a dozen hatchings whereas I hatched eggs every week for nearly two years before finally getting it. When I finally got the reigns from the egg a tension released in me I had no idea even existed.

Glad to see this back as I didn't get to finish reading it first time!

You say in your post: "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", I, as a statistician, salute you.

For WoW players, a lot of "showing off" involves demonstrating time spent, not just feats of skill. Putting say 1,000 hours into a cosmetic item is seen as a badge of honor to flaunt.

Do note there is More Drama tied to this in that, Sha isn't the only boss out there. He's got brothers! Ish. Galleon, a giant lizard who drops a smaller lizard, Nalak, a lightning covered cloud serpent who drops an identical cloud serpent, less fancy than the Heavenly Onyx but still desired (let's. not talk about the black recolour of this and the suffering that is Huo), and Oondasta, an armored T-rex who drops a stone triceratops

The problem is that one of the classes, the hunter, is able to tame certain beasts. Two of these three count. Now, Galleon isn't tameable, but if he was? There isn't much demand for Galleon, as lizards identical to him in all but size are all over the zone, plus he would shrink down to their size once tamed, but the other two?

... Nalak and Oondasta are unique appearances. No creature in the game looks identical to them. If you want a blue lightning-covered cloud serpent or an armored T-rex, you have to go and tame those two.

You must break the cycle of them dying ever 15 minutes, as they have done for the past 10 years. And all those people counting on them dying are going to be incredibly angry with you as, in taming them, in having them eternally bound to you as a pet for eternity? This only happens if you specifically tame them, preventing them dying and any drops from happening

There is no resolution from this. Thankfully, once a hunter has them, they're not coming back for round 2, as there's no need, and as far as pets go they aren't the most popular. But quite a few people were very upset when the 0.01% drop rate bosses were being tamed rather than killed

I did not realize that Nalak was tameable until last week when I saw a fellow bm hunter with two of them (waiting for Rukhmar to spawn and die as he has every fifteen minutes for the last 7 years). I audibly gasped because I could not imagine the audacity 😆

MoP was actually when I quit playing after a solid 8 years or so. Don't think I even killed the Sha or even saw it. Just felt I was done with the game and haven't felt any urge to go back since. This story just reminds me that while WoW was initially a trailblazer in modernising the genre and getting away from the old school design philosophies of MMOs it still never really escaped them. It respected player time more than it's peers at the time of release and started to move away from making players grind for literally everything. But it feels like they fell behind on that along the way.

I had a bunch of rare-ish mounts (Deathcharger’s Reins took a loooooong time for my Alliance DK) on my first account, but I deleted it in a fit of pique over something Blizzard did (I couldn’t even narrow it down at this point) and when I went back briefly for BFA my drop luck was garbage. Thankfully (or maybe sadly?) a month of Shadowlands sucked any interest I had in the game away; even the good things I’ve been hearing about Dragonflight haven’t been enough to pull me back.

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Repitition in writing is one of my favourite literary devices so I really loved this write up. I'm a WoW fan and I was heartbroken when I saw the hotfix and that I'd missed my chance at this. While I don't think I would've exploited the game to the point of creating and deleting characters for it, I would've taken my then-max Dracthyr, Eloistrasza out to make an attempt it I had known. Rip. Even since the drop rate was increased it has not dropped for me :') but I did get the dinosaur mount from throne of thunder so I got that going for me, and since in dragonflight I'm using ground mounts more when I'm not on the dragonriding mount it's worked out for me.

Great write up dude I'd love to read more if you ever cover any other WoW topics.

My dad was an avid mount collector since starting playing in 2007. He had to go in to hospital in September and asked me to get the WotLK classic mount for him, which I of course did. He passed a month later but I was amazed to see him with 450 (now 452) mounts, it's good to see he had about half of all mounts.

I'm updating the game now to check his account and if he had the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent. I know he talked about it and certainly had a couple of dedicated alts to do a few kills every week, but unlike his "I got Invincible on Christmas Day!" stories from last year, I don't remember him giddily announcing any other rarities, and he would know the drop chance of something that rare.

The last time I played with him was right before Shadowlands and he took me through a daily zone, showing me where certain silvers spawned. We stopped at one and he said "This one drops a mount", we kill it, I get my mount and we move on, me atop this little bug. We land at the next point and he goes "Did you get that mount?" I say yeah, of course, you said it dropped one, he replies "Yeah, one in two hundred kills". He enjoyed that in the slightly bitter but excitedly happy way that mount hunters do.

edit: He never got the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent, if I can muster the strength I'll have to go farm it for him.

This is an amazing post and really makes me want to hop back in, I stopped playing right before Panda land and was a mount collector after making bunch of cash on the AH. I had all the rare ones except Invincible, and maybe a few here or there I don't know.

But then I remember the amount of time I spent playing the game and I think meth is less addictive.

What a great post. It’s been years since I’ve played WoW, but I was a mount farmer and this was giving me flashbacks to those long nights of watching movies while switching alts trying to farm 😂

I remember a long time ago, when wotlk was the latest expansion, obtaining Ashes of Alar on my first ever run of The Eye. People were so upset, but I was over the moon. Much like the Heavenly Onyx Cloud Serpent, it was an incredibly rare drop that you could only try at once per week. It was, until later in wotlk, the only 310% speed flying mount obtainable through PvE. Not sure that its still rare or that anyone cares after all these years, but I’m still giddy about it lol.

I only played WoW for a short while but just seeing the words Sha of Anger awoke memories of hours spent each week camping at the spots, waiting and then attacking for naught. Good times /s Not going to ever play WoW again, probably, since I moved on to another MMORPG and Blizzard is... well, but reading that the drop chance increased tempted me for a good moment there

This is awesome. Your WoW write ups are always a highlight of my day to read and I love the sheer passion you put into these. You really write in such an engaging way that, even as someone who has never touched the game, I feel like I get a lot of the stuff going on and the emotions tied to it.

This one though, this was a cut above the rest. Positively beautiful. The whole time theme and repetition of "The Sha of Anger dies" was great. And it all culminated in that amazing bit of personal story at the end? Very nice. Loved this.

It was two years ago I realised that it had been as many years since I stopped playing WoW as it had the number of years I played it for (from beta to MoP so 8 years on then 8 years off to 2020, 10 years off now in 2022). Still no desire to go back. It's odd that out of all the games I've played over the years I've just never felt remotely tempted to revisit it. I've never felt more done with a game than I have with WoW.

And as I was a bleeding-edge raider and eventually a dev on a few games in the past, I can relate to everything posted. And had it been any other team other than the current group at Blizzard, I could even put myself in the shoes of the people at the meeting when they found out about this. All I can say is sometimes it's an accident and sometimes it's not.

Great post. I'm still very disappointed with how Blizzard reacted, not really on my own behalf but on behalf of the many people out there who had killed Sha thousands of times trying to get HOCS when the drop chance was 1/1000.

This oversight made all affected mounts less desirable by orders of magnitude. The old 1% raid mounts are now comparatively more difficult to get and, therefore, more desirable. It's a real shame for those people who successfully farmed the affected mounts before the pre-patch, as well as those who killed the bosses thousands of times without success.

Should the affected mounts have been 1% mounts? Probably. But they weren't. And people still put in the effort to get them. For Blizzard to not remove the mounts from the Dracthyr who got them before the hotfix went live is a slap in the face.

The Dragons in WoW lore were entrusted with stewardship over the natural/magical forces of the world, back in ye olde prehistory days. Each of the five “dragonflights” has a different charge, such as the Blue being responsible for magic and the arcane leylines, or the Green being responsible for nature and the Emerald Dream. The Bronze Dragonflight was charged with stewardship over time, and specifically the protection and maintenance of the one true timeline. If any mage tries tampering with history, they can expect a swift response from the Bronze flight.