As players reach the summit of the Temple they’ll encounter Ultraxion, “one of the most powerful Twilight dragons ever created.” Mercer describes the fight as being reminiscent of Patchwerk in Naxxramas: a more traditional “tank ‘n’ spank” with “just ridiculous amounts of damage.”
“A lot of times we make everyone in the raid move around a lot, try to avoid a lot of things, with this fight we’re really making it so you’re going balls to the wall trying to do as much damage as possible, trying to heal as much as possible.
Ultraxion, estimates Mercer, “will serve as a nice bar to measure yourself up against, see how much damage you can do, how much healing you can do, how much you can tank. So from a pure numbers perspective people will be like, ‘whoa!’”
Once the Twilight dragon has been bested, Thrall is able unleash the charged Dragon Soul upon Deathwing. The raid then boards an airship in pursuit of the wounded dragon who is now flying for the Maelstrom and the safety of Deepholm. En route, Twilight’s Hammer drake riders, led by the Twilight’s Hammer Warmaster Blackhorn, will harry them.
World of Warcraft raiders won’t need to cast their memories too far back to recall another raid encounter staged on gun ships, one that while entertaining didn’t prove to be particularly challenging. Mercer describes such encounters as high concept, adding, “we didn’t want really want to ratchet up the difficulty on this one, but we’ll see. It’s on an airship but you’re not going back and forth. It’ll be a bit more challenging. There’ll be opportunities to shoot down drakes, you still have the same kind of thing where you’re trying to protect the ship, so I think it certainly won’t be quite as easy as the original Ice Crown gun ship but certainly I think it’ll be just as fun, if not more so!”
Having dispatched the Twilight’s Hammer, players will then leave the airship and climb onto the back of Deathwing himself. Scrambling on the huge dragon, players will be tasked with “prising up these huge elementium plates from his back to allow Thrall and the Aspects to shoot the Dragon Soul at him again.”
The battle with Deathwing will be in two disconnected parts, each with their own loot tables. How players transition from fighting on Deathwing’s back to the final battle against Deathwing at the Maelstrom wasn’t explained, but Mercer adds that there’ll be cinematic moments interspersed throughout.
Mercer also wouldn't be drawn into describing the second encounter with Deathwing: “I don’t really want to get into too many details about it, other than to say that it’s multiple platform, multiple phase. The Aspects are involved, Thrall’s there – they’re all helping in various ways! You’re taking out parts of Deathwing, you’re doing all kinds of really crazy stuff. So it’s not your typical tank ‘n’ spank, that’s for sure!”
As to the rewards, Mercer confirmed that one (or two as the case may be) is to be a Legendary pair of rogue daggers: “There is a pair of rogue daggers that [there will be] a quest for. They’re very much Deathwing themed, you have to defeat Deathwing as one of the steps to attaining [them] and they’re pretty amazing-looking.” These will be attainable by all players, whether they’re partaking in a 10-player raid on normal difficulty, or a 25-player heroic.
The fall of Deathwing will mark the climax of the Cataclysm expansion. This will be the last significant content patch, confirmed Mercer. “There might or might not be a minor patch afterwards, that remains to be seen.”
We’ve reached “the end of the story”, as Mercer puts it. Soon the public will be able to assess the Cataclysm expansion in its entirety. As to whether Blizzard is satisfied with what it has produced, Mercer is unequivocal: “Absolutely.”
“The tools are better, the tech is better, better graphics, and we as artists and designers, we’re all better. The team has been working at a very high level for years now and we know more about what’s fun and what makes World of Warcraft awesome, so we spent a large amount of time going back to the Old World and pumping up the epic and the awesome, and I think that turned out great. Going into the new zones, whether it’s Vashj’ir or [Mount] Hyjal or the Twilight Highlands, Uldum – Uldum to this day when you go in there you’re like, ‘Wow! This is a really huge, awesome, epic-looking zone’ and it still sort of takes make breath away, so I think on a huge number of levels Cataclysm is a great success.”
But it would be a fool’s bet to assume that Cataclysm concludes World of Warcraft. As Deathwing’s demise approaches, all eyes will now turn to BlizzCon in October where it’s increasingly possible that the next World of Warcraft expansion will be unveiled.