What is your most favourite 5-man instance?
This is really a difficult question (and completely rips apart the ongoing series about leveling instances). I thought about going through all of them and rating them properly. I thought about my history with instances and which ones I really enjoyed. And then I decided to go ahead in the spirit this was meant in and just use my gut-feeling.
So my favourite instance is: Trial of Champions.
There. I said it. You may hate me now, but I think I can offer an explanation as well. Or try to.
See ... when we got to the argent tournament grounds I originally had some trouble jousting. It was a nice thing to do, though. I played a warrior mostly, a paladin part-time and a deathknight when I felt like doing some damage. All of the plate-classes made perfect sense to put on a horse and arm with a lance - backed by half a ton of charging horse the damage against other platewearers seemed like a good idea.
Now pretend for a moment that there were a helmet on there. A fierce looking one - not this oversized sex-toy they hand out at the moment. With the shield and the barding on the horse it looks almost like something that should have been present on a medieval battlefield - unlike a certain golf caddy, for instance.
Where was I? Ah yes... jousting. Now see .. the jousting in itself was nice, but not entirely fun. The argent aspirants proved quite good practise targets, however. By the time I had my Crusader title (one of 26 at the moment ... don't ask), I think I had gotten decently competent. And then the fun started - back in the day we got to go to the Icecrown Citadel and beat up undead. Flying things and mounted things ... and best of all: skeletal footmen. There was no need (technically) to actually attack them. Blizzard had recognized that a half-ton of muscle in plate armour (no .. not me .. the horse! It's the lack of vertical stripes that makes me look wide!) can just run over those flimsy bone constructs and trample them.
Comeon! Could there be anything more cool?
Well technically yes - I was hoping for Icecrown citadel to have an entry level that used horses (not unlike Ulduar) to beat down a marching army of the undead. Think 10 (or 25 - even better) mounted knights riding side by side, driving a wedge of trampled, crushed and totally broken bones into the ground before charging up to the entrance.
Well yes, I see how that would probably annoy people terribly after about week one - and I did appreciate the argument that it would not be a good idea to set a clothy on a horse and give them a lance - but it did never occur to me when I first saw horses! Honest! (I probably play plate-wearers too much).
Sooo .. to get back to why I like ToC: We not only get to joust champions - we get to trample them in the ground. And keep running over them before they get a chance to rearm. I would have preferred if the Arms Warrior had pulled forth a polearm and actually made a difference against the horses (which would give that silly weapon class some justification) - but this is quite good.
I also seriously enjoy the tanking challenge it proved to be. The solutions against the three phases of black knight were different on warrior, druid, deathknight and paladin. The "turn around to avoid a stun" mechanic was new and different - and it is always a pleasure to see a reflective damage shield in place on a boss for impatient and not-very-perceptive DPS.
Well ... and quick gearing up (while breaking immersion and being generally horrid for all those who did it properly) helped my druid gain respectable gear levels and actually be able to tank the new and interesting heroics quickly. I did it all once the slow way on Koch - you know... when we wiped in Utgarde Pinnacle (normal) because the fights were actually tough. Back in November 2008 for those that don't remember the days.
And which do you hate most?
That one might not be a big surprise. I'll stick with Uldaman on the count of hate-beyond-all-normal-reason. This is partly based on historic reasons - the instance was redesigned recently and now misses of few of the hitches it once had. I shall pretend those fixes do not exist - for general amusement (not so much mine at the time).
You see... Uldaman was an instance appropriate for the level range of 35 to 50.
Read that again.
15 levels worth of an instance.
Back in the old days, instances were different. Longer - for one. More difficult (seriously - especially because no one really knew what they were doing. It was until late in 2004 until people discovered what this mysterious "Defense" stat was all about.
Uldaman was one of the worst. The entrance are was populated by elite dwarves and trogs. Two quests could be completed there. One of them probably had a followup that took you inside. However - now that the path to the entrance had been cleared properly by your well-armed group you were best off leaving and leveling a few times before coming back.
Of course only to clear everything again - and because the mobs were elite they were still hard - but gave no more experience. So you could wipe on stuff that did not actually benefit you in killing. At all.
Once inside you started with finding some dwarves, killing more trogs and generally making a mess of the place - so far so good. Nothing different from todays instances. You also were after two drops that were white: the medallion and the staff. Remember how pissy people can get these days about epic drops they deem "theirs"? It was pretty much the same with those two items back then - and for a good reason. The level you got those items was not appropriate for useing them. And besides - you had to return to Ironforge before then to hand a quest in and get a followup. If you were not lucky enough to have both mage and warlock - and incredibly good coordination - you would not finish that without clearing the entrance area again. Did I mention that those mobs were grey and could still kill groups? It was gruelling.
After you got to the Iron Girl Golem with PMS you recieved a silly reward - a two-handed axe or an off-hand item. My rogue was not well rewarded with either (the idea of supplying four quest rewards so that almost all classes had something sensible only happened with TBC).
And then had to slug your way through another hour (at least) of pointless trash - scorpions and more dark-iron dwarves and more trogs. To find some bosses in a hidden side corridor.
Ohh! Almost forgot. The only enchanting trainer above level 225 was in there. You had to go to an instance every single time you wanted to pick up a new recipe. Even if you were a rogue or druid at level 60 you still had to clear one trash pack before she would even spawn.
Where was this rambling going? Ah yes... the final bit of the instance is pretty much the precursor to Ulduar and the Halls of Stone. There is a great deal of Lore hidden back there. Guarded by a level 50 elite giant. Sure... you could try this at the same level 37 you entered in the first place - but it would be futile and hard and silly and wipefest inducing and not worth the time. Especially as you pretty much needed the experience of the quests when you actually were level 48.
The "good old times" were not so very good at times.
Oh yes - and you needed three people to actually get to the last boss. No cheating and going there at level 59 with your wife and just picking up quick quest experience. Noooo.
In total: Uldaman was an incredible time sink. It was designed that way. It's not even the worst one, probably - I suppose Blackrock Depths wins there. However Blackrock Mountain has a bar and a succubus in love and a charmed princess to make up for the length of it. And was prerequisite for the Onyxia entrance attunement - so if nothing else, you did it because you had to. It (for me) describes all that was bad about the original World of Warcraft design.
Boy am I glad some things changed.
I suppose I'll go into the new LFG tool - set myself as tank - wait my 10 seconds and hop into something with a few friendly players from other servers to beat up something. I'm even guaranteed a few useful rewards. Not just grind out time in a game doing something I don't enjoy because it needs doing for progress.