Allow me to introduce my dear friend, the second boss of Blackwing Lair, Vaelstrasz the Corrupt. Vael pops up a couple other places in the game (LBRS and UBRS) where he is friendly and helps you out, but when you see him in BWL it’s a different story.
First, a quick rundown of BWL lore. BWL is the home of Nefarian, son of Neltharion. Netharion was the leader of the Black Dragonflight and, like most of the dragons in WoW lore was a pretty cool dude. But then he went all emo and started listening to Thursday and My Chemical Romance and he probably got some tatoos of a rose with a tear or something and he changed his name to Deathwing. He convinced the other Dragon Aspects to lend him a part of their soul so they could make a weapon to destroy whomever they were all fighting at the time (demons iirc). But Deathwing is a sneaky bastard and he wasn’t actually trying to kill demons; he had gone batshit crazy and was going to try to kill the other Aspects. He was the only one who didn’t contribute any of his power so he was full strength AND he had some of the power of all the other dragons and they were all weakened. But the other dragons figured it out in time and curbstomped Deathwing. He went into hiding and hasn’t been seen since. He presumably is wearing black thick rimmed glasses and tight jeans and is badly in need of a haircut.
Neltharion/Deathwing had a couple kids, notably Onyxia and Nefarian. Nefarian inherited his father’s hatred of humanity and the other dragonflights. Inside BWL he is doing a little bit of genetic engineering trying to combine the different dragonflights into a Chromatic Dragonflight that will be under his control. The plan is to rally the Black Dragonflight and use them plus the new Chromatic Dragonflight to strike back and destroy the other dragonflights that beat up his dad. The other dragonflights kinda know what is going on and they understandably want to stop it. Vaelstrasz is part of the Red Dragonflight and is kind of a big deal and he tracks Nefarian to Blackwing Lair. But Vael gets whooped by Nefarian and when you encounter him he is at 30% health.
There is a cutscene before the encounter starts and Nefarian does a little speech where he tells you that he beat up Vael and now Vael is corrupted and is going to serve Nefarian by killing your raid. Vael tries to fight the corruption and tells you to gtfo. Right before the encounter starts, as his final effort before the corruption takes over, Vael gives your raid a buff called Essence of the Red to help you kill him. The buff lasts for three minutes and it restores 500 mana per second to mana users, 50 energy per second to rogues and cat druids and 20 rage per second to warriors and bear druids. It means you basically have infinite mana/rage/energy.
Vael, like most dragons has a frontal cleave and frontal cone fire breath attack but this one adds a stacking DoT on the tank. He also has a flame buffet that will hit everyone in the raid for around 600 every 3 seconds. So raid healing is a huge deal in this fight. But since the healers have infinite mana, it isn’t too hard to spam what would otherwise be mana intensive party heals. He also has a debuff that he will randomly put on 1 member of the raid called Burning Adrenaline. Burning Adrenaline increases damage done by 100%, increases attack speed by 100% and makes all spells instant cast. After 20 seconds the person with BA will explode killing that person and everyone around them. BA can’t be removed by anything (including pally bubble, iceblock and cloak of shadows) and Vael can and will cast it on the tank.
You would put your raid on one side of the boss and the tanks on the other side. If anyone pulled aggro, the boss would cleave and it would chain to everyone on that side and kill a bunch of people and then he would flame breath and kill anybody left standing. One of the most impressive things about Vael is how quickly he can wipe a raid. Back in the day an aggro pull or early tank death meant that Vael would wipe your raid incredibly fast. We are talking 40 people alive to 0 alive in less than 5 seconds.
The space behind the dragon was left clear for people with BA. When someone got BA, they would sprint to the back of the dragon and then DPS like mad until they exploded safely away from the rest of the raid. If/when the MT got BA, then the second tank would run next to the MT and the healers would all stop healing the MT and start healing the OT. The idea was that you would let Vael kill the MT before BA killed him so that he wouldn’t explode.
Even though Vael is at 30% when you walk into room, you still have a long way to go. The tanks have infinite rage, but threat can still be an issue since rogues and dps warriors have infinite energy/rage too. Casters generally didn’t have a problem with threat because more mana for them does not correlate to a huge dps increase like it does for druids/rogues/warriors. The key was having the dpsers stay below all the tanks, not just the current tank. Once Vael was below 20% though, the OTs could go to Battle stance and start dropping full rage bar executes on the boss which would generate plenty of threat.
This fight was THE dps race on vanilla wow. Everyone loved being able to put out huge numbers. Burning Adrenaline was a great mechanic that was gauranteed to kill the person it was cast on but it gave you the consolation of a HUGE damage burst before you died. The “enrage” timer was basically the 3 minute duration of Essence of the Red and it was pretty tightly tuned. A guild that had been clearing MC and was playing well would beat the enrage timer, but if your dps was off their game or healers were letting people die, then you were going wipe no matter how good your gear was. It was a gear check and a skill check at the same time. Lots and lots of guilds shattered on Vael. He was the guild killer of vanilla WoW.
A lot of people hated the Vael fight and I never really understood why. If was definately one of the hardest fights in BWL and its placement as the second encounter of the instance meant it was a major stumbling block. But the hard fights are the fun ones IMO. And Vael was very hard. The mechanics were unique, especially after Molten Core, it was a dps race and a skill check. It was a relatively short fight and was very intense the whole time. It was just a great fight.
Fun fact: when BWL was first released, if you didn’t kill Vael within an hour of the first time you engaged him he would automatically despawn for 12 hours and iirc, you couldn’t move on to the next boss without killing Vael so if you didn’t get him within that hour then you were screwed.
The attunement for BWL is very very easy by modern standards. When you head up to the doorway for UBRS, if you keep going past down the hallway there are some mid-50s elite mobs. One of them is called Blackrock Quartermaster (or something close to that). You kill him and he drops an item that starts a quest. The quest is to go kill General Drakkisath in UBRS and touch the orb behind him. Once you do that you are attuned to BWL. Get yourself back outside the UBRS portal and head all the way to the end of that hallway and you will see the Orb of Command and you can put your hand on it and you will be teleported into BWL.
The only hard part of the attunement is finding someone with an UBRS key. With 10 people you can clear UBRS in about 20 minutes. If there is someone who has done the fights before and can explain them, then you can do everything in BWL with 15 people. You will need Onyxia Scale Cloaks for your tanks if you want to do the three drakes and your whole raid will need those cloaks if you want to do Nefarian, but those are easy enough to get since Ony can be killed with 5-10 people (less is possible but it takes a while).