As a guild we ran the Deadmines on Sunday and again on Monday night. Both runs were successful, though the Sunday run had a few wipes and had to deal with respawns, while the Monday run was clean start to finish. Personally I walked away with the Defias chestpiece off VC, and since I already had the boots, I bought the other three pieces off the AH to complete the set. Optimal use of money? Of course not, but hey gotta look good right?
Deadmines is one of the better, if not the best dungeon in WoW IMO. It has enough mechanics to keep it interesting and challenging, but none of the encounters feel like playing a dancing simulator. You can brute force it if you go in at a high enough level, but you can also achieve rewarding success below level with the right group and the right player skill. The beauty of the design in Classic isn’t that encounters are success/failure hard, but that things will scale down for you. If you are really good, you can tackle content under geared or under leveled. If you aren’t as good, you can still ‘grind’ someplace else and come back when you are strong. This is true even for solo questing; if you play your character well, you can efficiently fight harder mobs. If you lack player skill/knowledge, you might have to fight at-level or below mobs, or run away when more than a single mob is pulled.
It’s why Rag and Onyxia have already been beaten; those who actually care about world firsts have the skill (and the ‘how’ for all encounters in Classic is already known and well-documented), and so are able to beat those encountered even without having anything close to the optimal gear. At the same time, those encounters will still cause countless wipes to the average guild, yet allow those guilds to eventually progress as they slowly gear up. That’s not a flaw or a commentary on how ‘hard’ Vanilla was; it’s a highlight to its brilliant design (which itself was maybe accidental, who knows).
One of the reasons I think AQ40 was as unpopular as it was compared to other raids was some of the encounters lacked this build-in scaling. Either you did the mechanics dance perfectly and won, or you lost. Nax40 required both; perfect execution AND near-perfect gear, but Nax40 was intended to be ultra hard, and its why back then those world-firsts actually felt ‘important’, and its why Nax40 wasn’t cleared the first weekend it was released like so much raid content in later-day WoW.
Back to the Deadmines, it’s lengthy, but every piece of the dungeon makes sense for the theme, and the whole thing tells a great story (as does the main quest-line involved). Not all dungeons are like that in Vanilla (looking at you Ragefire Chasm and Stockades), but Deadmines isn’t alone in that regard either (LBRS and UBRS for example are also amazing).
On a different note, Monday night was the first time our server, Benediction, had a short login queue. Something to keep in mind about the queues; Vanilla didn’t peak at release. It didn’t peak 6 months after release, or even after the first year. Now, I’m not saying Classic is going to continue growing in the same way Vanilla did, or even close. But I’m also not convinced opening week is the peak of activity either. What Classic has reminded many, and perhaps shown for the first time to some, is that Vanilla was a great game to play, especially as a member of a guild. As the current Classic players continue to enjoy it, they are going to pull others from their social circle into the experience. And as the base leveling game in Classic isn’t short, that time span of enjoyment and recruiting is going to continue for the next few months, at least.