World of Warcraft has over 900 bosses spread across the vanilla game and four expansions. That’s an ungodly amount of battle mechanics and epic music.
There is no denying the giant size of the world’s number one MMO but that just makes this list even harder to make. Shuffling through over 900 battles just to get down to 10 is a daunting task. It would be impossible for someone who is looking from the outside in but luckily I have played World of Warcraft. In fact, I’ve played World of Warcraft for over six years. I may be “clean” now but my detox took a long time. Due to that, I’ve witnessed many of these battles, if not most of them. I was, after all, a hardcore raider.
To make this fair, I decided that each version of World of Warcraft contains many great boss battles. For this list I am going to choose two from each version (vanilla and the four expansions).
We’ll begin with Vanilla.
Vanilla World of Warcraft
What an amazing, difficult, and crude game. The initial version of WoW was very plain and rough. It was obvious that at the time the game may have been just a bit too big of a concept for Blizzard to handle. That changed over time but for the first year or two players were subjected to massive server issues, rapid growth, and plenty of patch delays. Still, even with the issues just said vanilla WoW will always occupy some of my most favorite moments in gaming and it was also the time that I spent the most with the game. 40-man raids were absolutely epic and not as hard to put together as many think. At least, it wasn’t for my server and guild.
Chromaggus – Blackwing Lair
I wasn’t actually expecting to make this pick but when going through the old raids I remembered this fight’s mechanics and how every week of raids it was a random mess that made for a difficult fight. Even now Chromaggus can be a difficult fight and is considered one of the hardest bosses to solo, even at level 90.
His fight is all dependent on debuffs. His skin shimmers with different colors which will inflict the party with a pretty harsh debuff. The party needs to be completely wiped of these debuffs before anyone amasses all five. If you somehow get all five debuffs at one time you will turn into a Drakonoid and turn on the party. You can’t just be killed, though. If you are killed by your party to stop the attack, Chromaggus will be healed significantly.
Chromaggus also changes his affinity to certain elements every week when the instance is created by the raid. He is just an unreal challenge and a random fight every time you face him. He was the crown jewel of Blackwing Lair in terms of fight mechanics. Plus, it was pretty cool to see yourself turn into a Drakonoid and try to kill your buddies, even if it meant it may wipe the raid.
C’Thun – Temple of Ahn’Qiraj
I was in a guild that started and finished the quest line to open the gates for Ahn’Qiraj. My guild leader received the Black crystal and the Scarab Lord title. It was such an intense event and it felt like we were doing something momentous for the entire server. While everyone else gathered up the materials for the War of the Shifting Sands, we were using our gear and stature on the server to actually open the gates and start the invasion of Ahn’Qiraj. Talk about epic.
At the end of it all was the Old God C’Thun. His manifestation into Azeroth uncompleted was the only reason we were able to hurt him. Old Gods are the forces behind almost every tragedy that has plagued Azeroth since the Titans entrapped them far below the surface. They should have just killed them.
C’Thun’s fight was epic from the moment you walked into the room until the battle ended. It is pure mayhem and requires patience and a lockdown of all mechanics from everyone in the raid (which was 40 people back when it released). C’Thun would decimate the area with a wide eye beam that would kill you in seconds if you didn’t follow the movement pattern. He also spawned tentacles and eyes that would peck at the raid’s health keeping healers on their toes while trying to conserve mana pools.
Even after all of this, C’Thun just gets pissed and reveals himself and his giant stomach. He’ll continually eat players who then have to fight their way out or die. During this time those players can’t actually damage C’Thun but have to fight other strong monsters inside of the beast and then get out to once again help the raid.
After all is said and done, the fight with C’Thun truly felt like the culmination of boss mechanics that Blizzard has learned and somewhat mastered over the initial years of WoW. What a fight.
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
Cue the first expansion, which also brought with it a ton of changes including getting rid of the 40-man raid size. While it made it easier for people to get into raids, I was very upset by this. My server had plenty of guilds running around with 40 people ready to raid on certain nights. Adding an option for a 20-man version while keeping the 40 would have been great. It would have also given Blizzard some more time to evaluate how 40-man raids go and if they should stay or really go. Instead they canned the feature and brought with it a new way to raid. Bleh.
Still, the Burning Crusade was a fun expansion. Outland, at least during its release, was very fun to go through. The new items, art style, and gear were all really cool and a departure from what we knew for years. The giant world bosses and world PvP areas made the Burning Crusade a blast to play but what made it excellent was seeing just how much better Blizzard got at raid design and fight mechanics. Despite lowering the required number of players for a raid, the Burning Crusade still held some epic fights.
The Opera Event – Karazhan
Karazhan was a tower that almost everyone in the game knew about before The Burning Crusade released. You could see it, move around it, and even sneak into some parts. When it officially released, Karazhan was a huge raid that had many interesting fights. I’d have loved to pick the Chess Events for this list but it is rather easy. Also, Moroes holds a memory for me as it was my first boss that I main tanked (beforehand I was the guild’s off-tank).
Still, the best fight in Karazhan is none other than the challenging but fun Opera Event. This battle has three different bosses and which one you get is random each time the raid instance is created. You’ll fight either The Big Bad Wolf, the cast of Wizard of Oz, or Romulo & Julianne. Also, during the fight, a crowd of mobs will take their seats and watch you battle. This is just an awesome encounter.
The Wolf fight was a melee heavy encounter that had bouts of chases whenever a raid member received the Red Riding Hood debuff. The Wizard of Oz right is, in my opinion, the hardest of the three options. It was a massive gear check that focused on survivability. Getting rid of the cast in order was a mild challenge but then to fight The Crone after them all was tough. Mana reservation was a big thing here. The duo in love wasn’t too bad of a fight expect Phase Three when you fought both Romulo and Julianne at the same time. Romulo was a very strong melee fighter and Julianne spammed magic spells over and over again. The Opera Event was a test of the raid’s strength and teamwork.
Kael’thas Sunstrider – The Eye
In all his majesty and wisdom, Kael’Thas loves to brag about his power. He has always considered himself to be the strongest mage and to be honest, he can back it up pretty well. Voiced by Quinton Flynn (who also voiced Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 2/4), Kael’thas was very vocal and animated during his fights which was cool to see in the game. He has plenty of backstory and is important to the Warcraft lore. So he must die.
Kael’s fight is a long one and every phase gets harder and harder. He’ll start by sending each of his advisors to kill you. After you kill them all, Kael uses his arcane power to turn his advisor’s weapons into living enemies. You have to kill them but the coolest thing is that when you do, the raid members are allowed to loot them and receive them as temporary weapons. Legendary weapons for everyone!
The fight doesn’t end there as Kael then resurrects his advisors with arcane energy and all four of them fight you at once. You only have a few minutes to kill as many of the advisors are you can before Kael himself joins the fight. He spew tons of damage with his spells and having any more than two advisors still up when he joins the fight may result in a wipe. He’ll also mind control raid members and if you don’t pop Heroism/Bloodlust before this phase there is a chance Kael will have the mind controlled raid member use it and buff himself. When you get Kael to 50% all chaos breaks loose. Kael goes insane and will periodically change gravity while hurling energy phoenixes at the raid.
Overall, it’s a very satisfying fight to win. It is long and challenging and everyone in the raid needs to be ready for each phase. This is the best fight in the first expansion.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
Wrath is, in my opinion, the best expansion for World of Warcraft. Everything about it just screams epic, intense, and shows off everything Blizzard had learned over the years to great effect. Northrend was a great addition to the game world especially since The Lich King, the expansion’s main enemy, made so many appearances in front of the player during their journey to the new endgame. It was also during Wrath that normal dungeons (read: not raids) began having a lot more interesting fight mechanics and it wasn’t just strictly tank-and-spank or gear check survival tests. There was a need to ensure you knew what was going on during the dungeons and they began feeling like smaller raids in terms of challenge and mechanics.
This was a very hard section for me to get down to just two fights. Actually, it was impossible. I’ve included some honorable mentions for the amazing dungeon fights we had in Wrath and also had to make an exception for one of my picks.
Great Instance Dungeon Fights
I can’t name the two best fights in this expansion without recognizing some of the great dungeon battles. The instances in Wrath were so awesome. They were, again in my opinion, the cream of the crop and if you were going on a heroic run these were the dungeons I wouldn’t mind doing over and over again. Compared to the dungeons you could do in vanilla or the other three expansions, Wrath had the best.
Which bosses do I want to acknowledge? Eight of them, in fact. I’ll do this in bullet list form to make it quicker.
- Skadi The Ruthless (Utgarde Pinnacle) – Skadi’s fight was one I couldn’t wait to get to when I entered this dungeon. The waves of enemies, constant ice breath, and high-damage boss at the end of the gauntlet were all fun to go through. Best part? The possible reward at the end with a Proto-Drake mount.
- Ley-Guardian Eregos (The Oculus) – This was a fun fight and a precursor to the Malygos raid battle. The drake rides were fun and good practice since this wouldn’t be the last fight to include drake flights.
- Herald Volazj (Ahn-Kahet: The Old Kingdom) – This Faceless One used the power of manipulation and your own power as a player against you when he put every party member in a shadow and made them fight themselves.
- The Prophet Tharon’Ja (Drak’Tharon Keep) – This undead skeletal wind serpent continually makes party members into skeletons themselves to revive its own flesh and live again. Becoming a skeleton makes your role in the fight different and keeps the party on their toes.
- Loken (Halls of Lightning) – Loken is a big character in the Ulduar arc of this expansion. His fight here keeps players moving and weary of his Pulsing Shockwave attack. It’s a fun fight where everyone needs to be ready and watching.
- Chrono-Lord Epoch (Culling of Stratholme) – There isn’t much to this fight but the time stops make for a tense fight when the healers have to top everyone off after a few seconds of being pounded by Epoch uninterrupted.
- The Black Knight (Trial of the Champion) – You actually have to kill the Black Knight three times during this fight. You destroy his body, then his skeleton, then his ghost. This guys just doesn’t quit.
- The Lich King (Halls of Reflection) – This fight is absolutely amazing and is the best dungeon encounter in Wrath. You are literally running for your lives from The Lich King as he chases you up a chasm. He’ll constantly summon ice walls that block your path and throw waves of enemies are you. When you… IF you survive the encounter you’ll feel relief as The Lich king continues to get closer and closer to your party and certain death. It was the perfect example of “you’re not ready” in a game.
Now onto the raids!
Yogg-Saron – Ulduar
This fight was so well done. Yogg-Saron is another Old God just like C’Thun but much more merciless. He preys on players’ minds and his visions test you. However, before actually engaging Yogg-Saron, you must defeat his Keepers. Well trained and dedicated to the Old God. After defeating them Yogg-Saron attacks both mentally and physically.
Throughout the fight you have a decreasing debuff called Sanity. It starts at 100 and counts down. If it reaches zero then you go Insane and become very powerful. The raid must kill and there is no other alternative. After the keepers are down and Yogg-Saron begins to induce madness in the raid using his Mind’s Eye, portals will open up and players must go inside and endure their challenge. These are awesome.
After that, players must then destroy Yogg-Saron himself. The entire battle is insanely difficult and long. It requires expert precision, gear, and readiness with every raid membe. Oh, and as if it wasn’t hard enough, you only have 15 minutes to defeat Yogg-Saron or he casts Extinguish All Life and kills everyone.
The Entire Icecrown Citadel Raid
I had to make an exception here and include the entire raid for ICC. This is by far the best raid in World of Warcraft and it will take a perfection to beat it. Icecrown Citadel is an entire expansion’s effort in one raid and perfectly captures the intense ending to the war in Northrend. From your first steps inside the citadel until you stand triumphant on top of the Frozen Throne, this raid throws so much at you in its last attempt to stop you and gain the Lich King’s ultimate favor.
Enough with the fluff, this raid holds so much amazing battles that it makes choosing a small number for this expansion impossible. You start out with Lord Marrowgar who encapsulates players in a bone prison which much be destroyed quick. He also casts Bone Storm which envelopes the battle area with debris and the entire raid takes massive damage. It is a fitting start to this raid.
Afterwards you fight wave after wave of acolytes who believe in the Lich King with undying faith. Then you hop onto a gunship and battle against the opposing faction, not for supremacy but for the chance to be the ones who take down the Lich King. While both factions should be helping each other in the citadel, the bloodlust between them comes into play and only one faction will climb the glacier. After this players come face to face with a family tragedy, a festering and revolting trio of experiments, the “royal” vampire council, a dying Green Dragon that must be saved, an undead dragon whose power is intensified by the Lich King, and then finally meet up with Arthas himself.
The journey to the Frozen Throne is a long one but epic non-stop. These fights I mention above include some of the best battle mechanics this MMO has ever seen and great story. However, it all comes to a head on top of the glacier when you fight the Lich King himself.
The final battle with the Lich King is ridiculous. He’ll continually summon strong enemies to help him during the fight and if the raid doesn’t take them down they’ll crowd up and become too much to handle. The Lich King also infests players with a plague, summons Val’kyr to pick up raid members and drop them off the glacier to their death, and even destroy parts of the glacier to try and instant kill some of the raid. This fight is all about the Lich King using quick methods to take down the raid in size.
If none of those tricks work he’ll then begin to spill very deadly Defile on the ground which can pile up and make moving very difficult. This battle is long, difficult, but extremely fun and satisfying. It was the perfect way to end the war with this expansion’s main enemy. This entire raid was the perfect way to end the expansion’s main story line.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Cataclysm shook Azeroth to its core and completely changed it. Deathwing returned and the world began to see its destruction and direst days. Instead of adding an entire continent, once unused areas of the world were finally opened up and we even traveled to elemental planes of existence. This was a battle where the players and all of Azeroth were on defensive finally. First we invade Outland and take out Illidan. Then we invade Northrend to take out the Lich King. At least in Cataclysm came to the us.
Cataclysm had another round of impressive dungeons with some great fights but not enough to actually list a number of them like in Wrath. I do have some honorable mentions, though but first up are the two best fights in the expansion.
Nefarian – Blackwing Descent
The children of Deathwing return to take advantage of their father’s chaos. Nefarian has resurrected his sister Onyxia and is using her to defeat you. Nefarian also takes part in the battle as he bombards the raid from the sky while you fight Onyxia. When it turns out that the challenge isn’t hard enough for the raid, Nefarian will join the fight on the ground and periodically flood the area with lava. When that happens, the raid must jump onto pillars and destroy enemies summoned by Nefarian.
The battle ends when the raid kills both Onyxia and Nefarian. What a fitting battle, really. Think about it: the old Azeroth is dying and Onyxia was the first raid boss in World of Warcraft while Nefarian was the last boss in one vanilla’s biggest raids, Blackwing Lair. Both of them are back to exact revenge and capitalize on their father’s plans. Blizzard may have a habit of revisiting bosses or events but this was a great way to bring back old foes for a good reason.
Deathwing – Dragon Soul
I know it’s cliche to use the final battle with the expansions’ last boss but Deathwing’s fight is nothing short of epic. Blizzard really went all out for this fight. To be honest, they had to. Deathwing is a major player in Warcraft lore and for us, the players, to actually beat him the battle would need to be ridiculous.
The battle starts out by actually going through the three End Time dungeons which lead up to the players reaching the Wyrmrest Temple. You then get one gunships and attack Deathwing in the air. Players will then catch up with the giant dragon and jump onto his back. Players have to damage him by getting through his adamantium plating. When Deathwing is hurt enough and reaches the Maelstrom, he’ll go down. Damaged by his fall into the devastated Maelstrom, Deathwing is now deformed and tearing apart.
This when the real final battle begins. Deathwing is attempting to kill the raid as he rises from the Maelstrom. He’ll attach his claws to the pillars the players stand on and summon enemies and spells. The Dragon Aspects are helping the raid out at this time and its an all-out offensive against the wounded Deathwing.
The entire ordeal against Deathwing is long and requires coordination with the entire raid, including on Raid Finder difficulty. Thanks to that feature, Dragon Soul and Deathwing’s battle is probably the most experienced raid by the MMO’s players. It certainly is the most accessible. That’s a good thing, though. This battle is amazing and it should be seen by most of the player base.
Honorable Mention: Alysrazor – The Firelands
This is here because I only have one battle to talk about for Mists of Pandaria.
I might be in the minority here but I loved the fire tornado phases. Alysrazor is a giant Moltres-looking bird that toys with you until you actually become a threat. This battle is filled to the brim with activity and the entire raid is moving almost all of the time.
World of Warcraft: The Mists of Pandaria
This is the current expansion for World of Warcraft and it isn’t finished yet. I don’t feel right picking the two best battles of the expansion just yet but in order to have some thing for each expansion, I do have one battle that is quite awesome that I want to mention.
The Sha of Fear – Terrace of Endless Spring
As I said before, I’ve been cleaned for a bit but I did buy Mists of Pandaria. I just never got that far into it. However, looking through videos and info about the current raid bosses I came across this guy. The Sha of Fear is the manifestation of the evil growing in Pandaria. The fight is big and so is the boss. His design is awesome and his quotes, while corny, make him seem intimidating. The fight overall seems very satisfying and a fitting end to an awesome raid. If Mists proves anything in the long term of WoW, it’s that Blizzard knows how to design very, very well.