Lair of the Mad Dragon

I’ve read and heard a lot about how difficult the Lair of the Mad Dragon is (a level 34 5-man dungeon in Neverwinter). I’ve attempted MD five times in PUGs now, twice as a cleric and three times as a GWF (Great Weapon Fighter), so I have some thoughts of my own.

For comparison, MD is the third dungeon as you’re leveling. The first is the level 16 Cloak Tower, which is simple enough that anyone can do anything and still get through it. The second is the level 24 Cragmire Crypts, which is noticeably harder but still requires little strategy.

MD is substantially more difficult than Cragmire Crypts, that’s for sure. The imps – the accursed, maddening imps – are everywhere. The very first encounter will let you know that you’re in for a big challenge. However, even average PUGs can brute force it through the first two bosses to the end. Unfortunately, the final boss – Chartilifax, or as I call her, Chortlefax, the mad green dragon herself – is a nightmare for PUGs.

It starts out fine. Dodge the dragon’s breath and don’t stand in her giant red AoEs. The first wave of adds? No problem. The second wave of adds? Troublesome, but can be overcome. The third wave? Orders of magnitude more difficult, usually wipes the party because they can’t be killed fast enough.

Fail #1. I first entered MD with my cleric right after I dinged 30. I queued for the dungeon literally within 30 seconds of leveling thinking it would be hours before I got in, and then to my shock, I was in a party inside a few minutes. So here’s my first tip: Don’t do that. Do not enter MD right after you hit 30. I didn’t even have the right Injury Kits (because you can’t use your existing supply after you level from 29 to 30). And of course there is no vendor at the start of MD, like there is in the previous two dungeons. Basically, I spent a lot of time running from aggro’d mobs and got killed like 5 times and by the end I was massively injured. It was a good group, though. Everyone was cool about it – the tank was very realistic about our chances at the end. We tried twice and only got Chortlefax to about 75% – as it turns out, that was a pretty solid effort.

Fail #2. I tried again with my DC at level 34. The general dungeon experience and the first two bosses went much smoother – I didn’t die until Chortlefax. I’m pretty sure there was no tank on that run. One guy had the nerve to say, “well if the cleric would heal us instead of running from all the adds maybe we could do better.” (After I ignored him, someone else stuck up for me, so thanks to whoever that guy was). We tried again with similar results. That was the best I’ve done in a PUG, though – in two attempts I think we got Chortlefax close to 50%.

After that, I vowed not to attempt MD again as a DC without a more focused party or guild. I’m sure I’m not the only DC to say that. My cleric now sits at level 35 waiting. Which is a shame, because the cleric is kind of fun to play.

So I broke out my GWF (great weapon fighter) and started leveling in earnest. I decided that I would take on the responsibility of protecting the cleric in MD, and that would ensure success. Easy, peasy, right?

Fail #3. I didn’t bother trying MD with my GWF until I hit level 32. I did an awesome job protecting the cleric all the way through until we got to Chortlefax, at which point I was able to off-tank a lot of adds, but without focused DPS to kill the adds, it was kind of pointless. I was one of the last people standing, but I don’t think we even got to 75% that time.

Fail #4. I actually thought we might have a shot in this all DPS, 4 TR + 1 GWF run. At first I thought no way, I might as well drop out before we take two steps, but we burned down the first two bosses surprisingly fast. But alas, Chortlefax ate us up in the end because we lost one party member along the way, and we weren’t able to focus the adds. We got to around 75% again.

Fail #5. At this point my GWF was 35, and in this party we had a tank but no cleric. (Not a problem, clerics are nice-to-have, but not always essential as most of your direct healing comes from drinking potions.) Unfortunately this party struggled the whole time, even through the first two bosses. We ended up having to focus the bosses down and ignore the adds to get through them, a strategy that I’ve come to believe is a winner for most PUGs as it’s easy to coordinate. I had little hope that we’d beat Chortlefax, though, and we didn’t. Even focusing on the dragon, I don’t even think we made it to 75%. You just can’t ignore that third wave of adds.

Side note: Why isn’t there any way to mark targets in Neverwinter? That would be super helpful for these PUGs. (Not “mark” in the GF threat-building sense, I mean marking as in putting a big “1” or “2” over monsters’ heads like in other MMOs. Anything to say, “focus on this target.”)

I’ve only witnessed one successful clearing of MD, which was in a YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSl1QIj59as). In that video, the tank essentially shadowed the cleric to gather all of the adds, and the cleric did a lot of soothing light heals on the tank so I’m sure he got tons of aggro. I’m not sure who actually killed the adds and the dragon, because the tank barely ever swung his sword for all the guarding and taunting he did – he did like zero DPS. Even that seemingly coordinated party struggled toward the end.

So now my cleric and GWF are both 35 and will soon out-level the queue for MD, so I only have a few more chances to get that silly Chortlefax. It’s not important for my cleric except just to say I’ve done it, but supposedly Chortlefax drops a nice GWF sword. Probably everyone will Need on it, though, so I doubt I’d get it anyway.

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