Many thanks to Jasyla for helping me test the strategy below.
Recently, with the introduction of changes from Blizzard that have made older raids more friendly to solo adventurers, as well as the addition of pet drops from twelve of the bosses in those raids, a number of hardy souls are venturing into old content. The dungeons folks are heading into aren’t limited to just those that drop pets, however. I’ve seen a number of tweets mentioning attempts to solo Karazhan over the past few weeks. One of the common themes in those tweets is that the chess event is still difficult to solo, even if the rest of the instance is a cakewalk. A few people have noted they stop there, not continuing on to Prince Malchezaar. Since I’ve had some success soloing the event, I decided to put this guide together to help out.
Before I go on, I’ll mention that this event has a healthy dose of RNG. You can execute the strategy I’ll lay out flawlessly, and still run into issues. However, I’ve found that when I use this strategy, I win more often than I lose. And when you lose, you’re just kicked out of the piece you’re in and the pieces respawn a few seconds later, so there’s no corpse run involved. Also, as you’re learning to execute the strategy I’ll put out there, you may not be going as quickly as you can, so you may fail more often. Don’t give up! It’s actually pretty simple, and you’ll be able to reliably solo it in no time.
With that mind, let’s review the basics of the encounter.
Just like in a real game of chess, you and your NPC opponent, Medivh, each have 16 pieces. Your task is to be the first one to kill the other player’s king. To complete this task, you’ve been given the ability to control one piece at a time. Each piece can change the direction they’re facing (1 key), move one square (2 key), or cast one of two other abilities (3/4 keys). Their moves (one square at a time, in any direction, including diagonally) do not mirror the moves of their corresponding “real life” chess piece, so if you play a lot of chess, don’t let your assumptions get in the way. If you’re not controlling a piece, they will stay where they’re at and use their abilities in typical AI fashion (sometimes intelligently, other times… not so much).
When you’re controlling a piece, if you don’t see a vehicle exit bar, you can right-click off the “Control Piece” buff. When you leave a piece, you will get a debuff which won’t allow you to control another piece for ten seconds. Finally, every so often Medivh will cheat, since he’s a jerk. There are three different ways he can cheat: he can heal pieces, he can buff one of his pieces, or he can drop fire under pieces. For our purposes, while the heal can suck, we only really concern ourselves with fire.
I’ve run this recently to make sure soloing is still feasible, so this strategy is up-to-date as of this post (5.1). I lost my first attempt but then succeeded on my second pass. Onward to the strategy!
Before you begin, set your focus to the King. A focus target has no other real purpose in this encounter, so you may as well use it to keep an eye on your King’s health. To start the event, take control of the king. Immediately cast Heroism/Bloodlust (4 key) and exit (vehicle exit or right-click off the “Control piece” buff). Move to the pawn in front of the knight furthest from the orb and move it forward one space (Diagram 1).
Exit the pawn and run back to the rook (Conjured Water Elemental/Summoned Daemon) closest to that pawn. When your debuff falls off, enter the rook and move it to the spot that pawn just vacated (Diagram 2). This brings your Elemental/Daemon closer to the middle – its AI attacks will be of assistance as you proceed.
Depending on how quickly you’ve carried out your moves, you probably have time for two more before Medivh cheats. In my experience recently, Medivh has almost always cast fire, and it’s always landed on my King. My recommendation here is to move the pawn in front of the knight close to you up one square (Diagram 3).
Then move the pawn in front of your king up one square (Diagram 4). It’s important to have space for your King and Queen (Human Conjurer/Orc Warlock) to move when they’re set on fire. If the cheat is consistently cast before you’re able to move that pawn in front of your king, you can do that earlier in the sequence instead.
From here on out, your movements aren’t planned out, but are based on a priority.
Priority #1: Move your King out of fire. If you’re in the King, before you leave, cast Heroism/Bloodlust if it’s not on cooldown.
Priority #2: Move your Queen out of fire. If you’re in the Queen and you’re going to leave for a higher priority task, before you leave, target the opponent’s King and cast Rain of Fire/Poison Cloud if it’s not on cooldown.
Priority #3: Move your rook into the space created by the earlier pawn move.
Priority #4: Move the pawn in front of your Queen out one space to create more room to handle your top two priorities.
Priority #5: Get in the strongest available piece and attack the opponent’s King. This will either be your Queen, or if your Queen is dead (insert Smiths lyrics here), use the Rook closest to the enemy King. You may need to move the piece you’re in into range.
When you’re using the Queen to do damage, make sure you’ve targeted the enemy King.
That may look like a lot to remember, but it really isn’t. Get your King and Queen out of fire, develop your Rook and Queen’s pawn, and then nuke. Aim for the position in Diagram 5, although your King and Queen may be in different positions than in the diagram because of Medivh’s fire.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how many pieces you have left at the end as long as your King outlives his. That’s the big advantage you have going for you – the computer will attempt to attack many of your pieces. All you need to kill is one of his.
If you decide you don’t want to try soloing it, the above strategy is easy to adapt for two people. Each of you take a side of the board and carry out the knight pawn then rook moves. Then the two of you move the king and queen pawns up one and get in the king and queen – at that point, you should be set!
I hope this article helps you tackle the only really tricky part left in Karazhan. Good luck in there, and let me know how it works for you!