Tag Archives: challenge modes

MoP – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I know we’ve likely still got 6 months to go before Warlords of Draenor is released and Mists of Pandaria is officially over, but honestly, the end feels overdue already. I thought this would be a good time to look back at the expansion and think about what aspects were great and which ones were not so good.

The Good

1. Pandaria is beautiful. The zones are varied and interesting. From the wildlife to the landscapes, everything looked good. The final cut scene in Jade Forest took my breath away the first time I saw it, and opening up the gates to the gorgeous Vale of Eternal Blossoms for the first time was one of my favourite moments from any expansion.

2. Challenge modes. I loved doing challenge modes the first time around. Small group content that was actually challenging? Amazing. These were a whole lot of fun. I will say though, I found they lost their luster a bit after I got  my first set of golds. Maybe it was because healing them on my Druid was more challenging than dpsing on my Hunter. Maybe because by the time I got around to them on my Hunter the people I was running with had already done them so many times, and there were countless CM guides and videos out so the problem-solving aspect was gone. Either way, when these became less challenging, I found them less rewarding. But they were amazing the first time around.

3. Different types of solo content. MoP added a lot of things that people
could do to occupy themselves. Proving grounds were a nice challenge, the individual parts of the legendary quest line were unique, pet battles (more the collection aspect really) gave me a lot to do, even farms provided me with something to do for a little while. There was also Brawler’s Guild, rare hunting, and many treasures to find.

4. Raid content, for the most part, was good. There were a lot of different,  interesting bosses. The devs played with some new mechanics and gimmicks (some successful, some not). I found tier to be 14 the strongest raid tier (even though it didn’t last long enough), buts tiers 15 and 16 had their shining spots as well.

The Bad

1. The grind. MoP had a lot of grindy components – dailies, rep, valor, coins, lesser charms. That kind of thing is never really enjoyable. However, I’m putting this in the ‘bad’ category instead of ‘ugly’ because it wasn’t that huge a deal. I know many raiders claim they were forced to do everything all the time, but I’m not one of them. I didn’t want to do Golden Lotus dailies when MoP launched, so I didn’t. I lived. My raid killed bosses. Besides, by the time you farmed the rep and the valor to get that revered for that chest or ring you wanted, one would drop for you in raid the very next day – that’s how it works.

2. Legendary Cloaks. How do you make a legendary item feel anything but legendary? Give it to everyone. Then give it to all of their alts. Besides feeling completely unspecial, making the legendary so ubiquitous also meant that if you wanted to raid occasionally on an alt (especially as a dps) you basically needed the legendary to be at all viable. If you didn’t want to grind through item collection, rep and valor, you pretty much had to resign yourself to the fact that your output would suck. I did find that 90% of the legendary questline was enjoyable – but only once.

3. All the things that made guild/raid administration so much harder than it needed to be.

  • Some raid encounters (heroic Ji-Kun, Dark Animus, Spoils of Pandaria) required spreadsheets in order to organize everyone. It went so far beyond “assign x healer to use a cooldown, y dps to interrupt this mob, and group z to stand here” it was ridiculous. The 9 different mobs in the Paragons of the Klaxxi encounter have a total of roughly 40 different abilities. I killed those guys a dozen times on normal and never actually understood what was going on.
  • Things like Thunderforged/Warforged gear and the ability for raiders to coin loot made loot systems more difficult to deal with.
  • Six different ilvls of loot in a tier and four different raid difficulties.
  • Raid comp requirements varied wildly from fight to fight. Some fights heavily favoured comps with lots of rogues and hunters, some were better with many warlocks (most of them, really). Heroic Thok required 8 healers. Garrosh – 3 or 4. What are those other 5 healers supposed to do? 
  • All of the raid meta achievements that had multiple requirements (like Megaera, Lei Shen, Dark Animus trash) made getting people their metas in raid complicated and repetitive. I didn’t even get mine in ToT, and I’m the GM who rarely missed a raid :(

The Ugly

1. Spending a year in the last tier of content. I know, I’m a broken record on this, but it’s awful piled on top of more awful because it’s the 3rd time it’s happened. People are bored and it’s a problem.

2. Healing became a game of cooldowns and button mashing. During the first tier of the expansion, healing was interesting. Mana mattered, I used most of the spells in my spellbook. As time went on this changed and healing turned into spam all the AoE/smart heals all the time. Very dull. Healing was also made less interesting my the amount of non-healer raid cooldowns available. With 3 offpsec HTTs, a few DAs, a boomkin to Tranq and a Warrior or two to do all the things they do, the way to defeat harder encounters usually involved dropping healers. I thought I’d be a healer forever, but the progression of healing in MoP managed to drive me into a dps role.

3. Lag and disconnects. There were a few things in the game that caused some awful lag, especially in 25s. Things like smart heals and Stampede were blamed, though they apparently got fixed. Lag stuck my raid most fiercely on Lei Shen and Siegecrafter, and we lost more than a few raid nights to it, as the game was basically unplayable for some people. It’s one thing to not kill a boss because people couldn’t perform adequately, it’s another to not kill it because half your raid has so much lag they can’t move out of spell effects fast enough.


 

Those are the highs and lows that stand out for me in MoP. What parts of the expansion did you love or hate?

Anatomy of a Raiding Guild: Extracurriculars

There’s more to a raiding guild than just raids. Yes, raids are the main reason a lot of people play the game, but they’re not always the best venue for getting to know your guildmates and at times they can be more work than play. Group activities outside of raiding are a really good way to keep people engaged with the guild and the rest of the people in it.

At the beginning of the expansion Apotheosis wasn’t doing as much together outside of raiding than we had previously, which was unfortunate. There was just so much to do to be prepared for raids – dailies, rep grinding, farming, valor capping – plus a lot of new solo things to do like pet battles. By the time people did all that, many didn’t have the time or inclination to do a whole lot else. As the first tier of raiding was winding down, people had the time and energy to arrange and participate in more events with their guildmates and it has been a blast.

Here are some of the things the people in Apotheosis have been doing to entertain ourselves.

Challenge Modes

On Saturdays we have a couple challenge mode groups running. We use rotating groups, so everyone can get in on the action and get some medals. It’s a great source of valor and it’s really fun and challenging to work as a team in smaller groups. Since the groups change from week to week we aren’t really pushing for golds, but I’m hoping we can get titles and phoenixes for everyone who wants them. I’m also hoping that the experience everyone gets on these more laid-back runs will give them the motivation to make their own consistent groups and go for golds.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! (Brawler’s Guild)

Sunday afternoons a bunch of us meet up in the Deeprun Tram for some Brawler’s Guild. We all get on Mumble to chat, share strategies and cheer each other on as we try to beat everything Gizmo can throw at us. I know Brawler’s Guild was sold as a solo PVE activity, but being grouped for matches is a great bonus since we can get fully buffed up and have the spectators act as coaches. Sure, having ~10 people from our guild alone makes for longer queues, but having people to chat with makes it much more fun. These have been temporarily put off as most people have completed all ranks or have hit a brick wall but they’ll start up again soon, once people get a bit more gear. For now, people are doing old raids on Sunday instead.

Apoth After Dark

Friday night – grab a drink (or 6) and get on Mumble for some drunken ridiculousness. We rampage through old raids, have battles in the Gurubashi Arena, do scavenger hunts and races, play hide & seek (or Sardines, which is a name I had never heard before) and wake up not knowing why we are pantsless in the Dalaran sewers. What better way to get to know your guildmates than to get them drunk so they say things you can hold against them later? Just kidding.

Alt run

Monday night is the alt run. This gives some the people who want to raid more than 3 nights a week something to do and also allows some of the people in our non-raiding ranks to get in on raids.

Rated Battlegrounds

Wednesdays are RBG night. We did a lot of these in Cata, and got up to around an 1800 rating. We’re just starting them up again this week, hopefully we can do even better.

IRL

A lot of our guild members have met each other outside of the game. We’ve got a large group who live in or around Toronto, and we see each other regularly. We’ve also had people meet up at BlizzCon, or meet guildmates while traveling. I’ve met 13 people currently active in the guild (soon to be 15!)

Thanks to Sara, Serrath, Slout, Tikari, Zelix, Jaymz, Merk – the people who came up with these ideas and make them run smoothly.

What kinds of things does your guild do together?

Three Years

It’s that time again. With the holidays comes yet another blogging anniversary. I’ve now been at this for 3 years. I usually take this time to talk a bit about how many posts I’ve written and comments I’ve received throughout the year. This year, WordPress has done it for me (isn’t that nice?).

I certainly got a lot more visits than I did in previous years, though my rate of posting was a little slow this year with only 51 new posts. You’d think since I was unemployed for 10 months I’d have all the time in the world to write blog posts, but with a great amount of spare time came a great lack of motivation.

Judging by my most visited posts this year and the search terms people find me with most often, Druids really like their gear lists! To be completely honest, gear is my least favourite thing to write about, but I’m happy people find those posts useful.

Next year I hope to pick up my posting pace a little and try to write at least a post a week. I want to update my World of Logs guides for healers early in the new year (maybe if I say that out loud I’ll be more likely to do it). I’m also hoping to broaden my horizons a little bit and write about topics not confined to Druids.

In game, I’ve had a good year. There are two things I’m particularly proud of. First, I think Apotheosis (we’re recruiting!) has done really well so far this expansion. Our raid team leveled quickly, even getting some realm firsts along the way, and aside from a couple bosses that gave us more problems than they should have, I think we’ve been progressing at a good pace. On November 29th we completed all normal mode raid content and since then have killed 3 heroic modes. I’m very proud of my guild. Good job team :)

Apotheosis and Sha of Fear
I’m also really pleased that my challenge mode team was able to get Golds in all of the Challenge Modes, which got me my one and only server first Feat of Strength, a cool mount and the best transmog armor ever. They were also a lot of fun to do.

Challenge Mode Conquerors

Thank you to everyone who has read my blog, left me a comment, shared a post or talked about Druids with me on Twitter. That’s a big part of why I’ve been doing this for as long as I have.

Here’s to a great 2013, with more boss kills, more blog posts and less unemployment.

Undaunted

One of the things I’m most enjoying in Mists of Pandaria, besides the excellent new raid content, is Challenge Modes. CMs solve the problem of dungeons becoming boring. Heroic dungeons start off a bit tough when you’re doing them in greens, but put on a few pieces of raid gear and the difficulty becomes laughable. In CMs, all your gear is scaled down to ilvl 463, so the only things that makes them easier are practice and skill.

The Bronze level of Challenge Modes are pretty accessible. I found most of them were easily achievable on the first run through. You can wipe a few times and still be well within the time limit. Silvers are a large step up in difficult as they generally have about half the time requirement as bronzes. This is where you need to step up your game – trash needs to be chain pulled, healers have very little time to drink and while you may be able to recover from one wipe, it’ll be tough. Golds are very challenging (as they should be). You basically need to pull as much trash as you can at once, you need to find a way to skip any trash you don’t need and your group’s dps needs to be as high as possible. Be prepared to run the dungeons over and over, resetting any time something goes wrong.

Generally, the trash packs are the most challenging part of the dungeons. Bosses do hit much harder than in the heroic mode dungeons, but it’s the trash that’s going to be the thing that kills you more often than not. Cleaves will kill your melee, a wrong step or being a second late on a cooldown will result in your tank being globalled by the 12 mobs attacking them.

My regular Challenge Mode group consists of a Blood DK tank, Rogue, Mage, Ele Shaman and me (Resto Druid). I think Druids are a great asset to any challenge mode team and I love how CMs force me to think critically about my talents and abilities. I get to use many abilities that are often ignored in other situations.

Since the trash is usually the most difficult part of the dungeon, especially when you’re pulling multiple packs at a time, the more cc available to your group the better. Once trash is rounded up we try to make sure they are incapacitated for as long as possible. Abilities we chain together include Ring of Frost, Remorseless Winter and Capacitor Totem. Our rogue uses Paralytic Poison to keep things stunned as much as possible. As a resto Druid I can help with cc too. I use Disorienting Roar when the stuns are down – it doesn’t work for long since it breaks on damage, but it gives a slight reprieve from damage and interrupts spell casting. I can Typhoon if it will do more good than harm (that’s not always the case). I also put Symbiosis on our Shaman, allowing him to use Solar Beam to further incapacitate casting mobs.

Skipping trash is something that needs to be done in a number of the dungeons in order to save time. There are a few options for this. First there’s Shroud of Concealment. This will work in most situations, you just need enough room to get around the mobs so you don’t aggro them. Sapping the one you’ll be moving closest to can be required. You can also use Potions of Invisibility. These are easier to use as once they go into effect you can run right through mobs without them seeing you. The downside is that they trigger a 10 minute cooldown on potions so it limits your group’s ability to use dps or mana pots. There are also some trash packs which can be aggroed by one player then reset, allowing the rest of your group to run by them.

There are a few other really useful abilities that resto Druids bring to challenge modes. The first is Stampeding Roar. When speed is of the essence, this is great to help your tank aggro multiple packs, make Invisibility pots take you further, or just get from point a to point b faster. Heart of the Wild is also great. When I first started challenge modes I was hesitant to spend much time doing damage because I felt like people would die if I stopped healing them for even a second. However as I got more comfortable, and my group got better with cc, I found there were a number of opportunities for me to do some damage. On trash packs HotW plus Hurricane can do a lot of damage, though channeling instead of healing can be dangerous. I find HotW most useful on bosses where the healing requirements aren’t too high. Just let your tank know to use their own cooldowns, pre-stack Lifebloom, put up Ironbark, pop the ability and go to town. Doing this is especially helpful on fights where phase repeats are based on time, such as the last boss in Temple of the Jade Serpent – if you can prevent seeing phase 2 more than once you can save a lot of time. Soothe can also be very important when you run into trash mobs or bosses who enrage.

Challenge modes are a lot of fun and I recommend everyone give them a try. They’ll really make you work hard to use every possible advantage available to your class and spec and allow for some creative puzzle solving. They’re also a great source of Valor Points, and much more enjoyable than the alternatives of LFR, random dungeons, or dailies. The rewards for getting all bronzes, silvers or golds are nifty too, and are made even more attractive by the idea that these modes will never be nerfed or outgeared, so they will stay relatively exclusive.

One gold down, 8 to go.