Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Challenge Mode Progress


Worst screenshot. Best CM friends.

We’ve been working on challenge modes for several weeks now. I realized that if we didn’t schedule a specific time and day, we’d never get them done. So sometime last month we finally got it started, choosing Sunday mornings as a time that works for all five people in our group. We do them for about two hours, which seems to be the magic number to make progress each week and end before people get too tired.

Challenge modes are both exhilarating, and exhausting. When we first started doing them we did very little research beforehand, and just did whichever one happened to be the daily quest at the time until we had worked our way through all of them. Most of the Bronze rewards are a given and we were usually able to snag a Bronze without any preparation. There were a few instances where we achieved a Silver our first time through: Siege of Niuzao and also Temple of the Jade Serpent.

The most commonly recommended “easy” first Gold is Gate of the Setting Sun but we did not find that to be the case for our group. We have Rhidach (prot/ret paladin), Itanya (resto shaman), Shaen (elemental shaman), Vosskah (Blood/Frost DK) and myself (Fire/Frost mage). When we were working on Gate, Rhidach was tanking and I was still fire. We had many frustrations with all of that initial trash. People getting killed by the sappers, people getting killed by bombs. It was aggravating in the extreme. We eventually ended up deciding to focus on another CM for awhile before coming back to that one.

Our next target was Temple of the Jade Serpent, because we’d gotten a Silver there without trying. It’s considered a medium difficulty challenge mode but it seemed like a good fit for us. As we worked towards a Gold, we really had to refine our strategy. We used invisibility potions to skip trash in-between the first boss, Wise Mari, and the second encounter. This has to be carefully orchestrated because if you skip too much trash you won’t have killed enough enemies to complete the challenge. The most challenging part of this instance was really the final courtyard and the trash packs here. Many times we wiped to those pulls prior to the Yu’lon fight. We weren’t even sure what we were doing wrong or what we could do differently. In the end, we decided to change tanks between Rhidach and Voss and see if that made the difference. It really did, mostly because Rhidach’s DPS is a ton better than Voss’ (sorry, Voss). And Blood DKs do so much damage anyway that he was actually doing more damage after switching to tank than he had been as a DPS.

It’s tough, because you want to just bring your friends in their preferred roles to CMs, but in order to get Gold we really did have to do some optimizing. We still have a tank playing off-spec though and he’s getting more comfortable in the role all the time. Just this past Sunday Rhi couldn’t use an invisibility pot because he’d used a strength potion on the boss – I was so proud. Granted, it wasn’t the best time for a potion but using potions at all is a great DPS impulse. I really appreciate that Rhi has been willing to step outside his accustomed role in order to ensure success of the group. And we did have success, snagging our first Gold from Temple just a few pulls after switching things up a bit.

We decided against using the technique to have one person pull the last three trash mobs and then lose aggro on them in order to skip them. With dragging them into the Sha’s room and alternately freezing and DPSing them they didn’t hit too hard and we were still within the Gold timer when we downed Sha. Whatever works, right?

That brings me to the other major change that happened in between some of our struggles in Gate and our success in Temple. That was when I switched from fire to frost and it made a huge difference. I don’t think on boss fights it’s necessarily as large a margin, but with Glyph of Cone of Cold and Glyph of Ice Lance the AoE burst that a frost mage can put out is ridiculous. They also scale very nicely with a lower item level of gear and so overall I felt like a powerhouse instead of struggling with my crit rating as fire. It took a few runs to really get the hang of running as frost and to truly maximize the capabilities. A well-placed Frost Bomb, elemental freeze, Deep Freeze or Cone of Cold can really make some of the trash packs more manageable. It was also fun. Not because fire isn’t fun, but because doing really good DPS is fun. Feeling like your contribution matters is also fun.

Switching to frost in CMs had the unintended effect of making me frost all the time for right now, which is okay too. I may swap to fire once Siege of Orgrimmar comes out, but current Combustion nerfs on the PTR are staying my hand for the time being. It helps that it’s enjoyable to play. I’m nervous about the new frost mastery. It sounds like it is not good in situations when you can’t accumulate Icicles quickly enough, and compared to Frostburn there are times when your mastery isn’t active. We’ll really have to wait and see, though. I think it will actually be beneficial in cleave situations, so continue to be very strong for Challenge Modes at the very least. If frost lags behind in raids, I will swap back to fire.

Our current CM challenge is Siege of Niuzao. We had our best time this weekend, a Silver very faintly tinged with Gold. The biggest stumbling block has been the second to last boss with his immunity shield and bombs. The way to quickly move past this entire area is to not pull any trash beforehand. The first time he goes immune and begins summoning bombs, you use the bombs to easily dispatch all of the additional trash as well as the trash he summons during the fight. The problem with this has been that we keep having those existing adds run at us during his phase. One time it was my stupid Mirror Images; another time it was possibly a totem. I don’t know whether my water elemental will also pull them so I’ve been dismissing him as soon as that phase starts. It’s frustrating because it feels a bit random in terms of being able to achieve it and it comes after such a long run to get to that point. I think our scheme for next week is going to work though. I’ll be sure to put Ring of Frost down on the other side of Voss to keep him from going splat the way he has been. Even if we can just buy enough time for bombs to start coming out it should work. That time saved should be the difference between a Silver and Gold run, so I’m hopeful for next week.

Challenge Modes have been a great way to push ourselves to play better and to think creatively. They might just be my favourite thing added to the game during Mists – and that’s saying something, because there are so many things about Mists that I have enjoyed. My only regret about CMs is that unlike raids, I don’t get to do them with all the people I like to play with. I just don’t have the time to dedicate to two separate CM groups. Have you tried Challenge Modes at all yet? How have they been going for you?

Comments on: "Challenge Mode Progress" (12)

  1. The thing I’ve appreciated the most about CMs thus far is how they’ve made me a stronger DPS player. Going into this expansion I had hardly any experience with retribution, and I was immediately shaky at the playstyle. More than anything I’ve done in Mists — be it dailies, some nascent Brawling, LFRs, or one-tank fights — challenge modes have trial-by-fired me into a better DPS player and sharpened my reflexes and instincts to gel better when in that damage dealing role. They’ve also been a blast!

  2. Four guildies and myself recently got our final gold, which (ironically enough) was Siege. The unfortunate truth about the trash is the hit the tank (that was me) like a freight train, so proper timing became important to both meeting the gold timer AND surviving to do so! Our group was very melee heavy (fury warr, ret & prot pallies, destro lock, and resto shaman), so we frequently had to find ways to adapt our strategy.

    I definitely have to agree that challenge modes are bookoos of fun! They really are the best part of the expansion, in my opinion. The earned rewards are great, the feeling of empowerment is its own reward, and the runs themselves are the most satisfying versions of the dungeons.

    • Nice, congratulations on your final gold! That has been our issue with that trash, really. They start to head towards us and so Vosskah picks them up and then drops like a rock. We are planning a strategy of using Rhidach’s Lay on Hands, my RoF and healer CDs to help him live long enough. I’m feeling like once we get that part ironed out we’ll have the whole thing squared away. It’s a bit unnerving to think we haven’t even tried gold strategies on some of the really hard ones yet! Some of them might just take persistence.

      • Yeah, by-and-large the trash is far harder than the bosses in CMs, especially the harder ones like SM and SSB. Given your comp, you can certainly be making great use of glyphed Blinding Light for your pally, and Remorseless Winter for Voss. Those will help take the sting out of a lot of packs, and your RoF will help too.

        I also definitely want to echo yours and the above commenter’s thoughts that CMs are the best content in WoW right now. I 9/9 golded my holy paladin early in the xpac and it definitely made me improve my healing skills, and over this summer I took my own Frost Mage through them for a second 9/9 gold set and I can certainly say I’m a lot less terrible at DPS than I use to be as a result.

        Next up is Blood DK, so I can be less fail as a tank!

      • Haha. Thanks for the tips, and good luck on your third set of golds. This makes me feel like a real slacker. I could see myself wanting to do them possibly as as healer at some point in the future but I don’t know how long it’ll take us to finish the first set.

        On a related note, is the holy paladin your main? I have this theory that people who like to play a mage enjoy a holy paladin alt, and people who play holy paladins enjoy mages as an alt! I’m not sure why but I seem to see it really often (and I’m an example of it, too).

      • Are you using Capacitor Totems? The AoE stun is SUPER helpful! We’ve only got one AoE stun, but that often feels like what we’re missing the most. That also might be a good place for Army of the Dead, but I worry the ghouls would pull mobs out of the bomb area.

  3. I’ve only done them sporadically in recent months, but I remember thinking also that Gate somehow doesn’t feel like the easiest. The only reason I say that is the first pull of the entire opening hallway, which always causes problems and takes some practice to remember how to do. I think things that have changed are:
    –No longer a safe spot on top of the stairs just outside the boss’s room (not certain about this).
    –People are better at playing their classes and doing more DPS, so a lot of the other zones have gotten easier on a relative basis (Gate wasn’t tight on time to begin with).
    –For people who have done all of them a bunch of times by now, a lot of things that used to be hard have become repeatable, but every time you do Gate people forget about taking bombs seriously.

    One conclusion is that maybe you should try doing the opening hallway in two halves and see if you’re still good on time? Good chance this might be easier overall.

    • Yeah, it’s really that first hallway that was the most frustrating thing. Sometimes we would execute it perfectly, other times – everything would just fall apart. The only saving grace is that at least it’s the FIRST hallway and not located at the end of the instance or anything. We tried both ways – pulling the whole thing, pulling half and just moving through steadily. I seem to remember the latter worked better for us but we also managed pulling it all at other times.

      I definitely wouldn’t recommend Gate to someone who asked which one is the easiest to work on. That’s why we’re working on the ones where we got accidental silvers for now. If we can do decently well without preparation, then they are likely to be very achievable with a bit of prep and practice!

  4. Challenge Modes are fun! πŸ˜€

    My group got our sixth Gold this past Sunday. It was Gate of the Setting Sun. I agree with you, it’s not a good one to start on! It was the first CM we ever did and our druid tank really, really hates it. That first ramp is just killer. Rest of the place is much easier. We tried a couple different things and ended up just running all the way down, hiding in a corner, popping Heroism and going nuts. It worked! Just gotta watch those stupid bombs….

    Our very first gold was Scholomance. The pulls are pretty easy, except the Bonemancers in Rattlegore’s room. Only tricky boss is Gandling. The timer is long and pretty forgiving, which is why I’d call it one of the easier modes. Niuzao strikes me as a tough one, mostly because of that Bomb Boss pull. We’ve done it Silver, but not done any Gold tries yet.

    Our order, if you’re curious: Scholomance, Shado-Pan, Scarlet Halls, Jade Serpent, Mogu’shan, Gate. We’ll likely do Scarlet Monastery, Niuzao and finally Brewery to finish.

    Shado-Pan is long, but we didn’t find much that was hard, except the Sha of Violence. That guy is a PAIN. Biggest annoyance in the Scarlet Halls is the dogs at the start. Really easy to screw those up.

    Challenge Modes have been a really great experience and I’m glad Blizzard added them! My only regret is that, like you, I can’t take everyone. It’s too difficult to constantly be switching people in and out. Maybe after I finish all 9, I can do some more with other guildmates.

    Good luck with your runs! πŸ˜€

  5. It’s good to read other people’s experiences in challenge modes. We have decided to do it purely as a friends basis for at least silvers, so that means just making do with what we have – even if the DPS is a little lower. We have no golds, but we’re just working on silvers. Our base group is resto druid, eleshammy, prot pally and boomkin with a rotating 5th (usually afflock) and we try every week to work on on e CM. Someone told us gate was the easiest too and I don’t think it’s easy at all! If anything, I think scholo, jade temple or mogushan palace is the easiest starter challenge mode for people who are trying it out for the first time and aren’t super elite players.

  6. A few of us in the guild really wanted to try CMs but there just wasn’t enough interest to put together a solid group of 5 people. The guild eventually dwindled away and a few of us transferred to a more populated server, so I’m hoping I can find a group that still wants to go through the CMs.

  7. […] mage), Shaen (elemental shaman), and Itanya (resto shaman). Last month we got our first gold, in Temple of the Jade Serpent, which was a bit of a turning point for our plucky band. Before that we had spent the previous two […]

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