My Continued Adventures in Mythic Plus

Back in February I wrote a post about trying out Mythic Plus in retail for the first time. And I had a pretty good time! So we did more in the weeks that followed... but the moment additional affixes were introduced, things got messy quickly. I'm not sure we timed anything past a +10, and the main reason we finished those at all was our friend's brother, who was an experienced retail player and did a lot of carrying. Basically, both me (the healer) and the other two dps would die all the time, and he'd be the one to combat res me and/or just finish killing the boss by himself.

I found it quite stressful. I can't exactly claim that I wasn't having any fun, but it was kind of draining all the same. It's hard enough trying to learn how to get the most out of your healing abilities while also dealing with boss and trash mechanics, but then the dps who are also noobs take lots of avoidable damage and you can't keep up, and also there's an affix that requires you to stack up, immediately followed by another one that requires you to spread out, and it's all just too much.

I remember one week in particular where I was just absolutely spent after our usual afternoon of dungeoning. Looking at the season one affix rotation, I think it must have been bursting (trash mobs explode and deal damage on death) and grievous (once you take damage, you take damage forever until you either die or get healed to full). I think it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how that turned every single trash pull into absolute mayhem. I just kept muttering about how grievous used to be enough for an entire boss back in Burning Crusade (that crab thing in Slave Pens) and now it was just one of multiple trash mechanics. I took little comfort in finding out later that apparently a lot of healers (including much more experienced ones) also hated that affix combo.

After that, we ended up taking a break from running mythics for a few weeks for unrelated reasons, but I was honestly just relieved. I finished the season with this record, if that means anything to any of you:

However, season two came around and we wanted to try again. As a twist, we'd actually gained a fifth noob for our little team, so no more carrying.

In the first M+ we stepped into, Legacy of Tyr, we wiped on the first boss due to dps standing in fire. One of them actually commented: "Wait, that actually hurts?" We finished the dungeon fine after that, but up next was +2 Vortex Pinnacle, and that was another shitshow. The husband and I had been reasonably confident that we'd know what to do in there since we ran that dungeon many times back in Cataclysm, but as it turns out Blizzard added a completely new mechanic to the second boss that kept utterly obliterating us. I think we wiped three or four times before I gave up and googled a guide which finally told us how to deal with that new mechanic. We did finish the dungeon after that, but the timer had long expired.

Despite that rough start, I've actually appreciated this change of pace with nobody there to carry us, because it means that we have to learn from our mistakes together instead of just being carried to higher and higher keys even as we keep messing up. We're currently successfully timing +6s and looking at taking the step up into +7, which brings in an additional affix.

We did actually try Brackenhide Hollow on +7 already, but that was another disaster with a failed timer. The afflicted affix gave me another thing to watch out for as a healer (because apparently healers don't have enough to do?) but our biggest problem was that we wiped three or four times on the first boss fight. The damage was just insane and I couldn't keep up. After the husband started to lose it and threatened to just call it without even finishing the run, we suddenly sailed through the encounter with barely anyone taking any damage on the next attempt. At least that answered my silent question about whether we'd just been wiping due to my inadequacy as a healer.

The husband and I had a good talk after that, and I said to him that I could see from that run why I often see people say that it's actually the low-level keys that make people the most toxic - "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" as the saying goes, and at that level you've probably done the dungeon quite a few times on normal and heroic, leading you to think that you know what's going on, but in reality you've barely touched the complexities of Mythic Plus and are probably messing up left and right.

I remain conflicted about the whole thing. On the one hand, it can be fun. I feel I've gotten better at playing evoker (even if I'm far from great) because I'm forced to make better use of all my abilities and when it all comes together it feels great. I remember managing to heal us through a massively scuffed trash pull in Freehold and feeling very proud of myself. Learning how to deal with all the different mechanics and how to execute them correctly as a team is satisfying.

It's just... there's so much going on, and with the added time pressure I just find it overwhelming a lot of the time. At least with Burning Crusade heroics, you could start by learning slowly and then increase your pace as you got better. Mythic Plus just slaps you down with a whole new pile of mechanics the moment you think you've gotten the hang of anything.

I'd also forgotten how miserable it feels when your job as a healer is to constantly make up for damage dealers' mistakes, even more so when you're not entirely sure what's even going on and aren't confident that it isn't your fault somehow. So we'll keep at it for now, but I'm not sure how long it'll hold my attention - I expect I'll either feel burnt out at some point or we'll all just throw in the towel after getting mad at each other one too many times.


Little Moments

It was Thursday evening and I was in Undercity trying to get ready for Naxx. To be honest, I was supposed to be ready already, as I'd logged out at Light's Hope Chapel in preparation for the raid, but then I realised at the last moment that I'd forgotten something and had to fly back to Undercity to retrieve it.

As I was flitting around the central area surrounding the bank, I noticed a low level character emoting /wave at me. I didn't recognise the name, but I figured it might be an alt of someone I knew, so I politely /waved back, not really thinking anything of it.

As I continued my running around, trying to get my act together, I noticed that the lowbie had done a /kneel where I'd just stood a moment ago. Was he... trying to kneel in front of me? Why? Was he roleplaying a beggar?

Several thoughts wrestled for my attention in my mind. The Pyrewood cluster isn't officially an RP server, but as a former RP server refugee, it still delights me whenever I see people with more of a roleplaying mindset. Then again, I'm generally not too keen on people begging strangers for money or boosts - though my response does kind of depend on my mood and how exactly they're going about it.

I walked back to him and quickly inspected the character. He was an unguilded level 10 rogue, dressed in nothing but some grey and white rags - definitely looking like a genuinely new player. "You look kind of poor," I commented in /say, before opening a trade window, handing him one gold, and then once again returning to the task of finding all my stuff.

This is when I noticed that my whisper window was flashing. I've separated whispers from the rest of my chat so I don't miss any messages scrolling by during the announcement spam that happens during raids, but what happens in practice is that I often miss my whisper window flashing instead and don't immediately see direct messages when I first get them. I'll usually see them eventually, but it might be much later.

In this case, I found two whispers from the little rogue. First: "Huhu, do you have 5 silver for me, that I can learn how to fight with a sword?" And then: "OMG, thank you very much!" I had a good chuckle and responded that I hadn't even seen his whisper; he'd just been too good at RPing being poor. "This is something I hear very often 😑," he replied. Finally, I told him to go forth to train how to stab things, and he promised to do his best.

I just loved this little encounter because situations like these are the sort of thing you just don't get in more modern MMOs. They have other parts that are fun, sure, but random community interactions like these are usually lacking.

Though I did wonder whether I had somehow placed a mark on my head now, as literally the next day, a level 38 from another guild whispered me to ask whether I was up for donating to his personal fund for his first mount. I gave him five gold. Is it all the Naxx gear that makes me look rich?

In totally unrelated news, except that it's also an example of a "little moment" I guess, we've got a new guild on the server that advertises as follows: "Are you a boomer? Have kids? A job? Big cock? Then <Quitting In A Month> is the guild for you. We've got an honest name to match our realistic expectations. Join us and be welcomed into a casual guild where you'll get some free rose tinted glasses." For obvious reasons, I'd love it if they actually stuck around.


Interesting Classic Era Developments

Classic era being what it is, I don't really expect it to have any kind of active development. We can have different kinds of servers that try new things (Season of Mastery, hardcore mode) but the era servers are a museum piece in maintenance mode and that's fine.

That said, sometimes even the maintenance (aka bug fixing) can be slow. At some point in autumn last year, a client update that was made primarily for Wrath of the Lich King introduced an odd bug to era when it comes to NPC pathing near water. Basically friend and foe alike would get very confused about where the ground was when near a shoreline, and they'd either evade or randomly disappear underground.

The first time I came across this myself was while doing the chicken escort in the Hinterlands on my druid, because the chicken is stranded on a little island surrounded by water and has to go through a little moat before continuing its journey on land. The first time I started the quest, the chicken walked into the moat and then just disappeared. I ran in circles for a bit, wondering how I'd managed to lose sight of it, and eventually the quest failed as it got too far out of range of me. When it respawned and I tried again, I made sure to put a star marker on the chicken's head to make sure I wouldn't lose it again. Again it traipsed into the little moat, and then I could see its star slowly descend into the abyss under the world until it once again disappeared and the quest failed. I got lucky though, because when I tried for a third time, it just walked through the moat as normal, showing that the bug wasn't 100% consistent. I later learned that people also reported seeing it a lot when fighting mobs near rivers and lakes, such as the turtles in Hillsbrad, crocolisks in Durotar, or water elementals in Eastern Plaguelands.

It was the kind of bug that isn't exactly game-breaking, but still noticeable enough to be encountered regularly and to be quite annoying, and it didn't get fixed for almost a year! Needless to say, we got very excited when Aggrend shared on the Classic era Discord that the dev team had finally deployed a solution to the problem about two weeks ago. He also had this to say about it: "Apologies that this took as long as it did to resolve. Won't bore you with the technical details, but it was a very very unique bug that took a lot of time and testing to untangle and find a safe fix for. I hope we are someday able to write a tech blog about or something as its very interesting if nothing else." So, you know, yay!

Bug fixes are one thing though... what I didn't expect was to get news about the devs planning to actively make a larger change to Classic era at this point. We don't even know what exactly it's going to be yet, but Aggrend also took to the forums two weeks ago to warn players that they are going to make a "large update" to the Vanilla honour system and that this will include a complete honour reset - something that's quite a big deal in a system that requires weeks of furious grinding to work your way up a ladder.

I'll say up front that I have no real horse in this race, as PvP is one aspect of WoW Classic I don't really like. I had fun dabbling in AV but that's at least partially PvE, and any other battlegrounds I tried quickly reminded me of all the things I really don't like about the way PvP works in Classic. That said, I've seen my guildies struggle with the way ranking works on Classic era and have witnessed a fair bit of drama surrounding this system. (Bracket breakers, anyone?)

Basically, your PvP rank determines your access to certain rewards from vendors, and to rank up you need to grind a certain amount of honour for several weeks. You also compete with other players though, and for the highest ranks, only a limited number of spots are available each week. In fact, if the overall population taking part in PvP on your server isn't large enough, the top ranks aren't even available.

This has led to a practice called "pool boosting", where people create an army of low-level alts and kill each other over and over again at the Ratchet or Booty Bay graveyard (for instant reviving and re-killing), just to earn enough honour to count as "PvP participants" and increase the overall PvP pool size. If your server is big enough to have the top ranks available "naturally", this also works to open up additional positions.

Now, we don't really know what exactly Blizzard is planning to do - I've seen some speculate that they could do away with the Vanilla ranking system entirely and replace it with something similar to Burning Crusade's honour grind, but personally I don't think that's likely to happen. Whatever you may think of the state of "progressive" Classic, the dev team has been pretty respectful of keeping things authentic for era's small but dedicated population, so I don't think they'd do anything that drastic.

I do suspect that they'll want to address the issue of pool boosting though - while I'm not sure I would call it cheating exactly, it's definitely a case of degenerate gameplay, with people engaging in a very dull activity that was never intended to be there just to gain full access to the ranking system. So if I had to guess, I'd expect Blizzard to either decouple the ranks from population size somehow, or at least change the ratio so you don't need quite so many characters in the pool for a single person to be allowed to become Grand Marshal/High Warlord.

I'm very curious to see what they've come up with and how it'll be received by the PvP player base. I actually think that a lot of PvPers aren't hugely in love with the way the system works right now and will be quite open to some sort of tweaking as long as Blizzard doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.