Last night, after just shy of 20 attempts, I did it.
I completed the Havoc DH artifact challenge, capping off my main character’s challenges – both appearances unlocked.
I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the attempts put in here, because I think there is a lot of good, and some bad, to these things.
As a Vanilla player (there I am self-identifying as per the stereotype!), I got to complete Benediction/Anathema on my priest – one of a few pre-cursors to the Artifact Challenges of the Mage Tower. Benediction, as a challenge, was tame compared to these – purify diseases off certain ghosts, heal a couple of others so they were full health before reaching the end of the path, and boom – staff unlocked!
What these challenges boasted of upon arrival in 7.2 – that they would be the ultimate solo test of skill, rang hollow for me at first, as I realized that my own expectation of 36 unique challenges, one per spec, wasn’t the truth. Nor would I necessarily want that, in reflection – but I thought that surely, these would not hold the challenge I desired.
I was wrong.
The good, arguably, best – part of these is this:
The challenges do not necessarily test your base role as much as you would expect.
The tank challenge, is, for the most part, a DPS race to bring down the enemies quickly, while the DPS challenge is a race of survival. If you do low DPS but play consistently and strongly, you could probably still win….probably.
However, while that surface-level observation holds true, there is a deeper truth – these are probably the best training for full-raid competence I’ve seen Blizzard do, even more so than the proving grounds.
Why? Well, the tank one assumes at a baseline that if you’re attempting it, you can keep up active mitigation, reduce your incoming damage appropriately, and pick up threat. That’s not really the challenge, though. You need to be capable of recognizing when to burst DPS, when to utilize control abilities like Sigils and interrupts, and you need to position mobs properly. If the little spirits Nether Burst all over Velen (phrasing), he will die, and that’s easy to fix but it requires that your positioning is in your mind at all times. The fight punishes you for that too, by using the Inquisitor eyes to force you to constantly move. You cannot park in one spot for this, no – you must move, and you must remain aware of where Velen is, where your enemies are, and your relative position to all of these things in the room at all times. Any drop in spatial awareness will kill you, or Velen – either way racking up an L.
This only gets worse when Kruul comes out, as he forces you to interrupt, but has multiple casts that can trick you into interrupting incoming damage only to let the real threat out unanswered. Meanwhile, his mean shadow tractor beams push you all over the platform, forcing you to strategize to find a proper escape route to avoid being pushed into AoE or off the edge.
Likewise, the DPS challenge is about carefully avoiding incoming damage, learning how to minimize it and the best ways in which to do so. This also requires careful application of spatial awareness, quick but not impulsive response to environment changes, and intelligent use of interrupts and damage reduction to win out. It also tests your familiarity with your movement abilities, culminating in a rapid burn phase that tests your ability to properly shift targets to handle adds.
On the surface, with quick phase 1 failures, it’s easy to write these off as poor tests of actual spec gameplay. But, as a former, long-time raid leader, I appreciate what it is that Blizzard did with these – more than just testing your ability to reduce incoming damage as a tank or to deal maximum damage as a DPS, you are required to play all aspects of group and raid gameplay to a high level. I would love to lead a raid of players that all have done their main spec challenge successfully – that is a group with a high probability of success.
Further, what these challenges underscore is something we often see in the Mythic race – gear is not the end all, be all of performance. While yes, in some cases, legendaries can often reshape the challenge to take the edge off, they feel quite doable without ideal legendaries, at least with the challenges I’ve played (the two DH ones and Disc Priest). If I had learned the encounters better and played smarter when I first chased the Vengeance weapon appearance at item level 900, I would have likely succeeded similarly to what I have done at 930. Being 930, further, didn’t noticeably ease the pull. It was still very touch and go, and was through smart gameplay that I managed to finally win.
My advice – do these. Bring buff food, talent books, runes, drums, flasks, etc – give them a few honest tries. Even if you don’t win, the skills you start to internalize as you progress will make you a more skillful player, which is valuable in it’s own right.
But for now, I’m gonna dance around with my fire glaives in off-spec.
Which, sheathed on my back, seems a bit dangerous…