Don’t get me wrong, despite the title I love that I was able to do this.
One thing I enjoy in my WoW playtime, generally, is challenging solo play.
As I wrote about in my last weekly update, I decided to unlock my dungeon challenge tint by soloing Legion normals, and succeeded, and then also succeeded at soloing heroics just for a laugh, and decided – “what the hell?” and went for Mythic +4 Keystone, which happened to be Upper Return to Karazhan.
What a poor dungeon choice for this experiment.
This was an illuminating idea for me. So I set out last night to do it, not to beat the timer or pull aggressively, but to just run through and see how it went. My opening affix was Sanguine, so I felt this would be a good reflection of the added challenge – if I pulled aggressively, I would have to keep mobile and kite like a boss.
Before I get ahead to breaking down that experience, let me spoil the ending – I couldn’t finish it, but not because of the overall difficulty. One boss, in Mana Devourer, had a mechanic that I couldn’t absorb and heal through, in the Loose Mana phase. I could absorb and hold a few, and I did get pretty close, about 20%, but absorbing mana means taking lots of damage, magic damage that I cannot easily cheese, and not absorbing them means an immediate one shot. Game over.
But I got two bosses and 67% of trash down! Let’s talk about the experience.
Trash – uneventful. Sanguine puddles did more damage than the trash, but even that was only briefly threatening. I was overly cautious – I pulled Curator packs individually, but I probably could have pulled them all out and then started a stagger-step kite pattern out of the room and back down towards the entrance. The spiders near Mana Devourer suck because of their leech life attack, but that’s fixable – pop empower wards to reduce the damage or Soul Barrier to stop it briefly, which prevents the heal from reaching full potency, then build pain and Fracture them down after. Overall, not scary – it was fun to pull and to be afraid!
Curator – took two attempts, mainly because I tried a brute force attempt on pull 1, ignoring the energy adds to just blam on Curator. Bad idea. Second try I killed adds by using Shear to build up to 90 Pain, then just Fracturing the shit out of them, then a combo of Sprit Bomb/Infernal Strike with Flame Crash, and Soul Cleave to round out. Pop Empower Wards when the puddles are under the adds, and hit Throw Glaive when there is more than one add. The emphasis is on cleave damage – I had to focus the adds but use lots of AoE and cleave to ensure Curator was coming down. Evocate means go to town – when he’s about to do this you need to pop all remaining adds while conserving Pain so you can take him to burst DPS city while he’s vulnerable, since no adds pop during Evocate. Fracture was my go-to, alongside Shear for pain generation – I’d hit Spirit Bomb at 4 frags for damage and to refresh Frailty.
Shade of Medivh – ugh. This one can largely boil down to luck, but there are things you can do to help. Firstly, save all interrupts for Frostbite, making sure to never hit it for anything else. Flame Wreath, stay still, duh. You basically have to take the Inferno Bolts and Piercing Missiles on the chin, use Empower Wards to help shave off some damage. I saved Soul Barrier and at least 1 fragment for any situation where I knew I was going to have an uninterruptible Frostbite – until you get Inferno Bolted, you’re his bitch when that happens, and if he hits Piercing Missiles first, you are going to be hurting. The Echoes phases is the easiest super-attack to deal with, so I loved that phase. It is high damage, but Empower Wards and heals will work alone – no need to bother with interrupting. You can safely interrupt the first of the three echoes without worry though – your interrupts should all be off CD after.
Mana Devourer – fuck that guy.
Viz’aduum – ?, sadly – didn’t get to try.
But now, I think this experiment brings me to a larger point. Legion has had, by far, the most stat inflation of any expansion in history, and this proves it. Sure, during some expansions, it wasn’t farfetched for a strong, skillful tank player to be capable of soloing a 5 player dungeon towards the end, with the best gear. However, we aren’t done gearing yet, and while at 930, I’m pretty high up on gear, I’m not as powerful as I could be, or will be in a few months once Antorus gear is available to me. For me to be able to solo a Mythic +4 in a dungeon I have almost no experience in, and to only be stopped because of a one-shot mechanic, is, frankly, a bit silly. I love it, it’s silly to me in the best way, but it is also still silly.
For a point of comparison, let’s just look at one of the big causes – item level bloat. Looking back across all content, from the lowest normal dungeons at end game to the top end raid, here’s the split of item levels:
Vanilla – 58-92 (increase of 34)
TBC – 115-164 (increase of 49)
WotLK – 187-284 (increase of 97)
Cata – 333-416 (increase of 83)
MoP – 450-572 (increase of 122)
WoD – 615-720 (increase of 105)
Legion – 805-960 (increase of 155) (war and titanforging not included)
When illustrated, we see one piece of the issue – item levels have exploded beyond imagination in Legion. At the end of the expansion, with two item level 1000 legendaries and a bit of Warforging, a Mythic raider will likely walk around at 975 overall item level.
But item level is not it, no – if it were, the continued adjustment of difficulty in dungeons that has occurred with each major patch would probably have kept pace. The Artifact system contributes to this as well – with its constant increases to Stamina, traits increasing your raw power in percentage increments, and now the Netherlight Crucible powers, lightweight though they are – your power level has astronomically risen this expansion.
And sure, to be fair – I can pull off some of these feats as both a tank and one with reliable, on-demand self-healing, because that toolkit engenders itself very well towards this kind of gameplay. I imagine that, for example, an Arcane Mage would probably have a much harder time, even with more gear, because they cannot stand up in combat with something long enough to adequately deal the necessary damage. I’m not mad, nor would I call attention to this as a problem in the purest sense. I enjoy this kind of gameplay – succeeding at it makes me more likely to do it more, sinking more hours into the game. Hell, if they end up with a year-long content drought before 8.0 (please for the love of god Blizzard don’t do that) – I’d probably do it and stay subbed, long after my guild would have finished Heroic Antorus and taken our end of expansion hiatus.
I wonder if this is, in fact, by design? With Mythic Plus, at a certain point, you’d certainly need 5 people to beat the timer, since health and damage scale way up, and all 3 affixes added increases the challenge substantially, to a point where one individual player, playing at top skill, can’t beat everything alone. Having a tank, and perhaps a healer and one DPS as well, that can solo the dungeon at a lower level of Mythic Plus would just mean the higher levels will go more smoothly. You can somewhat see it in the design – it’s clear that Blizzard have only really put design consideration and effort into the system up to rank 15, at which point you cap out rewards and the remaining challenge is just ever-scaling health and damage.
I wonder how much consideration Blizzard puts into something like this, and their perspective on it. Sure, the high-end of the game has always had players like Mione, capable of pulling off incredible soloing feats – but is making such gameplay more accessible by design, or just an accident caused by the need for ever inflating reward value?
Don’t get it twisted – I’m positive it’s an accident, but I’d like to think in some corner of Irvine, a junior game designer is cackling maniacally as they realize these rewards have made such things possible.