I am, indeed, really becoming a big fan of the Mage Tower.
It started with frustration, 890-900 item levels and nearly 100 tries for my current main spec weapon. But, in that process, you learn a lot. You figure out strategic gameplay and the lens of similar encounters being wildly different per spec, since, sure, every tank gets the same challenge, but they all deal with the abilities differently.
Vengeance DH, I was able to leap out of the aura quickly, I could use throw glaive to smash eyes and round up Nether Fiends, with a Sigil of Silence to interrupt them.
Brewmaster, I was saved by stagger a lot while using the strong AoE DPS to pull everything I could onto Inquisitor and beat him down.
Guardian Druid, I played at range, using Moonfire to keep health ticking down while charging in every so often to stack Thrash and get some more damage on Inquisitor.
Prot Paladin, I had to play extremely mobile, using Blessed Hammers with Shield of the Righteous to keep things coming to me and taking damage, often combined with pre-dropped Consecrate to pull mobile adds to me instead of wailing on Velen.
Blood DK was similarly mobile, doing lots of running in circles at the edge of the Aura of Decay while using Blooddrinker to deal good damage and heal myself.
I use these as an example because why I do still think the potential coolness of 36 unique challenges would have been amazing, this approach has grown on me. Why? Well, it is a very apt parallel to real raid encounters. While the differences aren’t often as forced (bigger aura circle for Guardian Druids being the example here), raid encounters often go vastly differently even within the same role, just because you have a different toolkit to handle things. The Black Rook Hold healing challenge, for example, has the last phase where you heal waves of 3 adds at a time. While this, in theory, is exactly the same per class, it actually speaks highly to the class differences. When I first did this, on Holy Priest, it required specific talents like Apotheosis and spam healing the adds one at a time, hoping for Serenity to be up for quick, massive single target healing. Then on Mistweaver it required much less precision – target one and spam Vivify, and when that one is healed, pick another and do the same. Holy Paladin required both Beacon of Light and Beacon of Faith be on my party members while using Holy Shock and Holy Light as quick as possible, similar to the Holy Priest in a way but with less chance of those big bomb heals. Resto Druid requires you to think about HoTs in the intended way – you want to put up a couple and then move on while they do work so that you can roll them onto the other two adds in the wave, and you only rotate back through to keep that progress rolling on the earlier-HoT-ed adds.
So now for the status update – I have 16 out of 36 of the challenge appearances! I am very happy with my performance over the most recent NA region tower uptime, in that I now have 5 classes with full challenge unlocks. I have all of these weapons:
-Vengeance Demon Hunter
-Havoc Demon Hunter
-Blood Death Knight
-Unholy Death Knight
-Frost Death Knight
My goals for the next tower uptime is to finish all tank and healer challenges, meaning Protection Warrior and Restoration Shaman. I have spent the time since the tower went away running these alts through Argus Veiled Argunite and World Boss farming, coupled with LFR for a few pieces here and there. Both are now just under 920 item level, so I expect that with reset, I can bring them up to the point where I will be comfortably geared to do these challenges. Then, I can start to focus on the DPS challenges (probably starting with those characters and my Druid, since they are geared enough).
Ultimately, I really, REALLY like this mode of gameplay a lot more than I expected to when 7.2 first dropped. I am very optimistic that this will make an appearance in some form in Battle for Azeroth – if not, it is a huge missed opportunity. The investment of time into my alts hasn’t been that large, but I feel like understanding enough about each spec to do these successfully has made me better understand the game mechanics as a whole, and has made me a better player. Maybe we can get a class armor set transmog for them next expansion? That’d be cool, or even spec-specific armor sets. They can even be a class base set with color variants for the specs.
I will keep going on my quest for 36 – while I still don’t hold the utmost confidence that I will complete them all, particularly on low-playtime alts like my Rogue or Mage, I will be trying, and at this point, each one is just a cool add-on to my account and a show of player skill and time investment.
But now, random observations:
-Xylem for Frost DK is relatively as easy as Havoc DH was, but having to actually kill the Razor Ice sucks and I hate it. I took a larger number of attempts on this than I would like to admit, because I died to it a lot just because the unitframes made targeting the one in my path hard. I always used my first Breath of Sindragosa to clear a path through this!
-The Retribution challenge was my first time defeating Sigryn. I’d tried briefly before on Demonology Warlock, but the toolkit wasn’t quite as well suited. Retribution has it relatively easy on this fight, which is great because I actually didn’t expect to do this one this time. If you Repentance, you can keep Sigryn locked down for so long during the fight that you almost never have to deal with her, and when you do, it’s all the better, because they share health and you can cleave to one more target, increasing your DPS substantially.
-The Blood DK challenge felt pretty simple. DKs in general are slow moving, which is by design, so I expected this to be worse than Paladin or Druid, but it was actually a smidge easier. The hardest part was dealing with their anemic snap threat – Velen ended up tanking Nether Fiends too much in my early tries and this sucked. The first time I got Kruul to pop, I beat him and won.
-I expected Black Rook Hold to be easy as a Holy Paladin, but it was one of the harder ones. The challenge is that you want to keep the Arbalest from mana stinging Jared, but your CC cooldowns, while potent, have long enough cooldowns that often you struggle to do so, and since your heals are all big nukes, you can dump a lot of mana triaging Jared after he tanks a sting for you. I still think the Mistweaver Monk has it easiest here overall – multiple strong, low cooldown CCs, the most potent multi-target heal in the game, and some smart healing that works well.
-Resto Druid challenge guides will all tell you to take Tree of Life for the last healing phase, but that is a gigantic lie peddled by the tree lobby. I tried it multiple times with that talent, and while the burst and instant casts are nice, it just does not have the sustained throughput to match Cultivation on that phase. Once I took Cultivation, I got through that last healing phase reliably, allowing one add through to get a drink break, and I got the weapon within a few attempts.