Looking Back on 36/36 Mage Tower Challenges – A Fun, Wild, Frustrating Ride

So, as I posted the other day, moments after having done it…I did it.

With Xylem banishing the Legion consumption on him one more time, this one in front of my Rogue in Subtlety specialization, I had accomplished a goal that I, 1 year ago, didn’t even have.

So how did I get here? How did I do it?

Let’s discuss!

No, I Wasn’t Confident I Would Do It (Even On My Main)

When the mage tower was announced at Blizzcon 2016, I thought the idea was really cool, and the appearances they were showing off were great. I thought to myself that it would be cool to have them, but I didn’t even expect to do it on my main. When patch 7.2 launched, I tried the Vengeance challenge a few times, and did poorly.

Up front, I found myself thinking that even doing it for my raiding main-spec was going to be iffy. The challenge was, well…challenging. It took me about 100 tries on Vengeance to get it done, and some Heroic Tomb of Sargeras gear. Far from doing it at 895-900 item level, I had to be closer to 910, with more traits into my Artifact Weapon. Havoc fell over pretty soon thereafter, with a bit more item level and some time spent funneling AP into the weapon. It was still close to 200 total attempts on both specs to get it done on a Demon Hunter, though.

So the idea that I could even get past that was so far-fetched to me that it didn’t seem worth chasing, for a while. I decided I had to try on my priest, my original raid main, the toon I used when I was doing 4 hour nightly Molten Core and Zul’Gurub runs. Discipline, surely enough, fell over a bit faster. So I tried Holy, another one of my older raiding specs. Then I did Mistweaver and Brewmaster Monk, two other raid specs. Getting these done led me to think that maybe, just maybe, I could get more. So I kept trying, rolling through my more favored alts until I just decided to do them all.

Even at that point, I was not at all confident I could do anywhere near all of them. I expected, for example, that I would fail on Mage, Rogue, and Warrior challenges – classes where I had not played all the specs. I hadn’t played Subtlety Rogue ever before the challenge. I’d only barely played a bit of Protection Warrior. Mage specs had varied wildly expansion to expansion, with me last playing Arcane in Mists of Pandaria, and almost never playing Frost. Getting to this point took some luck, but mostly a lot of prep. Speaking of which…

It Doesn’t Take That Much Prep Time (If You Plan Carefully)

The challenges, being that all 36 specs split between 7 fights, can be prepared for and practiced a lot more if you use your better geared and played specs first. Doing the tank challenge on Vengeance DH 100 times meant that when I did Brewmaster, it was easier. When I then did Prot Paladin, it was even easier. Guardian Druid – easier still.

The fights are, like a standard raid fight, based totally on understanding how to respond to each mechanic. Doing the fights in the way I did gave me a huge advantage – I got to learn the fight on classes I knew the mechanics to, so when I got to the classes I wasn’t as comfortable with, I got to learn the class nuances to fights I was already familiar with.

That means that the most natural way to do the fights, starting with your most played classes going first, actually benefits you if you decide to go crazy and cram in all 36.

But what about gear? Let’s see…

Gear Is A Crutch (And The Point At Which It Props You Up Is Easy-ish To Reach)

Yes, sure, if you want to be an elitist snob, my goodness, you can try these fights at 895. Nighthold is over there, and it drops the gear you’re looking for!

But, if you want to have a better chance at getting these done and walking into Battle for Azeroth with those sweet transmog skins, well, you’ll want some gear. But how much is enough? Good question!

It turns out, you don’t really NEED that much. In addition to being doable at lower levels of gear with higher levels of play skill with the class, you can also make the fights more manageable with just a smidge of gear upgrades. I ranged from 910 on my best spec to 935, and being that high made some of these really quite a bit easier. You can hit mid-920’s by doing Argus weekly quests for relinquished gear, and get closer to 930 by doing some Antorus LFR. No need to run normal raids, no need to farm gear for ages – just get as much Veiled Argunite as you can and buy pieces of gear. Best bets? Start with trinkets, go to main armor pieces, sorting by value (chest/head/legs, then shoulders/gloves/boots, then cloak, then wrist/waist, finishing with jewelery). Why not relics? Well, when you have fewer specs to do, you certainly can farm up relics from relinquished tokens to really get an edge, but I had 880-895 relics for most characters, and it worked just fine. If you’re going to do multiple specs on one class, do the armor first. Even if you aren’t, do the armor first. In most cases, it will be the best return on time invested, and for those where relics might be better, you still get a great power boost from the armor.

The Fights Are Very Simple When Broken Down Properly

The best thing about having done all 36 versions of the challenge is that you can see, pretty clearly, that all 36 fights are straightforward challenges. You have to remember a small list of mechanics with each challenge and be prepared to deal with them.

Does that mean they are easy? Hell no! But, things that will frustrate you early on will begin to get easier later. The tank challenge mystified me at first, and by the time I was on my warrior, doing that spec last, I could see I was going to fail before the mechanic actually killed me. You’ll learn everything that causes a knockback and how to recover, every mechanic that causes excess damage and what to do to try and fix it, and how to sneak in more damage. It gets easier, both because of the practice, but because these fights are very much like standard WoW fights. They are definitely Tomb of Sargeras designs, though – lots of overlapping mechanics and stupid bullshit.

Sorry, I got a little mad online thinking about that green hellhole.

It’s The Fun Kind Of Stressful

So I got mad doing these fights. A lot. I would yell, actively screaming at my PC sometimes. When I actually won the Vengeance challenge but died at 0.5% and the NPCs won it for me, I cursed so loud my sleeping girlfriend down the hall woke up and asked if I was okay.

So you get stressed, and angry, but in the end, it’s actually really cool, because it’s a stress and anger that leads to those victories making you feel accomplishment. I got a sense of pride for each one I beat. Every time I checked one off the list, I felt great. The more of them I did, the more accomplished I felt. I won’t pretend I am some amazing player – I am barely a heroic-level raider who takes longer than average to clear fights and zones into Mythic an expansion or more later, but I also know that a very small minority of players have done even a mainspec challenge, let alone all for their main class, let alone for every class they’ve mained, let alone for every role they’ve raided as, let alone for every spec period!

That stress made the accomplishment feel more real. That same feeling of elation I get when doing those hard end-tier raid bosses rose up on these fights, but instead of being for a team, it was all me, and that feeling is really cool.

The Skins Look Cool

Not much more to say here. I think a few of them don’t necessarily feel special, but they all look great. It’s cool that there are a couple of unique ones with weapons that you can’t get in other ways – the flails for both Protection specs are awesome and getting something unique and rare is a suitable reward. I can’t say I will never stop using these, because who knows what late-tier BfA will look like, but I will wear these appearances for a long time.

In Closing – If This Is The Future Of The Challenge Reward Model, Sign Me Up

When challenge modes were effectively rolled into the Mythic Plus system for Legion, I found myself wondering what kind of fun, difficult challenges with cosmetic rewards we’d get. The Mage Tower is an excellent compromise, allowing players to individually distinguish themselves from the pack with a unique reward allowing you to showcase your skill. This model is fantastic, and I really find myself hoping we get something similar in BfA.

I went on a unique journey with these, one that ultimately taught me a lot about my skill level with the game and ability to learn and adapt to the customized touches each spec brings to the table. I gained a lot of confidence in my ability to play the game, and a lot of respect for the journey I had been on as a raid leader years ago – trying to learn and understand what every player could do with the toolkit in front of them.

In the end, 36 challenges done, the only thing I can say now is – more please!

4 thoughts on “Looking Back on 36/36 Mage Tower Challenges – A Fun, Wild, Frustrating Ride

  1. Grats on the elaborate achievement 🙂

    Not my cup of tea – I prefer challenges IRL rather than in game, so I guess it’s one of those pieces of content that I would rather ‘play’ on YouTube.

    Liked by 2 people

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