So, we’ve been in the start of this expansion for a long time, eh?
Well, all week, I’ve been starting and stopping draft posts about Asmongold’s Twitlonger post, but to be honest, I might need some time in the lab with that one, at least to write something interesting. And, to be honest, Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest is today and all the Endwalker news is going to be hype-inducing, so I can’t see myself wanting to write about the ramblings of an infamous internet manchild, even if I agree with the points writ large. (This is where I keep getting stuck!)
So, today, let’s talk about how I’ve filled the void of time in the game not spent raiding.
In mid-March, my raid team got our first Heroic Sire Denathrius kill, followed by a second the following week. It felt really good, and was a great achievement for us. Had it been a normal WoW x.0 patch, it would have been just in time for the x.1 patch, but well…here we are now, May 14th, 2021, and that patch is still not set with an identified release date, and the biggest rumors are the final week of June, about 1.5 months away still.
But, it isn’t all bad.
In WoW’s history, especially with modern expansions, the launch content is always sort of a difficult set of choices on how you engage. If you like one mode of play, it’s fine – you do your raiding, your dungeon running, your world content, or your PvP, and you’re fine more or less, depending on the quality of the underlying expansion. If you like two or more modes of play, it becomes a lot harder, and 3 or more…ouch, good luck.
I’d say that I am a raider first, a fairweather dungeon fan second, a world content consumer third, and a PvPer almost never. Normally, my priority is solely on Ahead of the Curve – beating the final boss of the raid tier on Heroic to move forward with a time-locked achievement showing I was there for it. It’s actually quite interesting as a reward, in that few of these achievements actually reward anything material, but the simple act of having the achievement is a benchmark for a progression raider. Other than that, I wouldn’t chase much of anything in the first tier – maybe a couple barely-there level capped alts, maybe a few Mythic Keystone dungeons done, but nothing too high, and perhaps some PvP or some achievements.
In Shadowlands, because of the content draught, I’ve now:
-Gotten my AOTC for Castle Nathria
-Done Glory of the Nathria Raider, the meta achievement for a sweet flying bat mount
-Done Glory of the Shadowlands Hero, a set of Mythic dungeon achievements that reward a Gorger mount
-Done Layer 8 of the Twisting Corridors for a Corridor Creeper mount usable in the Maw
-As of 5/13/2021, completed Shadowlands Keystone Master: Season 1, earning a Sintouched Deathwalker and the ability to upgrade all my Mythic dungeon gear to item level 220 with Valor Points account-wide
Normally, some of these would be fine for later – both Glory achievements can be done later in the expansion, and in the case of the Nathria one, much easier as item level scaling leaves the raid behind! Keystone Master is seasonal and thus the current mount color and current-season Valor upgrades are timelocked, as is AOTC.
So why do all of this? Well…boredom.
Despite the giant list of games I own and have, WoW is always sort of…home, to me, in a way. Even when I’m not fond of it, the game does sort of grab a hold of me easily and I find some sort of value in pushing the depths of the content that appeals to me.
In the future, I may write a guide for a few of these, probably the Hero achievement for sure and most likely the Nathria one as well, but I can recount my experiences with the others (except the Twisting Corridors, which I’ve already written about)!
Glory of the Nathria Raider
This achievement is actually 10 smaller achievements, with one per boss in Castle Nathria that can be done on Normal or higher difficulty. They run the gamut from basic mechanical mastery of the fight (having the raid fully cleansed of Burden of Sin on Sire Denathrius), to challenging (passing Anima on Artificer Xymox using just the teleport rift mechanic), to silly (making all 3 dogs on Huntsman Altimor poop before you kill the boss). Given that it is just one per boss, there’s no need for raid resets or other weird shenanigans – just a pretty straightforward run through the raid on Normal with the info on how to get each achievement and you’ll be done pretty quickly! The only bit of prep needed besides knowing the achievements is this: you’ll need a Son of Animus pet from Throne of Thunder’s Dark Animus boss (just one in the raid will do).
We did this twice as a guild – first over two nights and then the second time all in a single night. If you can clear Normal, it will be fine but some achievements (notably the Dark Animus one on Lady Darkvein) can be hard as they turn the fight into a double-DPS check. If you’re a Heroic guild clearing Normal for these, it will be pretty easy and unless you mess up the mechanics, a wipe is unlikely!
Glory of the Shadowlands Hero
This is a pretty large meta achievement that I did with a group of guildies over two days and around 8 hours. Very few of the achievements are truly difficult, but the harder ones largely rest on having a strong setup prior to the mechanic the achievement hinges on. Doing these on base Mythic level is highly encouraged (you can technically do almost all of them in a Keystone run but the scaling and timer pressure mean I wouldn’t advise this), and a full group in voice comms with consumables is strongly recommended.
Each dungeon has a varying number of achievements, generally broken down to around 2-4 per dungeon. Most of these achievements can be done in a single, straight-through run of the dungeon, but there are a few that encourage multiple clears or even require it. Theater of Pain, as an example, has a first-boss achievement that requires you kill each of the three bosses last at least once, so that is easy to kill, reset, kill, reset, kill to get. De Other Side has an obnoxious one that requires that you keep Hakkar’s Corrupted Blood on at least one player for each boss, and a second achievement that requires you to do something annoying with positioning on Dealer Xy’exa. Because of that, I would recommend doing the Dealer achievement first, resetting, then running for the Hakkar one, because you’ll be best served by clearing all the trash in the dungeon first (ALL OF IT) and then starting bosses at Hakkar with two people passing the Corrupted Blood back and forth – a two-seater mount helps tremendously here!
Most of the others are fairly inconsequential, but I will give a special shoutout and fuck you to Sanguine Depths, which has by far the hardest of the lot in Kaal-ed Shot. This achievement (a personal one) requires you to pick up an Anima Canister before the gauntlet on the last boss, which puts a ticking DoT on you. You cannot die during the gauntlet or during the fight, and what you have to do is have Kaal’s Gloom Squall knockback launch you off the platform in a specific direction (towards the left side as you enter the encounter space) so that you can click an empty anima canister on the wall to slam-dunk your anima debuff in, gaining a new buff that you must then kill the boss with. If you die, you don’t get the achievement, oh, and Kaal randomly picks what side she Gloom Squalls on, and you can only be launched the correct way if she Gloom Squalls on the right, launching you towards the wall you need. Oh, also, you can’t target the canister on the wall directly, so you might need to build a mouseover macro and then an interact with mouseover keybind, so you can set a focus on the canister using the macro and then mouseover the focus frame, hit the interact key, and hopefully dunk it. If you fail, you die! Good luck!
Ahead of the Curve: Sire Denathrius
Not much to say here I didn’t previously say, but since the other raid group in our guild could not get a repeat kill on it, I will say this – simplicity wins, complexity kills you. If you raid lead or are in a position to influence your raid leadership and you don’t have this yet, streamlining strategies can help you narrow down the raid calls and shorten them to the point where the fight just flows. The first kill is going to look fucking disgusting for most average raids – half or more of your players dead, some dumb passive effect doing the final blow, but celebrate it when it arrives – it is sweet!
Shadowlands Keystone Master: Season One
This one I want to talk a fair bit about, because I think I can speak to a sort of apprehension you might have about trying for this one.
A large number of your higher-level key runs will not be timed. Sometimes, it’ll be missed by seconds, and other times, you’ll spend 73 minutes in Sanguine Depths against a 41 minute timer (as ever, fuck Sanguine Depths). If you decide to PUG your runs, you’ll be grinding up Raider.IO score in low-level keys until you are blue in the face, unless you get a PUG group static that runs regularly, or find a PUG community through random luck or a search. There will be parts of the journey that can kind of feel bad, because a dungeon is just 5 players, and so any mistake that gets made will get blamed on someone, not always correctly, and there will be a sort of tension and hurt feelings. That is the social pressure of Mythics, and I won’t say it is good or for everyone, because until it was the only way left to get meaningful engagement with the game, I thought it wasn’t for me either.
However, the process of learning and growing in these dungeons, especially if you get a guild group or friend group running, is one of the best things in the game, in my opinion. It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about quitting BfA (maybe just over a year ago, now?) because I was finding some guild conflict post-merger, and I was not having a good time. I wrote with our raid split that I wasn’t sure I was going to stay around, because I was with mostly newer players from the merged-in guild, including two players I absolutely loathed. Taking the reins of the second raid team, leading them to victory on our Sire Heroic kills, that gave me some confidence and gave them some trust in me.
But I was still sort of excluded from higher keystone runs with the merged-in players, and it pissed me off, to be frank. They didn’t ask, or if they did, it was clear (sometimes literally streamed) that they were out of their A-tier and even B-tier options and preferences, and I would go as a distant runner-up to those players. I can say that even post Denathrius for a bit, I was underperforming my spec – even with Havoc’s iffy single-target damage at the moment, I was not quite there yet.
Then, my raid team’s main lead quit (well, took an extended break with an incendiary departure message that was sort of hypocritical and not particularly well thought-out, but hey). One of the funny things he said (it has become a meme in guild chat here and there) is that we should “act more like a guild.” Ironic, given that he said it because he was left out of a run, despite the fact that he often ran with PUGs for his own keystones, but that’s not the point here.
With that, while we largely disagreed with his sentiment (because it obviously came from a selfish place of not being personally included in a run he wanted in on), something funny did come of it – more guild runs of Mythic Plus got scheduled, more people got included, and it became a project of sorts to nudge people up through the ranks. There was definitely still an A-tier with the merged-in players largely sticking to getting their older guildies the KSM achievement first, but as time went on, more people were included, and an effort was made to bring people up through that mid-range of keystones. Pushing +15s was happening, but it was just as common to ensure 10’s were being pushed, that everyone who expressed interest was being brought, and that teaching was happening more – calling out where trash interrupts were needed, talking through how to handle affixes with players of each role collaborating more readily and sharing their advice, and most of the accomplished keystone runners bringing alts to run lower keys with more folks to get acquainted and push more people through the dungeons.
Somewhat hilariously, the chase for Keystone Master actually brought us a lot closer as a guild and dissolved some of the hard lines between the two pre-merger guilds, and while we disagreed with the general sentiment of the temporarily-departed raid lead, in truth, we kind of needed that moment for people to recalibrate a bit. I won’t pretend that all the issues are dealt with – there’s definitely a class of player that we had more of in my guild pre-merger that sort of gets left out if only because we don’t have a lot of under-10 keys to teach with short of alts, and there is definitely still a smaller-scale clique-y-ness at times, but the social circle has expanded and more people are welcomed, with more training runs happening now that more people have KSM and are just whittling time away before 9.1. Most of our raiders have hilariously inflated item levels because of the KSM pushes – mine hit 222 today, and that’s about the middle of our raiding core now!
As far as my personal journey, I am a lot closer to people I was pretty annoyed with a few months ago, and my play performance is undeniably better such that I am now a carrier in many cases, coming to runs I don’t need to push DPS numbers high enough to hit timers with ease. As I’ve worked on my balance/resto druid and marksmanship hunter alts, I’ve been doing more alt runs, and the mood in the guild has generally grown more positive. There are a few people who are selfishly weird (someone who constantly and annoyingly posts about how the “guild is dead” because people are rarely on at his weird hours to run things, even though he rarely joins runs with others to push lower keys or do raid achievements) but generally, more people have done more runs and we have more keystone masters in guild than either guild had previously, with more successfully timed runs than both guilds combined had in Season 1 of BfA!
But I also had a small PUG component to my journey towards KSM.
It started a few weeks ago when I decided, on a good push week, to run a few PUG keys in the 12-15 range. I ended up on one run in particular, around 2 AM PST, with a weird and overactive group that talked a ton. Despite that (and not timing the key), it was fun and I ended up joining a pretty large PUG community in-game and on Discord from it, which was pretty cool. A lot of the PUGs I’ve gone with have been pretty chill, and if you worry about needing to join a strange Discord and talk with strangers, most runs don’t even use voice because you can communicate well via strong movements in-game and minimal text chat. In fact, my journey to KSM ended not with a guild group, but an excellent PUG group that ran a Plaguefall +15 today – we timed it by nearly 8 full minutes with zero deaths and only two sentences were typed once the run started. It felt really good today to finally find a group for that last dungeon, to have it go so smoothly, and to end the run with my achievement, spending the rest of my play time for the evening running alt keys on my Druid and gearing her up some more before the patch.
In the end, I sort of came away with a renewed vigor for the game. I had proven myself worthy – to my merged-in guildies who often still doubted my abilities, to the PUGs I encountered along the way who gave me a social experience I haven’t had in WoW in a long time, and to myself, overcoming the anxiety that came with the timer pressure and the small-scale of a dungeon to reach a milestone that not a lot of players do actually reach.
Now, I mean, I won’t be crazy and push to a second Keystone Master character, but it is a lot of fun to just hang out on voice chat with some guildies and knock out a couple of keys, timed or not. Last night, we started using Prideful to try and snipe our healer for fun, which led to all sorts of fun shenanigans, and we had video of the run in Discord, and our 5-player channel grew to 12 people all watching and laughing along as we failed a run.
In the end, isn’t that what the game is really about?
(Oh also they lowered the rating requirement for the PvP spider mount to 1k, which you can get to easily enough and now we might be doing some PvP too? Oh no!)