The Weekly Scuff – First Week of Season 2, First Part of Week 2

I had an idea – and how long it lasts, well, we’ll see.

Rather than tucking in anecdotes and thoughts about Mythic Plus into all my posts on the actual gameplay content of World of Warcraft, I figured it makes sense to consolidate those into a single post weekly discussing how the affix set of the last week went, how many runs at what levels, and just some general observations.

So, here we go!

My Week In Summary

I did 32 (yes, thirty-two) keys to kick off the season. Obvious jokes about rationale from my Season 2 post aside (well, I suppose they weren’t obvious to some), I just was having a lot of fun running dungeons back-to-back for the majority of my playtime last week. My best key for the week was a timed +16 De Other Side, my lowest was a +6 Theater of Pain, and I started the week at 0 rating in-game and went to 1,468. This was obviously a week 1 mega-jump and will not be replicated again during the season, with the current week being the second-best boost to rating available to me on my main for the season. No alt keys, all Demon Hunter, all the time. I filled about half my character sheet with 229 items (the max for the first week before opening the floodgates this week), and I got the Season 2 Shadowlands Keystone Explorer achievement and used some Valor to upgrade a belt (a meh decision, but it has my best secondaries so not a total waste).

My time 15+ keys were two De Other Sides (15 and 16) and a Sanguine Depths (15).

Observations About Week 1, Season 2

The Tyrannical affix feels reasonably neutered thanks to boss nerfs that came with the patch. Sanguine Depths was my nightmare in Season 1, and even a full guild group only met the timer by 40 seconds when I was on the hunt for KSM then, but the 15 I ran this last week felt substantially easier. The changes to Executor Tarvold in particular there felt really big, as the outgoing damage on the party felt way lower – I did run it with a superstar PUG group at an average item level of 227, but even then, that is undergeared for the season and comparatively undergeared for where I was last season running it and fearing the dungeon. SD also, at least for now, has one cool trick the tank in that 15 showed us – the lieutenant for Tormented that sits after the third boss can be range pulled from the entrance to Tarvold’s room, snapping the add up to the ring so you can gain access to that Anima Power substantially earlier, having it for the second boss instead.

De Other Side is another dungeon that benefitted heavily from boss nerfs on Tyrannical week. Hakkar is no longer any real challenge, provided you use the space well and burn the shield. Nearly full melee compositions will have trouble in spots, but it’s a far sight easier than Season 1 Hakkar, especially given the Tyrannical boost. I would have never tried a 16 in Season 1 and it would have required a quick Prideful right before the pull, Heroism, and potions in all likelihood, but in Season 2, it felt fine and was quite the achievement. The routing in Season 2 DOS seems to be leaning more towards a reverse of season 1 – moving to Ardenweald first, then Mechagon, and finally Zul Gurub before dealing with Mueh’zala. It is possible to do a big circle and get all 4 Anima Powers prior to ever pulling a boss, but the value of that feels…questionable. It may math out ahead as people get a feel for things, but it seems the reverse season 1 route is fine, as you get two powers prior to boss 1, your third before boss 2, and the last power before Hakkar.

Spires of Ascension no longer requires wonky top-of-stairs skips near the end, as the lieutenant placement for Tormented seems to incentivize pulling that pack. On Fortified, it’s a bit scary still, but on Tyrannical, it felt pretty easy, and will only get easier as average item level climbs. Also, this and Necrotic Wake are the last major beneficiaries of boss nerfs, as Ventunax no longer covers the room in swirlies on Tyrannical (or at all, as he’s capped at two), and Necrotic Wake’s last 3 bosses also took some reasonably big nerfs.

I saw a lot of Guardian Druid tanks (the meta-minders have shifted that way as many M+ theorycrafters rated the spec top) which was fine for the most part. Guardians can be soft on the pull because their primary active mitigation requires some rage building, but they also have longer-cooldown defensives that can be used on dicey pulls. My best runs were with Guardians for the most part, but also some of my worst were as well. Likewise, the Holy Paladin meta runs strong, with Venthyrs as far as the eye can see. How good they are depends on how much they heal versus DPS and how mindful they are about triage, generally. Because they have weaker AoE tools (especially in a mixed comp with ranged), they have to get a bit ahead of partywide damage to avoid losing someone. Haven’t seen any huge damage plays with Holy Paladins in PUGs, but they generally do high DPS. My surprising find has been how strong Mistweavers have been. While they got big damage buffs (relative to a healer, at least), their healing felt very anemic last patch and that seems to have also perhaps been solved. Shaman are exceptionally strong right now too, and my guess is that the beginning of the season, where everyone’s health is lower on average, helps activate their mastery to higher levels more often.

On the PUG front, the in-game rating didn’t seem to have too much effect last week. A big part of that is likely down to the seasonal reset, so everyone starts fresh, but I think a lot of key-PUGgers also kept Raider.IO installed (as I did) and used Season 1 results to filter a bit. That’s also probably why I got invited more than I expected – with a high Season 1 rating, KSM for S1, and a high base item level, I had the trifecta for reduced invite friction. I will say that a common complaint I’ve seen from players is that pugging keys is stressful because of the fear of scuffing a key – and while I used to think that too, I had a fair number of runs this week and last end in a scuff and everyone still parted amicably. The majority of my runs for the season have ended with a successfully timed key, to be fair, but the majority of my experiences have been quite positive and even in the face of failure, I had only one run with leavers, and it was very clear that the key was wasted early on, but the group stayed together until depleting the timer on the second boss of Halls of Atonement. If you want to start running keys, the earlier in the season, the better, as everyone is generally more understanding, helpful, and willing to explain – the seasonal affix changes everything, including routing, and those routes trickle down into lower keys where the new affix is not even present.

My Current Week To Date

As I write this, I’ve run 9 keys so far for the week. My highest is a tie between a timed Sanguine Depths +14 and a timed Theater of Pain +14, and my lowest so far is a Spires of Ascension +12. Of the 9 total runs, 6 were timed. I started the week at 1,468 rating and so far I’m up to 1,878 – 122 points away from Keystone Master, and at the point where I’ve unlocked all Valor upgrade options account-wide up to 242, with only the final rank to 246 waiting at the end. I’ve also got the Tormented title, which I am currently wearing!

Observations About Week 2, Season 2

On Fortified so far, I have fewer useful observations – there weren’t as many huge, noticeable trash nerfs, so the affix still feels like the easier one of the two base affixes, but this early in the season, the inability to outgear and smother trash packs is more noticeable. The challenging parts of Fortified runs remain mostly the same – any elite packs on Oryphiron’s platform in SoA are a challenge, the Shard pulls on HoA, and the trash mega-runs in Ardenweald in DOS are all still major pains. Compounding this for the week is Inspiring, which, because DPS isn’t quite as high as it can get to be yet, is a challenge on some pulls. Construct wing pulls in Theater of Pain can be real touch-and-go until the Inspiring mob is burned down – or, better yet, CCd to ignore the affix – but good luck getting a PUG CCer and PUG tank to coordinate that! On the PUG note, it does feel like groups are starting to get more selective this week, although along what criteria is hard to tell. Most runs I’ve done have had pretty broad ranges of in-game rating, so my assumption is that it’s being based on Raider.IO data about number of timed runs in the season. Currently for me, I have 3 timed 15+, 20 timed 10+, and 6 timed 5+, so I’ve noticed generally easier invites to 12-13 keys and around 14, it starts to feel more competitive. Some of it comes down to bonuses, too – the Bastion dungeons really benefit from a Kyrian, especially this week where the spear can trivialize an angel pull at the very end, and Venthyr are strong in both of their dungeons. Night Fae have underwhelming bonuses in both of their dungeons – the stun jars in DOS are great, but the Mists of Tirna Scithe shortcuts and statshrooms are sort of hard to quantify for many players, I’ve found – so you rarely see “LF Night Fae” in LFG, at least when I’ve been running.

Raid gear definitely helps power through some aspects of the new Mythic Plus season, as do the new Soulbind traits. Tonight, after running with my new raid group, I was able to socket a Shard of Domination, upgraded to rank 2 – and it was the Blood damage one, boosting my damage by nearly 2% on targets with less health or health percentage than me – and that buff was pretty potent. I haven’t read enough theorycrafting on how worthwhile these will end up being for M+ – it seems the PTR consensus was “generally, take them” even though the set bonus aspect is inactive outside of Maw-zones and the new raid. For me, I’m more likely to get a higher item level helm than my 226 Domination Socket one via M+, and when that happens, I’ll have to read very carefully to see how much the damage boost of raw stats is worth relative to the effect. While 2% damage increase from a single item is pretty huge in WoW, it’s also not a flat 2% boost, as it has health modifiers that seem to make it more like an execute-phase styled mechanic, and it comes with some drawbacks – most notably, it seems you have to hit an enemy with a single-target ability first to trigger the effect, which means for Fortified week, it might not be that great, unless tab-targeting or just simply focusing one target and then moving to the next. Now, if I get a 239 Domination Socket helm and a Rank 5 Shard, I suspect that at that level, the math will work out in favor of the raid gear, but at the Normal raid level compared to upper-mid level M+ keys, I have my doubts.

Lastly, on the Havoc DH front, I’ve been using a different legendary for Fortified week just to see how it feels, and a different offhand weapon enchant. Late last week, I switched to using Burning Wound for my legendary and Sinful Revelation on my offhand weapon, boosting single-target by a fair bit, while this week I’m using Collective Anguish and Lightless Force, respectively. So far, I think it feels pretty good – I’ve had several 20k+ DPS burst windows but it is somewhat hard to compare right now as I started the week at 227, got a 252 weapon from the vault, and then a series of upgrades including a 242 Inscrutable Quantum Device trinket (well, started at 236 and then double Valor upgraded), so a not-insignificant portion of the better AoE DPS I’m getting is almost certainly down to simple gear upgrades. All told, I started my runs for the week at 229 and am now very nearly 232 item level average, with that certain to climb again next week.

At this point, now that end-of-dungeon item level is fully available, I have to say that M+ remains a viable, potent gearing mechanism, almost certainly more than raid. I’ve gotten two pieces of raid loot in the new tier so far, with 11 normal boss kills and a single lootable Heroic kill, but I’ve gotten 11 drops (and the IQD was traded to me, lucky I was) from just around 9 days of Mythic Plus runs. If you’re gearing from raid, you are starving comparatively – and I’ll probably write a separate post about that!

For The Rest of the Week

My goals for the rest of the week are simple enough – I still need a high Fortified Necrotic Wake key to get rating up, and the roughly 50 points that will give will put me into the final 100 I need for this season’s KSM (yes, already!). I can get KSM this week still, provided I power through a handful of higher runs. Right now, I’m near the finish line with untimed +14 runs on Fortified in 3 dungeons – DOS, SoA, and HoA, and if I can time those out even at a 14, I’ll get around 30 points that way. I could then focus in on running 15’s in SD, ToP, MoTS, and PF for the week, and that should put me really, really damn close. If I were to time another 16 this week, and time a 15 in NW, I might, possibly be able to get KSM this week – but it’ll be close! Aside from that, I’m trying to get a weapon upgrade for my offhand, so I’ll probably try running Sanguine Depths and Plaguefall for my two best options until my eyes bleed, and then maybe hopefully next week the Vault is as kind as it was this week! Next week I move, so I’m going to have a few days where I can run a bunch to try and get KSM and then I’ll disappear for a few days and whatever I earned in the first couple of days post-reset will have to carry.

That being said, after the last two weeks, that will be fine. I didn’t set out to run 32 dungeons last week, or to match it this week – and so far this week, I’ve been more selective in what I apply to. But it has just been so much fun for me that the siren call of “one more run…” has been hard to ignore, such that even as I finish this post, at 2:41 AM local time, I am strongly considering running another, even though these hours mean getting shuffled to an Oceanic server and dealing with a near 200ms ping. I guess if I had to write an endorsement for the seasonal affix for Blizzard, that would suffice pretty damn well.

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