Well, that wasn’t so bad

As the title says, that wasn’t so bad.

I went into tonight’s challenge mode attempts as a big ball of nervous energy. I was worried, but cautiously optimistic, but also worried I was being overconfident. You can see where this vicious cycle is headed. I pretty much went into the dungeons feeling equally certain that we would beat them all no worries and also fail so miserably we accomplished nothing. Long story short, I didn’t know what to expect.

I had never attempted any challenge modes before, so I didn’t have any personal experience to go on. Everything I had heard so far by people who did attempt them was that it was insanely difficult. Even talented, experienced players were regaling me with tails ranging between complete futility on one end of the spectrum and managing Bronze, but missing Silver on the other end. Basically, nobody was saying “Silver is doable, even if not easy.” One commonality between all of the stories was wipes. Lots and lots of wipes. It had me wondering if we could pull it off.

So, to better prepare myself, I did what I always do: seek out more information. I watched video guides, I read written guides, and when I was finished, I did it all over again. I bugged Askevar to no end (sorry, Askevar), pumping her for information on her previous runs to see what happened, where, and why (the Black Box dissection, if you will). I made notes and checklists and watched the videos again. My sister even pitched in and made up a quick summary/cheat sheet/ outline. When all was said and done, I was as ready as I could be to lead the party to victory. (Well, so to speak. Technically I was supposed to be on point with the whole thing, but I’m not the greatest leader. As the tank, Askevar was playing field general, with me giving brief tips and plans when and where I could).

Right off the bat, we had a bit of a hiccup. I wanted to be online and ready to go at 4:45 (with an ostensible pull time of 5:00), but my little sister dropped by for an unexpected (though not unwelcomed) visit with the new 1-month old nephew. I didn’t manage to get to my computer until almost 4:50, so I was already running late, when I clicked my Battle.net app launcher and… nothing happened. Confused, I clicked again, and it brought up the “Launching Battle.net App” message and then… again, nothing. Hoping the third time was the charm, I tried again with exactly the same results. Rather annoyed (and embarrassed) at this point, I restarted my computer. By the time it came back up and I tried to launch the app again (with exactly the same results), it was nearly 5:00 and I was beginning to panic. I hate to be late for a scheduled event at all, but to be late for an event that I scheduled myself, well that’s just not something I was feeling okay about. Anyway, I finally managed to get into the game by digging into the wow folder and launching the game and signing in manually.

We went to Gate of the Setting Sun first, because that was the one I heard was easiest. I felt a bit better about (though still embarrassed by) my tardiness when it turned out that the hunter was a no-show so we needed to grab another DPS, anyway. They found a shaman, going elemental, who ended up doing an excellent job in our group.

With our group finally gathered, and ready to set out, we entered the Challenge Mode almost half an hour behind schedule. I gave a very brief game plan and we hit go and then shortly after, we wiped. So we reset, and then promptly wiped again. Apparently forgetting to mention half of the instructions and then standing in the bad is… well, bad. So we reset, gave it another go, and we cleared the first hallway.  (Huzzah!) And then we wiped on the boss because the fail-ass healer kind of sort of stood in the bad again. An epic moment for any witnesses. It went a little something like this… “I can’t see the bombs!” and less than 2 seconds later, *BOOM* goes the bomb, “Beep!” goes the low-health warning, and I’m dead. The group valiantly tried to save the pull, but the last person died with 1,971 health left on the boss. No, seriously. Less than 2K health and we wiped. Stupid healer! Oh wait, that stupid healer was me. So we reset again, and this time I was bound and determined that I would absolutely positively NOT stand in the bad this time. And from that point on, everything just sort of clicked.

Granted, we pulled slow and we pulled small. We weren’t pushing ourselves to try for a Gold time pace, but it’s not like we were struggling for Silver, either. The next few dungeons also had a few unexpected bumps in the road, and we had a few more wipes, and a few more resets, and we had to run back really quick after we killed Koegler in Scarlet Halls to kill a few extra mobs, because we somehow got off on our count. A lot of our problems were merely lack of experience. Mobs died faster or slower than expected, or else they refused to LoS around a corner, and a few times groups were pulled unexpectedly. But all in all, these little obstacles were just speed-bumps, not roadblocks. Most importantly, everyone was kind, polite, and open to discussion. A slight adjustment and we were back in business. The group just kept getting better and better as we chugged along.

When all was said and done, I was left with the overall feeling that this group *could* get Gold if we practiced a bit and, more importantly, actually tried. Yes, there were places that we could have pulled bigger. And, yes, there were places we could have pulled faster. But for what we set out to do, our pace was fine. I firmly believe that a lot of our wipes could/would be fixed with a little communication, planning, and experience. I wasn’t using all of my CDs and we weren’t using an organized stun-rotation on the dangerous packs, so there were times that two stuns went off at once, and times when none went off at all. Fixing that would allow much more aggressive pulls. But for all that, there were lots of moments of smart play, too. My sister dropped Ring of Frost a few times that turned a difficult pull into a fairly easy one, the elemental shaman saved us several minutes running back from a wipe with a heads-up use of reincarnation, and if I’m not mistaken, Venoym was tossing some off-heals in dire situations (it was either him or the shaman). Askevar was, of course, Askevar, and Askevar is an amazing tank. So, I’m not really worried about getting our Silvers, anymore. Granted, the 3 we did were the easiest ones (well, depending on who you ask), but we finished all 3 in good order. Despite our late start, we finished the 3rd with nearly an hour before we would have had to call it quits for lack of time. We averaged about 50 minutes per dungeon, bio breaks included. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

I’m left with a bit of a buzzed, head-rushy feeling. I’m working out all that nervous energy I had bottled up before the runs. I feel a bit bad in retrospect. After each successful run, Vent was ablaze with cheers and elation from the other 4, but I never let myself feel it. I was too busy going “whew” and trying to remember to breathe again to go “woohoo” and celebrate. Now, though? Now I feel good. I feel bad-ass. I feel confident that this group can get any of the Silvers (and even the optional Shado-Pan Gold for the Shadomaster achievement), that we set out to get. As long as we have 2 more weekends to do this before the patch drops, we can do it.

TLDR: I wouldn’t say Challenge Modes are “easy,” even on Silver, but they are certainly “doable.” We pulled small and slow, we used CC, we wiped a few times, and we still made it with plenty of time to spare before Bronze. We didn’t breeze through nonchalantly, but we didn’t really struggle, either. All in all it was a resounding victory in my books.

Thanks again, Askevar and crew, for joining my sister and I for a great evening. Your great talents and equally great attitudes have made this endeavor a pleasure. And your son’s bubbly display of cuteness certainly helped lighten the mood and set things off on the right foot on our second dungeon. Here’s hoping that next week goes as smoothly.

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