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Warcraft 5 Man Dungeons And The Joy of Mythic Plus

I can remember with an almost frightening amount of clarity the first time I stepped foot in a World of Warcraft dungeon. I came to them very late and did most of my early work in the persistent game world until one day I was asked to go to Maraudon. Back then the instance was a vast, labyrinthine underground set of tunnels, and it took our group two whole evenings to finish… nine hours in total to clear every boss, finish the quests and generally declare the area ‘complete.’ In those days Dire Maul didn’t exist and Ferelas was just somewhere you went to fish in. Subsequently, I have tales from all of those early dungeons: the stupid amount of trash in BFD and the platforms I couldn’t jump across, the original chaos of the Zul’Farak ‘pyramid’ and Razorfen Downs. That place still gives me nightmares, even now.

The 5 man dungeons of Legion are a world away from those early adventures but owe a great deal to that original sense of risk taking and persistence. I see echoes of all these places in Black Rook Hold, the Maw of Souls… original ideas, done incredibly well, and often allowing the player no real room for negotiation. When I was at a lower gear level, dominating these places wasn’t ever an option, but now I’m beginning to exceed the criteria. Normally, they’d be redundant as places to visit, but with the scaling tech introduced in Legion, these 5 mans have assumed a whole new significance. Mythic Plus wasn’t something that interested my husband when the Expansion launched… now, you can’t keep the man out of them (as is the case with Karazhan as well).

My Guild has fifteen (at most) active players at present, and less than ten of those have any interest in group content. That means that 5 man dungeons have become the de facto means of gearing and having ‘fun’ in-game. What Mythic Plus gives them is a real and tangible method of measuring and attaining progress in a small group and without the need for much except ourselves. The concept is ridiculously simple: it’s a step up from Heroic, and once you can complete it as is, you’re looking for a Mythic Keystone that allows the player to increase (initially) both the damage and health of the mobs inside. Then, once you’ve grasped how to kill everything, you have a timer to beat. At Level Two, which is where we normally start, that means getting under between 20-30 minutes for either Maw of Souls or Darkheart Thicket; the two dungeons we’re now experts at negotiating quickly.

This week, we managed to finish both fast enough in order to be rewarded three chests on completion. Even if you fail the timer there’s one reward at the end, but the quicker you become the more your spoils will pile up. As we were able to blitz these two simple dungeons, which meant a +3 reward on the Mythic Keystone (upgrading it to level five) and some rather lovely loot. That’s a Challenger’s Cache with a Superior and Peerless version for each level the Keystone is updated. To claim triple rewards, we beat the time on both occasions with more than 40% of the allotted period remaining.

If danger and adrenaline rushes are your jam, there’s some lovely ‘shinies’ on offer for going that extra mile. This week I scooped a much needed trinket upgrade, a large glob of Artifact Power and a substantial pile of gold; plus the Guild makes cash on top. The point of course is after this you’re supposed to try and go as fast as possible with additional boss/mob abilities but as yet, we’ve only ever tried this once. This is not about getting to max Keystone level but making the most of the brief time available in terms of being able to play.

That’s what makes Mythic Plus so awesome. There is no right way to win, you just have to turn up and decide at what level you’re prepared to take part. You have precise goals to meet; there’s no sneaking to the end with Invisibility potions because a set number of mobs have to be killed to grant access to the final boss. Once you have that sequence honed, it is just about throwing everything into the process and hoping people don’t screw it up. It’s not as strict as you might think either. I’ve managed a +2 PUG in Black Rook Hold with a Shaman who seemed to spend more time corpse running than contributing DPS. I’ve learned how to use the Countermeasures effectively in Violet Hold and even survived Bolstering as a suffix. It’s been a significant learning experience and has yielded some interesting and unexpected results.

This week there’s been a lot of complaints from Hunters that their DPS is hardly stellar. Well, as you can see from the screenshot below, I have no complaints. In fact, I’m doing more damage now than I think has been the case at any point in my dungeoning career. I don’t remember being this hardy either. With the benefit of a Legendary mask and my basic spell set, I’m able to self heal almost continuously and still throw out entirely acceptable levels of damage. In fact, at times this is like being back in Maraudon in Vanilla. If the healer’s busy with the tank up, I can keep myself alive in most situations. This makes a world of difference when timings are tight or where trash causes a lot of damage (looking at you, Maw of Souls.)

That’s the key to Mythic Plus working successfully: everybody has to bring their ‘A’ Game. The rewards then become a true reflection of the effort inserted. The joy at achieving a ‘six chest evening’ last week was significant, and even I will be forced to grudgingly admit this was a decent result. You see, increasingly, I don’t play this game to be rewarded. I’m here because I derive more satisfaction helping my husband and our Guildies winning the rewards they want. I get the equation, however, that without the better iLevel I’m not actually as useful as I could be as a team member. So you take the upgrades not for satisfaction but via necessity. When loot has lost its ability as a carrot on the reward ‘stick’ many people just stop playing and walk away, and I will admit that for a while this was a real possibility.

Then I look at the way my husband will come home after a hard day of work and relax into his characters. He will unwind and derive pleasure from their maintenance and ownership. When he asks me if I want to help him now he knows that, in most cases, I’ll be happy to do so, but not because I have something to gain from the process. In fact, the less I have to benefit, the happier it now makes me. There’s no pressure to perform or impress, I can simply focus on doing the things I know I work best at. Having well-worn paths in these dungeons stops being boring repetition, and there’s very little of the pressure that exists inside competitive raiding. In effect, this is like riding a bike to and from work, down a route I can now predict with a measure of confidence. When the unexpected does happen? With only four other people to worry about, it’s a challenge I’m happy to rise to.

When Activision Blizzard announced the Mythic Plus dungeon, I honestly thought it would be a challenge too far for me. However, as my personal circumstances have changed in the last six months, this time has become far better spent than would ever be the case with raiding. There’s just no space in a schedule anymore to spend an entire evening wiping on a boss to gain a nominal notion of progress. Mythic Plus allows the illusion of difficulty but with a far better means of defining terms that are under your control. Boss mechanics are intractable and often frustrating, while the Diablo-style randomness of the higher level mob abilities takes that factor away. In effect, it allows players to define their own level of difficulty and not have to end up beholden to mechanics. This might be the smartest thing the designers have ever created.

When I log in later today to check my Mythic Cache, there’s the final reason why Mythic Plus is so brilliant for a hardened casual like me; it’s the feature that keeps on giving. When you’ve completed a dungeon above Level Two, you get an extra reward in your Class Order Hall at the start of each reset. This week I’m here to remind players that thanks to 7.1.5, and the Nighthold’s opening, there’s a quest to upgrade your 795 Legendaries to 840. Your Mythic Plus cache will contain quest items. However, you’ll only get those if you begin the quest line beforehand. So make sure you pop into Dalaran and see the Blacksmithing Trainer to start the process. After that, feel free to open your chest and pick up the rewards.

Welcome to the evolution of 5 man dungeons and the joy of Mythic Plus.

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