Long, Long Awaited Challenge Modes
A couple of weeks ago, this happened:
That’s a Challenge Dungeon (or is it Dungeon Challenge?) Gold Run in case you’re wondering. My very first one.
At this point in the expansion, it’s probably a small feat. But to me, the little achievement was loaded in meaning. This (not exaggerated or overly dramatic at all) meaning:
Like my buddy Saif (though perhaps not as extreme as Saif), my early expansion sucked.
Challenge modes are exactly the kind of extracurricular WoW activities I love: small groups, an easy setting to display personalities, a not too straining mental exercise (but a mental exercise nonetheless) and an opportunity to heal a little differently. Normally I’d be all over this.
But Occasional Excellence was blown up by its leaders long before I had any time to turn my attention to non-raiding aspects of the game. Then I didn’t spend enough time in Conquest for it to be appropriate for me be all “Hei guys, make room for me in your Challenge Mode groups!”
I suppose I could have sought out groups on open raid or something but, remember, this is me we’re talking about. I don’t talk to strangers. You have to twist my arm to get me to talk to non-strangers.
Since I don’t care about status (I was born awesome, no WoW achievement can improve on that! /modesty) or rewards (there are rewards for Challenge modes, right?) playing with non guildies kind of defeats the point anyway. What makes these kind of outside-of-raid activities fun for me is the opportunity to get to know some guidies, a small (non-scary) number at a time. The presence of a goal makes it all that much easier: mood gets awkward and you don’t know what to say? No problem! Just kill more things!
So when my fellow holy pally (who’s become a recurring character on this blog, readers of my WoL posts may remember him as “Copally”) asked me if I’d be interested in doing Challenge Modes, I felt like I’d hit the jackpot and was so excited I couldn’t sleep for a few nights (it’s a tad embarrassing how small of an exaggeration that is). Before I knew it, there were 5 of us dodging horde gankers in front of Niuzao Temple’s Summoning stone.
The first lesson we learned was that no NPC can compete, in terms of difficulty and complexity, with the Scheduler Boss. Especially with a half Australian-half North American team. I swear we spent more time with our calenders and maps open, calculating time zones, than we did watching videos and practicing pulls.
On our exploratory run, we wiped about 5 times, had a disconnect, had someone go afk and did a lot of pulls wrong. We got Bronze. Reassuring to know that, even if you do terribly, terribly, terribly bad, you still get a pretty flashy achievement and some bonus valour points.
It took us a few extra nights (I kinda lost count…a lot of our attempts were pretty short due to most of the team having exciting and demanding lives calling them away from the computer after 45-50 minutes), but eventually we got Gold (see above screenshot) and set a new guild record.
OF COURSE, our guild’s more experienced and mostly mainspecced (unlike us) Challenge mode team went to Niuzao Temple the following week and pretty much one-shot a Gold run (I didn’t check if they shattered our hard-earned guild record, but knowing them, they probably did), but hey, WE HAD FUN AND ITS THE FUN THAT COUNTS.
Since then, we put about an hour into learning Stormstout Brewery. On our exploratory run, we wiped just before the last boss and still won Silver, which was promising, but the Scheduler Boss wiped us before we could make another decent attempt, and every night we’ve planned since then has also been ruined by the same Scheduler Boss. I don’t know how many Golds we’ll manage before everyone gives up. I’m patient and can try forever, but apparently not everyone is like that, so I treasure my little Niuzao Temple Gold IN MY HEART.
Healing Challenge Modes a Holy Paladin
At this point, I’m far, faaaaaar from being a reference, but I did learn a few things about healing Challenge Modes from our (few) attempts.
A huge mistake I was making at first was trying to heal the 5 mans as I would heal a raid. You know, the Holy Shock-Holy Radiance-Eternal Flame trinity.
That’s bad. BAD!
I got flashbacks to my days of -just-dinged-90-when-MoP-was-young Heroic grinding where Holy Radiance did….not much.
So I stopped using Holy Radiance and looked up my long-forgotten key-bindings for Flash of Light. It was a bit more mana intensive but it did the trick. I didn’t think to Glyph Flash of Light at the time, but I’ll definitely do that on our next attempt.
I didn’t have too many issues with mana, but I did find that if I could run with or ahead of our tank, I could plop down and drink as she was pulling and get a good wack of mana back before heal spamming was needed. Whenever I could, I’d squeeze in the Shado Pan trinket on-use mana back as well as Divine Plea. (Mid-pull, Divine Plea should probably be only use in case of emergency, but while running between pulls, it is, well, Divine.)
Stack of potions (instant Mana, Potion of Focus, Intellect Potions – called Potions of the Jade Serpent or something) are always handy too. On one of our Niuzao attempts, where I was furiously Denouncing the last boss, we were a mere second away from a Gold. ONE SECOND. Had I remembered to use an Intellect Potion, we wouldn’t have set a (short lived) guild record, but we would have gotten our achievement much, much sooner.
I squeezed in DPS where I could, but I discovered pretty quickly that whenever I stopped healing to do damage, our ret pally (who, remember, is my fellow Holy Pally in raids) would give into his healer instinct and stop DPSing to cover for me. Still, a little Denounce goes a long way. Holy Shock, Denounce and Holy Prism all do a respectable amount of Holy damage. The damage of Judgement and Crusader Strike is neglectable, and I’d rather use Flash of Light to build Holy Power, UNLESS there’s time to switch to Seal of Truth and DoT up a target (sometimes possible on boss fights). Just don’t forget to switch Seals back to Insight.
As for Holy Prism vs Light’s Hammer, it’s hard to say which is better. Light’s Hammer was delightfully waaaaay lower maintenance, but was mostly wasted since we never stay in the same spot for twenty seconds. Holy Prism does sexy damage to mobs, makes for a good instant heal when needed and has a sweet, little, better than nothing, AoE effect, but I found I wasted a lot of time keeping an eye on its CD and making sure I had the right thing targeted whenever I cast it.
Other than that, any kind of damage mitigation CD is lovely. Hand of Purity, Hand of Sacrifice, Devotion Aura…they just can’t come off CD fast enough!
Speaking of CDs, you can usually only fit one Lay on Hands in. I found it helpful to just ask our tank when she’d prefer me to use it (bar any emergencies) since when I used it whenever, it would often go to waste.
Gear-wise, I’m told the Legendary Meta and Tier set bonuses don’t work, and that the only things helping you deal with the gear scaling down are sockets. So don’t use your raiding helm and pick up as many pieces with extra sockets as possible.
And yeah, that’s pretty much all I can think of.
Wish me luck next week for our Scheduler Boss encounter!