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Challenge modes 101: Ranking the dungeons by difficulty

This is the fifth in a series on getting challenge modes done before the Warlords of Draenor content patch. You will find all the articles in the series here.

There's no universal agreement on which dungeon is the easiest or most difficult; groups with different CC and cooldown options don't experience dungeons in the same way. However, there's some consensus on which dungeons demand the most effort:
  • Easy: Gate, Scholomance, and Scarlet Halls
  • Intermediate: Temple, Shado-Pan Monastery, and Scarlet Monastery
  • Hard: Mogu'Shan, Siege, and Stormstout
I prefer to classify them somewhat differently.
  • Nastiest timers: Mogu'shan and Stormstout. Mistakes are punished very harshly here.
  • Easiest timer: Shado-Pan. You can do some amazingly boneheaded stuff here and still get gold.
  • Harder than advertised: Huge trash damage in Scarlet Monastery will force you to ration cooldowns carefully.
  • Easier than advertised: Stormstout gets the most press as a difficult CM, but some of it is overblown. If you survive the trek to the first boss with a good time, the worst is over.
  • You remembered to set this to challenge mode, right?: Gate or Scholo are the first destinations for most CM newbies, but I would encourage people to try Temple. The trash doesn't have any notably dangerous mechanics, and there aren't any of the random elements (bombs) or buggy bosses (Voss) that infest the other dungeons. I feel it's the best introductory challenge mode because it's all about speeding through a lot of hard-hitting trash without worrying about RNG.
  • Don't die, don't die, don't die: Mogu'shan has two mobs (the early quilen and Glintrok Skulker) that will stun your tank. Particularly with the quilen, you should outrange and kite them so you're not annihilated by whatever else you've pulled. The third boss in Siege is also a horror show.
  • Mommy, make the RP stop: Shado-Pan, Scholomance, and Siege have a lot of yak-yak that's agonizing while you're watching the clock tick down. While the timers account for the RP, it still increases the time investment each time you have to reset. This is less of a problem in Shado-Pan and Scholo, which aren't very tough, but in Siege it's awful. If you get blown up at the third boss while trying for a gold, resetting and repeating everything up to that point is very time-consuming.
  • Unintentionally demoralizing: Bomb placement in Gate is all RNG, and RNG does not like you very much.
  • Practice in normals first: Scarlet Halls. I spent a few normal runs doing absolutely nothing other than throwing meat buckets to dogs to make sure I could do it quickly, and it paid off.
According to GuildOx, these are the challenge mode gold achievements in order from the most to least common. It's apparent that players are fairly accurate about where the dungeons appear to fall in overall difficulty level (and/or people are just leaving the perceived "hard" CMs for later), though there's not ultimately a big difference between them:

  1. Scarlet Halls: 12.1%
  2. Temple of the Jade Serpent: 12%
  3. Gate of the Setting Sun: 11.9%
  4. Scholomance: 11.6%
  5. Shado-Pan Monastery: 11.4%
  6. Mogu'Shan Palace: 11.2%
  7. Scarlet Monastery: 11.2%
  8. Siege of Niuzao Temple: 11%
  9. Stormstout Brewery: 11%

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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