WoW Challenger contacted us a little while back to give us advance warning of their new site, which they were adding videos to and doing some work on, and we were impressed then, but man, now that they contacted us to say it's finished, we're really impressed now. Yes, challenge modes have existed for a while, but do you have all the golds? I know I don't, and many others are really just getting around to them now.
And that's where WoW Challenger comes in. First up, the thing I was most impressed with, is that they've got Gold Medal video for every single dungeon, in their tactics section, but also accompany that with a full written walk-through. What's more, a helpful gnome spends the entire video with you providing useful tips for dealing with trash, tricky pulls, you name it. They even provide maps with the best routes to maximize your speed through the dungeons.
But there's more to this great site than just video, they also have tips for gear, flasks, food and potions, professions, and extra items like the Restorative Amber item from the Klaxxi that is vital for casters, or Rod of Ambershaping, or the G91 Landshark. In all honesty, even if you're not interested in Challenge Modes, you should probably check this site out. You might learn something, I know I did!
In patch 5.4, Challenge Mode players who have already earned gold will have a strong reason to continue running them. Players who earn the fastest clear times in a Challenge Mode dungeon will receive a title specific to each dungeon. As long as players hold the record for the top time, the title will remain. A permanent Feat of Strength will also be earned upon reaching the fastest time.
However, there is a caveat: the Challenge Mode group must have at least 3 players from the same realm to earn the titles.
Patch 5.4 Challenge Mode notes
Players who obtain a realm-best time in a Challenge Mode dungeon (group must contain at least 3 people from the same realm to qualify) will receive a temporary title specific to each dungeon (e.g. Siegebreaker for Siege of Niuzao temple, Darkmaster for Scholomance, etc.). This title will persist for as long as a player retains the top time on the realm. Holding a realm-best time at any point will also confer a permanent Feat of Strength to record the accomplishment.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we tend to give other players the once-over whenever we zone into a Raid Finder or dungeon PUG, particularly if you've had a run of bad experiences while getting valor-capped for the week. A recent thread on the Tanking forums about the best title for a tank to sport is both a sideways acknowledgment of this and a question as to which title best suits your role in the game. For healers, one could argue that Undying or Immortal means you probably had job security for the length of Wrath, but that kind of ignores everyone else's responsibility to not screw up in Naxx. Possibly Herald of the Titans/Conqueror of Ulduar would have been the equivalent for DPS players, although a raid had to fire on all cylinders for those achievements too.
Before achievements were account-wide, and leaving aside obvious ringers like Light of Dawn/Bane of the Fallen King before Mists, I would have nominated Loremaster or Seeker as the most reassuring titles to see on a player regardless of gear quality. I can't say exactly what link exists between the persistence needed to get these titles and overall competence, but I have yet to see a Loremaster or Seeker player do something screw-the-pooch crazy in a PUG. These days, it's tougher to guarantee that a player sporting a title is doing so on the character that originally got it, so maybe The Undaunted is probably the single best outward indicator of competence.
Having written all this, I've also had the pleasure of knowing a world-class hunter who never bothered using titles, and we have to acknowledge that a generic, funny (e.g., "Chef Boyardee"), or absent title means nothing at all. But if you had to pick one that said, "I will not get you killed in this PUG," which would it be?
Taking your challenge modes from gold medal range to world record status represents a whole different mindset and approach. We continue our two-part interview with two young players from Montreal, Canada, the US region realm champs Nerthfu and Bouleau, to explore their speed-demon strategies for challenge mode tanking and healing.
WoW Insider: Bouleau, what class and what qualities do you feel make the best healer for CMs?
Bouleau: Looking at the current worldwide leaderboards, I suppose most would be inclined to name the priest class, which I think is an accurate guess. Priests -- more specifically, discipline priests -- excel more than any other class at dealing damage reliably while healing, and this matters a great deal when pushing for times, both for gold ratings and beyond. And yet game balance always fluctuates over time, and I recently learned that Blizzard has Atonement under the radar. With 5.2 not out yet and class changes still being announced regularly, it's not impossible that we see a shift in favor of another class in a not-so-distant future.
For those that may be wondering why discipline is superior to holy (which doesn't mean holy isn't viable for gold times), here's my view. As a healer, you ideally want to achieve two things: Keep your group alive, and deal damage. It seems simple enough on paper, at least until you start improving your times beyond the gold milestones.
If ever you were to use the above phrase to refer to a fellow WoW player, these are the guys that should inspire it. Nerthfu and Bouleau of Haven (Lethon-US) have manhandled WoW's challenge modes into submission, setting scalding instance completion times across the board. As of this writing, the duo from Canada holds all but one American region record, with the rest mere seconds behind the EU's world records.
As you can well imagine, a conversation with such high-performance monsters plunges into the realm of the specific almost immediately. That's why we're dividing their perspectives into a two-part interview over the next two weeks. We'll look at both tanking and healing at warp speed and find out what kind of play it takes to defend the top spot on the charts week after week.
WoW Insider: How does one become addicted to speed on this level, guys? Are speed runs something you guys have always enjoyed doing in WoW, or did the addition of challenge modes mark a new way to play for you?
Nerthfu: As far as I can remember, I always loved running dungeons as fast as humanly possible in WoW, but it wasn't really organized or a goal but rather just my way of doing things. It started in vanilla WoW, where I would constantly get aggro on my rogue and had to use Feint and Vanish almost on cooldown to wipe my threat.
Then came Burning Crusade, and I switched to a fury warrior. That's where things started changing a lot. I started playing much more often with Bouleau and had even more issues than before with my threat -- so much in fact that I would end up always getting aggro off the tank and die in most heroic dungeons and raids. ... That was how most of our heroic dungeon went until we were so overgeared that Bouleau could heal just heal me while I was tanking entire packs of trash in heroic dungeons, and that's where we really started running dungeons as fast as we could, which most of the time meant four DPS and one healer.
Zyzzix of Touch of Hades posted this video on Youtube and on the Blizzard forums early this morning, which shows their group getting what was, sadly, a very short-lived world record time in the Siege of Niuzao Temple. It's filmed from the perspective of the tank, Maeby, of The Maelstrom, EU, and has some strong language in places, so do exercise caution.
The group held the record of 12 minutes 50 seconds for only a few hours, before a US guild on Stormreaver took it back across the Atlantic with a time of 12 minutes 21 seconds, but the video still makes entertaining watching for anyone with even a remote interest in Challenge Mode dungeons, and, of course, they still hold the European record.
The remarkable thing for me is how these guys manage to take on huge numbers of adds at the same time, under the penultimate boss's barrier, using the bombs to great effect to increase their DPS. The tactic employed for the mobs coming up the ramp to the wall was also interesting, concentrating the action on the middle platform rather than allowing them to get all the way to the top.
Altogether, a really fascinating video, and I'm hoping to see this team come back with another world record. One thing I did note is that, despite some strong language, the run seemed to flow very smoothly indeed. There were a few very minor hiccups, and it looks like they could potentially go faster! Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.
This seems like a really exciting proposition, and the question is, what dungeons would be the best ones to redo? We discussed this at WoW Insider, very briefly, and one suggestion was Upper Blackrock Spire and Lower Blackrock Spire. My preference would likely not be anything that took place in Blackrock Mountain, just because it seems like such a samey place, but what do you all think, dear readers?
We've all been keeping a close eye on Challenge Modes, but we've said very little about the rewards. Challenge Modes don't offer any real upgrades in the stat department. It would be a tad counterintuitive if they did, given that the whole idea behind Challenge Modes is a level playing field, and your stats are scaled down accordingly.
Challenge modes do, however, award gear that is used purely for transmogrification. The original models were released a while back, with static models, but now Blizzard has posted videos of animated shorts of each challenge mode set, and add the following on their official YouTube channel:
These gear sets behave like nothing before, activating and reacting to their wearer's combat actions.
And they really do! Some are better than others, of course, and this is purely subjective, but I really like the Death Knight ones. You can find all of the others right here:
As time ticks on since the launch of Mists of Pandaria, players are starting to run Challenge Modes and have already begun hitting gold medals! WoWProgress.com has put together a list that draws from all the Challenge Mode Leaderboards provided by Blizzard, as Blizzard themselves seem to currently only offer that information realm-by-realm. WoWProgress' Challenge Mode section shows all the dungeons together, and can be filtered by realm, region, and, of course, dungeon.
At the time of writing, and subject to rapid change, there are three Gold runs on the WoWProgress leaderboard, two of which are in Gate of the Setting Sun, one from Organised Confusion of EU-Anetheron-H, who currently hold the top time at 11 minutes 58 seconds, and one from Aquila of EU-Stormreaver-H who come in at 12 minutes 24 seconds. The only other Gold time is from Scarlet Halls, where aLions of EU-Senjin-A have a time of 12 minutes 49 seconds.
It's not surprising, with the head-start we've had, that the current Gold medals are mostly coming out of the EU. This will change very soon, and we can already see US groups coming up in the Silver medal sections. It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!
These leaderboards aren't exactly alight with activity right now, as most players are still engaged in leveling and the minimum level for challenge mode dungeons is 90. However, once more people get to 90, get familiar with the dungeon content, and get their item level up to the advised, but not required, 463, the leader boards the team have put together will be an invaluable resource.
They allow you, of course, to view all the top-ranked team runs, but also allow you to filter those by class. You could look up every team with a priest in it, or a mage. And once you have that information, you can also use the leaderboards to easily access their spec and gear. If you're logged in, you can also check out how well your guild is doing in challenge modes for various dungeons.
Blizzard Blue Watcher, a.k.a. Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas has been back on the forums with his challenge-mode-master hat on. He's delivered the exciting news that the first of the leveling dungeons, Stormstout Brewery, has been enabled on the beta in challenge mode.
Now, you can't just walk into Mordor, and the same applies for challenge modes. You have to be level 90, and you have to have completed Stormstout Brewery at least once on heroic mode. Now, having run Stormstout Brewery a lot of times on normal mode, and a few times on heroic mode, as a healer, I haven't really noticed any big differences. Mostly, the heroic mode tuning seems to be that things which really hurt in normal mode really hurt in heroic mode.
Of course, since I last did the dungeon, it's entirely possible that things could have been changed or added. In the meantime, do check out our walkthrough, 5 things you need to know, and bosses in 5 seconds guides on the Stormstout Brewery if you're planning to check out the challenge mode.
And if you're planning to head straight into the beta with four of your friends after you've read this article, you should know that the barrels are currently bugged. Blizzard are working on a hotfix.
Blizzard's Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas, a.k.a. Watcher, has taken to the forums a few times lately, along with Community Manager Zarhym, to provide clarification on Challenge Modes.
With all the bad air swirling around Blizzard from certain minority groups within the WoW community about catering to casuals, challenge modes are something they seem very keen to stand firm on. When asked if challenge modes would ever be nerfed, Ion replied as follows:
If at all feasible, we're not going to be adjusting the content itself. Persistent leaderboards are the backbone of the system, and if we make the dungeon easier, then your 14:13 time last week might actually be more impressive than my 14:05 clear today, but there would be no way of knowing that. It's conceivable that we might adjust the actual Gold/Silver/Bronze cutoff times slightly if it turns out we were badly off the mark with the tuning, but we're pretty confident in our numbers.
The fine folks at Wowhead have discovered a tasty tidbit in the latest beta patch for those upset about the upcoming loss of the Have Group, Will Travel guild perk. It appears that completing a dungeon challenge mode on Gold will unlock an ability called Challenger's Path, enabling you to instantly teleport to that dungeon's entrance whenever you choose.
Personally, I love this. I still use my Dimensional Ripper and Wormhole Generator to go hopping around the lands of the old expansions whenever I'm messing around with things, and being able to flit around Pandaria will be amazing as well. (Yes, there's a new Wormhole Generator for Pandaria, but it apparently only takes you to a random spot in the continent, which isn't as helpful.)
For more details, port over to Wowhead News. It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history?What secrets does the game still hold?
Mists of Pandaria will introduce a new feature to WoW called challenge modes. Challenge modes are timed heroic dungeon runs offering rewards based on how fast you complete them.
What newer players may not know is that vanilla WoW also had a timed dungeon run. It was known as the 45-minute Baron, Strat 45, or sometimes simply Baron run. This "challenge mode" was actually just a quest (called Dead Man's Plea) to engage Baron Rivendare within 45 minutes and then kill him, or he would execute his prisoner and you'd fail. Why 45 minutes? That's just how Rivendare rolls.
The timed run was perhaps the most infamous step in the quest line to upgrade vanilla's rare-quality Dungeon 1 set into a mix of upgraded rares and epics known as Dungeon 2 or "tier 0.5." The quest line was added in patch 1.10, but it was removed entirely with Cataclysm's Shattering.
Because it was a part of that quest line (occurring roughly a third of the way into it), everyone wanted to complete a successful Strat 45 run. Trade chat in cities was full of "LFM 45Baron must know pulls!" However, very few PUGs in that era ever finished the run on time. It really was that difficult.