There still seems to be some non-believers so I’d like to help put this in perspective for players that have yet to try them and put things in context. I’ll do what I can to cover all the available arguments and discuss everything surrounding them. We will start with bulleted reasons why Challenge Modes transcend a single type of content and enrich the entire game over all.
- Gear normalized.
There is a reason this is the top of this list. When you play with normalized gear, you are forced to play the game at an equatable level to everyone else doing so. This means you can not hide behind gear or set bonuses. You can never out-gear these. You have to understand your class, and how to play it, otherwise it will be very noticeable.
Because of this, this not only challenges you, but will help you grow immensely better. A friend of ours who we did Challenge Modes with started off completely clueless doing like 30k single target. After a few sessions, we worked with him, helped him learn how to play his class and spec better, and taught him not only about position and rotation, but also about utility. By the end of the 9/9 he was easily our best dps in the group that had all consisted of first-timers, and took that knowledge outside the runs as well. Now he is always one of the top DPS in and Flex raid we bring him to, despite only being 520~ ilvl.
- 5 Man content.
To clarify, 25 man heroic progression is still my one true love, but five man content offers a much more interesting dynamic that makes things a lot more engaging. When you are doing 5 man content, you expect the trash to be as difficult as the bosses, and need to thing about how to play, when to use CDs, and when to use what utility. In raids, nine out of ten boss encounters don’t require DPS to actually use their utility spells like Binding Shot, or Leg Sweep. However, in 5 man content, being able to fully function as a spec rather than just as a turret DPS, is so much more useful.
To go even further, having to actually worry about buffs and debuffs is also very interesting for me. For example, a hunter knowing what pet they need can make or break the time, as well as a warrior using Shattering Throw at the right time. In raids, its easy, because its a 10 minute encounter where you blood lust and use all your CDs at the start to minimize DPS drop-off. In CM, however, you need to calculate your usage, because if things aren’t used at the right time, they are entirely wasted.
- Time Trial.
I’ll cover this again in the “con” section, but for now you should understand this is what makes them fun. I once believed that the slow and steady CC-then-pull BC method was far superior, but once I tried these I realize where I was mistake. You see, they aren’t any different! Going back to BC, no one wanted to wait anyway, and once you had done the five mans a few times, even the tank didn’t want to wait. Having that prepared feel was fun, but it was mostly because of how Healer mana worked, and how AOE threat was handled that slowed things down – things that aren’t actually fun mechanics.
Now, in CM you are forced to move at a brisk pace if you want to get the best time, but either way if you are still learning, you can take your time and practice. You already want to move at this elevated pace anyway, so instead of messing around with hard CCs, its now on the group to use AOE stuns, something that wasn’t even in the game back 7 years ago. This is MUCH more engaging than the previous method, because if done wrong you will know immediately, but doing right requires communication and understanding of class abilities around the table. Not just “Sheep moon.”
This goes hand-in-hand with Time Trial, but has its own separate section for a reason. I’m not one to choose to play this as a main content, but if you did, there is tremendous room for expansion. It should be obvious if you have ever seen people complete it in under 10 minutes, let alone those that can do it in under 5. Some people even challenge themselves and do it with 3-4 people, and still beat times easily. That’s what this is all about. Its an extra level of challenge that wasn’t present in previous five man iterations, and really encourages group play above pugging so as to constantly improve. Especially since the improvement is measured in seconds across the world!
TBC five mans were well done, but once you completed them and got what you wanted, there were very few people considering ways they could do them extremely fast or even challenging themselves to do them with less players so as to carry someone.
- Alt Friendly.
Because they only require 463 gear, this is one of my favorite cases for the “best content ever” award. I have done them now on ten separate toons, and must say its always an enjoyable experience. I only actually use the gear set on 3-4 of the toons I have, so don’t think I’m just about vanity. The main thrill is learning what your class and spec can bring to the run and maximizing every second. For example, after tanking on Paladin, Monk, and DK, going to Warrior was quite exciting, as I was able to coordinate Skull Banner and Shattering throw with our heavy-hitter’s burst to make them do even more insane numbers! Another great example is when I did DPS, I played a Mage first. I realized how OP having to not worry about Invis pots for skips was, and decided to get engineering on any other toon to assure potion usage. A final example is realizing how important aspect of the pack was when doing my hunter. Knowing when to use abilities like this changes everything, and really helps you learn a lot more about your class and the game in general.
- Skips and Invis pots.
I know a lot of people don’t like the invis potion concept, but I find it a nice “mandatory” component to separate those who are serious about it from those who are not. They certainly can be done without the potion, but if you are taking it serious, then you are sold out to the concept of “every second matters” and will do whatever it takes to make that a reality.
Besides invis pots, there are other really clever skips you can employ in places like Mogu’shan Palace or Shadow Pan Monastery. I’ve never been much of a speed runner, but for those who are, I’d imagine all these skips are thanks to them. It must have been truly rewarding the first time people discovered things like this, or the barov bookcase skip.
So we have talked a lot about whats great, but I of course recognize that there are some pretty serious drawbacks that hinder people’s fun-factor. Let’s discuss them as well.
- “Must have 25 sockets noob”
This alone is my biggest issue with CM. They normalize gear, but people still find ways to claim you “are in shit gear for this.” I promise you, gear does not matter. It is ALL about the strat. People do this with 3 players, so if you have 5 and they are all maximizing their DPS, and have enchants and gems were applied, you can get gold. Of course, if you are trying to get world first times, then maybe we have more to talk about. But for your average, run-of-the-mill player, this is a non-factor. Its really annoying to see constantly, and hurts an already thin CM community.
Luckily, in WoD they are removing gems from almost every piece of gear. This, on top of a sweep to make all secondary stats situationally the best for each spec should mean CMs are even more normalized, which is great news.
- No Real Rewards.
A massive issue for me, and likely others. I personally love doing them, and am happy to get the hundred some gold you receive and maybe some valor, but very few others will feel this way. There is absolutely zero incentive to ever do these more than once on a given toon, and I hope this changes. This is the single most reason there is such a thin community for it, and the only reason in my mind that I might still say BC five mans are in the discussion. If people don’t actually need things from something in this game, then very few people will try them. The less people that try them, the worse they are portrayed in the scope of the expansion, despite being astounding content. We have seen impressive images of weaponry with 6.0 CMs, so I’m hoping that those are random rewards, and not the replacement for the gear sets from 8/8 6.0.
- “I hate Time Trials.”
I feel you, but hear me out. I have a slight nervous condition that really makes me pressured in time based events as well. I first noticed it when playing Final Fantasy 8, in some flashback where you have to evacuate the town and win battles within a certain time frame. I believe it was also featured as the demo for the game. Regardless, I typically can not function under these conditions, but want to refer you to the first time this was discussed. They simply do NOT play like a time trial at all. Everything in the video game is always rushed anyway, so its just feels like a dungeon done at an elevated pace. Its virtually no stress on the individual to rush, so I never feel like I am in one. Even if you miss gold, you simply restart and do it again. Once you get past that notion, you will find you love them as much as I do.
- “Two ez rofl.”
A new complaint has begun to surface that I find hilarious and ironic, so I will discuss it here. Through out the expansion, more and more gem sockets have become available on gear, meaning you can choose the stats you need much easier. Also, over this long period of time, a lot of specs have received quite substantial buffs. A lot of the specs like Frost DK, Survival Hunter, and Elemental Shaman, which were always strong in 5 mans, but weak in raids, have become even stronger with percentage buffs. This causes those with half a brain to make statements like “they aren’t difficult.” I agree, the timer is really a non-factor when you have a god-mode group with 5 players who have done these 100+ times.
But going back to the first example of our friend learning as he went, this is almost never the case for people on their first time through. I promise you, it is still a very sizable challenge for anyone taking these as they are, and not spending months putting a “BIS” gear list together for something they will do one time.
Even more hilarious is the fact that there is a leaderboard, yet people continue to say this. If they are so easy, then why not compete for sub tens, or even top 15 worlds? Didn’t think so.
- Melee suck by default.
The last true argument I can justify against them, and likely the greatest issue I have with them period. All the rest is non-sense compared to how bad Melee dps are in a world where mobs are constantly moving, and constantly dealing damage around them. Not only do more melee specs bring very little utility, but they usually scale poorly, and require a lot of standing still to compete. This simply will NEVER be the case in time trials like this.
Their answer to this, likely indirectly, is simply nerf cast-while-moving abilities for all ranged. This will help bring melee back into competition, but the more truer danger is the mechanics that are meant to be dealt with by the tank alone, also hitting melee. Couple this with a second melee, and you now have a group of three players that can die at a moments notice on some occasions.
I really hope to see some of these specs ironed out for a normalized item level, and pray they draw back the punishment of being in melee range. Its really a huge deterrent, and has become folk lore at this point. Most groups I pug with flat out refuse to run with two melee. They would rather not do them, which is ironic enough but, there are others out there who refuse to bring ANY. And I can’t say I blame them. Hunters, Warlocks, Mages, Shamans… these classes just reign surpreme compared to a poor ol rogue or ret paladin.
That’s everything though. If you have opinions you’d like to express, feel free to do so over at the attached stratics forum thread. Also, if you have a concern that stops you from doing CM please bring it up. I’d love to offer my experience and how to combat it.
Continue the discussion here: