Challenge Modes

inv_misc_toy_01pngAs part of a new installment I am going to focus on the role of Shadowpriests in the various Challenge Modes. There will be a page set up specifically for our general role and abilities, considering challenge modes aren’t unlike an arena team in that it literally challenges you to make the most out of the abilities you have. I will give a general overview of Challenge Modes in general (and Shadowpriests specifically) after which I am going to give each of the current Challenge Modes a pass with specific tactics and caveats.

What are Challenge Modes?

Challenge Modes are a tep up from Heroic Dungeons, and are comparable to 5-man raids. While (mostly) the boss mechanics and the dungeon layout remains the same, damage has been amped up and the mobs have more health. This requires sustained DPS, power-pulling and squeezing the most out of class abilities and healer mana. A Challenge Mode typically consists of a Tank, Healer and 3 DPS – but each of the various roles needs to be able to pitch in, thinking outside the box.

When you step into a Challenge Mode (you will have to get into it yourself, no queueing up), your gear is adjusted to an item level of 463 (Heroic). All items are calculated down equally, but gems and enchants remain the same. This way, no matter how you run challenge modes, your gear (once 463+) is irrelevant. This also means that you can easily run Challenge Modes on an alt – it’s skill, not purples that count.

There will be a screen in front of the dungeon (so you can’t go further than the start) with an orb. Clicking the orb causes a timer to count down to zero – and a set of objectives to appear. These are killing the bosses of the dungeon, the number of mobs (trash) you have to kill, and the time remaining. Complete them, and the timer shows your final completion time, which is included in your “personal best” but also in your guild and on the server itself.

Sometimes you can kill trash packs, or use dungeon-specific tricks to easily kill or maneuver past trash. All is allowed – but you need to reach that kill counter. To reset a Challenge Mode, the party leader can reset it from the objectives screen. If you wipe, you have to run in – Mass Resurrection is disabled. But there’s one bonus there: you will not suffer durability loss from death.

Which is good. You will die a lot…

What do Shadowpriests offer?

Shadowpriests offer passively our Fortitude Buff and (in Shadowform) our Haste buff. We also have highly customizable DPS, being able to Single-target burn effectively as well as provide AoE and moderate kiting abilities. Our DPS “on the move” is quite decent, and important point when you’re power-pulling through an instance.

We also provide a Fear (which can be glyphed to cause targets to tremble in place), Horror (1 target), Silence (1 target) and a variety of talented CC. Vampiric Embrace is a strong healing cooldown in a 5man dungeon, especially when glpyhed (more healing, shorter duration). While the healer drinks, we can provide short-term healing through PW:Shield and Flash Heal, with sufficient mana regen and use of Shadowfiend to be back in the action once the healer’s full on mana again.

We have a slow on our Mind Flay (unless we glyph it away for more damage) and can use our Mind Blasts for a root if glyphed as well.

You will find that over the course of Challenge Modes, once you learn how each works, you’re using different glyphs and talents throughout a single run, to benefit of the party. So my first round of advice would be to bring plenty of tomes to respec with – at least a stack.

Synergies

In a Challenge Mode, you will likely want as many of the debuffs and buffs as you can have; this includes Heroism (Shaman/Mage/Hunter) and a Battle Resurrection (Druid/Death Knight/Warlock/Hunter). As you can see Hunters are versatile, but they can bring only a single buff at a time since it depends on the pet they bring.

Second, there’s the concept of “soft CC”. You’re going to a find a lot of packs are made easier by chaining stuns, silences and similar effects to keep them locked down and interrupt them. An example in our own team is our Brewmaster’s Leg Sweep, then our Death Knight’s Winter followed by my Fear, followed by our Shaman’s Capacitor Totem after which our Brewmaster could use Breath of Fire (if Glyphed). While diminishing returns will make the later forms of CC less useful, altogether this is about 20 seconds of burn time with less damage on the tank.

There’s also personal synergy – you’ll need a group with people you can work with, there has to be a “click”. And, like with an Arena Team, you have to discuss your goals for the team. There’s a daily quest for a  certain Challenge Mode, completing that is a goal in itself. Then you can get “medals” for completing the Challenge Mode as fast as possible – from Bronze to Silver to Gold. Completing all Challenge Modes at a certain level of skill will give you a reward, including a set of special transmog gear at all-Gold. But reaching this requires preparation, training and dedication. You have to make sure that your team will be able to go that extra mile to reach it.

Secondary Benefits

Running Challenge Modes is a test of skill – and in the beginning you’re going to have a tough time. You might have to brush up skills that have been rusting since Wrath (Shackle Undead *cough*) or amp up your situational awareness. These are not heroics – these are Shattered Halls Heroic (pre-Nerf) affairs, and it shows. But once you start getting some Bronze medals, things become easier, as your team starts to mesh together.

This also makes you a better raider and PvPer – it will sharpen your awareness, allow you to think outside of the box and puts “clear thinking under strain” on your resume.

Preparation

Investment of time and effort is one thing – but you’re going to need a lot of resources as well. Flasks aren’t a luxury, especially when attempting to reach a Silver score or higher, as is food. Usually you can make do with the lesser (250 stat boost) food, but again at Silver times you might want to use even better. Bring a stack of potions (better yet, two!) and some unconventional items such as:

  • (Lesser) Invisibility Potions, which allow you to skip some trash packs
  • Bandages (yes really!) to spare healer mana between pulls
  • Embersilk Nets if you are a tailor, they might work
  • Off-spec flasks and pots, if you might need to respec mid-way into the dungeon
  • Gear with various stats to facilitate AoE vs. Multidotting vs. Single Target

Note that Challenge Modes are like raids in that you also will need the standard 15% hit, so keep this in mind when choosing gear. The steps above (especially the last two) are extreme, but the closer you pull to Gold, the more you will find a use for it.

Next post: Shadowpriests Talents and Glyphs in Challenge Modes

 

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