Challenge Mode: Part 2  –  Scholomance

Challenge Mode: Part 2 – Scholomance

Last night, we scored two hard mode kills back to back with Feng and Garajal. Once we got the mechanics down in place, it was easy and straight forward. Garajal had hard caps on both healing required and damage needed. We dropped down to four healers and managed to take out Garajal with under half a minute remaining on the enrage. Not a bad play. We’ll be gunning for Elegon and Blade Lord next.

Tonight’s challenge mode is Scholomance. I think this one will take a little long in “getting it” compared to Gate of the Setting Sun. This will be the first time I’ll be healing a challenge mode in some time since we agreed to try switching me over to healing instead of playing Shadow. Although nothing’s wrong with playing Shadow, our new composition will help us long term and help shave precious seconds off the timer as needed. Although for Lilian Voss, we’ll be running 4 DPS on it instead. The logic is if we can take down Lilian in the first phase, we avoid the entire second and third phase of that fight. I hope my Vampiric Embrace and other spells with Dark Binding will be enough to keep us alive long enough.

This is the first time I’ll be running Invisibility Potions. There’s this place called Fungal Rock down in Un’goro Crater that just has these sprouting all over like crazy. We’re expected to use those in order to bypass Professor Snape’s room (the one with all those yellow ads).

One of my guild mates mentioned an item called Restorative Amber. I’ll need to get myself some of this. I don’t think I’ll need it, but it’s nice to have it anyway just in case we’re off by a few seconds. The downside is that stuff is 10 gold each. I normally resort to Pearl Milk Tea to get my mana up but discovered quickly that it resulted in my awesome food buffs getting overwritten by Mastery. There’s an NPC at the shrines that sell something called Golden Carp Consomme and he helps in restoring mana without sacrificing the food buffs.

I’m excited though! Hope to add another gold!

Age Old Question: Farm or Progression?

Age Old Question: Farm or Progression?

The appearance of patch 5.2 on the PTR has placed a clock on our raids. In several weeks, the content we’re currently working on will soon be obselete because of the new Throne of Thunder raid. I find myself amazingly not tired of the current raid content just yet. There’s enough diversity and variety to still hold my interest. Raiding in Pandaria started in October and we’re about 3 months into this expansion.

I had grown weary of Cataclysm’s tier 11 raids after 3 months.

Firelands? Wanted out of it after 3 months.

Dragon Soul wasn’t as bad. That one took me a little longer than 3 months for me to get truly sick of it.

The team destroyed the Sha of Fear and banished it back to where it came from before Christmas. Now it’s time to do it all over again. We managed to get an early kill on heroic Stone Dogs a week before Heart of Fear released. Duplicating the kill again is no easy feat though due to the RNG that just comes with it.

At the moment, I find myself thinking long term and what’s the best strategic move for the raid team going into Throne of Thunder. I actually think the group we have right now is the strongest group we’ve had since our ICC heroic days (and that team scored heroic Sindragosa along with a full set of raid drakes).

Our biggest enemy right now is time.

My personal goals

  • Get every player a Sha-Touched weapon that is normal quality or higher
  • Complete as many tier sets as possible
  • Get as many hard mode kills as possible

Naturally, the first two goals are going to come in conflict with the last goal. Time spent farming for weapons and completing tier sets means time not attempting to get hard mode bosses. Luckily, we’re going to head into heroic Mogushan Vaults and attempt to get as much of that down as possible thereby freeing up Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Springs for possible farming and cleanup.

Suppose we manage to take down heroic Feng. The kill could either result in everyone mostly alive or the raid in an entertaining disarray of chaos with the tank and healer still alive a second after an enrage. Who knows?

When we get back to it next week, is it worthwhile to spend the time and try to kill it again? Or should we just knock it out on normal mode really fast and push into heroic Gara’jal instead? In the grand scheme of things, 9 hours a week of raiding just doesn’t seem like a lot of time for 16 bosses.

Once we learn a boss, it usually takes another week or two before we can consistently get it down fast enough. But continuing to go after them means potentially less time on future bosses.

From the other side, I know what a huge edge heroic gear gives us when going into the next tier of content. After we had gone 6/7 heroic in Firelands, we sliced through half of Dragon Soul in one night. Knocking out Trial of the Grand Crusader resulted in us running out of things to do the rest of the week because we killed Saurfang on day 1.

I also know that once the new Throne of Thunder raid is released, we’re not coming back here.

Our efforts will be 100% devoted to that raid instance and the only way people will come back is whenever the next expansion is out and they can either solo it or join a small raid group for achievements and stuff. I know the feeling of elation when a raid kills a boss at a level that’s relevant. I also know the feeling of emptiness and despair when a raid misses out on that. I’ve harboured so many regrets and lost opportunities on my shoulders over the past expansions at being unable to deliver to the team what I feel they deserve.

I can either invest in the future by farming our future hard mode kills or capitalize on the present moments and get as many first kills on the guild belt as possible.

Somehow, I don’t think either choice is going to be popular. Either way, we’ve got a lot of work to do! Heroic Feng is within reach right now. Just need to get the transitions and timings down pat.

Gate of the Setting Sun: Gold!

Gate of the Setting Sun: Gold!

Edit: Added more tips to this.

We got it!

Took us almost four hours but Gate of the Setting Sun isn’t the hardest of the Challenge Modes. It’s a good first instance to start with in getting your feet wet. Luckily, the hardest aspects of the instance occur in the first stretch. Your awareness is going to be stretched to the max here. Load yourself with the recommended Discipline talents and glyphs. Ensure your Void Tendrils are on your bar and ready to go as you’ll need them.

Gold – 13:00
Minimum – 25 enemies

These are the things you need to keep in mind:

  • Where the bombs are
  • How long before detonation
  • If your group is within the Line of Sight clouds

Make your way through to the boss. Keep Power Word: Barrier on standby along with Pain Suppression. Don’t be afraid to drop a Barrier at any point especially if the tank gets caught in a blast. Be aggressive with cooldowns. If you wipe here, it’s not a total loss. You’re still near the beginning. Expect to spend some time here until your group masters it.

Saboteur Kip’tilak should not present a significant threat once you get to him. It’s the bombs he throws out that can wreck your day. Not a big change from heroic mode.

When you’re finished with him, you’ll make your way along the way. Your tank will need to snag the Mantid that appear as the pandaren on the walls get overrun. As you cross the wall, you’ll notice Raigonn periodically charging into the door. If you can time it, it’s possible to avoid the stun. Jump right before he hits the wall and you’ll be able to keep moving. The next room after is going to be tricky. Make sure the Rager gets dropped first and burn your CDs as needed. Don’t stand in front of the Rager. After you get past them, you’ll run into a group of 2 Ragers and a Wind Shaper. You can burn down the Wind Shaper and use your Void Tendrils on the two Ragers. They’ll reset the moment your whole party gets on the elevator and begins moving up.

We found the biggest obstacle in our attempts was trying too hard to cut and shave off time. Ultimately, we were better off just taking it slightly slower but much more methodical. We did run into a few tough spots. The pull immediately after the gate in the little fortification is one of the hardest ones. Those Windshapers can really do a number on the tank. Our interrupts and stuns had to be spot on against them. I kept a Psychic Scream in reserve just in case (plus they’re great for interrupting incoming damage overall and giving some time to the healer to help them recover the group).

The actual bosses weren’t that much of a challenge themselves. Raigonn himself went by super fast after we destroyed the weak spot. I’m just happy my DPS was high enough to help secure that gold run.

After the run, we continued discussing our group and compositions. Ultimately, we decided that our resto shaman is better off switching to elemental and myself back to discipline. While I’m excited with the prospect of returning to healing again, a part of me is a little reluctant. It’s been a long time since I did any kind of demanding healing and I’m worried that I might not be at a level that’s good enough.

But screw it! I’ll figure this out.

Our team’s next target? Scholomance. They were able to snag silver a while ago. Let’s see if can go for the gold.

Preparing your Shadow Priest for Challenge Modes

On Wednesday night, I was drafted for the guild’s challenge mode team. I was thinking to myself, “A Shadow Priest? Really? Our class DPS isn’t the best and I’m not sure if we’re considered optimal for this kind of stuff.”

As you can tell, I was hesitant. But I figured, why not? Priest challenge mode gear looks sexy (as evidenced by the video below).

Our composition’s going to be a little unorthodox. We plan to run a tanking Monk, Death Knight, Shadow Priest, Hunter, along with a Resto Shaman. The consensus is that the Shaman and myself should switch (with him Elemental and myself Disc). Seems as if we’re making things harder for ourselves, but we’re both interested in giving it a shot. If the times are that tight and we’re barely making it, we both have the skills and gear to make the changeup.

Going into challenge modes means I’d have to change out my glyphs, talents, and play style.

Talents

I took a hard look at my talents. Certain talents that were beneficial were raiding wouldn’t be as awesome in a 5 man Challenge mode environment.

Twist of Fate: With the amount of trash and stuff you’re killing in there, ToF will have a fairly high uptime. However, you’ll want to consider a respec to Power Infusion in any instances where you happen to have any available time leftover that allows for a respec.

Divine Star and Halo: I prefer Halo if the instance allows for it. Otherwise an instance like any of the Scarlet Monastary stuff means a poorly placed Halo will result in a ton of unwanted mobs pulled.

Desperate Prayer: Given the choice, the ability to control the heal of DP outweighs the automatic life saving capabilities of Angelic Bulwark.

From Darkness, Comes Light: I’ve considered switching to Mindbender. But I can’t seem to think of a situation where I’d want to use Mindbender over it just yet. Those of you who have gone into Challenge modes and have the experience, I’d greatly appreciate the insight.

Void Tendrils: For now, the AoE root gets the nod in case I need to freeze something in place. I’ve considered Psyfiend for selective CC (paired with the Psychic Scream Glyph. , but I’m not sure how much of that is going to be really needed since we plan to just blow stuff up.

Glyphs

Dark Binding is a big utility glyph. Anytime you’re on the run, you can shoot out a Renew or a Prayer of Mending and not have to expend the resources to switch back to Shadowform.

Offensively, I’ll use Glyph of Mindspike because it offers excellent synergy with From Darkness, Comes Light. Chance to cast it instantly without it wiping away your DoTs and making the next Mind Blast instant is just plain sexy. You’ll run into instances like Scarlet Monastary where more of your time is spent casting Mind Sear.

The Vampiric Embrace glyph is my last selection. The extra healing is awesome and can buy time for your healer to catch up in the event of a particularly bad pull.

Consumables

Nothing much changes here. I still plan on running the same set of consumables that I would in a raid.

Potion of the Jade Serpent

Flask of the Warm Sun

Standard feasts

Stacks of Invisibility Potion

Playing

Our target dungeon that night was Gate of the Setting Sun. We were easily able to medal a bronze on the first try. We suffered two wipes but the first run through offered valuable insight into how to get through certain pulls. The first six or so bugs (with the bombs) caught me off guard. Our approach was to just stack up and attempt to dodge the Bomberman explosions and ended up getting clipped a few times (which were practically lethal). The two pull prior to the elevator building has to be skipped. We CC’d and ran right by them before engaging the elevator and just beating down the boss.

Overall, there’s lots of improvements we can make. We’ll be heading back in there tomorrow and won’t be leaving without that gold!

Have you participated in challenge modes? Have any useful tips or tricks?