Here's a little something that I've been wanting to share with you all. Long post, TLDR at bottom.
To give you a bit of context, I've played on and off (more on than off, if I'm being honest) since BC, right through to the end of MOP, then took a break til I eventually resubbed in early BFA. I'm far from the world's best player, but I'd like to think that over the years I've managed to get a pretty good handle on the game: I use stuns and interrupts, I don't stand in the fire – all that good stuff, you know. Now, I've always maintained this belief that there's no point playing xyz content if I'm not enjoying it – I'm not driven by trying to be the best in competitive PvP nor do I have any interest in being a cutting edge raider. Just, whatever content I happen to be finding fun at the moment. From leveling new characters, to Quel'Danas/Argent Tournament/Tol Barad/Isle of Thunder dailies, tanking/healing heroic dungeons (way back when those were the hardest dungeons!) and Mythic+, battlegrounds, pugging my way to 10/12 HC Eternal Palace as a healer, even arena for a season or two, or just hanging out and exploring the world with friends… over the years, I've done a lot and seen a lot, but no matter what I'm always following the fun wherever it leads. You can probably see where I'm going with this… The fun led me into Horrific Visions.
But I realised something the other day. Horrific Visions are so much more than just my "favourite flavour" activity right now.
They have actively pushed me to become a better, more strategic, observant, and competent player.
They pushed me, typically an altoholic, to focus on a main and gear it far beyond anything I've done in the past.
They got me to do something that I'm notoriously bad at: Setting and achieving personal goals.
I wanna focus on that last one first, because I think it's the most interesting. When 8.3 came out, I had just maxed my new paladin and was in the early stages of gearing and getting essences. I was enjoying prot gameplay, tanking a few dungeons, doing the Uldum/Vale assaults, and maybe one or two Horrific Vision runs a week. I definitely wasn't going hard out trying to max my cloak or anything. I thought the Visions were a neat idea, they seemed fairly fun I guess, but I wasn't exactly in a position to get very far with them. Still, every run that I did felt like I was making progress – I mean, it's not surprising, they're clearly designed to push you a little bit further each time, even the quests make sure of that. And yeah, I had a couple of dud runs here and there, usually terrible luck with corruptions proccing at the worst moments, or getting caught off guard by one of those boss mechanics which wrecks your sanity pool. But in general, I was making progress. Every run I was seeing a little more of the vision, discovering a few more secrets, learning some better strategies.
When my cloak was about rank 8 (at which time many people had long since reached rank 15), I did something nigh unheard-of for me – I set myself a personal goal. I saw people completing the Mad World achievement, getting the Faceless One title and mount, and I decided that by the end of the expansion, I wanted to be one of those people. I've had little goals before, of course, usually things like "I want this bit of gear for my transmog", but never something quite like this. It felt… significant. Probably really difficult, but not outside the realm of possibility. And so I started working towards that goal. Each week I was getting a bit further. Getting better at hunting down potions, chests, Odd Crystals, and those named mobs which give you buffs. Eventually I managed to complete a full clear, and honestly I was so stoked. I got my first mask. I got my second mask. I completed a 1 mask run. I completed a 2 mask run. Every run felt like I was pushing the boundaries of what I was capable of, and in doing so I was also learning, getting better, forming better strategies, using my cooldowns more, learning which enemy casts are worth interrupting or if I should save my interrupt for something really crucial. With every victory, my goal seemed a little nearer, a little more attainable.
I completed a 3 mask run. I completed a 4 mask run. But now I was in trouble. The 5th mask would of course be the worst. The one that halves your sanity. That's gotta make it twice as hard, right? Even more, if you consider the extra 25% enemy HP and damage that comes with adding another mask. I'd been doing most of my runs as prot, since I was most comfortable playing defensively and had an extra interrupt with Avenger's Shield, etc. But my damage output was becoming noticeably lacking, 4-mask runs were very slow and I was having sanity problems especially against Alleria. I had done a few 2-3 mask runs as ret and it felt veeeery squishy compared to prot, but it seemed like the added DPS could make all the difference. I just had to git gud.
Over the next couple of weeks I did some more 3 and 4 mask runs as ret. A lot of small things that I could ignore as prot became much more punishing as ret. Getting stunned by one of those Informant mobs' Touch of the Abyss, or allowing those shadow priesty casters in the Mage Quarter to chain Mind Flay me, were basically death sentences. I found myself constantly strategizing, deciding when I should pop my offensive and/or defensive cooldowns, stuns, interrupts, etc. Really thinking about what I could possibly do to survive a group with TWO of those damned Mind Flay casters plus a voidwalker with a stacking damage attack. Figuring out the ideal times to drop my sanity restoration orbs. Learning how best to avoid my Burned Bridge void zones, while dealing with multiple madnesses. Really learning the boss fights inside and out. And outside of visions, I had also been really putting effort into gearing, doing Mythic+ and saving up all the Titan Residuum that I could to afford a 475 piece.
I completed a 5 mask run of Orgrimmar. The Most Horrific Vision, indeed. It was intense. Nerve-wracking. But I did it – and boy, I was so proud of myself. I knew at that moment, that I could really, definitely do this. Mad World wasn't just simply within my ability as a player, but truly within reach – I could have it as soon as next week, even! Yes, the only thing that stood in my way now was Stormwind. Alleria. The week ticked over and I tried a 5 mask run of Stormwind. I failed. It was close, really close; after 30 painstaking minutes I had survived the four districts and burned Alleria down to about 1/4 HP before she ran me all out of sanity. It was a mix of bad luck and avoidable mistakes. It was disheartening, but I didn't give up – if I'd gotten that close, I could definitely beat her. Dammit, I had gitten gud, and I wasn't about to let one bad run stop me! So I tried again. I did it. It had taken me months longer than others, but I had finally joined the ranks of the faceless ones in this very, very Mad World.
Anyway, it got me thinking about all of this. About how it had so often and so consistently managed to push me up to and just beyond my limits. How GOOD that progression felt, from exploring deeper into the visions, to then tackling these ever-harder and more elaborate challenges, refining my own skill and strategies… and always at my own pace.
It was honestly great. I hope Shadowlands has got something that resonates with me as perfectly as Horrific Visions did.
TLDR – Horrific Visions have actively made me a better player; convinced me to set, work toward, and achieve personal goals; and are just a lot of fun in general.
Thanks for reading.
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