World of Warcraft

What I learned doing over 40 keys this past week (AKA: Rationalizing the grind)

wow2 - What I learned doing over 40 keys this past week (AKA: Rationalizing the grind)
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With the release of the valor system, I made the goal of taking advantage of it to gear an alt. The alt had capped lvl 60 the week prior, did a lower key before reset, opened their weekly vault, and began the week at 194ilvl. A couple points:

  • My main has a good IO. This may have contributed to making it easier forming groups.

  • The character was a melee dps (yes, I hate myself).

  • All keys ran were my own at 7-8

  • All were pugs. I did not do any with friends or guild mates.

  • 15 were run with at least one party member above 210ilvl (12 of those 2 chested).

  • 28 were 2 chested (having a 210+ toon did not guarantee 2 chest).

  • 4 were ended early (by me). These were keys that weren't progressing for some reason. I only made the decision when it was a total train wreck, and never after the first boss died.

  • All that were completed were completed in time (so 36).

How was the affix? Doing so many keys gave me freedom to play around with different comps like triple melee, no lust, different tanks, etc into the storming affix.

  • Storming is a horrible affix. It is frustrating, unfun, and one of the most imbalanced affixes. Some melee classes manage it better than others (unholy DK). After so much experience with the affix you can learn to manage it, but sometimes you are just going for a ride as melee. You have to account for it on some bosses and sometimes it still screws you.

  • Triple melee is horrible with this affix. Double melee is manageable IF everyone has decent experience with the affix. If you just stack 3 ranged though the affix is trivial/negligible which is kinda silly.

  • There were no wipes that could be blamed solely on storming, but there were multiple close calls. If the key were higher, the healer weaker, or no Brez then it would have been a lot sketchier. Storming did contribute to some wipes, but other things often went wrong as well.

  • Storming on Lord Chamberlain in Halls, Oryphrion in Spires, and General Kaal in Depths led to many deaths. Honestly, anything that forces you to stack or hold a position near melee. Again, storming is horrible.

  • Storming on Surgeon Stichflesh in Wake messed up hooks (primary to pull him down and secondary to knock him out of fixation) but was generally manageable since these were low keys. Again, storming is horrible.

To lust or not to lust, and what about that pesky Brez or other class utility.

  • Ignoring +210ilvl dps groups, the power of lust depended on the quality of your dps. On keys with a lacking/carried dps, lust saved timing the key with tyrannical.

  • Brez is incredibly useful and saved multiple wipes. There were times where Brez did not save a wipe due to cast time (sorry locks).

  • Even in lower keys, aoe stuns, displacements, roots, slows, etc are powerful if used well. If the majority of the group did not kick, stun, or manage certain trash it was painful.

  • Without prideful, routes did not matter as much nor did stealth skips. If you are running <10+ keys, do not get wound up about routes unless you are pulling way over percent. Routes are still worth learning though so the transition to 10s is easier.

The power of IO. This is a touchy subject but there were some interesting trends. I do realize that having a main with higher IO likely contributed to some people queueing for my key that otherwise would not, but I ran many keys before hitting the 200 IO required for my main to show up without trouble.

  • A low ilvl tank alt with a >1100 IO tank main was much more reliable than a tank with +10-15 ilvls but low IO score. I will touch on the importance of tanks later, but this was just the reality. They knew the efficient routes, they knew the pulls, how to tank the bosses to make it easier on the group, and they knew when to kite.

  • On that same vein, a group of 195ilvl characters with mains with >1100 IO always 2 chested the key, were more consistent, and the key ran smoother than a higher ilvl party of <1000 IO. There were a couple times that the 215ilvl dps was the weakest link in a party of 195-200ilvl players.

  • Characters with lower IO and ilvl 195-205, but a history of clears of all dungeons at a reasonable range could be counted on to do well. I had many low IO/ilvl mains do very well. If you are checking IO, it can be worth checking the main page instead of just going off the addon number. The addon may not be updated and will not tell you the details of their experience. Someone with a higher IO but experience full of failed keys was almost always a liability.

  • IO was less deterministic for healers than any other spec FOR THESE AFFIXES. There were low IO/ilvl healers who did great, and it was rarely a healer problem if there was a struggle. Low ilvl healers could struggle depending on who they had to heal though so back to the point on tanks. Oddly enough, I didn’t even see one mistweaver monk queue in 40 keys.

  • Good dps are valuable regardless of spec. An off meta spec played well was always better than the mediocre meta spec. Yes, ideally you can get the set of perfect playing meta specs in your 8, 10, or 15 key but they are not required.

Experience from this past week.

  • I had 4 chests drop (remember my vault piece), 5 belts, and 3 rings with terrible secondaries. Out of 40 keys I effectively got 1.5 usable/upgradable piece of gear (the chest while technically upgradeable, is far down the priority list due to cost and needing other slots). Traded gear was almost never a thing as even >210ilvl character might upgrade it later so why trade it. The only two pieces offered for trade we two belts, which, ya'know, salt in the wound. Basically, valor is only useful if you get gear to drop and run enough keys to get valor. The toon is currently 196 ilvl at time of posting. This is not representative of what everyone will experience but does show the limitations of the valor system.

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  • The tank matters. Unless your party outgears the key by a significant margin a quality tank will make or break a key. Every key I ended early was due to a tank failure (bolstering boss, dying on trash, not using mitigation, etc). Tanks with decent IO but poor history of timing often ignored mechanics or overpulled. I had every spec tank, and all performed well. A good tank is always worth waiting for.

  • Brez is one of the strongest utilities you can bring to a key. It is the ultimate do over button and saved more keys than any other ability by a significant margin. The cast time on soulstone can be a liability (sorry locks).

  • Lust is strong. It is not required, but it is hard to find a reason not to bring it. Drums are an option, but why bring a subpar option when you can bring a full lust with a class that brings high damage, healing, or utility. It just makes the key easier. This raises the question of how much powerful, broad spectrum utility should be stacked into a narrow spectrum of classes with some who also bring incredible aoe, single target, CC, and survivability/healing.

  • Raider IO is NOT the end all be all BUT it is a powerful tool to build a group. It is the largest single factor to easily communicate a player’s experience in mythic+, but it is more than the number in the addon. I had plenty of players who had an IO that was above the range of an 8 key who were, to be honest, bad.

  • I would have never completed 40 keys if I queued for other people's keys. Why take a 195 ilvl toon when that 210 ilvl is farming valor? Running my own keys allowed me to run a ton, push them if I wanted, or downgrade them and run one level for gear/valor.

So how is this useful for other players, and what were the things learned?

  • Make your own groups. This is said often, but not often done. Unless you are pushing a key beyond your experience/IO then forming your own group is the easiest way to go. Bonus is that people are looking to farm valor so its a good time to run your lower keys, build IO, and pick up a few tricks.

  • Experience>ilvl and IO=experience (generally). Learning the dungeons and routes regardless of spec is the single greatest contributor to success (especially once prideful enters the picture). Gear will come eventually, but without the knowledge a higher ilvl is not going to be much help as some may think. That one piece of gear likely isn’t going to get you over that specific key number barrier. Think of IO like a ranked ladder rather than a barrier. You must put in the time.

  • Gear will come eventually. Even with my miserable luck, I am sitting on valor cap so when a piece drops, I can upgrade it. I also have three 216ilvl pieces to choose from next vault just by running 8s. Valor has flaws, but it does help smooth out gearing.

  • Build to the affix and bring class tools. Ranged, brez, lust, aoe, single target, cc, and survivability are class tools that all make a key smoother regardless of affix. Mage and druid have 6 out of 7. Other desired specs fill many of these boxes. The meta is what it is for a reason, BUT 90% of players are not playing at a level where a pure meta comp is required, and an experience player on an off meta spec is better than a mediocre player on a meta one. Many 8s were completed without lust, Brez, and with heavy melee on a terrible affix for melee but damn were some of them miserable. Once you climb towards 15s these class tools become much more powerful, but even then, any spec can aim for KSM.

  • Be willing to put your key out of its misery. Some people are tied to the idea that a key must be competed at any cost, that their 10/14 key for the weekly vault is going to make or break their progression. The truth is, especially now with valor, more reps on appropriate level keys will be more valuable than one rep on a key that is too high. Remember, experience>ilvl so getting a piece that has an extra 4ilvl is not going to make a significant difference if you do not learn how to run keys cleanly.

  • How to gear an alt in this system. Gearing with the valor system is not a magic bullet to gear alts. It is still slow, capped, and you need to have the relevant gear drop. You still need to be able to clear keys to unlock upgrade levels and it will not magically solve mythic+ progression barriers. It does smooth gear progression though and will help secure pieces over time.

TLDR: Experience is the most valuable commodity in mythic+ so learn the dungeons and put in the time. Gear will come eventually. A good tank is worth their weight in gold. Run your own groups and make friends to learn how to build effective groups. Storming is the worst.

Edit: Clarified why keys were killed early. There may be some disagreement on this point depending on your perspective. Personally, I feel that expecting someone to spend an hour or more in my key that still might not finish is more disrespectful of their time than the 5-10 minutes of setup, trainwreck, make the call, and move on to another run. There is a time, a place, and listings for finish at any cost keys, but if I advertised a normal run I'm not going to keep people if it becomes a struggle run.

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