WoW Wednesday: The Gatekeeping of the End Game

World of Warcraft is a deceptively easy game to pick up and play. Despite all of its issues in pacing and progression throughout the leveling experience just about every single class is intuitive enough in Battle for Azeroth to quickly grasp. I myself can personally attest to that fact; despite maining a Priest for most of BFA, I’ve recently made the transition to a Hunter alt that I’m enjoying and slowly polishing my skills with. While I’m certainly nowhere near ready to begin pushing the arena rating I want with it, I’m more than prepared to start hitting for the lower aspects of the ladders. However, even with more skilled characters players can often find themselves facing down particular situations in Warcraft that can slow if not bar their progress in the end-game entirely. Gatekeeping is a problem in WoW.

Now what is gatekeeping? Gatekeeping is a method identified as barring or controlling people from participating in or using certain things. In Warcraft this occurs primarily in two major streams of the endgame both in Mythic and Heroic raiding, but also predominantly in Rated Player vs. Player content.

Why does gatekeeping occur? For one simple reason: content is hard.


In the Raiding scene Mythic (or Cutting Edge) raiding is the most mechanically difficult content in
World of Warcraft. A perfect example of the intensity raiders have to mitigate can be witnessed in the Gul’dan encounter in Mythic Nighthold from Legion. The encounter begins with Gul’dan’s fully powered-up state from previous difficulties at the beginning of the fight, further increasing already high damage numbers due to difficulty. Gul’dan then empowers himself to a further state over the course of the battle including a move that can instantly kill players during a phase transition at 66% health. After his defeat, the fight then continues with a unique encounter against a new boss enemy, with new abilities and difficult mechanics. All of this falls on top of increased boss health, enemy mobs spawning in, increased damage percentiles and people managing 20-man groups to pull off the encounter flawlessly.

It’s not hard to see why players involved in raiding want to settle for their best teams possible. This form of self-curation has existed since Vanilla Warcraft, where players could become both famous and infamous within their server community. Later during Wrath Gearscore became the mark that players measured each other’s skill level, as most classes were incredibly gear dependent to a certain extent. Up until Battle for Azeroth with the release of Raider.IO, item level became the big determining factor for player recruitment.

Rated Player Vs. Player content features similar issues across the board due to its reward systems and tiers. In Battle for Azeroth rewards are now gameplay oriented, however, throughout RPvP’s history impressive cosmetic rewards have been synonymous with elite status. Those rewards are tied directly to your Rating, a publicly viewable score that actively adjusts based on your performance. Your personal rating will go up and down as you win matches, increasing and decreasing at a higher rate depending on who you participate with. If you win games with players with a higher rating, yours will skyrocket. If you lose matches while playing with those who have a lower rating than yours, it will plummet.


As such, players naturally only want to compete and play with those of a similar rating and perceived skill level. Some will only want to play with particular, guaranteed proven compositions of classes. With RPvP rewards being restricted to the highest echelons of players, of course others only want to compete with the best of the best. At any moment you could find yourself on a losing streak and your rating could drop between fifty points or five-hundred points depending on your partners’ placement.


Thus comes an incumbent problem with these aspirations of the end-game. Whether you want to be the Gladiator or the killer of Mythic Jaina, players naturally only want to work with those on their skill level to minimize their wasted time. As such, the bar is set high to disqualify those without either the experience in completing lesser difficulties or the equipment and higher gear on their character. Some face fewer issues depending on their server population, some higher. Being based on an RP server, we have one super-sized PvP guild and as such I need to form pick-up-groups if I wish to progress in Rated Battlegrounds. A personal friend based on a PvP oriented realm faces a similar issue with only a handful of raiding guilds and none forming any additional teams.

As such, here’s where we find the problem with gatekeeping magnified. Is gatekeeping inherently wrong? Absolutely not. As a current player in the RPvP circuit, forced exclusivity has forced me to play better in compositions and learn as much as I can. Certainly, I just lost 20 rating with a bad team but now I can recognize the differences between a very good Rogue and a very bad one. Of course, my friend lost a night raiding a Mythic PuG and wiping on the first boss, but now they recognize what really doesn’t make a good raid leader. Failing is as good a teaching tool as playing beside higher-level competitors. Is it frustrating to want progression and effectively take three huge steps backwards? Absolutely.


So what is the solution to this issue, at least in the World of Warcraft? Surely its to get a team of your own together, and on the surface this is a good solution. However, for higher player content, such as Rated Battlegrounds and Mythic Raiding, this becomes innately more difficult. It’s a simple task to rally a few friends for Arenas, despite the fact that high-level rewards are now only afforded to top-tier 3v3 players. However, the often more expansive and broader gameplay is instead even more difficult to breach into due to sheer numbers. Cultivating a cohesive team in the long term is a task that most players simply do not have the time to engage with, nor the skillset to maintain.

 

So here’s my question to you: Gatekeeping seems to be a necessary part of culling the chaff from the wheat. But when that chaff is really some of the most eager and healthiest bushels of the plant, where do we as players have to go against our gut and give people a better chance?

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WoW Wednesday: The Mythic+ Experience

The Endgame has begun! With the update today, Raiding, Mythic +, Warfronts and the 26th Season of Rated PvP have finally landed in Battle for Azeroth. As with our Zones of… series we’ll be introducing you to each section week by week of the newest end-game content for World of Warcraft; this week we’ll be covering Mythic+ Dungeon Content.

With Legion’s launch a few years ago, Mythic+ Dungeons became one of the most vital parts of endgame development in World of Warcraft. However, for most casual players, Mythic+ Dungeons can seem intimidating, impossible or unachievable. Several players I converse with in-game don’t even know what Mythic+ Dungeons entail or how vital they can be to player progression. With Battle for Azeroth, the system has returned with stark changes to how gear is rewarded, various keystone affixes and new seasonal deterrents.

A Keystone Font, used to begin Mythic+ dungeons.

Let’s start at the beginning, What are Mythic+ Dungeons? As most players will know from gearing up their fresh max-leveled character, dungeon difficulty progresses in a similar manner to raid difficulties; first starting with Normal Dungeons that players will get access to as they level up, later unlocking Heroic and then Mythic dungeons as their item level increases, both with their own lockouts to minimize farming. Many players after completing Mythic leveled dungeon content may receive a Mythic Keystone for another dungeon with a number attached to it.

These Keystones are your ticket to Mythic+ Dungeons, an extended challenge mode for 5-man dungeon content with ever more challenging and repeatable content. Every numbered Keystone increases the damage dealt by and health of trash mobs and bosses inside Mythic Dungeons, multiplying their stats with higher numbers. To finish a Mythic+ and receive your rewards you must kill every boss and a certain percentage of the mobs within a dungeon.

A typical countdown timer for Mythic+ dungeons, detailing requirements to complete it.

However, completing a dungeon is easier said than done. Aside from scaling difficulty, each Dungeon also has a time limit. Completing a dungeon within that time limit will see your Mythic Keystone upgraded by one, two, or three levels depending on your completion time. As you play through the dungeon, you are also afflicted by a debuff called Challenger’s Burden, removing five seconds from the timer each time a member of your party dies. However, even if you run over the timer for your Keystone, you will still receive loot in your chest at the end of the Dungeon, as well as a same-level Keystone for a different dungeon.

Scaling enemy difficulty and a timer aren’t your only impediments to completing a Mythic+ within the time limit. All Keystones also come with particular affixes, or modifiers that change trash mob or boss behavior during the dungeon. While Mythic 2 keystones will only have one, higher level keystones will gain more and more, stacking with the additional health and damage enemies receive. Each week these affixes will change to a set series, rotating throughout their listings as time goes on.

Mythic Dungeoneers take on a boss with the Tyrannical Affix!

Mythic 2 dungeons and higher will have one of two affixes, both of which bolster enemy health and damage. The first, Fortified, increases the health and damage of non-boss enemies, drastically slowing down progression through a dungeon. The second, Tyrannical, does the opposite and instead buffs the health and damage of bosses, making potentially treacherous encounters even more so. These rotate between each other every week.

At Mythic 4, Keystones will receive a secondary affix, chosen each week from the list of the following five. Teeming increases the number of non-boss enemies throughout the dungeon, also increasing the number of enemies required to kill before completing the dungeon. Bolstering causes non-boss enemies that die to let out a battle shout, increasing the health and damage of other enemies. Bursting forces enemies to explode on death, hitting players with a stacking debuff that saps health. Whenever a non-boss enemy dies under Sanguine, it will drop a pool of ichor that damages players and heals enemies. Raging stirs non-boss enemies into an Enrage at low health, doubling their damage until slain.

At Mythic 7 a third and terrifying affix is added to the keystone. Necrotic infuses enemy melee attacks with a stacking debuff, inflicting damage over time and reducing the healing players receive. Grievous inflicts deadly wounds on players, causing increasing damage over time to those not near maximum health. Gouts of flame will erupt beneath the feet of distant players during Volcanic affixes, and enemies will summon explosive orbs when affixed with Explosive. Under the effects of Quaking players will often emit shockwaves with damage allies and interrupt casting but the most treacherous of all is Skittish, causing mobs to reduce threat generated by tanks.

New to Battle for Azeroth are Seasonal Affixes. Generated at Mythic 10, there is only one additional affix per season, so far tied to the themings of the raid of each patch. In Mythic Season 1 our affix is Infested, a dangerous buff that makes certain dungeon creatures Symbiotes of G’huun. On death these enemies will birth two Spawn of G’huun which will then seek to infest the nearest enemy with another Symbiote of G’huun, starting the cycle again. Other nearby enemies will heal their maximum health by 10% every few seconds, making these infested packs potentially deadlier to your time than your party.

wow Mythic+ dungeon

Your weekly reward cache, found in the Mythic Dungeon Menu.

However, conquering Mythic+ dungeons means bigger rewards than your average fare. After completing a dungeon you’ll receive a chest containing a chance for Mythic+ quality loot, scaling with level of difficulty, some Artifact Power for your Heart of Azeroth, and a Hydrocore which is vital for end-game profession crafting. Unlike their regular or Mythic 0 equivalent, however, Mythic+’s will not reward Azerite gear in their end-of-dungeon-chest.

After completing a Mythic plus at the end of the week you’ll be eligible to loot a Challenger’s Chest. Your drops will be taken from the loot tables of EVERY dungeon in Battle for Azeroth, with a higher chance for Azerite and Weapons to drop.  This gear will be fifteen item levels higher than equipment you would have normally gotten from your end-of-dungeon-chest of your best Mythic+ dungeon from the last week. So far these rewards will only scale to Mythic +10, keeping them in line with rewards from Mythic Uldir and Gladiator Ranked PvP.

 

Keystone Level

End of Dungeon

Weekly Chest

Azerite Armor from Weekly Chest

Mythic 2 345 355 340
Mythic 3 345 355 340
Mythic 4 350 360 355
Mythic 5 355 360* 355
Mythic 6 355 365 355
Mythic 7 360 370 370
Mythic 8 365 370 370
Mythic 9 365 375 370
Mythic 10+ 370 380 385

 

Mythic+ content is some of the most underrated and challenging gameplay that World of Warcraft has to offer, and it generally goes underutilized by the playerbase. As the Mythic Race begins this week with the launch of Mythic Uldir, you’ll get the opportunity to see how cutting edge raiders have already managed to wisely and concisely gear well beyond the rewards of Heroic Uldir. Using the Mythic Keystone and Mythic+ system they have farmed their way to best in slot gear, mount drops and more in the few weeks that Battle for Azeroth has been released to the world. Stepping into the Arena you can find Rated PvPers have done the same, boosting their item level to ridiculous amounts to quickly try and claim Dread Gladiator status in Season 26.

For the average player like you and I, Mythic+ Dungeons are a great side activity to gradually up our item level. A few hours each week for a guaranteed piece of high level loot is great for someone looking to gradually improve the performance of their character, eventually paving the way to better and higher rewards in the Mythic+ system.

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