I’ve known for a while now that I wanted to do a post on Challenge Modes. In fact, I have about 5 drafts of posts on the topic that I started, and then decided weren’t really what I wanted to say. I’d debated writing a resto perspective of them, but Hamlet has already done a great job of that, and I don’t really have much more to add in that regard. I debated writing a comparison of my experiences between my shaman and my druid – but then realized that is colored by the experience gained in my first efforts making the second efforts seem easier. And so I sat pondering what I really wanted to say about challenge modes – about exactly why I find them so fantastic.
And today it hit me. I was at physical therapy, chatting with a new therapist because my regular one was on vacation, and there it was. A blog post writing itself in my head.
You see, back during vanilla, when I had the misfortune to be both a night elf and a hunter, I was one of the first people on our server to have completed and obtained Rhok’delar. I was so proud of that bow. I worked hard to obtain it. I researched each of those demons, I had pots, I had wing clip, I had that damn sinew from Onyxia taking up my bag space. I was ready to go and started after those demons with a vengeance…then I hit Winterspring and I learned I was terrible at kiting. No, really. I’m not exaggerating here. I was awful. I couldn’t jump shot if you sat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s on my desk and told me it was a reward for when I got to the end – you’d simply have ended up with soupy ice cream. And that is just a shame.
But that sure wasn’t going to stop me! Rather than being frustrated at my complete and utter inability to succeed at this one task, I treated it like it was a difficult passage in a piece of music, and I practiced it ad nausem until I was perfect. I started slow, with owls. And then I moved to Felwood and wolves (they were quite fast and if you failed to snare them, they would catch you – just like the demon). I spent hours running up and down the corrupted streets of Felwood until I could not only kite, but I was pretty darn good at it. And the next time that demon in Winterspring spawned, I killed him.
Um…Beru? Why on earth are you talking about an eight year old questline, and pray tell, what does it have to do with Challenge Modes?
I’m getting there! Honest!
Anyhow, one of the things that I thought was so absolutely fantastic about the hunter class quest is that it really made you expand your knowledge of being a hunter. Each demon forced you to not only understand, but perfect different aspects of the class. You had to think a bit outside of the box, and it was fantastic. In short, completing the quest made you a better player.
When Blizzard stated that they weren’t overly keen on the class specific quests, and they didn’t foresee additional development of a similar type quest I thought it was a pity. Granted, you could argue that the green fire quest for Warlocks seems to be a return to what these original quests were, and we can only hope to see more like that down the road – but I would argue that Challenge Modes have, in a sense, replaced these quests.
Stick with me here! The thing that I loved about that hunter quest was that it really made me understand my toolkit, and what I could do with it. And the thing I love about Challenge Modes is that they really force you to be creative, and play with all of the abilities you have available, not just the ones you use for raiding or instancing. Not only that, but as a healer they really push your ability. They force you to anticipate, they require you to adapt, and they make you use more than your standard spells and think through what works best in a given situation. In short, Challenge Modes require you to become a better player and learn more about your class.
And that is fun.
When I went into them with Beru – I was working with a class I’d had eight years experience playing, and I still learned things. In fact, I had to clear out room on my toolbar for spells that needed to have years of dust shaken off of them. Not only did they teach me about myself as a player, they also gave me the confidence to explore how I healed and encouraged me to find new ways to be a better healer.
“What? You still had 150 life left, I TOTALLY had this!”
However, I think it was really my experience with my shaman that hammered home what a great learning experience challenge modes are. I’ve always felt myself an adequate shaman. I enjoy playing her, I generally performed well with her. And back in the day, I could spam chain heal with the best of them. But it wasn’t until we started challenge modes that I really started to understand how to play her. Suddenly some of the dynamics of the class just fell into place and her utility and power became crystal clear. As we progressed through Challenge Modes, I felt myself becoming a better, more involved shaman.
I was using totems that had previously pretty much just taken up space and looked pretty on my bars. I learned to appreciate the benefits my druid had with regards to mobility. I found new ways to tweak my healing for better results – and I simply just understood the class better. Challenge modes straight up made me a better, more knowledgeable, shaman.
“Beru, you keep saying you have no mana, but I see 20%. That looks to me like you still have mana!” ~Rehr
So why should you do Challenge Modes?
Because they will make you a better player. Okay, okay. Also because they are a lot of fun. But really, anyone who is looking to expand what they thought they knew about their class will find that they still had things to learn though the process of completing challenge modes. And that is the beauty of them. They really make you understand every aspect of your role. Every random talent has potential benefits. Every outside of the box solution has potential.
There is also the nifty group aspect experience to them as well, which is quite fun.
But for me, I think the reason that I can’t seem to get enough of challenge modes is simply that they require me to learn. They force me to become more than I was when I started. And they teach me about my class. Which is something that is completely invaluable. And, subsequently, is why I find challenge modes an experience everyone should consider. In my mind, The Undaunted is basically the new Rhok’delar. And one of my favorite things about this expansion.