Last night, when Ranico whispered me and asked if I would like to do a Challenge Mode, I figured no big deal. I had done a whole ONE other Challenge Mode, but we had completed it, getting out with some VP and a Bronze medal.
They are tough. They are a lot of healing. They are a lot of cooldowns. They are about organization and teamwork. They are very much about knowing your class and eking out every drop of potential possible – both the potential of your class/spec and the potential of yourself.
But a run in 45 minutes or less – I told myself, that is no biggie.
Then, I jumped into vent as I was heading to the Temple of the Jade Serpent and realized just what I was getting myself into. They were not aiming for some quick VP and a Bronze. They were already talking what trash to skip and invisibility pots, as well as pulling trash all the way to the boss and then Hero’ing on said trash. They were discussing practice runs, and the possibility of a good number of them before reaching the intended goal…
They were going for the Gold.
They wanted a completion in 15 minutes or less – not 45.
I admit, I got a little panicky. My last Bronze had included a wipe or two, and a few restarts before that. It had included me bottoming out my mana nearly every pull, abusing my healing cooldowns and Mana Tide Totem, and stealing drinks for regen whenever I could. The damage in Challenge Mode is way more heavy and spikey than in regular Heroics – little, efficient heals do not cut it.
What was I doing here??
Okie, Effy, just keep telling yourself you are a good healer. You know your Shaman. You can do this.
A few wipes on trash and I was really anxious.
We practiced on the trash up to both Wise Mari and the Lorewalker encounter. At one point, we did the dungeon all the way through, and ended with a decent time on a Bronze. 32:59, plenty of time to spare, and that was after wipes and doing trash on both sides before killing Wise Mari. Just practice, but a full run of it.
Breathe. You got this. Mana is in short supply, as are cooldowns, but you got this.
The next time around, I was starting to feel fairly competent, if not comfortable, with the flow of the fights and the rotation of my cooldowns. There seemed too few, as I would have gladly used several for every pull, but I know my Shaman and her specifics, and I even feel I know her Mists changes fairly well at this point. I will not go so far as to say I know her limits, because previous to last night, I would never have attempted such a harrowing run.
By the time we completed our first Silver run, in 17:45, almost half the time of our previous run because we did it in order, I was nearly convinced my cooldowns were timed around the encounters… Managed properly, I felt I was able to space them just right. Sure, mana was a sorely abused commodity, but I was getting around running low by popping Ascendance and spamming Healing Wave at those times. I was also taking full advantage of drinking every chance I got, especially during RPs.
We got ourselves down to 15:52 for our second Silver run. Almost a full minute shy of a Gold. Could we cut a whole minute off our time? It was a hefty sounding task, considering the fumes I was getting by on for most of the run already, and I knew everyone was pushing themselves.
But we were feeling confident at that point, our adrenaline was getting up, and we really wanted the big ol’ Gold.
Our next run went really well until Liu Flameheart. One death seemed to snowball into several wipes. Probably because we were rushing to finish at that point. Somehow, we still managed a Silver, though. 23:01 was still pretty good.
Conversation turned to whether that run had had the chance of being a Gold run.
Ranico asked if we were getting tired. It was about 10:30pm or so at that point. I was not tired – I was energized. Every part of me was wound, and I knew I was pushing myself and Effy, but I also knew I could do better.
We all agreed that we would make one more solid effort – Gold, Silver, Bronze, whatever we placed, that would be our last run.
It was time to pull out all the stops. More stuns. More DPS cooldowns. Better timing on my Fire Elemental. Heck, maybe even my Earth Elemental if it would help our DPS.
It turned out to be a near perfect run. Everything fell together just as we planned. Other than my near panic at the beginning of the Wise Mari fight, where it seemed like the entire dungeon was smacking on Ranico and a few seconds of “ugh!” when the bird in the library silenced me, I felt my little healer zen take over.
And we got our Gold, with 6 seconds to spare.
Gv offered to record our last attempt, and boy I am glad he did! He posted it on the guild forums, and I thought I would link it here as well.
It is pretty exciting, really. Challenge Modes seem the ultimate culmination of raid awareness, toon awareness, player skill, planning, and team work. The most awesome part is knowing it was a display of utmost effort from all of us to not only accomplish the dungeon at all, but to keep trying and tweaking and to earn that Gold.
As nerve-wracking as they may be, I think these Challenge Modes might prove addicting…