Jdotb's Mythic Rundown Vol. 1 - Spring MDI Season, Weekly Affix Advice
Jdotb gives his thoughts on the recent announcement of the Spring MDI season and his weekly affix advice for the upcoming week!
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Mythic Rundown Vol. 1
Hi folks. It’s been a few weeks since the last Q&A owing mostly to the release of Battle of Dazar’alor, but today I make my return. My column will be switching up its format a bit going forward -- the weekly affix advice won’t be going anywhere, but I’ll probably be doing more long form editorializing and less of the strict Q&A stuff. There might be some growing pains while we figure it out, but this week should be an easy one because I’ll be discussing the imminent arrival of BFA’s inaugural Spring MDI season (!!).
Introduction to the Mythic Dungeon Invitational
I’ll talk a bit about the MDI (Mythic Dungeon International) generally for those of us that weren’t around for the first couple tournaments. The MDI is a Blizzard-sponsored M+ tournament that pits tops teams from every region against each other in an effort to crown an international champion. The MDI accepts teams from all over the globe (China, much of southeast Asia, Australia, North and South America, Europe) making it the most diverse competition in WoW at the moment. Unlike the Race to World First (with staggered raid releases based on region) or AWC (a strong focus on Western teams), the MDI is truly a showcase for talent wherever it exists.
Since the MDI is still in its relative infancy (this will be the third tournament, and the second tournament with a LAN stage), it’s still going through some iteration. This year’s Spring MDI will look a little bit different to those that have been following the MDI: there will be a Proving Grounds period from February 26 through March 12, then six consecutive weekends of regional cup tournaments beginning on March 30 and running through May 4. The Spring season will conclude with a LAN tournament with a TBD date (likely early June) and location. There will then be a Summer MDI with an identical format, and the LAN portion will take place at BlizzCon. The MDI has borrowed heavily from the AWC in terms of format, so it should look familiar to anyone who’s been watching a lot of arena the past few years.
Improvements from Previous MDI's Ruleset
Let’s walk through the stages of the MDI. First there will be Proving Grounds which are essentially qualifiers on live servers to gain access to the tournament realm. There is no limit to the number of teams that can qualify for the MDI via Proving Grounds; you need only complete five separate +14 or higher keys with the same group of five players over a two week period and then submit a team application. Meeting these criteria will get your team on the tournament realm. Once all the teams are on the tournament realm, the cup stage begins. There will be six cups total (alternating each weekend between the West and East regions) and each cup will be preceded by a time trial where teams will be given limited attempts (five per dungeon) over three days to run a specified set of dungeons as quickly as they can. The times from each of the dungeons will be added together cumulatively, and the top eight teams will be invited to the weekend cup and seeded based on their time trial times. The cups will be played over two days each weekend with the top eight time trial teams playing head-to-head in best-of-three series with double elimination. Points will be assigned to each of those teams based on their result in each cup (140 for first, 100 for second, 80 for third, etc.) After both regions have played all three cups, the points for teams will be tallied and the top eight teams (four from East and four from West) will be invited to a LAN tournament. The LAN tournament will have a format that is essentially identical to cup play.
The regions for this year’s MDI are bit different than in the past. In the first two MDIs, there were four regions: Americas, Europe, APAC (Asia Pacific) and China. Each region had its own regionals round, and the top two teams from each regionals advanced to the global finals. This year, Blizzard has decided to expand the regions a bit -- now the Americas and Europe are one big region (West) and China and APAC (East) are the other. I suspect this change was made in part because of a sense of unfairness in the last MDI where six of the top eight teams coming out of time trials were EU teams, and it was highly likely that several of the teams that didn’t make the cut for the EU regionals could have been very competitive in other regions. This regional change also opens the door a bit in terms of team composition. Now you could realistically see a team with both EU and NA players. In fact Blizzard has gone even further than that and said that only three members of a team need to be from the same region, so you could technically see a West team pick up one or two players from East or vice versa. The chances of that are relatively slim because of latency issues (last I checked, the typically Aussie ping to NA servers was somewhere in the ballpark of 250+ ms), but the option at least exists. The chances of a mixed NA/EU team are much more likely since the ping is tolerable if not great (somewhere between 100-150 ms for most players).
The time trial stage has also been updated a bit. In the last MDI, teams were given an entire week and unlimited attempts to try to produce the fastest times possible across three dungeons (+20 Maw of Souls, +22 Upper Kara, +24 Nelth’s Lair). I liked the concept, but in practice it ended up becoming a bizarro version of M+ because it completely removed consequences for risky play. As the time trials week progressed, you saw teams trying daring strategies with lower and lower chances of success but more and more upside. The leaderboard for Upper Kara in particular was littered with 1 tank + 4 DPS comps because the healing required was so minimal. You ended up having teams reset a dungeon 50+ times chasing the one run where the stars aligned and nothing went wrong. Blizzard, likely recognizing that this didn’t much resemble the M+ that we know and love, has made some changes to the time trial stage. There will now be a much shorter window (three days instead of seven) and limited attempts (five per dungeon instead of infinity). This will force teams to use more conservative, realistic strategies instead of shooting for the moon for three days in a row. It’s probably the change I’m most excited about for this MDI, and I’m very pleased with the direction that Blizzard appears to be taking the MDI.
Cups are a new wrinkle for the MDI which replace the regionals round of prior MDIs. For the first two MDIs, head-to-head competition began with four separate regional tournaments: one each for the Americas, EU, APAC and China. The top two teams from each regional tournament advanced to global finals. This time around, instead of a regional tournament, each region (which have been condensed to two instead of four) will have three cups to accumulate points for globals, and the top four teams from each region will go to global LAN finals. This is also a welcome change, as it gives teams a chance to iterate and try new things throughout the season instead of staking their entire tournament on one weekend of play. There was perhaps no better example of the pitfalls of the former approach than Method EU last year, who many (probably myself included) considered the favorite to win the tournament. Some unfortunate disconnects and remakes contributed heavily to an early exit for the team in the EU regionals. The new cup format wouldn’t have prevented the unlucky matches, but it would have given Method EU a couple more weekends to redeem itself and work back into position to make globals. If nothing else, cup play gives us more opportunities to play in a tournament environment which is always fun, so I think the entire player base will appreciate this change to the tournament format.
Quality of life appears to be another area of emphasis for Blizzard, and it’s strongly needed. The compression of the time trial stage from seven days to three is one example, and another is Blizzard saying they will only give teams two days of notice for which dungeons and affixes will be played in each cup tournament. In past MDIs, teams had that information weeks in advance which meant (naturally) that all the teams would spend the entirety of those weeks practicing for 8+ hours a day. Given that the MDI lasts for upwards of three months, that was a LOT of practicing. And it was always the same fairly narrow set of dungeons. Maw of Souls was the first map of the first round of regionals last year, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that we probably practiced the first pull of that dungeon (all the trash pulled with Ymiron) at least 200 times.
The prize pool has remained mostly the same from last MDI, though I believe it’s slightly less this time around. There will still be a $100,000 pool for LAN, but only $72,000 for cups ($12,000 per cup for six cups) versus last year’s $100,000 for regionals. I might have goofed the math, but I’m fairly certain there is less money in this year’s MDI. I’m not one to wring my hands about the prize pool -- frankly, I’m still surprised there’s any money at all for a M+ tournament and consider myself lucky. What IS somewhat confusing, though, was the announcement by Blizzard that they would be crowdfunding their esports this year via in-game toy sales. There was no financial commitment by Blizzard on that topic, so you couldn’t really claim to have any expectations about what the crowdfunding would mean for the prize pool, but I don’t think it’s unfair to assume that crowdfunding would at the very least make the prize pool increase instead of decrease. Maybe we’ll see the results of the crowdfunding kick in for BlizzCon’s prize pool, but it’s a bit of a head scratcher in the meantime.
A lot of information about Spring MDI has been released recently, but there is still quite of important information that we don’t know. We still don’t know what level the tournament keys will be. The prior MDI had keys between +22-25 at a time when the highest keys being done on live servers were in the +27-28 range, so my assumption would be that we’d get keys around +17-20 for this tournament. Tournament realm gear is another question mark. For the BlizzCon All Stars match, our gear was set to 380 because of Azerite (375 with the additional 5 ilvls from fully unlocking it) and we had access to all Azerite pieces, a healthy collection of armor from raids and dungeons, and all dungeon and raid trinkets plus world quest trinkets (which were not included in the last MDI). For as much depth as the artifact system added to the game, relics were an enormous headache in the last MDI because you had to brute force your best-in-slot relics by buying bags of them and slamming them into the Netherlight Crucible to see if they had the traits you wanted. This process could take literally an hour if your RNG was bad. So while you may have your opinions about Legion vs BFA in terms of loot, at the very least it will be substantially faster to make new characters on the tournament realm this time around.
Characters will be another interesting question for this MDI. Blizzard has changed their mind multiple times on the topic of multiclassing. For the first MDI, you were allowed to do full character swaps between each dungeon. Blizzard then did a 180 in the second MDI and required you to pick one class for each series with no swaps allowed. In the BlizzCon All Stars matches, Blizzard struck a compromise and allowed teams to make one character swap per team per dungeon. It’s safe to say that I have no idea where Blizzard will end up this time around, as we’ve seen them run the full gamut. I think one of the objectives of the MDI for Blizzard is to provide a sense of narrative and continuity, and having players have “main” classes that they’re associated with helps in that regard. I think they want people to think of me as Jdotb the resto druid, not Jdotb the healer that plays whatever is most convenient for each dungeon. I doubt we’ll ever get back to fully unlocking rosters between dungeons, but we’ll see.
I mentioned that MDI is taking a lot of cues from AWC, but one thing we haven’t seen them copy yet is substitutes. MDI teams are to consist of five players, meaning no bench. This is problematic for a few reasons. First, the MDI takes a while. Start to finish, I expect that the tournament will last upwards of three months. That’s a long time to commit to a tournament, and realistically there will likely be at least one team that gets jammed up by one of its players having real life commitments in the middle of the tournament. Having a sub would go a long way towards alleviating the pressure to always be available for your team. The other problem with no subs is that no matter how good you are at multiclassing, you will always have a “main” character that you’ve probably put more time into and are better at than other classes. And WoW, despite its best efforts, will always have a meta, and that meta will always be shifting. Having a sub would allow you to diversify your roster more and provide greater protection against the meta unexpectedly moving away from your roster’s main classes. And it seems a little weird that arena (with three players) gets a sub while MDI (with five players) gets none -- just from a logistics perspective, it makes more sense to give a bigger roster a sub than a smaller one. So I don’t know if this decision is purely financial (i.e., Blizzard doesn’t want to commit to flying out six players for eight teams when LAN rolls around) or if it’s some other issue, but it’d be really nice to have an additional spot on the team for emergencies.
I expect to see the level of competition in this MDI as high as it’s ever been. The M+ leaderboards for Season 1 and 2 in BFA are packed with capable teams, much more so than we saw in Legion, and my pet theory is that it owes to stronger tank play across the board. There have been a lot of players swap from DPS to tank this expansion, probably recognizing the importance of the role, and it’s starting to bear fruit. Combined with the fact that each region has essentially been cut in half in terms of representation (four regions became two regions, meaning instead of 32 teams across four regions you now have 16 teams across two regions), I expect to see really good matches from start to finish. If there was one complaint about the regional format from last MDI, it’s that (other than EU) each region probably had a handful of teams that really just looked outclassed. It wasn’t until you started to get deep into each regional that you could begin to really expect both teams to impress you. Hopefully this new format guarantees strong play throughout the tournament.
Personally I’m really looking forward to the MDI because keys on live always come with a frustrating dose of RNG. The MDI doesn’t eliminate RNG, but it reins it in quite a bit. And it provides teams with the ability to experiment a lot more than live does. As mentioned earlier, WoW will always have a meta, and that meta warps class representation. There has been a lot of chatter this season about certain classes being good, like Ret or Unholy or Shadow, but because those classes weren’t popular in Season 1 all the people that took M+ seriously abandoned those classes. So now even if you wanted to play with one of those specs, you just can’t find any on your friends list. The MDI gives teams the opportunity to roll one of those specs up instantly and try it out without having to invest months into leveling up your Heart of Azeroth or fishing for perfect Azerite traits. I expect to see a lot of wildcard class picks in the MDI that catch people off guard.
Lastly, in a topic near and dear to my heart, I’ll be very interested to see how much of the MDI process gets streamed. The M+ community has thrived up to this point in part because it’s very open with streaming live keys, but there’s a legitimate competitive disadvantage to streaming your practice especially if your competition isn’t. It feels super weird for me these days to play WoW with my stream off, and it’s less fun, so my heart hopes that top teams will make sort of an unspoken agreement to all stream MDI practice even though my head knows it’s unlikely. I really appreciate Method breaking the mold by streaming the Race to World First because I think it caused the community to really stop and evaluate whether it makes sense to do everything behind closed doors. Obviously my livelihood is dependent on streaming, so my point of view is going to be biased, but it’s just more fun to do things with a community, and turning streams off for practice is such a buzzkill. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
As promised, the weekly affix advice will stick around, so read up on which dungeons will make the most sense to target for your Proving Grounds keys next week.
Weekly Affix Advice - February 26
The affixes this week will be
Tyrannical, Skittish, Bursting and Reaping
Dungeons Most Affected by Tyrannical
Temple of Sethraliss
- Aspix and Adderis will be rough. Aspix’s Static Shock will drop the entire party’s health fairly low on Tyrannical weeks, and Conduction is going to leave someone at low health right before Static Shock goes off. Galvazzt will ramp in difficulty the longer the fight goes on, and if his Consume Charge goes off it will probably kill at least a few people. Avatar of Sethraliss is already a marathon fight, and now Pulse will squeeze healer mana that much more.
- The Azerite Powdershot from Skycap’n will deal mega damage on Tyrannical, so make sure everyone is topped off before he casts it. Luckily Council will be easy this week since Eudora is on the sidelines. Shark Puncher’s sharks start dealing ridiculous damage on higher keys, and standing next to them for one or two ticks will get you killed. Once both sharks are out, you need to be very diligent about kiting them. Harlan’s knockbacks are nearly impossible to dodge and hurt quite a bit on Tyrannical, and if you get knocked into one of the flame patches you can take a lot of damage very quickly.
- The Triad gets infinitely more dangerous when it’s allowed to use its abilities multiple times, which is almost assured on Tyrannical. Immunities will be a big help on this boss. Goliath will hit the tank extremely hard, and resetting your stacks will do quite a bit of group damage. Lord and Lady Waycrest will also rough up the tank, and Lady Waycrest’s Wracking Chord will do an annoying amount of party damage. Gorak Tul’s adds start to become an issue the longer he lives, so your party will need to stay on top of using the Alchemical Fires at appropriate times throughout the fight.
Dungeons Most Affected by Skittish
As a general note, there really aren’t dungeons that are terrifically affected by Skittish. Every DPS just needs to wait a second or two longer on Skittish weesks before popping cooldowns, and rogues and hunters can be extra helpful this week with frequent Tricks of the Trade and Misdirects.
Shrine of the Storm
- There are a lot of big pulls in this dungeons, so just make sure that your tank has all the mobs grouped up before you start hammering away. Tidesage Council will require the tank to kite a bit and has two targets, so watch your threat on this fight as the tank may not have been generating aggro evenly on both bosses.
Siege of Boralus
- Another dungeon with lots of small mobs that can be hard to cluster. Siege also has a couple of bosses with adds. Pay attention to threat on Bainbridge as he will periodically summon new adds with a fresh threat table. Give the tank a moment or two to grab the adds on Lockwood when she jumps up to the ship.
- A popular strategy in Tol Dagor is to round up several of the enemies outside of the prison on the beach where there is plenty of room to kite and the mobs don’t use many abilities. A big pull here can be more difficult to pull off with Skittish as the tank will likely need to stay out of melee range for most of the pull. The trash on the ramparts of the prison, intended to be killed with cannons, can be problematic as the person in the cannon will generate a ton of threat and the tank won’t be able to stand near the mobs without exposing themselves to potential friendly fire frosm the cannons.
Dungeons Most Affected by Bursting
Shrine of the Storm
- Shrine has many pulls that include lots of low-health trash mobs that will quickly stack up Bursting. Watch out for the Tidesage Initiates and Animated Droplet pulls at the start of the dungeon and before the Tidesage Council fight. Also be careful pulling the Abyssal Eels before Vol’zith.
- Lots of groups like to do big pulls at the start of Tol Dagor and round up all the trash before the first boss -- this will obviously be very dangerous on Bursting week. At least the respawn point is only a few yards away. Stinging Parasites after the first boss will leave a DoT on players in melee which, when combined with Bursting, can easily kill someone without defensives. The pulls within the prison itself aren’t necessarily big, but there are a lot of neutral mobs that can be accidentally pulled and unintentionally add to Bursting stacks.
Siege of Boralus
- The Kul Tiran Footmen and Gutters sprinkled throughout the dungeon tend to come in large clusters and have low health, so you’ll need to pay attention to them and not carelessly pull them with other packs. You’ll also want to watch the ground closely while pulling Bilge Rat Buccaneers as the bananas they place on the ground will stun you which can easily lead to a death if Bursting is rolling simultaneously.
Dungeons Most Affected by This Week’s Affixes
Shrine of the Storm
- Shrine has a ton of small mobs, from Initiates to Dredged Sailors to Abyssal Eels. Not only will this provide a lot of opportunities for DPS to accidentally rip threat from the tank, it also means that Bursting can get out of control very quickly. The bosses in Shrine aren’t cakewalks either and tend toward the long-ish side, so Tyrannical will slow this dungeon down this week.
Siege of Boralus
- The Footmen and Gutters abound at the start of Siege, so care needs to be taken (especially if a Spotter explodes all of them simultaneously) with respect to Bursting. Bainbridge and Lockwood aren’t particularly threatening bosses, but their adds might catch someone off guard this week with Skittish. Hadal and Viq’Goth will hurt on Tyrannical.
Temple of Sethraliss
- Honestly this is just a Tyrannical thing. Skittish and Bursting aren’t going to do much extra in this dungeon, but Temple is always guaranteed to thump you on Tyrannical. Galvazzt was nerfed recently but still hurts quite a bit, and Avatar is one of the longest fights in M+ so the added HP from Tyrannical makes this feel less like a dungeon boss and more like a raid boss.
Dungeons Least Affected by This Week’s Affixes
- Another week, another appearance of Atal’Dazar on “Least Affected”. This dungeon is essentially immune to affixes. None of the packs are huge so Bursting isn’t a big deal, and Atal features some of the easiest bosses in the game so Tyrannical isn’t scary.
- The trash pulls are big in Motherlode, but the mob health tends to be all over the place so you’ll probably be staggering kills enough to keep Bursting from overwhelming you. Half the mobs in here cast stuff randomly at non-tanks naturally so Skittish won’t even be that different from normal. The bosses aren’t bad enough to punish you especially on Tyrannical.
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