Thoughts on Shadowlands MDI Events from BDGG - Shadowmeld, Class and Covenant Balance
11.02.2021 um 03:55
Two MDI global cups have been completed, so we sat down with prominent Mythic+ players from BDGG to get their thoughts on how this year's MDI has gone so far, giving their thoughts on what went right, and what changes they hope to see in the future including discussion on popular topics like Shadowmeld, Class Balance and more!
We're on the tail end of the first global cup for MDI and about to see cup 2 begin. We sat down with prominent Mythic and Mythic+ players from BDGG to get their thoughts on how this year's MDI cups have gone so far, what went right, and what changes they hope to see in the future.
Joining us is:
Overall Thoughts on the Shadowlands MDI
So far if I had to describe my thoughts about the Shadowlands MDI in one word I think it'd be underwhelming
Unfortunately, this is a common sentiment among players right now. But a lot of players still feel like Shadowlands has brought some of the best changes to the game in a long time, and are excited for what's to come in the next cups and MDIs. While the Shadowlands' dungeons have been well received, when it comes to the MDI setting there has been widespread concern that, compared to BFA, dungeons have been linear and with more long pauses during bosses. The recent changes to Tyrannical have been a very welcome change from players, and there is still a lot of positivity about some other improvements.
Overall the viewer experience was great with the new UI, and I think they did a good job with showing cooldowns. With a few minor tweaks I think it will be the best UI to date.
Undad shared an interesting take on one problem going forward:
At its core the MDI has one glaring issue for me. It doesn't replicate anything that exists in the live version of the game whatsoever. I think for an Esport to succeed that's perhaps the most crucial piece. If a tournament doesn't inspire the audience to try to replicate what they just saw with their friends, then what's the point?
Players have been requesting a way to control their keys and attempts within Mythic+ on live servers for a long time. What this looks like is still unclear, some players have advocated for a loot-free mode that lets you replicate the MDI experience for practice. What would you like to see?
Shadowlands MDI Changes
Shadowlands game design decisions brought new changes to the MDI, both directly and indirectly. Some changes were meant specifically for MDI, and some, like class balance and the AoE cap, have had an enormous effect on MDI. These may be the most contentious changes of all, with players feeling like no real problems were solved, and more problems getting introduced.
One notable change to MDI was the new rule that you can't have more than 1 of each class. Across the community, this change had mixed reviews. At the higher end of Mythic+ though, it seems pretty one sided as this change doesn't achieve what it sets out to do, and instead creates a more limited and stale environment.
The teams at the highest level are going to play what is best no matter what, and it's extremely likely there will be one best comp, regardless of class stacking. We this in the Global Region Time Trials #2. Every single top 8 run was done by Vengeance DH, Disc Priest, Unholy DK, Fire Mage, Windwalker Monk. If anything, the class stacking rule is creating a more stale environment because there's less things the teams are able to try.
I understand why it was put in place, and it does force more comp diversity which is generally a good thing. However, I hate that its a preemptive rule that forces said comp diversity when good balance should be what does that.
It wont really change anything at all, the teams are still going to play the best classes with little to no variation, aside from a few niche things such as rogues in Necrotic Wake with their
Mal des Meisterassassinen
Class balance in MDI tends to run into a problem that PvP/PvE have had in the past. Balance changes that affect raiding also affect MDI. With the introduction of covenants, AOE caps, and the ability de-pruning that shadowlands brought, this year's cups have had some unexpected results.
On the live version of the game, obviously it matters because of the time investment involved in gearing a character of a new class if it happens to be more powerful, and players having "mains" that they would really enjoy succeeding on. However, in a tournament environment with the best players in the world, whatever the "best" classes are doesn't mean all that much. You play what you have to to get the best times, and most of the fun comes from solving that puzzle.
Now from a viewership perspective I think it's pretty obvious that balance is off a little bit, especially regarding Fire Mage.
The MDI meta has always favoured burst and uncapped AoE, so it's no surprise that the most dominant spec is Fire Mage which is arguably the best spec in both those categories. Windwalker Monk is another spec that I feel like deserves a mention, as it is the dominant melee in the MDI as well as high keys on live servers. Although capped on its AoE, it has incredibly strong burst AoE as well as maybe the best utility toolkit from a melee. Especially after the severe AoE capping that affected melee to a larger degree, having great utility feels more important than ever, and Windwalker has that in spades.
There will always be a meta and I think it's going to lean towards these high AoE burst classes that are uncapped such as Fire Mage, Unholy DK, and Moonkin, followed by Marksmanship Hunters and Windwalker Monk who are capped but still bring tons of AoE and Single Target burst aswell.
Covenants In Dungeons
This seems to touch well on the problem that Undad outlined initially. While changing covenants on the MDI realms isn't a huge deal, it's not something you can replicate on live servers. Should there be more of an effort to tie MDI rules and realms more to what you can achieve on live?
The covenant dungeon buffs for some dungeons are fairly minor such as Plaguefall, but in dungeons like Halls of Atonement it's a massive deal to be able to have those gargoyles that just pump out insane damage. I do think Blizzard needs to rethink their idea about tying dungeon buffs to covenant choice, because I think a lot of the bonuses are very cool to play around but requiring a certain covenant to activate them is just silly. It is funny though watching primarily the healers having to suffer and change covenants to match the dungeon if needed.
Covenant choices, just like class/spec picks are always going to be whatever brings the most to the dungeon. They're all going to be similar with little change in my mind, with a few such as Kyrian Hunter or Moonkin maybe being apart of some dungeons compared to their Night Fae counterparts, since different damage profiles for certain dungeons/affixes are more valuable.
One thing is clear, class balance aside, the new AOE cap rule has had an enormous impact on what classes are viable to compete for the fastest keystones. It does add another dial for Blizzard to run to achieve class balance in MDI, but as it stands it needs a substantial tuning pass to open up class viability.
Target capping plays a huge role in this as it basically cuts half the classes from the pool of available options for the style of runs necessary to compete.
One of the biggest misgivings in the community, is how much this change seems to hurt more melee than it does range. This coupled with the new affixes that were introduced in Shadowlands
, which are already very unfriendly to melee classes, has had a predictable affect on the composition of the top teams. Whether or not Blizzard is following up with a rebalance of this new system isn't clear at this point, but you would have to assume so.
Best / Worst Dungeons
We mentioned how Shadowlands dungeons on live have been very well received but that doesn't necessarily mean that they fit into a compelling format for MDI. Players expressed early on that there was more of a linear path in the dungeons and less room for creativity.
I'd assume the teams are enjoying Theater of Pain the most simply because it has many options. I mentioned earlier that Shadowlands dungeons don't really fit the MDI setting early. A lot of that is due to the "on-the-rails" design that many of them have, with very few places it seems possible to really deviate in how you get your mob count. I think Theater avoids this simply by having 3 distinct wings that all have pros and cons to what order you do them in.
Now as for the worst dungeon I think that's much more obvious. Mists of Tirna Scithe is just designed in a way that makes it a nightmare for teams. If the maze is standardized, the dungeon is now pretty boring for both the players and viewers. There’s no creativity possible for this large portion of the dungeon. To add to that, during the maze teams are forced to pull one pack, or sometimes even one mob at a time. This goes against what originally made the idea of the MDI fun for both players and viewers. All this combined leads to a dungeon that I find extremely underwhelming in a tournament setting.
The best dungeons to run in a setting like this are dungeons that you can deviate off the normal path and create crazy big pulls such as De Other Side or Halls of Atonement or even something like The Necrotic Wake with the snapping/weapon usage (rip). Worst dungeons by far would be something like Spires of Ascension where you truly are locked into a path being left or right, cannot deviate the pulls very much at all, adding no variety to a live key vs an MDI key.
Long Term Changes:
's Dominance in MDI
It's very obviously a problem, and has been for the entirety of BFA now bleeding into Shadowlands. It's tough though, because I think from a player perspective it's quite fun. It's one thing left in the game that gives you little pockets of creativity in how you path the dungeons. Being able to
off CC'd mobs you don't need for your count is a level of manipulation that adds a lot of creativity to pathing. The ability to completely skip seasonal affixes however, is a huge issue. It's a tough call though. It's difficult to justify a change I'm sure, given how many players of the live game will be affected for something such a small player pool is abusing for the tournament.
Although I find some of the more unique strats involving
to be interesting to see done for the first time it is incredibly silly how dominant the racial has been through BFA and now Shadowlands. It is even worse now due to the fact that it completely changes how you have to deal with the seasonal affix. I think nerfing
would lead to a potential at least for more comp diversity, and it just sucks knowing that classes without access to Night Elf won't be considered as seriously as they could be.
absolutely needs to be gutted from existence, it is absurdly overpowered. Skipping a Prideful will almost 100% of the time be the biggest timesave in a dungeon, it was the same way in BFA with Void emissaries during the
affixes, but you still had to deal with the other emissaries and the same way during the
affix, yet still you added a bit of flavor to the dungeon with big reaping pulls into the boss with classes like Unholy DK that benefit greatly on single target from multiple targets.
Going forward, It's safe to assume that Blizzard is looking for ways to streamline and lower the bar for entry into MDI. With more teams competing at the higher levels, Blizzard has now scheduled 3 days for each cup rather than 2, resulting in an increase to an already very high time commitment.
Some of the most fun I've had in WoW were the 3 seasons I competed. The problem is it's just not sustainable. The time investment required just to be a top 8 team is so inhibiting for new teams to pop up. When you consider that unless you manage to place within the top 3 teams in the global region, you end up making less than half of minimum wage, it's very difficult to convince anyone to join you in competing. On top of that, the tournament now requires a larger time investment with 3 days scheduled for each cup rather than 2.
I also think number of practice days for time trials being submitted should be reduced, Its a massive burden on players to feel "forced" to slam these keys practicing for 16+ hours a day to be competitive.
I think it's very easy to identify the problems but not necessarily the solutions. How do you cut down playtime required while still allowing for the teams to perfect these dungeons? If the viewership doesn't warrant it you can't just increase the prize pool. Maybe the viewership does warrant it? These are things I don't think any of us outside the WoW Esports team can really say.
One core change I personally would like to see is a swap to what affixes are played. I strongly believe a good Esport is something that makes the viewer want to play the game immediately after watching. The MDI does a very poor job of this I believe, because watching the boys in Echo demolish a dungeon on
doesn't inspire me to go try to replicate their run with my friends when it's
week. It simply doesn't transfer. I think the affixes played in any given cup should just match what's being played on live servers that week. This change does 2 things. It adds relatability to the audience, and cuts player time investment a bit because the affixes are the same in every dungeon. I think people highly underestimate the additional brain power required when swapping affix combos between every dungeon you run, and this would be a nice move in the right direction.
Mists of Tirna Scithe not being in the dungeon pool would be a great thing in my opinion. Even with the changes to Mists, which is a good start, my opinion hasn't really changed. Even with RNG removed, you're still limited on pathing and pulls. 30-40% of the dungeon cannot be chain pulled. The whole maze is a pack by pack limitation.
I also think that the target cap should be lifted from most if not all classes so you aren't forced to watch Fire Mage, Unholy DK, Moonkin just pulling the whole dungeon while classes like Rogue or Warrior just sit there doing damage to 6 targets.
Players have left this MDI with more grievances than ever before, but there is a lot to be hopeful for. Blizzard has already rolled out massive changes to Mythic+ balance, and rule changes to this MDI shows that they are thinking of the long term future of the Esport.
All in all, I think my feelings towards the MDI are pretty sad. I really loved my time playing in those tournaments in BFA, but it's just become way too hard to justify continuing to do it. As a player that often landed in the middle-lower end of the top 8, making something around $2/hr to be in a high intensity competitive environment for 6 weeks straight just doesn't make sense anymore. Judging by the participation in this season so far, it seems many other players have begun to feel the shame.
The dungeons are the best they've been since Legion, and I think MDI has a real chance to become a bigger Esport if they just put more resources into it such as upping the prize pool. More community involvement, such as Twitter polls for affixes and more things along this line.
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