Welcome to week two of World of Warcraft patch 5.4, and that means the second live week of the Celestial Tournament.
For those of you just tuning in, the Celestial Tournament is a brand new venue for you to enjoy a pet battle challenge, so long as you meet the requirement, which is to have at least 25 pets each leveled to 25.
In previous patches, new pet battle tamers were added that were significantly tougher to deal with than those that came before. Specifically, the Pandaren Spirit Tamers, and then the Beasts of Fable.
Those patches introduced us to the idea of tamers with teams of epic (or legendary) pets, and also ‘boss pet’ fights, where you bring an entire team to try and take down one single, super tough and hard-hitting pet.
The Celestial Tournament rolls both of those into one event, with a new twist; a sequence of fights with no healing or pet resurrections allowed between matches. None.
When you do accept the quest to take part in the Celestial Tournament on the Timeless Isle, you are transported to a scenario version of the Isle itself.
You find yourself within the massive courtyard of the Celestials on the Timeless Isle, and it is fully populated with the mini-Celestials themselves. Also, many famous personalities in the game are there as tamers with their pet teams, there are vendors that sell noodles, and basically it’s like a little village dedicated to celebrating your taking part in this tournament.
The courtyard in the scenario, just as in the shared Timeless Isle, has a set of steps leading up and out, and yes, you can take this opportunity to leave the courtyard and explore the Isle, without monsters or players or encounters or treasure of any kind.
The scenario makes for a perfect opportunity for you if you love taking screenshots of the scenery without having random Ordos minion and three players named “Dickcheeselolz” strolling across your shot. You can wander around most of the island without any problem, no other soul at all to deal with. I can’t say that it is all clear, or that there are no secrets lurking in a cave somewhere because I haven’t fully explored it yet, but so far no sign of surprises.
For the Tournament itself, your first challenge on entering the Tournament courtyard is to defeat three famous people who have teams of their own. You can challenge these three tamers in any order you would like. The only thing is, you have to defeat all three before you can move on to the next step.
There are nine potential tamers, split into groups of three. Each week, you have no idea which group of three tamers will be there to fight. The members of each group are always the same, but which group you get changes from week to week.
Maybe one week you get Wrathion, Chen Stormstout and Taran Zhu as the three tamers. Maybe it’s Sully, Loremaster Cho and Doctor Ion.
The point is, if that is the group you get, it will always be that group for the remainder of the week until reset, and of those three, they will always have the same three pets each. From my playing, it seems each pet will also always start in the same order, so planning a counter-team strategy is very possible.
As I said, your first challenge is to defeat all three of these tamers, in any order you wish to face them, but you are not allowed to use bandages or pet rezzes or other ‘out of combat’ pet healing in between fights.
Your pets CAN self-resurrect and use healing abilities in the fights themselves.
I find myself leaning heavily on humanoid pets that get a little self-healing every time they do damage, mechanical pets that get to spontaneously resurrect once when killed, and undead pets that come back as unkillable engines of destruction for one round after dying. I’m not saying that’s a good strategy, I guess what I’m saying is my subconscious apparently likes that ‘crutch’ to rely on greater longevity from inherent pet mechanics rather than from a well thought out strategy of my own.
How it tends to play out is you field a team of pets, and at least some of them will die, but at least one has to live to beat a tamer. Once that fight is over, any of your pets that died stay dead for the rest of that instance of the Tournament scenario. Any pets that lived get the familiar ‘after fight pet heal’ of a few hundred health, and thus can be used in another fight.
Suppose you zone into the Celestial Tournament, face down Wrathion and get your face chewed because you thought all three of his pets were dragonkin types, and the fact the first is an undead takes you by surprise. You get your ass handed to you.
You can choose to leave the scenario at any time you please, after any fight. When you leave the scenario, all progress you have made is lost, but you can heal your pets, immediately requeue and enter the Tournament for a fresh shot.
What this means is, you can build your initial idea of a team, go in and take on a tamer, fight it out, and analyze your own performance. If you defeated him but want to refine your strategy for all the weeks to come and really nail down that perfect team, you can leave the scenario, change abilities. Heal the team. Move pets around. Swap in a different choice for a position.
For true clarity, you can change your teams, abilities, swap pets, anything and everything inside the scenario itself EXCEPT heal or rez. If you’d like, you can take as many attempts against the same tamer as you want, so long as you have the pets alive to put in the battle. One team dies, you can immediately build a new team of different fresh pets and try again. Every pet down, however, is lost to you for the rest of the time you are in the Tournament scenario. You don’t get to use those again later.
The only time the Tournament remains completed is when you’ve beaten the entire thing.
After the three tamers are down, you are given the second stage of the Tournament. Each of the four Celestials has a mini-me version Legendary pet, and you must face each one down individually just like defeating four Beasts of Fable. Call them the Celestials of Legend if you like.
You can challenge any of the four in any order you’d like, and you get your full team of three just like with the Beasts of Fable.
Once you have defeated all four Celestial pets, you have won the Celestial Tournament for that week. You can stay and explore for as long as you’d like with no timer that I’ve ever found, or you can choose to ‘leave the instance’ via the interface button and return to where you were standing next to the Tournament quest-giver (and Celestial Coin vendor).
Each time you complete this Tournament, you get one Celestial Coin. It costs three such coins to buy your choice of one of the Celestial pets.
The very FIRST time you complete the Tournament, after turning in the quest there will be a follow up quest giving you two more coins. This means that, the very first week you win the Celestial Tournament you will be able to buy one of the four pets and enjoy the victory with a new friend.
It will take three victories (and thus three weeks) after that first win to earn enough coins to get one of the remainder of the pets.
So. All clear? Good. Damn, that was a lot of hot air to make sure the framework was laid down.
The first thing that becomes clear is, any pet you use on a team that dies cannot be used on another team later. Any pet you use that gets wounded CAN be used again, but unless they are healed back up to full you will face another fight with a weakened team.
The first week I worked up my teams against Sully, Doctor Ion and Loremaster Cho and saved them as I went, refighting the same battle multiple times to make sure I had consistent results for next time.
My only concerns were to have teams that consistently won, and didn’t rely on that pet later in the tournament against someone else. Easy enough to do when you’re doing it live, since any pet that is dead in your roster clearly is used on another team earlier, right?
This week, I entered the Tournament and faced a different lineup of tamers from last week; Wrathion, Taran Zhu and Chen Stormstout.
Again, I built teams on the fly, starting with Wrathion, then moving on to Chen, and finally going to take on Taran Zhu.
That is when I realized how badly I’d screwed up. My first problem was, I wasn’t happy with my Chen team. I open with my Darkmoon Zeppelin, a solid fighter against Chen with a heavy hitting missile, Decoys to open the fight, and when I’m about to die anyway a huge hitting bomb to take them with me.
The problem I was having was if the missile missed once, I usually lost. Also, I wasn’t happy with my third pet against the Elemental. Sure, I won a few times, but it felt like I was relying on RNG a ton to get a lucky series of hits while suffering the reduced hit chance.
Then against Taran Zhu, fighting an all-humanoid Pandaren Monk team, it occured to me I used not only my Monk but my Anubisath Idol in my team to take down the dragonkins of Wrathion. I needed them to fight Yu’la if I followed last week’s strategy against the dragon Celestial.
Oh crap. I used up pets earlier I’m going to need later. And I don’t like the pets I’m selecting as long term solutions against Chen and Taran Zhu.
Although, and let me be perfectly blunt here… against Taran Zhu, I love love LOVE the Creepy Crate and Bonestorm. It’s hilarious. I get to use The LUGGAGE in battle finally! Just wonderful, cheers me up no end.
But it was still an amazing feeling. I was sitting there struggling to build a consistent team against Taran Zhu, realizing I had to go back and rethink my entire team build against Wrathion to free up pets to use against Yu’la later….
And I have 95 pets all rare at level 25.
There are people doing this with 25 or 30. Here I am, Tuesday night, I’ve got 95 pets to choose from and I’m scouring my roster looking for a good mix, and realizing there are at least four more pets I really should take the time to level up to solidify my teams.
HOLY CRAP. How can I still need more pets?
See, the thing is there are three different kinds of strategies to use.
There are pets that rely on being strong defending against an attack type. You know what kinds of attacks the enemy will use, and you bring in a pet that takes reduced damage from those attacks.
There are pets that rely on having attack types particularly strong against the enemy, relying on doing massive damage in a short enough period of time that the enemy doesn’t steamroll you.
And there are the synergy strategies. Fights designed around using a team with complimentary abilities against the enemy. A pet that sets up the fight by Blinding or Bleeding or Chilling the opponent, and then the rest of your roster has abilities that capitalize on that by always hitting, doing massive damage or stunning.
The ideal pet for a brute force approach to a fight is the pet that is strong in defense against the majority of an enemies attacks and is strong in the attack against that enemy type. You stand behind your wall and lob nukes. Kinda hard to beat that strategy.
Developing a strategy around pet ability synergy is, to me, more satisfying. But it’s also harder, right? You need to know your pets, their abilities, the strength and weakness dials and your opponent to craft a nice synergy team.
When it works, though. Oh, that moment when your enemy is Bleeding and you pop Blood in the Water for a guaranteed hit on a double damage attack? Ooooh, that feels good. I’m looking at you, elemental on Chen.
This has gotten ridiculously long, and I apologise.
What I’ve been wondering about this last week is how the addition of the Celestial Tournament has affected pet battle as a gametype for players.
We were told what the gate to entry was in advance. 25 pets at max level, and you could get in. Then that was reduced to 15, I think it was. Not really sure, since I’m way beyond that point.
The thing is, I’ve got a reasonable stable of pets to choose from, and I spent months trying to pick a wide variety of solid pets to level so each family would be well represented. I didn’t level, say, 15 critters and 1 flyer. I tried to balance it all out.
And even still, with over 95 pets at max level now (warcraftpets only shows I have 92 at max level, but it doesn’t count the pets I have two or three of at max) I am still looking at my roster and thinking, “None of my pets have the moveset I really need, I should level up my Gnarly to be part of this team.”
That is a lot of pet leveling. A lot.
When the Celestial Tournament went live, I went in and was excited to have enough pets to have the fights be really challenging, but feel like I had plenty to draw from to build teams and get the job done. I won the first night, and I thought that was fair because of the months of leveling I spent beforehand, nothing but leveling in preparation for the Tournament.
Yes, that is sad. I spent months to be ready to win a PvE pet battle tournament. The lengths a grown man will go to, just to get that spectral tiger kitty pet, I guess.
This week, it went live and it took me four days of attempts, rebuilding teams and the leveling of four more pets to max before I could get it done, and yes, in the end I had to build a synergy team for Chen because brute force wasn’t cutting it against the hit debuff.
The feeling of satisfaction was even greater, but at the same time it was frustrating to go in and try again and again, and look for new pets in my roster to try something different, and to finally accept that I was going to have to go level some more to continue.
What if I didn’t have all of these other pets to choose from? What if I had gone in with only 30 or 35 pets at max level, thinking I was above the cap needed so I had a cushion, and then found out I really couldn’t field anything that had a chance to make it all the way through the whole shebang?
The big question. Now that the roof of pet battles has been raised with the Celestial Tournament, do you feel overwhelmed at all it takes to fight inside?
And should there be an expansion for pet battles that goes in the opposite direction?
Cassie liked the idea of pet battles until she learned that you had to match pet types and abilities and all that to win. She wanted to pet battle as a role playing type of thing, by picking pets as though they were PETS, with names and personalities, and take those pets she loved out on adventures.
When you have to strategize and min/max abilities and pet types and swap pets out for advantage, it removes a level of personal involvement with the pet.
By way of comparison, you go from being the Hunter that has only ever had one pet since level 1 (or ten when you could tame another), has named your pet and traveled across the entire world with your best friend by your side…. to that hunter that the raid expects to swap your stat beast in and out based on what special buff it can provide the group.
So she doesn’t like the Tournament, and pet battling in specific. She’s fine with the lower level fights that allow her to bring a team of her pet friends. The more it requires a specific pet for a task, the less fun it is.
Has the Celestial Tournament had any of that kind of impact on you? Do you wish we had more RP opportunities with our pets?
No, not costumes.
Would you like to see something added going in a different direction. An adventuring or questing path that focused on you leveling your pets by taking control of them on adventures of some sort?
For that, I refer you to the Alliance quest in the Operation: Barrens that had you take control of a robot remote controlled cat to scout the Horde positions. Clearly, there was some effort put into a player being able to take control of a pet with the abilities of the pet on an action bar.
Would you like to see that explored in the game, expanded on in more detail? Something where you could have your pet Pumpkin the Feline Familiar fly through obstacles to get to the halloween candy, or something else probably a lot more fun? Something less stat vs stat driven.
The blog post that would never end. I blame not blogging about pet battles since I got obsessed.
Anyway, let me know your thoughts about any or all of this in the comments, okay? I live in a bubble and I’m curious what folks think.