Air Fryer Brown Sugar Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Wings

Air Fryer Brown Sugar Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Wings

Dry Rubbed Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Wings done in the air fryer

This recipe has you make a basic (but delicious) brown sugar based dry rub, coat the bacon strips in it, wrap the bacon on the wing sections, pin it in place with water soaked wooden toothpicks and cook in the air fryer to perfection.

This recipe is optimized for a 5.8 qt air fryer.

Happy International Bacon Day!

Ingredients

  • 12 wing sections (thawed)
  • 12 pieces thin cut bacon
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • wooden toothpicks (briefly soaked in water)

Instructions

Place fresh (thawed) wing sections on a plate, pat dry if you’d like.

Set bacon on a plate and peel apart the strips so they’re all separate.

Take the dry ingredients and whisk together in a bowl.

Put at least 12 toothpicks in a small bowl and soak in water while you’re doing this next bit. I used more because I have flat toothpicks, and they’re not as strong as round so some of them would bend when inserting through bacon. Soak them in water so they don’t char or burn in the air fryer.

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Put the dry rub in a gallon sized ziplock bag, dump in the loose bacon and shake vigorously, working that brown sugar and seasonings into the bacon. Pull bacon out of the bag and dump onto a plate.

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Now, one at a time, grab a wing section, start a piece of bacon at one end, and wrap around to the other end overlapping by however much you need to get the bacon to the end. Try to overlap if you can to help the bacon placed at the start stay in place.

Pin the bacon in place at the end with a wet toothpick and place on a baking sheet (or other convenient easy-to-clean flat surface).

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Set your air fryer to preheat at 400 F for 5 minutes. I preheated this because you want that bacon on the bottom of the basket to start sizzling right away. You want to waste NO time getting that bacon going.

Once the air fryer is done preheating, place your wings carefully in the basket, trying very hard not to overcrowd. With this recipe, air flow is extremely important top and bottom. I’ve only got 12 wing sections in this batch because there just wasn’t quite enough room for the usual 14 once the bacon was on them.

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Cook the wings for 25 minutes at 380 F.

In this batch I did NOT flip them at all. Usually I would flip wings halfway through.

My concern was, I’ve noticed that flipping over wings done with a dry rub can take a crispy top and, by flipping it to the bottom, cause juices to soak into and soften it. I wanted the bacon good and tight on top so I left it unflipped.

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Once cooked, I did notice the top was perfectly well done and crispy. The color might be darker than you first expect because of the caramelization of the brown sugar dry rub.

The very bottoms were a little softer/wetter, but were NOT underdone, rubbery or at all bad. Just a touch softer and juicier. In the end, you can try flipping but if you do, I’d go a quarter turn instead of all the way over. Give the juices a chance to drain straight down without wetting the crispy side.

Pull out the toothpicks and plate.

Done!

Important Notice

My wife would like to make it clear that she thinks this whole recipe is just ridiculous for one person to eat for lunch.

I would like to make it clear that this was freaking delicious.

Air Fryer Sweet Hot Chili Wings

Air Fryer Sweet Hot Chili Wings

Sweet Hot Chili Wings (Air Fryer)

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Ingredients

  • 14 wing sections
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp sambal oelek (run in a blender until smooth)
  • 2 tbsp garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

Place fresh (thawed) wing sections directly in the air fryer basket. No seasoning, no oil.

Set air fryer to cook wings for 20 minutes at 370 F.

While waiting for the ten minute mark to flip the wings, gather your sauce ingredients and prepare a small skillet, a whisk, a mixing spoon and a medium sized bowl for use.

In the cold skillet, whisk the corn starch and soy sauce together until completely smooth.

With the skillet still cold, add the other ingredients to the soy sauce and whisk until well blended.

At ten minutes, flip the wings over and resume cooking. With about three minutes left to go, set the skillet on a medium heat burner and whisk continuously while the sauce comes up to a simmer.

When the wings reach 20 minutes, give the basket a good shake, spread the wings out evenly, and set the air fryer to 400 F, cook time 4 minutes.

Continue to simmer the sauce (bubbling and thick) whisking constantly for the four minutes until the wings are done.

Dump wings in a bowl, pour sauce on top, stir with a spoon until completely coated.

Done!

More Detailed Instructions (but not much)

Place a half flat of thawed wing sections in the basket of the air fryer. You don’t need any oil as long as your basket is non-stick, because we’re not trying to protect a flour or seasoning coating from coming off. The natural juices of the cooking wings will keep them from sticking.

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Set the air fryer to cook for 20 minutes at 370 F. This will get them cooked almost all the way through while not burning the outsides. We’ll crank it up to 400 F for another 4 minutes at the end, just to get the skin good and crispy to hold up to the sauce.

While the wings are cooking, assemble your sauce ingredients.

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Now, I use sambal oelek for the chili part of the sweet chili sauce. You could use sriracha if you’d like, sriracha is already at a smooth consistency and has much of the same flavors. You could use it instead of sambal oelek right out of the bottle. The reason I don’t is that sriracha already has it’s own sweetness from sugar and has a few underlying flavors I’m not a big fan of. Personal preference only.  I prefer the richness of sambal oelek… but it’s a more chunky chili paste, and I don’t like the consistency in a sauce. So when I open a new jar of sambal oelek, I run it through the blender for a few minutes to blend it smooth, then it’s already smooth when I need to grab a few tablespoons later.

I also buy ginger and garlic paste to keep in the refrigerator. And jars of minced garlic, too. I make, damn, a lot of wings and many of my sauces call for ginger and garlic. After a while, I just got tired of always mincing or smoothing ginger root or garlic cloves into a paste when I could just grab a tube and squeeze out what I need in two seconds without cleaning a garlic press later. Do I recommend you do this? Depends on how lazy you are, and how long yours would sit in the refrigerator. I don’t know how long tubes or jars of garlic or ginger last, because it’s not around long enough for me to find out. I haven’t had any issues with the flavors or cooking with it, so I honestly can’t see why not to use them. I kinda suspect using all fresh everything is slightly pretentious when there are some alternatives, but I’m not a chef OR a cook, so what the heck do I know. Maybe I’m committing some horrible cooking sin. Wings still taste great though.

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Once the wings are a few minutes out, get your sauce simmering, good slow thick bubbles while you whisk constantly over medium heat.  Overall, you’ll just be cooking the sauce about 6 or 7 minutes, simmering all the while. Should end up pretty thick and sticky.

Now, this sauce is pretty darn tasty on other things, like chicken nuggets, or even tonkatsu or chicken katsu instead of Bulldog katsu sauce, even on top of tacos. If you want to make more sauce and save some of it for later, just DO NOT ADD CORN STARCH and when it’s done cooking, pour and save the extra sauce in a jar and keep in the fridge. Should stay good for at least a week if you keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to use it. I’d advise warming it up instead of using it cold, though.

If you do that, AFTER you pour off your extra sauce, put the two teaspoons of corn starch in a small bowl by itself with some cold water, enough to whisk it until blended, and then add that to the sauce in the pan and simmer until thickened. That way you get your sticky sauce now and have your normal sauce to save in the fridge for later.

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After 4 minutes at 400 F, the wings will be reasonably crispy. Just right for spinning in this sauce.

Place the wings in a bowl, dump your sauce on top, and swirl them around with a mixing spoon until well coated.

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Any mixing spoon will do, even the burned wooden one I left on the stove top a little too long.

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That’s it, ready to eat.

These are sweet but have a pretty solid kick to them. It’s only two tablespoons of sambal oelek, but don’t underestimate the power of that plus ginger. The best part is, the heat doesn’t linger. It’s sweet and hot right up front, then tapers off very quick with almost NO residual, lingering burn at all. It’s just right if you want to chow down on wings and feel the burn but don’t want to still have a burning mouth 15 minutes later.

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I really like this one, I don’t make it them as often because it’s more involved than my dry rub wings.

I’ll be gone next weekend, so it’ll be two weeks until my next wing recipe, either sweet and sour wings or my dry rub. Or both, lol.

If you make these, let me know what you think, and if you have any suggestions for tweaks, okay?

Air Fryer Chicken Wings – Crispy BBQ Glazed

Air Fryer Chicken Wings – Crispy BBQ Glazed

Crispy BBQ Glazed Chicken Wings (Air Fryer)

BBQ10

Ingredients

  • 14 wing sections
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • vegetable oil spray
  • BBQ sauce of your choice

Instructions

Place fresh (thawed) wing sections in ziplock bag.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, pepper and paprika.

Dump seasoned flour in ziplock. Close ziplock and shake well, getting all the chicken coated.

Spray light coat of vegetable oil in bottom of air fryer basket.

Using tongs, pick wing sections out of bag, shake off excess flour, and lay in basket, doing your best to keep them to one layer and touching as little as possible.

Spray a light coat of vegetable oil on the top of the wings in the basket. You do NOT have to flip them or spray the other side right now. You just want the flour moistened on top a bit before cooking.

Cook the wings for 20 minutes at 370 F, flipping them over at the halfway point and spraying vegetable oil VERY lightly on any dry spots.

Once the wings have cooked for 20 minutes, using a basting brush, LIGHTLY baste your choice of BBQ sauce on the top side of the wings. This moistens any flour that remains a little dry. The thicker the sauce is, the less likely it will be a beautiful caramelized glaze, so go light.

Cook wings BBQ sauce side up for 2 minutes at 400 F.

Flip wings over, baste with BBQ sauce, again going lightly and making sure any dry patches of flour are moistened. Cook at 400 F for 2 minutes.

Done!

More detailed instructions

First, if you’re wondering about tools, air fryer I’m using, etc, please check out this blog post.

Place the wing sections in a ziplock bag. Mine are already in one, because that is how I store them after breaking down a flat from the supermarket. I do not pat them dry, having them be slightly damp helps the flour adhere AND cook.

BBQ1

In a small bowl, dump the flour, salt, pepper and paprika, and whisk so it’s very well blended. I use a lot of paprika, because I like that heat underlying whatever sauce I use, which to be honest is whatever I have a partial of lying around. From the cheap generic BBQ sauce from Aldi’s to something nicer like a Sweet Baby Ray’s, any glaze can go over the base wings. If you don’t care for it being too spicy, you can reduce or leave out the paprika entirely. I do not season this chicken directly because the seasoned flour does a very nice job of staying on the chicken.

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Dump the seasoned flour right in your chicken bag, seal up with an air pocket trapped inside, and shake the heck out of it, moving the chicken pieces around so everything gets nicely coated.

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Now spray vegetable oil in the bottom of your air fryer basket to give it a nice light coating. This prevents sticking, helps prevent losing flour coating off the chicken bottoms, and also helps moisten the chicken bottoms as it cooks the first 10 minutes.

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Pick out chicken wing sections from the bag with tongs, shaking all the excess flour off of them. The thicker your flour is, the gummier it will likely be. A nice thin coating will crisp up well.

Lay the wings as carefully as you can in the basket, keeping it to one layer and trying not to crowd it. The whole point is to have that hot air blasting every bit of surface area it can reach. That is why I don’t use paper liners or second level trays or anything else in the basket. You want as much air flow as you can get.

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I’m actually not too happy with this. It’s crowding a lot, but that’s because this half flat of wings was very fresh and plump, lot more meat than usual. I know, terrible problem, too much yummy chicken, how horrible. It’s okay, it turned out fine. The chicken does firm up and shrink a little while cooking.

Spray the TOP of the floured wings with more vegetable spray. A very light spray, if you have a mister that works with vegetable oil that’s even better. You just want the flour to be slightly moist, not soaked. Remember, as the chicken cooks, natural fat and juices will be released that self-moistens the flour, more on the bottom than the top.

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This is what mine looked like after spraying the top. You can see there are still dry patches of flour, because I’d rather go light on oil. Later on, you will be lightly basting BBQ sauce on the wings and that will moisten any dry patches.

Okay. Time to cook. Put the basket in and cook the wings for 20 minutes at 370 F. At the ten minute point, you’ll flip the wings over. Spray any super dry patches very, very lightly with oil.

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You can see, even here at the halfway point they’re looking like they’re getting nice and golden brown.

Finish cooking the remaining 20 minutes.

Get your BBQ sauce of choice and a basting brush ready.

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After the 20 minutes of cooking are over, it’s time to get the glaze on and caramelized. Baste the tops of the chicken lightly with your BBQ sauce. You shouldn’t need that much, because you want a thin coating. It’ll caramelize under high heat without losing the crispiness you just built up with the flour. If you use too much sauce, it’s not a bad thing, but the wings will be more towards the sticky side.

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There, that is the top side sauced prior to cooking.

Cook that top side at 400 F for 2 minutes. You’re looking for high heat to caramelize the glaze.

At the end of two minutes, pull the basket out, flip the wings over and baste the bottoms, and cook for another 2 minutes at 400 F.

Done! Overall cooking time 24 minutes at no less than 370 F. Even with these super thick and juicy wing sections, they were cooked thoroughly all the way to the bones.

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Last thoughts. This time (as shown in this picture) I did NOT cook them at 400 F for the last four minutes. I cooked them at 370 F because, as I mentioned in the previous Tips blog post, my air fryer does not like cooking at 400 F. The control panel goes wonky. So this time I tried it staying at 370 F just to see how they would turn out. As you can see from the picture, they are NOT all beautifully caramelized. They’re more on the crispy/sticky side. Still darn yummy, but not quite how they usually turn out.

I do this all the time, every batch of wings I make I’m trying something different, just to see what happens. The only hard and fast rule is to always make sure you cook the wings through. Never risk eating under-cooked chicken. But if you want to try more or less salt or pepper in the flour, add some cayenne pepper, use Heinz 57 sauce for your glaze instead of BBQ or maybe even some tikka masala, go for it. Worse that happens is that you’re eating wings that aren’t quite what you were expecting, and that’s never that bad a thing.

Air Frying Chicken Wings Part I – Tools and Tips

A few friends suggested I write some blog posts sharing my recipes for Air Fryer Chicken Wings. Since I’ve been making them several times a week (many different flavors and styles), I figured that might be fun.

Before I do recipe posts, I wanted to do one quick tips and tools post, so I’m not repeating myself in the recipes. That’s what I’m going to cover here.

Air Fryers

I strongly suggest the minimum size of Air Fryer you get be a 5.3 quart. When cooking wings, you want an air fryer basket where you can lay out your wing sections with a little room for the air to flow evenly around them.

A ‘flat’ of wings, at least here in Minnesota, is 14 full wings which comes out to 28 wing sections when cut up and the tips thrown away. A 5.3/5.8 quart air fryer basket can comfortably fit one half of a flat, or 7 wings/14 wing sections.

Why do I mention 5.3 and 5.8 quarts side by side? Because choosing what exact size of air fryer you’re getting can be a bit tricky. Different air fryer manufacturers in the 5 quart plus range, can actually have the same size baskets, but the manufacturer measured from different points corner to corner to get the volume.

Example. I have a Bella Pro Series “5.3 qt” air fryer. I have seven friends that all bought the Cosori 5.8 qt air fryer. Both of these air fryers have the EXACT SAME SIZE BASKET when placed size by side. Identical and interchangeable. So, don’t get too hung up on dimensions when shopping. Once you’re looking in the 5-ish qt range of air fryer, they’re pretty close to each other in size.

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Now, like I said I have a Bella Pro Series 5.3 quart air fryer I bought from Best Buy. I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. It gets the job done well enough that I haven’t replaced it, but it has a recurring fault in the control panel. If I set it to cook at 400 F, after five or ten minutes the control panel begins going nuts, changing the temperature or cook time on it’s own from minimum to maximum levels, sometimes even shutting itself off. Best I can figure the control panel isn’t well enough insulated from the heating coil at that temperature. I haven’t had any issues cooking at 360 to 370 F, so I just deal with it because my results at those temperatures are fine.

As I said earlier, ALL of my local friends went with the Cosori 5.8 qt air fryer. Here is a link to it on Amazon.

The way it worked out, we have that one guy in our shop, you know the type. Before he buys anything, he researches them for about a month. He finally decided on the Cosori, bought it, and raved about it enough that everyone else in the shop and out in the manufacturing plant started buying them. Now we have wing cook-off days at the shop where we all bring in our air fryers and cook a flat of wings with our own recipes, and share to see who likes what the most. That’s how I know that my Bella basket is in ALL ways interchangeable with the Cosori… but the controls and features on the Cosori are better, and the control panel design is different, and most important of all, none of them have had any issues with their units. So, hey, when I get a new one I’ll be getting a Cosori as well.

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Wings

When buying wings, only you can decide what importance you place on quality, convenience or price. Organic? Free range? Your choice.

I personally do not worry too much about anything except getting the best quality wing I can for the most reasonable price. That is why instead of going to a butcher (good but expensive) I go to the local supermarket and buy fresh whole wings instead of frozen, and break them down myself. I do recommend breaking whole wings down, because the wings are easier to eat, they cook more evenly, and you get rid of the wing tips which can be a pain to work around when arranges wings in the air fryer basket.

In Minnesota, the supermarkets carry flats of fresh wings, 14 whole wings with tips. Once you break them down you’re left with 28 wing sections and discarded tips.

You can also sometimes find smaller packages of fresh wings, usually 8 or 10 to a package, again whole.

If shopping for convenience, then you can find packages of frozen wings, already cut up and sectioned without wing tips, ‘ready to cook’ in 4 lb, 8 lb or larger packs.

In my experience, the fresh wings will be larger, meatier than the frozen, often just a better quality wing, and yet at the same time being less expensive than frozen.

With frozen sectioned wings you are paying more for the convenience of having the wings already cut up for you and frozen for long term storage.

Here is an example of the price breakdown I found for wings just this weekend;

  • Walmart frozen 8 lb Tyson frozen wing sections – $3.14/lb on sale.
  • Walmart frozen 8 lb generic frozen wing sections – $2.48/lb.
  • Walmart fresh Purdue whole wings  – $2.27/lb.
  • Aldi’s fresh whole wings – $1.79/lb on sale, normally $1.99/lb.

That’s a pretty big swing in price. The price for a 4 lb pack of frozen wing sections is even higher, because they charge you more for getting a smaller package. I don’t know why, but there you go.

Now, of these different options, I looked very carefully at all the wings. Of them all, the fresh Aldi’s wings were by far the best in size and apparent freshness. For a flat of 14 wings, they were a full pound more meat than the flat of fresh Purdue wings. The Purdue wings I got were 3.9 lbs, the Alsi’d were 4.9 lbs. Same number of wings, a pound more meat.

Even then, both the frozen wing packages I checked had smaller wing sections compared to the Purdue.

That’s why I recommend buying a flat of fresh whole wings and breaking them down yourself. You’ll get the best price while at the same time getting better quality.

I typically buy one flat of fresh wings a week, break them down and split them up into two freezer bags, 14 wing sections per bag. 14 wing sections fits perfectly in a basket for a 5.3 quart air fryer in one go, so I’ll make wings Saturday and Sunday, trying different recipes each time.

If you’ve never broken wings down before, it’s extremely easy once you’ve tried. Here is a good video that you may find helpful if you haven’t done it before.

Tools

Make sure you have a nice sharp knife, it makes breaking down the wings a snap. The one I use we’ve had for decades, but sharpening it makes the job easy. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just strong and sharp and a good weight to get the job done.

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I’ve also found a good set of spring loaded tongs is perfect for handling the wings in the basket when it comes time to flip them over. I got the pair in this picture for about $12 at Kohl’s, nothing super special, but perfect for the task at hand.

Tips

I don’t pre-heat my air fryer. My model (and the Cosori) both come up to temp fast enough that pre-heating doesn’t seem to add anything to the party.

When I use oil, I buy cans of vegetable oil cooking spray. It seems that these days you can purchase the cooking sprays with actual vegetable oil, olive oil, or many other types of oil which is really nice. It’s not just the old scary generic ‘butter cooking spray’ that used to make me wonder what the hell you were getting in that can.

I would prefer to have a spray bottle / mister of peanut oil to use when spraying the wings in the basket, but so far I’ve tested a few misting bottles, and none of them handle the peanut oil well. Instead of misting, it comes out as a stream. So I’ll keep trying different bottles until I find one that can mist a slippery peanut oil type fluid.

When buying spices, paprika in particular, there are different kinds and where you buy them, how fresh they are, and what kind play a big role in your flavors.

When I say paprika in my recipes, I’ll always mean the standard generic paprika you can get in a little McCormicks bottle.

If you’d like to try something special, find some smoked paprika, or for a sweeter flavor some Hungarian paprika. They have the same underlying flavor profiles as standard paprika, but are very different in the smoky or sweet notes they add to the dish.

Also, when recipes call for black pepper, if you’d like to see what a hit of citrus would do to the seasoning try some lemon pepper. If you’re not used to it, you might be amazed at how the lemon essence brightens up the other spices.

These recipes are ones I have personally used, tweaked, tested, changed, tested again, changed, back and forth. I’m not copying and pasting. There is no monetization here. I’m only sharing recipes I love with friends who also love wings and are thinking about getting air fryers. If you’re stumbling in here, don’t worry. Yes I actually make these all the time, and I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do.

When using the recipes, my only concern would be if your particular air fryer comes up to temp slower than mine, or has a smaller basket with less air flow. I’d hate for you to have different results because the cook times I’m using aren’t the same as what you’ll need.

I will promise you one thing; I never, ever get anything remotely close to an under-cooked wing with my times and temperatures. The nice thing about bone-in chicken wings is the bone itself acts as a heat sink. It’s difficult to overcook a chicken wing because of the bones helping absorb excess heat. I cook wings at no less than 360 F for 22 minutes or more in the air fryer and they’re perfect, but I can go up to 28 minutes, and they’re still not overdone. I’ve sometimes gone for super crispy at 400 F for 24 minutes, fighting the control panel shenanigans the whole time, and still not overcooked the wings.

I guess the point to the story is, don’t be too concerned over exact temperatures and times, as long as you’re getting fully cooked wings. If you’re in doubt, add a minute or two.

Generic blog stuff feel free to skip

I personally hate recipe blog posts where the writer shares a personal story for three pages before getting to the recipe. If I want the story, that’s great and I will read it, but sometimes I’m in a rush, looking for a recipe that sounds good with the ingredients I have on hand, and I want to scan the details (or ingredients) to see if it’s one I want to try. So in the following recipe blog posts, I’m going to give you the recipe and ingredients up front, and then if you want more details on how I prep and cook them, you can read further.

On the subject of monetization, I intentionally do not write blog posts for cash. I avoid any possible way of making money off this. I do this for fun, the love of the game if you like, whatever. It’s not a job. I have no problem with anyone that does write blog posts, recipes, or make videos as a source of income. But that ain’t me. The downside to this is, if I don’t feel inspired to write a post, then there isn’t regular content for readers. No real reason for you to come back. But hey, that’s okay if something on the blog is interesting to someone, somewhere. The reason I mention that is, I do NOT get paid to advertise or recommend anything. Ever. Nothing is recommended because I hope to get paid. It’s because it’s what I use or what I’ve seen to work.

Finally, when you see ads on this site, it’s because WordPress put them there. Sorry about that, I went with a free host years ago because I write so seldom now. I know the ads are annoying, but it’s what the host requires to keep the lights on.

Now with all that out of the way, the next posts can be all about making the wings! I think the first one will be… crispy BBQ wings. A couple different techniques that result in a damn tasty wing.

See you then!

Final Fantasy XIV – Mounting Tension

Cassie and I have been playing Final Fantasy XIV for a couple of weeks now as time allows, both of us as Lancers.

One of the things we’ve both been looking forward to was getting a mount, a rite of passage we’re already familiar with from WoW.

The normal progression for travel is running around slowly on fedex quests back and forth until you learn a zone by heart just from all the back and forth. Before you know it, you know your way around, even in a big city.

As you run, you get flight points or crystal teleporting locations, making travel between main city/village hubs a little easier, a little faster.

Finally, once you have leveled enough to know your way around pretty good they give you the chance to get a mount, trusting that the increased speed and convenience won’t prevent you from learning where things are at this point, even in new zones.

So a mount’s a pretty big deal in an MMO, right?

Something to look forward to, a removal of some tedium from game life.

While looking at some guides for new players of FFXIV, we saw that the quest chain to get your mount can begin sometime after you reach level 20 in a job. So once Cassie got to level 24 and still hadn’t seen the quest yet, she got worried she might have missed something, and looked up a guide for it on a blog somewhere.

Now, keep in mind that much like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV has been around for many, many years now. What is it, eight? Nine? Think for a moment about how much a game like WoW has changed since it’s first release, from patches to expansions to quality of life improvements. This fact may be relevant in the story to come.

So Cassie is looking at this mount guide, and she sees that once she chooses which of three Grand Companies she wants to join, she’ll be able to buy a chocobo mount. But the mount cost will be 2000 Grand Company seals, a currency that you get from doing these missions called Guildleves available in different zone hubs. There are typically 4 different missions available at a time, and once you’ve done all four in that zone, more will appear. Each of these quests is like a regular quest, escorting or killing mobs or doing something locally. Each quest can reward you with about 200 seals.

WoW has trained us well that there will inevitably be quests where you travel across the world to talk to someone, who only then will tell you that before he can help you, you’ve got to go all the way back across the continent and buy him some special ale or beer basted short ribs or something and bring them back, wasting your damn time with another fedex quest. So, to save time, guides will tell you to make sure you’ve got like 4 milk and 5 cookies or something on you before you continue on.

Cassie sees this 2000 seals cost in the guide, and once she unlocks the quests for the Grand Company, she runs out and starts grinding these seals by doing Guildleve quests over and over for a few hours.

She gets her 2100 seals, heads off to the quest giver, turns the quest in and is able to buy the chocobo mount.

The cost of the chocobo mount at the vendor is 200 seals. NOT 2000 seals like the guide said.

So this…. this was pretty harsh. There might have been a few grumpy words exchanged, some swearing, possibly someone walked away from the keyboard and watched TV the rest of the night, some low grade venting, the usual when you really studied way too much for a test that turned out to be easier than expected.

So the next day, Cassie is running around on her new mount, goes on to the very next quest in the chain… and the quest reward is 300 seals.

300 seals. She didn’t have to do even ONE of those quests she ground out for hours. Not one.

I had to hear about this, so now you do too.

In the end though, I think it was worth it to her. Not only is the mount cool, but in Final Fantasy XIV, you get a follow up quest that teaches you how to train your mount to be a combat pet alongside you. You can permanently assign your mount a class roll as either a tank, DPS or healer, and if you summon the mount using this special grass you can buy from vendors, when you dismount the mount will stay by your side and fight your enemies with you until you mount again.

Really it’s very, very cool. Of course it brings some added stress, because you have to pick a role for your mount, and what if you need a healer more than a tank? How do you decide?

Decisions, decisions.

 

 

I Want to Sav(or) the World of Warcraft

Reminiscing about the grand old days of playing World of Warcraft has me realizing how much of the game I’ve forgotten. When was the last time I dropped by Onyxia’s parlor, had a nice cup of tea? Said hi to some of those dungeons up in Twilight Highlands?

The world is huge. Just, freaking huge.

It’s hard for me to grasp most of the time, because each expansion layers on more levels like a pearl and I just stay in the new layer and mill around.

There is so much to do out there between questing and exploring zones and soloing through all the dungeons and raids.

Of what is out there, how much do I remember? I did it all at least once at some point over the years, but there were long gaps between expansions where I sat at max level and, what? Did the same dungeons and raids over and over? Leveled alts? Did pet battles?

Sure, I leveled alts, but without exception those alts were played in a zone  only until I out-leveled the area, then I dropped whatever the heck I was in the middle of and moved on.

When was the last time I ever just took a character from the beginning, the very beginning, and worked my way through every quest in every zone in as close to the original storytelling flow as possible?

The answer is, never.

How funny is that? I go on and on about how great Warcraft is with all this incredible content, but when it comes down to it, it’s been at least over a decade since I put any effort into playing through the game as one big story. In fact the last time I played through determined to be a completionist and see ALL the story there was to experience was in vanilla. And back then, it was because you needed to scrape and beg for those XPs, yo.

I wonder if I could do it? I wonder if it is possible for my short attention span ‘ooh shiny’ attitude to pick a character and hit each story zone, do it ALL regardless of whether I’ve out-leveled it or not, and keep doing that all the way to the end? To do World of Warcraft from start to finish as a single cohesive story?

It would take some planning to do it right, I can see that already. Anything ridiculous worth doing is worth overdoing, after all.

I’d need to pick a character, and a starting zone.

I’d need to group zones together into story arcs. The goal wouldn’t be to LEVEL so much as to take a character with every quest open and available in the game, then play through entire thematic arcs to get the complete experience. Using a fresh character prevents me from soloing every dungeon or raid I’d come to, but would ensure every quest in the game would be available as I travel through.

Suddenly I wish there was a way to reset your character quest progression to zero to do it all from the beginning. But no I don’t, the logistics on that would be terrible. They’d have to know which quests you’d already completed so they wouldn’t offer you quest rewards again, but not shut off quest rewards for quests you’d never done the first time, sorry STUPID idea, galactically awful, ugh.

To really do it right would take completing the dungeons for each zone once I had any final quests, since (at least originally) you would finish the story arcs in a zone by doing dungeons and then finally doing the associated raids. Only then would I move on to the next arc.

I’m excited at this idea. I’m freaking stoked about this idea. I’m ready to log in and tear it up right now!

I kinda sorta started to float this idea of playing through all the zones to Cassie last night, and she shot it down so fast it gave me whiplash.

Name a zone, and she had a reason, a perfectly valid reason, an EXTREMELY accurate and valid reason why playing an alt in that zone will suck all over again. She says I’m delusional, and there is a reason why as soon as we out-level a zone on an alt we move on. That once we’ve done the zone the very first time, we’ve let all the magic happy quest fairy dust out of the jar. You can’t go back and recapture that feeling.

I don’t know. I think she’s right, but at the same time damnit I want to try. One thing in my favor is I’m old. My memory is shot anyway, most of it will seem new to me if I come at it from a different direction.

The big challenge would be making sure I can clear the dungeons and raids at the right time in the process so I maintain the flow of the story as I go. I have a feeling that I’m going to need buy-in from Cassie on that one to get them done, especially on the raids.

I’m still going to try to do it. I think I’ll have to delete either my Void Elf alt or my Lightforged Draenei and start over from scratch. I’ll be level 20 at the start, but I could still go to each starting zone in turn.

Hmm, but would it be better to do a Worgen? That starting zone is only accessible to that race, and has some impressive story questing tied to it.

Oh great, now I don’t know where to start.

I guess from here, before I get bogged down by which alt class and race to play, I need to make a list of all the zones in each expansion/world, and then start tying story arcs together to nail down a sequence.

Yep, yep that seems like my next step.

I’m sure this will go well. What could go wrong?

Stay tuned!

 

Wanting a Warcraft Done Up Diablo

In playing the new expansion, questing through the new areas, I’ve been struck by how… how just completely wonderful the experience has been.

The areas are beautiful, lush with life, expansive and gorgeous to look upon yet still in keeping with the Warcraft that has come before.

Most of the settlements I’ve seen evoke feelings of original Warcraft city or village design, but expanded upon.

As an example, my very first impression of the new starter city, Boralus, was that it was what I thought Booty Bay was going to be like when I first journeyed there. The actual Booty Bay, when I first saw it… well, let’s just say it brings to mind a favorite old quote from the movie Roadhouse; “I thought you’d be bigger.”

Boralus is the style of Booty Bay, while being as large and bustling and alive as I could hope for a coastal trade city to be. And it’s not even that it’s that much larger than Booty Bay, but it rolls on into the rest of the massive city and dock areas smoothly, giving a sense of scale that Booty Bay never really did.

Booty Bay, for all its history and place in the world, is still a one dock, one ship town. I always felt like a ragtag band of misfits could take it over with a rusty saber and a stuffed shark. Not so Boralus!

So yes, establishing shot. I love the look and feel of the areas. I love traveling in the wilds between quest hubs and seeing the wide variety of non-aggressive wildlife to be found everywhere. It’s very nice to not have to fight every raccoon, fox, deer and eagle I see. Sometimes, I’d like to feel like I’m part of the environment with the wee pretty critters rather than El Destructo, massacre lord of skinning, killer of all he surveys. Sometimes. Depends on traffic conditions that day.

But there is another key ingredient to my enjoyment, nay my delight in adventuring in Kul Tiras.

I never see another living soul once in the game.

Call it hitting that blessed sweet spot between the vast horde racing to max level but not yet bored enough to shift to all alt leveling all the time.

I travel from town to town, righting wrongs, interacting with people along the way, finding treasure chests and piles of ore, and generally being immersed and having a great time.

Somehow, and call me an old antisocial curmudgeon if you like, but my immersion has never felt enhanced by running into <I’dSapThat> the rogue sitting on his largest mount on top of a quest giver. Or any of a thousand other annoying dipshit things people do in an anonymous world filled with other people to hopefully troll.

Cassie started playing this expansion before I did, and she says that as soon as she hit max level, boom, there were all those world quests and players phased in with her everywhere you looked, racing each other for mobs and resources. And she hadn’t finished questing in the third zone yet, so she’s now trying to deal with that while enjoying the quests and story and environments. Yay.

So looking forward to hitting max level now.

The truth for me is simple. No matter how many ‘fixes’ or modifications a developer tries to put in a massively online game to prevent trolls from trolling, it’s not the actions of the trolls that annoy me nearly as much as the forced awareness that the trolls are there in the first place, in your face, trying to be a little dick. Or just being, well, “me first me first” annoying little gits.

I don’t want to play a massively multiplayer online role-playing game anymore. I don’t like strangers in general. I don’t even like people in general. I like individuals I meet on a case by case basis. The world is a very big place, and just sharing the fact we both like World of Warcraft is no longer enough to make me include you in my band of brothers and sisters. Lots of assholes play the game too.

Case by case basis.

But, and this is the sticky part, I do love playing with friends in games. I like playing solo, but I love having an online guild of friends to chat with and be there to help or just hang out if the opportunity pops up Or to come see their awesome new transmog, pet or mount.

I like grouping up, but in small groups.

I like having every challenge in the game be possible to achieve solo, but fun in groups as well.

Basically, what I love is World of Warcraft, but if it had the Diablo 3 multiplayer system.

You know, funny thing about Diablo 3. Somehow, there is this big world in the game, and yet they don’t force all the players to share the same small cramped zone to save server space. But you can still play with friends when you want to!

You can group up with friends, drop in on their game and help them out or just roll with them killing stuff, and somehow this does not destroy the game world or shut down servers. Up to four or five, can’t remember off the top of my head, people can play together at any given time. You can even trade loot back and forth too!

Basically, Diablo 3 has the most perfect “I want to play the game and also be able to play with friends but not have to deal with dicks” system I’ve ever seen in a multiplayer game, and I dearly wish, oh HOW I wish that it could be applied to World of Warcraft.

I’m just saying.

This game would be freaking awesome if it wasn’t for all the damn people.

The Green Hills of Azeroth

dancinglights

The world of Azeroth is very real to me.

It’s not a collection of carefully crafted ones and zeroes hosted on magnetic media. It’s a living, breathing world that I have long called home.

From the wild cats of Dolanaar to the storm-tossed beaches off of Auberdine, across the great sea to the mountains of Lordaeron, and even to the pirate-infested waters off the southern tip of Stranglethorn Vale, Azeroth has been my home.

Ten years and more I spent walking across, riding through and flying above the living land of Azeroth, and there isn’t a tree, hill or cave that I can’t picture even now.

The names of the places often escape me, as my hair turns gray and the struggle to find my keys is real. But the sights, sounds, the feel of the land… it is with me here in my heart, and I don’t doubt it will be with me to the day I die.

I have many memories of my time in Azeroth, memories that are as real to me as any from my time spent on our own dear Earth.

I can remember as if it were yesterday traveling through the Badlands, and discovering a complex of strange caves under the sandy soil. There were dark dwarves doing I knew not what, creations of living stone, and hints of secrets waiting to be unravelled that were greater than I could understand.

I remember traveling across Kalimdor, seeing the destruction the Orcs caused in the beautiful forests, feeling sorrow at the beautiful forests burning. Farther south, I laughed to find a Goblin racetrack on the great salt flats, and experienced joy at becoming friends with a faerie dragon that would join me on my journeys.

I’ll never forget those beautiful skies, the light of the sun streaming through ruins of alien design in the desert sands of Silithus.

How could it not be real to me? Even the poorest sketch can be filled with lush colors when filled in by the imagination, and Azeroth was not some skimpy line drawing but a fully-realized world waiting to be discovered, visited, explored and loved.

Azeroth is a real place, and what my screen didn’t show me, my mind filled in.

Yes, I spent many years living in Azeroth. In a very real way, all of my core gaming and adventuring life was lived there.

I’ve moved on now to spend my nights in other worlds, and none more alien at times than the real one I wake up to every day. I look ahead to what the new day will bring, and I know that Azeroth is no longer in my future.

Despite all that, Azeroth is the home of my heart. No matter how far I will travel from it’s shores, no matter how many years will pass before my journeying days are done, deep inside my heart Azeroth lingers on.

Robert Heinlein once wrote a story called The Green Hills of Earth, telling a tale of the brave pioneers that journeyed beyond the world of their birth to visit the distant stars. Pioneers too filled with wanderlust to be satisfied with the world of their birth, moving on to new lands, new frontiers, needing to explore worlds and breath atmosphere as yet untouched by anyone else.

And yet, no matter how much distance lay behind them or the number of years that passed, Heinlein knew that none of us ever truly forgets the place where we were born, where we came of age, and where we learned what it means to be home.

A place where we always truly belong.

We pray for one last landing/ On the globe that gave us birth/ Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies/ And the cool, green hills of Earth. – Robert Heinlein, The Green Hills of Earth

It’s bittersweet to know that no matter where my own journey takes me in life, no matter how much distance or time separates us, in my heart there will always be a part that longs for one last glimpse at the setting sun of Azeroth before I go.

Azeroth, you will always be a part of me. I have loved my time with you, and I give my deepest thanks for everyone that has ever spent years of their lives to create that wonderful place that I have called home.

In creating Azeroth you’ve done far more than make a video game.

To paraphrase Willy Wonka, you were the music makers and the dreamers of dreams, and you provided me and millions of others a chance at out own golden tickets. For those of us that took the ride, you gave us a tour of your imagination that I know I will never forget. Yes, there may have been more than a few bad eggs along the way (Trade Chat, cough cough), but there were many Charlies and Grampa Joes along the way too, and even the occasional fizzy lifting drink (or poop quest) to giggle over before moving on to the next wonder waiting to be found.

If there is any mercy in the future virtual ages to come, Azeroth will be recreated in loving detail as a world that can truly be walked across and lived within, as was suggested ever so briefly in the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Good night Azeroth, and god bless all those who journey to your distant shores. You’ll always be a part of me. I’ll never forget you, and I’ll never consider my time traveling across your rolling green hills as anything other than a gift.

The Cub Report – 56k would be nice but 28.8 is the reality

Once upon a time, a Bear and his wife played video games together.

Their favorite series of video games were Spyro the Dragon on the Playstation and PS2.

This, of course, was before the developing companies took the license, abandoned the core gameplay and threw in all sorts of half baked mini-games that ruined the experience.

In this long ago time, both Bear and Cassie loved playing Spyro, but there was a slight problem.

There were these missions, see.

Crystal Popcorn missions. Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage introduced them, and oh boy.

If you wanted 100% completion of the game and the awesome rewards that came with it, you had to do all the missions at max.

You’d be given a mission to race Hunter the Jaguar to be the first to collect Crystal Popcorn. There would be a cave with holes in the ground, and from these holes would pop, briefly, a crystal popcorn. While you’re racing around trying to arrive at a hole at the precise moment a popcorn was coming up and grab it, Hunter would be running around too.

spyro-2-crystal-popcorn

This quest was tight. You had to learn the popcorn spawn points, the sequence they would appear, and master the timing so you got there and stood ON the damn spot before it arrived because Hunter would steal that damn popcorn if you gave him half a chance to stick his dirty filthy paws on it.

I wish there was a way to trigger PvP mode in that game and supercharge Hunter, damn him.

Sorry, I still have issues.

Anyway, this was a really fun mission and, being a platforming superstar on the analog controller I quickly became a master of these missions.

Cassie, on the other hand, found them incredibly frustrating, and her cool was often harshed by me leaning over and sarcastically offering to help her do the missions.

You know, carry her through the completion.

It was totally for her benefit, of course.

This is a game from 1999. This was a long damn time ago, but there you have it. I trolled my wife over Crystal Popcorn.

Now, for those of you who haven’t been in a long term relationship yet, let me clue you in on what to expect.

Fast forward to today, 16 bloody be damned years later.

I’m a much older Bear and we have a Cub that is rapidly leveling up through the teen years. He’s going to be living his own Breakfast Club scenarios in High School next year and he wasn’t even alive when The Breakfast Club came out.

We have two XBox Ones in the house so the Cub and I can play multiplayer together, one in my office and one in the family room downstairs. It was expensive but damn it was worth it, it’s what we do more of than anything else.

What we play together more often than anything else is Destiny, a stunningly beautiful sci-fi shooter.

Well, it’s Christmas season and Destiny has an in-game event called The Dawning, and along with new multiplayer Strike (PvE) content and quests came the return of an event called Sparrow Racing League.

In the game are these rocket bikes called Sparrows, basically Star Wars speeder bikes from Endor, nothing more than a rocket and a stick to steer with.

SRL consists of 6 person races through different incredibly awesome maps while mobs shoot at you, and yes you can run them over. There are quests, bounty missions, and TONS of rewards including transmogrification tokens to change your armor color schemes (instead of transmogging individual items, Destiny has ‘shader’ schemes that redoes the entire equipped armor in a consistent theme. I love it), new cool looking Sparrow racing bikes, top level gear, special gear that has bonuses to racing like more fuel for tight turns, etc.

Basically, the racing itself is insanely fun but there is also top end loot raining from the sky in almost every race.

They did this last year as well, and it goes away on January 3rd. This year, with the addition to Destiny of private PvP matches, when January 3rd rolls around the league itself, it’s quests and rewards will go away but you will still be able to participate in races with your friends forever, so hell yes.

Technically, this is PvP. It’s a race, and while you can queue up with everyone in your group, it’s still filled out with strangers.

One of the quest chains that drops tons of great loot is to complete matches with ever-increasing ratings to earn a higher class of racing license. Just an excuse for more gear rewards, really.

The final challenge is to complete 3 races without blowing up, and also complete 3 races in first.

Hoo boy.

I’m not bad, I love it, I quickly got all the dedicated Racing gear and leveled it,and it didn’t take long to learn the various maps.

The problem comes in that I am OLD now, it’s winter break for most school kids, and online shooters are mostly played by… how shall I put this.

I know, to use an appropriate quote from the original Point Break, “Angelo, this stuff is for rubber people that don’t shave yet.”

I’m playing a racing game in an online shooter against rubber people that don’t shave yet. Two seconds into the race and you find out there’s a bunch of savages in this town. I mean tower. I mean track. On the track. Speed boost gate? Yeah, good luck getting that gate as five other people simultaneously bike check you off the track.

Damn I love that game. Seriously, it rocks.

I mean, it sounds bad, but the loot has nothing to do with your score! It don’t matter, first, last, 5 minutes late, you get the same random chance at awesome rewards as the dudebro next door.

But the quests… ah, the quests require you to do some stuff.

First place? Against those savages? THREE TIMES!?!

I got two down, one because the Cub let me pass him when we were in first and second respectively, and the second time because, and I swear to God I’m not making this up, I was in second place but the lords of lag tossed me a pity win over the guy in number one. He literally crossed the line before me but the actual score showed I beat him by 6 seconds. Which I totally did NOT. He must have been frothing at the mouth like a mad dog.

sparrow-racing-first

But win number three, I was chasing the dragon for two days.

I was bitching about hanging up on the wall, getting bumped away from gates, having a slower speeder than everyone else, that perennial favorite lag, you name it.

So my son, the Cub, bless his heart, he asks me if I want him to play my character so he can get me my last win.

I went to make lunch for us, and he comes up five minutes later.

“I only beat the guy in second place by 11 seconds. I got you the quest completion, a new shader, a new banner, and a 380 light rocket launcher.”

…. “But it was only five minutes.”

That’s okay, want me to play your character some more?

….

It was at this point that Cassie erupts in howls of laughter and yells “Yes! After all these years and you pulling that on me in Spyro you finally know exactly what it’s like! JUSTICE IS MINE! How do you like getting OLD?!?!?!”

I’m telling you. Sixteen years. Sixteen long years, and she didn’t forget. Not one little bit.

It’s a fair cop.

The spirit is willing, but the data pipes that run signals from my brains to my hands, they’re slowing down.

I’m a 28.8k baud body in a High Speed DSL world. I need an upgrade.

Screw lasik eye surgery, I want the promised cyberpunk nerve upgrades.

 

Summoners War – Progression and Team Planning

veromos

When playing Summoners War in the early game, it can feel a little overwhelming. There are a lot of potential monsters of many different natural star qualities, and knowing that some natural 2 or 3 star monsters can be great end game monsters makes it even worse in some ways.

After all, once you know SOME natural 2s or 3s can be great, then the worry sets in on every Unknown Scroll summons. “I just got this monster. Is it good? Bad? Food to level something else or a fundamental game changer? What do I do with it? My bag space is limited!”

The purpose of this post is for PVE planning, to help you look ahead to what comes after clearing a bit through the scenarios (Garen Forest, Kabir Ruins, etc).

First steps, let’s define the normal progression path for PVE.

Step 1 – Scenarios

At the very beginning, the tutorial leads you through forming a basic team of monsters, starts you off with a tanky mon, a healy mon and a couple DPS. It shows you basic rune farming from the scenarios, applying them to improve your monster performance, leveling them up to get the most out of them, and then working your way through various scenarios in pursuit of specific rune types.

The scenarios then are the first progression step. You get good rewards for clearing all seven stages, and the higher the difficulty you clear (Hard, Hell) the better potential quality the rune drops can be. Also, you get XP for your monsters. Great place to begin, your monster types don’t really matter, and you get to play around with literally ANY combination of monster to have fun trying out wacky strategies.

After you clear the Kabir Ruins on Normal, you unlock access to the Cairos Dungeons.

Step 2 – Giant’s Keep

The Cairos Dungeons are where you find the next true steps on the progression path.

The Cairos Dungeons contain the five elemental halls (each only open for one day per week), the Hall of Magic, the Giant’s Keep, the Dragon’s Lair, the Necropolis, and any Secret Dungeons (duration one hour which you OR ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS may have unlocked in an elemental hall. More about Secret Dungeons all the way at the end of this post.

Giant’s Keep is the second stage of progression. This is where all of the most basic early game runes drop, and at the highest levels of the dungeon you can get 4, 5 and 6 star runes consistently. This is a big advantage over the scenarios, as even on Hell difficulty the likelihood of a rune being a 5 star, while there, is still darn rare.

It’s kind of neck and neck. You can choose to switch to running Giants to get much better runes and level your team, or continue with scenarios, or a mixture of both.

Step 3 – Dragon’s Lair

Once you are clearing Giant’s Keep on stage 10 consistently, you should farm that for runes for a while to strengthen your team. DO NOT NEGLECT THIS. Getting all 5 and 6 star runes for your core Giant’s team is critical to your progression. The goal is to be able to run Giant’s Keep B10 consistently on auto.

The nice thing about this is that the starter team I will talk about later in the team planning section can ALSO auto run Dragon’s Lair B8 consistently. This lets you really focus on improving one team while getting the benefits of two of the progression dungeons.

The benefit to running Dragon’s Lair is that this is where the end game runes drop. This is the source of the vastly overpowered and highly desired Violent runes, as well as your Shield, Focus, Guard and Revenge runes, all used in PVE further on down the line.

Most end game rune strategies revolve around Violent and something else, or in the case of Raiding and PVP Guard and something else. Dragon’s Lair is the dungeon you will farm for runes to enable everything else you really want to do further on.

Step 4 – Trial of Ascension (Normal)

Once you are clearing Giant’s Keep B10 and Dragon’s Lair B8 consistently, you should definitely be strong enough to get to level 40 or 50 in the Normal mode of Trial of Ascension. This is a monthly source of summoning stones, Red Crystals, Rainbowmon, Devilmon and other lovely rewards.

The Trial of Ascension is also one of my favorite parts of the game. A lot of players talk about building the perfect ‘auto TOA’ team, but for me it’s more about using your monsters smart. It’s a test of how well you know and understand the abilities of the different monsters, and how well prepared you are to counter them.

A single basic team CAN go an incredible way through, in fact I have one team I use that without any monster substitutions at all can clear Normal all the way to level 70 or even more. It went to level 80+ last month and I’ve hit level 70 already this month, and can probably go further.

But a single team isn’t the goal. Some enemy monsters have tricks based on their abilities, like an enemy team of ALL healers and resurrection specialists. Burning down a team of 5 monsters that can all heal each other and resurrect fallen monsters is a nightmare if you haven’t planned for that in your team build, as in maximizing your team strength with monsters that have lots of AoE AND Stuns AND the Despair rune set that has a chance to stun the enemy, and also slows the enemy team, and also increases your own speed. Speeding yourself up, slowing them down, keeping as many stunlocked as possible, using abilities that can remove the enemy action bar, if you prevent the enemy from getting a chance to go, then they can’t bloody well heal, now can they? And resurrection has a long turn based cooldown.

Also enemy teams can do lots of healing, and you can counter that using a monster that can block the enemy from benefitting from any heals for 1, 2 or even 3 turns. On some levels that is a mandatory ability.

Step 5 – Raids

Raids are just like what you would think. An opportunity for you to join a couple friends and unleash your teams on a single massive raid boss. On raids, your team runs on auto without your control, so this is the ultimate expression of how well you understand monster abilities, team synergy, buffs, debuffs and overall strategy.

For raids, the key is overlapping buffs and debuffs that are preferably on attack 1 (goes most often as default), and to a lesser extent on attack 2, which usually has a 2 or 3 turn cooldown. So a team composition of six monsters that EACH provide some of the required buffs and debuffs on attack 1 or 2, without doubling up, will do the best for you in starting out.

Further Progression – Necropolis and PVP

One might say that the ultimate end game progression is PVP, where you are matching your wits against enemy players. That is where the Necropolis comes in, supplying mostly end game PVP oriented of special-purpose runes.  How you would rune your monsters to tackle other players can be a lot different then for PVE, so this is why you want to look very closely at suggested rune builds for monsters. A rune build for Hwa for PVP is going to be a lot different than for Dragon’s Lair B10.

Team suggestions and synergy – a starting checklist

Now that I ran down the progression order and when and where you are going to want to try them, let’s talk about what exact monsters to look for in planning your starter teams.

These teams are designed for one purpose – to make the most out of free to play monsters that WILL get the job done. Each team can and will run their content on auto at the highest difficulty… but they will be slower than hell.

The idea here is to have a list of monsters you can actively seek without relying on RNG. While farming these monsters, you will of course be getting Red Crystals to buy Premium Packs, you will be earning Light and Darkness Scrolls, and you will get Mystical Scrolls from drops in the Caiross Dungeons and other events that can and eventually WILL give you the lightning strike of a rare 4 or 5 star monster that might just work better in your team to get it cleared faster.

If that happens, great! Once you can clear a dungeon or raid every time, the natural next step is to improve your team so they clear it faster or more consistently. Maybe they fail about 10% of the time, and you want to swap in a different healer to improve that. Or your team clears Dragons B10 in 7 minutes, and you want to get that time down to 4 or 5. Absolutely, go for it.

Your starter goal though has to be to clear the bloody things in the first place. You can always improve from there.

Here are my recommended starter team monsters and rune sets based purely on a free to play farmable strategy.

ATTENTION! I am including the Fusable Dark Ifrit Veromon in this list, as well as two other Fusable monsters (four if you count the raid teams). These may take some time to farm, yes. And also a bit of luck on getting and saving the 3 star monsters needed from Unknown Scrolls or Secret Dungeons.

It’s still perfectly doable, and you will find that Veromon is THE KEY to unlocking the gate of damn near all content in this game. Once you’ve played long enough to have farmed up and leveled/awakened the monsters necessary to Fuse Veromos the dark ifrit, you darn well know the basics of this game. Veromos is kind of the badge of experience that shows you know what you’re doing. If you have Veromos, you’ve got it going on. You’re not a new player anymore.

Free to play team suggestions

Giant’s Keep B10 –

Veromos [leader] (dark ifrit – Fused) Swift/Energy Spd/HP%/HP% (early game – later on replace Swift with Violent)

Shannon (wind pixie 2 star – scrolls) Swift/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc%

Bernard (wind griffon 3 star – Tamor Desert) Swift/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc%

Belladeon (light inugami – Secret Dungeon) Swift/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc%

Optional 5th party member heals/buffs:

Ahman (light bearman 3 star – Secret Dungeon) Blade/Blade/Blade HP%/CritR%/HP% early to get 100% crit rating. As sub stats with Crit Rating allow you to remove Blade rune sets and maintain 100% crit, add in Energy. Once you can build a Violent/Blade or Violent/Energy set with 100% total crit rating from Crit R% sub stats, you’ve got a true beast. For early Giant’s B10, having Energy/Blade/Blade with 100% crit rating and HP%/CritR%/HP% should be fine. Max that HP out as much as you can though. I use Ahman everywhere, but the key is to have that second healer for your team.

Darion (light vagabond 3 star – Secret Dungeon) Energy x3 Hp%/HP%/HP% while not a healer, he has a defense break, an attack power debuff, AND an automatic 15% damage reduction for everyone in your party which is just amazing.

To add your own monster, keep in mind the B10 giant boss is water so the elemental advantage of Wind is best. You really, really want the core Shannon/Bernard team to be the basis of your group though. boss slow/team speed buff is amazing. plus Shannons attack power and defense buff to your party, yum!

This team will clear Giant’s Keep B10 on auto for me 100% of the time using Ahman. My Ahman is a badass, but for most of my other monsters, the runes are a mix of 5 stars and 6 stars, usually leveled up to +12 minimum. They are all 6 star monsters, but some say you can run with Bernard and Shannon only 5 starred if your runes are strong, highly leveled, and you’ve got a great healer assisting Belladeon.

Dragon’s Lair B10-

Baretta [leader] (fire sylph – 4 star Fused) Despair/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc% (Despair so also usable in TOA)

Veromon (same as above)

Belladeon (same as above)

Konamiya (water garuda 2 star – Unknown Scrolls) Swift/Energy Spd/HP%/HP%

Mikene (water undine – Fused) Swift/Energy Spd/HP%/HP% early on, Violent/Energy later.

Mikene is along as a resurrection monster, because the true obstacle in Dragons B10 is the third level mid boss, Zaiross the fire dragon. It is common to lose a monster here, and later again on the final dragon when you kill the right pylon, so Mikene is here to resurrect fallen comrades. Briand the Wind Death Knight is usually vastly preferred over Mikene, but he is a natural 4 star monster requiring pure luck to get.

Dragons is not quite as focused on the elemental disadvantage, by the way. It helps to have all water, but sometimes some monsters are just so great it doesn’t matter if they are fire.

This team is required to be FAST. You want your Veromos very fast, 210 Spd if possible, and yes that takes some serious sub stats and your SPD tower you are upgrading from Glory Points. Baretta speeds up your entire team, Veromos cleanses a dot every time he goes, Konamiya can cleanse ALL dots every three turns, Mikene can rezz the fallen, and Bella has the defense break and group heals as well.

If you are blindingly lucky to get a fire vampire Verdehile, his whole thing is speed buffing everyone with his first attack, so replace Baretta with Verde when or if you get him.

The idea here is to get massive health from runes (20k+health is ideal starting point), place Baretta in the lead for the speed buff to the team, and on the final boss kill the right tower, then burn the boss.

When a tower dies, whoever struck the last blow gets a hellacious counterstrike that will usually kill it. If the tower dies to a DOT, nobody gets nailed. So monsters that DOT towers are wonderful. But if someone else takes it down with a direct strike, Mikene is there to resurrect them.

Improving this team usually involves Violent runes, better health, faster speed, and being able to burn the final boss without attacking the right tower, so you don’t need the resurrection.

If you do get a Verdehile, just remember, either DO NOT use Devilmon to skill him up, or stop skilling him up when Noble Agreement is at rank 3. The whole point of Verdehile is for his 1st attack to go off as often as possible with 100% crit, so two blows per attack each increase your teams attack bars. If you reduce the cooldown on Noble Agreement, he’ll use that more often and it only hits the boss once. As you can see, this is why Violent runes on Verdehile can be insane since every time he goes he fills everyone’s attack bar a bit. So extra turns for Verde can make your entire team go again before the enemy. INSANE.

Added notes – This is a starting point. If your runes are only around 5 star +12, it will likely NOT have 100% reliability. The whole basis for this team is speed.

If you have been doing your Arena point farming from day one and focusing on leveling the Speed totem after buying your weekly Devilmon with Glory points, then by the time you have a Dragons B10 team ready to go realistically you should be at least +10% Spd from the Glory Point totem. Continuing to improve the totem will help the overall speed. Likewise, replacing runes with 6 star versions and leveling the runes you have, especially Spd and HP% runes, will vastly improve success chances.

Finally, the runes listed for builds are ones to get started in Dragons, based on what you can farm from Giants B10. Replacing the runes for Veromos and Belladeon with Violent sets and getting extra turns is an incredible boost to the success, as having those reduced cooldowns for casting heal from Belladeon and more turns from Veromos to cleanse a DoT is overpowered. Likewise, if you finally get your Ahman to truly maxed out with Violent/Energy runes and 100% crit rate and +15 level 6 star runes, replacing Belladeon with him evens out constant healing for everyone and adds taunts to keep damage off of squishier monsters.

Without Belladeons defense break, and without more DoT providers than Veromon, this is a very slow team. It’s whole point is as a consistent starter to get you farming.

Improvements include replacing team members with better resurrections, replacing a resurrection monster with a more powerful multi-DOTter, speeding the whole thing up. This is usually where 4 and 5 star monsters come into play to decrease the time it takes to complete a run.

I am currently running Verdehile, Konamiya, Veromos, Ahman and Mikene. Mikene has zero Devilmon skillups fed to her, and neither does Verdehile. But Ahman, Veromos and Konamiya are both fully skilled up. This team takes about 7:30 to 7:45 to clear the Dragons B10, so incredibly slow. BUT it’s been 100% successful for me, even with many runes being only +12. The point being, please don’t assume the suggested starter team is all you will ever need as an end goal. It really is what I’m calling it – a starter team to get you farming.

Trial of Ascension (Normal)-

Veromos (same as above)

Baretta (same as above, runed for TOA AoE stunning)

Bernard (same as above)

Ahman (used by me as Violent/Energy HP%/CritR%/HP% 100% crit rating and all 6 star runes as only healer. Can handle heals in TOA Normal all the way to level 80 fairly easily.

***Belladeon (same as above) used sometimes instead of Ahman without much difference, really. Just needs to be more hands-on to time heals better. But has Defense Break on first attack and can remove enemy bubble/buffs with second attack, so less heals, more usefulness on difficult fights.

Shannon (same as above)

Alternate outstanding free to play monsters for TOA Normal-

Colleen (fire harpu – 2 star Unknown Scroll, Secret Dungeon, etc) Violent/Revenge HP%/Def%/HP%

Colleen is runed here for her other top use as a main Necropolis B10 monster and for Raids. Since her main usefulness is at progression past Dragons B10, her runes reflect what you should have then. But her combination of healing, Attack Power debuff on boss and Healing prevention to the enemy makes her IDEAL for those difficult situations in TOA when the boss is surrounded by healers or does a big whammy of damage on someone.

Talc (water battle mammoth – 3 star Unknown Scroll) Violent/Guard HP%/HP%/Acc%

Talc is incredible. He is a powerful tank, and becomes more powerful the higher his HP gets. In fact, the only reason he has accuracy on rune 6 is to apply his taunt to a target, protecting squishier monsters. If you’d prefer to replace that with a HP% rune, it might even be more effective. Talc has a powerful AoE team heal plus defense buff, AND if he gets his health high enough then he can just ignore most enemy trash attacks, a nice thing with his taunt. Talc can be a great healing supprt for Belladeon on fights with tougher bosses that are tough for a squishy healer.

Spectra (fire griffon – 3 star, Unknown Scrolls and Secret Dungeons) Swift/Blade SPD/HP%/Acc% Spectra is a direct replacement for Shannon in some situations. Both have an AOE attack speed reduction on the enemy team. Shannons has a higher chance to succeed (80%), while Spectra’s can also reduce the attack bar of all of the enemy targets (50%). Aside from that, Shannon has a team wide attack power and defense buff that vastly increases the overall power and survivability of your team while Spectra provides a very big single target DPS attack. I generally use Shannon unless I need more DPS oomph.

Another thing to note is Shannon’s AoE enemy slow is an actual attack. It does damage. Spectras slow does NOT do damage. This means that if you rune your Shannon Despair, her AoE WILL have a chance to stun, but if you rune Spectra with Despair HIS AoE will NOT because in order for the Despair rune to have a chance to stun the enemy, the attack has to be able to do damage. So running Shannon as Despair is extremely viable for all content but never rune Spectra with Despair.

Hemos (water grim reaper – 3 star, Unknown Scroll and Secret Dungeon)  Swift/Focus or Violent/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc% or Spd/HP%/HP% (he’s kind squishy) Hemos is primarily for TOA HARD mode, but as a 3 star monster with his second skill, he’s still well worth talking about here. Again, his second skill AoE deals no damage so don’t use Despair runes on him, but he is used for his second skill. It has a very high chance to apply TWO DoTs to all targets, useable every 3 turns, and since DoTs do a percent of the enemy health every tick, this is great against bosses and trash alike. Works great in tandem with other monsters that do more damage to a target based on how many effects they currently have, like Akhamamir the wind ifrit (summoned from guild wars currency).

Mav (wind penguin knight – 3 star, Unknown Scroll) Violent/Focus or Violent/Energy Spd/HP%/HP%, Mav is on almost every ‘must have’ monster list for both TOA normal and hard because of the awesome mix of abilities for speeding up your team (Wings of Awakened), being tanky, self heal, taunt off squishy monsters. You should aim for around 45% bonus accuracy off sub stats if at all possible.

Raids-

Front Line:

Xiong Fei (fire panda warrior – 5 star Fusion) Guardx2/Energy DEF%/CritD%/DEF%

Talc (same as above) really, really shines on raids

Copper (wind living armor – 3 star Unknown Scroll) Guard x3 DEF%/CritD%/DEF% Copper is also an incredible tank, and he’s also a beast in PVP, especially guild wars. Paired with Randy (the fire bounty hunter) in pvp, Randy can apply a defense boost just in time for Copper to decimate the opponent with Thunder Strike. The key thing here is Copper gets more deadly the higher his defense gets, and his base health is great. Wonderful natural 3 star monster for raid front lines.

Darion (light vagabond) runed Violent/Revenge HP%/HP%/HP% instead of Energy x3

Back Line:

Colleen (same as above)

Konamiya (same as above is okay but prefer Violent/Revenge for raid)

Belladeon (same as above but for raid and end game should be in Violent rune set)

Necropolis B10-

I won’t really get into Necro B10 too much, because it is seriously end game and PVP oriented, and by the time you are clearing Dragons B10 on auto and TOA Normal, you bloody well ought to have a variety of 4 star or 5 star monsters to make a straight free to play team unlikely for your Necro build.

However, here are some great 3 star monsters to watch for that are ideal for a Necropolis B10 team.

Necropolis has a serious trick to it, speed is capped at a certain level, and the boss has a shield that has to be popped by multiple hits in a turn before you can get through with damage. So they key to building a Necro B10 team is to have monsters that slow the enemy, speed you up, get multiple hits from your key skills, and have a real heavy hitter and great healing.

The key is to tune your team speed very carefully through speed runes in slot 2 and Spd sub stats on runes so that each monster goes at a specific time in the turn. You want the monsters on your team to do multiple attacks to pop the bubble, have defense break applied on the boss, and THEN have your heavy hitting DPS go and beat the hell out of him. At the same time, the boss WILL mind control someone, so you can’t have anyone that is a DPS powerhouse also be so tough you can’t defeat them to regain control.

For Necro B10 ALL monsters are recommended to have Violent/Revenge rune sets for even more multi hits, the core necessity of this fight.

Belladeon (really needs to be Violent/Revenge)

Seren (dark harpu – 3 star, Secret Dungeon) Violent/Revenge HP%/HP%/Atk%

Colleen (same as above)

Adrian (fire elf ranger – 3 star Unknown Scroll) Violent/Revenge Atk%/CritR%/Atk%

Xiong Fei (runed differently than from the raid description, switch to a Violent/Revenge set

In this list, Seren takes the part of the heavy hitter, Bella applies the defense break, Adrian and Xiong Fei apply multi-attacks, Colleen applies multi-attacks and heals. So you’d likely tune speed for the following turn order; Xiong Fei, Adrian, Colleen, Belladeon, Seren.

I say likely, because this isn’t the actual team I’m going with because I have acquired other 4 star monsters more ideally suited for multi hitting such as Zibrolta, Chilling, Smoky and Lisa. Colleen remains a core part of the team I use though. Colleen is badass.

If you are already doing Necropolis B10 and have a team of free to play monsters you prefer, please share them in the comments, I would love to see your suggestions and as they’d be free to play farmable monsters, I’ll be happy to build and try those teams. Sounds fun!

Checklist of all monsters mentioned in the above teams:

Veromos (dark ifrit – Fused) Swift/Energy Spd/HP%/HP%

Shannon (wind pixie 2 star – scrolls) Swift/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc%

Bernard (wind griffon 3 star – Tamor Desert) Swift/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc%

Belladeon (light inugami – Secret Dungeon) Swift/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc%

Darion (light vagabond 3 star – Secret Dungeon) Energy x3 Hp%/HP%/HP%

Beretta (fire sylph – 4 star Fused) Despair/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc%

Konamiya (water garuda 2 star – Unknown Scroll) Swift/Energy Spd/HP%/HP%

Mikene (water undine – Fused) Swift/Energy Spd/HP%/HP% early on, Violent/Energy later

Ahman (light bearman 3 star – Secret Dungeon) Violent/Energy HP%/CritR%/HP% 100% crit rating from sub stats

Colleen (fire harpu – 2 star Unknown Scroll, Secret Dungeon, etc) Violent/Revenge HP%/Def%/HP%

Talc (water battle mammoth – 3 star Unknown Scroll) Violent/Guard HP%/HP%/Acc%

Spectra (fire griffon – 3 star, Unknown Scrolls and Secret Dungeons) Swift/Blade SPD/HP%/Acc%

Hemos (water grim reaper – 3 star, Unknown Scroll and Secret Dungeon) Swift/Focus or Violent/Focus Spd/HP%/Acc% or Spd/HP%/HP%

Xiong Fei (fire panda warrior – 5 star Fusion) Guardx2/Energy DEF%/CritD%/DEF%

Copper (wind living armor – 3 star Unknown Scroll) Guard x3 DEF%/CritD%/DEF%

Seren (dark harpu – 3 star, Secret Dungeon) Violent/Revenge HP%/HP%/Atk%

Adrian (fire elf ranger – 3 star Unknown Scroll) Violent/Revenge Atk%/CritR%/Atk%

~~~

Notes – Secret Dungeons

You can only unlock a Secret Dungeon in an elemental hall, and the Secret Dungeon will be of the same elemental type as that particular days elemental hall. Other dungeons that can be found here are the Hall of Heroes, Angel Garden, Rainbow Garden and Devilmon Caves, usually only on a one weekend per month basis (or during special events).

Concerning the Secret Dungeons.  Not all monsters have a corresponding Secret Dungeon. A good rule of thumb if there is a specific monster you need for a Fusion or as part of a team build is to check the Summoners War Wiki page for that monster and element type. It will show exactly what sources of content can drop that monster, and will tell you if it has a Secret Dungeon that can appear. It will also tell you if it can drop from a particular scenario, meaning it’s easily farmable. This is also a good way to find if there are other places other element types of a monster you have on your team can be farmed, and used as skill ups.

An example of this is the much desired monster Belladeon.  Belladeon is the Light Inugami, and from his description he can come from a Light and Darkness Scroll, the Temple of Wishes, or a Secret Dungeon. Period.

This means that out of three possible ways of getting him, the ONLY way you have any control over is running the Hall of Light on Sunday repeatedly in hopes of unlocking the Light Inugami Secret Dungeon, hoping one of the friends on your friends list unlocks him and you happen to be on for that hour and see it, and also monitoring global chat and asking other players who get unlock it to invite you as a friend. I went into greater detail on this in an earlier post.

The key thing from this though is that the light inugami is a natural 3 star monster. It’s difficult to get, but inugamis of other elements can be acquired by farming various scenarios.

So you can work hard to get your first light inugami, but then farm the Faimon Volcano (Fire), Garen Forest (Water) or Telain Forest (Wind) depending on your team strength to get other monsters to feed to him and level up his skills.

Any difficulty of a scenario has the exact same percentage chance of dropping a 3 star monster on it’s list, so if all you can farm is Garen Forest stage 7 Normal, go for it. Just as likely a water inugami will drop as if you were running it on Hell. It’s a low chance of course, but over 30 or 40 runs you ought to get one… and if you’re farming runes and leveling monsters off the XP, it’s all good.