When You Think of WoW, What Do You See?

You ever step back from something for a long time, and when you come back to it, most of your memories have softened a bit and you’re left with only a few vivid moments that stand out?

That’s happened with me and WoW. I’ve been away from the game since Legion ended, and coming back to it I’ve forgotten all of the normal day to day things that actually make up the game.

What I’m left with, I’m figuring anyway, are the things that made the most impact on me. The events or things in the game that I really connected with.

Since I can’t plan on this kind of thing happening again, I wanted to share them with you now, and maybe see if some of you have similar events that really burned themselves into your hearts.

Here are, in no particular order, the things I really think of when I bring WoW to mind;

Exploring the Darkmoon Fair for the very first time.

This is a two-parter. The very first time I heard of a place called the Darkmoon Faire, during Vanilla WoW. I was playing my first (and for the longest time only) character, a Night Elf Druid. The Darkmoon Faire was coming, a carnival that wasn’t in game all the time, so seeing it was a rare event. It was going to be in the Tauren starting zone of Mulgore, outside of Thunder Bluff, and I really, really wanted to go see it. But… Horde!

I can still feel the intensity as I stealthed my kitty druid butt into Mulgore just outside of Thunder Bluff to peek at the wonders of the Darkmoon Faire, feeling all illicit and naughty and at risk of being pounced on by Horde Guards (and immediately ganked thereafter by players as soon as the guards broke me out of stealth). Which did, in fact, happen. I didn’t have any idea what I’d find there, or what it was about, but I knew I wanted to see this magical special Darkmoon Faire place, and I had to work my feline butt off to make my way through all the Horde dominated zones to get there.

The second part is that moment when the Darkmoon Faire got it’s own special island, and stepping through the portal to see this mystical dark place with all the spooky (this IS a kid’s carnival, right?) trees, shadows and slightly dark-natured take on the carnival. Looking down from above where the portal brings you for the first time, seeing this huge dedicated area for the Faire was just amazing. There was a ton of awesome that followed, including the Darkmoon Rabbit, but that is the second ‘image’ that is in my mind when I think of WoW, standing there on the island looking down on my first glimpse of the Faire spread out before me.

FEL REAVER INCOMING!!!

If you played then, you know it, you hated it, and you love it just the same. I can still feel that pulse pounding OH SHIT NO RUN adrenaline rush while running around minding my own business questing through the incredible number of ‘collect 15 drops of x’ in Hellfire Peninsula, when all of a sudden the ground starts shaking under my paws and I spin around wildly because OH SHIT HERE COMES THE FEL REAVER OMG RUN RUN RUN pound pound pound CRAP! Graveyard run….

Karazhan. All of it.

Karazhan stands out in my memories of WoW like a freaking lighthouse illuminating everything around it with this ridiculous rosy glow. Apparently, I love Karazhan enough I’d like to make it my home and move right the heck in there. EVERYTHING about Karazhan stands out vividly in my memories, and I think maybe a large part of that was it was the first time there was an intense in-game event that my wife and I spent a lot of time doing together. We’ll always have Karazhan, raiding together side by side. The single biggest, shiniest moment etched in my memory is standing there in the Shade of Aran hall with a fresh group of random players hoping and praying everyone else could keep their itchy little fingers off the damn mouse so we wouldn’t blow up.  Do you know the song? I still know the song.

The Lich King, but like, not the Lich King raid fight.

I remember the Lich King as well, this one moment first time playing Wrath of the Lich King, when I’ve arrived at this cool wooded area at the feet of a huge stone tower of some kind with all these Viking type monstrous large dudes in furs everywhere with spears and I’m just out there questing and freaking Arthas just turns the hell up out of nowhere and I’m like “oh shit I’ve got to fight the Lich King right now minutes after setting foot on this continent OMG wtf bbq” and I attack Arthas and next thing I know I’m dead and hey guess what I didn’t have to attack Arthas it was supposed to be a cool scene I passively watch and oh that was kind of stupid let’s not do that again.

What a great moment. I loved it. And then, later on, that big moment before the gates when it shifts to cutscene and the Lich King is there and there is this huge fight and the Horde undead up on the cliff catapult blight on everyone down below and all seems lost and the dragons come from out of the Sun and just OMG epic.

The Original Game Trailer.

The original game trailer for World of Warcraft. The Night Elf holding a broken sword, then lifting her head, starting to run and shifting to cat form. The Dwarf with his rifle, giving a tiny head nod to his huge buddy bear. That’s the core of WoW for me even still, those two scenes from that video.

DEATHWING.

Not the final raid fight chasing Deathwing through the skies in an airship. That comes after I think about it. No, just the image of Deathwing that Blizzard gave us in the cinematic, soaring through the skies peacefully before unleashing a crazy gout of hellfire that broken continents, and then that whole biker quest chain culminating in your punching Deathwing right in the face on top of a burnt off flattened cliff.

I have to wonder if the things that stand out to me say more about me than they do about the game.

With so much of the vast world to experience, each in our own way, what is your strongest memory of it? Just when you sneak up and surprise your memories of WoW, what comes bursting out of the recollection closet first?

I genuinely would love to know, because I’m tempted to play a low level character all the way through instead of continuing right on into the new expansion, and try and relive ALL of these moments (that still exist, anyway) all over again.

Advertisements

Can’t See the Talents for the Trees

Hi!

Since I don’t do photoshop and I don’t have a paid staff to make my blog look all pretty and professional, just imagine there’s a graphic at the top of the page of a Bear Druid standing upright, gazing with confusion at an open Talent Tree, with little question marks over their head. Okay? Thanks bunches.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

Coming back to World of Warcraft after the end of Legion feels a bit strange, as you can probably imagine. It’s been a while. Everyone else is 120.

Why are we here, anyway? Who’s the big bad of this episode?

Every other expansion has had a clear ‘sell’, a concept meant to get you pumped up and ready to claw that tree one more time. Fight the Burning Legion! Fight Deathwing! Fight Arthas! Fight the evil Warchief! Fight the ‘Mirror, Mirror’ evil goatee versions of the Horde! Fight the, er, um, Burning Legion again, but this time for sure!*

*That’s a Rocky and Bullwinkle joke, for those of you who are also ready for the nursing home. Ah yes, random access memory bear, it’s all coming back to me.

Anyhoo, what was I supposed to be pumped up for this time? Fighting the Horde (or the Alliance)? Um, wait, what? We put aside our differences and fought together to save all of existence from the Legion. We literally JUST proved the power of friendship. You want me to, what, go claw the face off of my fellow Druids just because they’re factionally challenged? Yeah, no, I think that would make things a bit awkward around the watering hole in the Druid Grove later.

You know, that bipartisan Druid Grove we all hang out in? Sure, YOU might call it a hippy commune, but just because we sit around a campfire smoking weed, drinking homemade wine, growing mushrooms, nurturing the surrounding wildlife and telling stories about what we did to protest the war against OMG we ARE a hippy commune.

I’m saying, just because Blizzard Ex Machina says our faction leaders did some evil crap doesn’t mean us war heroes with godlike power have to give in to their stupidity. I’m not above using a faction leader as a scratching post if they tell me to go commit some random atrocity to ‘get even’ with those mean old baddies that we trusted with our lives on the front lines last month. Sure, burning a tree is bad, but my buddy Druid JimmyJoe Hordebob didn’t do it. I should know, he was puff puff passing it on to me, bub. Wasn’t anywhere NEAR that dang ole tree. Want a shroom?

Sigh.

Okay, but expansion! New hotness! FUN!

Meh to Horde vs Alliance, but if Blizzard is true to form, we only THINK this is what the point of the expansion is and sooner or later a new patch will bring a real big bad earth shattering faction uniting challenge to get all up in arms about. So in the meantime, log in for the first time in a year and OH SHIT MY TALENTS WERE RESET.

MY TALENTS WERE RESET

—– The point of the post. Yes, it took 400 words to get to the point of the post.

Logging in after a long time away (remembering to update addons first, I’m not a total noob) and finding my Talents were reset is, well, a tragedy. Or a comedy. Comedy is tragedy happening to other people, right? So for you, the reader, this is a comedy, but for me, ugh.

A blank slate, a long list of Talent choices to make, and I’ve been away long enough that I’m looking for clues on my action bars as to what the HECK I used to have.

Hmm, that Talent icon looks like that icon on my action bar, what does that do. Hmm, I don’t know if that sounds like something I would have chosen. Aw, heck with it, what does Icy Veins say?

It’s exactly like seeing all of the Talent Tree choices for the very first time, evaluating each one on what the description implies it MIGHT do and then trying to figure out if I want it.

What’s that? Choose some Talents, test them out at the targeting dummies, mix them around and actually, like, TEST them to see what I like? You’re new here, aren’t you.

Never resort to sense what you can hyperbolize into a blog post.*

*I used hyperbolize in a sentence at work, and I watched as one of my coworkers, a boilerman, stopped, pulled out his phone and Googled it. Kinda made me sad. What IS my life, after all, if not a living tribute to the joys of hyperbole?

What I’m reminded of is, not all Talents are created equal. Or at least, equally exciting.

At their best, I love the Talent choices that add a new ability that synergizes off of a core ability.

I know I didn’t explain that right, so let me try again, this time using my words.

I like Talents that activate when you use a core ability, and do something to further personalize your chosen playstyle.

See, I like the idea of creating your own chain combos tailored to YOUR playstyle. Having a set of core abilities, and then other, choice driven abilities that can activate as a free option during a fight.

At the most basic, say, you get to choose between three options in the Talent tree to see what happens when you cast Judgment; a new ability triggers that does an AOE damage or effect, does a big single target strike or stun, or gives you an enhanced or instant-cast self or targetable heal.

Now, that was only an example. Being given a choice between AOE, single target damage, or support options aren’t really having a true choice. You’re going to feel driven to select what best enhances your assigned role in a raid or group environment. It’s a non-choice.

But you know what kind of Talents I mean. Passives and stuff are all fine, but they feel like a cop out to choose them. If you choose one they’ll just sit there in the background and do their thing no matter what you do. You don’t get to click a shiny new button, and I like shinies, dangit!

Or to put it another way, I like to have options that will change the way I play my character, change how I react to a given situation. If I have the option to choose a Talent that gives me defensive buffs that increase in strength if I’m surrounded, selecting that will change how I view a fight. I will start LOOKING for large groups to pull to get myself surrounded to take advantage of it. Wouldn’t you?

And THAT is exactly the kind of Talent I love. Something that, once you choose it, changes how you view your tactical approach to encounters, whether solo or in a group. It’s a choice that excites me, because you have to make a conscious effort to play differently to best take advantage of it.

I like to read the descriptions of the Talents, imagine the kind of playstyle and ability synergy you’d need to flow with to best take advantage of them, and make my decisions that way.

The only problem?

Talking to Cassie (my lovely Paladin wife) highlighted the issue perfectly.

She resubbed a week ago, ahead of me, and she tells me, “They reset my Talents, so I went to Icy Veins to find out what I’m supposed to take.”

That. That right there. Have you ever felt that pressure?

That feeling (or assumption) that there is a ‘right’ Talent to choose, and two wrong Talents that ain’t near as good.

If it’s true, do you ever wonder why there are two extra bad choices? Are they there because the designers had to fill out a tree?

Do you ever wonder if the developers honestly thought all three choices were equally valid, valuable and vital? Or do you think they secretly knew that one would be the ‘good’ one, and the others were, well, kind of meh?

In a world of gearscores and playtesting in a sandbox environment, someone will ALWAYS have a ‘approved’ Talent list. One reason I like Icy Veins is, the authors of their class and spec suggestions always make a point of only recommending some of the key Talents that have a direct impact on raiding or groups, and specify that the rest are flavor Talents you can feel free to enjoy as you like. I’ll choose what I like anyway, but you like that reassurance that you’re not going to have everyone that inspects you 0.2 milliseconds after joining a random group kicking you from the party for noob Talent choices.

But wouldn’t it be cool if with each set of choices, you got the feeling the designers brought their ‘A’ game and wanted to give you an actual hard choice with each tier of Talents. Where you’re having a hard time picking among three things you really want, rather than trying to pick the least bad of a group of three meh Talents? Or worse still, trying to pick the one Talent out of three choices in a tier that you might actually get some use out of.

I’m just coming back from being away and looking at it cold, so what do I know?

What do you think, having played the game to this point? Has Blizzard done a great job with your Talent choices? Do you have a favorite that actually stands out and means something great to you, the way old school Stampede did for Hunters when it came out?

Let me know in the comments, especially if there is a particular set of Talents you like to use as a Kitty Druid, Ret Paladin or BM Hunter. Not that, you know, I’m selfish and want advice on fun choices to try out or anything. Just because, uh, hey look at the time!

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.

Summoners War – Runing for Desired Stats

This post is a quick takedown of how to plan your rune needs when building towards a desired stat. I’m going to include links to some outstanding in-depth articles on the fundamentals of equipping Runes, so if you’re unfamiliar with the concept those will be great places to start.

First, if you are new to Runes in Summoners War, please go read this incredibly well done guide for beginners from the Summoners War Sky Arena website. Seriously, it’s a great guide that covers all of the basics about runes.

Second, a more detailed look at min-maxing Runes, really well done and with that lovely thorough testing and mathematical analysis that you and I love can be found here by abs01ut3 in the official Com2US forums.

Reading the first guide while looking at your own monsters and runes, and reading through the second guide while considering the implications should get most of your questions answered.

But the next step is applying all of this to reach your desired goal for a specific monster. That’s what I want to talk about.

Let’s take a single monster and use it as an example for this article.

I’m going to pick Ahman to talk about, although Verdehile would serve just as well. This is the Big Bear Butt blog, and here we be all about dem bears. So Bear it is.

Ahman is the Awakened form of the Light Bearman.

ahman

Ahman is a monster that can only be obtained from a Light and Darkness Scroll summon, or be collecting pieces from the Light Bearman Secret Dungeon.

Ahman is a Healing Support unit with a great mix of abilities, and while he is not the best healer in the game, he fills a very solid role on some teams. I use him on my Giants B10 team with Belladeon, I frequently use him on Trial of Ascension (Normal) when I need to get weaker support allies through, and really as a healing tank he’s outstanding considering he’s a 3 star monster when summoned, and can EASILY be fully skilled up by feeding him other Bearman monsters.

What makes Ahman so good, though, is highly dependent on what are considered mid to late game Runes. And therein lies the problem with Ahman.

At max skill level, his #1 ability, the ability that has no cooldown so the one he uses every time everything ELSE is on cooldown, has a 50% chance to Taunt the opponent. Considering all of his other abilities are based on his max health, that means that he is going to be built and runed for high health so he can take those hits he’s taunting off the squishy monsters on your team.

No, that’s all good. That means you are safe planning on using HP% Runes in position 2 and 6.

The problem comes with his core Awakened ability, Crushing Power.

ahman-crushingpower

As you can see, Crushing Power is a passive ability, meaning it works all the time, on every attack he makes… as long as that attack was a critical strike.

The shoe drops. To get a 100% certainty that every single time Ahman gets a turn he provides a heal, you will need to Rune Ahman to reach 100% CRI Rate.

To find what your current rate is along with your total health for computing how much that bonus heal is worth, just look at the monster Info screen.

ahman-stats

As you can see my Ahman has reached 100% CRI Rate, and my HP (Health) is a total of 29432.

So, every time Ahman attacks the enemy and gets a critical strike, every monster on my team gets 3532 healing.

That ain’t bad.

It all depends on that 100% CRI Rate, though, if you want it to be reliable.

So, how do you plan for what you need?

First, identify what are important. For Ahman, you need to reach 100% CRI Rate as your primary, but anything over 100% is wasted. As your secondary, you want the highest possible health you can get.

That would indicate a few possible rune choices.

Energy runes have a two-piece set bonus of +15% HP. So those will boost your max health, and consequently boost how much YOUR heal is worth.

Blade runes have a two-piece set bonus of +12% CRI Rate. So those can be an early-stage stopgap to bring up your CRI Rate if your substats don’t get the job done. More on substats in a second.

The Runes in slot 2, 4 and 6 each have different special stats they can be. All three can be HP%, DEF%, ATK%, etc.

Each slot also has a special stat that you can ONLY get in that slot.

For example, only slot 2 runes can have SPD. Only slot 6 runes can have accuracy.

And ONLY in slot 4 can one of those special stats be CRI Rate%.

What we want and what the possibilities are write our rune requirements for us. We will want runes in positions 2,4 and 6 that are HP%/CRIRate%/HP%.

Whenever you see rune recommendations, they will usually be in this format of x/x/x and the types of runes.

As an example, For Ahman maybe you’d recommend to a brand new player “Start out with Energy/Blade x2, HP%/CRate%/HP%.

What that means is you’re suggesting they use two Energy runes, four Blade runes (2x the two piece bonus) and that in slot 2 you have a HP% rune, slot 4 you have a CRI Rate% rune and in slot 6 another HP% rune.

That’s all well and good, but the reason we’re discussing Ahman is he’s a special case. He is one of those monsters that has a specific cap we’re shooting for. We have a target we want to reach and a plan for how to get there.

We want 100% Crit.

To know what we need to do we need to know two things. What Ahman’s base Crit Rating is at max level 40 / 6 star, and what the max value our CRI Rate% rune can reach once we level it all the way to +15.

To find Ahman’s base CRI Rate, something you will notice you CANNOT see once you have any CRI Rate runes on him at all, you can find the info on your favorite database website.

My website for choice that I love referring to for everything is the Summoners War Wiki.

By referring to the page for Ahman, you can see his base CRI Rate is 15%.

ahman-base-stats

It also gives you a good idea of the stats of your monster as you level him up, so you can compare him with others for the role you’re using him for (such as maybe a single target nuker attacker) and see if at max level he’s going to be as powerful as others you have as options.

So here we can see we’re starting with 15% CRI Rate, and everything else will have to come from runes.

Our next step is to see how much we can get out of that CRI Rate % slot 4 rune. What it can become is based on one thing; it’s star quality. A 1 star quality rune can be leveled up to +15 just like a 6 star rune, it just has far, FAR lower potential stats.

Here is an extremely useful chart that provides you with the exact values you will get from a given rune based on star quality and stat type;

runestatchart

This chart came from that excellent Min/Maxing Runes guide by abs01ut3 on the Com2US forums I linked to at the beginning of the post.

From that chart you can see that if you get a 6 star CRI Rate% rune, and level it up fully to +15, it will have +58% CRI Rate on it.

Do the math. If base Crit is 15% and the slot 4 rune fully maxed is 58%, you’re at 73%. Even if you had two sets of Blade runes, that only gives you another 24% Crit, leaving you at 97%.

So what do you do?

This is where substats come into play, and also where you start to see the depth and detail this game can have.

You see, every rune has it’s base stat which improves as you level it.

However, as you level a rune, it also acquires BONUS stats. Every time you level a rune to 3, 6, 9 and 12 it acquires a new bonus stat. Completely at random. The only hard and fast rule seems to be that you can’t double up on a stat, so for example a Slot 2 SPD rune won’t proc a SPD bonus stat. Because the stat is already on it, got it?

Okay, so WTF, you’re thinking you get the rune of your dreams to drop, an Energy slot 2 6 star quality rune with HP% on it, but then it’s crap and you can’t use it because after you invest a ton of Mana Crystals in it to level it up, it never procs CRi Rating as a bonus stat, OMG, right?

Well, yeah, kinda. It all depends on if you get enough CRI Rate on other runes as substats to make up for it.

See, there is a way to rig the system in your favor.

Sometimes your runes can drop as or be purchased in the Mystic Shop as a boosted quality, just like World of Warcraft gear. All runes are acquired as level 1 runes with a star rating from 1 to 6, but they also have a color rating.

White runes start with zero bonus stats. Green runes start with 1 bonus stat already on it. Blue runes start with 2 bonus stats. Purple runes start with three bonus stats, and orange runes start with four.

There can ALSO be a bonus stat directly under the core type of rune. It’s not in the bonus stat list, it’s under the rune type itself, like right under the big bold “ATK%” there might be a smaller rune type like “HP%”.

All these extra stats are your substats. The extra stat that might be listed immediately under the stat name will never increase in power. What it be is what it be, bro. You know?

The other runes, the ones a bit lower down and off to the left, those are the bonus stats in the positions you WOULD have gotten them as you leveled up the rune.

Guess what?

When you do level the rune up, when you reach +3, instead of giving you a bonus stat, you instead get one of those substats INCREASED by a solid amount. Which stat is chosen at random each time, but this means that +3% CRI Rate substat on your blue rune, when you hit rank 3 might get boosted to be more powerful. And a blue rune would normally get TWO bonus substats, so you get two chances at having that CRI Rate substat boosted.

Here is an example of a rune that starts at level 1 5 star but is a green quality, and has one substat.

rune-green

This is where you game the system.

You look for not just a rune that is the type and start quality you want, you also look for one that has the substat you want already on it, knowing that it gives you a chance when leveling it up to get some REALLY tasty CRI Rating bonus.

Let’s take a look at one of my runes, for example.

ahman-substats

This is my slot 2 HP% Rune. You can see it’s not Energy or Blade, it’s Violent. I’ll talk about that in a second.

The important this is to look at the substats. In this case, I have +6% CRI Rate from this rune, and that came from this rune starting with CRI Rate already on it, and then getting boosted again while leveling.

I have another rune with a substat of +11% CRI Rating. That one I really hit the jackpot on, bt it happened because I knew to look for a rune that already had the right substat on it, and in that case it started out as orange quality so I had FOUR chances for CRI Rate to be the stat that got boosted… and it actually happened 3 times. So glorious.

rune-crit

This rune is only level +12, and can continue to be leveled to +15. However, +12 is the last rank that you get a bonus stat, so it’s the last rank where your substats have a chance to get boosted. That’s why I stopped there for right now. Well, that and I forgot I wasn’t done leveling it yet, lol.

See, when you reach your final 3 level multiplier at +15, instead of boosting a substat or getting a new one, your MAIN stat gets boosted a lot instead. In this case, when that Violent slot 3 rune reaches level 15, it’s going to be worth 160 Defense, as you saw on that leveling chart up above. Great, especially for a tanking healer, but not critical right this second.

So those are all the fundamentals for planning out your rune goals.

In this case, you might have to start out with three sets of Blade runes for that +36% CRI Rate, but as you get better runes with solid CRI Rate substats, you can begin to switch runes out.

Now, why am I running Violent Energy?

Because Violent is considered the backbone Rune set of end game, with that great bonus chance at getting an extra turn, and when you heal your team for 3000+ health PER MONSTER every time you attack, getting an extra turn is just… beautiful. I’ve seen Ahman pop off three attacks on his turn and top everyone to full, and it’s just wonderful. Add that in to his taunt on skill 1, and multiple strikes in a turn give an even better chance to pull an enemy off of a weaker buddy.

The problem with Violent runes is you can only get them from the Magic Shop, or as drops from the Dragons dungeon. Dragons rune farming is where it’s all about, but to get there you have to get your Giants rune farming locked down first and farm some sweet runes there. Starter runes, but still solid ones like Fatal and Energy.

See, Energy and Blade runes are easy to farm, coming as they do from Garen Forest, Kabir Ruins and the Giants dungeon. That being said, If you have to use all Blade sets to get to the CRI Rate requirement, your max health will suffer for it, reducing the amount of the heal you’re getting.

This is exactly why you’ll see most people recommend Ahman as a powerful mid to late game niche healer. By the time you are able to get the Violent runes with the CRI Rate substats to get the most use out of his abilities, you’re already well past Giants and the regular campaign.

This makes other healers such as Belladeon, Colleen and Rakaja far more useful in the beginning, being easy to get and max skill up, but using easier to acquire rune sets to get the most out of them.

To recap.

Find out the base stat for the Awakened monster, what stats are most needed to maximize the effectiveness of the skills that matter to you, what main runes can have those stats and by how much, what rune types can give you set bonuses to help, and finally what substats you need as well.

You might think my Ahman is pretty good. max level 6 star monster, optimal rune set with Violent/Energy, 100% Crit and almost 30,000 health.

What if I were to tell you that the top Ahman I’ve seen on the global server has all that, but with a max health of over 36000 health?

That extra 6000 health is all from substats. He not only has the CRI Rate% on his substats, but he has lots of HP% in his subs as well.

I did good on mine, but I didn’t take it anywhere near as far as it could go. And the higher that max health, the higher the heal every single team member gets per strike.

I hope that this has been helpful to you. I really do. There is a lot of pleasure to be had in carefully planning out a goal to max the power of a monster for what you want it to do.

Most of my runes were bought over several months from the Magic Shop. I knew what perfect runes I was looking for, and when I saw that 5 star HP% slot 2 Violent rune in blue condition with CRI Rate subs, I snapped that SOB up no matter that it was 400,000 Mana Crystals or more. Because I knew that there rune was like solid gold for my Ahman.

I guess it’s like the rush a dedicated antique collector feels seeing that perfect piece in crappy condition in the back of someone’s barn. You know what it is and what it’s worth, and that makes the acquisition all the more satisfying.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

When introducing your son to Star Wars goes horribly wrong

A long time ago I mentioned my son was finally reaching an age where I could share all of my favorite geek movies with him.

I even specifically mentioned Star Wars.

I never shared the aftermath.

You see, it all went terribly, horribly wrong.

Let’s face it, when you have kids one of the best things is watching them grow up. It’s so cool. One day they’re like this and it’s awesome, but then some time passes and they’re bigger, more nuanced, and it’s awesome in a completely new way.

But they can’t handle all the neat things you want to show them on day one. You have to plan it out.

You have to wait for that optimum juxtaposition between youth (still interested in neat stuff), maturity (able to grasp just how COOL the neat stuff is), and naiveté (still thinks Dad could potentially have a remote clue what is cool, the poor deluded waif).

Star Wars is one of those things.

So is Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I blew it with that one. I introduced my son to Raiders of the Lost Ark too soon, not anticipating the reception a cave full of spiders and skeletons with spears sticking out of their heads might get. Also, he had no idea what nazis were or why it’s so much fun to hate them and okay to cheer on a bunch of Nazis getting incinerated by the breath of God. Kind of like how it’s okay to hate fat old white men now, if you see them getting tortured or killed that’s all right then. Just, you know, nobody else. But white guys, that’s funny TV. White men; society’s modern Nazi. He didn’t have the correct cultural conditioning to know when you see a Nazi, you’re eagerly waiting to see how the foul beast will die, and I consider that a failing on my part.

Oh come on, you know I’m right. Take the book “The Keep”by F. Paul Wilson. The book is basically you watching eagerly as a team of Nazi SS get eaten by a hideous nightmare creature, and yes the point of the book is to be conflicted over watching a hideous monster eating people and feeling “well, but what if it eats someone I care about?” It’s wrong to root for the monster.

Nice piece of work pointing out the fallacy inherent in ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. No, the enemy of my enemy is just my enemys’ enemy, no more, no less. My apologies to Howard Taylor, I know it’s his line.

Great book, though.

Wait. Where was I going… oh right, Star Wars. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Nazis. Fat white guys.

Okay, back on track.

I tried to introduce my son to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and instead of falling in love with the adventure he got creeped out by spiders and things that stick spears through your head. That can happen.

Lesson learned. I held off on Star Wars. Some things, you just can’t rush. It’s not worth the risk.

It was great fun to debate the HOW of introducing him to Star Wars, too.

Obviously, you can’t start with the books, the expanded universe, anything like that. You have to go with the movies; the foundation of all things.

But in what order? WHAT ORDER? CHRONOLOGICAL OR PUBLICATION DATE?!?

To Jar-Jar or not to Jar-Jar.

Or to bottom line it… Watch Phantom Menace knowing the truth of Darth Vader’s origin or not?

I grew up with the movies, so I can’t make an unbiased decision. I watched them in the theater in real time.

I lived the life geeks of a certain age experienced after Star Wars came out in theaters. All we had were playing cards showing scenes from the movie in little packs with cardboard we were told was gum, action figures that I somehow thought were great even though modern toys make them look like blister-packed piles of cat poo wearing Jawa cloth swatches, and a book.

That book.

You know that book.

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, by Alan Dean Foster.

Talk about trying to get a kid to hate Star Wars… that damn book. I won’t say it’s a bad book, but let me tell you, when that wikipedia article says it was written so it could be filmed as a low budget sequel… well.

Can you imagine telling an author to write a book of science fiction about an amazing adventure, but hey, make sure it’s like, not too cool or awesome or uses the imagination TOO much or it’ll be too expensive to film on the cheap?

Hey, now I know what hell must be for writers. Wonderful.

Anyway. 1978 was lean times for a Star Wars fan who had an imagination burning in the glow of the fires of a million lightsabers.

And nothing, NOTHING fired the imagination as much as the most brilliant marketing ploy of all time; releasing the fourth part of the story FIRST.

OMG, I can’t even begin to describe the flights of fancy and ‘what ifs’ dancing around what stories might have been in those first three stories we didn’t see.

The word on the big fan magazines like Fangora, Starlog and Questar was that there would be six movies! They were going to give us episodes five and six to finish the trilogy, then go back and do the first three!

Yeah, geeks our age didn’t realize what time meant. We thought that meant, like, next year. It ws only three years until Empire came out, but a lot changes in a child in three years, man.

Shit, High School, the entirety of High School, is only four years long. Fucking eternity.

Star Wars Episode IV came out in 1977. I saw it in theaters in 1977. I was 9 years old.

I had no idea what the heck it was going to be. Nobody did. And I know nobody cares, water under the bridge. It’s only relevant because if I saw it at 9, that must be the right age. Right?

I decided no. I saw it, I loved it, I didn’t really fully understand it. That took nothing away from my enjoyment of it, not at all. pretty simple story, really. I grokked it.

But the sequel didn’t come out until 3 years later, in 1980. When I was twelve.

The Empire Strikes Back is, arguably, the best movie of the series, especially for shattering expectations.

But how much of that awesomeness was enhanced by having to wait three years speculating on what would come next in the third and final part of the trilogy in 1983?

1983. I was in High School. Only six years from start to finish, but I went from age nine to fifteen. BIG changes there.

How would all this play out now to a kid that has not just all three original trilogy films at the touch of his hands in an easy to watch format that tore apart all that was good and decent in the world by making it look like Greedo shot first and Han was slow in returning fire when clearly Han shot first establishing that he was an unscrupulous rogue that didn’t sit there like a patsy waiting to get killed by the first nerf herder fresh off the fields with his daddy’s blaster thinking to make a quick credit off a bounty by Jabba the Hutt?

Um. Sorry. I have issues. Unresolved issues.

Anyway, my son doesn’t have years to sit around waiting for sequels to be made, letting the anticipation and excitement build. He’s got instant gratification waiting, the whole damn thing sitting right there available for a weekend marathon.

Gotta do the original trilogy first. Have to build that suspense. The big reveal. “Luke, I am your father.” “I love you. I know.”

I mean, come on, has to be the original trilogy first. But what age?

I settled on twelve. Twelve is a good age, right? Twelve is the right age to appreciate Empire, and you know as soon as Star Wars is done you’ve gotta pop in Empire.

So, we waited.

I bought the movies on blu-ray. I prepared.

When I felt the day had come, I asked him if he’d like to watch Star Wars with me. You know, the original classic.

“No, that’s okay. I already know what it’s all about.”

What?!?

“Oh sure, I’ve seen the story plenty of times before.”

This required further investigation.

It turns out, get this, it turns out that he’s seen the entire thing before. Oh, but not the MOVIES.

No, no, what he saw is the story… in every form EXCEPT the movies.

So there are these cartoons called Lego Star Wars, maybe you’ve heard of them? Apparently they are Lego’s way of FUCKING RUINING STAR WARS FOR AN ENTIRE GENERATION OF CHILDREN BY PITCHING THE CARTOONS AT A YOUNGER AGE THAN THE FUCKING MOVIES ARE INTENDED.

Those worthless fucks.

So I thought I was going to be introducing my son to the greatest character that has ever breathed life to a screen, like this;

darththanks

And instead, children’s cartoons introduced my son to this;

lego-darth

Are you kidding me?

No. No, that’s real. That’s my son’s introduction to Star Wars. And to Darth Vader, thank you very much.

That, and apparently every single other cartoon that had writers strapped for original story ideas who decided, “Hey, in this episode let’s phone it in and do a Star Wars mockup, everyone loves those.”

You know, like Phineas and Ferb.

It’s been a thing. A big thing. And it’s been in his face since he was a baby, apparently. All his life he’s seen the Star Wars stuff played out in parody form over, and over, and over.

It was already too late before kindergarten was done.

I tell you, I begin to see why you’re supposed to isolate the kids from TV, this shit poisons their youth.

Do you know how I got my son even vaguely interested in watching Star Wars with me?

I promised him that he’d be able to see where his favorite Star Wars: Battlefront level, the attack on the Ice Planet Hoth, originally came from.

I had to promise him he’d get to see the actual attack on the rebel base of Hoth! He already knew all about it, but he’d never actually SEEN THE DAMN THING.

Not only did he know there WAS a battle between the Empire and the Rebellion on Hoth, but he’d taken part in it. He’d taken down AT-AT walkers with a harpoon already. Himself. Personally.

Shit, he’d personally flown speeders through the forest moon of fucking Endor chasing down Stormtroopers before he ever saw Return of the Jedi!

How fucked is that. No, seriously, this is bullshit and also awesome, but there is an intended sequence of events here that has been violated like a turkey on Thanksgiving.

Causality has become warped beyond measure. I require a time travel device and jellybabies. Also, a multi-colored scarf. Stat.

I eventually got him to watch the movies. Grudgingly. Kinda cranky. They’re so old, after all. He already knows what happens.

Star Wars Rebels, now that’s cool. He likes that. And he did like the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie. He did.

He didn’t love it, though. It was ‘all right’. Not as cool as Star Wars Rebels, after all, but pretty nice. A movie for us old folks.

It’s a nightmare. 

The whole thing has caused me to look at my long lists of movies and TV shows I wanted to share and realize, much as I expect my own father did, by the time they’re old enough to be old enough, your shit is TOO FUCKING OLD TO BE COOL.

I find myself remembering vaguely his efforts to get me to realize just how awesome The Beatles were. Like, The Beatles, man. THE BEATLES.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. They’re okay, I guess. Funny cartoon about a yellow submarine, crappy art style but okay.

And Elvis. Really, dad? Elvis? Gee, what next, the Beaver? Little Rascals? Holy crap, the ’20s called, they want their tired old black and white crap back. Maybe you heard we’ve got this thing now called color?

That’s me.

I put Spaced Invaders on, I thought he’d love that. He was so bored we shut it off after 15 minutes. “Who died and put you in charge?” “Captain Bipko.” Ah, that never gets old.

Or The Last Starfighter. “What do we do?” {Eyepiece flip} “We die.” He watched it, it was okay. He watched it dutifully in an attempt to make me happy. That’s all.

You want to know what the only true geek thing I’ve been able to share with him is?

Mobile Suit Gundam models and anime. He LOVES building Gundam models, and he also loves the best anime shows I’ve let him watch, like Fullmetal Alchemist and Sword Art Online.

So it’s not my shit that’s wrong, I just have to fall back, dump the old versions of it, and pick the newer, high speed low drag awesome versions to introduce him to.

I have to use the newest cutting edge geek stuff to give him a taste, then stand back and hope his own interest will drive him into archaeological research into the darkest origins of the art form.

Like how I once dipped my toe into Dark Side of the Moon and that drove me down the full path of Pink Floyd love.

Fucking Lego Star Wars.

You know, he doesn’t read comic books? I have a whole wall of Ultimate Spider-Man, he wants nothing to do with them.

But he likes the cartoons. But he doesn’t LOVE them.

No, what he loves is Rabbids. Rabbids and Teen Titans Go.

Okay. He loves Teen Titans Go.

I can live with that.

Seriously though. If you’ve got kids, you watch that early morning cartoon shit like a hawk. LIKE A HAWK.

You’ve been warned.