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World of Warcraft’s Mythic Dungeon Invitational, WoW’s other esport, returns

Season 2 of Blizzard’s Mythic Dungeon Invitational has begun

Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard officially announced the return of World of Warcraft’s popular Mythic Dungeon Invitational last month. Starting on Feb. 27, teams of five players began competing for a spot in the tournament, which is happening later this year.

The Mythic Dungeon Invitational (MDI) is part of Blizzard’s new focus on PvE-related esports for World of Warcraft. Instead of going up against each other for the gold in player-versus-player combat, teams will battle against the clock to take down the dungeon’s difficult enemies.

The MDI is different from Blizzard’s other World of Warcraft esport, the Arena World Championship, which focuses on the PvP side of the game. The AWC pits teams of players against each other as they compete head to head to become the game’s best team. This year, the AWC will expand to a yearlong season that includes far more tournaments than it has in the past, giving WoW’s best PvP players more chances to compete. But the Mythic Dungeon Invitational is Blizzard’s attempt at bringing the PvE side of World of Warcraft — generally seen as the game’s biggest draw — into the competitive gaming community.

Let’s dive into how the Mythic Dungeon Invitational works and how Blizzard turned WoW’s Mythic Plus dungeons into an esport.

What are Mythic Plus dungeons?

Dungeons in World of Warcraft are five-player activities. A group of characters, usually composed of a tank, a healer and three damage-focused characters, come together and fight through a scripted, consistent map. The dungeon itself is filled with multiple bosses and filler enemies, often referred to as “trash.” Once players have cleared all the bosses, the dungeon is over.

The word “Mythic” in this context refers to the difficulty of the dungeon. There are three difficulty levels for dungeons in World of Warcraft: Legion: Normal, Heroic and Mythic. The first two difficulty levels let players matchmake, grouping up random players to jump in relatively quickly. Mythic, on the other hand, is far more difficult and requires players to find their own groups.

Dungeons have been around since the beginning of World of Warcraft, and Mythic isn’t a brand-new difficulty. The “Plus,” which was added as a new feature in World of Warcraft’s sixth expansion, Legion, is where these dungeons get far more interesting.

Each week, players are given a Mythic Keystone after completing their first Mythic dungeon. This Keystone has a number associated with it (+5, +6, etc.) and is assigned to a specific dungeon. Players can then find a group and venture into the dungeon their Keystone is associated with.

Once inside, the five players gather around a podium. The player with the Keystone inserts it into the podium and the dungeon begins to change. All players load back into the dungeon and a countdown timer will begin. A barrier blocks the path forward and is released when the countdown ends.

After the figurative starter pistol has been fired, the team plays through the dungeon as normal. But the higher the number associated with the Keystone, the harder the dungeon is. The goal is to complete the dungeon within a set time — like World of Warcraft speedrunning.

If players complete the dungeon in time, they score loot, their Keystone is assigned to a new dungeon and the stone levels up. If not, players are rewarded loot as usual, but the Keystone dies.

The difficulty of these dungeons can scale indefinitely, but players in the Invitational will be asked to tackle +23-level Keystones.

Blizzard Entertainment

Who’s competing?

Over the first two weeks, anyone who wants to can compete. All you need is a group of five people and five completed level 23 Mythic Keystone dungeons over the course of the two qualifier weeks. Any team that meets these requirements will move on to the Time Trials stage, which Blizzard has yet to detail, but should be a little tougher in hopes of narrowing the field down to just the sharpest competitors ahead of the more competitive head-to-head stages.

Head-to-head stage, how does that work?

Well, it’ll basically be a race. Once the top teams have been selected, they’ll eventually go up against one other team in a series (a best of three or best of five) that will cover a few predetermined dungeons to see who can do each one fastest. This is where the invitational gets really exciting, as teams are forced to strategize on the fly and decide exactly what risks they might be able to take to shave a few seconds off their final time.

Everything from a team’s composition, the path they take through the dungeon and which trash they kill to reach the necessary amount will have a huge impact on their final time. With so much possible variation, each and every spell that teams cast in the tournament’s latter stages needs to be carefully thought out. But the true differentiator between the good and great teams will be how they deal with the Affixes.

Which dungeons are they going through?

All of the dungeons currently in Legion are eligible here.

  • Black Rook Hold
  • Cathedral of Eternal Night
  • Court of Stars
  • Darkheart Thicket
  • Eye of Azshara
  • Halls of Valor
  • Maw of Souls
  • Neltharion’s Lair
  • The Arcway
  • Vault of the Wardens
  • Lower Karazhan
  • Upper Karazhan
  • Seat of the Triumvirate

While the dungeon variety does make the competition a little more fierce, what truly keeps Mythic Plus interesting is the Affix system. As your Mythic Keystone number grows, Affixes are added onto it. These are weekly, rotating debuffs that make the dungeon harder for you and your team.

Each week, there is an Affix assigned to level four and up. A second Affix is added for level seven dungeons, and a third at level 10. Any and all dungeons played at +10 or higher will have three active Affixes.

Affixes can do all sorts of things to make the dungeon harder. More importantly, they aren’t random, meaning that one team can’t just get lucky as they run through their dungeons.

Blizzard has already announced the Affixes for the first two weeks of the Mythic Dungeon Invitational Proving Grounds. In week one, players will be asked to tackle Raging, Volcanic and Tyrannical in each of their dungeons.

  • Raging causes nonboss enemies to deal double damage as they near death. This forces players to focus on specific enemies one at a time rather than dealing area damage.
  • Volcanic will randomly produce fiery explosions under players’ feet as the fight goes on, which is intended to disrupt the casts of healers and ranged damage dealers like mages.
  • Tyrannical causes bosses to have more health and deal more damage. Bosses are frequently the easiest part of Mythic Plus dungeons, as players can simply plan for them in advance and use cooldowns to take them down quickly. Making the bosses difficult can disrupt the flow of a normal Mythic Plus run, forcing different strategies.

In week two, players will be asked to tackle Teeming, Explosive and Fortified in each of their dungeons.

  • Teeming causes additional trash enemies to be spawned into the dungeon. This forces tank players to reevaluate how they engage a fight that they’ve done a hundred times before. More enemies means more incoming damage.
  • Explosive causes random balls of fire to appear while in combat. If these balls of flame are not destroyed, they will explode after a short period of time. This deals extreme damage to the dungeon group and can even kill players at higher levels. To counteract this, damage players have to stop fighting dungeon enemies and focus on the bombs instead.
  • Fortified is the opposite of Tyrannical. Trash enemies are given more health and deal more damage. Fortified can be very difficult to deal with for all players. Most other Affixes focus on the trash mobs and not the bosses, meaning that players can get both Teeming and Fortified in one week. This increases the dungeon difficulty not for just one fight, but for each individual encounter.

When is it and where can I watch it?

Well, you can’t, at least not yet. While the tournaments final stages are certainly going to be streamed, the earliest parts of the qualifiers will have no official way to watch. Fortunately, there are sure to be a few streamers who will be looking to show off their team’s qualifying runs, but we’ll have to see how the qualifiers, which are happening now, turn out.