So young kitten, you’re interested in the most challenging 5-man content that Warlords of Draenor has to offer? Well, you’ve come to the right place; I’m Cantor, guild leader of Omen on Emerald Dream EU, Mythic raider and 10 year veteran of World of Warcraft, and I’m here to guide you toward your dreams of those shiny, shiny Gold timed medals. I managed to take Cantor, my Feral Druid, through 9/9 Mists of Pandaria Challenge Modes in late 2013, and 8/8 Warlords Challenge Modes in April 2015.
What should I know?
- Challenge Modes are intense, difficult, timed dungeons that reward a little gear, but mostly bragging rights.
- Gear is scaled down to item level 630 (heroic dungeon blues). Gem sockets, tertiary stats and set bonuses don’t work in here, and the best way to gear up is just to chain-run heroics until you find pieces with the stat combo that you want; for Feral, this is crit and mastery. Crafting 3 pieces of WoD gear and using the re-roll items until you get the correct item suffix (Of The Peerless) is also a good way to do things.
- The dungeons are basically the same as in Heroic, but either with mechanics added or the damage ramped up to insane levels.
- Feral is one of the weakest DPS specs thanks to our abysmal AoE damage; Shadow Priests and Balance Druids also suffer, and Guardian Druids are one of the weaker tanks thanks to their total lack of utility abilities like Anti-Magic Zone, Army of the Dead, Heroic Leap, Roll, Breath of Fire and more; if you want an easy time, go Resto, as they are the strongest healers by a country mile thanks to their run-and-gun healing ability. But hey, we didn’t pick Feral for an easy ride did we?
Why do I care?
First off, what’s in it for you? Well even if you don’t want to compete for the Bronze, Silver or Gold rewards, you can receive a daily loot chest by taking the daily quest offered by Challenger Sunforge (Horde) / Challenger Savina (Alliance). These dailies reward a chest that contains a piece of equipment on-par with current LFR difficulty raid gear (at the time of writing, ilevel 660). It’s not earth-shattering, but it could help you get your hands on an elusive piece with decent stats – the secondaries are randomised, so luck be with you.
If you do decide that you want to go for the timed medals, then the rewards are as follows: for completing all 8 Warlords of Draenor dungeons with a time of Bronze or better, you’ll be able to stroll around with The Indomitable title; for a full run of Silver times or better, you’ll get a sweet Yeti mount, the Challenger’s War Yeti.
And if you manage to finish up all 8 dungeons with a Gold time, you’ll get access to an incredible array of weapons that be used for transmog purposes, sold by the same NPC that gives you your daily quests. For a Feral Druid, you’re looking at the two-handed mace Flamegrinder, or the Cloudsong Glaive polearm. If you’re feeling weird, you could also use one of three staves – the Arcana Shard Spire, Cthulu-inspired Dimension-Ripper’s Staff, or the incredible Greatstaff of Infinite Knowledge. All of these weapons have special procs that will fire off at random; for example, Flamegrinder occasionally opens up and belches fire from both sides, while the Dimension-Ripper’s Staff has shadowy void tentacles that will grasp out of the head of the weapon.
It’s also worth noting that for every Challenge Mode you complete on Gold, you’ll be able to teleport right to the entrance once every 8 hours – a cooldown that’s reset whenever you finish another dungeon on CM difficulty. I may or may not use this to ‘port to Grimrail Depot mere minutes before my raid to avoid being late.
What do I need?
There are a few very useful items to bring along with you:
- Draenic Invisibility Potions are cheap, and the only way to hit those Gold times in several Challenge Modes;
- Flasks and DPS potions, as well as Savage Feasts are all going to give you useful stat boosts; the Agility potions share a cooldown with the Invis pots, and using Invisibility will put your DPS potions on a 10 minute cooldown. With Prowl, you can avoid the need to use an Invis potion in most cases, leaving you free to chain-chug Agility potions on-cooldown;
- Drums of Fury are great if you don’t have a Lust/Time Warp/Heroic caster;
- Runescrolls of Fortitude are made by Scribes, and useful if you don’t have a Priest.
General Feral Advice
For addons, don’t leave home without WeakAuras. In the image below, you can see my own WA setup. As a brief explanation, the floating eyes indicate SR isn’t present; the 2 red rectangles are my Bloodtalons stacks; the left-most vertical red line tracks my Predatory Swiftness buff; the Savage Roar tracker is in blue; the empty middle bar is my energy meter, with a combo point display in the middle; the 3 red bars are respectively Rake, Rip and Thrash trackers. Underneath all of that, my TF and Berserk cooldowns are shown (they go small and grey, with a cooldown displayed while they’re unavailable), and finally the potion cooldown is shown at the very bottom. Other addons are Shadowed Unit Frames, Bartender, SexyMap and the wonderful ThreatPlates. I personally also like _Cursor to track your mouse in the melee scrum, and Opie to get quick access to infrequently-used abilities and target markers.
For talents, I ran a setup of:
- Level 15 – Displacer Beast,
- Level 30 – Ysera’s Gift,
- Level 45 – Typhoon,
- Level 60 – Incarnation,
- Level 90 – Dream of Cenarius,
- Level 100 – Bloodtalons.
Delving into that a little bit more, Displacer is a great tool to get you out of harm’s way in the stickiest situations – void zone separating you from the boss? *blink* Knockback? *blink* Caught and about to be eaten by something horrible in Shadowmoon Burial Grounds? *blink blink blink*. An argument can be made for the other 2 talents as well, but generally Swiftness, with Cat Form’s inherent fast movement and the small size of dungeon encounter areas, is going to be less useful than the other options.
Gift is a mindless, always-on heal, which is always useful. Cenarion Ward definitely has it’s uses, but is just one more button to micromanage in an already busy AoE rotation, and consumed a global.
Typhoon is awesome AoE CC that can give your healer/tank some breathing room; not used often as it knocks stuff all over the place, but can be useful for a last-ditch interrupt.
Incarnation remains the most powerful DPS talent on this row; your crit is going to be too low for too many finishing moves, so SotF loses power, and FoN is just far too weak. Incarnation, particularly with the Glyph of Savage Roar, is a massive DPS boost that lets you drop more CPs into Bites and Rips. Use it in AoE scenarios to get an ultra-powerful Rake on everything and watch them melt.
Level 75 talents are a weird one in that all of the options on this CC tier are useful in their own way; Vortex can be helpful if your tank is in a situation where he needs to kite a lot of mobs around, as in UBRS or Iron Docks. Bash is always useful for a single-target stun on a critical mob, like the Summoners in UBRS, but do be careful that you don’t mess with an AoE stun rotation (example: Leg Sweep into Remorseless Winter). I generally used Incapacitating Roar, which gave another AoE interrupt, and a little wiggle room for our tank and healer.
Dream of Cenarius is useful if you macro your Healing Touch to target your tank and are free with your Rejuvs on the rest of your group; otherwise, NV might be more useful to help out your healer (although the healing is very much on the low side compared with the Shaman’s Ancestral Guidance). Heart of the Wild can be useful in oh-shit moments when your tank or healer inconveniently decides to stop living, or if you really need an extra burst of healing; I wouldn’t recommend it though, as taking a DPS out of the game isn’t generally going to be very useful when working toward a Gold timer.
Bloodtalons is great for getting a bit more power out of your finishers – every time you use one, you can build up some more CPs, pop a heal on an injured party member, and get your next two abilities buffed by 30%. A BT Thrash will do significant trash damage, as will BT Rakes, while you want to be rolling BT Rips and Rakes at all times on bosses. You won’t have anywhere near enough energy to run with Lunar Inspiration, so don’t try. Claws is a not-terrible choice if you don’t want to have to worry about putting more buttons into your rotation, and gives you the added bonus of letting you cast Soothe in Cat Form, which is useful on a few pulls in Bloodmaul Slag Mines and UBRS.
I’d love to go into each pull, room by room, dungeon by dungeon, but feel that anyone still reading is likely to be numb by now, so I’ll keep it short and just mention specific pulls to watch out for.
Shadowmoon Burial Grounds
This was the first Challenge Mode that we did in Warlords, and it took us a while to get our heads around it. The timer is quite tight, so make sure you’re popping potions and cooldowns often. Not much AoE trash, so Feral’s multi-target cleave is pretty good. Displacer is good on all of the bosses to avoid danger zones (Bonemaw, Ner’zuhl), reach adds while avoiding void zones (Sadana, Ner’zuhl) or get back to the boss after he runs away (Nhallish). Save your cooldowns on boss 2 for after he sends you into the alternate realm to kill the Possessed Soul, as you’ll get a 40% damage buff on your return.
Quite easy, but probably the most painful dungeon for melee characters thanks to the vast amounts of AoE damage, disorientates, void zones and charging mobs. That being said, watch out for: Vigilant Kaathar (boss 1) throwing his shield. Charge to your healer or Displacer Beast toward it when the boss starts to cast Consecrated Light. Boss 2 summons adds that can be CCed with Typhoon and Vortex. Boss 3 puts fire EVERYWHERE, so Displacer is useful. Teron’gor summons his Infernal (which can be rooted indefinitely – try the macro below) and deals a huge amount of group damage; have interrupts in place for Drain Life and Chaos Bolt, especially when he’s casting Rain of Fire.
/tar Felborne Abyssal /cast Entangling Roots
We found this one surprisingly easy, and we managed to get Gold here on our very first serious pull. Interrupt the goblin trash with Incap Roar, Typhoons and Maims to stop them firing off the Iron Stars. For boss 1, make sure to DoT both targets as much as possible, and kill the big Orc first. The pull right after this is deadly for your tank, so make sure you’ve got all of your PS heals hitting him. Most of the train car pulls are also very dangerous, particularly when Gunners, Boomers and Cinder Seers appear in one pull. The Grom’kar Hulks have a self-buff Enrage that we can Soothe off if you don’t have anyone else that can do so. This Enrage stacks, so you might want to wait for 2 stacks before you pop out to Soothe – it depends on what your tank’s happy with.
On boss 2, Nitrogg Thundertower, it’s best to put you on the boss at all times, even when he’s in the gun; the adds die very quickly, and are horrible for Feral to try and deal damage to, so bring your hefty ST abilities to bear. If you can take off 25% of his health in the gun, you’ll remove the need to wait around for another Boomer to spawn after wave 3. This also baits the gun to place all of the Slag Blasts on itself, letting your group move around a bit more freely. On the last boss, Displacer Beast is useful to get out of lightning patches quickly.
Another relatively easy Challenge Modes, with the hardest bit being the massive pull at the beginning of the instance. I really can’t recommend much here – you’re going to do very low damage unless you pop Berserk, but then you won’t have it to use with Incarnation for the boss, so it’s not something I can advise doing. Sadly, trash is a very weak point for us, and never is it clearer than in this instance. At the least, try to maintain Thrash on everything, Swipe for CPs and drop your Rips into the big Battlemasters and named mobs. Boss 1 is pretty simple tank and spank, while boss 2 is a cleave fight, which Feral is pretty good at; pop your cooldowns and get Rake on all 3 mobs, while trying to keep the goblin and troll at roughly even levels (the goblin lower if possible). When the troll casts the Blood Shield on the goblin, hardswap to the troll and kill her off quickly.
Watch out for Ogre Traps on the ground! Boss 3 is quite standard, but boss 4, Skulloc, will be made easier with a Feral – cleave off of him on to the Orc adds, and use your high movement speed to get back to the boss before he fires off a second Cannon Barrage. Stampeding Roar, even unglyphed, will save lives here if you have any slow-movers in your group.
Bloodmaul Slag Mines
Lots of Enrage effects again to be Soothed off, as well as plenty of casters, so Incap Roar is very useful. On boss 2, use your ability to shift out of the Root he casts to get to him and stop him buffing himself and his adds with Frightening Roar, or use Stampeding Roar to break your whole group out. The trash proved to be much more challenging than the bosses in this instance for my group of Brewmaster Monk, Resto Druid, 2 Hunters and myself, so make sure you’re interrupting and CCing as much as you can.
Upper Blackrock Spire
There is some tricky trash and bosses; the first few rooms are going to be pretty horrible for Feral, and melee in general. Be sure to watch out for the AoE abilities from the Warcasters (looks like a slow, reversed Arcane Explosion) and Worgs. Berserkers and Worgs both have a dispellable Enrage – although there are so many of them it’s rarely worth dispelling it – and Grunts drop a Rallying Banner that is a priority target in the first 4 rooms. Assign specific Rune Conduits to people for boss 1 so no-one is down with the dangerous electric swirls for longer than they need to be. Feral Charge is useful for getting back up on to the boss platform without having to run around the room or through a void zone. Vortex is useful on the trash preceding and after boss 3, as well as the trash waves on the boss itself. Very handy for stopping the Ogres releasing dragons.
Our quick movement speed will be advantageous on bosses 1 (lots of void zones), 2 (moving into position to block beams) and 3 (Quills), although Displacer makes all of this easier again. Lots of dangerous trash here; Soaring Chakram Masters and Whirling Dervishes deal heavy party-wide damage; Heralds of Sunrise have an annoying heal, so save your interrupts; Solar Familiars and Blinding Solar Flares both cast Flashbank, which will disorientate you if you’re facing them when it’s cast. Relatively small trash packs again make Rake-dotting a thing, but make sure you’re maintaining Thrash on 4+ mobs.
The birds mobs between bosses 2 and 3 are prime targets for Typhoon and Ursol’s when they fixate, and the wind gauntlet after boss 3 is made much easier with Stamp Roar. You can also blink through the oxbow section with Displacer Beast. The final boss has adds that are stunnable if for some reason you’re not running Vortex or Roar, as well as a robot add that needs to be interrupted (let your tank worry about boss interrupts).
Everbloom has the tightest timer, coupled with large trash pulls and some awkward jumps, making it a real pain for Ferals. Pop your cooldowns on the first pull as they’ll be up in time for Witherbark’s vulnerability phase. Typhoon will let you keep the water globes away from him for a little bit longer, but generally don’t swap off of the boss to kill them. This is one of the only fights where you won’t be able to open from stealth, as you get destealthed when a water globule hits him to begin the encounter, so save some CPs from the preceding trash pack to get a Roar up. If any plant adds spawn, just ignore them and have your tank pick them up.
On the Protectors encounter, try to gather them all up (you’ll need a blanket silence on Telu to get him to move to Gola) and cleave them down. Gola first, making sure you have interrupts for Rapid Tides and Revitalising Waters, followed by Telu and Dulhu (cleave off of Dulhu as he has much more health). Be careful of Briarskin from Telu, as Feral’s fast attack speed can make this deadly.
For the spider boss (who you do have to kill in Challege Mode, unlike LFD), pool CPs for when the Orc adds are getting consumed by the boss, then drop a big Bite on to them to burst them down – don’t bother dotting them, as they won’t live long enough.
On boss 4, Archmage Sol, you can blink through the fire rings, but don’t interrupt the Parastic Growth until she’s at about 30% health, then drag her far away from all of the fire plants – the fire won’t be able to reach you. For Yalnu, just focus the boss; the adds will be quickly taken apart by the Mage helpers if they’re all free from Entanglements. Use Stampeding Roar when the boss is casting Genesis to allow your group to prevent any plants adds from spawning.
Challenge Modes are a fun, exciting way to really challenge yourself as a player. If you don’t have any guildies that are interested, then the Blizzard Group Finder tool is a great resource – just make sure you state what you’re after, so you don’t end up in a group pushing for Gold times on your first run through. I’d always advise any group to do a dry run first so that you can see where the hard sections are and where you might need to save cooldowns.
If you have any questions, I can be reached on Twitter (@shredable) or in-game for European people on my Battletag, Cantor#2912. Please feel free to ask me anything – I love Challenge Modes, and love to help out anyone struggling.
As I said at the beginning I’m guild leader of Omen a Mythic raiding guild on Emerald Dream-EU. We’ve been the leading Horde guild on the server for 10 years, and are currently recruiting a Mage or Moonkin for BRF progression (working on Iron Maidens as of the time of writing). If you feel you’re up for raiding 3 days a week in a very friendly atmosphere, please feel free to apply! Our raiding schedule is Sunday, Monday and Wednesday evenings, from 20:00-23:00 server time.