In the most recent expansion of Legion a new ‘mythic+’ difficulty for dungeons was introduced to challenge max level players. For those who have played Diablo 3 much of this may seem familiar, as inspiration was clearly taken from D3’s Greater Rift system. Each week, max level characters are given a ‘mythic+ keystone’ for a dungeon. Players then need to gather a group of four friends (or strangers) and complete the dungeon with the keystone activated. To do this, players must kill all the bosses and a certain number of non-boss mobs within a time limit. If they succeed in this task, the keystone upgrades and a new keystone of a higher level is given to the player. For each keystone level, all mobs and bosses gain 10% health and 10% damage, as well as certain ‘affixes’ (extra difficulty-increasing mechanics) up to a maximum of three. Players can push these mythic+ keystones to higher and higher levels with increasing difficulty and better rewards.
The competition was announced by Blizzard on the 11th of July and players were given a two week timeframe, during which they must complete mythic+ dungeons of the highest level they can. This gave players two different sets of affixes, as they are fixed for each week, to try to push their keystones to the highest levels on live servers with their best five scores being submitted in order to qualify. The top eight teams from each region (Europe, The Americas, Asia-Pacific and China) were then invited to the Mythic Dungeon Invitational. The competition took place on special tournament realms that only the qualifying players had access to, allowing them to use any gear in the game but scaled to a predefined power level to keep things fair. The format was single-elimination, with best-of-x series and every dungeon set to mythic +17 difficulty. The first dungeon was set by Blizzard, and each subsequent dungeon was chosen by the losing team from a set pool. The 2 finalist teams from each region qualified for the global quarter finals. As the regional group stages took shape it became clear which teams were weaker and which were stronger. On the whole, the China region looked to be the weakest, with certain teams showing a clear lack of preparation for some of the dungeons. Both The Americas and Asia-Pacific region had very strong contenders, however the clear team to watch was Raider.io from Europe. They seemed to be unstoppable, with some extremely clean and efficient clears, and made short work of their group stage and quarter-final opponents. However, when it looked like no one could put a halt to their march to victory – and the $50,000 grand prize – APAC team Free Marsy halted Raider.io’s progress in the semifinals. This was undoubtedly the biggest upset in the tournament. Free Marsy then went on to win the grand finals against Honestly 3-2, in a repeat of the APAC grand finals – but this time they managed to beat their regional rivals. With a prize pool of $100,000 and a total viewership across Twitch and Chinese streams of over 200k of the finals, the Mythic Dungeon Invitational was undoubtedly one of the biggest successes that WoW e-sports has ever had.
There were two main reasons why this event performed so well. Firstly, the content on display is extremely accessible: if you play WoW, then you’ve probably played the mythic+ difficulty before. That means the dungeons and mechanics on display in this event were ones familiar to most players. As Meowchan, member of team Raider.io, put it, “This is the future of PvE (e-sports) going forward, much more exciting than raid bosses, much more relatable”. The second reason, which has also been pointed out by caster Rich Campbell, is that this format is a lot easier to follow for non WoW players. In comparison to previous WoW Arena tournaments, in the Mythic Dungeon Invitational you can see the timer on the screen, and therefore clearly understand that these two teams are racing. It’s equally obvious that the aim is to kill the big dragon, or whatever the enemy may be. Caster and high level raider Slootbag said, “For someone who has no idea what WoW is or how PvE works it’s a bit easier to start following a pick up [compared to PvP]”. According to casting talent AutomaticJack, “There will definitely be more [Mythic Dungeon Invitationals], with how many people tuned in”. And it would hardly be surprising. With the success of the first MDI, it seems inevitable that more will soon be coming. It’s exciting to see Blizzard backing and organising this kind of event, and they can only get bigger from here on out. Roll on, Blizzcon.