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WoW Ironman Challenge

Yesterday on twitter, Vrykerion asked: “How far do you think you could make it in WoW without ever equipping a green or higher item or spending a single talent point?”

I’ve asked myself similar questions before, so after mulling it over for a second I threw out my initial thoughts, “@Vrykerion depends very heavily on your class. I bet I could make it to Outlands at least in all whites/trash.” Which, to clarify, was me saying that I’m sure I could get to Outlands with every single class, but how far beyond that you could go would depend on the class.

We got a few more people to chime in on that discussion as well, during which I accepted the challenge and gave it a name: The WoW Ironman Challenge. Several of us talked about what rules should apply to such a challenge and then Vrykarion made it all official in his post (link in the challenge name).

Deciding to take this challenge means you have to choose your class, and to a somewhat lesser extent, your race.

The Rules
1. Use only white/grey items.
2. No spending talent points. No specialization at level 10. (Regular skill training is fine.)
2. No Primary or Secondary Professions other than First Aid.
3. No means of XP boosting (No Recruit-A-Friend, No Guild, and obviously no Heirlooms)
4. No consumable bonuses (food, potions, elixirs, etc) – Rogue Poisons allowed
5. No enchants.
6. No Groups. (Since clarification was requested: That means no dungeons, no Dungeon Finder, no battlegrounds, no anything that puts you in a group and no grouping up with people to quest or anything.)
7. No Death Knights.
8. No Glyphs

There you have it. No gear with stats on it (including enchants), no talent points or spec. No means of increasing your experience gains or having other people helping you. No items that boost your stats at all, including consumables. No professions other than First Aid.

We’re currently discussing whether Rogue’s should be allowed to use Poisons and whether or not we’re going to allow Glyphs to be used. Poisons fall under the category of consumables, but they’re also the Rogue’s form of class buffs (though why Blizzard doesn’t make them spells like the Shaman instead of purchased goods is beyond me). Glyphs we just overlooked initially so we’re bringing it up now just to be sure we’ve got everything covered. Updated with the answers to these questions. Rogue poisons will be allowed. Glyphs will not be allowed.

Initial Thoughts
My first thought with this was Troll Hunter. Hunter being the top choice because you can kite for days while dealing solid damage which can pretty well negate all of the disadvantages of taking the challenge in the first place. Troll because they deal extra damage to beasts as well as having increased regeneration which would further increase the advantages while minimizing the disadvantages.

I don’t think there’s an easier choice available for a challenge like this. Pet classes have a clear advantage since the pet can make up for some of your loss of damage, while also adding a level of defense. Casters would follow next, and melee bringing up the rear.

Horde racial abilities would be more helpful as they increase damage output. Some Alliance racials could prove rather useful, Draenei healing and Night Elf defenses in particular.

Races
I’ve had a fair amount of information concerning races on this blog over the years, and my time spent with twinks has made my racial min/maxing second nature. Generally speaking, Horde races have aggressive racial abilities that would help them in this challenge by adding power in combat that is otherwise lacking from gear without any stats. Alliance races typically have defensive racial abilities that would help them in the opposite manner, helping them survive the longer encounters.

Without going too much into detail, let’s look at the advantage that each race would bring to this particular challenge:

Alliance
Draenei: +1% Hit, 20% heal over 15 seconds,
Dwarf: +1% Crit with guns, 10% damage reduction that also removes poison/disease/bleed effects
Gnome: +5% mana pool
Human: +3% Spirit
Night Elf: -2% chance of being hit, Shadowmeld to allow combat reset
Worgen: +1% crit

Horde
Blood Elf: Defensive silence that also restores 6% mana or 15 Rage/Focus/Energy
Goblin: +1% Haste, can launch a rocket to deal ranged Fire damage
Orc: Increased Attack Power and Spell Power for 15 seconds, +5% pet damage
Tauren: +5% Health, 2 second AoE stun
Troll: +5% damage to beasts, +1% crit with bows/thrown, +10% health regeneration, +20% haste for 10 seconds
Undead: Restore 35% health and mana by consuming a corpse

The racial traits I listed are ones that help with this challenge in particular by providing stats you otherwise don’t have access to because of the gear restrictions, or which provide a benefit which can make up for that lack of gear-based stats.

Classes
Class choice is the most important piece of this puzzle. Choosing the right class can make this challenge much less challenging while choosing the wrong class can make it very difficult. In general, pet classes will have the most advantage followed by casters and then melee classes.

Pet classes (Hunters and Warlocks) have an advantage not only because they have a pet adding to their damage dealing or which can take hits for them, but also because they are more easily able to kite mobs which will allow them to eventually kill the targets no matter how low their own defenses may be. The Hunter is the top dog here because their spells are based on Focus, rather than mana, which restores itself over time which means that they can literally kite a mob for as long as it take them to kill it.

Casters have an advantage over melee because their damage is only based on their stats, both for the power of the spells as well as how many times they can cast it from a limited mana pool. Melee classes still have their power based on their stats, but their damage is based very strongly on their weapon damage. For some level ranges that’s not going to be much of an issue, but in the second half of Vanilla content some classes are extremely limited in their weapon selection for this challenge, which is going to make those level ranges significantly more difficult than they otherwise would be.

Druid: great versatility, great healing, good kiting, decent crowd control
Hunter: fantastic kiting, pet assistance, non-stat-based energy source
Mage: some kiting ability, great crowd control, “free” damage via Arcane Missiles, good buff spells
Paladin: great healing, great buff spells
Priest: great buffs, great healing, poor mana management
Rogue: good survivability, non-stat energy source
Shaman: good heals, great buffs, best stat versatility
Warlock: pet class, great crowd control, somewhat easily renewable energy source
Warrior: non-stat energy source, “free” healing, good buffs

My thoughts on how these classes are ranked, from easiest to hardest: Hunter, Warlock, Druid, Mage, Shaman, Warrior, Paladin, (Death Knight), Rogue, Priest.

I put the DK in there, even though we’ve disqualified them, because I think that’s where they would stand if you were to immediately replace all of their gear with grey/white items after rolling them and before doing any quests.

Research
Last night I did a little research on weapons, looking primarily at ranged weapons for Hunters and at interesting items I could use in slots such as jewelry. I had both better and worse results that I had expected going in.

For most classes, the weapon you use is going to be pretty key to your performance; casters being the exception. I knew going into it that low level white/grey weapons would be pretty easy to find because that’s what most of the gear at that level is until you start getting into greens and then blues from dungeon drops. I wasn’t expecting their availability to drop quite so drastically in the 30’s though.

Ranged weapons are pretty common up to level 31 at which point they become nearly non-existent until you reach Outlands. From level 31-59 there are only four ranged weapons available, and all four of them are trash items that drop from mobs, and the only one that has more than a 4% drop rate only has a higher (7%) drop rate if you kill elite mobs for it.

Once you get to level 60 you can buy a weapon that should serve just fine through all of the Outlands content, and other vendor weapons open up at 70 to get you through most of Wrath content. The best ranged weapons you can get for this challenge come from Cataclysm dungeons and raids, and can be equipped at level 74. They offer almost twice the DPS of everything you can get in Wrath content (101.6 DPS vs. 55.9). The bad news is, those level 74 trash drops are the best option you’ll have for the rest of the challenge.

I haven’t had a chance yet to do my research on the other classes, but I’ll get there before too long. For casters I’ll be looking at armor since weapons will be nearly pointless for all of them (Shaman and Druids being the exception). For melee classes I’m looking mostly at weapons since they are key.

Now You Tell Me
While my initial thoughts were to roll a Troll Hunter to overcome as much of the challenge’s pitfalls as I could, I’ve not actually decided what I’m going to roll for this challenge. I’m not sure yet whether I’m only going to do this once, or if I’m going to do it on multiple toons, either. Maybe I should go with the Hunter to see the challenge on easy mode and do another class as well to see just how hard it can really be.

I want your opinions on this challenge, though. What do you think will be good race and class combinations for this challenge? What combinations would you like to see me attempt with this? If you’re going to join in the fun, what combination(s) are you going to try out yourself?

I wouldn’t mind doing this on more than one toon, as I think it’s an interesting way to level the character that can show you how powerful a class truly is, or isn’t.

If you decide to join us in the Ironman Challenge, keep us informed of your progress through comments, email, twitter, or a blog of your own if you have one. I’m also opening my Notebook to anyone who accepts the challenge and would like to guest post their experiences with it here on my blog.

 

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