Any World of Warcraft player knows that the start of a new expansion is the busiest the game will be for at least the next two years (when another expansion may drop). So popular was World of Warcraft on Battle for Azeroth launch day that it managed to even topple Fortnite as the most viewed game on Twitch – and by a decent margin, too. But with a game as massive as WoW, how people experience Azeroth varies immensely, and it all depends on what you want to get out of it.
Method is one of the top guilds in the world for both PvE and PvP content. Famous for its world firsts – whether it’s the fastest levelling or the quickest mythic raid clears – and for high-ranking tournament placements, it’s clear that this is a community that takes WoW seriously.
But how does Method manage to hit these achievements time and again? We got the answers during a Battle for Azeroth launch event at the London Red Bull Gaming Sphere. We spoke to Method founder Scott ‘Sco’ McMillan, WoW streamer and personality Alan ‘Hotted89’ Widmann, and potentially the best PvP rogue in the world Oscar ‘Whaazz’ Wulff. You’ll find that their experience of the new expansion differs greatly from the rest of us.
Setting sail early
For most players, the time before the launch of a WoW expansion is one big hype train. Even if you’re lucky enough to get access to the beta a few months early, the limits on the content will probably mean you spend most of the remaining time anxiously waiting for the launch day rush. For the pros, though, the real lead up to Battle for Azeroth started months ago.
“I guess you could say preparations started at BlizzCon in November 2017,” Sco tells me, ”that’s when I first got access to actually playtest the beta. Before the game was even released I’d already seen all the new zones, gone through all the quests, all the dungeons. Come game release I knew exactly what kind of path I was going to take, and precisely how I was going to level.”
It’s all about efficiency. When your reputation lies upon being the fastest in the world to beat new content, every moment needs to be spent grinding towards the best gear possible. And then you have the amount of planning that comes with being a content creator on top of that. With WoW’s viewer figures swelling to astronomical levels, getting launch content right can set you up for the next two years of a WoW expansion.
“New expansion releases are the most important events for our careers pretty much,” Hotted explains. “We start planning months ahead of the event, thinking about who to partner up with and how to create content around it. Making sure that launch event is up to par with the viewer’s expectations.”
For professional PvPers, new content brings with it fresh challenges of a different kind – spec tweaks and redesigns. According to Whaazz, even the most competitive players have to be prepared for their chosen class to potentially see significant nerfs.
“If you’re PvE you try to find out the fastest possible levelling methods,” he says. “If you’re PvP like us it’s all about balance changes. When you go into a new expansion there’s always the risk of your class getting completely dumpstered by nerfs.”
With the BlizzCon 2018 tournament – the largest major in the world – beginning in early November, that only gives PvP pros a few months to establish a meta around the messy tweaks and fixes.
Beyond adding new zones and questlines, Battle for Azeroth has introduced a host of new features, of which the pros have to get very familiar with as quick as possible.
Warmode incentivises players to engage in PvP out in the world with increased experience gains and Fortnite-style care package drops. Island Expeditions and Warfronts introduce new multiplayer scenarios packed full of loot, providing a fresh take on the Warcraft experience. Of these additions, Hotted can’t help but love Warmode.
“When it was announced I was a little against it, but after exploring the options and checking out the beta, it’s amazing. Beyond all the experience benefits you can put bounties on players’ heads, so if you’re streaming and know a content creator is doing Warmode, you can create these amazing experiences.”
Even Whazz, who admits to only being focused on maximising his tournament readiness, was tempted to engage in a bit of world PvP, excitedly sharing stories of his pro PvP gank squad picking on unsuspecting victims in the world.
For Sco, all this new content provides more opportunities to fine-tune raid and mythic-plus preparedness. His enjoyment of the content doesn’t come from it being fresh but how it pushes him further to be the best.
“Warfronts and Island Expeditions are almost a requirement for you if you want to maximise the strength of your character,” he says. “Island Expeditions give you the most Azerite Power weekly, doing Warfronts gives you to access to the best item level you can get at the time. It doesn’t really become a choice if you want to be as competitive as possible, you end up doing these things anyway.”
What makes World of Warcraft so endurable is the range of experiences it offers. Where one player might be obsessed with the lore and analysing every tiny aspect of the latest cinematics, another might be frantically skipping all the cutscenes to reach level 120, gearing up as quickly as possible.
The range of playstyles just within Method highlights that there’s no wrong way to play the game. Except that Subtlety Rogue who corpse camped me in Drustvar the other day. You’re wrong and can bugger off.