Thursday, July 1, 2010

Into the Spiral: How to Face New Challenges (A Guide to Cheaters)

Instead of sharing exactly how the Warehouse in the Test Realm works, I'd like to share more of what went on behind-the-scenes: the thought-process, if you will.  So, I apologize if there were any expectations of a linear, instructional guide on beating this specific instance; that won't be happening...yet.  No worries, you'll have detailed instructions before this weekend.  However, with the concepts below, you will have a better--if not successful--experience with many future challenges to come!

Introduction: Gameplay Curve 101

In our young Wizarding days, we might have experimented around with our spells and equipment, with little to no sense of direction.  We made a lot of "mistakes" that our current selves would smile and shake our heads at, such as stacking our decks to the brim with every card that we could fit in there--which then led to a series of instances of exclaiming, "I can't find it!  It's not coming up!"--or using Wands from our own school, only to realize that there's a catch to using the easiest way to remove a shield...."Doh!  My blades!!!"

Initially, everything was a mystery to us, from what kinds of attacks or spells the monsters would use, or how different elements or schools reacted to one another.  We have even pondered about how Bosses differed from the normal enemies (remember feeling disappointed about how easy the Dark Sprite boss was?).  Thus, we played instinctively, perhaps forgetting the logic behind killing weaker monsters before defeating the boss, to reduce Incoming Damage per Turn.  The only thing the game taught us, before Unicorn Way, was how to activate our spells and fight.  But without formal preparation for the unexpected, we might have found ourselves struggling.

The more we play, the more we start to incorporate different methods and develop personal guidelines to follow.  "Use Thunder Snake on the Pirate...these do the most damage, and kills faster."  "Use Imp to finish it off, there's a sure chance to get a hit in.

But, over time, as we repeat our fights and adapt to the pattern of casting wards and charms before releasing an attack, the gameplay eventually becomes a habit, and Wizard101 becomes second-hand...maybe even third-hand, considering that some of us multitask with [Alt + Tab] or "multi-box" (playing with more than one account simultaneously).   

Slowly, innovation and creativity drizzles out as we become more familiar with the game.  We learn that Stun shields no longer matter, in PVE (player vs. environment).  Doom and Gloom is never used, since the Life School monsters focus on aggressive play over recovery (imagine, though, if they could continually cast Fairy to revive one another).  Spells that parallel Pacify's effect are pretty much extinct in a Wizard's deck.

Without needing every spell from our school, we allow more room for copies of the cards we want to show up sooner.  Soon enough, we have around 5 school blades, 5 triple blades, 4 school traps, etc. for standardized combat.  These are the normal necessities for dueling in Wizard101.  No matter the monster or Boss we fight, the concepts stay the same: we use more blades and traps depending on the creature's health.  We would consider the act of stacking these modifiers as advanced play, since we're not randomly chopping away at mobs with whatever pips we can expend (something we used to do).

Because this "strategy" has become so normalized at our highest levels, we start to believe that we are invincible in the sense that the game cannot beat us if we play it "right."  If "right" means building up your modifiers to a point where the enemy can be knocked out in one hit, then we've got a major problem:  dependence on one or two specific spell types.

When new players start breaking our traps (a Ward spell type), not only do we start reaching for the "Epic Fail" flag, but we also feel disarmed.  An honest mistake on that person's part, nevertheless, but there lies the hole in our plan to hit hard and eliminate.  Without those modifiers that we have become so faithful to--and who can blame us, really?--we tend to delay our attack until we can replace them.  Putting traps back on is our simple fix.  We all can rest easily.

So what happens to us when those modifiers are taken away infinitely?  Orrick from Briskbreeze and Estrakir and the crab/lobster Boss in the Warehouse all remove your traps individually.  And if that's not enough, they have other Interrupts that either proc (link courtesy of Friendly) or trigger, based on an action that you perform.

Thus, it becomes inevitable that we will find those Cheating bosses "impossible" or "extremely difficult," especially when we use what's "always worked for us."  The developers at KingsIsle certainly have noticed how much we've mastered their game, and most likely have analyzed the reasons behind our success.  With their results, it was only logical to up the ante by removing our "necessities" to a point.  When we don't have our traps, much like in the New Player example, we are once again dropped into that hole of vulnerability.  On Briskbreeze, KI did some overtime by countering any clever Wizard plans to sit around blading continuously:  they added powerful Interrupts, and certainly kept the player with "aggro" under a lot of pressure with the Interrupt Heck Hound.

So, rather than a fight being technically hard, it is actually our traditional strategies and deck builds that end up failing against the new bosses, such as those in the Warehouse.  In other words, it's us; not Warehouse, not the Updates, and certainly not the employees.

Remember those video games in the arcade where you control an aircraft from top-down view and shoot at the enemy ships that fly towards and around you?  And then a Boss craft appears towards the end of the level and starts firing all these photon balls at you, covering the screen in bright orbs?  If all we did was move our plane from left to right on the screen, spamming the shoot key, when we worked our way up to the Boss, we may have dodged the minor enemies easily, perhaps killing everything that appeared.  But, we then learn that the Boss acts completely different in a tricky way, and requires more than just simple maneuvers to defeat.   This is similar to how the Cheaters work in Wizard101.

What also adds to the perspective of the Warehouse being extremely difficult is our mindset stationed on the belief that we can conquer anything, and that we have learned everything we could.  We thought we were in the "advanced" tier, so what we think we're doing is correct and the only way to defeat anything.  In the end, we have neglected that cognitive ability of ours to invent, strategize from the foundation, and use our instincts, as opposed to what we've learned.

Also, what happens when you're one of the pioneers to encounter a Boss for the first time, and no one has made a guide on it, and misinformation is traveling everywhere?  And even then, existing guides that are rushed give a narrow view of the mechanics, due to those "polished" strategies (therefore, they don't see the big picture), and only help for specific dungeons.  Give a man a fish and he'll be full for a week.  Teach a man how to fish, and he'll never go hungry.  Grab your bait and rod, witches and wizards.  Now that you have a better understanding of the situation, let's take a look at what needs to be done prior to any cheating Boss fight.  Below is what went on inside my head before stepping into the Warehouse:

Preparation:  Back to Basics and Remodeling

Memory Dump

Get rid of all the information that polished your "expert" image.  Start playing and adjusting your deck as if you were a Newbie.  Examples:

Overrated "pro":  "Stun Shields are useless." 
Newbie:  "Well, at least I won't get immobilized in the battle."
Overrated "pro":  "But you won't need them, trust me!  Monsters NEVER stun."

Overrated "pro":  "Beguile is a waste of pips."
Newbie:  "How?  It makes the monster help me!"
Overrated "pro":  "Not really...they just kinda PASS most of the time."

Overrated "pro":  "You need to discard your Infections."
Newbie:  "But I can stop them from healing as much!"
Overrated "pro":  "They NEVER heal."

Well, as we're seeing and hearing about the Warehouse, these monsters are now doing what they didn't use to before!  Against Cheaters, you never know.  Don't take certain cards for granted!  Remember, blades and traps are not the only ways to make it through!  For example, we may encounter a boss or a tower that removes any Blades or Wizard-casted Charms, but not traps.  Or, one that removes both modifiers.  There may be minions that cast something every interval of turns.  Expect the unexpected.

Special Decks

After you clear your mind, and consider that you are facing something no one has dealt with or managed to beat before, brainstorm while you flip through your spellbook.  Carry around an extra deck or two so you don't modify your original deck (unless you've impressively memorized it).

"Is there a possible chance I'll need to use a Boss's or minion's Interrupts against their own team?"  
Have a Death slip in a Beguile. 

"Is there a need to dispel certain types of schools, to cut off random or triggered Cheats?"
Bring Entangled for potential enemy heals, Quench and Dissipate for nukes, Melt for Tower shields or stuns,  Strangle for Life Steals, and Vaporize for Earthquakes.  Note:  if the Interrupt requires the enemy to form a school symbol before casting, then these Dispels WILL work.  For example, Melt would not be used on Orrick since his Tower Shields appear instantaneously after any Physical attack placed on him; he does not cast an Ice Seal for these.

"Would I require that aggro be on someone else at all times?"
Bring your school spell that helps direct attention off of you.

"What if we get chain stunned with massive damage?"
Have your Ice invest in carrying some Stun Shields.

"Is it possible for all enemies to cast something powerful on a certain turn, regardless of pips?"
Ask the Pyromancer to add a few Chokes and Smokescreens.  This should prevent fatal combos.  Note:  Many powerful bosses cannot be stunned; it balances the game out in order to prevent Wizards from using chain-stun with Blind/Choke/Earthquake.  

By having an extra deck, you can play around with a clean slate and even designate it as your "Cheater Boss" deck.  Once you become familiar with a certain enemy, you're free to remove what you don't need for a more efficient run.

Execution:  Thinking Ahead and Experimenting


Again, expect the unexpected.  Remember that Orrick had the ability to cast Interrupts multiple times in a row; for example, Heck Hound, then Meteor, and another Heck Hound, depending on his remaining health.  It would be safest to assume that something unnatural will happen either at the beginning of the fight, or after a certain period of turns.  Prepare for the worst case scenarios; do not let the factor of surprise throw you off your game plan:
  • One wizard will be the focus of a heavy nuke
  • Any shields used will be broken
  • Any charms used will be stolen or removed
  • AOE spells will trigger more than one interrupt
  • The enemy will hit all Wizards hard if no one uses an attack card that turn
  • An infection will be placed on everyone after someone attacks
  • After 5 turns, players will be stunned and infected
Of course, not all of these will be present in one battle, but expect a combination of some sort.  These fights are meant to hold your attention; the Interrupts may be based on patterns or turns.

My main tip for anticipation is to closely watch at which enemy is doing what, and notice if they are using a school symbol (casting) or standing still (automatic condition).  Also, take note of what your own team is doing; certain actions performed by Wizards are indirectly the keys to beating these Cheaters.  By observing the fight, you will have a lesser tendency to panic or lose morale during the punishments.

Testing and Application

Use as many spells as you can (while keeping in mind that survival is the first priority, of course), whether it be status modifiers (stuns, Beguile, Pacify, accuracy debuffs, etc.) or wand hits (representing attacks) or recovery spells (pure heals, heals over time aka HoT, Sacrifice) or Life research.

Pull a "Battleblood," and say to your team, "Hey guys, I'm really truly sorry if we all die because of this, but I'm going to wand the Boss to see what happens."  Yeah, that's exactly what I said on voice chat.  It actually became a nice learning experience as we found out exactly what Estrakir did when hurt even the slightest.

I also applied a very strong PVP tactic when in the Warehouse, which made more sense to use since it is one of the reasons why some matches can last 4 hours long.  If an arena team had trouble with breaking this method, I figured the AI and computer enemies would have trouble as well.  This is an example of "experimenting"; I applied a new idea (the tactic) to a setting it has never been heavily used in before (PVE).

Once you see an effect, try it out again, with different spells of the same category, to see if the Interrupt triggers again.  When you encounter obstacles early on, and are able to classify and explain with confidence what all the causes and all the effects are, you've just "mastered" that Boss!


Whatever the situation, Celestia should not be handled too lightly.  Grizzleheim was only difficult in the sense of Enemy HP per rewards, but we got over that quickly just by upgrading our Wizards' strength.  Even the Hall of Valor was tolerable, and required small tweaks to our decks.  However, from what we can see from Briskbreeze and the Warehouse (parts of the game post-Malistaire), higher damage, health, accuracy, power pip percentage, and/or resistance do not serve as a means for success.  Instead of improving our gear, we need to improve the ways we think about, see, and play the game.  

Good luck in your adventures, my friends.


  1. Watch, observe, trial and error - tons of great tips here that most of us have forgotten along the way. Don't give up, don't be afraid to fail, learn something from every attempt.

  2. Woah, long post, could be a little simpler though ;). Plus you need Training points for those "Fizzle spells" ( Quench, Entangle, Melt etc. ) besides the one you have so I only have my Myth Vaporize. Also, one reason for KI to make this place easier is because of Menu-chatters not being able to communicate or non-blog readers who know nothing about the place. But it's still a nice guide ( Heck, I'm jealous, lol )

  3. Very helpful, Kevin. I don't really have time to post a complete comment here, as I have to get ready for bed. But, this is just amazing. I've forgotton a lot of these things. Maybe noobs deserve more credit than we give them...

  4. That's a great and long post. I'm sorry guys if I use this on the boss hopefully we all don't end up dead. LOL

    I want you to know there is a guide concerning the MB Warehouse Test Realm on Central!

  5. Amazing depth and insight. You have my admiration!

  6. So, a new dimension is essentially being added to gameplay. No longer can we use a "one size fits all" strategy for our duels, we have to come up with individual, singular methods of winning. Exciting! BTW, your little dialogue with beguile made me think that one could cast a beguile on Knuckles McCloud and then heal; then maybe one would get a free rebirth?

  7. @Sierra: Exactly!

    @Arlen: Thanks! With a team of Wizards, you can cover a lot of the Dispels needed for many bosses! Earthquake is a major party pooper, so Vaporize is probably one of the best abilities for Celestia!

    @Blaze: No kidding! In fact, my "All Rush" build was also inspired by the way many younger wizards play this game.

    @MWS: Cool!

    @Autumn: Thank you, and good to see you again!

    @Anon: Good thinking there, and that's what I initially thought we could do. However, Beguile doesn't seem to work on Bosses, so we had to scratch that off our list. You *can* try to Beguile a minion in hopes that the Boss's interrupt would kill them too!


Let that thought out here: