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Who is the Celestial Tournament for?

Scott Andrews
09.29.14
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As we wait (and wait) for new content to arrive, I've been fiddling around in the game with all the things I never bothered to do before. I got my Sha'tari Skyguard rep to exalted for the creepy nether ray mounts. I hunted the treasures of Pandaria. I completed a full circuit of gold challenge mode runs. And most recently I've been doing pet battles. My goal was to start completing the Celestial Tournament every week so I could eventually earn all four celestial pets.

I took my first stab at it this week. The first time I tried to enter the scenario, I was disappointed to learn that you had to level 15 pets to 25, not just possess them. The two that I'd purchased on the auction house didn't help me get there. Extra level grinding was required. I came back with 17 max-level pets and thought I'd have more than enough to beat the tourney and start adopting baby immortal spirit animals. Boy was I wrong.



Animal cruelty

I don't think anything in WoW has ever kicked my butt quite as hard as the Celestial Tournament did. The difficulty caught me off-guard. Pet battles had always struck me as a fun, but not too intense mini-game, a good way to unwind after the rigors of raiding.

I walked into the scenario with a diverse team that I felt good about and absolutely no chance whatsoever to win. The whupping it delivered to my pet team made me wonder: Just who is this tournament designed for?

Many would probably answer that the tournament is for the serious pet battlers, that it's the "endgame raid" of pet battles, so it shouldn't be a walk in the park.

Celestial reasonings

I agree and disagree. Because it would be a walk in the park if I had 50 max-level pets. I would have a huge variety of abilities and match-ups at my disposal. If all else failed, I could eventually win by luck and attrition. All that I'd need to do is go grind out many hours of pet levels.

The other way to win is to do the research ahead of time and figure out which exact 15 pets you should level. But that implies you decided to be serious about pet battles from the moment you started exploring that part of the game. How many players do that?

If you compare the tournament to actual raiding, it would mean two types of people could beat the raid:

  1. the person with a large amount of time to spend grinding out item levels until the content became trivial, assuming item levels could be earned purely through time investment like pet levels can
  2. the person who set out from the beginning to assemble a comprehensively researched "best in slot" gear set and then rip through the bosses
These two approaches are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. If you're meant to overpower it with sheer numbers, why bother tuning the battles so tightly? If you're meant to beat it through superior strategy, why allow an unlimited number of pets?

Was the tournament designed for the grinder or the researcher?

Maybe the answer is both, but it's a confusing answer. Does Blizzard want players to have it both ways?
Celestial pets
A bizarre design

As someone who doesn't have the time or desire to level that many pets and who didn't realize I needed to level the "right" pets for the tournament, I find myself at a dead end. I'm disappointed that I've come this far and have to give up here, until some future time when I have either the correct set of pets or a critical number to zerg it.

I don't resent the pet battlers who have put in the time and energy to beat the tournament. They deserve to have content that's for them, just like LFR or heroic raiders do. And I fully admit that I should have done the research ahead of time -- I didn't realize that I had to treat this tournament as seriously as raiding.

What bothers me most is that the tournament pulls players in two different directions, both fairly hardcore but in totally different ways, and both somewhat inaccessible to the average pet battler. For a mini-game in an MMO, it's a bizarre design.

The only certain answer I have to this question right now is that the tournament isn't for me.

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