If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ve heard my lamentations and exultations with the Proving Grounds’ endless mode. Having completed it successfully after a few nights of attempts, I’ll share my advice and notes for those wanting that “Proven Assailant” title prior to it’s removal in 6.0, and also briefly discuss getting Gold for your off-specs and the “You’re Doing it Wrong” achievement.
WARNING: This is much more challenging to complete than Brawler’s Guild. Those fights, excepting Hexos, are made much easier by gear. Proving Grounds, by contrast, scale all your gear to ilvl 463, There’s a few exceptions to this (which I’ll discuss below), but largely, your skill at planning a strategy and executing it will be what carry the day.
An Introduction to Proving Grounds
For those that are completely new to Proving Grounds, it’s a new set of solo challenges that were added in Patch 5.4, and can be reached by speaking to your class trainer or Trial Master Rotun. There’s a challenge for each group role, namely tank, healer, and damage, and four levels of difficulty for each challenge: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Endless.
Each challenge features waves of enemies that you must defeat by following your role. In the Damage challenge, waves of enemies spawn that must be killed within that wave’s time limit. In the Tank challenge, a friendly NPC heals and DPS’s for you, and you must keep both of you alive. Finally, in the Healer challenge, a full NPC party spawns, and you must keep all of them alive.
The Bronze and Silver challenges are relatively simple, and are designed to familiarize you with the different enemy types you’ll be facing. (Completing a Silver Proving Grounds challenge will be required to queue for heroic dungeons in WoD.) The Gold challenge is a “final exam” of sorts, roughly equivalent to a raid in terms of difficulty.
Endless mode starts out similar to a remixed version of Gold, but instead repeats itself after completing 10 waves. Each wave increases the damage output or HP of the mobs by 1%, so Wave 11 will be identical to Wave 1, but with 10% more damage or HP. You keep going until you fail; the title and highest achievement require completion through Wave 30. Endless mode scores are also part of your armory profile, so if you desire, you can compete with others for high scores. (As of writing this, I’m the US-8th/World-29th druid, which mostly proves that people do it once and quit. :P)
Gearing for Greatness
Let’s start with the bad news. All gear is scaled down to ilvl 463. (Anything below is not scaled up.) All set bonuses are disabled, as are items from the legendary questline: Sha-Touched gems, legendary metagems, or legendary procs do not work. No consumables are allowed.
The good – all stats from food, flasks, enchants, gems, and profession bonuses work and are not scaled in any way. All raid buffs are provided.
What does this mean? First, it’s incredibly important that you maximize these unscaled stats. Eat 300-level food, drink a MoP flask, get your professions caught up if you’ve neglected them, etc. At 463, your gear is only providing around ~13k agility, unlike the 25-30k agility it normally does, so a food/flask has far more effect.
Second, consider building an exclusive challenge mode set. Basically, an item’s worth can be measured in the number of sockets it has and its socket bonus. This leads to some non-conventional items being cosnidered good; for example, Dashing Strike Treads, an ilvl 463 set of boots, is one of the best choices available, due to the yellow socket + agility socket bonuses. This guide lists some of the best items for each slot. Once you have your items, you’ll want to reforge them for the level 92 expertise/hit cap of 6%, then mastery. I highly recommend the JP trinket Deadeye Badge of the Shieldwall (or the Horde equivalent). It’s easy to obtain (what the hell else are you doing with your JP currently?) and the cooldown lines up perfectly with the waves. I macroed mine in with Tiger’s Fury.
(Do you “need” to farm a PG set, spend money on enchants/gems for blues, etc. to do this? Well, it’s up to you. I screwed up and had a Cataclysm flask instead of a MoP flask on my last night of attempts; that night, I also had several wipes with enemies at <5% HP. That 700 agility would’ve saved me several hours of attempts. I’d rather spend a bit of time and money optimizing than a lot of time wiping. Note that you don’t die if you wipe on an attempt, which means food will last its full duration. Also, if you decide you want to do any Challenge Modes, the same gear scaling rules apply there.)
I Am Talented
- L15: Feline Swiftness. Makes it easier to kite globs and just generally get around. Wild Charge is also an option.
- L30: Irrelevant.
- L45: Faerie Swarm. Only used to slow/stop Banana-Tossers that get away, not that critical. You’ll have Rake or Thrash on everything, so Entanglement breaks too fast. Typhoon does not affect most enemies here.
- L60: Soul of the Forest. Feel free to play around with this if you’re comfortable with Incarnation or Force of Nature.
- L75: Ursol’s Vortex. Very nice for dealing with Banana-Tossers, especially on Wave 3. Bash works as well but takes a GCD.
- L90: Heart of the Wild. The key to Wave 8. You will want 2 macros; 1 to /cancelform, /cast Heart of the Wild, /equip intellect weapon (if you have one). Macro 2 will /cast Cat Form /equip agility weapon. Dream of Cenarius rotations are not workable here. Nature’s Vigil isn’t bad but isn’t worth the tradeoff.
- Glyphs: Savagery, Dash, Shred.
Know your Target Dumm…Foe
There are 8 types of enemies you will face, all of which come in small and large versions. Large versions have more HP, but are otherwise identical. You also get 2 power-ups.
- Slayer. Has no abilities, just sits there until you kill him. You see this guy a lot in the lesser difficulties, but he only shows up once in Endless.
- Varmint. Just sits there like the Slayer, but spawns as a group instead of one guy. Designed to be AoE’d. Drop a Thrash on them as you run by and they’ll fall over.
- Guardian. Projects a very visible shield to the front that deflects all attacks from that direction, similar to the Oathshield mobs on the Timeless Isle. You don’t want to attack from the front anyway, so this just helps reinforce that point.
- Amber-Weaver. These are caster mobs that spit a slow-moving glob (Amber Globule) which chases you until it hits you, hits an enemy, or expires. Amber Globules stun whatever they hit for 6 seconds and increase their damage taken by 50%. Obviously, don’t get hit by them. If possible, kite them into enemies, but don’t lose too much DPS time doing so.
- Mystic. Healer enemy. Always a priority. Letting them get a heal off is bad, so you’ll usually want to start on them, get up a full set of DoTs, and interrupt their heal.
- Banshee. Creeper! These guys spawn mid-wave, and go boom (ending your run) if they are not killed quickly. They move about slowly and randomly, which usually isn’t much of a big deal except for making it slightly trickier to kite a globule into them. Small Banshees explode in 10 seconds, Large Banshees take 15.
- Banana-Tosser aka Damn Monkey. Run away from you, firing bananas at your location that greatly debuff your Hit if they, well, hit. I didn’t get the debuff much, but chasing them all the way to the edge of the arena takes valuable time.
- Sha. Boss mob. Level 93, so you’ll get a few misses/dodges if you reforge for 6% level (which I still recommend, the other waves are the ones to optimize for). Puts up a shield for 40 seconds that reduces damage taken by 50%, followed by a 20-second period where they take 300% damage. Get SR and Rip up prior to the shield dropping, then pop TF+Zerk and burn hard when it does.
- Berserking Power-up. Spawns at Wave 4 and 6. When picked up, increases damage by 30% for 30 sec. Does not expire (i.e. you can save it) but you cannot keep it for more than 10 waves; Wave 14’s powerup will overwrite wave 4’s, etc.
- Prep for each wave. Prior to the spawn of the wave, use Savage Roar, Dash or Stampeding Roar, and Ursol’s Vortex (for waves with tossers). This saves vital early GCD’s. If the previous wave allows, try to keep one enemy alive and get off a 5 CP Roar that’ll carry over into the next round.
- Savage Roar+Rake is your go-to. I’ll go into more detail for each wave, but keeping SR up and keeping Rake up on everything is generally the best option. Only use Rip if there’s 3 or less Large enemies, or you have some CP’s to burn.
- Use TF early. Even if you cap energy for a bit, you want to use it early in the wave so you can use it again later if needed.
In the Endless Damage trial, there are 10 waves of enemies. Each wave has a 60 second timer for completion; failing to kill the enemies before time expires, or failing to kill a Banshee before their bomb timer expires, ends the run.
I’ll be writing out the strategy I used for each wave. You’ll notice the floor has two concentric rings; all enemies spawn in and around the inner ring (though Tossers can run anywhere). To describe where you start each wave, I’ll be using clockface directions to describe where to position yourself in the inner ring, with 12-o’clock pointing towards the door. (Putting a raid mark at 12 and 6 for orientation is a good idea.) Wowhead also has a fantastic diagram of each wave in their guide.
Wave 1: 3 Weavers, 6 Varmints. Start in center. Pre-Dash, SR. Thrash+Swipe Varmints in center. Run to an Weaver, using TF to regain energy, and Rake + 2-3cp Rip. Leave when he gets globbed, and repeat for the 2nd and 3rd weaver. Re-Thrash Varmints if needed.
Wave 2: 2 Guardians, 1 Weaver, 1 Mystic. Start at 10’o-clock. Pre-Stampeding Roar, SR. Start near the front and quickly Rake the Guardian, Weaver, and 2nd Guardian. Run to the Mystic at 6-o’clock, refreshing Savage Roar on the way. Use TF and Rake/Mangle to a 5cp Rip, interrupting the heal. Glob should be enroute, glob mystic and run to first guardian. Rerake guardian, weaver, and guardian 2, running behind guardian 2 to glob him. Move to center, reraking mystic if it didn’t die for some reason. 3rd glob should hit center just as banshee spawns, globbing banshee. Kill it and finish off everything else.
Wave 3: 18 Varmints, 2 Tossers. Start in center. Pre-Dash, SR, UV. The pack of Varmints is too large for 1 Thrash to get all of them, so I use 3 Thrashes in a Y pattern. Chase down the Tossers; if they’re close, rake both, if they’re far apart, finish them singly. Come back to center and Thrash+Swipe to finish the Varmints.
Wave 4: 4 Guardians, 1 Weaver, 1 Banshee, Berserking Buff. Rake all the things, part 1. Start in center. Pre-Stampeding Roar, SR. Rake weaver and 2 guardians. SR, TF. Rake 2 remaining guardians, rerake weaver, dodging glob. (Try not to glob weaver.) Rerake 4 guardians, dodging second glob. Banshee and 3rd glob will show up in center, hopefully together. Rerake weaver, rake/kill banshee. TF again if needed and finish off what’s left. Avoid the buff.
Wave 5: 1 Tosser, 1 Mystic, 1 Small Sha. Midboss! Start at 12-o’clock. Pre-Dash, SR, UV. You’ll start on top of the Tosser; quickly rake/mangle/rip, then head south, interrupting the Mystic who should’ve just started casting the heal. TF, SR, and get up a full 5cp Rip on the mystic to make sure it dies. Run back to the Tosser if it’s still alive, finish it, then run back to the Sha. Banshee spawns with 30 seconds remaining; kill it quickly, then kill the Sha, using TF+Berserk when the shield drops.
Wave 6: 2 Mystics, 6 Varmints, Berserking Buff 2. Start at 3-o’clock. Pre-SR. Rake mystic 1, Thrash varmints, Rake Mystic 2. Wait at Mystic 2 for a few seconds for TF to come back up, then SR, TF, Mangle/Rake to a 5cp Rip. Skullbash the heal. Run back to Mystic 1, Thrashing the Varmints again on the way. Mangle/Rake to a 5cp Rip on Mystic 1, then finish off whatever’s left.
Wave 7: 3 Guardians, 2 Weavers, 1 Tosser. Rake all the things, Part 2. Start just north of center. Pre-Dash, SR, UV. I don’t really have a coherent strategy for this wave other than running around and raking everything, starting with the Tosser. The UV will keep him from running too far off. You can Berserk here, just make sure to use it early in the wave. The globs here are a trap; it’s very tempting to double glob an enemy for the 100% damage taken buff, but you’ve got six enemies to deal with so you need to keep moving and Raking. Feel free to use Stampeding Roar and a second TF as needed.
Wave 8: 1 Mystic, 2 Slayers, 3 Banshees. Bonus round! This one’s fun. Start at 6-o’clock. Pre-SR. Rake the Slayer. Run cross-circle and Rake the second Slayer. Come back to the Mystic and Rake/Mangle to a 5cp Rip. As soon as the first heal starts, interrupt it, then…it’s WILD TIME. (Heart of the Wild, that is.) Pop your HOTW macro and Wrath down the Mystic, the Banshees, and then the Slayers. It usually takes me 3 Wraths (6 seconds) to kill a Banshee, and each lasts 15 sec, so you don’t need to switch to them immediately if the Mystic needs some more love.
Wave 9: 1 Weaver, 1 Tosser, 1 Guardian, 2 Slayers, 1 Banshee. Rake all the things, final round! This wave is the most difficult of the 10, IMO; luckily, we’ve saved the Berserking buff for it. Start in center. Pre-Dash, SR, UV. Rake the Tosser, run to 12-o’clock and rake the Weaver, then run counter clockwise around the circle raking the Slayer, Guardian, and Slayer. Grab Berserking and use TF as you go. Find the Tosser and repeat the circle-rake. Once you finish the second loop of the circle, the Banshee should be spawning; kill it, then circle-rake one more time and finish off whatever’s at the highest HP.
Wave 10: Large Sha. Final boss! The simplest wave of all, though not at all the easiest. Use a standard DPS rotation, looking to put up a 5cp Roar with ~40 seconds left on the timer. Grab the second Berserking buff with 30 seconds left on the timer, and Rip at ~22 seconds. You can use TF if it’s up in the first 10 seconds; otherwise save TF + Berserk for the last 20 seconds when the boss’s shield drops. Finish off the Sha; breathe, enjoy the 15-second break (thanks, guys) and get ready to go again.
I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here, as I’m definitely not the expert. The wowhead guide is great as an overview, and if you’re looking to get Endless Defender or Healer, you’ll need to look around for other resources. A few tips for Gold, though:
Gold Tank isn’t too challenging, if you’re experienced. Gear wise, I just used my feral PG set. It’s counter-intuitive, but the method to surviving this challenge is frequent kiting. Sure, you can try to face-tank everything, but your only healing is a constant HoT, which burst can overcome quickly. Spec Typhoon, Ursol’s Vortex, and Force of Nature; use Typhoon and UV to keep things off, and Force of Nature treants to pick up/peel off Ambushers and Windguards as needed.
Gold Healer was harder for me, but that was due more to my rusty healing skills than anything else. Spec Ysera’s Gift, Typhoon, Force of Nature, Bash, and NV. Set up your party or raid frames to show the Chomp and Aqua Bomb debuffs. #1 priority is dispelling Aqua Bomb; #2 is Rejuv+Healing Touch on a Chomp target to clear it: #3 is making sure your Efflorescence effect is on Oto the tank (he moves a lot); #4 is standard healing, keeping Lifebloom and Rejuvenation on Oto, Swiftmend + HT on Oto as he needs it, Wild Growth if there’s some raid damage, etc.
I macroed FoN to Swiftmend because I was terrible at remembering it, and used Ironbark on Oto at the start of every wave for the first 5 waves. (Save it for Conqueror enrages after that.) Interrupting the Hive-Singer’s Sonic Blast with Bash/Typhoon helps a lot, but I forgot about it and still did okay. Beru has an exhaustive guide for Endless if you want a full strategy there, or just some more tips.
You’re Doing it Wrong
This achievement is granted for completing a Silver challenge in a spec not suitable for it. I had a lot of fun trying all the different combinations of wrongness; for example, doing the Tank challenge as Resto and using a combination of healing aggro and Bear Form to split mobs between you and your healer NPC. That one’s doable with enough effort, but eventually I just went with the easier one: Silver Damage as Guardian, specced into HOTW and Bash.
The key strategy to do here is form twist. Start in cat form, and Rake/Mangle until out of energy; then switch to Bear and Mangle/Thrash + Maul. Repeat. This comment on wowhead has a full breakdown of the Silver enemies, if you want to plan out a strat. My quick list:
- Wave 1: Easy. Rake both, then standard DPS.
- Wave 2: Easy. Start in bear; thrash the Varmint pack, and Mangle/Maul the Slayer. Go cat and double Swipe the Varmints, then Rake the Slayer. Repeat.
- Wave 3: Easy-Medium. Rake both Slayers and Weaver, then Thrash two. Glob a Slayer and kill him with Mangle+Maul. Go back to Cat, rerake both, then go back to Bear and kill whoever got globbed, then kill the other.
- Wave 4: Easy. Start in cat. Rake/Mangle the Weaver from the front (important). Stop DPS when he starts casting the glob, run behind the Varmint pack, and Bear Thrash/Swipe. Once the glob hits the Varmints, go Cat and double Swipe, which should mostly finish them. Go back to the Weaver (who still has your CP’s), Rake/Mangle him to 5CP’s, force him to glob himself, and kill him with a big Ferocious Bite.
- Wave 5: Hard. This is the tough one…or at least, I thought it was, until I realized how easy the later waves were so I could use HOTW here. Bear Thrash/Cat Swipe the Varmint pack; this should trigger an immediate heal from the Mystic, so interrupt it. Rake the Mystic, Bear Thrash/Mangle/Maul, than pop HOTW and nuke down the Mystic with Wraths. It CAN be done without HOTW, but you need to get fairly lucky with crits on the Mystic, as the timer is tight.
- Wave 6: Medium. You have a If you have a good bit of HOTW time left, this phase is pretty easy; just Wrath down the mystic and Bash his heal. Once you run out of HOTW time, the mystic should be dead: go back to the usual Rake 2, form twist DPS strat. You have a lot of time here.
- Wave 7: Medium-Hard. The Weaver here has two small Varmints flanking him; ideally, you want to use his globs on the Mystic and Guardians, so stay away from the sides. Bear Thrash/Cat Swipe the Weaver + Varmints, which should trigger the Mystic heal. Interrupt it, Dash, and quickly Rake the two Guardians and the Mystic. The first glob should be on the way; glob the Mystic and form-twist DPS on it until dead. Repeat for both Guardians and finish off the Weaver/Varmints with a Thrash/Cat Swipe combo.
- Wave 8: Easy-Frustrating. You get 2 Weavers here. Weaver globs stack, so globbing something with both will kill it quickly; however, if you mess up and get globbed yourself, the Weavers will chain glob you for the entire 60 seconds. Not fun. Plenty of time; just take the 4 enemies in turn, double globbing the Mystic and killing, double globbing the Slayer and killing, then the usual to finish out. You’ve won!…until WoD comes out and you get to do it all again!
Lastly, if you’re really crazy, there’s a hidden achievement for doing Gold in the wrong spec; You’re Really Doing it Wrong. Per Celestalon, though, that achievement is hidden, and is for tracking purposes only.
That’s it! 3300 words on content that’ll be gone in a month, woo. If you liked this, please leave me a comment or Tweet me (@alarondruid) and let me know!