An Inside Look: Community Competitive Mythic+ Organizations!



Over the past several years, we’ve seen an immense and growing interest in Mythic+ among the WoW player base.

We all love Mythic+ dungeons. With their flexible difficulty levels and race-against-the-clock excitement, they are the perfect way to spend an evening with 4 of your friends in Azeroth. Blizzard’s introduction of the Mythic Keystone format back in Legion was one of the greatest changes they’ve made to WoW since the game’s inception. When Blizzard launched the new Mythic+ system in September 2016, players received a new and exciting alternate PVE end-game experience. Only 10 months after Mythic+ was introduced, Blizzard announced the Mythic Dungeon International (MDI) in July 2017. Later this year will be 5 years of Mythic+ in WoW and it has become one of the most popular aspects of the game, with over 119 million Mythic+ dungeons completed since they were introduced, representing upwards of 320 million player hours.

While competing in the MDI has always been an exciting notion for Mythic+ enthusiasts, the tournament’s format combined with the experience of seasoned MDI teams can seem daunting to newcomers. Luckily, there are other alternatives for players who want to experience MDI-style competition, but are not not ready to jump right into the deep end. As the MDI has evolved over the years, so too have some incredible community-run organizations that create and host their own competitive dungeon events. These events are smaller in scale than the MDI, and much more accessible to the player base. We believe they are an important and integral part of the success of competitive dungeon running as an esport, so we reached out to the amazing people behind Keystone Masters, Dream Mythic Masters, and Bloodlust.IO to learn more about their organizations and the role they are playing in the community.




Keystone Masters



Keystone Masters has been around for a few years now, and they have put on some spectacular and engaging events. In fact, they were the first community organization to host a dungeon speed-running competition. Since they first came onto the scene, Keystone Masters has continued to innovate the esport, bringing us their “Format Experiments” and more. Helmed by the passionate and talented Shine and Cirra, Keystone Masters benefits from their collective experience both competing in, and working behind the scenes of, WoW esports and the MDI.



Q: What is the origin story of Keystone Masters? What drove you to create the organization, who is a part of it, and how did you go about it?

Cirra: Keystone Masters was an idea that I conceived in 2018 after the MDI Global Finals. None of the teams had a lot of experience playing LIVE at that point and I wanted to create a way for us to experience the nerves and excited energy you get from competing on stage in our practice sessions to learn how to harness it and channel it to improve our gameplay. Hopefully, we'd be better equipped to deal with it at the Blizzcon All-Stars event. So I thought, “Hey! Let's set up a friendly match like you have in, say, football, and maybe we could stream it, get a couple friends to cast it for us to make it fun to watch and suddenly you've got yourself a match!” I reached out to a lot of people to see if it was possible to set up an event like this, and Shine was mad enough to see something in the idea! After begging so so so many people to reroll keys on live servers until we matched up, we finally managed to convince enough people to give it a go, and so in August of 2018, we had our very first stream.

Shine: In 2018, Cirra first reached out to me and asked me if a community-style tournament was technically possible. At the time, my temporary job with WoW esports had just ended and I had gone back to my regular job as a Game Master. Creating KSM offered me a chance for me to do what I love, create events, solve problems and be around passionate people, so I wanted to go HAM and make it the best I could. Everyone I spoke with on the production side at live events I was working said it would be prohibitively difficult to execute. They explained the difficulty with broadcasting since WoW doesn’t have a spectator mode. But I didn’t want to give up, so I did some of the groundwork and explained to Cirra what problems we needed to solve together. With Cirra’s help coordinating players, I ran the first show (which went really badly), and asked him to observe how it was coming together and be thoughtful about what he was seeing and hearing. I guess I just knew it was going to be hard and there was going to be a lot of failure involved, so we had to keep iterating, thinking creatively and being open to the process of evolving such a large-scale program.


Q: Tell us about the event you’ve held. How many have there been? What was the structure? Have there been changes or evolutions over time (or plans for)?

Cirra: We've had 7 events so far, but most people will probably know us from the Winterspring Fling back in March of 2020, or our latest tournament “Format Experiments” which was in September of the same year. The very first thing we produced was the aforementioned Test Race. Then came what we called Season 0 and Season 1 of KSM, which consisted of pre-recorded best-of-1 games on the live servers with casters casting over the footage live on stream. This is where we learned the ropes of how do you actually put a dungeon race together, what does it look like, how do you do the work behind the scenes, and all of that stuff. In June 2019 we carried on the format of using pre-recorded dungeons but casting it live, but attempted to turn it into something that actually resembled a tournament. This ended up being the Summer Showdown where 4 teams played again all on live servers to be crowned the champions!

At this point, we were facing massive hurdles in production mainly due to all players having to re-roll keys on the live servers for the events to work and players completely reasonably not wanting to do that. Without some kind of help the project was just not sustainable. We reached out to the esports team at Blizzard in the hopes of getting maybe 20 players on Tournament Realm for our next show. They absolutely stunned me by allowing all the teams who signed up to the Winterspring Fling access. This was the first time since the Test Race that a KSM tourney would have LIVE gameplay as well as live commentary which was very nerve wracking trying to tie that all in together. We followed that up with Format Experiments which was the first time we'd really strayed away from the MDI format and tried to innovate on our rule set in a big way. We may have actually influenced the MDI format somewhat by not allowing players to have multiple of the same spec in a dungeon.

Then came our first foray into PvP as we teamed up with the guys over at Diabolus to produce the Diabolus Deathbowl. Moving into the new environment of PvP from PvE was really interesting, as the requirements of the tournament types are pretty different but I'm proud of how the team adapted to bring it all together. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of those in the near future. The most recent dungeon event we've done was a small event on the Beta servers for Shadowlands. Working on the Beta/PTR definitely threw a lot of interesting challenges at us, but we managed to overcome them and put on an entertaining showcase of the new expansion!



Q: What have been some of the biggest hurdles running a community Mythic+ organization?

Shine: How much time do you have? Running a community Mythic+ tournament is a little bit like an olympic hurdle race. Players need to get Tournament Realm access and there is no official ladder to seed from. There is no support for spectating matches, so we have to restream player POV, which cuts into both our stream quality and opportunities to attract sponsors. This creates a risk since we don't control all of our content. As a result, prize pools are naturally pretty small, and we see a lot of player churn due to that and the complexity of M+ as a game mode with tens of dungeons and hundreds of affix combinations. So add to that a passionate and highly critical community... it's f**king hard.

Cirra: I think the biggest challenges we've faced/face would be that initial period of time where we didn't have access to the Tournament Realm. Having to ask players to complete keys on live servers and pray that both teams ended up with the right keys was a nightmare and I will never put myself or any players through that again! Having a vendor where you can just drag and drop the right affixes onto a key not only takes a huge amount of work away from competitors but also allows us to get more creative with the affix combos where we want to. Restreaming, we rely on player PoVs to make our events work. This means we end up streaming the restream of a stream. As viewers like seeing the action from multiple roles within the teams this means doing that for 4 different players per game who all may have different stream qualities. This has given us a lot of issues in the past as the gameplay doesn't always end up in the highest quality after the many times the gameplay gets compressed before reaching the main stream. When we worked the Diabolus Deathbowl we had access to the built in observing tools which streamlined the process of getting high quality feeds onto the main stream. I really hope that's something we can see in the future be moved across into PvE not just for KSM but for the Raid Race scene as well.


Q: What have been some highlights for you from your events?

Cirra: I do a lot of the Production/Direction for the events so it's very rare that I get to sit back and chill during the streams themselves, but for me the best moments have come from spending time with people both pre and post production. We spend months beforehand working out brackets and workshopping new formats to try out. I sit with new casters/analysts and we run through the dungeons so everyone can brush up on ability names/strats they will likely see and do mock casts over old footage. Being able to do that and watch them grow and get work on other events in PvP or Raid racing or even completely different games really makes it very worthwhile. On top of that seeing players and teams grow together, moving up from KSM into the MDI or something as small as a strat being found during one of our events that has some impact on the MDI is very rewarding to see.

Shine: Honestly, one of the highlights for me was when you (Hulahoops) made team profile videos for the KSM Format Experiments tournament this summer. I love documentary films, so having tiny micro-documentaries about our players was amazing. I love learning about who the players are and what they’re like. I think that the personal element is what really drives our sport. For me, having the ability to produce that kind of content has been a really big highlight for me because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.




Q: How are you enjoying the Shadowlands dungeons and the seasonal affix?

Shine: They’re alright. I think they're all relatively fun to play on live servers, and I think it's clear there has been a real effort to ensure that they are "well made" if that makes sense. I'd like to see different things from dungeons based on player and viewer experience in the sport - I'd like to see dungeon designers embrace snapping as a mechanic and in general, think about dungeons as puzzles with routes to 100% as solutions. The Mists maze kind of hints that the current thinking (and this is just a guess) is that the dungeon is primarily a space for discrete challenges that are placed inside it. But anyway, that's not what you asked. Dungeons are fun enough for me. Forming a group can be really hard, though, and rewards are much lower frequency and ilvl compared to the skill required to execute the content, so those factors really detract from the experience overall.


Q: What do you think about the two big changes to the MDI this time around (class stacking rule and global region)?

Cirra: KSM has always aimed to try and test out new rules that could potentially be implemented into the MDI. I like to think that our “no two of the same spec in a key” rule and basically the entire rulebook of Format Experiments had some influence over that rule being introduced. To think that a community event has even a tiny amount of influence on the main MDI season is really cool.

Shine: I think the KSM spec-stacking rule where players could play the same class but not the same spec in a single dungeon was a little gentler than the new MDI rule forcing total class variety. Nevertheless, rules like this can’t completely upturn the meta, but rather recalibrate it a bit for a slight increase in representation. You'd be surprised how much class representation matters to the casual viewer audience, and I think those viewers are important. Both competitive and casual viewers should have a voice in the MDI as a sport. I use the word sport because that’s what MDI is to me. Esports is a collaborative type of content between competitors, game makers, and spectators, and it can be hard to validate the spectator point of view. So for me, I think the class stacking rule has been a good change all around.

The global region is tough. I understand some of the intentions behind it, and they are good ones! However, I don't think it's the greatest move for the sport, because it really shortens the list of teams and players that we get to see Blizz officially showcase. It also puts that small list of teams on the hook for multiple week-long practice-heavy events on the Tournament Realm (sometimes during live push weeks), which is another complaint they've shared again and again.

I think there was something really nice about having each region showcase their best, and then pitting those teams against one another in a global event, even though performance is hugely variant in each region. We can't go back to 2018 of course, but if that was possible I would want to think about ways to make regionals or cups fun and rewarding for participants so that playing in them is desirable on its own, even if you don't qualify for Globals. I have a lot of ideas about how to do that, by the way. (Hire me, Blizz.)


Q: Anything you can reveal about your plans for 2021?

Cirra: At the moment we're still workshopping the ideas for our 2021 events. Not only are we working alongside players to make an event they really want to compete in, but I'm also getting viewers involved in that process as much as possible through questions and polls on my Twitter page so we can really make an event the community is proud of and can get behind. That being said, it looks like our first event should hopefully be taking place after the first MDI and we’ll aim to bring as many teams as possible together to simultaneously compete in a way we've never seen in WoW before!

Shine: KSM would really like to become a place that community members can go to turn their WoW dreams into a reality. If people have a good idea, KSM wants to make community ideas happen. So if you think you have a great idea for a tournament, feel free to join our Discord server and reach out to me and Cirra!




   Dream Mythic Masters   


Dream Gaming is an esport organization based in Denmark that focuses on strengthening gaming communities and helping to make gaming and esports more recognized in society. They entered the competitive Mythic+ scene during the Battle for Azeroth expansion and were the first community organization to gain official Tournament Realm access for their event. We spoke to one of the organization’s creators, Heinrich, to learn more!



Q: What is the origin story of Dream Mythic Masters (DMM)? What drove you to create the organization, who is a part of it, and how did you go about it?

Heinrich: We at Dream Gaming are huge fans of World of Warcraft, so during BFA, we contacted the two best guilds in Denmark and asked them if they wanted to participate in a Mythic+ show match where they would do high key runs. They said yes, and after this we saw that it inspired a lot of other players to try to compete and push themselves a bit more.

We researched a bit, and there weren't many tournaments for players who wanted to try and compete in a Mythic+ tournament besides the MDI. We wanted to make a community tournament for the players who might be too scared to try competing in the MDI, but who still want to experience competing in a tournament.

Dream Gaming was founded on the belief that we can change lives via gaming. I'm a former police officer and soldier, and I know a lot of colleagues who have used gaming to "escape" from daily life. Gaming can be used for many good things, and we want to show this to the world, especially the parents. This is why we have focused a lot on being social, teaching younger kids how to behave properly online, and also how gaming can be a huge factor in people's lives if they have any challenges in social environments.

There are four partners in Dream Gaming and we all have different backgrounds, which is why we synergize perfectly. We are together in this and we have a common goal.


Q: Tell us about the event you’ve held. How many have there been? What was the structure? Have there been changes or evolutions over time (or plans for)?

Heinrich: We have had two seasons so far, both with a lot of success. After showing Blizzard that we could handle a tournament like this, they were willing to help out even more for the second season, which really improved the quality of the competition for the teams. It felt like Blizzard used us for testing because we were the first organization outside of Blizzard to get access to the Tournament Realms for a Mythic+ competition. Since we had everything planned and structured, it opened up for more organizations to be able to make their own tournaments. KSM had huge success with being a "warm-up" event for the bigger teams before the MDI, and the Spanish community have done their own tournament (Bloodlust.IO) with Phobyac planning everything.

We wanted to do something a bit different from the MDI with our events, so we talked frequently with Mike "Gingi" and he gave us his points on what he wanted to change. We got feedback from other professional MDI players as well to help us create the ruleset and determine the key level and affixes. The main thing we wanted to try was the rule we created about spec-stacking.

We have also held a showmatch tournament for the Classic WoW community, where we had three guilds compete in a Molten Core Speedrun. This was SO fun to make, because we made the ruleset with the guildmasters, and everyone who participated had a lot of fun as well. Making a “boring” farm raid fun was something a lot of the players enjoyed. We are still in contact with the Classic community, and are still thinking about doing something before the release of TBC.

We originally had some fun changes to the format planned for Season 2, but after talking to Blizzard and some of the professional players, it didn't really feel like it would work out. We are still working on how to make some new changes that will challenge some of the better players, but also make it more fun for the viewers. In season 2, we had the viewers voting on the order of the dungeons in the finals which was really fun.

The biggest change we had from Season 1 to Season 2 is that we were allowed to have Time Trials on Tournament Realms, instead of creating a group-stage on the live servers. During both Seasons, having Raider.io assist with promotion and updating the schedule and leaderboards helped with letting players know that this wasn't just a random tournament.


Q: What have been some of the biggest hurdles running a community Mythic+ organization?

Heinrich: We have to work fast during the live tournament. In Season 2 of DMM, we had two teams for the playoffs who weren’t able to play and never communicated that to us before we started the playoffs. We had to make something fun for the viewers at the last minute, which was when we did a Show Match between the Spanish community and some of the players who were physically at the Dream Gaming Center venue in Copenhagen.

Being on a planned schedule makes it hard to move matches up because a lot of the players have work, school, or other plans which they need to work around. They aren't professional players like most of the MDI contenders, so we have to be much more flexible here.


Q: What have been some highlights for you from your events?

Heinrich: Just creating and hosting a tournament and event that players know about is a highlight, but also giving up-and-coming players a chance to compete in a tournament and maybe pushing them to sign up for MDI is a highlight as well.

It is a big highlight having players like "Gingi", Zaelia and Treckie helping out with casting our events. It gives the tournament that extra little boost, and tells players and viewers that we at Dream Gaming take the competition seriously. We also love being able to give new casters and talent a chance, like Psybear from Pieces. He had been wanting to cast for ages, but had never really gotten the opportunity. We had him on our event and it just came naturally to him. Being able to help a good guy like this with his own career is something we don't take for granted.

We have also heard that players in top guilds include the fact that they have competed in the DMM tournaments in their applications to those guilds. That is something we are so proud to learn!



Q: What do you think about the two big changes to the MDI this time around (class stacking rule and global region)?

Heinrich: We really like the class stacking rule because it makes it more fun for the viewers, so we don't see Tank, Healer and 3 Hunters every match. It also makes it more fun for the players. In Season 2 of DMM, we saw Pieces going with a Warlock in Freehold, which was only because they couldn't go with the normal “meta” comp due to our class-stacking rule. They had some insane times in Freehold with the Warlock!

By making it Global, Blizzard is making sure that the best teams worldwide are competing in the playoffs, and not letting teams advance to that stage simply because their region was “easier”. But just so we are clear, all of the teams competing in the MDI playoffs have been doing a lot of work to get there! But with this change, we don’t have the “easier region” debate going on!


Q: How are you enjoying the Shadowlands dungeons and the seasonal affix?

Heinrich: Overall, I am really enjoying Shadowlands. I’m very interested in the lore, and cannot wait to see where they will go from here. The dungeons themselves are great, and they look amazing. Prideful is cool and it is interesting to see how teams fit this affix into their MDI routing!


Q: Anything you can reveal about your plans for 2021?

Heinrich: DMM Season 3 is coming, but we haven't chosen a date yet. We want to do more for the Classic WoW community and are looking forward to revealing more on this in Spring!


Q: Is there anything else you want people to know about your organization?

Heinrich: We are glad to see that all communities around the world are respecting the situation with Covid-19 and cancelling LAN events, but not giving up and still making it happen online. We have a lot of things planned for when we can open our Gaming Center again, and are looking forward to many events in 2021!




   Bloodlust.IO   



Bloodlust.IO is a community organization run by Phobyac, and is aimed at providing content and events for the Spanish WoW community. What began as a fan-site looking to bring the MDI to the Spanish-language community through simulcasting the tournaments in Spanish, turned into a fast-growing organization holding its own competitive Mythic+ events!



Q: What is the origin story of Bloodlust.IO? What drove you to create the organization, who is a part of it, and how did you go about it?

Phobyac: Bloodlust.io basically started as a result of the MDI going from Twitch to Youtube. This "fansite" was an idea that we had a long time ago but we definitely created it when I received the news that the MDI and the AWC were going to be streamed on Youtube and not Twitch, because as you may know, as Twitch Partner I can't stream on other platforms. This was the main reason, but actually we are creating a lot of content for the Spanish community and we have a lot of plans for the future. A strange start for a great future.


Q: Tell us about the event you’ve held. How many have there been? What was the structure? Have there been changes or evolutions over time (or plans for)?

Phobyac: I started holding World of Warcraft events at the beginning of Battle for Azeroth with the MDI All Stars. My career as a streamer starts a little before, at the end of Legion. From there I grew as a producer, holding all the MDI events for the Spanish community of BFA and now Shadowlands. It was during all these MDI competitions that I learned a lot about how to produce these kinds of events and it has been a great experience that in my opinion is totally necessary for holding a community event that is such a huge challenge.


Q: What have been some of the biggest hurdles running a community Mythic+ organization?

Phobyac: I think that the hardest part of holding this kind of event is giving something new to a community and players without experience. It was a big challenge to organise all the players, prepare all the stream stuff, speak with possible partners, and organize with Blizzard, all at the same time. Usually you need to have a look at the players and think about how to bring the most spectacular event but not make it too hard for the teams. We started with too many dungeon picks and we decided to remove some of them. Also, we had problems with some of the teams but the final result of our event was very successful.


Q: What have been some highlights for you from your events?

Phobyac: We do very near-perfect production. When you don't have the facilities like the MDI, it's very hard to hold a "professional" event without professional tools. But we work very hard to have perfect timing between games, start the game screen in the perfect moment and all these details that make the difference. Also we work hard to get a nice prize pool considering that it is a new event without previous references. And before the finals we have a music concert like the League of Legends Worlds. The best part by far!



Q: What do you think about the two big changes to the MDI this time around (class stacking rule and global region)?

Phobyac: The global region changes are fine. I think it's not that important because we saw little differences on this aspect at the last MDI and the event is pretty similar. I love to see Chinese teams, so hopefully it’s gonna be great.

The class stacking rules speak nicely about community events because it is where Blizzard sees that can be a good idea. But to be honest I think it will not change anything. Instead of class stacking, you will have 3 different classes but it will always be the same 3 classes.


Q: How are you enjoying the Shadowlands dungeons and the seasonal affix?

Phobyac: I am totally enjoying them. Shadowlands dungeons are an evolution of the BFA ones with very nice mechanics, pulls and bosses. During Shadowlands we will see many new strategies, spots and all kinds of things to push keys harder and of course, for doing faster runs on the events, and that's one of the best parts of the dungeons.

The Prideful is a nice season affix like the Awakened one, it gives good stuff in reward of killing something and you can play with it in many different ways.


Q: Anything you can reveal about your plans for 2021?

Phobyac: First of all our goal is to give the best version of the MDI for the Spanish community. But we are also starting to work on the second edition of the Bloodlust Mythic Tournament with new features! We are thinking about some new changes to the game format, but for the moment, we will focus on the MDI.



Q: Is there anything else you want people to know about your organization?

Not much, I just want to thank Raider.IO for the great work. During this last Battle For Azeroth we had these new community events and it's something great. Keystone Masters and Dream Mythic Masters are doing a great job and we are very happy about being a part of this.




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About the Author


Hulahoops has been playing WoW since Vanilla. If she’s not leading her Mythic Progression guild TBD through raids, she’s probably practicing for the MDI with her team Angry Toast. Hulahoops is a Holy Paladin in every sense of the term: she moderates the Hammer of Wrath Paladin Class Discord, and she was a practicing Lawyer for the last 7 years. Judgment isn’t just a spell! Hulahoops recently decided to put the law books away and follow her passion for esports by joining the team at RaiderIO as the Events and Community Coordinator. She is also passionate about making Azeroth an inclusive, welcoming space for all gamers and is a proud co-founder of the Defias Sisterhood community.