MDI Season 3: Big Brain Strats from Group A

The Season 3 MDI is officially underway, with the Group A Cup having taken place this past weekend. It was an exciting start to the Season’s competition, with some close games and impressive performances! This Season follows the same format we saw in Season 2, with only the one Time Trial where the top 24 teams qualify for the 3 Group Stage weekends. Being a new Season however, the teams have a new Seasonal affix – Encrypted – to contend with, as well as the two brand new Mythic+ Tazavesh dungeons.

Luckily for us, a new Season of the MDI means new Big Brain Strats! We saw some very interesting approaches in this first weekend, so let’s dive in!

Group A

Group A includes the top seed from the Time Trial weekend, which was unsurprisingly the reigning MDI Champions, Echo. We were all very excited to hopefully see Echo compete this weekend in Tazavesh: Streets of Wonder, as they pulled out a sub-12 minute time in this dungeon during the Time Trials. The seeding format that Blizzard uses for the Group Stages have the teams that finish the Time Trials at the 1st, 6th, 7th, 12th, 13th, 18th, 19th, and 24th positions together. Last Season we saw this format typically lead to some pretty swift 2-0 matches leading into the final day, but we did actually get some match-ups that went to a third game prior to Sunday this time around.

The weekend ended with Echo taking the top spot with a 2-0 victory over the second place team, Baldy. With the current format, both of these teams have now officially qualified for the MDI Global Finals, taking place at the end of the Season. Congrats to both Echo and Baldy!

New: Expanded Dungeon Banning System

We were curious to see how teams approached the map-banning system which was expanded this Season. With the addition of the Tazavesh dungeons, and 1 Legion dungeon (Court of Stars for Group A), the dungeon pools for the MDI Group Stages are now at 11. In past Seasons, with only 8 available dungeons, Blizzard only allowed players to ban maps during the Grand Finals of each weekend, giving them a choice of 5 dungeons and allowing each team to ban 1. This time around, every match-up has a potential pool of 5 dungeons, and each team is given the opportunity to ban 1 of them. This is a blind ban which takes place prior to the match-up starting, which means both teams could end up banning the same dungeon. They’ve also implemented a rule that the first map of each group of 5 is not eligible to be banned. This was a smart play by Blizzard as it does ensure we as viewers get to see all of the dungeons at some point each weekend!

Court of Stars saw the most bans throughout the weekend, with Mists of Tirna Scithe the second most common choice for the teams. We did actually see a few match-ups where both teams ended up blind-banning the same dungeon. Both Baldy and Evolved banned Mists of Tirna Scithe in their Quarter Final showdown, leaving Court of Stars available instead, and in the Lower Bracket, both Incarnation and Witness Cuties banned Court of Stars. It’s possible that the players of Baldy and Evolved, who both contain multiple players that actually competed back in the Legion MDI, are more comfortable with Court of Stars than other teams that made a point to ban the dungeon.

Wo-oh Echo's Halfway There!

It’s always exciting to see how each new Seasonal affix can change how the competitors approach the dungeons, and what new routes and Big Brain Strats they come up with! This Season is no different, as the Encrypted affix certainly gives some good opportunities to play around with routes.

This Seasonal affix places Relics throughout the dungeons, attached to mobs and bosses. These three Relics are Wo, Vy, and Urh, and when you kill a Relic, a larger mob spawns. Upon killing this larger mob, you gain an associated buff. The neat part of this affix is that whichever Relic you kill first determines which mob spawns, which determines which buff you get. So you have a lot of player agency, being able to pick which buff you get specifically. The Wo Relic in particular was put to some creative use this weekend, as teams made the most of the Decrypted Wo Cypher buff, which gives you stealth and 150% movement speed for a full minute. It’s basically Shroud of Concealment on steroids.

Echo adapted this Relic’s ability, twice, into a great way to speed up the Hakkar wing in De Other Side in their first match-up against Apes Together Strong on Friday. In the video below, you will see Echo on the left. They opted to get the Wo buff on the very first pull of the dungeon, and used the stealth/speed boost combo to quickly skip the remaining trash and make their way into the hallway on the way to Hakkar. Now the door to Hakkar is closed, and remains closed, until that last trash pack is killed. The casters were assuming they would skip all of the hallway trash other than the last pack, and then move onto the boss. However, Echo decides instead to pull all of the hallway trash, other than the first pack, which contains a set of Encrypted Relics. You’ll want to keep an eye on that pack as it becomes very important!

As the trash is dying, Fragnance uses Door of Shadows to port back to that first trash pack in the hallway. He blinds the Priestess mob and actually intentionally walks through it to get in combat with it. Typically when we’d see a Rogue do this, we’d expect them to vanish or shadowmeld to drop combat with the mob, but that is not the strategy here! After the remaining trash dies, the team goes through and pulls Hakkar.

Blind lasts for 1 minute, so by the time the debuff ends on the Priestess, Echo has Hakkar at 25%. The Priestess, accompanied by a set of Encrypted Relics, makes her way down the hallway and joins the fray! Echo kills Hakkar and swiftly deals with the Wo Relic, again gaining the massive speed boost and stealth buff. Watch as they make use of this buff to skip an incredible amount of inner-platform trash and make their way to the next wing of the dungeon in record time!

Baldy's Gambit Gamble

In their second match-up of the weekend, Baldy headed into Tazavesh: So’leah’s Gambit to face-off against Evolved. Baldy was the victorious team, finishing the dungeon in 13:15, the fastest time for this map all weekend. We want to call attention to one moment in particular which may seem like fairly straight-forward gameplay, but really required next-level coordination, precision, and execution to do successfully.

The second boss of the dungeon, Timecap’n Hooktail, has 3 packs of trash on his platform that can actually be quite dangerous. Adding to their ferocity is the fact that the affixes this weekend in Gambit included Fortified and Raging. Baldy surprised even the casters by pulling all 3 of these packs at the same time, and in order to do so, had to pull off what Tettles ended up referring to as a “disgusting CC chain”. Not only did they pull it off, they did so cleanly and with precision.

In the video below, Baldy makes it look easy, but in order to make it through this incredibly dangerous pull, they had to expertly coordinate an aoe crowd-control chain that started off with a Gorefiend’s Grasp to mass grip the trash together. The team then timed their aoe CC spells perfectly, up until the mobs actually became immune to stuns due to diminishing returns. After the mass grip, they had a stun from the Demon Hunter’s Metamorphosis, into the Warlock’s Infernal, into Chaos Nova from the DH again, finished up by Shadowfury. This CC chain, combined with the massive aoe damage available to this party composition, allowed Baldy to get this trash very close to death before they became stun immune, making them able to finish them off before the Raging mobs killed the tank.

Echo's Street Smarts

As we mentioned above, Echo had an incredibly fast time in Tazavesh: Streets of Wonder during the Time Trials, and everyone went into this weekend expecting them to showcase some massive brain strats. During their first time in the dungeon during the Quarter Finals on Saturday, they were so far ahead of their opposition Yeppers, that unfortunately we don’t believe we saw their big strategy. Even so, they did do something pretty neat that’s worth showing!

Heading into the final boss of the dungeon, So’azmi, Echo had 96% trash completed. A key and established component of MDI strategy is that it is always beneficial to kill trash on top of a boss when possible, as it will always be faster to cleave it down than to do trash separately. So’azmi, however, is on a platform that you have to teleport to, making it impossible to bring trash with you…or is it?

In the video below, you can see Clickz taking a leap off the side of the platform. While you cannot see it easily on the stream, he has placed a Demonic Circle down prior to his moonlighting as a base jumper. This is also an excellent use of time generally, as So’azmi has some fairly long RP before being attackable. While off the platform, Clickz pulls the remaining 4% worth of trash, and teleports back up to his circle. You can watch as he returns to the rest of his team just as the boss encounter starts, and the mobs that he pulled snap on top of the boss. This is some pretty impressive tech, and definitely saves time!

Season 3 of the MDI continues next weekend with the Group B showdown! You can catch all the action over on the official Warcraft YouTube Channel, and you can keep up with all of the action over on our MDI Highlights page, providing LIVE coverage, updates and analysis throughout every minute of the competition.

See you next week with more Big Brain Strats from the MDI!


About the Author

Hulahoops has been playing WoW since Vanilla. She has recently shelved Retail to go back and re-experience TBC in all its glory, but will one day make her way back to the Shadowlands. In her hey-day, Hulahoops could be found raid-leading in Mythic Progression, or competing in 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 7 years. Judgment isn't just a spell! Hulahoops decided to put the law books away and follow her passion for gaming and esports by joining the team at Raider.IO. In her capacity as General Manager, Hulahoops oversees events, content, and more!