The Fifth Affix - Player Mindset



As we first enter the world of pushing Mythic+ keystones, it is not long before we start to hear about “Push Weeks”, and how they are the best weeks for gaining Mythic+ rating (IO score). Eager to crank out some “IO”, we’ll gather our friends, plan out our push nights, figure out what keys everyone needs for points, and decide which dungeons to hit first. As we enter the dungeon and start the keystone, spirits are high and everyone is hyped in Discord. The dungeon begins, and everything is going according to plan when, all of a sudden, someone misses an important kick or body-pulls an extra pack. Our group wipes, and the tilt begins.



This scenario plays out regardless of key level, skill level, or even the affixes. While some affix combinations are significantly less punishing than others, there’s one major affix that’s often overlooked: our mental approach to each key. If we approach Mythic+ with a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset, we realize that there is always something for all of us to learn from a failed key — whether it’s how to squeeze out some extra time by doubling up a pull, optimizing our cooldowns, or communicating better as a group. Learning from failure is largely accepted as one of the biggest ways to differentiate a good player from a great player.

Hi, I’m Oxi. I am a lawyer by trade and a Rogue at night. I am not a psychologist. What I aim to address in this article is not to explain the cognitive neuroscience of a growth versus a fixed mindset, but rather how we can reshape our mindset to improve performance.

How can we learn from failures to improve our success in Mythic+? Read on to learn more!



Table of Contents






Why Mindset is Important



GROWTH MINDSET VS. FIXED MINDSET


It’s likely that we’ve all been bombarded with the message that having a positive mindset increases performance/productivity, but we’re not here to tell everyone to “cheer up”. Instead, let’s look at the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Growth may not always feel positive, but pursuing growth is a key ingredient towards success in Mythic+. A fixed mindset may say, “We can’t do this key. It’s too hard and we don’t have the damage output.” In contrast, a growth mindset might say, “What can we do differently to achieve this key level?”

The best way to gain an extra edge in our performance and skill is to adopt a growth mindset when it comes to pushing keys. This means actively seeking challenges and accepting that failure happens. Growth is also about learning how to use failure as a way to grow. It essentially breaks down to the belief that our basic qualities are things we can grow through our own efforts.

Building a growth mindset may require some internal and external motivation. If we have a dedicated group to push keys with, it can be highly beneficial for everyone if we all work on motivating each other to improve. That motivational push from our friends can come in many different forms. Whether we engage in friendly competition by comparing our friends’ IO score or we act as supportive accountability buddies, the methods in which we choose to motivate ourselves and one another is up to us.

Ultimately, World of Warcraft is a game, and games are meant to be fun. If we engage in team-based content like Mythic+, it is important to enjoy the process of overcoming challenges with others. Since everyone has their own goals and challenges, it can help to figure out our goals, set realistic milestones, and align with like-minded players to form groups that focus on improvement.





NEGATIVITY CAN SNOWBALL INTO DISASTER


Many of us have experienced a key devolve into sudden disaster. People may start getting tilted and point the finger to blame others. The person who gets tilted ends up playing worse, and the other group members might start playing worse in tandem. Before we know it, we have a snowball effect of negativity that can spiral out of control to the point where someone leaves the group mid-key.



As mentioned in our recent article about the psychology of complaining, there is a real reason for this snowball effect; research in cognitive neuroscience has shown that emotions are in fact contagious due to the mirror neurons firing off in our brains. Unsurprisingly, it is easy to lose our focus when we feel tensions rising from others around us. This can be highly detrimental in a collaborative game where split-second decisions can make or break our gameplay and even cause a wipe. When people start playing poorly and morale gets low, it can put an early end to a push night and probably leave some lingering, sour feelings.

If we find ourselves in this situation, here are some strategies to turn the snowball around:

  • Do some lower keys for someone’s alt to get the confidence and synergy built back up. Stomping through an easier key can help get the bad taste of key depletion out of our mouths and get the laughs flowing again.
  • For players that normally pug into Mythic+ groups through the Group Finder, it can help to take a break. Try doing something more relaxing such as questing, transmog runs, leveling an alt, pet battles, or grinding out some professions.
  • Sometimes if I’m having a bad night with keys, I’ll just tag someone else in my place and I’ll go play another game to get my head back in the right place.


Whatever methodology we choose for turning our night around, taking a brain break can help us reset our mood and get back into our favorite dungeons to pump some IO score. Research has shown that “brain breaks” get us back on track towards productivity and out of a “fight or flight” threat state.



Things to Focus On



DIAGNOSING WHAT WENT WRONG


When assessing what went wrong in a key, don’t automatically point fingers at anyone. In most cases, a missed kick could have been covered in some other way. It is largely ineffective to try and determine a solution before knowing/understanding the root issues. First, identify the problem, pinpoint where the breakdown happened, and then put together a plan on how to amend it moving forward.

To diagnose root issues, it can help to record our gameplay (Twitch vods are usually a super easy way to do this), sort through our Details meters, or upload combat logs to Warcraftlogs and look through the data. It is important to consider different avenues towards improvement. Recording our gameplay, reviewing logs, or finding a coach to give another perspective are all great steps to ascend to the next level of skill. We must figure out what type of review and feedback system works best for us.



THE FALLACY OF “OVERALL DAMAGE”


This will be a controversial opinion, but the overall damage meter might not be as important as it seems.

I am not here to say that damage isn’t important, but it isn’t everything. Damage matters, and I won’t claim otherwise since there comes a point where we can’t time a higher key due to a damage deficit. However, the idea of a damage deficit can cause us unnecessary fear or anxiety. We may worry that a damage deficit can make a key more difficult to complete in time, or that people will see us as a bad player and we won’t be reinvited to groups. These are all very valid concerns, but it’s important to look beyond the numbers. Is it an Explosive week? Did we spend globals helping out with Explosives orbs rather than doing damage? Are we playing a Rogue and got robbed out of a restealth on a Spiteful week because we are being kept perpetually in combat?

Hyper-fixating on the DPS meters is a dangerous game to play. If we are worried about our DPS, running more keys helps us gain the experience necessary to make appropriate decisions on our cooldown timings. However, if we focus on doing the little things that can help smooth out a run such as spending a global on a well-timed CC or defensive cooldown, then maybe some of the damage we lose can be made up by the tank and healer being far less strained.

There isn’t a “one right approach” to this conundrum, but the best way to figure out how to improve our performance is to do a little analysis. If we are timing keys, damage is generally not the issue. Instead, turning our focus towards what we can do to help other party members will improve not only our own gameplay, but improve our likelihood of success in higher keys where mechanics are far more punishing.


Source: Dorki




TAKING RESPONSIBILITY


As much as we might like to, we can’t play the game for other people. The easiest way to improve our performance (and thus our IO score) is to look at what we could have done differently (or better) to make a pull more successful. There are times where someone else could have done better, but we could have gone out of our way to help cover for their slip up.



Being aware enough to know that we could have done something differently is a guaranteed way to make us a better individual player and team player. Every top player we see talks about how they have their assignments for every pull (such as each player using CCs or interrupts on specific mobs), and every stop has a back-up just in case. Consider implementing a “plan B” just in case someone accidentally misses a kick or overlaps with another player.

There are many techniques that can be used to save a pull or even an entire keystone run. Whether we could have popped an immunity and face-tanked an enemy while the tank gets battle ressed, or kept a pull alive by kiting around like a madman until the group makes it back, there is usually something more that we could have done. While it’s not ideal to rack up deaths due to the time penalty, it’s better to finish the disaster pull and not have to pull it again from 100% health. When taking personal accountability for things we could have done better, it puts some of the power back into our own hands towards improvement. This is known as our “sphere of control” vs. our “sphere of influence”, as I will explain in the next section.



SOMETIMES, THINGS JUST HAPPEN


This is one of the most shocking truths anyone can realize: Sometimes, things are simply out of our control. Although problem-solving can be a healthy angle to take when keys fail (as opposed to ruminating or pointing fingers), sometimes things just happen. Mistakes are made even by the most seasoned Mythic+ veterans, and there is little use in ruminating over failure.

When I asked a few top players about whether they let a bad run or two ruin a night, the consensus was something along the lines of “nah, we just go next.”

“A lot of people care too much about a depleted key. I obviously care, but I don’t let mistakes affect my mood too much. Regardless of whether it's myself or the people I play with, we have a ‘just play better next time go again’ type of approach.”Ramfam, Multi-Rank 1 Mythic+ Rogue


Additionally, worrying about the possibility of bad things happening can make us play worse or sour the atmosphere of our group. If we find ourselves worrying about all the “what ifs”, it can help to think about the things that we do have control over. We can’t always prevent a bad pull from happening, but we can control our attitude and how we react.


Source: Aguilar, E. (2014). “Spheres of Control.” Education Week


Ultimately, there is only so much we can do to influence people and circumstances. We can’t force things to go our way. Instead, we can focus on changing our behavior, attitude, and share feedback with our team constructively without devolving into a flame fest.



DON’T KNOW SOMETHING? ASK QUESTIONS!


In general, if we don’t know something, it is worth the extra effort and courage to ask questions. Whether we do so by asking party members or our favorite Twitch streamers/content creators for tips, many of the optimizations and strategies learned by top players are shared amongst the community. We have a much better chance of tapping into this vast knowledge base if we dare to ask questions.

Additionally, we can also seek outside information by consulting guides and Class Discords. Not only is there a wealth of information out there for us to find, but there are also many passionate players who are willing to help us find the answers we need.

Although we must double-check and test the information we find, a big part of cultivating a growth mindset is to seek knowledge and improvement at every turn.

Guides
The World of Warcraft community has always been blessed with an abundance of guides, such as traditional sources like Wowhead or Icy Veins, and more recently, informal sources like Class Discords and WoW Streamers. No matter how we prefer to digest our information, there is a guide for us. There are often video guides for visual learners and written guides for more detailed deep-dives on the same topic. This way, players have a wealth of information to choose from in various formats.

Although having more information is almost always a good thing, it can be difficult to distinguish between what is accurate and what is outdated/misinformation. Always look for multiple sources whenever possible to compare different perspectives. Get up-to-date information by checking the upload date of any video guides or the changelog of any written guides; if it’s more than a few months old or dated since before the most recent patch, chances are that there are more recent resources available.

Class Discords
Class Discords are an amazing community-driven resource that can provide spec-specific information at a tremendous speed due to their ability to crowdsource answers. For example, Ravenholt, the official Rogue Discord, has a spreadsheet dedicated to how dungeon abilities interact specifically with the class’s defensives. Virtually every single Class Discord has an equivalent to this type of information, and a good place to start is to look at the pinned messages in each channel for quick tips, tricks, and useful resources!

On top of spec-specific advice, Class Discords also can provide bespoke solutions for a group’s specific pain points. In Class Discords, players at every level are often willing to review logs, VoDs, or dole out advice on how to handle particular pulls. Chances are, if we have a problem, someone else has been in a similar situation and can help to troubleshoot a solution or share their own experiences.

Streamers & Content Creators
There are so many key-breaking nuances of running high keys that simply cannot be put into a singular guide. Streamers and Content Creators are an invaluable source of information that can help impart some of the tips and tricks that are constantly evolving in the dungeon meta. Additionally, we may gain a deeper understanding of a dungeon or our own spec by watching someone who is more experienced than us. Some streamers also have their own guides for whatever content they do, and are often happy to answer questions from their chat.



Closing Thoughts



First, I’d like to thank everyone for holding on to the end of this article. Remember that our journey in keys is ours to define! As long as we approach Mythic+ with a growth mindset and approach success and failures adaptively, we will continue to grow as players and improve over the course of each season. So get out there and push some keys!



Links




About the Author


Oxi has kicked the WoW habit and come back about a dozen times since he started playing in 2005. These days, Oxi is a Community Figure in Ravenholdt, the official Rogue Class Discord. He maintains the Ravenholdt website, and helps ensure that the Tricks of the Trade Rogue podcast runs smoothly. Oxi also streams Rogue things on Twitch, Mythic Raiding, and the occasional Mythic+ dungeon.