I firmly believe that the key to breaking through the challenge dungeons is using a party composed of toons with skills that will maximize your ability to master mechanics while mitigating damage. The later criteria is important: we’re not so concerned with the ability to heal toons that have taken damage; we’re focusing on mitigating incoming damage so that toons can actually survive being hit. In other words, we need to minimize damage so that we can focus on dealing damage, tackling mechanics and surviving through three stages.
The key toon for the second challenge dungeon is the scholar, and we’re going to load him up with skills that mitigate enemy damage.
First, we’re going to make sure he carries Lethargy, which will provide a flat 19% reduction in enemy damage. Next, we’re going to have him use GM Ancient Plague a skill that provides 6% damage reduction and can be stacked three times to provide 18% damage reduction. GM Ancient plague can be cast every turn and has a relatively low mana cost. This is important, because the scholar’s passive ability will provide an extra 20% reduction in enemy damage when he casts GM Ancient Plague. Assuming the scholar casts lethargy and follows it with GM Ancient Plague every turn, enemy damage will be decreased by a whopping 53%.
If you don’t have GM Ancient Plague, you can continue to use GM Decay. You’ll lose out on the 6% damage reduction provided by each stack of GM Ancient Plague, but you’ll still realize a 20% reduction in enemy damage every time the scholar casts GM Decay, which should be every turn.
That said, we need a tank. I think the mechanics of the main boss in the final stage favor the monk, but the paladin is a solid second choice. Your tank doesn’t necessarily have to wear the best gear to survive the final stage, because the scholar’s abilities will mitigate a ton of damage. You’ll want to make sure that you don’t equip your tank with a number of AoE abilities. The paladin’s SoP is probably fine, but you’ll have to use it strategically on the final stage and this really limits its potential. Still, either the monk or the paladin should prove capable.
We need a DPS. The DPS needs to use skills that focus on single target damage, not AoEs. The mechanics limit the potential of AoE damage on the final stage, and damaging a specific enemy will either cause your toon to be expelled at inopportune times, or will kill an enemy that needs to survive as long as possible. That rules out the Rune Bomb Warlock and the standard build Catalyst.
The brigand is always awesome, and the scout is a close second so long as she’s not using Uneasy Thundercloud. One thing to be wary of, though: one of the mechanics in the final stage penalizes you every time your character connects with onslaught. You’ll want to be very careful when attacking, to make sure that your onslaught doesn’t complicate your rotations.
Finally, we need the Mystic. I typically run with the standard build of GM Acceleration, Wisdom and Purify. There’s a good argument for running with Purify, Soaring Energy and Time Reversal, but I’m not comfortable leaving wisdom behind.
STAGE ONE: THE MYSTERIOUS AND UNKNOWN GOLEMS
The first stage isn’t terrible. You’ll find two enemies: on the left, a Mysterious Golem, and on the right, an Unknown Golem. The Mysterious Golem has an icon indicating a “blue” mechanic and the Unknown Golem has an icon indicating a “red” mechanic. When you hit the Mysterious Golem, your toon will receive a blue aura. If your toon attacks the Mysterious Golem while your toon has the blue aura, he’ll be stunned. Therefore, when your toon has the blue aura, he needs to attack the Unknown Golem. Attacking the Unknown Golem while your toon has a blue aura won’t stun him, but it will change his aura from blue to red. This begins the seesaw: when you have the red aura, attacking the Unknown Golem will stun your toon, and your toon therefore needs to attack the Mysterious Golem. You’ll find that you’ll be alternating attacks back and forth between the enemies.
One note: after several turns, the Unknown Golem will channel a skill. You need to make sure the Unknown Golem is dead before he casts the skill, or your toons will take a lot of damage. Several turns later, the Mysterious Golem will channel a skill. You need to make sure the Mysterious Golem is dead before casting the skill. Since the Unknown Golem will be the first to channel, you should focus your attacks on him if you have a choice.
Finally, we’re not using Lethargy on this stage, or the next. We’re saving it for the next stage, or many even the final stage.
STAGE TWO: THE ETERNAL GUARDIAN
The second stage is… tedious. The boss is Eternal Guardian, and he sucks. I grind my teeth every time I enter this stage, because it’s… so freakin’ tedious.
The boss will cycle through three different modes. On the first turn, he will attempt to silence anyone that attacks him. On the second turn, he damages anyone that uses an ability. On the third turn, he deals physical damage and reduces the threat of the aggro target. After the third turn, he starts over, and on the fourth turn attempts to silence anyone that attacks him.
There are two other important mechanics. First, any toons that defend will be healed and have their skills advance. Second, after the boss is hit twelve times, he deals massive AoE damage.
I’ve found it easiest to simply defend, and heal when necessary, with the tank, scholar and mystic. In other words, the tank, scholar and mystic do not attack and instead leave the damage dealing to our brigandAlternatively, the tank can use justice armor, for the paladin, or preach, for the monk, before the end of the third turn to make sure they have aggro. At the end of the third turn, the Eternal Guardian deals AoE to everyone and additional damage to the aggro target, and it’s really hard for your DPS to survive if he or she has aggro. Otherwise, the tank shouldn’t do much except defend and almost every hit should come from the DPS. You want to kill the Eternal Guardian in less than 12 hits.
As you progress through this stage, the Eternal Guardian will put up a damage reduction shield and start healing himself. The brigand’s lacerate comes in handy, and should help you prevent the Eternal Guardian from regaining a significant amount of health.
As a tangent, on legendary difficulty, I need to use a number of abilities for my DPS to survive the Eternal Guardian’s AoE at the end of turn three. I almost always use lethargy on turn one to reduce damage and get the cool down cycling. It’s not ideal, since lethargy has a long cool down, and we’ll need to wait several rounds before using it on stage three, but it really helps. I’ll couple lethaegy with the mystic’s relic, which I’ll use during the third turn to provide shields to the entire party. I’ll also pop the brigand’s PR on turn three for additional damage reduction, and then defend for even more damage reduction. This combination of skills typically allows the brigand to survive the AoE with slightly more than ten percent health.
STAGE THREE: THE CUBES
The Eternal Guardian was tedious, but he can’t match the frustration that comes from dealing with the cubes. The left cube, Ancient Weapon Vega, and the right cube, Ancient Weapon Denab, combine to create the most difficult stage of any challenge dungeon. The difficulty is due to the number of mechanics employed by the final bosses. Failure to account for a single mechanic at any given time – say, but failing to notice a single icon representing a debuff or finding a toon stunned at an inopportune time – typically means the entire party will wipe. There is simply no room for error.
Complicating matters is a global condition that impacts healing. Every time one of your toons uses a healing skill, Denab receives an attack buff. Purify counts as a healing skill, so spamming it can drastically increase Denab’s damage. We’re accounting for this by using the scholar to mitigate Denab’s damage through lethargy and Decay/Ancient Plague, so you may not really notice the attack buff unless you really, really, really spam healing skills.
Vega looks intimidating, but he doesn’t deal much damage and only occasionally removes buffs from your toons. He’s very important, however, to the mechanics of this stage. His importance comes from a stacking buff that he’ll put on a character whenever that character attacks Vega. You receive one buff per hit. When you receive two buffs – after two hits – your toon will become expelled for a turn. When that toon returns, he’ll be fully healed. It’s extremely important to keep Vega alive as long as possible, because we’ll need to use him to periodically expel our team to avoid Denab’s carpet bombings.
The mechanics don’t really kick in until Denab’s health reaches 90%. At that point, your toons will begin earning one stack of a microbe bomb every time they take an action – and they’ll earn two microbe bombs when they trigger onslaught while attacking. Once a toon reaches six stacks, they’ll be stunned. You can use the mystic’s Purify or the scholar’s SwiftMend to remove microbe bombs, but just remember that every cast increases Denab’s attack. The key, I think, is to almost always use standby with the mystic and scholar so they can cleanse stacks before the beginning of each round.
Once Denab gets crosses the 70% threshold, things get really tricky. As soon as hit gets there, he’ll channel carpet bombs, a one turn channeled attack that does major AoE damage. It’s a pretty good bet to kill any non-tank on your party. At this point, Vega’s mechanics kick in.
We’ll want each of our toons to attack Vega twice so that they become expelled when Denab carpet bombs the landscape and then reappear after the dust settles. Remember: you need two stacks of Vega’s buff to become expelled, so you have to hit Vega twice before Denab finishes channeling the bombs. The mystic shouldn’t have a problem, since she’s guaranteed to multistrike if she’s at full health. The scholar shouldn’t have a problem, either, since he can cast GM Decay/AncientPlague and attack in the same turn. Likewise, the brigand doesn’t have any issues with hitting Vega twice even if she doesn’t multistrike, since she can use lacerate and then a basic attack. The only issue may reside with the tank.
Unfortunately, two issues may interfere with the mechanic. First, the microbe bombs may stun one of your characters before they can act twice. It sucks, and it’s a persistent problem, so be sure continually cleanse your toons. Second, Denab starts tossing a different bomb at your toons. This bomb is represented by a red icon that looks a little like the Eye of Sauron. Any toon that has this debuff must defend during their turn, or the bomb will explode and deal massive damage to them. It’s a simple mechanic, but it can really screw things up.
There’s not much more to this stage. You’ll want to keep Vega alive as long as possible and chip away at Denab. Once her gets to 30% health he’ll enter emergency mode and generate a shield, but it doesn’t take too much damage to bring the shield down. Once it’s down, blow every cool down you have and try to kill him as fast as possible, especially since Vega will likely be dead at this point.
Ultimately, the only thing that got me through this dungeon was scrutinizing the debuffs on my toons every time they took an action. I had to make a conscious effort to look at each icon, trying to find the stacks of microbe bombs, trying to determine if they had the Eye of Sauron, trying to figure out if they needed healing or could wait for healing, trying to time hitting Vega, and so on and so forth. This stage simply isn’t forgiving, and a small error can easily mean that the entire party wipes.