Earlier this year, the 2018 Mythic Dungeon Invitational was won by European squad, Kjell’s Angels. Led by Team Captain and Healer Rory “Ciralliou” Singer, the team went on to win the tournament, toppling Method NA and taking home the title of Best Mythic+ Team in the World. And now, with the Battle for Azeroth launch just around the corner, Ciralliou generously took the time to sit down for an interview and discuss his plans for the new expansion, and how the team is looking to take its success and transition it into a brand new era of World of Warcraft.
Below is Ciralliou’s conversation with Michael Kelly.
Michael Kelly: So obviously, you’re one of the best competitive WoW players in the world. However, what you do on stage is drastically different from what an average guild may do on a regular weeknight. What is it that separates your craft from an average, everyday player?
Rory “Ciralliou” Singer: That’s incredibly kind of you to say. Honestly, I think it comes down to the amount of prep we put in. If you look at this team, it was formed over the course of a good 2-3 months of just continuous recruiting and finding the perfect players for us with the right level of synergy in order to achieve what we wanted to achieve. But, the biggest thing is that we feel comfortable enough around each other to admit our mistakes and to know what our limits are and be comfortable talking about them. We can support each other if someone is struggling. We don’t flame each other. We look for solutions to our problems, which is something I think a lot of newer groups and even a lot of existing MDI groups can’t really manage. I think mostly what separates us from the pack is comfort and good synergy.
Kelly: You mentioned comfort, synergy, and of course preparation, so with that in mind, what kind of preparation goes into getting ready to compete on stage? Do you have any rituals or mantras that help you get into the right mindset?
Ciralliou: Okay, so I can probably explain this on both a physical and mental level. Physically, It’s pretty simple. Just get a good night’s sleep the night before. I know I didn’t on a couple of occasions and I really regretted it. Also, eat something beforehand. You’re not going to be eating for a while and if you’re hungry in the middle of a competition, it’s not going to feel good. Mentally, I spend a lot of time in the hotel just chilling with music on. I just try to get in the right mindframe. I’m actually a huge Panic! At the Disco fan, and for me, that music is just the kind of music that pumps me up and gets me ready to go, while putting me in a good mood. And that for me is what works. I just want to put myself in the best mindset to achieve whatever it is that I want to achieve. In terms of team preparation, before we’d even leave the hotel on a competition day, we’ll have run through any of the areas in a dungeon that are more tricky or areas that someone is less comfortable with and just make sure that on the actual day we’re going to play that map that everyone is feeling comfortable and confident. Obviously we have schedules to follow but ideally, we wouldn’t leave the hotel until everyone is feeling like they are in the best place that they possibly can be.
Kelly: So with Legion coming to a close we’re going to have to say goodbye to the expansion’s dungeons very soon. And throughout the course of the past two years, you’ve ran through these instances thousands of times. For you, which Legion dungeon was the most memorable?
Ciralliou: Just sort of due to the sheer amount of time we spent in there and how much it shaped the course of our MDI journey, it’s gotta be Vault of the Wardens. That was the dungeon that got us through to the globals.
Kelly: I thought for sure with the Artifact Power grind two winters ago it might have been Maw of Souls.
Ciralliou: Don’t even talk to me about Maw of Souls. I hate that dungeon with a passion. We had to run it so much early on. I just don’t like that dungeon at all. But it’s the complete opposite with Vault. You know, it’s kind of what we’re known for. Like, when you think of a certain team you think of certain dungeons and Vault is just that one for us. I mean, it’s fair to say that we spent a lot of time in Maw and we definitely didn’t spend as much time in Vault; but I wish I could go back in time and tell myself how valuable those practice hours in that specific dungeon would be.
Kelly: So now, with Legion coming to a close, many people, including myself, have given the expansion a positive review with all things considered. What are your over-arcing thoughts on Legion? What do you think Blizzard got right? And what changes do you wish to see implemented into the game going forward?
Ciralliou: Honestly, I’ve been a really big fan of Legion, as well. For me, it’s the third expansion that I’ve played so I don’t quite have the “glory days of Wrath” to compare it to.
Kelly: Oh, so you started playing during Mists of Pandaria?
Ciralliou: Yeah, I started in MoP. Actually quite late into that expansion; around the Throne of Thunder patch. But, in terms of what Blizzard got right with Legion, it’s definitely Mythic+. That’s been the big thing that this expansion introduced. It’s been a huge success and a really welcome addition to the game. On a Mythic+ note, I’d like to see parts of the old M+ system return in Battle for Azeroth. I didn’t really like the whole depleting keystones mechanic, but, the idea that you can go into any dungeon and work on a specific pull is something that was huge for us on the tournament realm, and I’d love to see players get the ability to do that on the live servers. The other thing that I’d really like to see would be some kind of matchmaking system for M+, similar to the way you can queue up for PvP. I’d like people to be able to queue up and do MDI-style races. I think that would really encourage a lot of casual dungeon runners to get into the MDI and M+ scenes. It’s always fun to race against your mates and guildies and such. Overall, though, it’s been a great expansion.
Kelly: It’s great that you mention expanding the Mythic+ system because for so many players throughout the course of Legion, M+ just kind of became more about the weekly piece of gear and less about the actual content that Blizzard was putting on the table, so I think seeing the system expanded into something more competitive and immersive would be really healthy for the game.
Ciralliou: Definitely. I would wholeheartedly support any kind of system that encourages people to do more than one or two M+ runs each week or to think about M+ and dungeons than more than a piece of gear each week.
Kelly: So with Battle for Azeroth right around the corner, what does a competitive WoW player have to do in order to prepare for a new expansion?
Ciralliou: I’d say the prep happens in quite a few different places. So primarily, we’re on the BFA beta servers, getting used to the dungeons, exploring the environments and just trying to find ways to test our limits in each instance. Just getting used to the instances is huge, and we’re trying to find every possible technique in the book now before it’s too late. The other massive part of the prepping process is theorycrafting. It’s impossible to make a definitive list called “what specs are going to be the best” and pinpoint what specs to play; which is kind of the same for dungeon pathing, as well. But, over the course of the expansion,everything is going to evolve. Trying to get a feel for all that stuff early on and predicting the meta before it’s actually meta is the best thing you can do. The only other thing is making sure that your UI is updated. A pre-expansion UI overhaul is something that every player should do. Whether you run dungeons, raid, quest, or anything, just making sure your UI is all good is something I’d highly recommend for everyone.
Kelly: So with all that in mind, do you have any time to enjoy the expansion’s content and play for fun or are you “full steam ahead” from day 1?
Ciralliou: Honestly, we love what we do. If we didn’t love running these dungeons thousands of times, we wouldn’t do it. What most people think is that playing beta sort of takes the fun out of playing on live. But, the way I see it is that instead of our fun starting on the 14th of August, we get a few extra months of messing around in the dungeons and just enjoying the game before competition time. Because, once BFA launches, all of us will be getting ready for the World First raiding race, and once that is over with, we’ll be practicing for MDI All-Stars, so being able to practice in a cooled-down environment is really positive.
Kelly: How do you manage to balance everything, then? Between a World First race, MDI prep, and of course real-life, how do you go about finding that equilibrium?
Ciralliou: It’s tough. But, it’s something you learn to do over time. Let’s say, the first 4-5 weeks of an expansion, you dedicate yourself to raiding. You’re not even thinking about anything else except dedicating yourself to that race and doing the best you can. Part of that prep, though, will most likely be M+. Since M+ is being released the same time as the raid, part of the prep will naturally involve M+ and just running dungeons anyway. So yeah, we will be doing the dungeons the same time as the race which is definitely hectic. But, once the race is over, you get a lot of time to chill and sort of focus on things like the competition that’s coming up and you’re kind of back and forth between the two. You just have to learn to go back and forth and balance everything. For example, a new tier comes out, you clear it, then you go back to M+. Another new tier comes out, and you rinse and repeat. It’s definitely chaotic at times but we find ways to make it work.
Kelly: With the expansion so close, have you made up your mind on what you’ll be playing? Are you going to be sticking with your Holy Paladin or are you making changes?
Ciralliou: Well that’s what everyone wants to know. “What’s the best healer going to be?” “Is Paladin still meta?”. So far in BFA, as I’m concerned, we have a lot more options with healing specs in comparison to Legion. We’re going to see a shift from the Play Paladin or don’t get Accepted into my Group meta. I should probably point out that every single healing spec is fine in BFA. They’re all going to work up to a certain keystone level, we just don’t know what level that is right now. But, the players that I think will do best in BFA are the ones who are versatile. We’re already looking at certain pulls and dungeons that don’t require a lot of certain tools. There are ones that don’t require Paladin-centric abilities but do require Discipline Priests. Sometimes you’ll need some really intense single target healing and you’ll appreciate the likes of a Mistweaver. My plan is level those three and keep them reasonably well-geared, but it’s always important to keep in mind that tuning will happen and Blizzard ultimately gets the final say. However, those are the three that I’m going to go forward with and focus on.
Kelly: Finally, what challenges are you anticipating as you now have to defend an MDI title in an entirely new version of the game?
Ciralliou: I think the biggest challenge will be creativity. Part of the reason we did so well in the last MDI was the fact that we just completely ignored all the well-known pull patterns on live. We broke every dungeon down to its bare bones to figure out what were, in our opinions, the fastest ways to get from Point A to Point B. We also play very risky. You know, we’re happy to take a pull with an 80% success rate, whereas other teams will just ignore those pulls in favor of one with a 95% success rate. Moving towards the next MDI, I’m anticipating people examining dungeons the way we did for this year’s tournament. There’s going to be teams that are a lot more ballsy with their pulls and play-styles. And still, the cool thing is that I was inspired to form this team by watching the last MDI. It’s heartening to know that the next big team, the next Kjell’s Angels if you will, are out there watching us and they’re dying to try and do what we did. I’d love to see people just going bigger, ballsier and more creative. That’s the sort of thing that I’m looking forward to competing with.
Photo Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft