Before Warlords, I was never really into pet battling, or even collecting minipets (with one obvious exception). Sure, I was happy to take a pet if it dropped, or pick up the holiday ones for fun, but the only pet battling I did during Mists was to get Lesser Charms.
I certainly never even thought about the Grand Master Pet Trainers, let alone the Celestial Tournament - my experience with battling Trainers consisted of making it to the level 30-40 ones before the quest bugged out (I couldn't click on the Trainer to battle them) so I just shrugged and gave up. I did at one point consider trying again, but then I couldn't remember where I had left off or where the Trainer I was supposed to defeat was...
Anyway, just before Warlords launched I was at the Darkmoon Faire checking out the new additions, and noticed the second Master Pet Trainer there, Christoph VonFeasel. I'm not sure why, but I decided to give him a shot, despite having an extremely ragtag selection of level 25 pets and a truly shameful lack of pet battling knowledge/experience.
Shockingly, after a few tries and rethinking my approach, I actually managed to put together a team and beat him! I was quite pleased, and surprised. But more than anything else, I realized I had quite enjoyed the challenge of approaching a difficult obstacle with a substantial handicap and overcoming it.
This wasn't exactly something new with how I play WoW - I'm always looking for ways to make the game harder for myself, just for the hell of it. This is one of the main reasons I decided to RP walk Brawler's Guild, or why I use huge screen-blocking Weak Auras/unit frames that others find intolerable. Sometimes these habits drive my guildies up the wall, like when they learned that my Push-to-Talk button is the number pad - key, and I take my hand off my mouse whenever I talk in Mumble.
Basically if you tell me something can't be done, or that only idiots would do it, I'm going to attempt it just to try to prove you wrong (and for kicks). ;)
So imagine my delight when I learned about the Pet Menagerie in your Garrison, with a challenging, different pet battle each day! The first day I had the Menagerie, I gave it a shot, and got completely, hilariously stomped. I think it was Stitches Jr.. But that just piqued my interest, as I realized I had a perfect little project to challenge myself - defeat each daily Menagerie battle using only my current, horrible roster of pets! No cheating - no powerleveling up other pets to counter a given day's team, no borrowing pets from friends. Just the pets I had.
I've mentioned my terrible roster a few times now. Let me explain. I had a bunch of blue-quality level 25 pets, it's true! 24 of them, to be exact. But they were anything but balanced. My roster was:
Aquatic: Magical Crawdad, Shore Crab, Softshell Snapling, Spawn of G'nathus, Swamp Croaker
Beast: Crystal Spider, Kovok
Critter: Grassland Hopper
Elemental: Terrible Turnip
Flying: Brilliant Kaliri, Effervescent Glowfly, Gilded Moth, Oasis Moth, Shrine Fly
Humanoid: Corefire Imp, Sporeling Sprout
Magic: Arcane Eye, Viscous Horror
Mechanical: Darkmoon Zeppelin, Son of Animus, Sunreaver Micro-Sentry, Tranquil Mech. Yeti
Undead: Fossilized Hatchling
If you're familiar with pet battling, you'll realize that a few of those pets are pretty good...but also that a lot of them usually don't make their way onto recommended pet teams. I mean, Terrible Turnip? Sporeling Sprout? Oh boy. And I love Kovok, but he is NOT a strong battle pet.
This challenge turned out to be a lot of fun. I couldn't just choose three OP pets that were the perfect counters each day, because I probably didn't have ONE such pet, let alone three! So I had to really think about the pets and abilities I did have access to, and how I could combine them to eke out wins.
And I got my ass kicked. A LOT. But the pet healer was right there, and I learned from those losses, and went back to the drawing board, and used what I had learned to develop winning strategies.
But then came the Quintessence of Light.
About halfway through the Menagerie rotation, the Quintessence of Light became my first real roadblock. I tried every pet combination I could think of and just could not overcome its Boss status (takes 50% damage) combined with its powerful healing. And its attacks did extra damage against Mechanical pets, which I had been relying heavily upon.
I checked Wowhead and other blogs for ideas. They all suggested using pets I didn't have, such as Unborn Val'kyr, Pandaren Water Spirit, Crow, Gilnean Raven, etc. So I had to improvise.
I did eventually beat it...by using a level 22 Mini Mindslayer, for its Life Exchange ability, and a level 22 Scourged Whelpling, for its Call Darkness ability, to counter the Quintessence's heals.
That is SHEER, RAW desperation right there. But hey - it worked!
Beating Quintessence that day is going to be one of my personal highlights this entire expansion, I can already tell. The brainstorming and strategizing it took to get that win, combined with the frustration and sense of "this is just impossible, I'm never going to be able to do this!" - it all makes the eventual success so much sweeter.
Honestly, whether it's pet battles or RP walking around in Brawler's Guild, that's why I do these self-challenges - the fist-pumping satisfaction of accomplishing something you legitimately worked really hard for, and knowing it was extremely difficult, but you didn't give up, but instead stuck with it and persevered. Knowing you EARNED that victory.
If you're curious which pets I used against each Menagerie team, they're all on Youtube. Darkmoon Zeppelin ended up being a real hero, appearing on 10 of the 15 teams.
(I even got a little cocky near the end - two of the teams include an Elekk Plushie. Which naturally led me to checking out [An Awfully Big Adventure]. But more on that next time.)