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Episode 2 – Training and Testing (our sanity)

Episode 2 – Training and Testing (our sanity)

Jul 2, 2013

When we add new mercenaries to the team, we ask that they not let people know that they’re in the process of being trained. Sometimes this is a hard secret for people to keep, because it can be pretty exciting for people to get that first private message invitation. But it soon becomes apparent WHY we ask that people not tell this friends about it.

… because after a test run or two, a lot of people realize that being a merc just isn’t for them.

If you’ve been invited to be part of the team, odds are that most of your runs have gone pretty well, you’ve picked up on things quickly and shown that you’re a good listener. A trainee merc may not realize just how often (and how badly) a cheat dungeon run can go awry. Often, a trainee’s first glimpse of a tough  run is enough for them to realize that this isn’t something they want to face on a semi-regular basis. Some trainee mercs decide that they prefer being an F2M101, where there’s all the fun with less stress and responsibility.

The Return of a Retired Merc

Retired mercenaries who are returning to to the team are exempt from test runs, as they’ve already dealt with real problems on real runs and know EXACTLY what they’re getting into. They do, however, get a few training runs on any cheating bosses that have been released since they were last on the team. This is partly to exchange ideas about strategy and gameplay changes since their retirement, but also in large part to give them the opportunity to get to know newer members of the team.
Sometimes, that gut feeling is there for a reason.

Sometimes, that gut feeling is there for a reason.

What’s a Training Run?

Training runs are the first, and often longest, stage of preparation for adding a mercenary to the team. In this stage, we go over literally EVERY cheat dungeon and boss in the game that a trainee is not 100% comfortable with. We will often run them repeatedly until the new mercenary knows them cold. While fighting with them, we also talk about what to do before a run starts (check if the client has full health, mana and potions, do a quick gear check on both yourself AND them, mark location and encourage them to do so, check if they’ve trained all the spells you would expect such as gargantuan, and a small army of other things). We discuss and practice what to do if things don’t go as planned. We help them develop backup plans, and teach how to implement them quickly, and go over when and how to prepare everyone involved in a run for a tricky fight. There are a lot of small details to consider for even the simplest dungeons and bosses, and training runs are designed to help a mercenary not just notice and deal with them, but help those they will one day lead to do the same.


Then why do you do Test Runs?

There are all kinds of things that can go wrong on a run. Sometimes these problems are not anyone’s fault in particular (disconnects, deck fails, etc) and sometimes there will be people who either don’t understand or just don’t want to listen.  Sooner or later, every merc is going to have to deal with some difficult problems in a dungeon or at a boss, and they need to be prepared for it. Training and testing runs are designed to help a budding merc learn how to deal with these issues in a safe environment, so that they have the confidence to address issues head on in the future. Once issues come up on a real run with a real poster, facing them is no longer overwhelmingly imtimidating. Test runs are gruelling, stressful, emotional, and time-consuming (they usually take at least twice as long as regular dungeon run)… but they are worth their weight in gold when difficult challenges arise.

Sometimes menu chat really CAN say exactly what you mean.

Sometimes menu chat really CAN say exactly what you mean.


But things aren’t actually that bad, right?

Not usually, no. Most runs are fun, friendly, fast, and everyone has a great time. But there are also runs that can quickly spiral out of control if the person leading it isn’t prepared for the things that can go wrong.  There is a reason we prepare our future mercs for these things.  A quickly typed message saying simply “Test run” has become something of a short hand among the mercenaries to let the rest of the team know when a run we’re on is going particularly badly. It can be either a shout out asking for a port in for help (if the instance is portable), a plea for support/advice, or just a vent. Whatever the situation, when someone says it, we all know EXACTLY what they mean.

 Test run craziness

We love to play the noob, and when it comes time to test someone, team members will often fight for a spot in the test run. It’s not just that it’s fun to do the craziest things you can imagine in a cheat dungeon (though it IS a little fun), but a lot of growth happens on a test run. It’s a fantastic moment the first time a merc-in-training gains the confidence to stand up for themselves and truly be a leader. Believe it or not, after a while a test run becomes something of a fond memory for a merc. When we decided to make a post about test runs, team members were all excited to share their stories.

Truth is Stranger Than Ficton

The situations listed below are NOT just the craziest, most stressful situations the mercenary team could dream up. All of these things have actually happened with real clients during real requests. We then simply reenacted them on test runs to give future mercs an idea of just what they may have to handle in the future. (The only exception to this is the impish mischief on Nesogra’s test run, which was simply a crime of opportunity.)


And since no one knows how to screw up a cheat dungeon quite a like mercenary, let’s get to what you’re all really here for…. the LULZ.


Apollo: My first test run was in Tower of the Helephant with Scarlet* and crzydaisy. Daisy chose her MooShu school-designed gear for the  look rather than the stats, and had one of those brains where things go in one ear and out the other. Scarlet, on the other hand, was slow to the point of being almost unresponsive. Since almost ANYTHING can go wrong in TotH, I was a bit nervous. Dispels were misplaced, pierces aimed incorrectly, and traps were thrown onto bosses who would remove them. I learned that quick thinking and back up plans are essential to ensure a relatively smooth run.

Another test run I had was in the MB Warehouse with Katherine_Light and Zane. Katherine_Light played a silly pre-teen girl with romance on her mind, and Zane acted like a stubborn guy who didn’t like to follow direction. When we got to General Stormclaw, Katherine started hitting him with fire elves. This caused the minions to rebirth, colossus one of us, and storm lord every. turn. When Zane went afk and didn’t join the fight  first round, Katherine summoned a fire minion, making it so that Zane could not join. Soon, Katherine was dead, and my wizards were almost there. Thankfully, I had heals in my sideboard and we straggled through General Stormclaw. The last battle itself was less concerning, HOWEVER, Katherine was continually whispering me asking for personal advice and asking  not-so-subtle questions about my personal and romantic life. While it was super awkward, I learned how to deal with stubborn players as well as clients who push personal boundaries and act inappropriately, which has actually helped me loads since I become a mercenary.

*this photo for re-enactment purposes only*

*this photo for re-enactment purposes only*


Zane: My first test run was at the Warehouse, a dungeon I’ve never touched before. It was supposed to be a training run, but John Shadow and Sorceress Miklai wanted to see how I would react to a bit of a test run environment at the mob floors, so I was asked to lead the start of the run for him and SorceressMiklai. SorceressMiklai has two wizards, however on this specific run both were completely separate people with different personalities. The entire run I dealt with immature child-like personas bickering back and forth about the most useless things (Warning: Pixels were offended on this run). I had to continually remind all 3 of my “clients” to remove some spells, to pack other spells, and I faced a lot of confusion when Miklai kept insisting the Guiding Light was a pet snack. By the time we got to the final fight, I had to face the hard truth – I didn’t have the spells I needed to make this fight ideal and would need to improvise. Luckily, John and Sorceress returned to their “elite” selves and gave me some training on how to get through the final fight.

My next testing run of course was TotH. To keep things short: I was with Compguru and Cody Soulmender, people died, I forgot a cheat, Compguru wanted his black lotus in the cheese puzzle and he wasn’t going to let any creature or logic stop him from getting it. Somehow made it through with 3 people (and the Level Cap was 60 at the time). I learned a lot from my test runs; that coming prepared is key, how to stay focused when things get tough, when to take charge, and many other things.

Scarlet*: I have mercifully blocked out my testing runs, but one thing that is still seared in my memory is watching appalled as Sorceress Miklai immolated herself to death during my test run in Briskbreeze. I was lucky in that I had a shiny new Life Mastery drop at the time and tc unicorns, but that made me pause and think: “What did I get myself into?” However, this was so incredibly helpful as my first waterworks run as a shiny new merc, our client immolated himself to death as well! LOL! :)

Ellie Kat: NOOOO! Do I have to remember them?!  I killed Zane once in the first fight of a dungeon.  Compguru abandoned me in the middle of Waterworks with no explanation, leaving me to wonder what on earth I was supposed to do next.  And, I was forced to learn from Katherine (despite my protests to stop her) that no, those green wisps in Briskbreeze are actually not to regenerate pet energy.  I was a nervous wreck during every test run.  But, the experience really helped me be better prepared.  Now, I try to take every chance to help our potential mercs to have the same learning opportunity. Muhahaha!

That awkward moment when the person who asked you for help completely disappears with no explanation....

That awkward moment when the person who asked you for help completely disappears with no explanation….


Katherine Light: On a test run with John Shadow, we did a Briskbreeze Tower run with just one wizard each. He was playing the part of a younger child with NO attention span at all, and the entire run was full of random senseless comments. He would be so busy talking about his puppy, his school, his Mommy, his clothes, his new book, his EVERYTHING, that for several floors at a time he wouldn’t even bother to choose a spell (despite constant prodding to do so). A few rounds into the final cheat boss battle just as we’d gotten him ready to kill the boss, he freaked out telling me that his puppy had just bit his Daddy’s toe and that he should probably go because Daddy was angry. He wouldn’t sign out but maybe I could finish it for him. After that point he did not respond to anything I said. Considering that my job in this fight was heal and dispel rather than hit, this left me in quite the predicament (thankfully I had a gargantuan forest lord in my sideboard). It impressed on me that no matter what our plan is, we always have to be prepared to do backup for EVERYTHING.

Nesogra: O where to begin…  My first test run was extra special because not only was it TotH, it was my FIRST time I was ever in toth (yes, I read the guide Kat wrote VERY thoroughly before that run XD).  [Note from Kat & John: we didn’t realize it was his first run through TotH or we would NEVER have tested him there.] [Note from Neso in response to the note from Kat and John: You never asked :P] Also this was before we prepared potential mercs with what exactly to expect on a test run was so I had no idea they would be role-playing difficult clients until after I got there.  Kat and Mr. Owl were playing young hyper clients while John Shadow was the know it all teen-ager.  Before going in I made a joke about imp being overpowered (a reference to this thread)and Kat, who was on her life, used that joke against me….by replacing every card in her deck with imp so that she could be “super powerful” (well played madam :P).  Let me just say this… after that run I was never surprised by anything a client did XD.

The face of evil.

The face of evil.


We hope you guys have enjoyed this little sneak peek into the training & testing of future mercs!

Click here to read the previous episode, Episode 1: I’m an Elite Fighting Force?

Click here to read the next episode, Episode 3: Crazy Like a Merc

  • DuskWeaver

    Brought back such memories/nightmares…All my wizards are so far behind in the game I couldn’t hope to ever be of help anymore! I played for a bit last night…I miss the game and my merc friends! I hope recruits realize the time commitment and stress the job can bring.

    • Katherine Light

      We miss you too, DW! Feel free to sign in and chat even if you can’t help out, we’d all love to catch up with you! :) It’s definitely a time commitment and stressful… but we can still hang out even if you don’t have the time to be active on the team anymore. 😉

  • Sheldon

    That sounded very…..Interesting (creepy :P) Sounds like you guys really put them through the most unlikely circumstances (although, you probably encounter them every month, lol) I feel sorry for Luke, poor guy getting harassed by Kat 😛

    • Katherine Light

      Unfortunately not as unlikely as you might like to think! lol 😉 Sadly, the harassing for a relationship was based on a real life run…. and directed at one of our MARRIED team members.

  • Aeneas

    Very impressive you guys and what a great laugh. Makes me think of times I have helped others and just basically had a blank face and said “wut… o.o”


  • Nick S

    I approve of Kat’s decision to run a full-imp deck.

    • Katherine Light

      I feel an epic PvP guide in the works.

  • Psylent Night

    Back in my Merc training days, we had to walk fifteen miles through Ravenscar, uphill both ways, and then fight the Coven solo. You youngins nowadays have it easy.

    • Nesogra

      Pfft, that’s nothing compared to Kat and her imps.

  • SorceressMiklai

    “SorceressMiklai has two wizards, however on this specific run both were completely separate people with different personalities”

    Hey! ALL of my Wizards (& Pirates) have their own separate personalities. I’m like the Sibyll of KI games 😛 Remind miss Scarlet* (who so conveniently blocked out her testing runs) about her Test Run with me & Compguru through Nastrond when my level 30 Storm wizard (who has NO TRAINED SPELLS AT ALL & only what is on her gear & in TCs) ported in unannounced to “help” out and “heal” us 😛

    “and I faced a lot of confusion when Miklai kept insisting the Guiding Light was a pet snack.”

    The Guiding Light being referred to as a pet snack actually came from another member of the Unholy Trio, Cassandra Dragonheart. She insisted that every time she would put one up her pet would “eat it” with a “pet Spritely” before she could use it to heal the team/players.

    Being a Merc is hard work, time consuming, and you have to be patient and retain a certain temperament when dealing with clients/runs. You have to be prepared for ANY situation: You go in as a buffer but make sure you have hits & heals in your sideboard & vice versa. Because you never know what’s going to happen.

    The Test Runs, while very educational for recruits, were also a stress reliever for the Mercs who got to role reverse. Instead of being the ones that were confident, competent, prepared, and in charge. They got to just coast on the ride (run) while sometimes throwing out an obstacle here and there. BUT with good reason and ALWAYS an explanation of “why we do what we do” so that our future members can handle whatever hazards happen to appear in their own roads.


    • Scarlet

      The Evil Sorceress did show up in glorious noobiness and was dismissed iirc. LOL, SM!

  • Nora Misthead

    Oh my :p Well, I’m not Merc material, that’s for sure after reading this! :p

  • Cody DragonRider

    Well, it’s sure lots of training. I really think that TOTH is easy if you and your teammate uderstand what to do, but if it’s a blind run into it, it just…. DEAD. To me all dungeon in the game so far is easy since I (just like you guy) know what to do and to use. I have two account (one fire, and one storm) The storm account would be my hitting while I buff him up. It’s took few more round than you guy to take down TOTH but it’s was fun. PS: I don’t think anyone could survive General StormClaw cheat if you hits him with elf I: unless you got conviction and mass spam healing pet I:

  • compguru1

    Clients come to us for a variety of reasons and a big one being they need help. Which sometimes means, they may be young inexperienced players and we have to survive their errors. While teaching when we get the chance.

  • Evil Lurker

    Apparently Central has blocked my IP address to the website using Blockscript for failing 10 captchas.

    Also I seen someone in the commons today advertising a website for selling “buy one get one free” crowns items.

    I think this may be a scam site and would like to warn everyone on central to be on the lookout!

    Can anyone help me out? I can’t seem to be able to contact anyone.


    • Scarlet

      Thanks Lurker! Looks like you got that well in hand. :)

  • Nesogra

    “Compguru wanted his black lotus in the cheese puzzle and he wasn’t going to let any creature or logic stop him from getting it.”

    This is my favorite line in the whole post. I remember outracing him to the end of the puzzle to stop him from getting the lotus XD. That was fun.

  • BlazeS

    NOW I see this page? Oh sure. And what are these “training runs” you speak of? You are evil, evil people who delight in the suffering of others.

  • Cass DragonHeart

    oh my word. Talk about bringing back memories (or is that nighmares?) My test run was one heck of a nightmare courtesy of our our Aura*

    I was tested when BriskBreeze was the hottest Tower out there and level 50 was the cap — so not gargs, not much of anything. LOL We did a duo run of a life wizard (Aura*) and my lone wizard, my original Merc wizard, my pyromancer. Now imagine a pyro as the HITTER in BriskBreeze tower? WHAT are the most prevalent spells by both bosses? FIRE! Suffice it to say that I was highly buffed & ready to hit when Aura* decided we needed a fire bubble the same round that we were hitting & Orrick was due to let out a heckhound! Talk about nerve wracking!!!! I had nightmares that night!

    All my best to all the current, past and FUTURE mercs when the words “Test Run” are uttered!

  • EricMTGCast

    I seem to befriend, let’s call them lost puppy dogs, in game. Several of my cheat dungeon runs sound like a toned down version of these training runs. They sound both horrifying and strangely exhilarating. Thanks for this series it is a fun read.