The Issues with Path of Ascension in Shadowlands
As Shadowlands continues on and people are finding themselves with a surplus of anima, I thought I would attempt to shine a light on some of the covenant features you may want to target for cosmetics, along with their pitfalls. Today, we're talking about Path of Ascension, the Kyrian special building, and many of its issues.
Before we get into the meat of the subject, most of the information here was gathered and presented with the help of
, who authored most of the resources on Path of Ascension out there, and maintains a
for questions. Every Monday at 8am Pacific time (4pm GMT), he hosts a Path Q&A designed around helping players complete it; if you're interested in this, I strongly recommend tuning in!
What is Path of Ascension?
Path of Ascension is the Kyrian covenant-specific building. Much like other covenants, it has five ranks, and much like other covenants, it provides access to a number of cosmetic rewards, along with a couple of very valuable utility perks in the open world. Thanks to a few of the recipes available in it, you can teach your stewart new tricks, such as allowing access to mail or your bank. We have a more detailed guide detailing all this available below:
Path of Ascension Guide
There are 10 trials, which can be completed as one of your three possible soulbinds. In this vehicular combat exercise, each soulbind fights differently, with four different abilities, and an optional item you can give them before the fight starts.
Unlike most activities available to other covenants, path is always available, but attempts are locked behind a currency cost: each attempt costs one
. These are awarded from a small number of places:
Each Kyrian calling will give you three
Some rare treasures and mobs in Bastion will drop one (specifically, each conductor treasure and rare except
There is a low chance when killing Forsworn enemies that drop loot (i.e. not Mythic+) to receive a
Finally, you can craft them using the dedicated Path crafting materials. This, however, isn't recommended, as you'll need these for Charms for most fights on Humility.
The cosmetics are themed after the Forsworn, or how Kyrians turn a deep purple when they submit to doubt. And, sure enough, a few things will make you doubt whether this is even doable, let alone if
can do it. And this is the core topic of this article.
Trial of Humility - The Ultimate Difficulty
Path of Ascension's ultimate difficulty, Humility, changes the way most fights are intended to be done with the simple addition of an enrage timer. This timer is often often tuned to be
unforgiving, particularly when playing as Kleia or Mikanikos. Completing the fights on Humility for the first time rewards you with all the pieces for one of the two sets (Reverent).
Tied to this difficulty are three important achievements. We'll go through the requirements and how to beat each of them, along with any of the major pitfalls of them.
requires you to beat
trial on Humility with each soulbind equipment. Fortunately, you'll be using most of them for
. If, however, you'd like to just get the weapons, you can cheese it with Pelagos on Echthra, as a certain strategy on it requires no soulbind equipment. So, you can just rotate all the equipment and collect your achievement.
I've attached a particularly bad run below, proof that it is possible. We'll go back over why this is possible in particular later, as Pelagos' ability to immune most damage sources is a contributing factor to Path being so hard for Kleia and Mikanikos.
Cheesing Echthra as Pelagos
Slightly harder this time,
requires you to beat every fight at least once with no braziers or charms. And, as weird as this will sound, it's not the hardest Path achievement, nor is it the most medallion-consuming (since you'll be forsaking charms, it means you won't have to spend 3-4
worth of materials per attempt).
I've compiled a list below of all the guides for each fight, along with what soulbind you'll be doing it as:
Alderyn and Myn'ir
If you are interested in this achievement, we absolutely recommend doing
as soon as possible, as there is no "regular" way of doing the fight, short of wasting 300+ medallions and trying to get another bug to randomly trigger with Kleia.
This list should make you notice two things:
Not a single fight favors Mikanikos
Pelagos shows up on any fight that has decent amounts of damage coming in, thanks to his Confront Memories immunity
The final, and arguably the hardest achievement for Path of Ascension is
. This requires you to do
soulbind, although, fortunately, you do get the option to use charms and braziers, making some fights doable entirely thanks to
(although, if you're feeling frisky, you'll want to use all five charms).
Farming the materials for the charms is the first problematic part. The various items (
) drop from very specific mobs, and have a relatively low drop chance: a 1 hour farming session grants you enough materials for ~3 charms.
If you would like to spend time-locked currency instead,
sells ~1.5 charms worth of materials for one
Kalisthene, Nuuminuuru, Alderyn and Myn'ir, Athanos, Splinterbark Nightmare and Azaarux are relatively straightforward. The remaining four are... a different story.
Echthra, Thran'tiok and Craven Corinth are extremely difficult, but fair, fights. With a difficulty tuning reminiscent of early Legion Mage Towers, they require near-perfect play at every moment, including a couple of critical times in the encounter (such as baiting what cast Thran'tiok will do next, or freezing Craven Corinth with Lichfrost just before he teleports so he does not heal from the orb at all).
For the average player, this is a problem, as each attempt will cost them multiple
, and this puts a hard dampener on the number of attempts they can sink in, and therefore, the time they will have to spend acquiring medallions. Thran'tiok as Kleia and Mikanikos in particular require all charms (for Mikanikos) and at least a charm of Focus (for Kleia), meaning that you will be spending 2-3 medallions per attempt.
Possibly the worst offender in the entire list is
, who straight up requires you to glitch one of his adds in one of the pillars in order to even stand a chance, and even with that, the encounter is fraught with bugs:
The debuffs are temperamental, particularly the green one. Sometimes, you get it. Sometimes, you don't. Sometimes, clearing it takes multiple attempts.
On humility, good luck getting to 10 stacks of
without dying to trigger the cleave
Line of Sighting him as he does a charge causes him to cancel it, walk towards you really fast and instantly charge you from point blank range
The fight is also tuned to a ridiculous level, and practically impossible to beat without going into enrage on any soulbind. As such, you glitch it, and hope for the best.
The Issues at Hand
An Intro to Disaster
Before we even get into Humility proper, it is worth noting that the entire introduction to Path is
user-unfriendly. Imagine this - you spend 1.5k anima, you farm the soul fragments, capture Kalisthene, go in, and.. you die. Unavoidably. And the NPCs around you make fun of it.
The game then gives you the item you need to beat the fight (
are bugged the same way
is (you use it and it takes you nowhere), and as a result, you might die again. At that point, you likely only have 3-4 medallions.
This is visible on statistics. We've taken a few key points and used
Data for Azeroth
to compile data on a few milestones:
Percentage of All Players
Percentage of Path Players
Lost to Kalisthene on Courage
Beat Kalisthene on Courage
Beat Echthra on Courage
Beat Kalisthene on Wisdom
You can very clearly see the drop-off in players:
Getting frustrated at the initial soul mirror farm
Getting frustrated at their initial, completely unavoidable loss
Getting frustrated, beating Kalisthene then calling it quits and never coming back
Getting frustrated at having to do
long quest chain leading into the second fight
Subsequently losing to Echthra and calling it quits (she's not an easy fight as pelagos, not when you're beginning, anyway)
5% of players having unlocked Path beat Kalisthene on Wisdom (rank 3 of the building), clearly showcasing that the building is
not worth the hassle
it provides for the majority of the playerbase.
Very Harsh Penalty for Failure
required to even
this requires a relatively intensive farm through either your anima conductor or passively waiting for callings to show up, this covenant feature is relatively strictly time-limited. In a similar fashion to the mage tower of yore, collecting as many
as possible before attempting a boss is a worthwhile idea, in order to just be able to blast it until it dies. Sadly... well, 5 per day from all the rares and chests that provide it.
The crafting materials required for the charms dampen this even further, particularly in cases where you need 5 charms on a fight. Do you burn your
on attempts to practice without charms, or burn 3-4
per attempt with full charms on?
The reason Master of the Path is arguably easier than Disciple of Humility stems from the inequality in soulbinds. After a few fights, it becomes painfully obvious that soulbinds react very differently to enrage timers:
On Kleia, going into enrage is fine on mobs that cast a lot. Anything that can walk at normal movement speed very quickly shred her.
On Pelagos, going into enrage is not an issue for anything where you can keep the
) up . This, in practice, means that you need to be meleed < 5s after you use it, which is unrealistic on most encounters, but not impossible (Craven Corinth being the biggest exception, and the reason the Ring of Warding is used on this fight).
Finally, going into enrage on Mikanikos used to be a
problem, but changes made in 9.1 to remove an exploit causes Bron to regenerate energy constantly. We still don't know if it is intended, but in practice it means that you can go back infinitely into Bron provided you do not die before collecting one orb as Mikanikos.
Poor Kleia comes off the worst, due to her lack of damage outside of
, her lack of an immunity (i.e. no Confront Memories), lack of a second health bar (i.e. no Bron), and lack of an ability to root enemies, and whilst
nice to pump out damage on certain fights (Echthra, Azaruux, primarily), requiring Archon's Blessing to use it properly is a colossal requirement. I mean, I kited 9 spiderlings for most of Echtra when I did it until I got my first blessing, and that was fraught with danger. The retaliation effect might as well not exist considering how few abilities trigger it and for how little it "retaliates".
As a result, the fights featuring her, particularly for
, tend to be... rough. As in, 40-50-pull rough, if not more for Mad Mortimer. And virtually every fight has a very strong incentive for you to use a
, as it means more Archon's Blessing, which means more chance of success as you do
damage outside of it. And since none of the fights are tuned per soulbind... well, yeah. Fun times ahead.
Reactive, Ham-Fisted Fixes
In early 9.0, some of the strategies used for some of the fights were fixed, or at the very least, a number of fixes were put in, with devastating effect for some of the fights, and without additional attention to why people were attempting to find ways to cheese fights (specifically: Echthra, Thran'tiok and Mad Mortimer). Possibly the most devastating change was the removal of the ability for Mikanikos to get back on Bron after a fight has ended, which was one of the ways to deal with Thran'tiok safely, as he is the only soulbind for which this boss is a severe problem if done "normally".
Another bug that was fixed was the ability to pre-stack energy with Kleia and Mikanikos by abusing the target dummies, or by dropping a
in the encounter area. This, ironically, also caused the Bron infinite energy bug that we see on live today, where Bron just keeps generating energy whether you are in it or not, making some fights relatively easier (as you're able to
much more consistently than before). Poor Kleia, however, was not so lucky. The removal of this "feature" means that people doing Path today will not be able to start a fight in Archon's Blessing, which is particularly problematic when doing Thran'tiok and Corinth, as Kleia has very little in the way of defense, and this change prolonged the fights.
All of this (and many other changes) were done without even a mention on patch notes more often than not, and without any change to enemy health or damage, making the fights harder and harder as time went on.
If all this wasn't enough, after the first wave of changes aimed at stymying the small number of cheeses widely used and reported, Path of Ascension was essentially abandoned, with tuning left in a complete state of disarray. Where one soulbind is able to comfortably last a minute post-enrage, others need to literally push until the wheels fall off with near-perfect execution at every step (if you think I am kidding - Tran'thiok as Kleia,
done incorrectly and the fight is over).
The progressive ease system mentioned by NPCs (where renown apparently eases challenges) is also nowhere to be seen, where the difference in damage is below variance between renown 20 and 60. If it ever existed, it was either disabled in 9.0.5, or never worked. This means that, unlike other covenants, you can't just "keep trying" and come out a winner almost every time. You just hit your head against it, the same way as the mage tower of old, except that you do not have the gear advantage, consumable advantage or anything else.
The Path Forward
All these issues leave this covenant feature, something people will have sunk 44k anima to unlock, in a state that turns what could be a fun and enjoyable minigame into an exercise in frustration, loss and the feeling that anima just went to waste. Compared to the other covenant features, it is
challenging, costly (both in the medallions and charm costs), and there is no measurable progress from each attempt. As a result, it very quickly turns players away, to the point that a number of people just give up on Wisdom, let alone Humility.
The numbers speak for themselves: Master of the Path is currently at
< 0.2% of players
, and Disciple of Humility at an eye-popping
. Even considering that Kyrian is a minority covenant, that is
low, especially for a feature that's supposed to be a fun past-time.
A couple of things could be done to ease the system:
entry cost, and turning the
currency to be used purely for extra materials for charms. This would make attempts much less restricted, and actually encourage the foolhardy to attempt no-charms at no cost, be it for practice or to actually beat trials. In return, the chest at the end should not contain anything.
Properly balancing the fights, including taking into account the difference between soulbinds for the harder fights.
Drastically increasing the drop rate of
, in order to make farming charms something you don't sink hours into. This ties into similar changes made for the Ember Court, particularly for
(which had its item trade questline significantly shortened), indicating that covenant features are not intended to be gigantic time sinks.
Fixing a number of bugs designed to trap and punish newcomers:
Echthra spiders should not trigger instantly;
Echthra spiders should not all spawn below Kleia when Archon's Blessing is up;
Echthra spiders should not instantly despawn and DoT the soulbind, and instead, this should be a cast. As Mikanikos requires melee in order to damage anything with any other ability than Hyperlight Beam, this turns the fight into "soak a bunch of spiders, get kicked out, go back in, melee once, get kicked out, repeat". This change would allow the player to do the fight properly;
Craven Corinth's AoE should be more lenient for Mikanikos (as it is the only soulbind without a way to get to safety or ignore it);
Tran'thiok should not be able to melee (and should definitely not melee harder than she casts);
Tran'thiok should not be able to instantly queue Terminal Destruction the moment the phylactery is broken, in order to give soulbinds without immunity a chance without having to bait casts (i.e. Kleia).
Finally, Mad Mortimer needs a thorough look, as the fight is straight up not beatable without bugs, and light number changes won't fix this.
The very definition of these covenant features is fun, largely easy stuff for cosmetics. The hardest covenant ability outside of Path is the Ember Court, and that is largely down to planning; this covenant feature is dramatically overtuned compared to the alternatives, and time-gated to boot, leading to a difficult, frustrating endeavor, where most people give up before even reaching Humility. In many ways, it is a missed opportunity for something that Kyrians could do in their spare time, and progressively hone their skills in the process, if it weren't strictly restricted.
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