Icy’s vMA Journey

Everyone’s journey through veteran Maelstrom Arena in Elder Scrolls Online is different. Here’s Icy’s journey.

I’d never thought of myself as a “good” player; I’d always considered myself average (maybe above average on a good day) but I’d seen other ESO streamers I respected cruising through the arena and I suddenly realised,“hang on, I want to do this too,” and that started my journey.

So, with the first Wrothgar anniversary event in 2017, I jumped into vMA on a stamina sorcerer, my best Damage Per Second (DPS) character at the time, and struggled through the arenas. I had advice from lots of players, that I very much appreciated, but ultimately I had to find my own way through the first four arenas and, after a few weeks, I got there (all on my twitch stream, to show a “normal player” could do it).

Then I hit Round Five. The Ice Round. And there I stayed. For a very, extremely long time.

I took myself away from vMA to level other skills, practice my damage on my own in four person dungeons, try other gear, and other builds, but ultimately I came to the conclusion it wasn’t working.

So I made another character, a pet sorcerer, and started again. I leveled a whole new character (using one of Inkling’s  early builds) and when I reached full level, I tried again. This time I made it all the way to the Ice Round in one session and I was amazed and happy!

And over confident.

And I failed again. Every week I came back to the Ice Round. Every week I tried, and every week I failed (on stream). And I realised, once again, I just wasn’t good enough. So I went away again, and practiced my DPS in dungeons, practiced my skill rotation against training dummies, and came back again, only to fail once more.

The combat changes with the Murkmire DLC release in October 2018 suddenly made pet sorcs less effective than they had been, and after a disastrous session, I did the “logical” thing. I started again.

I made a magica templar. This time though, I had to level the Psijic Guild quest line as well and, as you can imagine, it took a little while. But I got there. Eventually. And I took my character back into vMA. And I got stuck. Again. At the Ice Round.


I wasn’t going to make any more characters to do vMA. That was it. Instead, I jumped back in on the pet sorc (who I had been playing regularly in end-game content, including veteran trials) and had another go.

And it was better. Not great, but better. I’d gotten used to the combat changes from Murkmire and  I was learning where the spawns were in the Ice Round, and how and when to push the boss. And one day, a few weeks later, with my armour needing repair, and the Ice Boss having just broken the last platform, I killed her.

I have never been so proud and relieved at the same time.

It was like a dam had been broken. I kept going that session and cleared the next few levels in one sitting, until at last, I was at the final round, which had its own, new challenges. The daedric Crematorium Guards were terrible, the Ogrim almost worse, and the archers? Well, I’d always forget about the archers until after I was dead. But I learned it. Step-by-step I learned it, until I was facing the final boss at last.

Even this wasn’t easy for me; I measured my success by how far I got with the final boss each week. 30 min to final boss was a success. Getting upstairs to the upper ring reliably was a success. Breaking one crystal reliably was a success, and so on. Each week (usually) I’d get a little further, learn a little more (like blocking when needed) and I’d get a little better.

And then I broke all three crystals and made it back downstairs and I got the boss down to 20 percent of his health (and with no idea what to do when I’d made it back down again). And once again, like in the Ice Round, it showed me I could do it.

I made sure I knew what to do when I came back down (get shield, damage, health sigils, wait for the boss to move before dropping my ultimate) and it was only another few weeks before I did it. I killed him.

I fell off my chair.

Two years. It took me two years, three characters, and probably 200 hours in vMA, all on stream, but I finally did it. And it was worth it. All of it. I showed myself that I could do it, that I could persist, that I could break through and do something I thought was impossible for me.

And then I did it again (straight away) and this time I finished it in 5 hours. And then the Scalebreaker combat changes came through, and I did it again, even with the differences in skills required (in 3 hours in one sitting, so I actually had a score).

Each time (mostly) I’ve been getting better and faster. I’ve now finished it in 2 hours with a better score. And I’ll get better and better all the time (and I’ll be aiming for leaderboards eventually).

vMA has taught me so much. But it comes down to just a few key words. Persistence, patience, and sheer bloody mindedness can get you through.

And you can too.