Gems of War Explore Mode:
Difficulty, Mythstones, Tokens and More

Explore mode is confusing at first, and gets even more confusing as your capabilities and farming needs increase. Nonetheless, it is a major element of the game: the best place to farm Traitstones (to upgrade your Troops with Traits); the only realistic place to farm Souls (to level your Troops); and the only place to farm Tokens, Badges and Medals (for general bonuses, and Elite Troop upgrades).

While there's a number of video guides to the system (introduced in patch 4.6), a text guide allows you to take in information at your own pace, and to quickly reference key points. This guide hopes to serve that purpose, and will evolve over time, aided by your feedback.

Please offer any suggestions or discussion about this guide at:

Gems of War Resources Quick Reference Tables

Overview of Explore Mode

Explore mode comprises a series of up to six battles in a particular Kingdom. Here's the basic sequence:

  1. Choose a Kingdom and select Explore. Prefer Kingdoms marked with an orange icon, indicating a 20% Mythstone bonus.
  2. Choose a Difficulty, from 1 to 12 (initially, only D1 is unlocked).
  3. Win the four regular Explore battles to unlock the Mini Boss battle.
  4. Win the Mini Boss battle to earn Mythstones and unlock the next highest Difficulty. The Difficulty unlock applies to all Kingdoms.
  5. If you have over 100 Mythstones, win the Mythic Boss battle to earn a Boss Chest.
  6. Open the Boss Chest to receive Tokens. If you now have 3 Tokens of the same kind, they will automatically merge into a Badge; three Badges merge into a Medal.
  7. Choose a new Kingdom and repeat the process.
  8. Equip up to three Badges or Medals in the diamond-shaped slots at the top of the map to gain bonuses for every Troop.
  9. Eventually, use Badges to upgrade maxed Troops to Bronze, Silver and Gold Elite status, to give that Troop extra Skill points.

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Getting Started

The Orange Lantern

Some Kingdoms (3 to 5 at a time, it seems) will be marked on the world map with an orange lantern icon. Defeating the Mini Boss in these Kingdoms will earn you 20% bonus Mythstones. The icons periodically move to different Kingdoms (probably every hour or so). They also move away from the current Kingdom when you defeat its Mini Boss (or possibly the Mythic Boss, when applicable), but not if you lose a match or Retreat. They will not move to a Kingdom in which you haven't yet unlocked Explore.

Chasing these icons will earn you more Mythstones per Explore run, but switching Kingdoms does incur a time penalty.

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Unlocking the 12 Difficulty Levels

The first thing to do is to unlock the Difficulty as high as you think is useful. Everyone starts with only Difficulty 1 (D1) available. Defeating a Mini Boss unlocks the next highest Difficulty, up to D12. As with Pet Rescue battles, most players will not be able to reliably reach D12, so don't spend too much time on retries. Remember to ask your Guild-mates for team ideas. For reference, Difficulty 10 corresponds to Troop level 100 -- the same as the final battle in Pet Rescue -- and can be won fairly easily from mid-game onwards using the standard Skeleton Key team.

Pro Tip: As you unlock higher Difficulty levels, don't bother fighting the Mythic Boss. Instead, switch to another Kingdom and keep going up to D12. You'll likely have about 330 Mythstones at this point. Defeat the D12 Mythic Boss (or a lower Difficulty, if D12 is too hard), and keep starting new runs at your maximum Difficulty until you drop below 100 Mythstones. Go back to the partial runs you stopped at lower Difficulties and they should reset, allowing you to choose a higher Difficulty. (I don't know if the orange icon moves to a new Kingdom as soon as a Mini Boss is defeated, or when the Difficulty resets. If the latter, probably best to unlock D7 to D11 in Kingdoms without the Mythstone bonus.)

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Farming Tokens

Tokens, Badges and Medals (described below) are the key resource available only from farming Explore, and only from defeating the Mythic Bosses. For the vast majority of players, there is a very clear point at which to stop farming Tokens: as soon as you can fill the three Medal slots with sufficiently good Badges or Medals to boost your teams.

As explained later, 3 Tokens of the same kind automatically merge into a Badge, and 3 Badges merge into a Medal. With three slots, the most you can equip is 3 Medals of the same kind, created from 27 Tokens of that kind. So in theory, you want to find 27 Tokens of each kind (except for Anu, where you only need 9). However, the Tokens vary in rarity, so it makes sense to initially stop once you have 3 of each Common through Epic Medal, and one of each Legendary and Mythic Medal.

Low-level players should definitely farm for Skill Tokens, but even a mere Badge boosting Attack (3 Epic Tokens) will make a big difference to your experience, so don't spend too much time on it.

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The Shape of the Opposition

During an Explore run, your opponent's teams are constructed using the same algorithm as the "Suggest a Team" feature in the "Manage Team" options. All opposition Troops will come from the Kingdom you are currently Exploring. The regular Explore battles do not feature any Legendary or Mythic Troops. The Mini Boss battle will include a single Legendary Troop. The Mythic Boss battle will pit you against a Mythic Troop from that Kingdom -- in many cases, there will only be a single Mythic option. Amusingly, Gnomes can replace Legendary and Mythic troops.

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Selecting a Kingdom to Farm

Which Kingdom you select to Explore depends on four factors:

  1. Each Kingdom drops a particular Arcane Traitstone (and lesser Traitstones of the same colours), so you need to try and mostly choose Kingdoms where you're short.
  2. Kingdoms with an orange lantern icon grant a 20% Mythstone bonus when you win the Mini Boss battle, which gets you to the Mythic Boss battle more quickly.
  3. Some teams tend to work poorly against the Troops of certain Kingdoms. For example, most Dwarves cannot be Devoured.
  4. For best speed, you want to change Kingdoms as little as possible.

Most people are simply going to chase the orange icons around the map, and this is a reasonable strategy. More Mythstones means more Mythic Boss battles, which means more Traitstones and Tokens. However, changing Kingdoms does incur a time penalty when speed farming: when leaving or entering a Kingdom, and when scrolling the map to find a distant orange icon.

Team management can also slow you down. Changing teams -- either within the team list or copying team codes from an external program -- takes time. For some attack teams, you'll need to check the Traits or Spells of every Troop on your opponent's team. For example, Zuul'Goth teams fare poorly if your opponent happens to have a Godslayer in their line-up!

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Tokens, Badges and Medals

Defeating a Mythic Boss earns you Tokens; the higher the Difficulty, the more Tokens you can get. There is currently one Token of each rarity (from Common to Mythic), and these appear to drop in similar proportions to Troops of the same rarity (in fact, Ultra-Rare Tokens seem to be the most common).

Tokens have only one purpose: once you have three Tokens of the same type, they will automatically merge into a Badge of that type.

Badges may be equipped to the three diamond-shaped slots at the top of the world map, by clicking on one of the slots. Whatever you have equipped in each slot gives you a global bonus to all of your teams, both offensive and defensive. You can equip more than one identical Badge or Medal (but see the next section). It is not known if equipped Medals will be snap-shotted at the start of each day of Guild Wars, in the way Class Talents appear to be.

Just as with Tokens, Badges also evolve into Medals, automatically merging three Badges into a Medal of the same type. The bonus from a Medal always exceeds that from three Badges. Medals may also be equipped in the diamond-shaped slots, and upgrades to equipped Badges will equip without player intervention.

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Stacking the Bonuses from Badges and Medals

There are some quirks in the behaviour of the Badges and Medals of Cedric and Anu, that are not reflected in the text.

The other four varieties stack their bonuses as expected. For example, if you equip two Badges of Gaard and one Medal of Gaard, all your Troops will gain +12 to their Armour Skill in battle (2x +2 and 1x +8), on top of any other Armour bonuses they may gain from team synergies, Pets, Traits, or any other source.

The Badge and Medal of Cedric behave a bit differently. Each Badge or Medal of Cedric provides an additional chance to Cleanse at the start of your turn, but these chances are independent. For example, if you have three Badges of Cedric equipped, the game will first check the standard 10% chance to cleanse. Then it will check another 10% chance to Cleanse from the first Badge, then twice more for the other two Badges. These checks will be repeated for each Troop in your team, individually. Equipping three Badges of Cedric does NOT give you a single, 40% chance to Cleanse.

The Badge and Medal of Anu do not stack at all. This is in keeping with the way Starting Mana already functions in the game, where the highest Starting Mana percentage wins, and all others are discarded. This occurs independently for every Troop on your team.

For example, suppose you have equipped one Badge of Anu (5% starting Mana) and one Medal of Anu (20% starting Mana), and that your fully-traited team is Mang, King Avelorn (Elf), Harpy Eagle (Beast) and Abhorath (Daemon), using the Orbweaver Class (Elf) with Inspiration selected as the level 70 Talent. Inspiration grants 15% starting Mana to all allies. King Avelorn's third trait grants 50% starting Mana to all Elves; this will apply to King Avelorn and to your Hero. The third trait on Harpy Eagle gives just itself 75% starting Mana. The Badge of Anu grants 5% starting Mana to all allies, and the Medal of Anu grants 20% starting Mana to all allies.

However, none of these providers of starting Mana stack with each other. As a result, the actual starting Mana will be: Hero has 50% from King Avelorn; King Avelorn has 50% from itself; Harpy Eagle has 75% from itself; Abhorath has 20% from the Medal of Anu. The Badge of Anu does nothing.

If we remove the Medal of Anu and leave just the Badge of Anu, then the only change is to Abhorath, which drops down to 15% starting Mana, from the Inspiration Talent. Again, the Badge of Anu does nothing.

Never equip more than one Badge or Medal of Anu, as only the strongest Badge or Medal will have any effect, and only if it provides more starting Mana than given by any Traits or Talents on the team.

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Elite Troops

As mentioned, Badges may also be used to upgrade troops to Elite status. The troop must already be fully ascended to Mythic, raised to level 20, and have all three Traits. So this is not something early- or mid-game players are going to be able to do. More advanced players will only want to raise a select few Troops to Elite status, always ensuring they keep at least three Medals of each type available to equip globally (just one Medal of Anu). Eventually, Elite troops will probably be needed for Kingdom Power Stars above 20 (currently, 17 Stars is the highest possible on any Kingdom).

Troops can be raised to Elite status on the Troop Upgrade screen by selecting the Medals panel. Up to three Medals (not Badges or Tokens) may be applied to the Troop at a time, in an attempt to raise its Elite status.

Each Troop may be upgraded three times, to Bronze, Silver, then Gold status. A Bronze upgrade attempt costs 10,000 Souls and one Medal of the same rarity as the Troop; Silver costs 20,000 Souls and two Medals; and Gold costs 30,000 Souls and three Medals -- for a total of 60,000 Souls and 6 Medals per Troop. Upgrading all 750-odd Troops in the game would cost 45 million Souls, however the cost in Medals will be the prime limiting factor for a long time to come.

The chance of an Elite upgrade succeeding varies with the number and rarity of Medals used. Using Medals of the same rarity as the Troop guarantees an upgrade (as in the previous paragraph), but the game allows other combinations of Medals, possibly lowering the chance of the upgrade succeeding. The process is similar to upgrading the Quality of a Faction Hoard, in that you spend the chosen resources and either succeed or fail, based on the chance of an upgrade.

Each increase in the rarity of a Medal increases its contribution to a Troop's upgrade chance by a factor of 3. For example, one Epic Medal gives the same upgrade chance as three Ultra-Rare Medals. The temptation will be to use three Ultra-Rare Medals to upgrade an Epic Troop to Bronze, or to use one Epic Medal to upgrade an Ultra-Rare Troop from Silver to Gold, or even to use two Ultra-Rare Medals to upgrade an Epic Troop to Bronze with a 66% chance of success. But these options are likely to prove a very inefficient use of scarce resources.

As a Troop attains Bronze, Silver or Gold Elite status, it gains bonuses to its Skills that depend only on the Troop Role. The exact bonuses may be seen by selecting the Role icon in the top-right panel of the Medals upgrade screen. The Skill bonuses are additive (we think), so the maximum possible bonus is the sum of the Bronze, Silver and Gold bonuses. The rarity of a Troop does not affect the Skill bonus. The table shows the bonuses for each Troop Role and Elite upgrade.

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Elite Skill Bonuses


* A=Attack, S=Shield/Armour, L=Life, M=Magic

Hero Classes cannot currently receive Elite upgrades.

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Elite Upgrade Strategy

With Medals (and eventually, Souls) being in short supply, you need to choose your Elite Troops carefully. Only upgrade Troops you actually use, and use often. Never dip into your reserve of 3 Medals of each type (except Anu), as you never know when you might need to equip them globally. Never attempt an upgrade with less than a 100% chance. And do your best to avoid using Medals of lower rarity than the Troop. Finally, keep in mind that Bronze upgrades are barely noticeable, so focus on immediately attaining Silver or Gold status.

The best candidates for Elite status are initially going to be commonly-used Rare and Ultra-Rare troops, but remember to check that their bonus Skills will actually help them -- some of the Role assignments may not make sense in the Elite upgrade system. Keep in mind Troops used for farming and Delves, and Bounty Troops. Troops used in Invasion or Raid Boss Events are lesser candidates because of the restrictions on teams during these Events.

The next set of Troops to look at is commonly-used Troops that are boosted by their Skills. For example, High Paladin's damage is boosted by his Armour. However, he doesn't receive any bonus Armour until Gold status. An obvious candidate for upgrading is Sunbird. However, Sunbird is classified as a Mage, and therefore receives only Magic bonuses from Elite upgrades, increasing its damage by no more than 3. Similar examples are likely to be the rule rather than the exception, so check carefully before committing to an Elite upgrade. At first glance, Gargoyle (an Epic Troop) may be one of the best candidates for Elite status.

As you (hopefully) start to build a large inventory of Medals, some of the Troops commonly used in Guild Wars -- both on attack and defence -- will become attractive targets for Elite upgrades. Again, check which Skills will actually be increased before committing to an upgrade. Eventually, Guild Wars will be transformed in the top brackets, but Medal farming is so slow, it will take a long time.

Spare Medals could also be very helpful when attempting to max your Renown with a Pure Faction team win at level 500. Upgrading the Troops from a new Faction on launch is probably not a wise investment, because their Skills can more easily be boosted by spending Gems on Tier VII Potions. But for existing Factions, their Pure Faction team could conceivable be strengthened just enough to make a non-Event attempt plausible.

Kingdoms are able to increase their Power by completing certain tasks. While no Kingdom is currently able to exceed 17 Power Stars, the tasks up to 20 Power Stars are known from the game files. The colours of the Stars appearing on the world map strongly indicate that Kingdoms may eventually be able to reach 30 Power Stars. It is anticipated that Elite Troops will play a part in reaching those lofty heights -- hopefully not in the same, blanket manner currently required for Traits. As for Trait-based Power tasks, it is likely to be much easier to upgrade Common and Rare Troops to Elite status than higher rarities.

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Selecting a Difficulty to Farm

Choosing the best Difficulty to Farm in Explore has become astonishingly complicated. I will consider a few different cases, but this is certainly not the last word. Keep in mind that we get seven different resources from Explore battles: Tokens, Traitstones (especially Arcanes), Class XP, Hero XP, Souls, Gold, and Gnomes (during a Vault Event). Some of these farming goals will conflict with others.

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Speed Farming

Primary Resource Goals:Class XP, Hero XP, Gnomes
Neglected Resources:Tokens

Speed farming is now noticeably slower than in version 4.5. Most of the slow-down comes from all the extra clicks/taps: selecting Difficulty, selecting a battle, acknowledging a Boss fight, opening a Boss Chest, finding a new Kingdom with a Mythstone bonus. There are also additional loading delays: after selecting a Difficulty, and potentially moving to and from the world map. Some of these delays are theoretically compensated by the lower level of Troops and the absence of Legendary and Mythic Troops in the first four battles of an Explore run.

The nett effect of the changes appears to be somewhere between a 25% and 75% increase in time per battle. (I will refine this number with further testing.)

However, if you equip the right Medals with the right fast-farming team (eg: three Medals of Gaard with a Rowanne team), it should be possible to speed-farm just as quickly at Difficulty 3 or 4 as D1. That means more Gold and more Tokens for a moderate drop in win-rate. It's not really a fair exchange, but it is our new reality.

Note: Speed farming on a touch-screen is roughly 20%-40% faster than with a mouse. It really is faster to tap a button than move the mouse and click it -- and there's so many more clicks now! Using a controller to cast spells on PC also speeds things up, with cast-heavy teams particularly improved.

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Farming for Medals

Primary Resource Goals:Tokens
Neglected Resources:Class XP, Hero XP, Gnomes, Souls

Tokens (to turn into Medals) are best farmed on the highest Difficulty at which you can consistently win. That's because Mythstone and Token rewards increase much more quickly with Difficulty than the time for a win, using appropriate teams.

An end-game player averages about 30 seconds per battle at D2 with a speed farming team, and under 2 minutes per battle at D12 with a stronger but slower team -- a factor of 4 slow-down. However, they will also get 10 times as many Mythstones (hence more Mythic Boss battles) and nearly twice as many Tokens from each successful run.

The cost of getting 20 times as many Tokens in a given time is fewer battles. The rates of Class XP, Hero XP, Gnomes and Souls drop by a factor of 3 or 4. The Gold rate increases slightly (see below), and the chance for Arcane Traitstones increases by roughly a factor of 10 (since they are guaranteed to drop from a Mythic Boss).

A mid-game player choosing between D2 (40 seconds per battle) and D8 (75 seconds per battle) is likely looking at a drop in win-rate of x1.7, in return for 4.3 times as many Tokens -- a nett result of 2.5 times as many Tokens over time. That's not quite as good a trade as the D12 example, but illustrates the advantages of always going for higher Difficulty if Tokens are your only concern.

Note: Even the strongest teams and most skilled players are unlikely to win consistently at D12 in less than a minute per battle. Testing suggests that the best teams in the best circumstances are likely to average about 75 seconds per battle.

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Soul Farming

Primary Resource Goals:Souls
Neglected Resources:Tokens, Class XP, Class XP, Hero XP, Gnomes

Higher Difficulties do not give more Souls in Explore. The best strategy is therefore to farm the highest Difficulty at which your Soul-farming team still performs at maximum speed. I recommend timing some battles at various difficulties (I haven't yet done so, myself).

The performance of known Soul-farming teams hasn't changed. The standard double-Pharos-Ra team is likely to perform best at D2, because The Dragon Soul does too little damage and Pharos-Ra costs too much Mana.

Soul-farming teams are inevitably slower than speed-farming teams, so there may be some scope to develop new teams able to capitalise on Pharos-Ra's high damage potential.

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Arcane Traitstone Farming

Primary Resource Goals:Traitstones
Neglected Resources:Varies
Recommendation:D12 for Arcanes only

Mythic Boss battles are guaranteed to drop an Arcane Traitstone of the type linked with the Explored Kingdom, so getting to the Mythic battle quickly is key to their farming. Exploring D12 is likely to earn Arcane Traitstones 10 times as quickly as D2.

Rumours suggest that Arcane Traitstones will also drop more often at higher Difficulties in non-Mythic Explore battles, but this is hard to test. In any case, Arcane Traitstones displace lesser Traitstones when they drop, so speed-farming a lower Difficulty could yield more balanced results. Overall, it seems that version 4.6 has somewhat increased the rate of Arcanes, once a player can speed-farm D2 -- with the potential for significantly higher boosts as Difficulty increases.

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Gold Farming

Primary Resource Goals:Gold
Neglected Resources:Class XP, Hero XP, Gnomes, Souls

The Gold earned from each battle also increases with Difficulty. A D12 Explore battle earns 7.3 times as much Gold as a D1 battle (and 4.9 times as much as a D2 battle). With a 4-fold drop in win rate, that's still a moderate increase in Gold. Faster D12 teams magnify that bounty. In fact, the word is that farming D12 Explore may exceed the Gold rate of PvP, and with a lot more consistency.

For a mid-game player, the three-fold increase in Gold from D2 to D8 is also favourable, relative to a 1.7 times drop in win-rate. But because the game will offer easier PvP battles than to an end-game player, PvP is likely to remain a better source of Gold.

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Split Farming for End-Game Players

The goal of split farming is to try trading off competing resources for some level of overall optimality. This is a difficult problem, so for now I'll just highlight some of the key considerations. (All time estimates are based on mouse-play on a PC.)

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Split Farming for Mid-Game Players

In mid-game, split farming is even more complicated!

Mid-game is probably best defined as follows:

Mid-game players will have lower Skills, both globally and on specific Troops. They should be able to use the same teams as end-game players, but at one or two Difficulties lower. For example, Skeleton Key may require two shots at D7 or D8 rather than D10. Skeleton Key may be required at D3 or D4. At D12, speeds might be similar, but survival could be more precarious (eg: Irongut teams).

Mid-game players may have to substitute Troops, while retaining the overall premise of a team. For example, Skeleton Key can work without Cedric Sparklesack, but will do less damage per cast, potentially switching from single-cast to double-cast mode. Alternatively, without Skeleton Key -- it doesn't take long to earn... -- Bonnie Rose or Bronzelock Pistol might be needed. You might also consider completely different teams, crafted around troops that boost based on enemy Skills.

The best advice I can give is to determine functional break-points (such as the boundary between single-casting and double-casting), and time your teams at Difficulties above and below where those break-points kick in. In most cases, you will want to farm at the top of each range, but without risking a further break-point on tougher or resistant enemies. You may be able to boost the performance of some teams with careful selection of Classes and Talents (and equipped Medals). But beware the temptation to use an effective but super-slow team at D12 -- standard Gobtruffle teams work great, but having to cast 20 times is not going to be an optimal strategy.

Finally, try to be clear about your farming goals. Once you have three of each Medal, you may be better off ignoring Explore altogether -- except for farming Arcane Traitstones.

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Thank you to the following people for ideas and explanations:

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Last updated: 20-October-2019

Copyright © 2019 Paulius Stepanas. All Rights Reserved.
All images copyright © Infinity Plus Two.