Warlords Raid Structure and the Race to Gear Up

The Raiding Azeroth blogs were a cool trip down memory lane with an interesting recap of all the raid structures we’ve seen since the launch of Classic WoW.  There were a few ideas and intents laid bare, and most of the positives and negatives of each era were acknowledged.

The latest part explained the structure going forward into Warlords, and has been met with some criticism as all official posts have been since the dawn of time in Azeroth, but this one specifically will have a larger impact on me and guilds like mine than most of the changes coming in Warlords.

To summarize the most recent Dev Watercooler:

  • A much more robust Group Finder tool is being added that will significantly improve and expedite the process of forming pick up groups or even filling in gaps in a guild-hosted Normal or Heroic raid.
  • Different difficulty settings will no longer share a lockout in any cases.  Currently, Normal and Heroic share a lockout.
  • Raid Finder difficulty will have separate loot tables, including different trinkets and no set bonuses.  This is to remove incentive for players in organized raid groups to take part in Raid Finder.  Raid Finder will also provide substantially more loot.

“What, no set pieces in LFR?”

Correct.  One of the most significant incentives for a player raiding at a higher level to enter LFR is to complete a set bonus or acquire a specific trinket.  Set bonuses can be powerful, often more powerful than a 13 or higher item level jump in a single slot, and anything that decreases incentive to run easier difficulty settings than your main target is a positive.

That said, I’m not convinced removing set pieces from LFR entirely is a necessary step to take, but rather that simply preventing set bonuses from activating with pieces from different raid settings would solve the problem without removing the “fun” for LFR-only raiders.  The question I’d have for an LFR raider is “If you had a choice between set bonuses and twice as much loot, which would you pick?”

The answer is obviously “both”.

“Why are you making Mythic guilds clear Heroic every week? RAAAAR Where’s my Pitchfork of the Whale?”

This is a concern that hits home for me, personally, as I raid with a (currently) Heroic guild with a pretty respectable rank for our 12 hours-per-week schedule.  Anything that will increase farm time will hurt guilds like mine more than any other.  That said, though, I doubt it will be as bad as many think.

So what are the concerns?

  • Separating the lockouts of the two highest settings will, for a time, “force” guilds like mine to clear an entire raid zone on Heroic before starting on Mythic every week, on top of the usual incentives of finding time to do Normal (currently Flexible) that we faced at the launch of Siege of Orgrimmar.
  • The addition of yet another difficulty setting at WoD’s launch will likely increase the gap between dungeon gear and the highest levels of raid gear, putting more emphasis on filling every slot and therefore needing to run Normal on top of what we did in Mists, taking more of our time overall than ever before.

There are actually some positives that will offset this to a degree, though we have yet to see them in action so it’s easy to dismiss them.  Try not to make the mistake of dismissing them.

  • Flexible gear that changes its primary stat based on your spec will mean far fewer wasted items, allowing a baseline set of gear for everyone to be acquired more quickly than ever before.
  • The ability to get farm content out-of-the-way early in a week will allow guilds to push on their desired difficulty until they run out of time, instead of trying to plan enough time for “clearing on normal” and potentially either missing the mark leaving gear on the table, or wasting scheduled raid time with nothing to do.
  • Completely non-linear raid zones will allow you to skip bosses your group no longer needs in favor of ones you haven’t killed as often.  Doubling up on some boss kills but not others will happen during progression, so some lower-difficulty bosses will become unneeded over time.

Put simply, the storm clouds aren’t quite as dark as some think, but the concerns absolutely do outweigh the positives.  Any extra time spent on farm at any point, for a guild like mine, is a pretty big deal, and weighing the benefits of more progression time against more gear isn’t a fun thing to have to do.

“If we can’t fix it, how do we alleviate the problem?”

For many of us, killing a boss more than once per week for our main character’s main spec can suck.  Repetition is necessary in WoW, but “once per week” feels like a pretty good pace.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’ve heard many suggestions to fix the problem outright that don’t have significant downsides, so what can we do to alleviate the pressure for extracurricular activities?

  1. Clearing Heroic is now guaranteed to award you with a weapon of an item level equal to or higher than Normal weapons.
  2. Set bonuses no longer activate across different difficulty settings.
  3. Trinkets, while still unique, provide more normalized benefits.  Primary stats are either cut in half or don’t exist at all on trinkets.  The value of trinket procs is also reduced dramatically.
  4. Primary stats are removed from weapons and replaced with an assortment of trinket-like procs and pure secondary stats.

1. Weapons provide damage dealers and healers with more power than any other slot, so they can often be the biggest incentive to farm difficulty settings below your group or guild’s target.  Getting a guaranteed Normal weapon from a Heroic clear would remove a huge part of that incentive.

2. This would have two positive effects.  Set pieces could stay in Raid Finder without providing any incentive for Normal and above raiders to take part.  This would also remove the incentive to farm easier difficulty settings for set bonuses as soon as you get higher item level pieces in a couple slots.

3. Trinkets shift in value wildly depending on whether the primary stat is static or a proc.  Primary stat procs are, on average, far more powerful due to the ability to combine their larger bursts with cooldowns  and the fact that procs traditionally work out to be a higher average than the static portion.  Because of this, specific stat breakdowns are very important and can often outweigh large item level disparities, giving players incentive to get the “right” trinket from easier settings and not using the “wrong” trinket from their target setting.

4. Primary stats removed from weapons would have some positive benefits.  Much larger chunks of secondary stats would actually make weapons feel different from each other when you use them.  Having some stat procs or damage procs tied to weapons to counter the removal or reduction of procs from trinkets would also be okay, as most of a weapon’s value comes from spell power or weapon damage.  Because of this, it would be much easier to make players desire higher item level weapons for throughput instead of weapons with certain procs.  No primary stats would also give melee (specifically dual wield specs, where each weapon type is only used by 2 or 3 specs) more freedom in weapon choice, which would allow them to move on from easier difficulty settings much more quickly.  On top of this, weapons become much more memorable.

There are some “crazier” ideas I’ve heard, such as having the item level of anything acquired in a raid other than your target raid setting reduced to a baseline.  A Heroic piece, for example, would become a blue in Mythic raids, while Mythic pieces would keep their item level.  This idea already happens in PvP battlegrounds.

None of these changes seem to me like they’d pose significant implementation problems (aside from maybe the last one), as all of them already have examples within the game, and all of them would help to reduce incentive to kill many bosses more than once a week on different settings.  They don’t solve the problem completely, but any improvements at all are welcome.

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