How Did Tier Sets and Legendaries Work Out in Sepulcher of the First Ones? - BDGG Thoughts
One thing can be said about Shadowlands: Blizzard has tried a lot of new things and made some pretty fundamental shifts in their game design. We've seen iterations on legendaries, changes in gear systems, and the way the top guilds in the world optimize their gear, but it feels like all of this came to it's peak with the final tier of Shadowlands. On top of that tier sets returned and had a surprising but enormous impact on the race. It's a complex topic, but luckily I had some input from
Loot of the First Ones
Tier slots have been out of the game for a long time, but players have spoken pretty frequently about how much they missed layer they added to gearing and optimizing their characters. BFA saw the removal of both tier sets and masterloot, so there was never really a time those two systems didn't go hand in hand. With personal loot now being forced across all raid groups, Blizzard had to consider a new way to implement tier. Unfortunately in their best attempt to make acquiring tier fair, they made a fatal misstep and implemented a system that could be manipulated by the top guilds to guarantee their 4-sets.
Week 1 this wasn't a huge problem, because players relied on their loot RNG to see if they got up to 3 pieces of tier. But when week 2 game, and the final 3 bosses were released, we saw a new age of degeneracy from the top level. The players who were able to loot 2 pieces the first week were now guaranteed their 4 piece for mythic progression. But for everyone else they had to roll the dice again on Rygelon and Lords of Dread. If they came up empty handed, they virtually lost their spot on the raid team.
If there was one thing worse than doing countless community runs, it was the feeling of not being able to get 4 piece in time for mythic. If anything should urgently change about this system next tier, it should be that. Blizzard seems to be on the case though.
Of course the post-progression systems have also been a huge help. The Creation catalyst has been extremely well received.
Lozy - tank
Creation catalyst is very very good. Could have solved the "no 4p issue week 1" for RWF guilds. It felt like it opened kind of late in general.
Tier Sets, What Should Change?
Given the above problem, I heard overwhelmingly that acquisition was the primary concern of the raiders. Not just to combat those who couldn't get their 4 piece week one, but even ensuring that they got in the right slot, or that they had a chance to have 4 piece on their alt. Being able to change characters mid progression wasn't an uncommon thing in previous races, but this tier it was especially difficult.
Earth - DK
Their acquisition, allowing them to be traded by someone with the requisite ilvl of that slot, even if it isn't tier. Also having the Jailer drop a universal Tier token could've solved some issues caused by having 2 of the pieces unavailable during heroic week.
Some classes had a unique issue with their double legendary items overlapping their tier slots, forcing them to choose between running 4 set or double legendary.
Dorovon - Mage
I would have liked to see less overlap with tier set slots and other desired items. Increasing the number of tier pieces could have solved this, but ensuring that all legendaries had at least one or two slots that did not overlap with any tier pieces would have solved most of the issue.
Previous tiers such as Sunwell Plateau in The Burning Crusade used over 5 tier pieces. It was well received back then, maybe it could see a comeback.
The Timing of Double Legendaries
Internally, when BDGG heard that 2 weeks into the tier we'd all be receiving double legendaries, the immediate reaction was "Great, this tier has a hard cap of 2 weeks and then it's automatically cleared". We, and most of the RWF, assumed that Blizzard's intention was to balance the raid with 1 legendary, and let double legendary act as a soft-nerf to the raid instance.
We were wrong.
It was clear early on that the tier was designed not just around 4 piece, but double legendary as well. It seems that Blizzard really set out to make the most difficult raid they could muster. Mission succeeded in that regard. We'll go over raid length in another article, but suffice it to say that raiders want a less than 2 week tier.
Honorax - Hunter
I think the idea of having double legendaries kick in after the tier ended was a great idea in theory. Most tiers in recent memory have had soft nerfs that make them easier over time without requiring direct boss nerfs -- things like Shards of Domination, or new Soulbind traits, etc.
So in hindsight, what's the obvious solution?
Earth - DK
Double legendary should've been available from the start of the tier, so that Blizzard could do 1 set of balancing and have it be valid for the entire patch, rather than having to balance for either pre or post 2x legendary and having one of those be very imbalanced.
This seems to make the most sense. The raid in it's released state seems like it would have been a pretty solid ~10 day tier if we started with double legendary. Lesson learned.
Blizzard has already announced some big experiments for loot in the remainder of shadowlands. They've also made a nod towards masterloot, or some version of it, being reconsidered. Regardless of what happens, the idea of a more deterministic loot system seems to appeal to most of the high end community. There is a lot of places that Blizzard could go with this.
One could argue that loot RNG is fundamental to both an RPG and MMO, but we've seen how much players can suffer with some bad luck.
We've also seen guilds take splits up a notch continually, and it seems like solutions to this would require fundamental changes to WoW's loot systems:
Honorax - Hunter
If I can be selfish for a moment, I'd love to see Blizzard do something further to mitigate the importance of heroic splits and tier funneling. It's self-inflicted, but it's something we need to do to remain competitive, and part of game design is saving the players from themselves.
Let's briefly touch on Blizzard's next experiment: Dinar Coins allow a player to purchase up to 3 items from the raid from the coin's respective difficulty. I think Dorovon had a really good piece of feedback here, which would help solve any fringe cases or players feeling they need to horde their Dinar currency.
Dorovon - Mage
Personally, I would probably prefer if the Puzzling Cartel Dinars were not a limited form of currency, but that you could never have a full set of gear using these coins through a unique-equipped system. By making the currency limited, I think there will be some frustration from players where they purchase something like a weapon and then get a weapon from their Great Vault the following week.
Lozy - Tank
It puts more respect on player's time by putting the choice in their hands, and gives players a chance to "activate" their classes earlier by getting that one large piece (examples here being sylv daggers, jaithys, jailer mace, basically and weapon/trinket that gives a substantial amount of power). I think I would argue that only 3 pieces for an entire season is too few.
This topic could fill several posts, not to mention a podcast or two. Hopefully blizzard continues to take periods of downtime as an opportunity to experiment with new systems and collect player's feedback. I know BDGG is looking forward to the changes that are coming for 10.0 and beyond.
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