Jdotb BFA Q&A #12 - Shadowmeld, Season 2 Item Level Increase, Blacklisting Dungeons
In this week’s Jdotb Q&A, he goes over his thoughts on Shadowmeld and faction balance, the Season 2 Item level increase and the possibility of Blacklisting dungeons.
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Check out our previous BFA Q&As with Jdotb!
Part 1: Pre-Season 1 Preparations
Part 2: Learning Skips, Personal Loot
Part 3: Azerite Traits, King's Rest Advice
Part 4: Azerite Armor, Infested and Teeming
Part 5: DPS Roles
Part 6: Tank Meta, Arcane Torrent
Part 7: Mythic+ Currency System, Class Buffs
Part 8: MDI All Stars
Part 9: Mythic+ Healer Balance, Regional Class Preference
Part 10: Explosive, Underrot, Tol Dagor Changes
Part 11: Reaping, Grievous, Boss Difficulty
Part 12: Shadowmeld, Season 2 Item Levels
Part 13: 8.1 Thoughts and Role Rankings
Part 14: 8.1 Dungeon Changes, Keystone Deletion
Part 15: Remaining Issues in Mythic+
Want to ask Jdotb a question? Leave a comment below and we'll pick some questions for Jdotb to answer in the next Q&A!
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Jdotb Q&A #12
Why is there still so much faction imbalance in Mythic+ community when Shadowmeld is so overpowered? Only 3 spots in the Top 100 All Runs Leaderboard are Alliance.
The short answer is that M+ isn’t yet a significant enough force in WoW to cause the kind of mass faction transfers we’ve seen in the past. Raiding and arena are still the kings of end game content, and you won’t see players faction transfer solely for M+ until it becomes a more legitimate format. So what makes raiding and arena special?
For starters, the ilvl disparity. Regardless of whether you enjoy raiding more than M+, the simple fact at the moment is that raiding is a superior source of base gear. Once your guild has Uldir on farm, you can log into the game for a few hours a week and grab one or two 385 pieces. The weekly cache for M+ maxes out at 380, and the base loot from chests in the dungeons themselves caps at 370. In terms of gear per hour invested, raiding remains a much better source of loot than M+. And being able to trade loot is a really big deal as well. I rolled a Mistweaver last weekend (yay Anniversary Event XP buffs) and was 368 ilvl within a couple days because I did a viewer raid of heroic Uldir on Monday and then another after the Tuesday reset. How much loot dropped for me? Probably three pieces. How much loot was traded to me? I had 370+ in every slot except one trinket. The two raids probably took a combined four hours, and half of that was us stubbornly banging our head on G’huun when realistically his loot table is garbage and not worth it. We’ve all seen some lucky bum grab a 390 out of the one +5 Underrot he did for the week, but realistically getting 385+ ilvl from M+ requires grinding for dozens or hundreds of hours in game.
Raiding also drives faction choice because of the logistical nightmare of fielding 20+ players. Putting together a M+ group is relatively convenient with only needing to find four other people, but raid groups are so big that they require scheduling and recruitment. And most of the top guilds have alt requirements, which means you’ve probably got a few characters that all need to be the same faction. And raids require you to all be on the same server (at least for mythic progression) as opposed to M+ which has no such requirements. So you typically have to invest rather heavily into a guild (doubly so if it’s a high end progression guild) which makes whimsical faction transfers difficult.
Arena dictates faction choice because you can essentially ignore PvE and still get great gear from arena. Like raiding, arena offers 385 ilvl from its weekly caches, and the gear you get from matches themselves allows you to farm it like you would M+. So the PvP community is free to choose whatever faction it wants independent of PvE.
And racials only matter so much in M+. Shadowmeld is great, to the point that you describe it as “overpowered”. That’s debatable, but what’s even more overpowered than Shadowmeld is BiS gear. Every top group would trade every racial they had for 5 more ilvl, and raiding can get you those BiS pieces. If you look at the top of the M+ leaderboards, you will find significant overlap with the top of the Highest Item Level leaderboards. Gear makes dungeons go much faster than racials ever will, and right now you have to be Horde to get the best gear.
Raiding is still the primary PvE end game content, despite the surge in popularity that M+ has seen, and unless M+ loot is put on more even footing with raid loot, racials (as they currently exist, RIP Legion Arcane Torrent) will never be important enough to cause faction transfers.
The 8.1 Tides of Vengeance patch includes a bump in item level rewards: 30 levels between the first two tiers. While bumps like this may seem “great” to casual players looking to catch up fast, in reality doesn’t it just invalidate 4 months of grind for everyone else?
It absolutely invalidates the last four months of grinding, and that’s exactly the way Blizzard wants it. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. With a 30 ilvl bump from Uldir to Battle for Dazar’Alor, you essentially get a reset on each of your geared characters because 30 ilvls is a massive amount of character power. So let’s examine why this is actually a good thing.
The ilvl bump gives people a reason to get excited again. Nothing in WoW is more intoxicating than the early stages of a freshly rolled character where every piece of loot you get is an upgrade and every fifth world quest you complete gives you a new Heart of Azeroth level. Character progression feels good. For as much as people complain about power creep and how wildly more effective their characters are at the end of an expansion than at the beginning, the reality is that people would probably get bored in a world where every raid offered marginal improvement over the previous tier. People that sim their characters would get excited about 3% more haste or crit, but the actual in-game effect of those secondaries would be hard to notice. Your spells wouldn’t feel much different. In order to impress the average casual WoW gamer, you’re going to need to crank those secondaries hard. And the only way to do that is to inflate ilvls heavily from tier to tier.
It’s also important to give an opportunity to players that are coming back from a break or joining late in BFA to catch up to players that have been playing since launch. If you grinded world quests hard for a couple months when BFA released, it shouldn’t give you a leg up for the next two years. And the ilvl jump allows for alts and rerolls to be a legitimate option instead of wishful thinking. The Mistweaver I rolled would take months to catch up to my druid right now, but when 8.1.5 hits and ilvls shoot up, I’ll be able to bridge that ilvl gap quickly and have a realistic chance of main swapping if I want to. The meta constantly shifts in WoW, and so too must class choice. People need the ability to move between classes fluidly throughout an expansion and not feel like they’re handcuffed to the class they picked at launch.
This also ties back into titanforging in the sense that I think a lot of players want to be able to feel “done” with their characters, and things like titanforging and big ilvl jumps from tier to tier prevent characters from ever truly feeling complete. I’m sure this grates on some folks, especially those that want to treat WoW as a cyclical game that they pop into for a few months as content is released and then take a vacation from for a few months when farm hits. And I think that is Blizzard’s intent -- create systems that make each day you log in have the potential to meaningfully impact your character. When there was no titanforging, you could realistically achieve best-in-slot status and have literally no more upgrades on your character. That has to dramatically lower your incentive to engage with content. The solution is to make best-in-slot virtually unachievable, and that’s going to rub a lot of people the wrong way.
So while I understand the frustration, I also think that development choices like these are intentional and here to stay.
What do you think about being able to blacklist dungeons in M+ to avoid getting keys you’ll never run?
Everyone has at least one dungeon (and more likely a few) that they hate to get, either because the dungeon is too hard or drops bad loot or maybe is just annoying. Should people be allowed to target keys by blacklisting? I’m not sure I have a strong opinion either way. And I’m not sure it really matters now that you’re able to delete your key.
For those unaware, a new mechanic has been introduced in BFA (though it’s still unclear how “official” the change is intended to be) that allows you to delete your keystone and, upon completion of your next key, receive a new random key that is one level below whatever dungeon you just finished. So if you delete your key and run a +15 (regardless of whether you time it or not, just so long as you finish) you will receive a +14 key of a random dungeon in the dungeon chest. I believe this change was originally intended as a short term fix for the snafu at the beginning of BFA where people were pulling keys the first week of BFA M+ that were based on the last key run in Legion, i.e., people were getting keys in the +20-30 range. I think Blizzard enabled key deletion as a temporary reprieve, but it hasn’t yet been removed, nor has there been any indication given that it likely will be. But to my knowledge the change was also never included in any patch notes or communications from Blizzard, so it’s just kind of out there in limbo for the time being.
And so long as you’re able to delete your key, your group will always have the option to dump the keys they don’t want and only play the keys they like. This is a massive improvement from Legion, where “dead” keys started piling up towards the end of the week. By Sunday or Monday you could reasonably expect at least three or four Seats when your group linked their keys. Now you at least have the option to sacrifice a level on your key and get a new one.
Should the key deletion (or some similar blacklist-esque) option exist? I think so. The community is in agreement that some keys are harder than others, some probably unreasonably so (looking at you, King’s Rest), and I think even Blizzard would agree with that in a general sense. It’s tough to balance dungeons so that they all feel equally difficult, and I’m sure Blizzard is trying, but allowing players to opt out of the rough dungeons is a workaround that prevents resentment from breeding in players being forced to run dungeons they feel are unfairly difficult. Dungeon balance may not be perfect, but key deletion blunts the effects of the imbalances.
Key deletion also serves as a useful metric for Blizz. When players are allowed to ditch the keys they don’t want and run the ones they do want, Blizzard will probably notice that Atal’Dazar accounts for (I’m making this up) 20% of the M+ keys run while King’s Rest sits at 5%. That should help illuminate perceived issues with the dungeons and hopefully give Blizzard an idea of which dungeons need attention.
I think the new key system is working great, and I think it helps Blizzard identify trends that they maybe couldn’t in Legion.
Comments on Week of December 4 Affixes
The affixes this week will be Tyrannical, Skittish, Bursting and Infested.
Dungeons Most Affected by Tyrannical
Temple of Sethraliss - Aspix and Adderis will be rough. Aspix’s Static Shock will drop the entire party’s health fairly low on Tyrannical weeks, and Conduction is going to leave someone at low health right before Static Shock goes off. Galvazzt will ramp in difficulty the longer the fight goes on, and if his Consume Charge goes off it will probably kill at least a few people. Avatar of Sethraliss is already a marathon fight, and now Pulse will squeeze healer mana that much more.
Freehold - The Azerite Powdershot from Skycap’n will deal mega damage on Tyrannical, so make sure everyone is topped off before he casts it. Council of Captains has three bosses, one of which will be friendly depending on the week (it rotates each week). If Eudora is one of the two enemy bosses, this fight becomes very dangerous. Eudora’s Grapeshot will heavily punish bad positioning, and the RNG nature of Powdershot means it will inevitably pick the same person two or three times in a row and kill them if they aren’t healed up very quickly. Shark Puncher’s sharks start dealing ridiculous damage on higher keys, and standing next to them for one or two ticks will get you killed. Once both sharks are out, you need to be very diligent about kiting them.
Waycrest Manor - The Triad gets infinitely more dangerous when it’s allowed to use its abilities multiple times, which is almost assured on Tyrannical. Immunities will be a big help on this boss. Goliath will hit the tank extremely hard, and resetting your stacks will do quite a bit of group damage. Lord and Lady Waycrest will also rough up the tank, and Lady Waycrest’s Wracking Chord will do an annoying amount of party damage. Gorak Tul’s adds start to become an issue the longer he lives, so your party will need to stay on top of using the Alchemical Fires at appropriate times throughout the fight.
Dungeons Most Affected by Skittish
As a general note, there really aren’t dungeons that are terrifically affected by Skittish. Every DPS just needs to wait a second or two longer on Skittish weeks before popping cooldowns, and rogues and hunters can be extra helpful this week with frequent Tricks of the Trade and Misdirects.
Shrine of the Storms - There are a lot of big pulls in this dungeons, so just make sure that your tank has all the mobs grouped up before you start hammering away. Tidesage Council will require the tank to kite a bit and has two targets, so watch your threat on this fight as the tank may not have been generating aggro evenly on both bosses.
Siege of Boralus - Another dungeon with lots of small mobs that can be hard to cluster. Siege also has a couple of bosses with adds. Pay attention to threat on Bainbridge as he will periodically summon new adds with a fresh threat table. Give the tank a moment or two to grab the adds on Lockwood when she jumps up to the ship.
Dungeons Most Affected by Bursting
Shrine of the Storms - Shrine has many pulls that include lots of low-health trash mobs that will quickly stack up Bursting. Watch out for the Tidesage Initiates and Animated Droplet pulls at the start of the dungeon and before the Tidesage Council fight. Also be careful pulling the Abyssal Eels before Vol’zith.
Tol Dagor - Lots of groups like to do big pulls at the start of Tol Dagor and round up all the trash before the first boss -- this will obviously be very dangerous on Bursting week. At least the respawn point is only a few yards away. Stinging Parasites after the first boss will leave a DoT on players in melee which, when combined with Bursting, can easily kill someone without defensives. The pulls within the prison itself aren’t necessarily big, but there are a lot of neutral mobs that can be accidentally pulled and unintentionally add to Bursting stacks.
Siege of Boralus - The Kul Tiran Footmen and Gutters sprinkled throughout the dungeon tend to come in large clusters and have low health, so you’ll need to pay attention to them and not carelessly pull them with other packs. You’ll also want to watch the ground closely while pulling Bilge Rat Buccaneers as the bananas they place on the ground will stun you which can easily lead to a death if Bursting is rolling simultaneously.
Dungeons Most Affected by This Week’s Affixes
Shrine of the Storms - Shrine has a ton of small mobs, from Initiates to Dredged Sailors to Abyssal Eels. Not only will this provide a lot of opportunities for DPS to accidentally rip threat from the tank, it also means that Bursting can get out of control very quickly. The bosses in Shrine aren’t cakewalks either and tend toward the long-ish side, so Tyrannical will slow this dungeon down this week.
Siege of Boralus - The Footmen and Gutters abound at the start of Siege, so care needs to be taken (especially if a Spotter explodes all of them simultaneously) with respect to Bursting. Bainbridge and Lockwood aren’t particularly threatening bosses, but their adds might catch someone off guard this week with Skittish. Hadal and Viq’Goth will hurt on Tyrannical.
Temple of Sethraliss - Honestly this is just a Tyrannical thing. Skittish and Bursting aren’t going to do much extra in this dungeon, but Temple is always guaranteed to thump you on Tyrannical. Galvazzt was nerfed recently but still hurts quite a bit, and Avatar is one of the longest fights in M+ so the added HP from Tyrannical makes this feel less like a dungeon boss and more like a raid boss.
Dungeons Least Affected by This Week’s Affixes
Atal’Dazar - Another week, another appearance of Atal’Dazar on “Least Affected”. This dungeon is essentially immune to affixes. None of the packs are huge so Bursting isn’t a big deal, and Atal features some of the easiest bosses in the game so Tyrannical isn’t scary.
Motherlode - The trash pulls are big in Motherlode, but the mob health tends to be all over the place so you’ll probably be staggering kills enough to keep Bursting from overwhelming you. Half the mobs in here cast stuff randomly at non-tanks naturally so Skittish won’t even be that different from normal. The bosses aren’t bad enough to punish you on Tyrannical.
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