Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Nature of Raiding in Wrath: Gear Resets

When patch 3.2 was released, it included one line that created a maelstrom of rage and frustration from a lot of people.

All instances aside from Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Grand Crusader
will now drop conquest badges.
And the waves of QQ were unleashed. Combined with the daily dungeon quest now awarding two emblems of triumph, and full sets of baseline T9 available with those triumph badges the perception of welfare loot came straight to the forefront of the community consciousness. This was repeated with the release of patch 3.3, when all instances, save ICC, now drop triumph badges. The reality of the situation was that people could now gain raid quality gear without actually having to raid.

The assumption that people came to was that noobs were facerolling their way through heroics, and walking out with full T9/T10 a week later, while we raiders labored for weeks to get our loot from our kills. But the reality of the situation was this. In order to get full baseline T9 in patch 3.2 from heroics, one had to run the daily dungeon every day for 105 days, or over 4 months. In that time frame, a basic raider who simply ran ToC 10 for a full clear each week would earn 255 badges. Throw in ToC 25, and the ToGCs, and a raider in a good guild was pretty much drowning in emblems, not to mention the actual drops from the instance. But people didn't see that, all they saw was Blizzard giving out signature raid gear in 5 man instances. They didn't see what the idea truly was, a gear reset.

The first gear reset players saw was at the start of BC. This was a gear reset at it's most literal. People traded in epics for greens, and the greens were better. In Burning Crusade, blizzard implemented the Badge system to allow for normalized loot distribution, correcting a significant issue with the vanilla loot model. They toyed with it a bit by releasing BT level badge gear with patch 2.4. The gear was high quality, however, it was only a few select pieces. Nevertheless, it had people dragging their asses through Karazahn for its 22 badges, just to patch the last few holes in their BT or even Sunwell gear sets.

The release of Wrath saw another hard gear reset, and the advent of a new badge system. This one was tiered, with Emblems of Heroism dropping in 5 and 10 mans, and Emblems of Valor dropping in 25 mans. This was well and good, and worked well with the then current content. Then Ulduar was released, and with it, another tier of badges, Emblems of Conquest. Now there were three tiers of badges, and people asked the question of just how far was blizzard going to go with the badge system. Patches 3.2 and 3.3 saw the release of emblems of triumph and frost, respectively, and solidified Blizzard's stance on the matter.

Heroic content will remain one tier behind raid level content. People can obtain a complete set of gear equivalent to the previous tier's ten man level through grinding heroics. The only exception is a weapon, and those can be found in the current tier's new 5 man. The Ulduar 5 man Halls of Lightning dropped the only naxx 10 equivalent 2H axe. The ToC 5 man, Trial of the Champion, dropped an uld 10 equivalent 2H axe. The ICC 5 man instance, Pit of Saron, dropped a ToC 10 equivalent 2H axe. So, by grinding heroics, and running the current teir 5 mans religiously, a player could become raid capable for the current tier without actually needing to go through the trouble of raiding previous content.

This is actually a godsend for raiding guilds. Turnover is a fact of life for raiding guilds. Every time a raider leaves, they take their character, and their gear with them, and the odds of finding an equivalently geared player in previous expansions was just about nil. Back in Vanilla, losing a couple of raiders could completely shatter a guild in AQ40, because the pool of raiders available with the requisite gear level to actually compete in AQ40 was non existent. So, instead of the guild wasting time running defunct instances to grind up gear for the new recruit, a player who is serious about entering the raiding business can work for his gear on his own. This will both show his commitment to putting in the work needed to compete, but it also spares the guild a massive time suck.

The current tier's emblems drop two a day from a daily quest. This is deliberate. This is not so that casual non raiders can obtain cutting edge raid gear. No, those emblems are there to inflate the pool of capable players running heroics. This is particularly important with regards to the new LFG tool, where being paired up randomly has the potential to put together some really poorly geared groups. But by enticing progression raiders to queue up for a heroic a day, then it becomes simple to each group has at least on well geared player, be it a tank who simply doesn't take damage in heroics, a healer who can heal someone to full with a single flash heal, or a DPSer who evaporates mobs at a disturbing rate. This ensures a relatively stable flow of badges to the people who need them.

This system works. I now have two level capped alts with less than 10 days played on either of them, yet both of them can, and have stepped into ICC 10 runs for my guildies when needed, and made a respectable showing. This was unthinkable in Vanilla, and a huge amount of effort in BC, but in Wrath, every level capped toon is now capable of being a competent raider. It makes recruiting easier, and as bleeding edge guilds have shown, it helps cut around the mistakes Blizzard made in implementing limited attempts on content. It also allows guilds the freedom to focus on the instance that they want to run, rather than having to farm old content on guild time. This was an incredibly smart move on Blizzard's part.


  1. It always made me laugh how the bads would consistently complain that social or new players can get current-tier items without raiding. They act like it's a kind of badge of honor to have epic gear like it was in Vanilla. The thing is, those complaining probably weren't the ones that had it back then, anyway.

    The bottom line, is it's good for recruiting guilds. A new player who may be good at other games or mmo's getting recruited by a raiding guild is someone who can learn fast. Granted, there will be plenty of new bads with good gear, but that's what scrutinizing apps and focused ventrilo interviews are for.

    If one encounters "badge whiners", as I like to call them, tell them if they want a badge of honor like back in Vanilla, they should go get the Invincible mount. QQ

  2. I like the system too, and it means my druid could possibly raid one day before Cataclysm.