Yesterday, GameInformer released a summary of their Blizzcon interview with game director Ion Hazzikostas. While the article is rather scant on specific detail (I would imagine the full transcript of that interview will become available later), the main piece of news coming from the interview is that the traditional system of Raid Tier Sets is going away in Battle for Azeroth. The article then speculated that the new Azerite system might take it’s place, allowing players far more flexibility in both abilities modified and pieces of gear equipped.
The information about this thus far is really, really lacking (the article was only about three paragraphs afterall), but I have to say, I’m definitely intrigued to see how this change would pan out. Juggling tier and better loot has always been the bane of my existence, a situation that has only gotten worse in Legion. It’s a little soulcrushing to get brand new loot that would be good if it weren’t in a tier or legendary slot. I’m glad to see that Blizzard is awknowleding this problem and working to solve it. However, I think this plan, for what we know right now, has potential goods, bads, and just plain unknowns.
Like I mentioned before, removing the requirement to wear certain pieces of gear to maintain a four set bonus gives the players a lot more choice in what they equip. Especially now in the world of Metzenforging (as my guild lovingly calls it), massive upgrades often have to be shelved because they do not proc in one of the ‘Free Spaces’ that is our Bingo board of gear.
For myself personally, I’ve had the same Normal Warforged Tier shoulders on since I got them one of the first nights of Tomb of Sargeras, despite having several sets of shoulders that are significantly better stat wise, in order to maintain my four set. That’s incredibly frustrating. The RNG nature of gearing can already be very irksome, so that added disappointment of not being able to use upgrades is just insult to injury. If I get an ilvl 945 chest piece with enough critical strike to fill an ocean, I want to be able to use it, darn it!
Faster Gearing Up Process! (potentially)
As it currently stands right now, raiders are locked behind a time gate in regards to tier. There are a set number of bosses that drop tier, and those bosses drop a set number of tier tokens (depending on your group size) each week. Those tokens can then either proc Protector, Vanquisher, or Conqueror, locking that item to specific classes. Perhaps one week you get lucky, and the boss drops one of each type of armor. But perhaps you get unlucky, and every token is a Vanquisher helm. And we haven’t even touched on group composition yet; suppose your raid has a ton of people on the Protector token and very little on the Conqueror token. Your paladin tank will get their four piece almost right away, but your hunters and warriors are straight out of luck with so many people rolling on, comparatively, so few pieces.
For many classes, because of the necessity of the four piece bonus, certain tier pieces are their Best in Slots. Players will keep from rolling on other, non-tier pieces in tier slots because they are holding out for that tier drop. But because so many classes overlap on the same token, your Best in Slot chest comes from the same token that five other people do, even if folks are different armor classes or spec priorities. That’s a lot of artificially created competition in an arena that, I’d argue, already has plenty. Chasing after those tier bonuses adds weeks to the gearing up process.
However, if I’m interpreting the article correctly, it sounds as if Tier Tokens might be done away with entirely (since there would no longer be any slots for raid sets). If that is the case, then raiders will no longer have to wait for weeks to get those bonuses. Gearing up would increase exponentially, since an entire extra layer of RNG would be removed. Absolutely, there would still be the RNG-laden hunt for BiSs, but players would be competing with a much narrower pool of competition. The number of potential upgrades would jump from just a few non-tier slot to practically every single one. Even as someone on the often underrepresented Conqueror token, I would have to say that this is a very, very positive change.
The Future of Class Raid Appearance Sets Unclear
The article was particularly vague on this topic (and I could have completely misconstrued it), but from what it sounds like, with the move away from tier set bonuses, Blizzard was also going to be moving away from tier set appearances. Potentially. According to Hazzikostas, “the gear will be more heavily themed from the place it comes […] there’s more customization we want to express through the new Azerite system”, which could mean any number of things. Will there still be class appearance sets, but upgrading a specific slot will augment the look and make it cooler? Will they move away from class-inspired sets to a couple of more general raid appearances? And how will transmog for all of this work?
You guys can read the original quote for yourself in the article, but the impression I’m getting is definitely a lot of column B. And I have to say, I’m a bit sad about that. While some sets are definitely more appealing than others, I’ve always loved the look of one unified look for each class per raid tier. There’s an excitement in the initial reveal. And the class fantasy is pretty great (especially for paladin that headcanon’s a very traditional paladin persona). This is absolutely not the worst thing in the world, but if class appearances sets truly are pulled, I will be saddened.
Honestly, for everything that I’ve talked about thus far, the singular unifying idea right now is that there’s just so little information. Without the full transcript of the interview, we can’t get a solid glimpse at what Hazzikostas was describing. It might turn out that all of the ideas I proposed are moot point in just a couple months (although, it’s always fun to speculate now!). Here are some of my biggest questions regarding the switch that I just couldn’t comment on without more information.
⦁ Will the Azerite system act as a replacement with more options?
⦁ Will every piece of Azerite gear in the same slot have the same ‘talents’, or will it vary by piece?
⦁ If the latter, how many different talent options would there be?
⦁ Will talents be changeable?
⦁ Speaking of the Azerite system, how exactly does that thing work?
⦁ Are you planning on adding set bonuses to specific pieces of gear (i.e. a matching ring and cloak would unlock a small bonus)?
⦁ Any retroactive changes to older tier?
⦁ …And a whole lot more.
I’m hoping more information about this will be available soon since this is potentially one of the bigger shake-ups for the raiding scene that Blizzard has implemented. And hey, if I no longer have to scare people off my tier token, I’m down for that!