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When Everyone’s Legendary …

February 24, 2013
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… no one will be?

It’s hard to know exactly just how many Legendaries we will end up with by the end of the Mists expansion, since there is still plenty we don’t know yet about Wrathion’s questline and where it will take us beyond the 5.2 patch.  Regardless of what’s to come, we can certainly say that the procedure for acquiring Legendary items up to this point has been much more inclusive than we have ever seen before, and I’m not entirely convinced that’s a good thing.  Regular readers have probably gathered that inclusiveness in WoW is an extremely important issue to me, and it’s very rare that I would argue against making more content accessible to more people.  But the Mists legendary questline so far (that being the caveat throughout this post) has me questioning at what point, if any, it’s Ok to draw the line and say, “Nope.  This isn’t for everyone.  This is for the dedicated few.”

An Extremely Abbreviated History of WoW Legendaries

Prior to the current expansion, Legendary weapons were basically acquired in one of two ways.  The Vanilla model, which returned in a somewhat similar form during Wrath and Cataclysm, included a very long and generally extremely demanding questline that might involve rare drops, boss kills, and rare crafting materials and/or patterns.  The infamous Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker followed this model as did Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian.

Burning Crusade Legendaries the Twin Blades of Azzinoth and Thori’dal, the Stars’ Fury were on the loot tables of Illidan and Kil’jaeden, respectively, and were extremely rare drops.

Wrath of the Lich King built upon Vanilla’s foundation of epic questlines, particularly with the Shadowmourne story. Wrath’s Legendary questlines began to find a way to work a weapon and a story into the existing lore of the expansion or the raid tier, which made for an incredibly immersive and unique experience.  Cataclysm followed this same model, though the process and accessibility of the items needed to assemble the weapons changed somewhat, and Legendaries could first be completed entirely within 10-person raids.

Legendaries as Reward for Exceptional Raiders

Personally, between the BC model of rare drop Legendaries and the Vanilla/Wrath/Cata model of long questlines, I much prefer the latter.  A rare drop Legendary meant that it might never be seen by a raid team during an entire expansion, even if they were able to down the required boss every week (which many weren’t).  It also meant that someone who had saved up the largest chunk of DKP, or the person who had lucky dice that night could be the proud wielder of a Legendary weapon simply by default.  The questline model allowed a raid team to choose someone who would work toward the acquisition of a Legendary, perhaps for the duration of a raiding tier.  And this, for me, is the biggest flaw of the new system.

I suppose I might be a bit overly positive about using Legendaries in this way, but it fits with my perception of how we have handled the question of Legendaries in my guild since the Wrath expansion.  When a new Legendary is announced, the guild leadership comes to a decision – which is often pretty self-evident - about who should get to do the work for that Legendary.  (Or, depending upon our success in any given tier, who should get to do the work first.)  In general, the leadership has picked someone who exemplifies our guild ideals, who knows a lot about their class and will put the weapon to good use, and who we know is going to be around from the beginning of the tier until the end.  The person picked is not, by default, the raider with the highest healing or DPS numbers, though that may happen to be the case.

While choosing a Legendary recipient has been a relatively low-drama process in my guild, we have certainly had some folks who didn’t like the way we do things over the years, and it is very easy for me to imagine that this could be a highly divisive decision in guilds that have a different climate than mine.  Loot distribution is already a sticky enough topic for many raid teams, and when we’re talking about loot that will be best in slot for perhaps two full tiers there is obviously a lot at stake.  Regardless of how this decision was made, the Legendary system in Wrath and Cata was something that necessitated a group effort.  Though some steps of the questline might require you to complete them alone (particularly for Dragonwrath or Fangs of the Father), the bulk of the work was still done with your raid group.

The Wrathion Legendary questline in Mists has completely shifted the focus to individual effort.  Thus far, Wrathion has required us to develop our reputation with him by defeating specific mobs (mobs which, conveniently, we kill while we are working on our daily quests), by gathering sigils that drop from bosses in any raid difficulty including LFR, and by killing the Sha of Fear on any difficulty.  More recently, Wrathion has asked us to step into the new Mists PvP battlegrounds, and to kill an elite boss tied to our opposing faction who requires a “team” to defeat.  (“Team” being rather subjective in this case.  You can kill this guy with a team of 3-5 if you have some time to waste.)

Here’s the problem for me – every single step in our Legendary questline is either (a) something we have to do anyway or (b) something we can accomplish by queuing for a group and letting the system handle the rest of the work.  Grinding out reputation with the Black Prince basically means doing the Golden Lotus and Shieldwall/Dominance Offensive dailies that we are already doing.  Getting the Sigils and Chimera of Fear means queuing for LFR each week, and/or getting additional Sigils on Normal or Heroic difficulty.  Winning a match in each of the new battlegrounds is a matter of using the PvP tool to queue and hoping for a decent group.  The only bit of this questline that requires us to actively seek out other players to help us is the “Change of Command” quest.

Somewhere along the way, the Legendary questline lost its ability to make us feel epic together.

Yes, a Legendary weapon is essentially about making one person, one raider, stronger and better at what she does.  But behind that idea used to be a dedicated raid team or guild who were just as excited for that raider to reach her goal as she was.  When she had to stand in the breath attacks for her frost infusion, and then immediately took an unhealable cleave and died, they were absolutely willing to wipe so that she could try again.  They were willing to continue to go back to Ulduar week after week and wipe repeatedly on Yogg - even two patches later – to get their holy paladin his Val’anyr.

Legendaries as an Item to Check Off

Worse still, it seems that the Wrathion questline has made what should be a once-in-a-WoW-lifetime epic experience into just another grind that we need to do if we want to maximize our gear.  Setting aside the idea of whether we are “required” to do anything to be raid-ready, let’s agree that, for people who prefer to gear themselves as well as they can, players will generally do as much as they can to improve their gear.  That means we do dailies, we grind Valor, and – now – it means that we do the Legendary questline.  I realize I will have a different view of this than someone from a guild that was able to churn out multiple Legendaries during Wrath and Cata, but Legendaries strike me as something that should never simply be an item to check off our gearing list.  I should never be able to dump the words “Legendary questline” into a sentence with “grinding Valor” and “doing dailies” without you all yelling at me that one of these things is not like the others.

Obviously I’m reserving final judgment until we see the resolution of Wrathion’s questline at (presumably) the end of the Mists expansion.  While there’s a lot I don’t like about this new Legendary system, I can say that I really appreciate the flexibility it gives.  I like that we don’t have half the guild deciding they want to play rogues for a tier because they know their DPS will shoot up if they get a pair of the daggers.  I like that we aren’t limited to only one class or a few specs who are able to use the Legendary items.  On the other hand, I absolutely love the lore and the thought that goes into a class-specific Legendary, and I’m still crossing my fingers that somebody at Blizzard will make my Legendary druid dreams come true one day.  In the meantime, I appreciate that the Wrathion quest makes it possible for us to reward absolutely any of our raiders with a powerful piece of gear – I just wish that it really still was that system of a group rallying around a player, rather than a player doing a bunch of grindy work by herself.

What do you think of Wrathion’s Legendary questline so far?  Do you enjoy the inclusiveness of the Sha-touched weapons?  How did your raid team handle the distribution of Legendaries in past content?  Do you miss that system, or were you ready to embrace something new?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2013 9:06 am

    I felt the same way at the beginning, when they announced that *everyone* could get this Legendary. My first thought was “But not in LFR, Right?” I wanted to be forced to band together with my raid team to get some butt kicking done, instead? Most, if not all of my items up to this point have come from Raid Finder.
    Though we’re now on this path where everyone could get their Sha Touched Weapon, with the Sha Gem and an extra socket, I still have a few guildies who have the gem and socket, but no Weapon, Not even a Raid Finder level one. It’s very Chance-y (especially since our guild hasn’t finished the Tier in normal mode yet). We have a warlock who runs LFR Terrace 3 times every week (dumping all his coins) and Tsulong has still not dropped the weapon for him. At times it’s very frustrating the amount of RNG/luck/chance/whatever goes into this, instead of “You know you’ll get x amount of whatever from this boss”

    • February 24, 2013 5:45 pm

      Yeah, that’s a great point. There’s so much frustration among a few members of our raid team who’ve gone all the way through as much as they can on the questline so far, but can’t do anything with the rewards because they have yet to get a Sha-touched weapon. We’re clearing the tier weekly now, and everyone who needs a weapon is running the LFR they need each week, too – but RNG is RNG is RNG.

      Obviously there was a random element to some aspects of the Wrath and Cata Legendary questlines. You weren’t guaranteed drops of pretty much any of the components you needed to assemble the weapon, but the weapon itself was guaranteed once you got to the end (and, with Shadowmourne and all the Legendaries that followed it, you also got “starter” weapons as you progressed). Having the weapon *itself* be the random drop, and the Legendary gems unusable until you have one is kind of brutal. It means that these Legendary-modified weapons are a bit less common than they might be, but this doesn’t really strike me as rarity in the right way, you know?

  2. February 26, 2013 1:21 am

    An excellent post Tzufit! I agree that the whole everyone can get a legendary cheapens the whole legendary thing. I too like people to feel included in SOMETHING, but somehow an item that is legendary that you acquire from doing things TOGETHER with other people but can be a random set of other people doesn’t sit nicely with me. And it’s not because I am being elitist or anything. Say, if you wanted to get a legendary from some other means, if you are going to do it solo, make it something that you solo. So you can have the sense of achievement from doing it all by yourself. Things like pet battles, archaeology are things you can solo and perhaps do a lot of work to work towards your legendary. I really enjoyed the team effort of Val’anyr, Shadowmourne, Tarecgosa and Fangs, it was fun to do as a group. But I DO see Blizz’s point of view, alienating the solo casuals from the elite weapon legendaries… but it doesn’t mean I like it.

    Oh this reply is making no sense! I might have to write a proper post about it in response :)

    • February 26, 2013 4:15 pm

      Thanks Navi! :D Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on the topic.

  3. February 26, 2013 9:41 pm

    Tzufit, I totally understand this position. My bread and butter is getting to authentic self-esteem (whatever the heck that means) but I have to say– for many reasons – I am thrilled this is available. One key subtext of your post is you have raid members who work well together – I am beginning to think this is the exception rather than the rule. This is one change where I see Blizzard finally gets that their player base is getting older (read: more real life responsibilities) and can’t or don’t want to deal with a sometimes dysfunctional raiding/guild climate. I know my dear friend Navi thinks it ‘cheapens” the experience, but I can’t agree, or be made to feel less worthy because I enjoy a game and questing that will eventually lead me to the end of my own narrative/journey of the hero in a fantasy game, a game where I pay the same dues, both with time, money, virtual blood and tears, as everyone else. The real difference between the villain in your clip is he chooses to use his great powers for evil. Me getting a legendary weapon will not be used in this way. :) Well, maybe.

  4. February 27, 2013 10:05 am

    I agree that if everyone gets a legendary that it will not feel at all legendary.

    At this point I’m not even sure where they’re going with this whole process though. From a story perspective, I’ve really liked the Wrathion questline. I don’t really think of it as steps towards building a legendary (since we know that in 5.2 we’ll be ditching those Sha-touched weapons), more of a cool line of quests with some nifty rewards.

    Do we know for sure that everyone will be capable of getting a legendary weapon? A whole raid of legendaries seems pretty silly.

    As a new GM, when I first heard about the Legendary process (where I was under the impression that only 1 or 2 would actually be able to build one, but there would be 0 class restrictions) I was a bit stressed out. Coming up with a process that everyone will find fair to determine who is most deserving sounds next to impossible. I’d really like some more information on the end game of this whole process so we can do some planning.

    • February 28, 2013 2:33 am

      It seems like EVERYONE will be able to upgrade their weapon to a legendary Jas. But maybe Blizz will change that.

  5. ichi permalink
    February 28, 2013 9:44 pm

    Having played a hunter since vanilla the closest I came to a legendary was the Rhokdelar quests, and a few shots at Thoridal as the xpac came to close. While I connect with with your fondness at guild efforts and rarer-than rare rewards, I believe that Blizz has adopted the model I was hoping for since BC. If they hadn’t, its entirely possible that I could play this game hard for a decade without ever seeing my own.

    Restricting legendaries to one class/role/type each xpac has automatically excluded all those who didn’t qualify. Yeah, I was glad to see Valnyr and Shadowmourne made for guildies, but was amazed when their new owners quit playing weeks later.

    Restricting legendaries to one class/role/type imbalanced PvP and PvE, not only for those classes that didn’t get a legendary but for those who did qualify but couldn’t acquire. Going up against a legendary rogue in an arena was awesome! Raid stacking and preferential recruiting for the legendary wielders was less so.

    While I agree that the lucky beneficiary of guild largesse had something to remember, the loser of that roll, or of the guild council decision, had a very different experience. I’ve seen one rogue that clearly deserved reward over the others, as well as two healers that were equal in almost every way, but only one won. That decision by our GM to give the first shot at the legendary to one healer so affected our other priest that she re-rolled toons and servers.

    Legendary doesn’t equal scarce IMHO, and this system appears to provide me with a crack at getting my own without competition with my friends. It will hopefully reduce the imbalance issues of the past in PvP and PvE. I’ll still feel Legendary even if a dozen other hunters on the Terrace are rocking theirs.

    Thanks for a thoughtful article, I regret that I’m being disagreeable, and hope you enjoy yours when you get it as much as I plan on enjoying mine. I just hope we succeed more than a few weeks before 6.0!

  6. Milric permalink
    March 7, 2013 2:16 pm

    Many overlook one aspect of the ubiquity of MoP legendaries. Blizzard will account for them in boss encounters. Whether by randomness or difficulty, pre-MoP legendaries were rare. Blizzard could not very well design an encounter that assumed the raid would have a couple of folks with orange weapons. So, actually having one of those weapons gave the team a 1-2% boost.

    Now, Blizzard can safely assume that everyone will have an extra gem socket and another +500 gem on their 496 weapons. They will build the encounters with that in mind. This moves legendaries from the ‘This Will Help Us!’ category to the ‘We All Need These Just to Tread Water’ category.

    • March 12, 2013 3:49 pm

      Right, and this was exactly the situation Blizzard was in at the start of the Dragon Soul tier. Remember the flat buff to all melee? It was due to the assumption that raid groups would be coming in with several (or all) of their ranged DPS using Dragonwrath. One of the reasons the enrage was so brutal on Heroic Spine was that it was designed using this same assumption.

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