When Everyone’s Legendary …
… 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.
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?