BfA – Battle for Attention

I’m in an unusual situation; somewhere I’ve never been in all the years I’ve been playing World of Warcraft. My thoughts of late have been along the lines of:

Meh
What’s the point?
Why am I logging in?
What other games can replace WoW?

Whilst other expansions have definitely had their down points – often during the content gaps at the end of expansions – Battle for Azeroth has me looking at the game for the first time and going “Why am I doing this?“.

I’ve found myself doing things I’d normal do at the end of expansions – old raid mount farming and the like. Given the number of players I see going into old instances and waiting for world bosses to spawn, I’m not the only one doing this!

I took the above pair of screenshots this evening whilst writing this – having alts wait for world bosses to spawn seemed like a good use of time!

There are lots of thoughts below; this got longer than I thought it would! I’ve tried to summarize them below.

A common theme here is repeatative content which depends on random drops for their rewards, instead of offering interesting game play or a way to work towards rewards.

There is good in BfA
The stories and lore of BfA is great; the look of the world is awesome. But stories run out
Alts
There is some support for alts, but coming from Legion with rep tokens and all of the classhall quest lines? Feels empty.
End game content
Uldir is fun, but loot changes are hurting. And I don’t want to only log into the game to just raid.
Azerite power and gear
The Azerite system of BfA was to replace the Legion artifact and tier set bonuses; unfortunately the way it works makes it feel like you’re being punished for getting upgrades.
Island Expeditions
Two different groups of players seem to be doing Island Expeditions and they have competing aims – this causes tension

Having a vendor selling the mounts & pets for Seafarer’s Dubloon would give you something to aim for instead of fighting RNG as we do now

Edit: typically, after I posted this blog entry, news came from the PTR of a vendor selling pets and mounts for Seafarer’s Dubloon, although only the new mounts and pets are currently for sale in this way.

Warfronts
They seem to be wanting to recreate the feeling of vanilla Aterac Valley; the problem is, if I wanted to do AV, I’d do AV!

Especially since changes to epic battlegrounds like AV & IoC have changed them from a short zerg to a decent battle.

State of shadow
Shadow priests have, for the 3rd expansion, have performance issues. It’s pretty much a running joke in the community now
PvP
The one bright spot in the expansion I think. However, not having similar PvP world quests which Legion had was a mistake I think; they got players interested in doing PvP.
Conclusions

There is good in BfA

There are some good in BfA; the world Blizzard have created in Kul’Tiras and Zandalar is awesome – both in the look of the world and the stories the quest lines give you.

Well, bar the “Oh, another farm to save…” in Stormsong, but I can forgive that. Even if it did make finishing that zone a little repetitive. “Oh, its a quaint farm… which has been overrun by spiders / rats / bees / walking plants / Quillboar

The only downside with stories and lore is that you do run out of it quite quickly when compared to all the time we spend in an expansion. And whilst we will get more quests and lore as the patches come out, right now there isn’t much to do.

The only way for me to get more lore is to run a Horde char and see their story lines. I’ll likely be doing that during the current expansion for the first time.

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Alts

I do have a large number of alts to run through content, but I don’t tend to follow stories in quite the same way with them. On my main I’ll really dig into the stories and do every quest.

Alts? Best described as “How can I get to 120 fastest?“. Its even more extreme for gathering profession chars – my second 120 was my DK herbalist who leveled mostly by herbing thanks to my alchemist’s needs!

In Legion, the class hall quest lines and later the class hall mounts gave us a good reason to level up lots of alts – we got some very interesting story lines that way! In comparison, BfA is lacking.

Without those class hall story lines, there isn’t much a reason to level alts – outside of professions and the like.

Regarding professions, the way professions are now per-expansion means we don’t really have a reason to level multiples of profession unless if offers a cooldown. So whilst I’ll ensure my main crafters have their BfA professions leveled for the achievement, I think all of the others will go without. It’ll save on mats and the pain of getting rank 2/3 recipes if nothing else!

In Legion we had world quests and missions which gave us rep tokens. And, once you’d gotten exalted with the faction, those tokens became BoA – incredibly handy for alts.

With world quest and mission rep rewards in BfA being applied at the time they’re earned, we don’t have rep tokens – so we can’t use the DMF – but also, we don’t get to help alts along.

No tokens means that doing missions or world quests which reward rep feel pointless if you’re exalted with those factions. This also means that on my main emissaries are only done if the reward is something useful, like gold or war resources.

There is some benefits for alts in BfA – if you’ve unlocked outposts on your main then your alts will have them available as well. Although you’ll still need to reach them for their flypoints. And their upgrade missions will clutter up mission tables.

It is noticable that alts do need to the achievements, get champions, etc to allow them to do the War Effort upgrades which have some very nice quality of life things within them. Giving alts the ability to research the war effort upgrades if your main has achieved them would make life easier for alts.

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End game content

For me, end game content mostly means raiding – once I’ve farmed up the reputations needed. And Legion it also meant Mythic+

With raiding, I am enjoying Uldir; my guild is slowly working through heroic – we’re a casual guild after all! Whilst I used to raid mythic in Legion, the issues with shadowpriests in that expansion killed my desire for mythic raiding.

Heroic Uldir is quite fun though, with enough of a step up from normal to make it interesting. It looks like we may hit the first few bosses on mythic before attempting the end boss on heroic – apparently, as usual, the end boss on heroic is harder than the first few bosses on mythic. We just need 20 players to be online…

There have been some issues with raid sizes mind; large raids on MOTHER require more coordination. Small raids on Zul end up needing to stack priests for the mass dispell, CC classes for the casters and having at least one DK will make life a lot easier.

There are two downsides to raiding in BfA – both systems associated with loot rather than the raiding itself.

  1. Personal loot only – the option for organized raids to be able to hand out loot as they decided, be it from any number of loot systems like DKP, loot council, etc was removed in BfA – its personal loot only.

    And often you can end up with gear which isn’t an upgrade for you, but the system deciding that it is so you can’t trade it with someone who could use it.

    The tyranny of sceondary stats doesn’t help here – an item may be 40 ilvls above what you have already, but the secondary stats make it a downgrade. Rings are particularly for bad this thanks to no primary stats.

  2. Only two bonus roll tokens each week – they’ve reduced the number of bonus roll tokens you can get each week, increased their cost and reduced the total you can have at any one time.
    This was likely done to slow down loot acquistion, but in reality it just feels stingy. Especially when you only ever get Azerite power from it anyway!

Both of the above seem to be aimed at reducing the amount of loot players can accumulate – by not having master looter groups can’t funnel loot to specific players. And fewer bonus rolls means less chance at gold/AP loot each week; plus you can’t stockpile as many bonus rolls ahead of a new raid, which has a similar effect.

Which points to Blizzard wanting people to stay in raids longer to get the gear they need; maybe that’s not what they intend, but its how it feels. And that’s not a good thing as you have to ask “why?

I’ve noticed two other things notable by their absence – both also seemingly aimed at reducing loot acquisition.

Weekly quests which rewarded an extra bonus roll in Legion don’t in BfA; I’d have expected the “Do 5 timewalking dungeons” quest to give a bonus roll token, but it didn’t.

We also don’t have the missions which start a quest for raid gear we had in Warlords and Legion. And in Legion those missions offered extra bonus rolls if you 200%’ed the mission.

I know in Warlords and Legion those missions were a good guaranteed source of gear for my main – the lack of them is very much felt.

However raiding only takes up four hours a week – there are a lot more hours for the game! I’ve never liked the idea of only logging in for raids. In Legion, if you raided you probably ran mythic+ for gear and artifact power.

The same is likely true in BfA – its still AP gained after all and the gear is useful, especially since we don’t need to worry about tier set bonuses in BfA.

But my main is a shadow priest and, well, shadow isn’t in a good place right now.

As a result, M+ isn’t really an option for me – especially since I’m not a fan of healing. Pugging as a shadow priest is a non-starter and even guild groups are tricky to get. Unless people are running King’s Rest or the Underrot and need dispells. Then we’re wanted. Unless the King’s Rest group has an arms warrior.

It sucks to be there for only mass dispell though – that feeling of being carried when you’re trying your hardest is very disheartening.

This has turned me off M+ completely this expansion – after happily running 18s & 19s in Legion for fun.

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Azerite power and gear

The Azerite system in BfA is a curious one; it seems to be taking the place of the artifact in Legion and tier set bonuses which BfA did away with.

However there are issues with this – the joke being that it combines the worst aspects of artifacts and tier sets.

I supported the removal of tier set bonuses in BfA – all too often I’d get an upgrade I couldn’t use because it would break a tier set bonus which was more important.

The Azerite armor replaces this, but its activation is tied into the azerite level of the neck.

Getting more levels on the artifact in Legion meant you’d gain abilities; whilst some were boring “Increase damage by X%”, a number completely changed how specs were played. And once you’d gotten all the golden traits, you had the Concordance buff to work on.

If I’m being cynical, there is a large benefit to Blizzard in removing tier pieces – they no longer have to design and balance 64 different tier set bonuses. They also don’t have to do the artwork for 12 different class specific tier sets. This is a lot of effort which has been removed.

With azerite armor, you can get something which is an ilvl upgrade, but ends up being a big downgrade because you can’t activate rings thaks to your neck not having enough levels on it!

Now, to be fair, the above was due to the new piece not having the Reorigination Array buff which the Laser Matrix and Archive of the Titans traits provide – both are only available on Azerite gear which drops in Uldir. Its aimed at reducing the difficulty of the raid over time by giving a large buff to secondary stats – on my priest it currently means an extra 450 of haste rating

Although I had something unfortunate on my priest – I got a shiny new Rot-Scour ring, which was 30 ilvls above what I had:


Looks like a great upgrade, right?

But it wasn’t. Because it pushed my crit rating above that of haste. So the Reorigination buff gave me 450 extra crit instead of haste, which really wasn’t appreciated!

So outside of Uldir I’ll use the better ring; inside? Back to the lower ilvl one. At least, until I sort my haste out.

That azerite gear drop rates and sources have had to be buffed and adjusted several times since release by Blizzard points to design issues in BfA. That they’ll be adding a vendor to allow you to purchase Azerite gear using a currency obtained from scrapping or disenchanting Azerite gear added in 8.1 is very telling here.

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Island Expeditions

Island Expeditions – effectively procedurally generated content. You have a number of maps, with mobs then spawned somewhat at random based from a set for each map. There is also a team from the opposing faction which is fighting against you. They were sold as having better NPC intelligence, but in reality? Not that hard to deal with and rather predictable.

In a lot of ways the Island Expedition is just a variation on the “Fill up a bar” quest – after you’ve done it a few times it is rather predictable.

I’ve done quite a few Island Expeditions chasing both mounts & Azerite – I really don’t want to do them any more. They’re just boring for me!

Worse, how the rare loot like mounts & pets worked was quite non-intuitive at first.

Naturally players sat down and worked out how the loot systems seemed to work. And as you’d expect the fine people at WoWHead wrote a guild for this. The tl;dr of which is you can target loot by killing named rare mobs. Often the ones from the mob invasions which occur towards the end of the expedition – eg kill the invading pirates for the parrot mount.

There are effectively two groups of people doing Island Expeditions right now:

  • Players after the Azerite power and faction rep from doing the weekly quest to earn 50k Azerite for their faction
  • Players after the pets, mounts et al which Island Expeditions can drop

The problem is the two groups have competing needs; those after the weekly quest want to win the island expedition to progress against the 50k faction azerite – you need ~5 heroic Island Expeditions for this, so naturally people want to get them done as fast as possible. That means mining all the azerite nodes, picking up azerite treasure, killing unnamed rares, etc

This is counter to the those chasing mounts and pets who want the Island Expedition to last a good amount of time so they get the mob invasion at 5 minutes in. Whilst they wait for that, they’ll chase the named rares – perhaps killing the horde to slow their azerite aquisition.

I’ve even heard of the farming groups being happy to fail the Island Expedition – just so long as they kill the named rares!

Naturally having two such groups in random play causes tension!

The combination of social tension and relatively boring content killed Island Expeditions for me.

I may do them every now and again to see if my feelings change, but I’ll certainly not chase them as I’ve done with other content which can drop mounts.

Perhaps I need to view it like the old raid farming – do the quest each week and try to aim for the rares. But it’ll be a long haul thing. Alternatively, I just do a single Island Expedition each week – progress on the quest for 50k azerite isn’t lost with the weekly reset.

One thing which would help is making the pets and mounts purchasable with the Seafarer’s Dubloon.

Right now you can use Dubloons to purchase items to help do the island, but having a vendor offer the pets & mounts for dubloons would mean you could work towards a goal and see your progress instead of fighting RNG as we do now.

Edit: typically, after I posted this blog entry, news came from the PTR of a vendor selling pets and mounts for Seafarer’s Dubloon, although only the new mounts and pets are currently for sale in this way.

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Warfronts

Warfronts was another touted feature for BfA and was sold as a throwback to the Warcraft RTS games, with players taking the part of the hero characters you’d control.

In actual play, I’ve found doing the warfront as a DPS is rather boring – you following the crowd around and DPS things. With my tank char its a little more interesting as you can lead people into areas & get things done.

But, at its core, its a PvE version old school Alterac Valley.

Right now I’m only doing the warfront scenario for the Tour of War achievement. Once I’ve gotten the last boss I need for that I doubt I’ll step back into the Stormguard scenario on my main.

I am doing the quests and rare mobs available when my faction controls the Arathi Highlands – if nothing else the war resources are handy and I’m working on gear sets for the Don’t Warfront Me achievement. Plus the gear from the world boss is handy, at least on alts – the azerite gear can’t have an increased item level or sockets after all!

Plus, some of the rares drop mounts! And pets. And toys. But, if I’m honest, I’m mostly killing the rares who can drop mounts.

However, in the case of the scenario and the zone when we control it? Not much actual play time will be spent there. And it gets rather repeatative quickly.

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State of shadow

For the 3rd expansion in a row, shadow priests are not in a good place.

Whilst leveling, I was very glad my shadow priest was my main – it meant he was overgeared for the leveling content!

Even so, I found myself using Power Word: Shield far more often – to the point I was thinking of making a WeakAura to remind me to cast it if it wasn’t on me & PW:S was off cooldown! I was also using vampiric embrace and dispersion a lot – something I’ve not really had to do whilst leveling before. And this is with using the usual Mindbender+Fade trick, followed by a stun once fade had fallen off.

When he reached 120, it became a lot worse until his gear improved – shadow is very squishy compared to Legion. To the point I’m recommending people level as Discipline.

In raiding, I’m really missing not having Shadow Word: Death as a baseline – its a talent now. And shares a row with Shadow Crash and Auspicious Spirits. Right now, crit levels really aren’t quite high enough for Auspicious Spirits to be that useful. On pure single target fights I’ve found that shadow crash feels better than SW:D. With adds, SW:D can work, although if the add is close to the boss then you’re better off just using Shadow Crash anyway.

There are other choices similar to that – Twist of Fate is on the same row with Dark Void and Misery. Dark Void causes an explosion around the target & applies Shadow Word: Pain to all the mobs hit – aka AoE. Misery is unchanged from Legion – Vampiric Touch applies Shadow Word: Pain to all targets.

There are two rows which have default choices for PvE – Shadow Word: Void to give mind blast two charges and Mindbender. I dislike that we have defaults like this since they tend be so as the other talents on their respective rows just aren’t worth taking. The only time I don’t take Shadow Word: Void is in PvP. There I take Shadowy Insight to give a chance for an insta-Mind Blast – nothing like kiting a melee around, using those insight procs on them!

But really, shadow’s numbers are poor. In M+ we’d only be brought along because we can dispell, letting healing priest spend their mana on actually healing.

Whilst talents like Dark Void help, most of our AoE damage comes from Void Erruption. aka in add heavy fights – which is a number of fights in Uldir – we’re punished for staying in void form! A good example was a recent Zul kill where Void Erruption was ~14% of my damage done and was the 2nd damage source – Shadow Word: Pain being top with 17% of damage done.

There is some hope here; there are a number of shadow changes in 8.1 which look interesting, although SW:D is still a talent. And needing Shadow Word: Void is still a thing. At least our survivability is being improved.

The issue with void erruption being such a large amount of our AoE damage hasn’t been addressed though – moving damage from erruption to mind sear or shadow crash would make a lot of sense here.

My problem right now is Blizzard really don’t have a good track record when it comes to shadow. They tried shadow orbs. They’ve tried insanity. And across three expanions now shadow has been in a bad spot. I’m not really understanding why shadow is so hard to balance correctly either – its not like we’re the only DoT class in raids!

This has meant that I’ve been wondering if I should change mains.

This is a major thing for me to consider as my priest was my first ever character. Rolled as dwarven priest so we’d have another Fearward to help the tanks out in case their stance-dance went arwy. And, naturally, another healer. This being in Vanilla when priests only ever healed – the lack of debuff slots on bosses meant they couldn’t really run as shadow – even though their shadow weaving debuff made warlocks very happy.

Suffice to say, he’s been my primary character for all of vanilla and every expansion since.

And the state of shadow now has got me wondering if I should switch my mains around. Perhaps to a warlock. Or my mage.

Its not something I’d ever thought I’d contemplate really and its probably a large part of why I’m somewhat Meh about the game – my priest is a large part of my Warcraft identity.

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PvP

PvP in BfA is rather similar to Legion – except that the way prestige works has been changed.

In Legion, you’d earn honor. Every 500-1,000 honor and you’d gain an honor level. Earn 50 honor levels and you’d get a prestige level which always had a reward. You’d need ~44k honor for a prestige level.

This was all changed in BfA; the details are on a previous blog post I wrote. Essentially:

  • Honor was made accountwide
  • You just earn prestige levels
  • Each prestige level takes ~18k honor to earn
  • You don’t get rewards for each prestige level
  • There are 500 prestige levels, needing ~4 million honor to earn them all

One of the notable things in BfA is the lack of PvP world quests – in Legion we had the towers and PvA quests which let players earn honor without doing that much against players.

If you want to earn honor in BfA you have to do battlegrounds. Or the end game PvP content like arenas or rated battlegrounds.

The change to needing so much more honor per level earned is having a surprisingly negative effect though, at least for me.

During Legion you’d at least get a “ding” from an honor level each day fairly easily. This gave you the feeling of progression, along with a gold or AP reward.

With each prestige level taking ~18 times the honor, you don’t get that feeling. In fact, knowing that I’m going to need ~2 million honor to get the final mount reward at the 500th prestige is making it feel like a insurmountable task.

The one good change with PvP is the removal of the stat templates – whilst they were very handy in Legion to equal things out, it did mean that you were stuck with specific secondary stat levels. Which may not have been your personal preference. Certainly for me the amount of haste on the shadow priest Legion template felt too low.

In BfA instead they have a hidden system which reduces the damage done from higher to lower geared characters and increases the damage done by lower geared players to higher geared ones. Its not obvious this is happening however, which does make it confusing at first. But it does work.

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Conclusions

So, in conclusion, where does this leave me?

Well, I wrote this blog post to try and get a handle of how I was feeling about the game.

In some respects its been useful for exploring that – if nothing else it shows my thoughts on maybe changing my main were more impactful than I realized. My shadow priest being a large part of my Warcraft identity.

It also showed me that I should probably do a random BG & epic BG each day. The conquest is good and it’ll mean I slowly work towards the 500th prestige level – the easiest way to eat an elphant is to take it one bite at a time after all! And, well, I do enjoy battlegrounds.

The 8.1 changes for shadow are promising, but I have to see how they’ll plan out.

I do think the rewards in BfA have swung too far to the random grinds – which can make content depressing when there is no end in sight. Changing to rewards which are purchased with a currency – eg like time walking mounts – means you have something to aim for. Something more than just “Let’s just roll the dice again and watch them fail“.

The one thing I didn’t cover in the above is the economy; the way Blizzard have massively reduced the amount of gold the missions reward. In Warlords and Legion you could get a large amount of gold from doing missions. This in turn led to a gold rich economy, with the predictable inflation of prices. That gold income has, for now, gone. But the inflation hasn’t really gone away yet. The cynic in me wonders if this was deliberately done to increase token sales.

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