When Mists of Pandaria launches I look at it as I do any expansion for gear up. I believe there are two completely different gearing processes. The first is gearing up as you level so that by the time you reach the new level cap you are able to run the instances that are there for you to do, and be almost ready for the heroics, once you get a few crafted or faction gear upgrades.
The second gearing process happens after you reach the level cap. It is the gearing process required to move from heroics and raid finder onto the real raiding levels. This process is usually longer and harder than the first one, because in normal and heroic raids the margin for error is far smaller than it is in heroics and raid finder.
With those two processes described, let’s take a more in-depth look at them and how they will be different this time around in WoW’s 4th expansion.
Gearing while levelling
The first gearing process is all about getting gear while you are levelling. This is for two reasons the first is so that you can level quickly and efficiently without dieing all the time. The second is so that you can get into the heroics and raids once you are level 90.
Gearing in MOP is actually pretty easy to start off with. The quest rewards are much better than they used to be. This is because the item level on the quest rewards is really high, as in higher than Dragon Soul raid loot. The gear is also better because each quest has items for each class, making the rewards much better than they used to be.
A comparison of the best Raid finder bow in Cataclysm to a green found in the first zone of Mists of Pandaria.
I really like the rewards being based on class or spec since it allows you to get useful items from pretty much every quest you complete. Of course all of them might not be good for you as you may have a better item already, or an item with better secondary stats for your spec on it, but it will at least be usable. This is unlike before where I remember getting 10 or 20 items from quest rewards before getting a mail caster piece when on my shaman, or without getting a leather agility piece on my rogue. Not getting something you can use is now the exception to the rule, not the normal case.
Since many of the items that you will be rewarded with while levelling are good starting pieces this will go at least a little way towards gearing up to start end game content. While it will likely not allow you into raids, it will get you pretty close to being able to get into heroics.
Speaking of heroics, remember that it MOP there are no normal level 90 dungeons, they are all heroics, and they are easier than the old heroics. This is as per Ghostcrawlers comments here: Why take away regular queues at 90?
I can not say I agree with this step. It seems to make most of the end game casual content way to easy. I mean after all, the Cataclysm heroics were not very hard if you were at all a decent player and grouped with players you knew. If you were a noob, and tried to random them in the bare minimum gear, then yeah they could be like knocking you head against the wall, but they are heroics, they should be hard.
Gearing for the End Game in MOP
Gearing up for end game content is in many ways the same as each past World of Warcraft expansion. Get to the level cap run dungeons, grind faction, max professions, and then start raiding. This seems to mainly be the case with MOP as well, since it works.
There will be several dungeons that can be run at level cap, that will really help you out with gear for raiding. There are many different factions in Mists of Pandaria and the big end game one called the Elders grant some really nice item rewards that can be earned through completing daily quests and earning currency with them. This will then get you into the Raid Finder utility, or the beginner level raids, where the real gearing process starts.
This is where the gearing process really changes from Cataclysm, or at least in my mind. Gearing in Cataclysm after the raid finder was introduced quickly because about jumping in the raid finder, hitting need on everything, trading with people that won items you could use, collecting valor points for items from the vendors, and then moving on to the full versions of the raids. Both the ability to trade loot (which shouldn’t have been there anyway) and the whole valor point system change.
With the new “Personal Loot” system being implemented in Mists of Pandaria Raids, quite a bit changes. No longer is loot randomly determined from the bosses loot table and then players roll on it. Now the game rolls for everyone in the raid, sees who wins, and then selects a class/spec appropriate item randomly from the bosses loot table. This has huge benefits to players for many reasons. First, it ensures that if you win a roll, you will get a usable piece of gear. Secondly, players will no longer be able to roll against you on items that they don’t really need but that the system lets them roll on. Next up, the gear you win is usable by your current spec, meaning that no longer can a healer take DPS gear, or a DPS warrior take tanking gear, or some idiot that doesn’t understand their gearing priority roll on a trinket that is useless for them but would be awesome for the groups healer. Lastly, gearing in my mind should be quicker, since when you do get a piece there is a far more likely chance it is a piece that you want.
Looking at the personal loot system from my tanking based point of view, most bosses have 1 tank piece in their loot table. That means that if I win the roll for loot, I will get the tanking piece that I need from that boss. Pure win!
If you haven’t seen the whole discussion on person loot, check out the "Coffee with the Devs” blog post by Ghostcrawler.
Also discussed in the same blog is the whole idea of bonus rolls. These are gained by completing daily quests for two MOP factions called the Elders and the Craftsmen. You can buy a charm from them once a week that allows a bonus chance to get an item from a raid finder run. This is in partial compensation for getting rid of a lot of the prep that used to be required to get ready to raid. If you want to just jump in a raid finder group, that’s cool. If you want a better chance of getting something, complete a bunch of daily quests and buy a charm each week.
Lastly a huge change is to the valor system. No longer will you be able to farm valor to buy new and better loot. Instead valor is becoming a currency that allows you to upgrade the loot that you have. This means that if you have an item level 410 epic, once you save up some valor points you can go and see a vendor who will upgrade it to say an item level 414 or 418 piece. Blizzard is saying that each piece of gear will be upgradable but not the the point that it is better than the next tier of gear. So if you get a piece in the raid finder, it will not be able to be upgraded to be better than a normal more piece, and a normal mode piece will not be able to be better than a heroic piece.
All of this makes gearing pretty new and different to me. I agree with Blizzards statement that valor had taken over as the way to get gear, too many players ran instances and raids just to get valor to be able to buy that next piece of gear, rather than being excited to down a boss for a chance to get their next item. This will clearly shift gear progression back to bosses for the initial gear, and then valor to help make it better. However, if you want an even better piece, you will need to step up to the next difficulty level and get a new item from there.
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