Some very interesting news came out last week concerning one of my favourite parts of World of Warcraft. I am talking about the gear that we all collect in raids, which is some of the best in game, and how patch 5.2 will be changing the raid loot structure and distribution.

For those that have not read the forum post from Crithto, you can find it right here:

Coming to the PTR in the near future will be a new designation of item type in Normal and Heroic raids for non-tier pieces. Each 5.2 raid boss will have a chance of dropping this new designation of a particular item that’s 6 item levels higher than their counterparts. These higher quality versions will be called “Thunderforged”. This means that there will be five variations of some items. You’ll now see a 5.2 raid item of LFR quality at item level 502, the same item in Normal quality at item level 522, the item in Normal Thunderforged quality at item level 528, the Heroic version of the item at level 535, and the Heroic Thunderforged version of the item at level 541.

This new item designation is being added for a couple reasons, but first and foremost to make loot drops more interesting overall, especially after you have earlier bosses in Throne of Thunder on farm. As you’re working on progression, those first few bosses can now continue to provide a chance at upgrades, making repeated kills potentially more exciting and rewarding. Those additional upgrades can then help to slowly raise power, and boost you over whatever progression roadblock you may hit.

We’ve also received a lot of feedback regarding 25-player raids, and have been looking for ways to address some concerns. Ever since we changed 10-player raids to drop the same item level as 25s, we’ve seen a steady decline in 25-player raiding. This isn’t surprising. A 25-player raid takes an extra level of logistical commitment for the officers of those groups. It’s unfortunately easy for a 25-player guild to collapse down into a 10-player guild, but very unlikely for the opposite to happen. However, we like 25-player raiding and don’t want to see it go away. Like many players, we love the epic feeling that comes with banding together more massive groups to battle powerful foes, we love that there’s opportunity for those groups to try out new players or unusual comps without causing a huge burden, and we want to support the larger raiding guilds. That said, we’re also concerned that over-rewarding the 25-player guilds—if, for example, we went back to a higher item level across the board for 25s, as was the case for Icecrown Citadel—would feel like a slap in the face to the many 10-player raiders out there, who are the majority of our Normal and Heroic raiders.

To attempt to navigate this minefield, we’re going to try having Thunderforged items drop more frequently in 25-player raids. They’ll be somewhat rare in both cases compared to the standard versions that’ll drop, but they’ll be even rarer in 10s. Overall, a 25-player group will be more likely to end up with a slightly higher item level after several weeks of raiding.

It’s important to keep in mind that this only affects 10- and 25-player Normal and Heroic raids, and tier-15 armor pieces won’t be available in Thunderforged quality at all. We’re curious to hear your thoughts about these changes, and what you think once you begin seeing them on the PTR.

Now that you have had a chance to review it, let's look at the major components of the change and what they may mean for all of us raiders. The two main things to consider in Crithto's post that will affect raiders are:

  • 5 Levels of raid gear instead of the current 3
  • Higher drop rate on the best gear for 25 player raids

Patch 5.2 Raid Changes - 5 levels of gear

With this new system of raid loot there will be 5 different potential pieces of gear in your upgrade patch for a character. Which does provide some additional upgrade opportunities. This is an interesting change for several reasons, some good and some bad, in my opinion.

First up the bad things that I can see. With 5 different levels available it will separate the haves from the have not's even further. While not a huge deal in a guild or for hard core raiders, it could very well make it harder for raiders looking for a PUG to play with to find one, since the item requirement that will be looked for will likely be inflated, based on the higher quality gear that is available. Also players could start viewing the normal gear as lesser gear and only looking to get the thunderforged gear as an upgrade. This could come into play when applying to raid guilds for players.

There are several good things about having additional steps of gear available that counteract the bad. Having additional levels of gear and additional upgrades as an individual is always a cool thing. It provides additional upgrades to get excited about as a player, which is the best thing about loot. Another positive thing about these additional gear levels is that they effectively counteract the removal of the item upgrader from the game for this patch.

One of the best things that I like about having the 5 different levels of gear is that it should make it a little easier for players to make the transition from normal to heroic mode fights. While the randomness of actually getting the higher level gear will likely prevent it from helping the hardcore guilds that push heroic modes right away, it should help out all the guilds that get to heroic mode later on in the patch cycle. This is a great thing for all those guilds that just need that little bit extra help.

Patch 5.2 Raid Changes - Higher drop rate in 25 player raids

The new higher level of loot is going to be a very rare drop rate in 10 player raids, and a slightly less rare drop rate in 25 player raids. The exact drop rate has not been decided yet by the look of it, but if you really want to get the new Thunderforged gear, then your best chance is going to be in 25 player raids.

While some 10 player raiders may complain about this, they need to remember that they can get all the same loot, just at a lower rate. Historically players in 25 person raids got better loot than those in 10 player raids, all that disappeared a while ago. When that happened if became easier for players to just run a 10 man raid instead of organizing a 25 man raid. Due to the far simpler logistics involved with 10 man raids, 25 player raids have been on a steady decline.

With this change it could help bring back a desire to organize 25 man raids in many guilds. To me that makes this an interesting change, and one that frankly was kind of needed. My only concern is that Blizzard gets the drop rate correct with this feature so that the higher level Thunderforged items do in fact drop noticeably more frequently in 25 man raids so that people do take note of it, and do attempt to run more 25 man raids.

Messiah's last word on the patch 5.2 raid loot changes

Overall I like the changes coming to raid loot in patch 5.2, due to the reasons discussed above. While there are some downsides to additional levels of loot, I believe they more than offset by the positives. Team that up with a feature that helps push players to organize and participate in more 25 man raids, and it is pure win.

I do however have an observation, a question, and a slight concern, regarding these new levels of items. They didn't really fit above, so here they are in my last word section.

First of the observation, this really does allow a far bigger item level break between the LFR players and the Heroic players. Currently LFR raids provide up to ilevel 483 gear while heroic raids provide up to ilevel 509 gear. This equates to a difference of 26 ilevels or roughly a 6% difference. Under the proposed new system the LFR raids drop ilevel 502 gear while heroic raids can drop ilevel 541 Thunderforged gear. This works out to a difference of 39 ilevels or roughly a 7% difference. While it is only a 1% difference, that difference will be noticeable.

Secondly, the question. If the Thunderforged gear is only slightly better than the regular gear, in this case 6 ilevels, it seems pretty similar to the benefit that item upgrading provided. Item upgrades boosted your items by 8 levels which seems pretty much the same thing. This makes me ask the question, is this change just for changes sake? The difference between 6 and 8 item levels is almost nothing, why not just allow item upgrades instead of a new semi-random upgrade feature.

Now comes the slight concern, what happens with these items when item upgrades are once again allowed? If upgrades will be allowed later to this gear, what happens then? To get the most advantage going into the next raid patch, will hard core players be expected to have the Thunderforged gear and then have it upgraded. Will Blizzard now have to inflate raid gear in the next patch to compensate for this? After all, currently the heroic gear is just higher than the new LFG raid gear, if this continues to the next set it will mean that all items will now need to increment an extra 6 levels. Will that inflation cause an issue longer term? Like I started with, it's a small concern now, but could it become a bigger issue long term?

I have had my say on the new patch 5.2 raid loot changes, now it's your turn. Have you say in the comment section below.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.