Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

A new post up this morning at WoW Insider struck me as being damn timely.

The article, written by Josh Meyers and titled “Has the early Cataclysm gearing model failed?”, takes a look at the intent of early Cataclysm leveling, of gating content by iLevel, and then touches on whether it has held up or not this late in the expansion.

It’s a good article, one I found especially timely since I am actively working right now (well, when I’m not at work-work) to do everything I can to subvert that very gearing model he describes.

You play the game and get a character to level 85, and what do you want to do?

You want to go do the fun stuff.

For those that want to PvP, there are fairly new craftable PvP blue items, full armor sets as well as jewelcrafting rings and necklaces to get you started.

Clearly, the powers-that-be realized that the PvP arms race would make it painful to get stuck right in. So they added new gear as a stepping stone.


Because in PvP, there is no ‘working your way up the difficulty ladder’, no ‘easing into it’. When you zone into a BG, it’s gametime, baby and you’d better bring your ‘A’ game or find out what it looks like in first person to be teabagged by a Moonkin’s big feathery butt. Everyone else is in their best earned gear, and whether god or grunt, it’s everybody for themselves. No artificial gating of content, it’s just you, your computer, and the cold, harsh reality of survival of the fittest.

Been this way several expansions now for PvP, clearly they like how it’s working for them. Well, Burning Crusade brought PvP blues bought at the rep vendors, so it’s only been two expansions now with the crafteds. My bad. But they saw how the BC model worked, and changed it up the next time.

On the PvE side… by this late in the game, I don’t care how cool the starter heroic instances started out, everyone is sick of them as a gearing necessity.

Is it great to be able to level by running instances? Yes. Is it great to be able to do instance quests? Yes. Is it awesome that as you level and have fun in even the normal instances, you get Justice Points towards end game gear? Hells yes, sweet incentive.

Is it cool to do them and see the story and learn to play an unfamiliar class or role in the end game group content?


But I challenge anyone to say that they find it FUN to have to run the expansion starter instances in heroic mode at level 85 on every new character to grind the gear upgrades and Justice Points needed to unlock higher iLevel content.

And I won’t even go into how much sheer joy is to be had in considering having to grind rep to get epic shoulder enchants or gear on your fifth character, even with Tabards.

So, we try and subvert it, to a greater or lesser degree. Are we to be blamed for trying to bypass the system as intended?

Or, and I’m just throwing this out idea there, is subverting the original gearing process exactly what Blizzard expects us to do, and is precisely WHY we have things like the new high-level BoE epics from the new heroic instances dropping like snowflakes in winter?

Crafted epic items, auction house BoEs, new heroic instance quest rewards, the Thrall and Aggra Elemental Bonds questline that gives a nice cloak, etc.

Is being subversive simply the game working as intended?

I think so.

Look at the facts.

I’ve played the game the way it was meant to be played on three characters now, my druid, warrior and hunter. Leveled, geared, got crafting skills, reputation grinds, all that stuff.

I am damn glad to have done it, too. For example, I am proud to have a character maxed in every rep, plus exalted with my guild.

When I have new characters come up now, I don’t have to worry about head enchants because I’ve got one character with max reputation on all factions, and that character can buy the enchant and mail it over.

For weapons, I can gather ore, transmute Truegold, gather or buy Orbs, and use my epic Blacksmithing patterns from rep to make some iLevel 365 weapons… or buy cheap Beermug maces, BoE epic drops from the new instances, etc.

I can craft rings, necklaces and armor that, while intended for PvP, is good enough to get into new content and get the job done, but just crappy enough for PvE that I’m going to want to get rid of it as soon as bloody possible.

I even have BoE gear of incredible power that I can earn on my max level characters through Valor Points, to feed down to my new alts.

But what if I don’t have max level characters to feed my new alts, characters all decked out and done with the content?

Working as intended. If you don’t already have all the content done and maxed on anyone… Blizzard wants you to get out there and do it all, at least once.

In my opinion, the only truly glaring weakness right now is that the epic level shoulder enchants purchasable from rep with Therazane is not bound to account, and the ease of getting that rep has not been reduced the way the Sons of Hodir were towards the end of the expansion.


I’ve been preparing my Rogue for max level, because I truly do not want to do a single original heroic, not a one. I want to ding 85, equip gear, and step into a 4.3 Dragon Soul heroic.

To that end, I’ve been seeing how far I can game the system on my Combat Rogue, and how cheaply.

Slow main hand weapon, fast offhand are the Combat preferences.

A Tremendous Tankard O’ Terror goes for about 800 gold on my server, so I bought one. Oops, Cassie had 8 in her bags, and I actually had one I forgot about in my Hunter’s bank. Stupid of me not to check, but point made.

For an offhand, my blacksmith crafted the Brainsplinter, using all personally farmed/transmuted mats. Done.

For a thrown weapon, maybe due to lack of demand the Thorns of the Dying Day are going for a mere 300 gold. Done again.

Sure I’m going to want to upgrade as soon as I can… but these aren’t pure crap, either. These are all weapons that, in terms of stats, would have been great before 4.3 shipped.

For armor… well, there is the obvious.

My max level characters have taken a week off from upgrading their own gear with Valor Points to donate the Bracers of Manifold Pockets and the Rooftop Griptoes. If I was wealthy, I could have easily bought them instead, they get advertised in Trade Chat as Valor boots or bracers, your choice, 5000g or 6000g golod all the time, YMMV on your server.

Still, I wanted to go as cheap as I could as far as I could.

As I said before, once I reach level 85, I’ll be able to do the Thrall and Aggra quest chain, Elemental Bonds, to get the iLevel 365 cloak, Mantle of Doubt. I could simply craft the new iLevel 377 PvP leatherworking cloak Vicious Fur Cloak, but I’d vastly prefer lower iLevel but more PvE oriented gear.

There are 17 item slots to fill, and already 6 are at 365 or better at level 85, plus one quest chain I like to do anyway. 🙂

I then did dip into my own pockets, and bought one item I’ve been repeatedly tempted by at the auction house. I got the Nightblind Cinch belt for 7000 gold. Maybe they saw me coming, but an upgrade THAT huge means future Valor Points don’t go to a belt, they go to things like necklaces, rings and trinkets. I’m willing to pay it, and be glad.

The rest of the slots ALL have iLevel 377 PvP items that can be crafted with leatherworking and jewelcrafting if I wanted to, but let’s go one step further.

What about the Molten Front?

Yes, yes, I know. Craft some PvP stuff and go have fun, get upgrades in one day that outstrips what you’ll earn after 45 days of Molten Front dailies.

There are still two things to keep in mind.

First, after only three days you can unlock the Molten Front area, and purchase Matoclaw’s Band from Zen’Vorka.

Second… my Rogue is a skinner, and the spider area is a skinner’s paradise. I’m going to want that anyway, so why not at least look at what I get after those three days, right?

Where I’m going with all this, is really that it’s too damn easy to craft or otherwise acquire high level items to bypass the starter heroics for it to have somehow slipped past Blizzard’s attention that we can do it.

No, I think it’s working as intended, and I like the fact that I don’t have to just equip PvP gear to beat the iLevel restrictions, I can go for lower level gear but with better overall stats if I so choose. And I DO so choose.

As I said before, I just think there are a couple areas that could be finished up, like the Therazane rep shoulder enchants being made Bind on Account.

What do you think? Is this all some cunningly designed master plan to give us lots of options and choices, or is it a failure of the Blizzard gearing model?

30 thoughts on “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

  1. I pretty much agree with the post. But yeah, what is up with Therazane? I recently leveled an alt to 85, which I hadn’t done since the start of Cataclysm and I was shocked to find out that I still had to do pretty much all of Deepholm to even unlock the goddamn vendor with the tabard. And then grind it to exalted, again. I had assumed the enchants had long been made BoA, maybe in 4.2 or something. The grind was a little quicker this time, with me playing a tank and having instant queues, plus being in a guild with the reputation perk, having to quest through Deepholm again was tedious though.


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  3. FWIE, I would have to disagree with the “working as intended” on a new character if you don’t have the multiple max lvl toons to feed them gear.

    LVLs 80-85 net you A LOT of gold. I averaged around 5-7k on all of my toons during those times. On my warrior (herbalist/miner) I netted over 12k gold going from 80-85. With that kinda cash, you can go to the ah and buy ilvl 378 BOEs and crafted PVP gear till your heart’s content and within hours of hitting 85 can be in LFR.

    I reached the point after 7 or 8 LVL 85s that I didn’t even worry about gear until after I hit 85. My last few after that I wouldn’t even use gold from my other toons to buy gear/potions/anything. Content had gotten so easy that you can breeze through it without needing any help from gear or otherwise.


  4. Challenge accepted!

    I had FUN doing that.

    I honestly wish there was a little more gatekeeping, particularly ‘skill with particular class’ gatekeeping. I swear if I see one more group that can’t handle sylvanas because of brain damage…

    But I digress.

    I think ‘subverting’ the system IS the system. You could only really afford to subvert it if you had a max level character ready, or you were extremely good at playing the auction house. In essence, only experienced players -can- subvert the system.

    Reading through the comments I see a lot of people leaning toward a familiar blizzard philosophy of ‘bring the player, not the class’ though in this case, ‘character.’ In all honesty, this I think rubs against me harder than anything else. When Blizzard first implimented the plan, they took a -lot- of the uniqueness of certain classes away, a lot of those special abilities only you could bring to a group (battle rez anybody? bloodlust?) and divided them among others. Not necessarily bad, but I do think in fact it limited more than it opened and took a lot of a characters identity away.

    What does that have to do with this? Classes still play differently enough to be a very big issue at end game. So you can do deathwing heroics on your moonkin eh? Doesn’t mean you can do them on your rogue alt because you’re bad at combo points. Subverting the system shows you understand the game enough to get a leg up, but it doesn’t necessarily take all the training time away. Ideally, that’s what leveling would be for, and I’d love to see more challenging/skill based leveling to make sure that while not everyone at 85 would be paragon level, at least I wouldn’t cry at getting Sylvanas in the portal because it’s one of the few fights one person has a -lot- of difficulty carrying a team.

    The gating is perhaps one of the few things I enjoyed about Cataclysm, it just made me a sad panda they didn’t stick to their guns on difficulty, or how the gear progression would work (anybody else remember when the idea was that valor point gear would be purple and when it became justice point gear it’d turn blue?), or character customization (path of the titans T.T)

    I might be coming across as elitist, and I hope that’s not really the case, I don’t expect everyone paragon tier, but end game is end game, you’re 85, you’ve mastered all the levels required of you prior, your character, at least in game experience is frozen until the next expansion. It’d be like going to a chess tournament, to learn your opponent doesn’t know how a knight moves. Sounds funny and advantageous in this case, doesn’t it? only difference is, uninformed/unskillful player in WoW is not your opponent, but your ally. In the former example, you might be sad that you didn’t get a challenge, but it’s easy enough to win and move on. The latter is a much more complex system, if you leave, you get called a traitor, kicking is a painfully limited option (can’t kick during combat, can’t kick in a row, if the person got kicked not too long prior, they’re unkickable for a bit.) Much of this is fixed with moving with a fixed group, which I find myself doing far more than not anymore.

    It’s just sad that at 85 I can actually run into a druid tank in end time who thinks casting wrath over and over again is a viable tanking strategy.

    Really really sad.

    Painfully sad.

    Knight to kings bishop.



  5. Blizzard has built a complex and fantastical world so well that I find it hard to believe that such vast possibility is ‘failure’ or ‘coincidence’. I have to agree that it’s all working as intended, providing the PvE player plenty of options as they indulge their altaholism.


  6. May I humbly suggest that since you have a rogue you owe it to yourself to offspec Subtlety. I levelled Assassination, which is great and all but really quite easy. Subtlety is a rush! Very satisfying to pull big numbers with it. Plus you really feel like a rogue, not a fury warrior with piddly little stickers.


    • I’ve never gone dual spec on the Rogue, but the character is truly one for pure fun, not for doing anyhting like raid or group or pvp or anything else. I am completely free to try any spec at any time, without worry.

      I’ve leveled as combat, because that was what Cassie did and enjoyed it, but I think I have repecced other styles here and there for the fun of it. Since I had all of the heirloom weapons, a pair of daggers, the two swords, etc, I felt free to mix and match as I liked.


      • The part I love most about dualspec is that it switches your bars for you, so you don’t have to redecorate them with the new abilities. My rogue is also purely for fun, though in my case that means dungeons and (the first part of) the legendary daggers chain 🙂

        I spent quite a bit of time as combat in.. TBC, around L40-50. Got quite bored of it. I like having a brainless mode and a challenging mode. “Big numbers” are 13k in i350 gear, hehe.


      • BTW I also suspect it’s intentional that the “subverting” is not entirely obvious. Makes you feel sneaksy to do it, which is all part of the devious plan!


  7. I did something pretty similar with my prot warrior. crafted her the chest, belt, shield, and weapon. bought shoulders, wrist, boots, and a crossbow. made trinkets (gogo alchemy/JC here). Had enough JP saved up that I could get the first piece of tier (gloves). Did the Vow quest for the cloak. Won the 378 tank neck early on in the dungeons on an alt. So she was missing…a helm and pants?

    It won’t be quite that easy for the little Shadow Priest I have (currently sitting at 84). I’ve got boots, wrist, a trinket, a cloak. I could craft 359 cloth on my tailor, but it seems to defeat the purpose when it’s going to be so quickly replaced.

    Truly, what burns my behind at this point is that if I want a good shoulder enchant across my Army of Alts, I have to do enough quests in Deepholme to unlock Therazane every.single.time. Weren’t shoulders enchants BOA by the end of LK? Why or why are they not in Cata when the helm enchants are?


  8. Please do not use Brainsplinter as an offhand. You need a 1.4 speed dagger. There is an i359 BoE epic “Scaleslicer” you might find in AH, or get an i384 PvP one for a mere 950 honour points. If desperate, there is even a blue i346 for Justice Points. But it really has to be 1.4 speed. Even an i318 green 1.4 from a Twilight Highlands quest reward would likely be better for your overall DPS than that i365 1.8 one.


    • Wow, 1.4 speed is that important to combat damage? I didn’t realize offhand autoattacks were that big.

      Honor points, huh? I’ma have to look into that.


  9. I just recently got my priest to 85 (my seventh toon to hit 85 and the last alt I intend to level for the expansion). She never set foot in a regular heroic, I made a point of having crafted gear and Justice Point BoE gear standing by for her because there was NO WAY I was going to heal anything but the three DS heroics. Wasn’t worth the trouble. Within three days of hitting 85 she was qualified to set foot in LFR (altho I didn’t take that opportunity as I dislike LFR). It took around three weeks to get her to the point I’m happy with her (ilvl 380) and consider her ‘finished’.
    It made me rage a bit that I had to go back to Deepholm (which she had skipped entirely leveling as a healer in LFD) to do the WHOLE DARN ZONE for the SEVENTH time so she could have shoulder enchants. Honestly it pissed me off more than a bit.
    Kelp, I have every healer in the game because I like to know the abilities and challenges of my fellow healers. And I have two mages (one alliance, one horde to play with my husband) because every now and then it’s nice to play something that can’t heal. Playing alts is part of the game and Blizz recognizes that. Bless the folks that can play just one toon forever and be happy, the rest of us want to see other aspects of the game. I’ll be glad when achievements and pets are account-wide because I’m the person that earned them, not the different characters.


  10. Its only one day to unlock the molten front vendor and has been for quite a while. My last alt was geared enough to go straight into zg(prior to 4.3) but even then I did a normal and 2 old heroics while working on gems/glpyhs/spec and rotation. The fact that all of my alts are old 80’s and 4k justice and often 4k honor already does not hurt. Buy honor gear, leave in my bags, do the heroics, sell back the honor gear before the 2 hour limit and the honor remains for 90.


  11. I think it’s a failure on their part that we feel the need to play so many alts. Or perhaps that we feel the need to play so many alts as if they were mains, expecting that they will get the same level of gear and advancement.


    • This seems important to me, but I can’t quite put my finger on all of the implications and potential solutions. I agree wholly with Rohan, that the “basic unit” needs to be the player… and that intersects with this as well. It even touches on what I’ve argued before, being able to respec a character fully all the way down to class, pretty much on a whim.

      …but I’d note with no small amount of cynicism that alts extend playtime, and that’s where subs make money.

      …I need to ponder this. I think there’s a nerdcore game design post in there somewhere.


      • With such a ‘deep’ respec, that would essentially merge the player and the character. We’d make our character and change it as we desired, without the need for alts. Maybe that would be better. As it is now, characters and the player are still clearly separate, even with shared pets and achievements; we only need to look at inventory to see immediately that there are separators still in place. Maybe someday we’ll see the ability to move items, even soulbound items, between characters of the same account.


  12. I have to admit, I like the gearing model as it is right now. Of course, I do mutter a little under my breath when I *just* bought the JP boots, and then, boom, a few days later I notice the vendor boots from dailies. Bad timing of the patch or “unlock day”, but that’s not Blizzard’s fault 🙂 I just don’t like *that* player group that whines about how easy it is, and how many hours they had to raid to get X, etc. They got “X” a month ago. Please don’t go back to BC times, when new players had to go through Kara et al. to then finally perhaps participate in BT.

    Alts – please let me gear them “quickly” towards the end of a patch or expansion. My main has “suffered” enough.
    New players still (need to) see a lot of the regular content. Sure, they don’t see ‘everything’, as the XP needed got adjusted, riding happens sooner, etc., but reaching max level still takes probably just as long as it did when we walked uphill in the snow.

    I’m looking forward to Bliz working (supposedly) on possibly implementing a shared-achievement-sorta-thing. My herbing druid has much more luck with those world random mobs than my city-bound main.


  13. If you’re leveling a rogue, once you’re able, get into a DS raid, pick up the quest in the temple and then pickpocket Hagara to start on the rogue legendary quest line. Beyond the first Hagara pickpocket and 10,000 gold to pay a vendor as part of a quest, you need nothing else from raiding to get the 1st stage 397 legendary daggers.

    But the reason I suggest you do this is not for the 397 weapons, instead it is for the awesome rogue quests you have to do to get that dagger. It will test your ability to play your rogue – you get to sneak around, sap and make your way through some fairly challenging patrols. After that you get to go toe to toe with a miniboss that will test your ability to play your rogue – using your interrupts, CCs, self heals etc.

    It is really really good and well worth the price of admission. If you find that boss frustratingly difficult, you and Cassie can get on the quest together. The area is phased so only rogues on the same stage of the quests can go together – you can not go on a rogue that has already finished that quest nor on any other class. It’d be fun too – for both of you to make a go of it together on your rogues. 🙂


    • Cassie has already completed it, and kicked it’s ass. 🙂

      So, at least I have professional guidance when it comes my turn!


  14. This is why it is good to be a Goblin. I never run the starter instances. I just buy enough equipment to get my iLvl to the new, shorter instances and start there. This worked awesome on my Mage because in like 4 days he was high enough to run the LFR’s and now he is my first character to get *sorta* raid gear from a drop! Makes me kinda happy.


  15. I think that the issue is that in Blizzard’s design, the character is the default entity around which everything revolves. Has this character done X? Is this character ready for Y? Does the character have Exalted rep?

    But perhaps the default entity really should be the player, not the character. Does the player have Exalted rep? Is the player attuned to Molten Core?

    I think there are a lot of mechanics which make perfect sense for a player’s first character, but are a bad idea for the second characters. And WoW really isn’t set up to handle that. It’s really a fundamental piece of design. Blizzard currently uses work-arounds like Bind-on-Account gear.

    Like, maybe the game would make more sense if Achievements belonged to the player, not the character. Same with companion pets, mounts, reputation, attunement/content gating, etc.


    • Absolutely agreed.

      There could be a LOT more done to build it into the player that earns the acclaim that is then transferraqble among the many characters, reflecting an acknowledgement that we don’t all only ever play one character forever… although some folks DO.


    • I agree. I do not have a main, I play several classes.

      Completing achievements in battlegrounds, dungeons and raids is very difficult for me because I have bits and pieces of metas scattered between my characters. Making rep and achievements account wide would let me pursue more goals in game without getting burned out over having to repeatedly do the same grinds.

      Also, it would put achievements like “Wrecking Ball” in reach of players who play healers.


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