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Does the Rise of the Zandalari dungeon tier serve a purpose?

Perhaps what I should be asking is, "Does the Rise of the Zandalari dungeon tier still serve a purpose?" When patch 4.1 launched, the two Zandalari dungeons, Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman, served as a "more advanced" level of heroic dungeon, with better gear (epic ilevel 353 gear almost as good as what drops in tier 11 raiding's normal modes) and more reward. Running just heroic dungeons before patch 4.1, it was possible to accumulate 70 valor points per day per heroic, for a grand total of 490 points in a week if you weren't raiding.

Patch 4.1 shook things up, and although patch 4.2 introduced a new raid, the same basic system that debuted in 4.1 is still with us. The Zandalari heroics not only dropped epic gear, they allowed non-raiders to collect twice as many valor points, a grand total of 980 valor points. It also allowed players to run heroics in a less limited fashion; you had up to seven in a week and you could run them once a day, all seven at once, or at any other rate you liked until you'd run your seven in a week's time. This was, overall, a positive change and one that allowed non-raiders to collect the tier gear available on vendors faster. Patch 4.2's change to the valor cap (reducing it to 980 in a week) meant that the Zandalari heroics could supply non-raiders with as many VPs as raiders got from raiding.


Now here we are, a couple of months into patch 4.2, and for the most part everyone's run the Zandalari heroics enough to be as fully geared as valor points make possible. Any pieces not available to non-raiders will have been picked up from the ZG/ZA loot table. I'd hazard a guess that a significant fraction of people go from leveling up straight to the Zandalari heroics, carried by justice point tier 11 epics that put them over the ilevel cap as soon as they hit 85, especially when they can also bank honor points and trade those for JPs or spend them on PVP weapons as good or better than the Zandalari items.

At this point, the Zandalari heroics are used to grind out valor points, then grind out justice points for supplemental items or heirlooms for alts. Yet the Zandalari heroics still give twice as many VPs, and when you're capped on VPs, reward twice as many JPs as the launch heroics. With the recent announcement of patch 4.3 coming with three new 5-man dungeons, we're moved to ask: Why not open up the heroics we have to more people?

At present, if you wish to maximize your JP/VP rewards, there's simply no option but to run the Zandalari heroics. They reward more, and they have a larger pool of players. As a result, the eight other heroics are simply a road bump on the way to being geared enough to get out of them, and that's assuming anyone bothers to run them at all. As stated above, it's not hard to collect enough JPs and honor while leveling to get above the ilevel 346 limit and start running the Zandalari heroics as soon as you hit 85. So why retain the increased reward for two out of 10 total dungeons and keep players running the same two over and over and over again?

Opening up the other eight heroics to the 140 VP/JP reward for completing them would basically be saying, "At this point, it's not the gear, it's the points" -- and frankly, that's exactly the case. With ilevel 365 gear available through dailies and crafting and ilevel 378 gear in the AH from Firelands farming, most players are farming up the valor pieces and items they can get and filling the holes they can't with JP purchases. With this as the case, it's simply not necessary to bestow special status on the Zandalari heroics at this point.

ZG and ZA are fine dungeons, well designed, a half-step harder than most of the heroics that came in with launch, but the gear curve is catching up to them, as it must to all things, and as a result, groups that are purely running dungeons to gear up an alt or two are subjected to a level of monotony that simply isn't in anyone's best interest. It would be far better if people whose main emphasis was running five mans could run them and get one out of 10 possible dungeons instead of one out of two.

Another difficulty here is one not everyone will agree with, but here it is: When the Cataclysm dungeons launched, their heroics were often very hard to pug. Months later, that's not the case -- so why not let groups that can finally stop and look at all that gorgeous scenery go in and do so? Dungeons like Halls of Origination, Throne of the Tides, Lost City of the Tol'vir and Vortex Pinnacle are magnificent dungeons in terms of art and layout. Their inclusion in the Rise of the Zandalari tier of reward would greatly break up what potential art and music we were going to be exposed to while farming for points.

With 4.3 a few months away, this is a change that could be made immediately and that would immediately relieve some of the tedium that is unavoidable when grinding points in the same two places over and over again. It would be as if the only BG worth running was Alterac Valley. No matter how much you like AV, you'd get sick of it eventually.

In the end, there simply appears to be no compelling reason to maintain the tier of reward difference between ZG/ZA and the rest of Cataclysm's heroics. For the benefit of everyone involved, for more reason to run these well designed, beautiful instances, and for a break from killing trolls over and over again, I can't see a downside to moving this particular content wall.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has destroyed Azeroth as we know it; nothing is the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from leveling up a new goblin or worgen to breaking news and strategies on endgame play.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

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