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Patch 5.4.8 and the wait for Patch 6.0

With patch 5.4.8 we're seeing a new way to achieve an old goal - allow players to get further in established content while it remains the most recent content available. In essence, with this patch, we will be able to buy slightly increased ability to progress with valor points. This isn't new - it's what the item upgrade system has always been.

I've been thinking about the new item upgrades and the Deeds of Valor since they were announced. I haven't been able to play WoW as I'd like lately (health reasons) but one of the things that immediately came to mind when they announced Deeds of Valor was that this was an entirely new way to nerf raid content at the end of an expansion. Instead of a progressive buff to the players, or a progressive nerf to the bosses, we're seeing a mechanical way to spend valor points to gain the same ultimate aim. Making it possible to trade in your Timeless Coins for valor points is a good way for players who are flush from constant Timeless Isle grinding to convert them to something useful, and allowing players to upgrade items an additional 2 times (for a total of four upgrades) serves to nerf content without nerfing it. Everyone will be stronger, will hit harder, will have more mana for heals.

I have some opinions about this, of course. Others have already expressed theirs - and to be fair I accept the basic premise that these are quality of life changes that will cease to matter in patch 6.0. And I'm okay with that, because again, I see this primarily as a way to nerf Siege of Orgrimmar without actually doing so. It gives us another valor dump, of course. But with changes like Heart of the Valorous (which won't be live when 5.4.8 drops) it feels as if valor itself is being made into a progression mechanic.

Consider - easier valor, and valor made more useful, but still capped both weekly (1000 points a week) and overall (3000 total) - this means that you'll get valor faster, and spend it faster. Fully upgrading an item will take your entire week's worth of valor points (250 per upgrade, 4 upgrades) but this assumes you're not going into the patch with a full set of 2/2 upgraded items. It creates pressure to be capping valor every week, makes valor relevant again for a time, but at the cost of making it necessary for a time. I'm not saying this is good or bad, just pointing out the nature of the beast. Since all patch 5.4 epics will be upgradeable 4/4, this means that if you're intending to get your alt to 90, run him up to Timeless quality items, and then fully upgrade them all you're looking at three or so months of work at a minimum.

This is the tying together of RNG and point accumulation into a kind of melange of personal progression. Whether you're a raider upgrading full Heroic Warforged or a player who just farms the isle, valor is easier to get than ever and has more use, but you still can't get all that much of it, and you're still limited in how fast you can apply it. The 'progressive nerf' aspect of the acquisition of better gear via upgrades is thus stalled artificially - you won't be upgrading all your gear an extra 2 times this week no matter what.

This means that the fact that patch 6.0 will probably make all of this obsolete is only of relative importance. We know we won't be able to upgrade our items in 6.0. We know that yes, we likely won't even notice all these upgrades once 6.0 drops, but we also can infer that we really won't have to worry about that for a while. The amount of time it will take to fully upgrade just one item means we're in this for a while. That throws a nice cool bucket of water on the fervor for me - I'm in no hurry to upgrade items when haste won't avail me anything anyway. Perhaps the answer is to remove the weekly cap or raise it to 3000 valor, or perhaps we shouldn't be in a hurry, and it's a good thing that we'll be at most upgrading one or two items a week.

The concept of making valor easier to acquire is a good one - we've needed another use for Timeless Coins forever. And letting people upgrade their gear more with valor is an elegant way to nerf SoO without actually nerfing it. It just feels like an awkward way to extend the life of content that already feels stale to me. (That's just me, though.) If I played more alts, I'd probably be thrilled right now.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

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