Azerite Armor as Regression

As evidenced by the latest Q&A – and the Reddit response threads – Azerite Armor is still a big issue within the WoW community. I would say “contentious issue,” but I’m pretty sure it’s only Ion and Rohan who like it.

That said, it finally struck me why I hate the system, and why Blizzard doesn’t care: Blizzard is trying to regress gearing back to the TBC days. In a recent LiveStream interview, Ion says:

(paraphrase) If you look at how most items work, if you want to play another spec, you want another item for that slot.

Ion goes on to say that Azerite gear is more flexible than that, in that you can technically respec (for a price!) the traits if you change roles. Which is fine… if not for the fact that Legion just had tier gear that automatically changed to match your spec. And the expansion before that (WoD) introduced dynamic primary stats, such that a Retribution paladin switching to Holy will see most his Strength gear turn into Intelligence. It felt like we were progressing to a point at which we simply had one major set of gear and were done.

I feel like players’ confusion and anger as to this sudden design reversal is justified.

Now, all this is probably a bit unfair to Blizzard. Weapons and trinkets were largely spec-specific even in Legion days, to say nothing about how Legendaries forced you to commit to specs to a ridiculous degree. On top of that, everyone knew that even if primary stats swapped around, different specs valued secondary stats differently, even after the super-specific ones like Dodge (etc) were removed. If you were a paladin tank and switched to Retribution, you knew that your tank gear would deal less DPS than something focused on the stats that Retribution favored (without even getting into Artifact Power differences).

And yet… Azerite still feels bad. Because its a regression back to a time that was inherently more frustrating for people with multiple specs. A split baby option of reforging doesn’t make anything better, nor the opportunity to split another baby by choosing generic Azerite traits (actual suggestion from Ion) rather than spec-specific ones in an effort to save gold. And Blizzard’s big “solution” to fix things in 8.1? They’re adding another ring with only spec-specific traits. Which means the power delta between each piece of Azerite gear is actively getting worse for your other spec(s).

This sort of thing is not an accident. Ion wants the game to return to the point at which players need a full set of different gear for each spec. That used to be okay. Hell, it used to be you needed a PvP set of gear on top of everything else you needed for PvE. But it is a regression from what we had before.

That’s the problem with Azerite.

The concerns people have about not being able to get 370+ Azerite pieces from content? Not actually an issue from the old design rubric – you only had 1-2 shots at a piece of tier gear from a raid boss each week anyway (the glory days of Justice/Valor Point vendors notwithstanding). Traits needing to be simmed, or some being wildly more powerful than others? There were many times in expansions past where two different two-set tier bonuses were better than the four-set tier bonus. Traits being boring? Again, welcome to many tier sets in WoW’s past.

On a final note though, I do believe that Azerite Armor will likely go down as one of the worst experiments in WoW history. Leveraging it as a means to regress gearing philosophy is one thing. But I also blame it for the fact that we got no new skills or abilities or talents to look forward to in this expansion. Why add a new talent row or button to push when you can just slap a random assortment of buffs on a piece of gear that will naturally cycle itself out come next expansion? In a single design, they seemed to have “solved” ability creep, added a substitute to Legendary items, and gave everyone a grind outlet via AP.

All they had to give up was… fun.

Posted on October 15, 2018, in WoW and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I kinda agree. I don’t think anything is necessarily really wrong with azurite (outside of too many traits), but it just feels bad.

    Objectively it isn’t worse than any of the previous systems.
    Acquisition: cache, raid bosses, world bosses, warfront, warfront world boss and now emissaries. Massively better than what we had before in the case of tiers, that was one boss per slot and you needed 4.

    Power level: Varies, just like sets in ye previous days

    Reforging: step back that it doesnt swap like tiers did, but you need less, they are easier to get and prewod you had to keep spec specific tier sets as well.

    Azerite neck level requirement: As someone with multiple chars all 22+, my main being 24, and knowing people with neck lvl 24 can clear m+16 and up, I don’t think neck level is a big deal. It certainly is massively less effort than keeping up AP on different weapons, especially at legion launch.

    All in all it is not worse than before, it is objectively less bad. Just, it doesn’t feel fun and feels kinda inflexible for no obvious reason.

    And no extra talent row combined with ability loss from pruning and loss of legendaries does not help. Personally I don’t blame Azurite for the fact that we lost the extra talent row etc, that is unfair to the system. Blizz devs get the blame for that. I don’t think Azurite as a system is that bad, and I certainly prefer it over tier gear. But it fails as a system to prop up everything else they’ve cut.

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  2. Is switching specs now more common/encouraged in the game than it was back in vanilla?

    Because in vanilla switching specs was almost 50% towards a full reroll when you were at the level cap and partially into raid tiers. Also, gearing up a second spec was, well, gearing up a second characters basically. Not a ‘bad’ thing, but something that required a lot of work, especially again if we are talking raid-level items. People did it, especially the very dedicated, but it certainly wasn’t required or all that common.

    And IMO being ‘locked’ into a spec was a good thing; people actually learned how to play that spec correctly, and had a more defined role within a guild. If everyone could just easily swap between tank/dps/healer and stay 90% effective (in terms of gear, not player ability) that would be a nightmare for guild management and content progression.

    Is WoW Classic here yet?

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    • Spec swapping has been actively encouraged ever since they added Dual Specializations into the game. Hell, there is no gold charge at all anymore to swap specs. That happened in… MoP? WoD? These days, you can even change your loot specialization at any time, such that you can tank raids (etc) and have the game reward you with DPS gear drops instead. In the last expansion, there was a single set of tier gear for your class, and it automatically changed the tier bonus to reflect whatever spec you had… because “it was weird to collect the same piece of gear multiple times.”

      And here we are, collecting the same piece of gear multiple times.

      Locking people into specs sounds like fine design, but it fails when Blizzard actively reworks the spec several times in one expansion. Hell, at one point they broke Demonology warlocks entirely, left it broken for the rest of the expansion, and said they didn’t want anyone playing that spec. Seriously, here’s the Youtube of the Lead Developer saying exactly that. It still blows my mind, years later.

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      • Maybe I’m not remembering it correctly, but I don’t recall a single spec in Vanilla being ‘broken’. There were certainly better and worse specs, and bleeding-edge raiding ‘forced’ more specific specs, but yea, I can’t recall ever running a dungeon and seeing Spec X and going ‘nope, that won’t work’. I mean we weren’t even really looking at specs, it was more about ‘need 1 tank, 1 healer, 3 dps, good to go’.

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      • Retribution paladin, Protection paladin, to start. From what I’ve read, pretty much every hybrid spec other than Warrior could only really heal (paladin, druid, priest, shaman). Things improved quite a bit in TBC, but Prot paladins were only really viable in dungeons – Illidan had an ability only countered by Prot Warriors, for example. Meanwhile, Horde Retribution paladins were able to have 1000+ more DPS than Alliance ones, for “flavor” reasons (e.g. Seal of Blood). Hybrid Tax was an official policy.

        Oh, and I’ll never forget (or forgive) Blizzard for General Vezax in WotLK. I literally had to step down from Main Tank – as the Guild Leader – so I could reroll Death Knight to complete the encounter. Prot warrior or Druids could have worked too, but DKs were already broken in all the other content too, so the writing was on the wall.

        In any case, I’m looking forward to Classic, if for no other reason than to see people step in, experience paladin leveling, and collapse from shock. I posted some videos two years ago about how it’ll go.

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      • Can personally confirm that we did server-first raiding as horde using dps shamans and dps druids. Also used druids as off-tanks sometimes, depending on raid composition. Can’t talk about the Pali experience because we didn’t play the ez-mode faction back then :)

        BTW any new thoughts on State of Decay 2, especially as a co-op game? Considering that title as something to play with casually with the wife.

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      • Re: State of Decay 2, no new thoughts. I never played it co-op, but I could see it being pretty fun. Indeed, it was quite difficult running around alone when you end up finding a better vehicle, for example, as you couldn’t tell the AI to drive the original back home.

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  3. I think a few people have said, strip all the Azerite Traits off the gear and just put them on the necklace. To be fair, I’m sure if they did people would be saying it’s Artifact Weapon 2.0. What is frustrating to me is getting a 370 Azerite piece and comparing it to a 340, and realizing the 340 is better. Not by a lot, but just a little better. Now that said, we are looking at a 30 iLvL difference. From talking to people in guild, they have said, 15 or less, go by the traits, more than 15, base stats are more critical. I am only dealing with one character and one spec, and I am thoroughly confused. People have suggested using Raid Bots to sim the different pieces to determine which is better. And I think that shows a problem for the majority of players. Should we need to run sims to help us choose between two gear pieces, add on top of that bonuses for raiders with certain traits that increase based on total Uldir kills, and you have a complicated mess.

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  4. Here’s the thing:

    1. Gearing a secondary spec in Vanilla/TBC/WotLK etc had a grind involved, but it was also pretty straightforward. You knew what stats and caps to aim for, and you knew where to get them. The last part is important. I needed the Evermelting Heart from Crucible (I think?) and all I had to do is do the runs and eventually it’d drop. I had clearly set and achievable goals to get my gear for my Affliction spec. The END.

    2. Gearing a secondary spec in BfA is like throwing the dice in a casino. You know which traits you want , IF YOU DO SIMCRAFTS, but have no guaranteed ways to go after them. You may need X stats, but it rolls a secondary you don’t want. Time and time again you hear about people looting 370 gear that are worse than the 340s they are wearing, or how they loot the piece they wanted (finally) and they cannot use it yet, because of arbitrary Azerite level requirements (forcing more grinds on top).

    In scenario 1, you had slow and steady progression, which people like me (that like to plan ahead) loved. When you finally got your BiS, you didn’t sigh in relief, but were excited to take it into Alterac Valley and crush skulls with it.

    In scenario 2 you have RNG-based looting patterns that are designed to regress player power levels, and in essence extend playtime for the playerbase. It’s a skinner box simulation focused on making you waste as much playtime as is humanely possible, which everyone hates. You could argue that this was also the case in Legion, but you’d be wrong: you had a clear progression goal in your Artifact Weapon(s)/Tier Pieces and you had actually good pieces of content (both solo and instanced) that people were eager to play despite the RNG elements in loot.

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  5. I think they are right to try to prevent all but the most dedicated players to multispec. Why? Because most players can’t even play one spec right, let alone two. So the paladin tank should keep being tank and shouldn’t lolret around. Demanding a different set of gear makes it happen, he will so lack the gear that he won’t even try.

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