The Removal of Tier in Battle for Azeroth…

Does the removal of Tier Gear in the next Warcraft expansion seem like a sensible change or is it the death knell for raiding?

With the announcement that Tier Gear drops and their associated set bonuses will be getting “retired” in Battle for Azeroth (BfA), the next expansion to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, many people were shocked, surprised and a little bit puzzled as to why this was happening.

Are Blizzard dumbing the game down further still? Is coming up with new set bonuses for each tier, for each class and spec proving too difficult? Have Blizzard run out of ideas for these set bonuses?

All questions I’ve seen asked/pondered over the past days, and all are shrewd and valid questions to varying degrees.

Instead of tier gear, it appears users of each armour type will have a single set of gear per raid instance. So Mages, Warlock & Priests, using cloth as an example, will all get the exact same gear as there will be no more “class armour” as we get at the moment with Tier.

A minor issue for me will be aesthetics. Tier gear gives each class its own distinct appearance, so you instantly know if someone is a Warlock, or a Priest. Instead, in BfA, Blizzard will be pimping up the overall gear aesthetic from normal drops both in and out of raids, to have them themed more closely around the particular raid instance that the gear piece is relevant to.

The main issue I have with this change is one of stats. What constitutes a good stat for a frost mage may well be terrible for a discipline priest, a great stat for an affliction warlock may be the worst stat for a Fire Mage etc.

Moving to plate or leather makes the situation even more polarised, as there you have the entire trinity of classes represented. A prot warrior seeking the same stats as a Holy Paladin, as an Unholy DK? A resto Druid looking for the same stats as a Vengeance Demon Hunter?

I’m not that bothered about the removal of the tier set bonuses themselves, because we will of course be getting extra perks with the Azerite neck piece conferring extra traits onto your helm, shoulders & chest pieces.

But the overall homogenisation of gear and stats across up to 4 different classes per armour type doesn’t exactly smack of easily balanced to me, without sticking Versatility on EVERYTHING…

On the plus side however, it does mean that we will be less locked in on what were traditionally the tier slots for upgrades. Legion saw this problem at its absolute peak. Players could have up to 8 gear slots completely locked down at this moment in time:

  1. Tier 21 Helm
  2. Tier 21 Shoulders
  3. Tier 21 Chest
  4. Tier 21 Cloak
  5. Tier 20 Gloves
  6. Tier 20 Legs
  7. Legendary Belt
  8. Legendary Ring

By and large, those 8 slots are dead in terms of getting usable upgrades within a single difficulty level (warforging and titanforging aside), and certainly the 2 legendary slots are and will be dead for the remainder of the expansion unless you got another, better legendary in another slot that wasn’t already locked behind a tier slot.

My warlock’s bags this expansion have been brimming near to full for the past few months, because I’m juggling 6 different pieces of tier around 7 different legendary pieces, all of which need to be switched in and out alongside talents on a per-fight basis if I want to perform at my best. As a mid-high level mythic raider where we’re constantly progressing right up until the tier changes to the next raid, performing at my best is something I’m always seeking to do, especially as the raid leader for Treehugging Hippies.

This change, alongside the killing of Legendary drops per those seen in Legion, will mean if I get a better item than the one I have at the time, I’ll be able to equip it right away, regardless of whether it replaces an old “tier gear slot” or not. No more worrying about losing a set piece bonus if I switch a piece of gear out.

Good example: If I were to equip all of my highest iLevel gear, my equipped ilevel would be 942. That would mean dropping my 4 and 2 piece set bonuses, and absolutely trashing my overall stat profile. However because of all of the above mucking about with tier set bonuses, legendary items etc, not to mention the fact that my 860 ilevel Unstable Arcanocrystal is still on of my BiS trinkets(!) my equipped item level is 932, 10 item levels lower.

So on balance, I see this as a positive change, depending on how they handle stats in BfA. The removal of Versatility would be a good start, as very few non-tanking classes will make much use of it, but a Warlock can dream…

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