Gearing in Shadowlands

Is Shadowlands a back to basics approach, or just plain stingy with gear?

This is the question that’s been becoming more prevalent in the WoW community since the launch of Shadowland’s Season One. With increased relevance now, now that most guilds are beginning to progress into Castle Nathria, gear is becoming more of an issue, tied as it is directly to player power.

Raiding

Raiding has been my personal preference for gearing up. I love raiding, the fact that each boss is its own unique puzzle that requires 20 to 30 people to work together to unlock, and that the satisfaction of downing a particularly tricky boss with your friends is something that’s hard to beat otherwise in the game as a whole.

In previous expansions this, as a sole method of obtaining gear was a completely viable way of getting gear, and staying on a par with other guildmates who also partook in other gametypes, such as PvP and in more recent expansions, Mythic+.

However, Shadowlands, with its vaunted aforementioned “Back to basics” approach, saw reductions of 40% in the amount of gear obtained per boss. In previous expansions, a raid group of 20 people could expect to see 5 pieces of gear per boss downed. Which meant you had a 25% chance on killing a boss to get a piece of gear.

With Shadowlands and that reduction in gear drops, there’s now only 3 pieces of gear for a raid group of 20 people, meaning that you now have a 15% chance of seeing a piece of gear when killing a boss. Nearly half of what it was before.

In terms of my Hunter, I cleared 19 bosses this week and saw 2 drops: One, a 207 weapon token from Normal mode Denathrius, and a heroic pair of bracers.

Blizzard have stated, somewhere, that on average players should be seeing 1 piece of gear drop for every 6.667 bosses killed. Seems that I am, as ever, unlucky with drops, given my 1 piece of gear for every 9.5 bosses on average, giving me a 10.5% chance of gear on any boss. Significantly lower than the previous expansion average of 25%…

Mythic+

I’ve been running quite a few Mythic+ dungeons so far in Shadowlands. More out of a sense of neccessity in terms of gearing, rather than any innate desire to run the content itself.

In terms of seeing any gear drops, Mythic+ for me has been worse than even raiding is at the moment. Previous expansions since the intro of M+ generally saw 2 pieces of gear drop at the end of a run, meaning a 40% chance of gear. However reductions in gear amounts have been seen in M+ as well, dropping from 2 pieces to 1 piece at the end of a run, meaning a 20% chance of gear.

Personally, that’s an optimistic percentage. Across perhaps a couple of dozen keystone runs so far, I’ve had maybe 2 pieces of gear drop. None of which I currently use, due to either sidegrades, bad stats, or upgrades obtained from raiding.

As it stands right now, unless you’re completely no-lifing it and running Mythic+ all day, every day? M+ is not, by itself, a viable method of gearing your character, and staying relevant with guildmates.

Mythic 0, or non-keystone runs, still drop gear per boss, but these are also on a weekly lockout, and only drop 184 gear, which for alts is ok, but for mains, more than a month into the expansion, isn’t appropriate for heroic/mythic raiding.

PvP

I’ve done quite a bit of PvP this season so far. And unlike M+ runs, this has been out of desire to actually play the content, rather than seeing it as a method of gearing. Which is just as well, as the base PvP vendor honor gear is a miserly 158 item level, which, through earning a tonne of honor per item, be eventually upgraded to a slightly less, but still miserly 184 gear level. A gear level which is equal to a M0 piece of gear.

Rated PvP gear rewards on the vendor start at iLevel 200, which is a lot better and equivalent to normal mode Castle Nathria gear. It is also the only method by which you can get iLevel 233 weapons at the moment. Unless you’re a Hunter or such in one of the 7 or so guilds that have killed Mythic Denathrius, somewhat of a taller order than getting lucky in your weekly vault. Speaking of which…


The Great Vault

This is the new method of gearing Shadowlands has brought in. Blizzard’s replacement for bonus rolls, this is based off of the difficulty and amount of content your character had partaken in the previous week.

You can either kill 1/4/10 Raid bosses, complete 1/4/10 keystone dungeons, or earn 1250/2500/6250 honor from rated PvP. Completing each of the above requirements will unlock 1 option in your Great Vault per week.

This has been the one method by which, if you complete the requirements, that you’re guaranteed to get a piece of gear, of a level relevant to the content you completed the previous week.

So for me this coming reset, I’ve done 19 bosses in Nathria so far: 10 on normal, 9 on heroic. That means with those kills, I’ll have access to 2 heroic choices, and 1 remaining normal mode choice.

The fact that you have a choice is a massive improvement over the weekly mythic+ caches of previous expansions, where the item you could get was completely random, and would usually be either a piece of gear you have or is a downgrade, or would be the same piece of gear 3 weeks running (yes, that actually happened to me in BfA, twice).

However, as a replacement for Bonus Rolls, which are now removed in Shadowlands content, it is a substantial reduction in QoL. Bonus Rolls would let players semi-target specific gear, by rolling on the boss that drops the piece of gear in question. However the Great Vault is as bound by RNG as the weekly M+ caches were, albeit with a visible choice of up to 9 pieces of gear to choose from.

That considered, I don’t consider the Vault as a replacement for Bonus Rolls, merely a great improvement on the weekly M+ caches of yore.

Meaning that the removal of Bonus Rolls, maligned as they were, is one avenue of gearing that has just outright been removed with no equal replacement.

Comparatively?

So in BfA, if I cleared 19 bosses, I could have got, on average in a 20 man raid, 4 pieces of gear. 8 keystone runs would’ve resulted in perhaps another 2 pieces of gear, giving 6 in total, with the weekly cache giving one more for a total of 7 pieces of gear, and maybe one more piece from PvP for a total of 8 pieces of gear.

Usability, appropriateness of gear, stats etc all aside, that’s a lot of potential gear.

In Shadowlands however?

19 bosses: 2 pieces of gear.

8 Keystone runs: 1 piece of gear.

Vault: 1 piece of gear

Total: 4 pieces of gear

Or, in other words, 50% (4 vs 8) of the previous expansions’ gearing potential.

That’s a significant drop in gearing speed, even if the gear you’re getting has good stats and isn’t already a side/downgrade for a slot you already have (although that was true for the 8 gear drops of a previous expansion too), although the Vault’s choice can side-step that somewhat.

And for a guild that was working on our first Cutting Edge in Nyalotha, and hoping to push on and get that in Nathria, it’s going to be a real push in order to try to achieve that.


Thoughts

Personally? Not a huge fan. I’d rather than difficulty in obtaining the likes of Cutting Edge come from the fights and bosses themselves, not the difficulty in obtaining the gear to even attempt the content.

Unless you’re completely no-lifing the game at the moment, and running mythic keystones all day, on top of clearing Castle Nathria on multiple difficulties, as well as playing a LOT of PvP, you’re going to fall behind the curve in terms of gearing.

And for those of us who are, and have throughout the entire duration of the pandemic, been working 5 days a week that’s somewhat of a tall order, and is a bit disheartening if I’m honest.

My Hunter, thanks to the Christmas period, is currently 203/208 at the moment, which is decent, but I’ve been lucky with a few pieces being traded to me in mythic+ and normal Nathria, as well as a lucky 213 BoE drop last night, which I’m still not entirely sure I’ll use. Not because of the gold value of the item on the AH (about 130k gold atm on Silvermoon), but because it’s got less than ideal stats on it.

Either way, with the return to work full time this week after the festive period, my efforts at gearing will now slow right down to usual levels.

Hey ho.

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