Nerfs in Mists of Pandaria

I was reading a great post over at Alternative Chat today, about how if you don’t love World of Warcraft, you shouldn’t play, essentially. If, for example, the game makes you angry or frustrated, it’s probably time to step away.

As I’m human, I immediately started applying what The Godmother was saying to my own experience playing World of Warcraft.

If I had to pick a single thing about Cataclysm that frustrated me, over and over again, to the point of not even wanting to play, it was the constant nerfing of current content. My rage about Firelands’ 20% nerf is extremely well-documented.

When it was announced that Dragon Soul would also receive nerfs, despite the existence of Raid Finder (LFR), I was still angry but I was more resigned. That’s when I realized that my Firelands-era rant about not wanting to play was something that was continuing into the final tier of content.

So I stopped playing. I let my sub run out in November of 2012 and promptly took six months away from just about anything to do with the game. I barely blogged, was absent on Twitter for the most part. My guides are what drew me back and what keep me interested in the state of the game, plus it’s been fun to reconnect with members of the WoW community, too.

One of my fears regarding quitting when I did has to do with nerfs. I was scared that they wouldn’t nerf anything in Mists. I knew they would be implementing Cutting Edge and Ahead of the Curve achievements (for those who would get heroic and normal clears, respectively, prior to the release of a new tier), so that indicated to me that maybe they wouldn’t nerf things that were current. This concerned me a bit because if one of the major reasons I wasn’t playing Mists of Pandaria was because of Blizzard’s recent habit of nerfing the crap out of everything, why wouldn’t I be playing if they weren’t nerfing things?

It dawned on me that Blizzard has been nerfing things, and not just after each new tier comes out (although there’s that, too — apparently the T14 raids on normal and heroic have been nerfed by 10% and Throne of Thunder has been nerfed by 20% since 5.4 was released).

Kurn, what the hell are you talking about? There weren’t any current nerfs to the content in T14 or T15.

Sorry to say it, but there were nerfs to the content. You know them as the 5.1 and 5.3 Valor Upgrades.

Admittedly, it took me a while to realize it myself and to realize why I had initially viewed the Valor Upgrades as something other than a nerf.

One of my biggest problems with the nerfs in Cataclysm was that the nerfs were to the base encounter: “The boss has 20% less health, does 20% less damage.” That’s a nerf to the encounter.

While I wasn’t altogether a fan of the ICC buff, where people did increasingly more damage and healing, at least, I reasoned, the onus was on the player to perform better with these buffs. A 30% buff still wouldn’t make up for an idiot hunter who just auto-shotted throughout the encounter and didn’t use a pet. A 30% buff (even to health) wasn’t guaranteed to keep you alive if you stood in the fire. (Obviously, it bought you time to move out of the fire, but it didn’t really save you from Heroic Sindragosa’s Frost Bombs and stuff.)

The Firelands nerfs came in after the instance had been open for four months (June 28th-September 19th = 12 weeks).

The Dragon Soul nerfs began being applied after the instance had been open for 9 weeks (November 29th-January 31st).

In the case of the Valor Upgrades, these appeared with the mid-tier patches of 5.1 and 5.3.

5.1 came out on November 27th (about 8 weeks after the expansion’s launch) and 5.3 came out on May 21st, 11 weeks after Patch 5.2 (and thus, Throne of Thunder) came out. Valor Upgrades mean that you can upgrade Epic-quality gear twice for four item levels each, using Valor Points. So the Shattered Tortoiseshell Longbow from Tortos in the Throne of Thunder starts out as ilvl 522. If you upgrade it once (for 250 VP), it goes to ilvl 526. You then gain 60 agility, 89 stamina, 40 expertise, 38 hit and 216.2 ranged DPS.

If you upgrade it again, for another 250 VP, it turns into a 530 item level bow and you gain an additional 61 agility, 92 stamina, 43 expertise, 39 hit and 224.2 ranged DPS.

That’s a total increase of:

121 agility
181 stamina
83 expertise
77 hit
440.6 ranged DPS

The basic difference between one level of gear and another is about 13 item levels. The normal T16 chest for a holy paladin, for example, is Breastplate of Winged Triumph and is ilvl 553 and the heroic version is 566.

So getting an 8 item level boost is more than halfway to the next step of gear. 8 item levels is more than the difference between normal and thunder/warforged, which is 6 item levels. It’s more than the difference between heroic and heroic thunder/warforged, which is also 6 item levels.

If you upgrade the vast majority of your gear (as, I believe, is expected for most heroic raiders), if your whole raid team does that, guess what? You’ve just nerfed the instance. By about 7-8%.

One of the major problems Blizzard had with the ICC buff (as a nerfing mechanic) is that they didn’t like that people felt “less powerful” outside of the instance. It’s true — people who went merrily roflstomping their way through ICC at, say, the 30% buff, got their asses handed to them on Halion in the Ruby Sanctum.

So what they did here, and I really do have to take my hat off to them for this, is they elected to nerf things through the players. The responsibility to upgrade your gear is on YOU. The responsibility of earning enough VP to do so is on YOU. As a reward, you get to be more powerful, not just in a single raid instance, but everywhere. They only introduced this in the 5.1 and 5.3 patches, which meant that they waited until the tier was about halfway over before allowing players to nerf it by outgearing things.

Of course, these valor upgrade NPCs are still around now that 5.4 has hit. That means that you can upgrade all your shiny new LFR/Flex/Normal/Heroic gear ASAP. And since Valor Points weren’t converted to Justice Points either, well, hey. That means that a lot of people can get their upgrades going super-quickly to help them mow down the first several Siege bosses much more easily than they would have been able to otherwise.

In other words… Instead of waiting for a 5.5 patch to nerf things via Valor Upgrades, you can just start out with a nerf to the instance right off the bat.

This leaves me wondering… will they do a blanket nerf midway through the tier? Will 5.5 bring with it another nonsensical nerf? Will there even be a 5.5? Will they just nerf stuff halfway through without a mid-tier patch?

For the last four tiers in a row, Blizzard has introduced a nerf mechanic to the current raid instance while about halfway through the tier. Firelands was the 20% flat nerf. Dragon Soul was the 5% nerf, gaining every 4 weeks or so. Tier 14 was in the form of 5.1’s Valor Upgrades. Tier 15 was in the form of 5.3’s Valor Upgrades.

Does the fact that Valor Upgrades are possible in 5.4 mean that there will be no nerfs in Tier 16? Or does it mean that an even bigger nerf is looming? Well, it’s common knowledge that this is the last raid encounter of the expansion. At the change from BC to Wrath, there was a 30% nerf that went into effect for ALL RAIDS and ALL BOSSES. In the last six months of ICC, we had a stacking 5% buff-type nerf. It seems to me that the question isn’t will there be an additional nerf to Siege of Orgrimmar, it’s just what form will that additional nerf take?

Remember, we’re probably looking at Siege of Orgrimmar being the instance until June, 2014, which is when I anticipate the new expansion will drop. I would think, therefore, that a nerf effect might be applied sometime in December at the earliest and February at the latest.

I could be wrong, mind you. This is all conjecture. But another nerf mechanic in this, the last raid tier of the expansion, only seems logical when you look at how Blizzard has consistently nerfed current content (and, specifically, final tier content) over the last several years. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

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5 comments

  1. Talarian says:

    “For the last four tiers in a row, Blizzard has introduced a nerf mechanic to the current raid instance while about halfway through the tier.”

    Your information is incorrect. The 20% nerfs this time around haven’t been occurring until the next tier has been released. Mogu’shan Vaults, Heart of Fear, and Terrace of Endless Spring didn’t get their 20% nerf until Throne of Thunder was released. Throne of Thunder just got a 20% nerf when Siege of Orgrimmar was released. They’ve seemed to have switched to the concept of not nerfing instances until that tier is effectively over, though given this is the last tier of the expansion, I wonder if they’ll toss a 20% nerf a few months down the line.

  2. Kadomi says:

    Interesting read. I think MoP’s ‘nerfs’ are handled a lot better than Cataclysm’s, because they don’t actually feel like nerfs. Nerfing encounters is a slap to the face. Buffing players, especially if the burden is on the player, feels more rewarding. Mind you, they did nerf a few fights in ToT mid-tier, but that was because Horridon e.g. had terrible tuning.

    However, I don’t agree with you that SoO is nerfed right off the bat by having the valor upgrade vendor available right at the start. In all other tiers, you always had new sets of gear available for the current tier that could be purchased with valor points. 5.0 had 489 valor gear, 5.2 had 522 valor gear. 5.4 has absolutely no valor gear. People like me who already had every piece of gear upgraded now have to wait for further gear drops. Now, between flex and normal I already had the luck to receive 3 upgrades, but we also have raid members who got nothing.

  3. Kurn says:

    Talarian – That’s kind of the whole point of this post. Even though there has been no blanket nerf applied to the zones or bosses while content has been current, the very existence of valor upgrades serves as a nerf. That said, it’s less severe than the nerfs in Firelands and Dragon Soul, but it does exist as an ICC-style “player power” buff, one that persists outside of the instance, which was the major problem devs had with the ICC buff.

    Kadomi – I agree, the nerfs this expansion are exceedingly easier to swallow because it feels like you’ve worked for this particular reward (better/upgraded gear).

    As to SoO being nerfed off the bat, perhaps that’s a little bit of hyperbole, but not a whole lot of it. Because VP did not reset/get converted to JP at 5.4, people had 3000 VP to spend immediately. Compare that to the re-grinding of VP in order to purchase new Valor gear. Two weeks at minimum (likely) in order to grind up enough VP to buy gear versus waiting for a single drop that you can technically upgrade twice for a huge ilvl increase.

    Example:

    Heroic Shattered Tortoiseshell Longbow, fully upgraded, is:

    Item Level 543
    14538 – 27002 Damage Speed 3.00
    (6923.3 damage per second)
    +1815 Agility
    +2843 Stamina
    +1161 Hit (3.41% @ L90)
    +1261 Expertise (3.71 @ L90)

    Blue Socket
    Socket Bonus: +60 Agility

    But then you have a NORMAL bow like Dagryn’s Discarded Longbow, which you can easily upgrade twice. The normal is 553 (10 ilvls higher than heroic, 2/2 upgrades) and the fully upgraded is 561. You can go from having a 543 bow to a 561 bow in a single night if you had 500 VP on you. You can do that six times before you completely empty your stored VP from Throne of Thunder, plus you’re constantly earning more VP anyhow.

    Surely the 3000 VP holdover from the previous tier makes a huge difference in upgrading gear now rather than three months from now, even if you’re unlucky to get anything for a couple of weeks.

  4. R says:

    I’ve made this comment elsewhere but I think while gear upgrades (and the large stat delta between tiers) do fuction as something of a nerfing mechanic, they’re really only of benefit if you’re getting gear to upgrade. Basically, you need success to begin with in order to unlock this type of nerf, making it somewhat ineffective overall. Those raids who are stuck on Norushen and will be for the next 2 months are getting little or no benefit from that type of nerf, despite them being arguably the ones most in need of one, especially in conjunction with the lack of VP gear. I suspect it’s more the case that Blizzard has tried to design the fight progression to account for the +i8 upgrades over time as VP allows… rather than dropping i561 gear in normal to begin with, they’re dropping i553 gear and allowing us to slowly upgrade it to i561, flattening the RNG curve from player to player (smaller standard deviation) and raid to raid, making it easier for them to tune the fights tighter the further into progression you get since there will be a smaller spread of iLvls in play and fewer pieces of gear being acquired in general since they’re all coming from drops (or crafting) without the supplementary VP gear.

  5. Paul says:

    Valor upgrading in 5.4 and after is NOT a nerf. That’s because for most people, they will be getting gear more slowly than they can upgrade it. So all the gear will start upgraded. If it were a nerf, the upgrading would be introduced later.

    I suspect we will see actual nerfs to SoO, eventually.

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