Recently, Blizzard announced that coming in 5.2 they would introduce Thunderforged items. What is a Thunderforged item? Well its a slight upgrade over the normal or heroic drop. For example if an item in normal mode drops and is ilvl 522, a Thunderforged version has a chance to also drop of that same item, but with an ilvl of 528 in normal. In heroics it would be 535 for the regular drop and 541 for the heroic Thunderforged item. So what does this have to do with 25 man raiding you ask? Well there is a higher chance of Thunderforged items dropping in 25 mans than in 10 mans.
The whole purpose of this change is that, according to Blizzard, it will provide incentive for players to do 25 man raiding, but the question is will it truly bring back 25 man raiding to a level Blizzard is targeting?
Blizzard has stated that Thunderforged items will give raiders a reason for farming the same content over, in the hopes of getting even more upgrades, better upgrades. And these Thunderforged items will have a much better chance to drop in 25 mans than in 10 mans. With 10 mans rarely seeing them. But that percent drop is important, and while Blizzard hasn’t come out and said what it is, it will still be subjected to RNG (Random Number Generation) that all loot in Warcraft adheres to. So even if its say a 10% drop chance, you could potentially go 9 weeks in a row without ever seeing it. As a way to combat bad luck, the game could provide the guild itself a stacking percent that each time a Thunderforged item doesn’t drop it provides a higher chance to drop one on the next boss, until finally one drops the buff resets. Of course there is also the chance that the same Thunderforged item drops each time you kill a boss, also reducing the effectiveness of the system to urge more to do 25 mans, and instead just frustrate raiders who already struggle with how to cope and gear while at the mercy of the RNG loot system.
This also lends itself to the fact, that about raiders could hold out for the better item? Many raiders use a DKP system that they would be hesitant to use on non-tier gear if there was a chance they could hold out and get something better, in this case, the Thunderforged version of it. This argument I have seen thrown out a lot, however I don’t buy into it for the majority of folks. Why? Well many top tier raiding guilds use a Loot Council system, where in the interest of beating content faster they just assign loot to those who need it to help them progress faster. Other guilds like mine, Phalanx of Nod, we use a modified version of Suicide Kings, where holding out, only helps you so much before you are dead even with everyone else anyway, so you are encouraged to take upgrades when you can get them. However I can see this being an issue for some, especially as previously mentioned in guilds who are subject to a DKP system, where point hording is allowed. Also, what about Thunderforged items creating an awkward situation for subbing in trial raiders or alts? Will that not happen anymore unless someone who has the Thunderforged item already is willing to sit?
Thunderforged items also seem to be taking the place for Valor upgrades, with Blizzard saying they are removing the Valor upgrade vendor come patch 5.2, and aren’t sure if it will return in patch 5.3. This takes gear upgrades out of the hands of players and puts it back into Blizzard’s control via RNG loot distribution. Is there a better option than Thunderforged, items with a higher ilvl than existing items? Perhaps, what about dropping a token instead that allows you to use the Valor upgrade vendor to upgrade any current tier item (excluding class tier pieces). This would allow 25 man raiders a chance to upgrade their gear without spending valor points, and instead using their earned valor points to upgrade their other gear, and ultimately letting them gear up faster than 10 man teams. Though if we don’t want to drop tokens, you could always drop gear that is already “pre-upgraded” but then you run into, what if you are dropping a piece that someone already has, with the token you provide more flexibility.
So back to the real question, will Thunderforged items help increase the popularity of 25 man raiding? I personally think it won’t. It doesn’t go far enough to provide true incentive. Lets look at a few things I see as roadblocks to bringing back 25 man raids.
- Decreased server populations. Several servers are underpopulated, but many refuse to pay the transfer fee to move, and Blizzard isn’t planning any server consolidations. Then you have these limited populations spread across several guilds, which brings me to my next point
- Too many guilds. Anyone can create a guild these days, and it spreads the population too thinly in many cases. Leading some guilds to poach from one another (not a new problem). Now I know some people are going to say, anyone has the right to make a guild. I would argue they don’t, and I don’t personally like that its so easy to make one. If Blizzard imposed caps to how many guilds could exist on a server, or even go as far as auto-disband guilds that don’t do anything with their members collectively, and not just raiding, but dungeons, pvp, etc. This would make guilds work harder to do things as a guild or you need to go find a guild that is productive and does things with one another.
But lets say neither of the 2 points above come to pass. What other incentive could Blizzard provide to spark more interest in 25 man raiding, without alienating 10 man raid teams? Perhaps increase the valor points per kill, let 25 man raiders Valor cap just by raiding. Allow each raid boss in 25 man mode to drop 10 lesser charms, that can be traded in to get the greater charms to improve your bonus loot rules, but let 10 mans maybe get 2-3 charms per kill. Another item people have been dying for is a way to distinguish 25 man raids from 10 mans, you can do this by changing the gear, without actually changing the gear. Let me explain, let 25 man bosses, drop bonus Transmog-gear. This would be a way for raiders in 25 mans to customize their gear in a different way that doesn’t change the ilvl of gear or create a gear disparity between the two raiding options. People love Transmog gear, and other than more art going into the game, it wouldn’t fundamentally change much.
In my opinion the winning formula to provide more incentive to 25 man raids is to do a combination of the following:
- Higher percent chance to drop “gear upgrade tokens” in 25 man raids. These are tokens that would upgrade your gear at the Valor upgrade vendor, without spending valor, allowing choice over which items to upgrade and when, works with existing gear drops, and lets 25 man raiders gear up faster than 10 man raids.
- Drop Transmog gear in 25 man raids only. Give 25 man raiders a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.
- Increase Valor point drops in 25 man raids, allow 25 man raiders to Valor cap, if they clear the current tier of raiding in a week.
- Add Lesser Charms to both 25 man and 10 man raids, have lesser charms be higher in 25 man raids than 10 mans.
What do you think? What are some other alternatives to the system Blizzard is looking to put in place?