The History and Future of PvP Gearing: Which Systems Would Work Best in Shadowlands?
15.09.2020 um 02:51
With the recent
development update for Shadowlands
, Ion Hazzikostas stated that the team agrees with the constructive feedback regarding PvP itemization. In this article,
analyzes the PvP gearing systems of the past and what could be done in the future as we await the details of the PvP vendor rework on the Shadowlands beta.
Throughout the first decade of World of Warcraft, players who journeyed into PvP were rewarded with PvP gear that reflected their accolades.
This PvP gear was often better in PvP than anything players could acquire from other aspects of the game.
That is up until recently, where the significance of PvP gear was removed in Legion. While some may have considered this a good change for the competitive nature of the game, what came next in BfA was a complete 180 and with the same issues seeming to continue into Shadowlands, we've seen a recent uproar in the PvP community to try and prevent this from happening.
In this article, I'll be covering the history of PvP gearing in previous expansions and taking a look at the potential solutions Blizzard could implement to make PvPers happy.
Why PvP Gear Used to Be the Best for PvP
Prior to the release of Legion, PvP gear was for the most part mandatory if you wanted to succeed in PvP.
Going all the way back to Vanilla, players who managed to rank up through the honor system were rewarded with PvP gear that had more stamina than any PvE options, while also offering unique bonuses for each class, a trend that continued for quite some time and played a pivotal role in PvP gear being the optimal choice in PvP.
For example, Mages with the
Ornat des Kriegsfürsten
were rewarded with a more potent mana shield from the handguards and set bonuses which granted them even more Stamina, an increase to their damage and reduced the cooldown of Blink by 1.5 seconds.
Although players were still forced to PvE if they wanted the best gear for PvP (due to some items such as necks and rings not being rewarded from PvP), World of Warcraft was seen as a different game back then. It was much more of an MMO than it is today and we still had not seen the introduction of the competitive PvP mode, Arena, which was introduced in TBC.
The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm
The introduction of Arena in The Burning Crusade brought with it a brand new stat - Resilience. This essentially provided players with a much needed way to reduce the damage they took from other players. Resilience was exclusive to PvP gear and was on every piece of it which made sure PvP gear was almost always going to be the best choice for PvP.
PvP gear also continued to make use of PvP set bonuses which gave even more Resilience alongside additional bonuses that assisted players in combat against other players. Again looking at Mages, having their set bonus active reduced the cast time of Polymorph, while Shamans reduced the cooldown of Grounding Totem - two abilities integral to PvP and certainly two bonuses these classes would not consider playing without. A single bonus also remained on an item, usually the gloves, which was just another reason PvP gear reigned supreme in PvP.
This system remained the same throughout Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, however it did still come with its own set of problems. This was mostly in the form of how strong some of the PvE gear in the game was. The Burning Crusade had
Kriegsgleve von Azzinoth
; Wrath of the Lich King had
and Trinkets like
Wille des Todesbringers
; and Cataclysm had even more with
Drachenzorn, Tarecgosas letzte Ruhe
Fänge des Urvaters
Gurthalak, die Stimme aus den Tiefen
Phiole voller Schatten
Listigkeit des Grausamen
Although you would be sacrificing Resilience to use these weapons and trinkets, you were essentially trading more damage dealt for more damage taken - a risk that many players were willing to take as they generally got the better end of that deal when using the best PvE gear.
Mists of Pandaria
This all changed in Mists of Pandaria, where we saw the introduction of PvP Power, a stat that essentially worked against Resilience (renamed to PvP Resilience in MoP), allowing players to deal more damage to other players.
This meant that not only were players taking less damage if they equipped PvP gear thanks to their PvP Resilience, they were also dealing more damage to other players due to the newly added PvP Power.
The set bonuses were also made to be even stronger, with specializations like Shadow Priests being given the ability to Fear those who dispel their Vampiric Touch through their
Gewandung des Gladiators
, something they could not play without. Every class also got a huge amount of PvP Power and PvP Resilience for wearing an entire set and set bonuses were even introduced to trinkets.
All together, this made PvP gear much stronger than ever before, seemingly making Mists of Pandaria the perfect expansion up until this point as players did not once need to venture into PvE to gain an advantage.
Warlords of Draenor
Warlords of Draenor brought with it a change to PvP gearing which many players still consider the best gearing system we've seen to this day for WoW PvP. The strongest gear players could acquire from PvP would scale up to an item level higher than the current tier's Mythic equivalent when engaged in PvP combat. Looking back at season 1 of WoD, the 660 item level conquest gear scaled up to 690 item level, while the highest item level PvE gear from Mythic Highmaul gear was only 685 and scaled down in PvP. This, paired with PvP set bonuses meant that a full set of PvP gear continued to be the best way to gear for PvP.
However, something which ended up hurting PvP gear later on was the merging of Resilience and PvP Power into one new stat - Versatility. This gave players a flat damage increase while reducing the damage they took, meaning that we lost stats which were unique to PvP as Versatility would now be utilized in all aspects of WoW and made its way onto PvE gear. While this didn't matter yet due to scaling making PvP gear superior, it would eventually come back to make PvP gearing in BfA an absolute nightmare.
The Removal of Customization and the Downfall of PvP Gear
In Legion, the developers decided to go against everything they had been building up until now by normalizing item level in PvP and introducing stat templates. This worked by scaling up gear below a certain item level to a normalized item level that everyone shared. Each item level you then gained over that level gave you a 0.1% increase in stats, meaning that every 10 item levels was the equivalent of a 1% stat increase. Unfortunately this meant that players lost the ability to control their stats, as everything was predetermined for them and all they could do was get a very minor increase as they geared up, something that made gear less relevant than ever before. The lack of significance to gear in PvP also meant that PvP vendors were removed.
While this system was certainly praised by some as the need to grind gear no longer existed, Legion brought with it a new system we still see to this day - borrowed power. Players were required to grind Artifact Power in order to power up their artifact weapon and remain competitive, something that continued over into Battle for Azeroth. Borrowed power aside, the lack of customization definitely hurt the MMO side of PvP, but it doesn't even begin to scratch the surface when looking at the problems that occured in BfA.
Battle for Azeroth
Moving into and throughout Battle for Azeroth, players have had to deal with a number of issues when it comes to getting the best gear for PvP. First, the removal of Legion's stat templates meant that gear was once again important in PvP. The scaling system was also adjusted to no longer normalize item level or favor PvP gear, but instead lower the power gap between players item levels. This is where our first problem appears, linked to a change I previously mentioned in Warlords of Draenor.
Merging Resilience and PvP Power into Versatility, and having it also appear on PvE gear meant that we no longer had a PvP only stat. Adding the decision to not bring back PvP set bonuses to this, and not having a scaling system that favored PvP gear like in Warlords of Draenor, brought us to a point where PvP gear no longer mattered. The best gear for PvP just became the highest item level gear you could acquire with your two best stats - Haste and Versatility for most classes - and most of the best stat combinations did not exist on PvP gear which forced players to PvE if they wanted to be competitive in PvP. We also saw many more best in slot items that offered large increases to damage, damage reduction, and healing come from PvE; including Azerite armor, weapons, trinkets and more.
The decision to not bring back a PvP vendor after making gear important in PvP again also meant that players had very little control over the small number of PvP items they actually wanted to acquire. To put things into perspective, a player could spend one day farming Mythic 14s and get an entire set of Haste/Versatility gear. Trying to do the same in PvP would be an impossible task.
All of this only covers a fraction of what was wrong with the PvP gearing system in BfA - we also had to deal with borrowed power in the form of Essences and Corruption, along with the inability to farm specific PvP items. Also, weekly chests that offered the highest item level gear meant that part of your character's progression was completely tied behind an RNG roll that you may never hit. All in all, it's safe to say that BfA was plagued with issues when it comes to gearing up for PvP.
This brings us to Shadowlands. While borrowed power continues in the form of covenants and legendaries which the player base seems to have accepted, the reintroduction of PvP vendors that continue the trend of horrible itemization has upset many players. Without the return of a PvP-only stat, the best gear will continue to be the highest item level gear you can get with your best stats.
Blizzard have admitted that the current system is flawed and that they're looking into changing the options on the PvP vendor or adding a PvP stat. However it must be stated that offering the right stats is not enough. As things stand, even if the PvP vendors offer all the different stat combinations, players gearing exclusively through PvP will still be at a disadvantage when compared to those who are willing to do Mythic Dungeons and Raids.
Take the initial gearing upon hitting max level as an example. PvPers will need to spend over 150 hours playing over 600 battlegrounds in order to get a full set of 190 item level honor gear, which is just barely higher than the 183 item level on entry-level Mythic Dungeon gear.
This issue of gearing will be exacerbated even further the moment Castle Nathria is released, as even the Normal mode gear will immediately be 10 item levels higher than both the fully upgraded honor gear and conquest gear that players can purchase from the PvP vendor, with the gap getting even more ridiculous as you scale up to Heroic and Mythic level raid gear.
Even Mythic+ is set to offer significantly better rewards than PvP in a much shorter time frame, as players can farm a full set of 197 item level gear by farming +6 keys as soon as Mythic+ is available. The PvP equivalent will see players likely earn just a single piece of 190 item level PvP gear during the first week of rated play.
This makes it clear that without the entire PvP gearing system being revamped, it’s an absolute certainty that players will need to spend more time farming Mythic+ and raiding than actually participating in PvP, in order to be competitive.
The Future of PvP Gearing
What Should Be Done?
Blizzard initially removed PvP stats because they wanted to lower the barrier of entry between PvP and PvE, allowing both sets of players to cross into the other form of gameplay without feeling like they were behind. Unfortunately, all they’ve ended up doing is forcing players to PvE if they don’t want to be at a disadvantage in PvP.
Ultimately, players should want to use PvP gear in PvP - and so the best gear should come from PvP. The only way to solve this without scaling is to replicate the early days of PvP gearing, by having bonuses and PvP specific stats. Mists of Pandaria is highly regarded as the epitome of PvP gearing, as the combination of PvP stats and set bonuses on gear and trinkets encouraged players to equip a full set of PvP gear. Not doing so meant you would be taking and dealing less damage than you potentially could. This also helped balance out the issue of PvE trinkets plaguing PvP, something that we saw time and time again throughout BfA as there was no incentive to use two PvP trinkets, which let players abuse all the powerful damage, healing and tank trinkets from raids.
So whether it's a scaling system similar to one in Warlords of Draenor, or a PvP stat heavy system with strong PvP bonuses to incentivize PvP gear like Mists of Pandaria, something more than simply adding more options to the PvP vendors needs to be done.
About the Author
has been playing World of Warcraft Arena since Season 9 and has achieved several Gladiator and Rank 1 titles on multiple classes and specializations. He is currently focusing on Retribution Paladin but is also above 3000CR on Rogue, Death Knight, and Warrior.
Find him here:
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