For anyone that has been on safari for the last week or consumes most of their media through traditional print journalism like newspapers, you might have missed a piece of unexpected news in this week’s Dev Q&A -- your gear will be intentionally locked in BFA M+ dungeons. This means that once the key starts, you will be unable to swap any piece of gear around for the duration of the dungeon. The responses to this change run the full gamut from, “So what? I never change gear anyway,” to, “@#$% &%$# *^$& !@#$” with most of the vitriol coming from the top end M+ players.
Why is this change a big deal? Gear matters a lot in M+, more than it does in raiding and certainly (in this age of templates) a great deal more than in PvP. This is because a M+ dungeon will put you in dozens of encounters, each of which will have slightly different optimal gear requirements. I’ll use Legion’s shortest dungeon, Maw of Souls, to demonstrate a typical route through a dungeon: 8 trash mobs, 1 primarily single target boss with 8 eight priority adds spawning about once per minute, 4 trash mobs, 5 trash mobs, 7 trash mobs, 1 primarily single target boss with both a single add and 4 priority adds, 12 trash mobs, 4 trash mobs, a mini boss with constantly spawning adds, and 1 boss with a two or three target cleave phase and a single target phase. Even this relatively quick dungeon will put you in several different DPS scenarios (single target, cleave, AoE burst, etc.) where certain pieces of gear will alternate between being amazing and awful.
A lot of the fun for the top M+ players is min-maxing your way through dungeons to squeeze every drop of performance from your character, and in today’s game that means switching gear almost every time you leave combat. It can sound tedious to the uninitiated, but after doing some of these dungeons hundreds (or even thousands) of times, it just becomes second nature to use gear swap macros before each pull. It lets players get creative with their builds and display a mastery of their class.
But the biggest impact this will have on M+ is on survivability. There are certain legendaries and trinkets that are virtually required to survive some of the nastier one-shot mechanics (like Hyrja’s Arcing Bolt
or Lady Hatecoil’s Focused Lightning
), and those items are virtually worthless for the rest of the dungeon. Being forced to wear Ishkar's Felshield Emitter
or Smoldering Titanguard
for an entire dungeon in order to survive one or two bosses would severely neuter throughput for both DPS and healers. The only viable alternative to this is to stack classes with top tier defensive cooldowns (e.g., warlocks, rogues, balance druids) which is basically how the meta for Legion M+ looks today.
There’s some speculation that Blizzard has made this move with an eye towards shifting the emphasis from pushing keys as high as possible (which is what people do on live servers currently) and instead towards doing lower keys, perhaps in an effort to align live servers with the MDI format. It would be nice to have live servers and the MDI feature the same kinds of competition, but whether this change brings us closer to that reality is questionable.
I don’t think this change is going to make anyone happier with M+. Casual players probably won’t notice much of a change, and key pushers will feel its effects quite sharply. Blizzard could mitigate a lot of the pain by at least allowing players to swap things like trinkets and Azerite pieces, but if they’re going to do that then they might as well just let you keep swapping everything. Given how deep we are into beta, I’m guessing that Blizzard’s mind is already made on this topic, and we should start preparing for how it will affect us in BFA.