When 4.2 dropped, a lot of things simultaneously happened for those of us interested in the PVE side of things. Let’s summarize, shall we?
1) Valor Points turned into Justice Points, capping out at 4000, and all the 359 gear that had previously been available through Valor Points is now available for purchase with Justice Points.
2) New gear that was item level 378 appeared on the Valor Point vendor, including the pants, gloves and chest from T12 armor.
3) Our new Valor Point cap became 980, down from the 1250 from Tier 11 content. (Normal T11 content will also only give out Justice Points versus Valor Points.)
4) Raid boss kills got a bump in VP earned. On 25-man, this value got bumped from 90 VP per kill to 140 VP per kill and 10-man kills got a bump from 70 VP per kill to 120 VP per kill.
5) New dailies came out that will, eventually, open up vendors selling 365 gear.
Therefore, what every responsible PVE raider should do each week to min/max everything is:
a) Get 980 Valor Points by way of 7 troll dungeons, each of which give you 140 VP, making it the most efficient way (in theory) of capping. (Each boss you down in Firelands on 25-man and each Occu’thar 25-man kill reduces this number of runs by one, so killing two bosses and Occu’thar on 25-man means only 4 troll dungeons.)
b) Get 980 Valor Points on an alt, to cap out VP so that you can buy your main raiding toon some bracers, which are BOE. And after that, continue to do so in order to exploit the market of people who don’t want to use up their VP for a BOE item but are too lazy to do what you’re doing right now. (Being crazy enough to complete 14 troll dungeons, or close to it!)
c) Molten Front dailies! If you’re not all in 372s or higher, the Molten Front rewards will give you access to 365 level items. This is great for that one slot you never upgraded if you’re a current content raider or FANTASTIC if you’re trying to gear yourself up to get into Firelands raids.
d) Speaking of Firelands, trash runs! Before getting yourself saved to your regular raid group (assuming you do actively raid), it’s suddenly a great idea to farm trash for rep, at least up until 5999/6000 into Honored (which is when trash stops giving you rep for each mob). Getting to Friendly is easy and gives you access to a 378 cloak. Honored is a little longer, but will give you access to a 378 belt.
Who on earth has that kind of time? I don’t. I’m not even in school or working full-time at the moment and I can tell you right now that the above is a significant enough time investment that I can’t do it all.
The dailies don’t take terribly long to do, maybe half an hour if you’re terrible at DPSing the way I am on my baby paladin. The issue is that they’re dailies, so yes, you need to do them every single day to maximize the rate at which you’re getting Marks of the World Tree and get vendors open sooner. That is, of course, assuming you want to bother opening the vendors. Honestly, I don’t need or want anything from them on Madrana (the one on Eldre’Thalas, that is). I went through this post at MMO-Champion to see if I actually needed to do these dailies.
The one upgrade that is actually potentially viable for me is a ring. Spirit Fragment Band, from Varlan Highbough. No haste, no spirit. If I was absolutely desperate to upgrade rings, I guess this could be potentially useful.
So out of all the rewards (barring pets, mounts, recipes), the poorly-itemized-for-healers caster ring is the one ilvl 365 item that could potentially be worth having for me. Is that one ring worth spending 30+ days doing dailies? Abso-freaking-lutely not. So guess what? Madrana isn’t touching dailies in Hyjal and the Molten Front.
However, a lot of what I mentioned are decent (not amazing, but decent) upgrades for the baby paladin. So I’m doing my dailies with her most days (probably 4-5 days out of 7). Since I only raid (at most) two nights a week on the baby paladin, I’m not earning Valor Points through raids as quickly, nor am I as geared as most people in Choice, so I have to rely on my own efforts to bring her up to par. This meant spending 15,000g on my BOE bracers, but you know what? I was okay with that. (I ended up doing the same for my not-so-baby pally, too, actually!) Of course, keeping up with everything on Skywall is more than a little exhausting and my priority absolutely has to lie with Apotheosis.
It’s easier with Apotheosis, though. I’m not fighting for a raid spot, I’m already geared fairly well as compared to my fellow guildies and while I think I’ll sit out of Shannox and Lord Rhyolith next week, I can usually count on getting the maximum amount of Valor Points possible for our group from raiding, which in our case is 560 so far (Occu’thar, Shannox, Beth’tilac, Lord Rhyolith) and a good chance of getting another 140 tonight by killing Alysrazor. While I don’t mind supplementing my Valor Points from raiding with heroics (although I don’t always have the time to do so), I feel that we should be getting Valor Points primarily FROM raiding.
Let’s look at 25-man Tier 11 content for a moment, shall we?
We had 12 normal-mode bosses and one heroic-only boss, plus Argaloth. Bosses killed on 25-man difficulty gave you the same amount of Valor Points whether you killed them normal or heroic. So, if you were clearing all available content on 25-man difficulty, you could conceivably get 90 VP x 14 boss encounters = 1260 Valor Points. Only the cap was 1250.
In 4.1, you could run 7 troll dungeons randomly (Zul’Aman or Zul’Gurub) and get 140 VP for the success of each one. Alternatively, you could run something like 14 random regular heroics and get 70 VP upon successfully completing each other. Or, you could run a mix of the two, like four Zandalari dungeons and six regular heroics and get to the 980 cap you can get from running random heroics.
That still left you 270 Valor Points to earn from raids. That was 3 bosses on 25-man or 4 on 10-man.
As of 4.2, you can now cap Valor Points exclusively from running dungeons, meaning you don’t have to set foot in a raid instance at all. You can earn up to 490 Valor Points from the heroic dungeons that came with Cataclysm’s launch, running 7 of them getting 70 VP per successful run and then run four Zandalaris… or you can just run the Zandalari dungeons 7 times.
Hm. 11 dungeons versus 7 dungeons… Since time is not infinite, I strongly suspect most people will do the math and decide to do the seven Zandalari dungeons, or rather, exclusively run Zandalari dungeons to fill in the gaps from their raids.
Wrath of the Lich King did not do the playerbase a lot of favours, but one thing it did do all right at was having the random dungeon finder help supplement raiding in terms of Emblems. (What we now know as Valor Points.) Don’t get me wrong, I like that you can run all your VP-rewarding instances in one day, if you so desire, but the problem is that, as of 4.2, random heroics stopped being a supplement to VP earned from raids and became the primary method in which everyone can and should earn them for maximum efficiency. In theory. (I have horror stories about my random Zandalari dungeons to share. But that’s a post for another time.)
As a guild master and a raid leader, I am absolutely astounded that you are awarded the same amount of Valor Points for completing Zul’Gurub or Zul’Aman as you are for killing one Firelands boss (or Occu’thar) on 25-man difficulty. You actually get MORE Valor Points for getting through ZG or ZA than you do in killing any raid boss on 10-man difficulty. What the hell? Five-man random heroics reward you with MORE VP over the course of a week than a ten-man guild who CLEARS Firelands and does Occu’thar? Yep, that’s right. You can get 980 VP from the Zandalari dungeons versus 960 VP for clearing all 7 Firelands bosses and Occu’thar on 10-man difficulty.
Let’s see. Taking at least 2 hours of planning and organizing in order to go down Shannox for the first time, not to mention 45 minutes to clear trash to spawn him, plus several wipes… versus waiting in queue for a maximum of about 35-45 minutes (as a DPS, much less if you’re a healer or a tank) and then go kill a few dungeon bosses in a run that’ll take maybe an hour at most, and that’s if you wipe a couple of times or are sadly paired with truly incompetent individuals. With guildmates in a raiding guild, this is made exceptionally easy.
The time and effort invested is nowhere near the same. Absolutely nowhere. Even if you run a 10-man guild (which is usually a bit easier than 25s, logistically speaking), where everyone shows up all of the time and you don’t have a bench and you’re all amazing players, you’ll still wipe while learning the encounters. And yet, the dungeon-running crowd is getting access to many of the same rewards as the raiding crowd at exactly the same potential pace.
I won’t say “that’s not fair”, because we all have the OPTION to go run dungeons. However, something about this just doesn’t sit right for me. I feel as though the raiders should have the ability to get more VP (1250 vs. 980, as in previous Cataclysm patches?) than those who exclusively run dungeons. Or something. Anything!
It’s hard to run a raiding guild. Like, really hard. Very time intensive. In putting together a lineup for any boss encounter, you have to first ensure you have maximized your raid’s potential by having all the appropriate buffs and debuffs in there. Then you have to take things like performance and gear and possibly loot priority into consideration. Not to mention the whole question of making sure that your group is actually capable of bringing down the boss. That usually means making sure you don’t have four holy paladins in the raid to “raid heal” or six demonology warlocks (barring heroic Maloriak, of course!) as well as researching and communicating strategy. It’s also hard to be a raider (not just a GM/officer of a raiding guild). You’re constantly juggling your stats on your gear, reforging in and out of stats, theorycrafting some, keeping up on changes and always trying to figure out what YOU can do to be better.
We get a lot of in-game benefits for raiding, though, don’t we?
– Boss loot! The best gear in the game is still available by raiding. You can cap out VP all you want, but it’s not going to give you the heroic versions of loot. Not to mention that you cannot get a 4pc set bonus for T12 armor without killing bosses in the Firelands, since the shoulders and helms are only available from the raid instance.
– Living Embers. As of right now, Living Embers only drop off of bosses in Firelands. Whereas Primordial Saronites were available to everyone who had any Emblems of Frost to spare, Living Embers are only for the raiding crowd or those who put them up at the Auction House. In that way, the raiders are getting more for their trouble. But how is this different from regular boss loot that dungeon-runners miss out on? It’s not.
– Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest is another hallmark of raiders. You want the shiny orange staff? Can’t do it unless you raid. But again, this is just like regular boss loot.
Essentially, we have precisely one thing that rewards us more for raiding right now than by doing dungeons to cap out VP and that is boss loot out of Firelands (or slight variations thereon, which include mounts, pets, titles).
We don’t have any other “tangible” in-game rewards than extra loot. Don’t get me wrong, I like that I’m going to get a shield off Beth’tilac rather than through crafting like I did in Tier 11, but seriously? Dungeon-runners can cap out VP with less time and energy than raiders is another indication that Blizzard is catering to the casuals.
There, I said it. It took me nearly 2000 words to get to my point, but I finally got there. Blizzard is continuing to open this game up to some of the least-skilled players that exist in their playerbase. Yes, there are some “casuals” that are great players who don’t raid because they don’t like to raid, preferring to hone their skills in other ways, etc, but the fact remains that the “casual” players out there who are running dungeons to cap out on VP are not the cream of the crop. And forcing mid-level raiders to go to these dungeons WITH these “casuals”, for the exact same rewards, is a recipe for disaster. (See an upcoming post about my nightmarish Zandalari runs.)
Raiding is but one facet of this game, I know, but it’s the most time-consuming facet and the most difficult one to coordinate, at least historically. I know that Rated Battlegrounds and other PVP endeavours are challenging as well, but in the PVE sense, raiding is the end-game. It’s through raids that we killed Arthas and will kill Deathwing. It’s in the presence of 39 others that I first killed Ragnaros and it’ll be in the presence of 24 others when I kill him again. To have 10 or 25 people working in perfect concert together to defeat the raid encounters is difficult! It’s challenging! I adore that particular challenge more than any other in this game and that’s why I consistently throw myself at a boss, three nights a week with Apotheosis and up to two nights a week with Choice.
25-man raiding has dropped off a lot since Cataclysm launched. Gear normalization between 10s and 25s has made a lot of guilds re-think their decisions to have a 25-man roster and we’ve seen many guilds shrink down from 25 to 10. I sense that my beloved large raids are in danger of being phased out. Heck, at this rate, it feels as though 10-man raiding is in danger of being phased out. I still cannot believe that seven random Zandalari dungeons gives MORE Valor Points than clearing Firelands and Occu’thar as a 10-man raiding team.
The message we’re getting from Blizzard is, in my opinion, this:
“Oh, here’s some raid content. It’s bad-ass. But if you want Valor Points for some sweet rewards (and, in many cases, some necessary ones, even for raiders!), you’re best off farming THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS. And look, if you can’t raid for some reason, regardless of whether your schedule is weird or if you’re just THAT BAD a player, you can gain the exact same rewards from the VP vendor by running THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS. In fact, THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS are the best part of the game right now! We’re making EVERYONE run THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS. Usually with people they don’t know, but it doesn’t matter because THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS are totally AWESOME and TROLLTASTIC.”
In my opinion, it should be this (well, not really — I’d tone down the troll dungeons some, but the people in charge are obviously still madly in love with them):
“Oh, here’s some raid content. It’s bad-ass. And because we’re not total dicks, you can still get some awesome raid-level gear through Valor Points. You’ll only be able to earn them as quickly as possible if you raid, but if you want to get as close as you can, run THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS! And if you can’t quite clear your raid instance but still want to cap, you should run THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS! That way, everyone’s running THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS and we’re also allowing non-raiders to eventually get to the same point of saturation as the raiders with the Valor Point stuff.”
Of course, none of this really matters in the long run, does it? Nope. I need 8850 Valor Points (if I’m not lucky with Occu’thar drops and if I hadn’t bought the BOE bracers) to gear up my paladin in the way I want her geared. Once I reach that point, I don’t need to cap out on Valor Points. That’s nine weeks of VP capping before it’ll cease to matter for me on a practical level that affects my in-game character.
But the knowledge that dungeon-runners will cap out on VP much more easily than I will for the remainder of this tier of content will last a lot longer than nine weeks. This is, in my opinion, a dangerous precedent that screws with the natural progression of things.
They are taking dungeons, which have typically been a stepping stone on the way to raiding, and making them easier, faster, more efficient ways to earn many of the same rewards. I am firmly of the belief that dungeons should remain a stepping stone. I don’t mind them coming out with new dungeons and I don’t mind those dungeons helping to catch people up to current raiders, but earning 980 VP for doing 7 clears of ZA or ZG when you have to clear Firelands AND Occu’thar on 10-man to get 960 VP is just distasteful to me. It’s a lack of respect for the hard work raiders and raid organizers put into their characters and their raid teams. I sincerely hope we’ll see a change in this for the next tier of raiding.
(This actually started out as a rant about feeling as though I had to cap out VP on three separate characters and then turned into this monster as I was writing it. Sorry for the 3000 word crit and if you got to this part without skipping any of it, I owe you a cookie.)
Edited on July 14th, 2011 to add: There are certain comments that I have not approved and will not approve. You’re welcome to disagree with me and anyone else here, but you need to do so respectfully. Please see my Comment Policy. Thanks!