Patch 2.0.1 afterthroughts

It's now been just two days since the patch was applied to Defias Brotherhood, but the effects are becoming quite clear. Tonight there were 196 active Arathi Basin games in battlegroup 5. WorldDefense has been blaring the whole time, mostly about Crossroads. In the meantime, there were a grand total of 3 PvE raids in progress on Horde side at prime time. With just a single patch, Blizzard turned the game completely around.

Whether it's a good thing is up to debate.

But first, let's take a look on why this sudden change has happened. The most obvious reason is the new honor system. There is no such thing as honor decay anymore, and you can buy your items in any order you like. There is no longer any need to quit your job for 3 months to get the High Warlord gear. Any PvP counts, no matter how random. If you PvP, you will eventually get the gear you want. In addition to pure honor points, the gear requires honor tokens from Arathi Basin, Warsong Gulch and Alterac Valley. However, the relative amounts of tokens required is small when compared to the honor needed. If you grind honor in the most efficient way possible, you will do it in battlegrounds. And many people have done just that. The addition of new PvP skills to several classes is also a big contributing factor. Everyone wants to try out their new skills. So, Battlegrounds are now extremely popular. Even up to the point where players have started reporting symptoms commonly associated with an inpending server crash. High lag with movement and skills. Invisible players. Warping back. However, chatting on various channels is not affected at all. These symptoms were previously associated with massive World PvP events. Even the shared battleground servers have their limits.

Second phenomenon is the dwindling of interest in PvE. This has two primary causes. First, there's the honor system upheaval, which made almost full sets of good gear available to everyone. The second reason is the incoming expansion and the gear available in it. The common consensus seems that even soloable quest rewards are superior to gear which currently requires a balanced raid group to get. Why raid now when you can get vastly superior gear with less effort in a few weeks? In addition, Blizzard snuck in several changes that also contribute to the lack of interest. The most obvious one is the UI changes which disabled several prominent raiding addons. This change made healing a whole lot more challenging. The emergence of new interesting PvP specs has made many players spec away from PvE.

One change is the unconfirmed nerf to massive AoE. In essence, AoE damage went down when the number of targets increased. I admit that as a mage, I was quite worried about this. If true, it would have made several encounters much more difficult. For example, the Skeletal Construct zerg at Nefarian's phase 3 or Fankriss the Unyielding's adds. However, based on my pleliminary testing in Scarlet Monastery Armory and reports from Blackrock Depths' Lycaeum, AoE damage inside instances seems to be the same as before. Still, even the perception of AoE-based encounters being more difficult can shy people away from them.

Finally, there's an unannounced change that made Shaman loot drop for Alliance, and Paladin loot drop for Horde. While this is obviously preparation for Draenei Shamans and Blood Elf Paladins, the change was made too soon. There are no Draenei Shamans or Blood Elf Paladins yet, and definitely not ones that could even enter raid instances. The result is that those guilds that do raid now get loot that they cannot use at all. Molten Core and Blackwing Lair are most affected by this change, because those instances contain bind-on-pickup class-specific loot. Five-man instances are less affected, because tier 0 gear is not class-specific. While a warrior cannot use all bonuses on Lightforge, he can still wear it. A hunter can wear pieces of the Elements. Thanks to the token system, Zul'Gurub and Ahn'Qiraj are unaffected, because the loot can also be used by other classes. However, when Blizzard implemented token-based loot for Naxxramas, they overlooked one vital piece of loot: The tier 3 rings from Kel'Thuzad. Every other piece of the tier 3 sets is token-based, but not the ring. Why would a top-level guild go through all the trouble of clearing Naxxramas and spending hundreds of gold on repairs and consumables just to get a piece of loot that nobody can use?

The third phenomenon is the resurgence of World PvP. This can primarily be attributed to both the honor system and the removal of dishonorable kills. Even relatively small rewards attainable with world PvP do now add up. More importantly, your gains are not negated even if you took a swing at a civilian. However, the activity seems to be concentrated on very limited areas. This is caused by an another change that arrived with the patch. Namely, level 65 guards. Unlike their level 55 counterparts, these are not simple annoying wasps to level 60 players. These are hard to stop and quite deadly up close. Any smart player will try to avoid any contact. And so they have. The hotspots have so far been cities and settlements that do not have such protection. Namely, low-to-mid level towns like Crossroads, Splintertree Post, Astranaar, Camp Taurajo, Darkshire, Sentinel Hill, Lakeshire, Menethil..

What is the effect of town raids against these targets? Devastation. Now that dishonorable kills are not an issue, anything and everything can be killed. This means guards, questgivers, vendors, trainers.. everything. And it doesn't even require a large raid. Even a handful of level 60ies will have no problem whatsoever downing a few dozen level 40 NPCs and shutting down the town. Whether this will be a big issue remains to be seen, but I wouldn't be surprised if town raids drove also low-level players to PvP. While high-level players can stop by, they can't be guarding the town all the time.

All in all, the changes were indeed radical, and have seemed to shift the balance from a PvE-heavy game towards a PvP-heavy game. But what does it mean? It could be seen as an inevitable result. Current endgame will be replaced by Burning Crusade endgame. This patch just started the shift earlier. Blizzard will not redo the current raid instances to be viable after the expansion. And especially when talking about Molten Core, perhaps it is time to let it die.

So, we're back to the million-dollar question: All in all, are these changes a good thing? As always, it depends. If you like instanced PvP, you'll love the patch. If you like World PvP, you'll like it. If you like endgame PvE, it's is undoubtedly a disappointment, and some soul-searching is definitely in order if you want to continue playing.

Me? I enjoy a bit of everything. I love RP and enjoy World PvP. I like a good raid, and battlegrounds are ideal for letting off some steam now and then. I think that the shift was a bit radical, but nevertheless manageable. I'll live. I'll keep outwitting ganker squads. I'll grind some cash. I'll finish off some lingering quests. I'll snipe in battlegrounds. And I'll grumble about the lack of raids. And I'll buy the expansion.

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