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Gearing in 4.3 – Valor Points and the Token System

To fully understand the impact of the 4.3 Gearing System, you need to understand how gearing progression has developed over the years.  If you have been playing like me, since Vanilla, you remember the days when loot dropped and it was specific loot only– this included tier gear! There were no Valor Points. There were no Tier Tokens. You simply had to hope the boss dropped the item or Tier piece you needed. To make a parallel, it wasn’t dissimilar to the way the Baradin Hold bosses work today. Pure random loot drops. In fact, I remember the times when my guild (Alliance) would get Shaman Tier drops. (Remember, in Vanilla the Alliance didn’t have shaman!)

The Burning Crusade came and so did our introduction to the Tier Token System. It was simple.  A token type would drop, of either Vanquisher, Conqueror, or Protector and each token type had 3 classes that were a associated with it–easy! Nice and even distribution. This method simply made loot systems easier to manage. Can you imagine doing a loot council with 25 people all interested in a single Chest Token?  BC also introduced us to the Badge/Point system. This system allowed raiders to purchase raid quality gear for a number of item slots–Tier Gear was not available in this manner.

Then we had Wrath of the Lich King, where we moved from Badges/Points not buying Tier Gear to becoming a huge part of gear progression.  Additionally, WOTLK included the introduction of Death Knights. DK added an interesting complication to Tier distribution as we no longer had 3 classes per Tier Token, since we had one Token with 4 classes associated with it. This caused a change in the RNG aspect of loot drops because one of the tokens was meant for 4 classes and affected the weighted average of the drop rate.

Fast Forward to 4.3. The Tier System is getting turned on its head… again. The ONLY way to get Tier 13 gear will be through raid boss drops – no Valor Point Tier purchases. Further, in a statement that Bashiok posted, we learned that the VP drop rate was being throttled to 100 per raid boss kill. This means, for purposes of Tier Gear progression, the only way to upgrade Tier 12 to Tier 13 is to hope for good RNG from the Token Gods. Additionally, off-set VP gear would be more difficult to save up for as the VP accumulation rate is being slowed. Bashiok stated that the purpose of this  VP change was to put greater emphasis on killing a boss to get the gear, not just saving your points.

This “new” method of acquiring Tier Gear is anything but new…we’ve seen it before, as discussed, in The Burning Crusade. This method will likely slow down progression and artificially gate content by throttling how fast raids can gear up.

A number of people in the WOW community had a knee jerk reaction regarding the VP change: “Big Deal! I’m a raider! I’ll be getting my token drops and VP gear isn’t even good!” You even saw some people go so far as suggesting the VP gear was “welfare” and “scrub loot”.

I believe that these statements are exceptionally short sighted and really off-base. Arguably, VP gear is important to everybody; especially to the hardcores. “Hardcore raiders”  use every strategy possible to min/max their character. Compounding this is the fact that there are a lot more options available from the Valor Point vendors this go around… not just rings and the occasional trinket.

Why is the VP gear important? I make these suggestions because these VP items, coupled with Tier Token RNG, really affect how gear progression will work in 4.3.  Depending on the importance of set bonuses, the increased stats from these VP items, boss strategy and mechanics, they could be superior– especially if you have all 5 Tier items from T12, and have the flexibility to pivot and  maintain your set bonus while still upgrading offset items via the VP upgrades. (Protip: if you can get all 5, do it… just for this reason alone)

Lets pretend your raid has been having a Conqueror Token drought… this means Priests, Paladins, and Warlocks likely have not been able to upgrade much of their T12 Gear to T13 Gear yet. Keeping that in mind, and progressing through content, you’ll eventually reach a boss that has a critical healing or DPS check (ie. Ultraxion). Doing this in lower Item Level gear, while possible, could be easier with the pure stat increases from the new Valor Items. These items are iLvl 397, which is on par with Heroic Ragnaros loot — nothing to scoff at.

Personally, I dislike the current Token System based solely on the method of distribution.  In theory, they should be equally distributed via RNG, but that is drastically dependent on your raid composition.  Throughout T12, my raid was typically represented by over half of our raiding core residing on the Conqueror token. This can provide a artificial gear gate when high demand tokens don’t drop. Is the simple answer to this problem to have one universal token? Perhaps… but that isn’t the point of this article.

Play smartly. Plan your upgrades. Make a loot list. Evaluate your loot options through the Valor Point vendors. You’ll need to figure out which items will be your biggest upgrades, while trying to not not affect your set bonuses… THEN move to items that require either a Tier Upgrade or a Pivot from 5/5 T12. Obviously, if you are raiding, you might be upgrading non-tier items through boss drops as well— but this is nothing new, its the gear progression we’ve always known.

Welcome back to the Burning Crusade; where your best and biggest gear upgrades live with the RNG Gods… bring weighted dice, a four leaf clover, and a rabbit’s foot. We’re gonna need it!

Written By: on November 18, 2011
  1. The only issue I see with composition determined drops is the potential to manipulate the drops by manipulating the composition.

    If the drops can be manipulated in any way then the system has failed, and that is exactly what such a system could allow.

    It is random for a reason and at times it will either be great or truly suck, but it is not open to any sort of abuse, well outside of distribution issues with leadership but thats something else entirely and a fault with that part of the system.

    1. Of course. At no point was I suggesting that composition determine drops. I think you might have misinterpreted my point. In fact, I was stating that composition (ie. potential impalanace of raiders on a certain token) affects how distribution (on a macro level) works. Ie. we have 50% of our raid on Conq; it means 50% of our raid is gearing (assuming perfect/equal RNG) slower than Prot or Vanq raiders.

      My statement: “In theory, they should be equally distributed via RNG, but that is drastically dependent on your raid composition.” Is stating that, in theory, if tokens drop perfectly (prot/vanq/conq equal RNG) the breakdown (or imbalance) of your prot/vanq/conq raiders in your raid is affected by this.

      Does that help clear my point?

  2. Don’t forget that you’ll be able to get both VP and tier tokens (albeit ilvl 384 ones) through LFR as well. According to the introduction blog post, completing a LFR wing will give 250 VP. Even if this weren’t the case, unless they lower the weekly cap, dedicated raiders can max out their VP by running random heroics again.

    I think we’ll see a lot of raiders participating in the LFR. It will allow them to see the encounters before trying them on normal, give VP and a chance at getting their set bonus early, which could make the 384 gear an upgrade over a previous 387 piece.

    1. Yes. At the start of the tier it is once again time for the raid loggers to crawl out of their holes and cap their points! Just like t11 and t12, I will try to cap weekly until I’ve outgrown every piece of vendor gear.

      I am glad to see Valor from LFR. It is an added motivation after tier pieces.

  3. I dont like the current (4.2) tier tokens drop system.
    I raid in a 10man guild with the progress 6/7hc.
    We have 1 healing druid, 1 mage.
    We have 1 pala tank, 1 pala healer, 2 priest healers and 1 lock.

    With the current system our druid and mage got 4/5 hc tokens ages ago and collecting hc tokens for offspec while i dont have a single tier hc tokens yet.

    I would love to see 1 token (10man) drop that everyone could use, then its up to DKP or lootcouncil. But now its just retarded too see alla our tokens go to 1 druid and 1 mage for offspecc..

    I believe VP gear will be my best friend in 4.3.

    // issi

  4. I absolutely agree with your views on Valor points and the new/old token system.

    I don’t personally care about loot as much, unless I’m competing on my realm for the top10 gear spots on bets, but the change to only have tier tokens seems a bit strange to me. I can understand the need to prolong raid tiers, as they fly by so fast all of a sudden, but I don’t see gear as being the way to do it.

    Instead of wiping because of execution, players will be wiping because of gear requirements which they cannot make in that week, which is just silly. If Blizzard wants longer tiers they should either make the bosses more difficult to defeat, add a few bosses or release them in patches such as Icecrown Citadel.

    The most infuriating part is the way and rate we acquire gear. Comparing it to PvP, we HAVE to either do tier 11 raids or do a few random dungeons to cap on Valor points, but to cap Conquest one can just do Rated Battlegrounds.

    The tier token will probably make a few of the raiders in my group very angry, especially when we have to determine which person gets a token. With our two strongest healers both on the same token (myself on Priest and a Holy Paladin), it’s gonna turn into a nightmare.

    Ah well. Interesting read as usual, first comment from me though /cheer

    1. Yay for first comments from old readers! :)

      Yeah the gear check wipes will be interesting and I am sure we’ll hear cries of “NERF THIS!” very soon. Ultraxion, even on normal 25s, is a pretty solid DPS and healing check. Slowing down gearing might make Ultraxion the true ‘gatekeeper’ to Deathwing.

  5. With the new nerf to the VP cap, I can see the concern. Clearly, the intention is to slow down the rate at which players gear up.

    I’m just not sold on this being a bad thing. When people have no upgrades left, they get bored. Most of the WoW populace needs the incentive to continue raiding/grouping and playing.. and it seems *to me* that people have been gearing too quickly.

    Heck, the thing I am concerned with isn’t time it takes to get VP gear, but the time it takes to get heroic mode gear, and the low amount of cloth too. My 10 man raid has 5 cloth wearers and it also has 5 people sharing my token. It is a bit painful.. since the gear I need certainly *seems* to have the worst drop rate.

  6. Blizzard seems a little schizophrenic right now. With PvP they’re saying that they want players to be able to play however they want to play and so are making Conquest points much easier to come by: without stepping foot in an Arena or Rated BG you’ll be able to cap conquest points relatively quickly in 4.3. And yet, at the same time, they are making this change to how tier gear is acquired which seems to head in the opposite direction of that stated philosophy.

    Cynically, I do think this is to slow down progression because MoP is likely still a year away from launch and no more content patches are planned in the meantime. No doubt we’ll see yet another change to their philosophy on gear acquisition in 5.0.

    1. I’m inclined to think the reduced rate in getting VP correlates to the LFR going live. They want to encourage established raiders to knock out a few LFR runs throughout the week to make sure they get their VP cap, helping/solidifying some of the puggish runs in the process.

      Also, wasn’t there mention of dailies that provided VP, or was that for 5.0?

      1. The VP dailies, I think was a MOP thing… On the PTR the VP cap is 1,000 so you actually have a HIGHER weekly cap than currently. (though not much) VP gear is a solid OPTION; though the throttling of Tier Gear aquisition is gonna be interesting. Though, arguably getting a piece of LFR gear, JUST for the set bonus is an option.

  7. Who cares about VP loot, just tell me what raid drops to wear, dang it!

    Actually it was neat to see non-tier ilvl gear on the VP vendor. At least that way I can fill in my head/shoulder with something that matches when that last Conq token refuses to drop for months on end.

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