Loot sharing was a novel concept in Legion that sprung up because of the ability to trade personal loot in M+ dungeons. This caused groups that were focused on gearing up to try to consolidate the armor types of the classes in the group because the more people wearing the same armor type, the more opportunities to trade loot to each other. Leather and plate were particularly popular for these groups because you could easily get three or more people (a tank, a healer, and at least one DPS) all with the same armor type.
This was a change of pace because raiding has long bred the opposite approach to group formation. Instead of wanting homogeneity, you wanted as much diversity as possible, especially for tier pieces. With three different tier groups (Vanquisher, Conqueror and Protector), bringing 10 or more Conqueror wearers was going to dramatically lengthen the amount of time it took for you to get all your raiders their set bonuses. One of the big advantages of doing split runs (which is one of the defining stereotypes of top progression guilds) is that you can try to set up your groups so that loot needs don’t overlap at all.
M+ will offer a source of infinitely-farmable upgrades, so you can expect to see groups spending all day running dungeons in an attempt to grab some War/Titan-forged pieces. Building your group so that you share similar loot can expedite this process significantly. It’s an even bigger deal if you run with the same group all the time so that you can essentially gear up collectively. If one of you gets a monster +20 Titanforge on some bracers the first week, that person can pass off lesser upgrades to teammates.
Loot sharing won’t be quite as useful in BFA as it was in Legion because Blizzard has made it a point of emphasis to make your primary stat your most valuable stat point-for-point. This wasn’t the case in Legion where some classes had secondary stats that might be worth at least twice as much per point as the primary stat, making ilvl sometimes irrelevant when trying to decide if a piece of equipment was an upgrade. This meant that someone might want 940 armor with haste/mastery more than 950 armor with crit/versatility, so they’d be willing to pass that 950 piece to a teammate. In BFA, primary stats are big, and ilvl is a much stronger indicator of the likely value of a piece, so people are probably always going to want to keep gear with high ilvl. This will make trading pieces less common than it was in Legion.
Another thing to keep in mind is that as Legion progressed, people got more and more of their legendaries. Legion legendaries were always significantly higher ilvl than regular armor, so if you had a legendary in a certain slot it almost guaranteed that you could trade any item of that same type that dropped for you. BFA won’t have a similar legendary system, so you will have to have acquired “real” equipment at some point previously that was high enough ilvl to let you trade good equipment.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that armor is only part of your total equipment set. Even if your group isn’t all wearing the same type of armor, you can still trade jewelry, trinkets and weapons freely. With the removal of relics, the only reason your loot spec will matter now is to determine which trinkets or weapons will drop. If you know a dungeon has no trinkets for your primary spec (or they’re all bad trinkets), you can change your loot spec to try to fish for a trinket for a teammate instead.
First, level multiple characters. As BFA launch approaches, I see a lot of players struggling with deciding which class to play. My stream chat has been inundated with, “Is good?” or, “Is X or Y better?”. But at this point there is no way to know which classes are going to end up in a good place because balancing isn’t finished yet, and the earlier that it even could be considered final would be after mythic Uldir is released. You can’t wait that long to figure out which class to level, so the only real option is to level up all the classes you think you might want to play and then pick the one that’s looking good after the dust settles.
Blizzard is consciously encouraging players to take exactly this approach by giving them three weeks of “nothing important is happening” time. Heroic Uldir and M+ will release on September 4, and you can easily have a character ready to jump into that content spending probably no more than an hour or two a day doing world quests and weekly quests. So unless you’re dead set on playing a particular class regardless of whether it’s competitive or not, take the time to level up two or three characters that you think might be fun. There will be a lot of dead time before all the end game content is released.
If you care about gold, there is no better time to become filthy rich than an expansion launch. Level your professions quickly and cash in on all the players looking for enchants/scrolls/potions/gems. The gathering professions will be a fantastic source of gold if you’re willing to do the leg work. This is another reason to level several characters -- you can put different professions on each of them and cover more of your bases.
Be sure that you have your guild lined up if you’re trying to raid. Ideally you’ve already figured out a place to be for BFA, but if not then you’ll definitely want to find a home before Uldir releases. No respectable guild is going to be recruiting players during the first month of progression, so if you haven’t locked down a spot by September 4, you probably won’t have one for quite a while.
Once Uldir and M+ drop, you’ll probably want to spend some time running M+ dungeons. Early Legion was rife with 4-man carry groups that would sit in LFG all day looking for “fast” keys to run over and over in an attempt to grab as much gear and artifact power as possible. I’m not sure that carries will be quite as prevalent in BFA because the amount of gear that you get from a dungeon increases with the key level, but I think you can expect to see groups keep their keys at artificially low levels so that they can guarantee they’ll time the key (which earns you an additional piece of loot). The people that can spend the most time running M+ for the first few weeks of Uldir progression will undoubtedly have a huge ilvl advantage over their more casual peers.
Maybe, but I also feel like the people that ask questions like this might be underestimating how diverse the WoW player base is. Having Normal/Heroic/Mythic/M+ difficulties certainly seems heavily segmented, but it’s also worth considering that the spectrum of player skill is so broad that you honestly need that many categories to prevent noticeable skill disparities when queuing.
And queuing is a big part of the reason this system exists as it does. The first question you might ask when I say that Normal AND Heroic are needed is, “Why not just nerf M0 and Heroic to what Heroic and Normal are currently and drop Normal completely?” The answer (at least the answer as I imagine it from Blizzard) is that you need multiple difficulties that people can queue for. And M0 and M+ can’t be queued for, so there need to be at least two other difficulties for the LFG tool.
The LFG tool is tricky because Blizzard, by offering it, accepts a certain level of responsibility for the groups that are formed in it. If an LFG group gets stuck in the middle of a dungeon, the group might start blaming each other (which isn’t great) but they will almost definitely also blame Blizzard. So Blizzard wants to make sure that the groups it’s putting together are highly likely to succeed. Only having one difficulty available in LFG makes matchmaking that much more variable and difficult to predict.
The biggest reason to keep the current system, though, is also the simplest: because why not? Is anyone being hurt by having three base difficulties? Is it really that frustrating for anyone? I’d never given it any thought before because it had literally never affected my time in WoW. Maybe I’m ignorant and there are actual problems with the system, but if so I’m unaware of them. And in a game the size of WoW, there are plenty enough pressing issues that are actively detracting from gameplay that you don’t need to go hunting for the ones that are only theoretically bad.
This week I’ll discuss the M+ affixes and how they’re shaping up for BFA, along with any notable changes.
Fortified - This affix is now introduced at +2 instead of +10, but it’s otherwise unchanged from Legion. What HAS changed is that trash mobs now hit like proverbial trucks, and tank self-sustain has been dramatically reined in. In Legion, a tank could sit in a group of half a dozen or more mobs and never drop below half health. In BFA, that tank will get strung up by his ears. Fortified weeks have become significantly more challenging because trash has become significantly more challenging.
Tyrannical - Like Fortified, this has moved from +10 to +2. Perhaps I just haven’t pushed keys high enough on the BFA beta, but it feels like boss damage isn’t as lethal as it was in Legion, so Tyrannical might be less of a showstopper than it was in Legion.
Bolstering - The original “should we just play Overwatch this week?” affix, this might actually become less of a headache in BFA simply because it’s harder to get away with the giga trash pulls that became such a hallmark of Legion dungeons. Bolstering weeks favor classes with strong priority damage (e.g., Subtlety rogues) so that you can try to keep mob health even before killing everything simultaneously.
Raging - Another affix that will feel like it got buffed because trash is harder in BFA. On the bright side, BFA gave hunters and druids the ability to remove the previously-unremovable Raging debuff. These abilities are on 10 second cooldowns, so you won’t be able to de-Raging an entire pack, but it will be very useful for any mobs that were already scary before they Raged. Raging weeks favor execute classes (and hunters and druids LOL).
Sanguine - I swear this has changed from Legion to BFA somehow, but I can’t actually verify that with numbers. It certainly feels more painful, but maybe that’s just because healing throughput is lower on BFA than live servers. Sanguine is a pain for big pulls because of the possibility of having mobs stand in multiple pools and substantially healing themselves. Sanguine weeks favor classes with knockback abilities (e.g., druids with Typhoon or priests with Shining Force).
Teeming - Blizzard has done a great job of making sure Teeming always adds really annoying mobs to the dungeon so that it isn’t an afterthought. This affix is also particularly more potent when combined with the Infested seasonal affix because more mobs means more opportunities for a particular trash pack to have an Infested mob in it.
Bursting - The biggest way this affix changes in BFA is, unsurprisingly, how it affects tanks. Tanks were once nigh invincible when the bursting stacks started rolling, but tanks survivability isn’t what it once was, and they must now fear the almighty Bursting reaper like the rest of us. Bursting favors healers with AoE burst healing and classes with strong personal defensive cooldowns.
Necrotic - Necrotic was already painful for some of the tank specs in Legion, but now every tank hates it. Necrotic was actually nerfed going into BFA -- tanks now need more stacks (I can’t remember exactly how many, maybe 50?) to become unhealable. But the nerf to tank self-sustain guarantees that tanks are going to be running for their lives before they hit the unhealable mark anyway. Healers will also hate themselves this week because instead of being able to throw their hands up at 30 stacks and saying, “Welp you’re on your own now,” the healer will now have to keep bombing away at 10% throughput for longer. Necrotic favors tanks that can kite effectively or drop stacks with cooldowns.
Skittish - Much ado was made heading into BFA about across-the-board nerfs to tank threat generation. Skittish seemed poised to really hammer home the tenuous aggro situation of BFA, but the one week of Skittish that I played on beta was fairly mild. This comes with the obvious qualifier that I play with exceptional tanks and DPS that know how to manage their threat, but I completely forgot Skittish was an affix for long stretches of time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this affix get changed in a substantial way. Skittish favors players with a brain (sorry) that wait more than one second to pop their damage cooldowns.
Volcanic - Nothing much has changed about Volcanic heading into BFA, which is kind of a shame (or not, depending on your point of view) because Volcanic is such an unremarkable affix. It rarely feels threatening, and I fully expected to see it get a rework of kind for BFA. Volcanic favors melee classes that can’t get picked for ranged mechanics.
Explosive - Let me preface by saying that Explosive hasn’t shown up on keys for over two months, so I haven’t had any beta experience with it. I expect it to be even more frustrating than it was in Legion because tanks will probably have a much harder time in BFA sparing GCDs to help with killing the Explosive orbs. I’m also curious to see whether the Spawns of G’huun from Infested are capable of spawning orbs. Explosive favors classes that get a buff from dealing killing blows (e.g., warriors with War Machine) or classes with strong instant attacks.
Quaking - Like several of the other affixes, the biggest change for Quaking in BFA is that tanks are now legitimately scared of it. Chalk this one up as another casualty of tank self-sustain nerfs. On live servers, our tank used to troll the DPS by purposefully standing on them when Quaking came out, but now he’s the one running. Quaking favors classes with instant casts that aren’t forced to stand in melee (e.g., BM hunters).
Grievous - Grievous made its beta debut this week, and it was so awful that it was nerfed within 24 hours (from 10% damage per tick at 5 stacks to 7%). A couple of factors contributed to this: low ilvl on healers made throughput relatively slower than it is on live servers, and tank self-sustain nerfs (noticing a theme here?) made it incredibly difficult to get a tank back above 90%. Even post-nerf, Grievous feels like an incredibly punishing affix, and it’s still hard-if-not-impossible to get a 5 stack of Grievous off a tank if they’re taking consistent damage. Grievous favors healers with strong burst healing spells (e.g., Holy paladins with Beacon of Virtue).
Infested - Infested is the new +10 affix, taking the place formerly occupied by Fortified/Tyrannical. It’s a seasonal affix, meaning it will be on every +10 or higher key this tier, and it will then be replaced by another affix when the next tier is released. The Infested affix works thusly: random mobs (which are determined at the beginning of each week and stay the same for the entire week) in a dungeon are “infested”, meaning that they continuously heal any other mobs around them for a significant amount. Once you kill an Infested mob, two Spawns of G’huun will pop out and try to find another nearby mob to infest. The Spawns have low health and can be crowd controlled but need to be killed quickly before they infest another mob. This affix is definitely a gamechanger and will require you to make frequent alterations to which packs you want to pull in a dungeon. Because the Infested mobs change each week, you’ll find yourself essentially relearning all the dungeons each reset. Infested favors classes with priority add damage (e.g., Subtlety rogues).