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WoWJun 28, 2018 2:00 pm CT

Removing gear swapping from Mythic+ is a bad idea, and Blizzard’s justifications don’t make sense

One of the more surprising changes to appear in the Battle for Azeroth beta recently was the inability to swap gear in the middle of Mythic+ runs. The change showed up a few weeks back without much explanation, and players wondered if it was intentional or not. Well, thanks to the most recent developer Q&A, we know that it is, in fact, intentional.

Sadly, the reasons given for the removal of gear swapping did nothing to alleviate the complaints waged against Blizzard. If anything, the reasons given made the whole thing even worse.

Question asked at roughly the 38-minute mark.

The changes and the justifications

Not being able to change gear in the middle of any Mythic+ run essentially gives gear the same treatment that talents currently have. And during the Q&A, Ion Hazzikostas listed a few reasons for the change:

  • It’s a burden for those who wish to be competitive.
  • It’s more “nuanced” having to pick your entire gear set before a dungeon.
  • They view a dungeon as a longer raid boss — i.e., you can’t swap between phases 3 and 4 on a boss, so you can’t swap between pulls 3 and 4 in a dungeon.

Let’s dismantle that point by point, shall we?

“It’s a burden on competitiveness”

Of the three, this one confuses me the most. Min/maxing has always been a part of what separates the goods from the greats. Would needing to have multiple sets of gear technically put a “burden” on those who wish to be competitive? Sure. But is that actually an issue in a game where being competitive comes down to micro-adjustments? Is not being able to switch gear something competitive players actually want?

In my experience, those who took the time to make gear sets for specific parts of the dungeon enjoyed doing so. They took pride in doing so. And with the in-game UI allowing you to make gear swapping as simple as a button click? That’s not the same thing as requiring five addons to make the most of gear swapping. It’s not a burden.

Moreover, Blizzard is inherently admitting that players will need to have multiple gear sets before diving into a Mythic+ run. This change isn’t removing the need to farm different types of gear. It isn’t removing the need to save those sets of gear to a macro or an addon or, in some cases, memory. All it’s doing is changing when you swap sets and how often you’ll need to do so. But if players — especially the most competitive ones — are already going to be creating gear sets and swapping between them as needed, is removing the ability to do so in between boss and trash really changing any level of competitiveness? Or does it just make having multiple gear sets feel less worthwhile but still equally necessitated?

“It’s more nuanced”

Did I say the last one confuses me the most? I might have lied, because this one also confuses the hell out of me. According to Ion, players needing to pick one entire gear set at the start of the dungeon is actually more nuanced than needing to pick gear on a case-by-case basis. The logic — as far as I can tell — is that it’s “nuanced” to pick a gear set that will provide the best overall effect on the speed you complete a dungeon.

But is that really more nuanced than having to pick gear on a fight-by-fight basis? Wouldn’t having one “ideal” set for the overall dungeon be a good approach to non-competitive players, and having several sets hand-picked for different parts of that dungeon be more nuanced? Plus, don’t talents already provide the nuance between single- and multi-target builds? If you ask me, picking a trash-focused talent set at the sacrifice of boss-focused talents was nuanced enough — and swapping gear was an adequate approach to offsetting that difference.

Dungeons are full of trash. Depending on the Affix in a given week, this trash can be the normal kind of hard, or it can be the, “Oh, Yogg, why? Why this Affix?!” kind of hard. The same goes for bosses. But rarely are trash and bosses equally increased in difficulty as a result of the Affixes. Also rare? Bosses and trash — equally tougher in difficulty or otherwise — needing the same approach to overcome (e.g., single-target vs. AOE, Haste vs. Crit., etc.).

If there’s any “nuance” in picking a gear set before a dungeon for maximum overall effect, it’s still less nuance than would be required to know what gear works best at what points in the dungeon. Picking a “nuanced” gear set before the dungeon just sacrifices effectiveness where actual nuance would make a significant impact.

“A dungeon is a long boss fight”

So, technically with this one, I can’t argue the fact that Blizzard views a dungeon as one long boss fight. But I can argue that that’s an overly simplistic view that doesn’t make sense!

How many boss fights in World of Warcraft have you encountered that feel as varied as an entire dungeon’s overall experience? Yes, some bosses have a lot of phases, and those phases can vary a lot. But even if every single raid boss were as varied as the most complex bosses, you know what you still have in a raid? More people. That smattering of classes is what makes all those various phases easier to overcome. If part of your raid excels at AOE and part at single-target, it’s fine if the boss has both types of phases! By default, unless you’re raid-stacking, your raid counters the overall encounter because of that diversity.

You don’t have that many players in a Mythic+. You get five. Comparing any aspect of a dungeon to a raid is inherently flawed, because you are never going to be fighting under the same conditions or with the same overall group-wide kit of abilities.

It’s also a bad idea because…

Outside of Blizzard’s explanations not making much sense, there are other issues with the system’s removal. On the top of that list is class disparity. Look, no matter what Blizzard does, some classes are always going to be better in Mythic+ dungeons than others. If you don’t believe me, just look at the breakdown of classes used in Mythic+ dungeons throughout 7.3.2.

I’m going to be a bit biased for a bit here, but Shadow Priests and Windwalker Monks have been the lowest-represented DPS classes all expansion long. Both of those classes levied complaints about their Mythic+ viability, and both of those classes… stayed at the bottom of the pick list. Being able to swap gear mid-run may not have been the most common way around that disparity, but it’s still something to offset it. By removing gear swapping entirely, there’s just going to be an even bigger chasm between classes that can perform well overall and those that cannot. I’m not just referring to DPS, either — tanks and healers also suffer from high pick differentials, and they’ll also suffer from having one less way to counteract that.

But what about the smaller reasons that add up over the course of a run? What about the Holy Paladin that accidentally left a DPS trinket on? What about the Mage who needs Prydaz to survive one-shot mechanics on bosses but never on trash? Moreover, what about the fact that Azerite gear isn’t spec-specific and has an increasing respec cost, resulting in even more pieces of gear that players are likely to accidentally leave on?

Look, I realize gear swapping isn’t something a lot of players — even competitive ones — do. For casual players, at most, it won’t have an effect. At worst, it’ll result in an entire run thrown off because someone forgot to change gear. And for competitive players, it may simplify things, but it removes an aspect of Mythic+ runs that helped separate the first-place team from the second-place team. In short, it’s not a good change — and Blizzard hasn’t done anything to convince me otherwise.

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