Is it too hard to get gear in Shadowlands?
Okay, complete disclosure here — I loved how easy it was to gear up by the end of Battle for Azeroth. I loved that I could get ilevel 100 gear — which was competitive with Normal raiding gear — for all of my alts, so that I didn’t have to drag them all through Ny’alotha to get them geared up and switch between them whenever I felt like it. So I’m already not well disposed to the trickle of gear we get at 60 in Shadowlands, even keeping in mind that it’s still early in the expansion. I say this as someone who just got his first upgrade from the Great Vault, too.
It’s clear that the design choices of Shadowlands were aimed at making it harder to get gear. The loss of bonus rolls, the relative paucity of World Quests with gear rewards, the relatively low level of those rewards even as your Renown increases so that you could be looking at ilevel 150 gear at Renown 15, the constant experience of running a Heroic or Mythic and seeing nothing drop (I once ran two Mythics and two Heroics and got nothing) — it’s clear that gear in this expansion is going to take a lot longer to acquire.
Heck, even the guaranteed drops like the Covenant armor sets you get as you progress that storyline can be upgraded — but the quest doesn’t say anything about that. You should definitely hold on to that Covenant gear, because it’s probably the most reliable source of armor as you progress in the questline.
So the question on the surface of it is simple — is it too hard to get gear in Shadowlands? But there’s a lot of complexity lurking under the surface here. Let’s discuss the effects of the Shadowlands changes on gearing.
Dungeons and raids are more important
If the goal is to get players to run dungeons in order to get gear, that goal has been achieved. I’ve probably spent more time in dungeons in Shadowlands, despite my personal anxiety and my handicap, than I ever did in Battle for Azeroth. In the previous expansion, with gear accessible through WQs, I didn’t have to go to a dungeon and die to ground effect spells I can’t see because I am legally blind, leading to someone eventually asking me sarcastically if I was blind because I missed that spell, followed by me saying yes, I am. It wasn’t and isn’t fun, but it is the main way I get gear now, so I simply brace myself and hit Ignore Pain on cooldown hoping it will somehow keep me alive. I’m also a big fan of DBM, since I need the help of a disembodied voice screaming at me to get out of things.
Dungeons have remained relevant far longer in Shadowlands than they were in Battle for Azeroth, and I feel that’s a very deliberate choice on Blizzard’s part. Like it or hate it (I don’t like it), getting a group of five together and running Mythics has replaced World Quests as the best way to progress your gear once you’ve hit around ilevel 160. LFR requires 170 to run it, so you won’t be able to get in, and WQs don’t drop gear that’ll help you pop that ilevel to 170 until you’re already Renown 15 or higher, and even then I didn’t see any gear at or above 170 until I was 171.
How did I get to 171? Heroic and Mythic dungeons. That’s where the gear is now.
World Quests are primarily about Anima
There are two reasons to run World Quests now. Either you’re completing a Calling for the rep and the 600 gold vendor trash, or you’re grinding up Anima. There are the occasional items out in the world like Sorrowbane, but in general, you’re not going to be rewarded with much in terms of gear upgrades doing this content. Now, Anima is still a necessity and the Callings are worth doing just for the 1 to 3k gold you’ll get from vendor trash, plus they are a good source of Conduits for your Soulbinds — but if you’re trying to gear up from World Quests? I wouldn’t waste my time.
I mean, still do them, just keep that in mind.
Now, there occasionally are WQs with gear, and sometimes — not very often, but sometimes — if you’re at the Renown cap that gear is good. On my most progressed character, looking at the various quest rewards, two are currently 174, one is 155, and that’s a banner day for me to be honest. I rarely have two World Quests with any gear, much less usable gear. But it does happen, and I don’t want to sound like I’m saying that there’s absolutely no gear to be had in this manner. But when there is gear on a WQ, it’s usually ilevel 155, to the point that I’m using a tank trinket on my DPS set because it replaced an ilevel 120 green. The raw strength on it makes it a better option. And that’s kind of annoying that it’s this hard to get new trinkets, especially since in Battle for Azeroth I often found trinkets from WQs and even from the Tortollan Emissary, something I’ve yet to see from a Calling.
PVP is more accessible to start, but there’s a steep curve to upgrades
If you’re thinking PVP, it really depends on how you go about it. If you’re doing rated BGs, you’ll have to keep the Conquest cap for the week in mind, but with the Great Vault also rewarding Rated BGs or Arena play it’s a solid path to getting something every week. But if you’re doing non-rated BGs and Epic BGs, there is a path to gear, and it starts off fairly accessible. PVP blues are available for relatively little Honor — 525 Honor for non-set trinkets, 875 for main hand weapons, 1750 for two-hand weapons, 400 for off-hands and shields, with various armor slots costing between 525 for bracers and cloaks and jewelry like rings and necks, 700 for the set trinkets, shoulders, belts and gloves, and 875 for helms, chests and legs. Considering you can earn 300 Honor for a regular BG and 450 Honor for an Epic BG if you win, and of course less if you lose. Still, this means that it’s likely the simplest route to getting gear for a slot where you’re having trouble finding a piece.
You can upgrade your PVP armor pieces with Honor points as well. It will cost you 675 Honor to upgrade a starting piece of ilevel 158 Honor gear to ilevel 171, since you’ll need to spend 300 Honor to get to ilevel 164, and then 375 Honor to get to 171. You can do this at Renown 0, but to go past 171 to 177 or higher you’ll need Renonwn 7, and to go to ilevel 190 you’ll need Renown 22. It will also cost more and more Honor, depending on what slot you’re upgrading — ilevel 184 gear will cost you 2025 Honor total to upgrade from 158 in the lower-cost tiers. To do a 2H-weapon will cost you 6750 Honor to take to ilevel 184. The costs vary depending on slot, with 2H weapons being the most expensive, but it’s a fair investment. To get a full set of gear up to ilevel 184 could take anywhere from a day to a few weeks, depending on several factors. But it’s a very viable option for filling the holes in your set, such as a shield or offhand, a weapon (weapons can be the most difficult drops to get) or a ring or trinket.
If you have the patience and stamina to devote a few days or a week to it, running non-rated Epic Battlegrounds is probably the easiest way to make sure you get an item for those slots you’re finding the hardest to fill.
Content lasts longer, because we have fewer choices
Love it or hate it, the slower pace of gear this expansion means that Heroic Dungeons, early Mythics, and even LFR last longer as sources of gear. Even if you’re running Normal Castle Nathria you’ll keep your eyes on those for longer because that’s the only place for you to go for supplemental gear if you’re not getting lucky on your raid. Considering the pace of content destruction we saw in Battle for Azeroth, maybe it’s not entirely a bad thing that we can’t just skip everything and grind out WQs and Emissaries to get gear equivalent to Normal Raiding.
Ironically, if you’re really set on getting the most gear the fastest, and getting it right up to the same level as Mythic dungeons minus a keystone, PVP is probably your best route. Some of the gear won’t be ideal — the trinkets have a lot of anti-CC on them, which isn’t always useful (but could be situationally good) but in general it’s basically just like The Burning Crusade, when running BGs could at least keep you competitive.
Again, I say this as someone who loved gearing in BFA and who barely tolerates it this time around. I’m not loving crawling multiple dungeons in a day. But I hated Timewalking dungeons and avoided them like a plague in the last expansion, and I’ve completed two today. Whether you love or hate the lack of gear accessible through WQs this time around, you can’t deny that it’s doing exactly what Blizzard wanted it to do — it’s pushing people who want gear to run group content to get it. You can’t solo your way to gear on par with people running group content anymore — or at least, not group raid content/ initial Mythic dungeon groups.
That said, we could still use more options to get to 170. If you’re going to make Raid Finder the best way to gear up and get Great Vault drops, then let us get there easier.
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