Hey everyone, with 10.1 on PTR & Raid Testing in full swing, we wanted to catch up and talk about some Rewards Updates coming to Embers of Neltharion. This will include changes we’re making to the Revival Catalyst, Class Set Acquisition, Raid Rewards, as well as some of the history behind how we’ve arrived to our current approach & how those philosophies are evolving over time. This post will already be pretty long already, so for now this is going to focus entirely on the Class Sets & the Catalyst - how we got here initially, how things are today, and what they’ll look like soon - and keep the Raid Talk to a different post coming soon.
First off, let’s talk about the Revival Catalyst (formerly the Creation Catalyst from Zereth Mortis), and how we got to where we are today. Early on in 10.0’s development, we knew we would keep the Catalyst unlock timing of 6 weeks after the season begins - which certainly wasn’t the most popular decision, but let’s talk about why. Generally speaking, when iterating on a system we try to be careful of not making too many changes at once so as to better discern & analyze the impact of those changes individually, and with something as big as the Catalyst, making too many changes at once could jeopardize our ability to balance its place in the gearing ecosystem in the future. If we’d made it unlock even one week earlier, and discovered that was a mistake or didn’t align with our goals, it would be even more disruptive to players to say ‘oops’ and rewind it back. So let’s talk about what did change - because coming from Shadowlands Season 3 where the Catalyst was introduced (and Class Sets reintroduced overall), there were a number of compounding issues that made the experience of assembling your Set as frustrating as it was. These complicating factors were:
Sepulcher of the First Ones, as a raid, was notoriously more difficult than intended- this meant that even very competent and committed guilds found it hard to take down Lihuvim, Halondrus, and especially Anduin in that very first week.
On top of this, Sepulcher released in segments - Lords of Dread and Rygelon, two other very challenging bosses sporting Class Set tokens, weren’t even available for people who did clear the first week.
Special Trading Requirements - in the world of personal loot in raid, you needed equal-or-better item level in a particular slot to trade an item. In 9.2 specifically, there was an even further restriction meaning you needed to have a high enough item level Set Piece. This meant that there were many cases where people who had normal set pieces couldn’t trade heroic ones that dropped for them right after, or players who had their set completed couldn’t trade items that would have finished the bonus for others.
Great Vault accessibility - while it was a benefit that the Great Vault allowed all players (even non-raiders) to get set pieces at all, the rates weren’t at all favorable compared to your chances of non-set items appearing.
Additionally, many of our tests and projections were expecting that a lot of players would meet the Raid Thresholds of 3/5/8 Bosses killed each week which, as mentioned above, didn’t happen regularly for quite a while given the high average difficulty of the raid (Anduin being a major gatekeeper here). This meant that from the very first week, the vast majority of players were behind our initial expectations for acquiring their Sets.
So that was the world of 9.2 We’re highlighting these factors alongside the 6-week release timing of the original Catalyst to hopefully show the snowball effect acquisition and rewards systems can have. Players weren’t killing as many bosses early, which meant they weren’t killing the rest of the Class Set bosses, which meant less people had them appear in their Great Vault, which all meant less trading across your raid group to fill out slots - furthermore, this delays the power spikes those bonuses would give, which makes it harder to progress past certain walls within the raid, and so the cycle continues. Even guilds choosing to clear Normal and Heroic bosses for extra chances at Set Tokens were still running afoul of the trading restrictions, which didn’t help much either. So what changed moving into Vault of the Incarnates & Dragonflight Season 1?
- All trading restrictions for Raid items were removed - this means guilds clearing heroic and normal had much faster/easier access to Set tokens.
- We greatly increased the appearance rate of Class Set items from your slots in the Great Vault across the board
- Great Vault slots for the Raid moved to 2/4/6 - this combined with being a shorter raid (8 bosses instead of 11) overall meant less loot individual loot in your pools, so a higher chance of not only making it to Set Token bosses, but also a higher chance of maxing out your vault weeks earlier than in Season 3
Knowing the 6-week Catalyst unlock timing would still be controversial, we held fast due to the other incoming changes to get a look at how things would shake out - and as it happens, our data shows that these changes had an even bigger impact than anticipated. Without peering too much behind the curtain, we were able to see that the vast majority of players filling between 3 & 6 Great Vault slots (by far the most common bracket for players who engage with vault at all early in a season) either had their 4-piece Set Bonus before the Revival Catalyst opened, or were set up to complete it that very week. Players were killing more bosses on more difficulties than before, which led to more vault slots & more gear trading, which in turn led to progressing deeper into the raid earlier, which continues the positive loop of more players getting geared faster. That said, some readers will correctly identify that there’s groupings of players who still were left out of this bounty - these are players who engage only with Mythic+, and only with PvP, with zero raiding at all. These players still on-average had decent luck getting some Set pieces via the Great Vault change, but were extremely unlikely to complete their 4-piece bonus before the Catalyst arrived.
So, that’s the basics of Season 1 - but we still think we can do better for more players. So let’s talk about what’s changing in Dragonflight Season 2:
First, we’re reverting the Weekly Quest system to get Catalyst Charges in favor of how it worked in Shadowlands Season 3. For those unaware, this is very simple - every week, all characters on your account will get a charge, no action required. We wanted to experiment with making the acquisition of Charges require some more effort & investment on the player’s part in lieu of having a Currency Cost (9.2 had Cosmic Flux, which handled this previously) - but in so doing we ended up taking a step backwards on one of the founding goals of the Catalyst system itself: mid- or late-season catch-up for new or returning players.
Whereas 9.2’s system would greet fresh 60s with many Catalyst Charges ready to craft an entire Class Set for a hefty Cosmic Flux fee, level 70 players in Dragonflight Season 1 quickly found that if they were late to the party - that was it. It would always take 6 weeks to reach the Charge cap, and if you failed to turn in the quest for any reason, you couldn’t gain another. It’s not a total loss - this entirely-new truly account-wide quest is something we’ll be able to use in the future, but not allowing catch-up was a mistake we’re going to correct. The quick hits of how Dragonflight Season 2 will work are thus:
- Upon the Catalyst opening, all players will receive a Charge for every one of their characters. These function the same as they always have - if your Main spends a few to convert items early in the season, it doesn’t impact your alt (or any alt characters you may make in the future).
- unlike in Shadowlands Season 3, there will be no cost associated beyond the Charge spent. No Cosmic Flux, no Dragon Isles Supplies, no Apexis Crystals - if you’ve done the work of obtaining a convertible item, that’s enough for us.
Second, we’re adding a new Seasonal Achievement - tentatively titled Dragonflight Season 2 Master. You may be aware that in 9.2 & 10.0, we’ve had some achievements that would require you to clear the Mythic Raid, or obtain a very high Mythic+ or PvP threshold to obtain a reward - in Shadowlands S3 it was a special item to upgrade all of your conduits, and in Dragonflight Season 1, it was a cosmetic item that gave you access to the previously Mythic-Only Visual Effects for all colors of your Class Set appearances. We’re keeping that style of achievement & reward moving forward, but want to experiment with more seasonal milestones to hit as you progress towards your goals. Here’s how it’ll work:
- Season 2 Master is awarded for clearing Aberrus, the Shadowed Crucible on Heroic Difficulty, obtaining 2200 Mythic+ Rating, or 1800 rating in PvP
- Doing so awards that character a Draconic Mark of Mastery - an item that can be turned in to a vendor for any Heroic-Level Class Set item of your choice
- This can only be earned once per-character, but is available the day Dragonflight Season 2 begins
- The item received from the Mark of Mastery is also fully upgradeable with Shadowflame Crests & Flightstones, like all items in the universal upgrade system coming with this patch
This achievement and its reward serve a few functions. We’re interested in adding a non-raid method of obtaining a guaranteed set item for those players we mentioned previously. Additionally, we’re interested in testing the waters to see how players feel about being able to earn relevant power rewards for their progress and performance within a given season. For the most skilled and coordinated players, this token will be something they could earn within a matter of days or even a week - for others, it’s a medium or even long-term goal to push for that could provide items otherwise out of their typical reach.
Lastly - and this is Raid-specific - Scalecommander Sarkareth, the final boss of the 10.1 Raid, will drop 1 ‘Omnitoken’ per defeat on all difficulties for your group, guaranteed. We’re still hammering out the specifics here, but like the Mark of Mastery above, any player in possession of it will be able to take it to a vendor and purchase a Class Set item of the level & upgrade band appropriate to the Raid Difficulty it came from.
Also worth noting before we talk about the Raid Rewards charges in full is that some time into the season - either with the re-opening of the Revival Catalyst, or shortly thereafter - we’ll be adjusting how often Set Tokens drop in raid as well. At present, Class Set tokens drop at a ratio of 1 per 10 players, scaling up to 2 per 20 and 3 per 30 guaranteed. We’ll be reducing this number as the season progresses, as we’ve heard feedback that players making late-season runs at mythic progression or AotC very often already have their Class Sets, and often at an item level that’s decently above or comparable to those dropping. This can make those bosses feel less exciting & rewarding at the end of a season, especially when hunting specific trinkets or weapons.
All in all it’s been about a year since Class Sets have returned, and we hope the above changes represent a shift towards making them more accessible for all players. We want to acknowledge the feedback that having raiding be the primary way all players obtain Class Sets doesn’t feel in-step with your expectations, given that they feel like something that should be universally available to all styles of play. We’re eager to see how Season 2 plays out, and will be looking for more ways to level the playing field in this regard as we continue to iterate. Thanks for all of your thoughts on this topic so far, and we’ll see you in 10.1!