Cranky about the crucible

Yesterday we “finished” our grand entry into Argus, with the quest line unlocking the Netherlight Crucible. And while I suppose I am in favor of more power for our gear — in this case weapon — can I just say,

Blizz, have you completely lost your marbles?

This latest “addition” to Legion gear calculations — based on a new relic structure for the already-flawed artifact weapon concept — is almost a bridge too far for me. A few of my objections:

Blizz has spent all of Legion until 7.3 telling us not to worry about AP, that it will accumulate at an adequate pace just by our doing things in the game. They deliberately structured it to give significantly diminishing returns, because, they said, the last thing they would ever want to do is introduce a mandatory grind. So don’t sweat it, they said, don’t go out of your way to chase AP, they said, it’s no big deal, they said.

Then, suddenly, in 7.3, they introduce the Netherlight Crucible and ramp up the rate at which we accumulate AP, and guess what? OMG, YOU GOTTA INCREASE YOUR WEAPON LEVEL SO YOU CAN UNLOCK MORE SHIT ON IT! And all those over achievers that Blizz kept trying to discourage from chasing AP before — well they are now top of the heap by a significant amount, and everyone else who actually believed Blizz and did not chase AP — yup, that’s right, we are all playing catchup.

So problem number one I have with the crucible is — headline news here — Blizz lied to us. Again. They led us down a garden path from the beginning of Legion, and then suddenly pulled the rug out from under us, if I may mix my metaphors.

If this was a design reversal planned all along for Legion, it strikes me as sleazy not to have given us some warning from the start of the expansion. They could certainly have said that AP/weapon level would be slow and minor for the first half of the expansion but would become more important in the second half — that way we could have decided whether or not we wanted to try and max it out even though we would not see the benefits for a while. But at least we would have been able to make an informed choice based on our game goals.

If this was not planned from the beginning, then it seems like a dirty trick to suddenly and capriciously change the weapon structure to reward AP grinding after telling us not to worry about it. It makes me think Blizz is getting desperate, that they way over-promised content and timing for Legion, and now they are scrambling for anything to keep their Monthly Active User numbers high. The fact that it is a reversal of a design approach they lectured us about for a year means nothing to them in comparison to the need to maintain the metrics.

Problem number two I have with the crucible is that it is exceptionally poorly implemented for BM hunters. When Blizz embarked on the whole artifact weapon idea they really never came to grips with how vastly more complicated class balancing would be, and in truth they have still not figured out how to do it. (And while my comments pertain to BM hunters, there are several specs that Blizz arbitrarily buffed because frankly they could not figure out how to make the new relic structure work well with the very artifacts they themselves designed.)

In particular they seem to be totally clueless about how to implement beastmaster hunter artifact power. They created the spec as almost completely dependent on the power of pets versus direct player power, and they compounded this by making the BM artifact (a gun) mostly a fashion accessory while Hati is the true BM artifact. Curiously, though, having created this setup for BM hunters, Blizz is strangely resistant to the idea of giving hunter pets more power. They have no qualms about adding power to almost any other dps weapon, but they only grudgingly add it to hunter pets, and when they finally do, they do so very reluctantly, as if their mom is making them do it but they-don’t-wanna-they-don’t-wanna. Hati still does less damage than the regular hunter pet, is slower to attack a target, and will disappear for 30 seconds if the hunter’s pet dies and is rezzed in combat. No other class loses their artifact weapon in the middle of a fight, much less for 30 seconds.

And this mess is all before the new artifact weapon enhancements we get through the Netherlight Crucible. Blizz’s inability to balance the BM hunter’s weapon system (intertwining of personal weapon, pet, and Hati) has resulted in a situation where standard increases in the calculus of artifact weapons has ever-decreasing effect for the BM hunter, because Blizz simply refuses to give the appropriate power to pets even though they purposely designed the spec to be almost completely reliant on them for damage.

The upshot of all this is that BM hunter relics have always been far more dependent on specific traits being enhanced than on relic level, and this factor has even greater effect on BM hunters with the introduction of the Netherlight Crucible. It is so complex that Blizz has apparently thrown up their hands in surrender and out of desperation are giving BM hunters an across-the board buff to keep us from sinking even lower in the charts than we are now. If you want specifics about the Netherlight Crucible for BM hunters, check out Bendak’s piece on it.

Let me reiterate: the BM buff is being done as a desperate move to let us keep our heads above water. Blizz created the spec as it is in Legion, they created the complicated interaction of pets and Hati and Dire Beast and a gun and tier bonuses and legendaries, yet they are too damn lazy to deal with their mess in a “class fantasy” way. It is too hard, so they are giving the spec a generic buff because hell who cares about hunters anyway? Once again they are demonstrating we are the throwaway class, not worthy of spending any significant dev resources on.

Problem number three I have with the crucible is that it adds an entire new layer of complexity to what is already a vastly over-complicated gear system. Without the crucible we were already dealing with gear factors that include:

  • primary stats
  • secondary stats
  • gear ilevel
  • tier bonuses (from several tiers)
  • legendary special effects
  • specialized effects of trinkets and necks
  • artifact power level
  • artifact traits
  • relics

And now we have added three levels of additional bonuses and enhancements with the crucible. (Think it’s not complicated? Just try reading about the crucible and the new relic structure on Wowhead or someplace and tell me if you understand it. Even if you understand the basic premise, tell me you are confident that you will be able to select the best relic setup for your spec.)

Change any one of these factors, and it has a significant ripple effect on nearly every other factor. For example, changing either a talent or a legendary can change the order of importance of secondary stats. All that mastery, say, you have been stacking on your gear has become pretty mediocre because crit is now the top stat. In turn, that same ilevel 920 neck with all the mastery now becomes worse for you than the crit-heavy one you have in your bank. Your gems and enchants pegged to mastery become mediocre compared to crit. And so forth.

We are already at the point where it takes a bank of high-powered computers to determine which gear is best for us to equip, and I submit that we have actually gone past the point where even such computers are useful. For example, I love and use the Raidbots site. But the number of permutations I have to run just to select my best gearing strategy strains even that site. Running permutations in manageable chunks — say just trying to find the optimal trinkets for a certain Tomb fight — risks not taking into effect the cascading gear selection effect I described above. I might end up with a good recommendation for the best trinkets to go with the rest of my gear setup, but it’s very possible that the rest of the gear setup actually stinks for that fight and would need a different legendary, say, or a talent tweak. Which in turn would require a different set of coordinating gear. And as of yesterday, we get to add a complex set of new relic traits to this mix! My head hurts.

Now, to be fair, the damage differences we are talking about are frequently (but not always) fairly minor — a few thousand dps and that’s IF you can actually perform as perfectly as a sim bot. (Spoiler: almost no one can.) If you don’t need to eke out every possible damage point, and if you are willing to crank out 900k dps instead of a potential 1.1 million, for example, then it is far easier just to go with your gut, using a couple of generic rules like stack mastery or whatever. And the new relic system? Meh, just select a couple of traits at random and go with what feels right. There are a lot of circumstances where this strategy works just fine.

But you don’t have to be a hardcore Mythic raider to be in situations where a few thousand dps actually does make a difference (say, heroic Kil’jaeden or even just a personal desire to optimize your play potential), but Blizz has made the calculations for achieving these extra points complex beyond the ability of most humans to deal with. It is absolutely incomprehensible to me why, given the already borderline chaos-theory gear and talent structure, Blizz decided to add the additional complicating factor of a new relic structure.

Yeah, this is why I am cranky about the Netherlight Crucible.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

4 Responses to Cranky about the crucible

  1. Alunaria says:

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    It’s times like these I am so glad I am this casual. I have not read up on it beforehand, but after unlocking it today, I took one look at it and just thought, forget it. Too unnecessary complex for my taste. And I don’t get why it has to be like that.

    Again, it seems Blizzard is just trying to make some kind of “goal” to reach, for those who “need” that.

  2. Grumsta says:

    The Neverright Crucible is Legion’s shipyard. The Left Shark has been jumped again.

    It’s cynically designed to keep AP “meaningful” but at the same time makes farming AP pointless because of AK. I’m glad Blizz told us to hold off farming AP because until we hit max AK again it’s like trying to fill a swimming pool with a thimble. I genuinely feel for those on Mythic progression who would like the weapon buffs to help them nerf the fights, but for everyone else I don’t think it’s worth farming a single AP voucher right now. If they drop, fine, equip them. But I’m not even running Garrison missions for them until AK maxes out again.

    The interface is shockingly poor and unintuitive. I had to help out guildies last night who hadn’t twigged they had to click on each relic on each weapon to get the 3 x 5 ilvl upgrades applied, they thought the weapon upgrade was built into this week’s patch. At least you only have to unlock it once then all your characters can get to it (once they’ve unlocked the teleporter which only takes 5 mins; well worth it for the weapon power boost).

    I have 60 traits in my main weapon so I only got to experience the thrill of upgrading it once. It’s a straight binary choice, an absolute no-brainer. I checked the Altered-time guides just to make sure as it was my first, but yeah. It has the appearance of choice, but there’s only one right answer. Not even ST vs AoE situational.

    My biggest gripe is with it’s impact on loot distribution in raids. A relic drops, and no-one will know if it’s an upgrade for them until they take the relic to the NLC and put it in the slot. This from the same design team who told us they didn’t want us to have to reforge, just put your new gear on and away you go. Better make sure you have a Mage and a Warlock, and allow 30 mins between bosses (okay I exaggerate, but if your raid team is like mine and wants to sim trinkets and non-tier items when they drop you’ll know where I’m coming from……)

    I drop a new relic of the same ilevel as my current one, but the trait is poor. However, I can’t get rid of it because it might (RNG permitting) have superb T2 and T3 traits. So I’ll need to carry it around until I get to the NLC. I need to do it quickly though so if it doesn’t work out as an upgrade for me I can contact all the other team members eligible to use it so they can all visit the NLC in turn to see if it’s an upgrade for them. Even if it will eventually be an upgrade that might not happen until I unlock the T3 trait at 72, so I’ll need to carry the relic around on my bag until then. On what planet is this good design?

    I cannot understand where Blizz are going with this, but I see nothing good here. Just give us more slots to fill in like before, or let us choose our traits from a drop-down list as we hit certain trait thresholds.

    What this xpac absolutely did not need was another layer of RNG.

    • Fiannor says:

      “The Neverright Crucible is Legion’s shipyard. The Left Shark has been jumped again.”

      I love that. It perfectly captures the whole concept.

      The interface is indeed unintuitive, and I think that is the generous description. More succinctly, it is a half-assed rush job strongly resembling a coding tree — it probably makes perfect sense to the developers but was certainly never tested with regular players. It amazes me that Blizz apparently really believes the answer to complaints about RNG is to devise a more complex approach to RNG.

      Actually, the loot distribution problem is even worse than the scenario you describe, since the very act of putting the relic into the test slot in the NLC makes it soulbound. Thus, very few if any relics will ever be traded in raid.

      Like you, I cannot fathom what the goal of this system is, beyond a pretty awful attempt to keep the MAU numbers up by making the AP chase and now a relic chase relevant to a certain number of players. I hit 63 on my artifact weapon last night, and I took the suboptimal relics I already have, selected the least bad options, and I am done. I am absolutely not going to chase the “best” relic for BM hunters — if I get one, fine, if I don’t oh well. In fact, once I get the rep items I want on Argus, I doubt if I will spend time there.

  3. It is confusing and frustrating. After raid, I had players drop down a channel to explain how the Crucible works, the need to change specs while you are there and also that your Alts can benefit. And, finally, it doesn’t matter that much: so many players were frozen in fear of making a permanent bad choice and, really, another relic will come along in time.
    I can’t imagine why, oh why, this thing is here — unless it is to fill our time before the next raid?

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