Frost mages and the vector of Legion

A vector is an object that has both a magnitude and a direction. Geometrically, we can picture a vector as a directed line segment, whose length is the magnitude of the vector and with an arrow indicating the direction. The direction of the vector is from its tail to its head.

A vector

Courtesy of

For humans, time is an ephemeral vector. We are tied to its direction — always forward, never backward or stationary. And if time itself has an unimaginably immense magnitude, our own human magnitudes are infinitesimally small in comparison — occupying less space along the vector than a grain of sand along a million-mile journey. One of the consequences of this state is that we have a beginning and an end, and the space between those two points is what we experience as change.

This cosmic insight applies not only to we humans, but also to everything we create — civilizations and empires and governments and automobiles and socks and computer games. Even though humans are bound to the vector of time, we have the ability to stand outside it in a sense, to look down on a piece of it, study our creations, and see where they began and how they changed and ultimately how they ended, because we have memory and we have developed the ability to chronicle and thus preserve aggregated memories.

Which — finally! — brings me to the subject of today’s post. It certainly is not news to any of my readers that we are at the end of the Legion expansion, and something that happened over the weekend caused me to contemplate the magnitude of its vector within the game.

First, the event(s). As there is not much more that interests me about my main hunter just now, I have been dabbling with my alts, concentrating on one or another of them for several days at a time, then moving on to a different one. This weekend I was focusing on my mage. I initially leveled her (a void elf) as Arcane (a mistake, btw) and that was the first spec for which I obtained an artifact and got it to level 75. Then I did the same for Fire, because I really think that is a fun spec. Unfortunately, in Legion Fire is not especially powerful, so — just to round things out — I started the same process for Frost. Currently my artifact level is 72 on that spec, so I have a small ways to go to get to what I consider max level for any alt artifact.

Before I go on, let me point out that while I have become minimally proficient as a mage, I am nowhere close to being good, or even above average. Prior to this weekend, the best I could eke out in front of a target dummy as a Frost mage — no movement and no food or other consumable buffs — was about 700-800k sustained dps. All you excellent mages out there are free to laugh your butts off over this, especially when I tell you my ilevel was around 930. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Anyway, the point is, I am pretty bad as a Frost mage.

But over the course of this weekend I finally got 4 pieces of t21 normal gear (I do not have any t20), along with two of the top three legendaries for Frost mages (Shard of the Exodar ring and Shattered Fragments of Sindragosa helm). Once I made a talent change to accommodate the helm, there was an instantaneous sea change in my damage numbers. Simply by adding these 6 pieces of gear (which only changed my overall ilevel by about 3 levels) my sustained target dummy dps doubled — well over 1.5m dps for  several 8-minute sessions. (I did a few to mitigate any possible fantastic good luck with the heavy proc-fishing one has to do with Frost mages.)

Did I suddenly become twice as proficient? In my dreams! No, it was just gear.

To me, this experience pretty well encapsulates some of the worst aspects of Legion, design changes that I fear we have not seen the last of:

  • Using gear (trinkets, tier, and legendaries) to correct class/spec play style and potency design flaws, instead of correcting basic balance problems.
  • Using RNG as the sole determiner of which players will be awarded these crucial gap-fillers for their spec.
    • Taunting players with the idea that there is “bad luck” insurance that kicks in if you just keep grinding raids and dungeons and emissary quests for enough weeks. But this does NOT have anything to do with getting the “good” legendaries and such, only with getting one — which may in fact suck, causing you and your bad luck to start all over again in hopes of getting the one that fixes your lousy rotation.
  • The extreme reliance on secondary stats to bring a spec’s abilities to anything close to their potential, and the twin crime of making those stats completely random for loot drops.

These design decisions, more than any other factors in my opinion, are what created the “never-ending grind” many felt in Legion. The overriding importance of gear — including the artifact weapon — combined with the RNG aspect and geometric increases in AP for the artifact — made much of Legion an exercise in soul-sucking drudgery.  Players looking to meet their regular end game goals — especially if those goals included becoming a contributing member of a raid team — found that Blizz had suddenly moved the goal posts and in fact kept moving them as the expansion progressed.

In effect, Blizz was altering the normal change vector by moving the magnitude with the expansion rather than letting the player move along a fixed magnitude and thus see what they had come to expect as “progress”.

Blizz seems unable or unwilling to learn the meta-lessons from their mistakes, preferring to learn only the specific ones. If players complained about artifacts being too grindy in Legion, for example, Blizz eliminates artifacts in BfA but simply breaks their effect up among several small artifact-like pieces. The never-ending grind is still there. If players objected to class-fixing legendary bonuses, Blizz eliminated those kinds of legendaries in BfA but moved the class bandaids to bonus traits in Azerite armor. When players complained about having to run dailies and weeklies in Mists of Pandaria in order to not feel as if they were falling behind, Blizz changed the name to world quests in Legion and kept them as a requirement for earning AP and gear in order to be eligible for other group activities. When players complained bitterly about garrisons in WoD, Blizz changed the name to class halls in Legion.

Before I get deluged with hate mail, all of this is not to say there were not some excellent innovations in Legion — and I will likely have a post on what I think those were before BfA goes live. In general I think Legion was a decent expansion. But I am troubled by what I see as Blizz’s move to a design philosophy that seems to deliberately create winner and loser classes and specs, along with a system that rewards luck more than any other factor for player potential. And I continue to be disappointed in Blizz’s seeming inability to truly move on from what even they admit were mistakes — they seem anchored to the design concepts and more eager to camouflage them than to correct them.

10 thoughts on “Frost mages and the vector of Legion

  1. And I guess that’s the core issue I have. I don’t have tier pieces and in 940ish I struggle to get to 700k. The philosophy that you don’t raid so why do you care. I hope things change.

    1. It is extremely frustrating. I remember a few months back when we were doing progression on heroic Antorus, I was really working to ge the max out of my BM hunter. After the raid, when I ran my log through a couple of those “How is my rotation?” sites, I saw that for two bosses I had hit every single cooldown and had indeed maxed out all the appropriate rotation combos. But my damage was noticeably less than that of another BM hunter in the raid who had 4-pc tier to my 2 pcs and who had the “good” legendaries and the most sought-after trinkets. Don’t get me wrong, this was an excellent player, but when I ran her logs through the sites, she had been far less efficient than I on those 2 bosses. But it was the gear. (We had the same talent sets.)

      1. I agree with the other comment. It’s like they determine what they want as the absolute best a class can perform, then back out the numbers behind top end best in slot pieces. By the time you get to those not raiding, we are left in the dust. It was exacerbating to me to be online considering jumping in with the guild, only to see discussions about people not pulling their weight at 900k, and I was struggling to get much lower than that. I usually just logged out and went to watch tv instead of playing.

  2. I’ve always found (set bonus, legendary weapon trait, azerite whatever) that solves a broken piece of a spec’s function to be just simply offensive for a couple reasons. 1) It means that the devs clearly KNOW that the gameplay of the class/spec without the “fix” is substandard and not as fun and 2) know that people really really enjoy playing with the “fix” (or fixes) so we can use it as a carrot to leverage gametime out of the player to get it.

    I came to the conclusion that the repetition of this pattern manifesting across classes and specs means it is a design feature, not a bug. I am also convinced that the dev development in respect to this is top down, not bottom up. What do I mean? I mean that they design what the spec functions as at its optimal, how it looks and feels and functions when its the best it can be. Then, they steadily remove pieces from that build and stick them behind specific gates or milemarkers throughout the expansion. I am convinced this is their methodology because of how utterly broken and miserable some specs are to play prior to gaining the “fix.”

    Bottom up design with respect to this would look a whole lot different. You’d start off with a base function of the class/spec that was engaging and entertaining to play. Then along the way you’d find enhancements and tweaks that made the experience better. You wouldn’t play the class and say, there are significant holes that need to be filled. It would be accents, flourishes, and enhancements to a base experience that is pleasurable and enjoyable to engage in. However, game play is often a test of endurance for its deficiencies until you can get the holy grail of gear to fill those “holes” and make the gameplay enjoyable.

    There is a huge difference between enhancing something that is already good and enduring an annoyance, inconvenience, etc until you can get the thing that removes that hindrance to your enjoyment. This was a HUGE factor in why I left wow. On a side note, i’ve found an extremely rewarding home in ESO (Elder Scrolls Online). I find their design to be bottom up, not just for gear and class function, but for the gameplay itself.

    For instance, I describe it to my friends like: any class, any role, any weapon, any armor, anywhere, anytime, any level. The entire game scales accordingly, so a level 5 character and max level character can engage in the same content and have both meaningfully contribute. (There are some restrictions on when dungeons become available, and raids called trials are more of a max level thing but those are only a minor component to the game instead of the all consuming focus.) The devs have made the conscious choice to make playing with friends as easy as possible and interacting with other people working cooperatively as rewarding as possible. You can “travel to player” for free to your friends and pop out near them as many times as you want. The travel system is a set of wayshrines all over the world, so no stupid wasted flight times (just a load screen then you are there). The point is that if you are wondering what a bottom up design philosophy looks like, look to that game. WoW is top down in so many ways aka Ion “Let me tell you how you will have fun” hazzikosas (however you spell it).

    1. Yes, you make a very good point. There is indeed a big difference between using gear bonuses to enhance already-decent class play styles or numbers, and using it as a quick lazy fix to engineered flaws. In theory, the former is the goal of the Azerite traits in BfA, but I will believe it when I see it — I suspect they will be used the same way trinket and legendary bonuses were in Legion, bandaids for poor design. I wouldn’t even mind that so much, but to then make these bandaids dependent on a roll of the dice is pretty despicable. And every time that smug ass Hazzikostas gets that smarmy smile on his face and lectures us about how much more fun RNG is than currency, I just want to choke the living sh*t out of him.

      I have actually tried ESO — briefly — about a year ago. I found it interesting, but I was a bit put off by the graphics for some reason. Also, I did not get far in leveling and knew no one else playing, so I felt pretty isolated. I may give it another try.

      1. Well if you decide to reach out to me in game @Alecmazzar

        They did implement a few very very significant changes. Tamriel One was the codeword for the effort. Its where they applied the scaling, and opened up all the zones and factions to everyone else. No longer were you bound to specific zones for specific levels, or quests to specific levels. It just opens up the game quite a bit. The devs explicitly stated that while the faction divides are great flavor they were a hindrance to people playing with their friends. Want a Khajiit (cat) but your friend is an Orc…you couldn’t play together. So TamrielOne was their answer, scaling so your level 10 can play with level 50 and both contribute meaningfully.

        Crafting is a whole nother minigame in itself. VERY rewarding and rich enough to really sink your teeth into. It is immediately beneficial in that it provides utility.

        A one toon sort of girl? Well there are enough skillpoints in the game to sink your teeth into pretty much any direction you want to go. Like lots of alts? Tons of options, different flavors, different builds. Hate the cookie cutter thing? Unless you are doing super high level content, you can do most anything, combo abilities you find fun together and not be punished. Still do all the basic solo content you want.

        Need a hookup into a friend supportive guild? I know and am in a bunch of them. (You can be in up to 5 guilds, account joins guild so). Need a sherpa to answer any questions along the way when they come up. I enjoy helping others.

        They have a model of quarterly release of content. You can buy the base game and get DLC content a la carte or you can get the sub ESO Plus (some huge advantages there if you want to get into crafting).

        Housing? Yeah and its everything you wanted and more but didn’t get with your garrison.

        So send me an in game mail if you decide to dip your toes back in. Goes for anyone reading this as well.

  3. So much is about perception. Maybe we see a player doing 1.4 million damage and another doing 1.2 million and think that that is not much of a difference but, I wonder, how it will be after our squish in numbers; if the difference between 250 and 300 will seem like a lot.
    A lot of my RNG resentment goes straight to that 0.02% drop on the Argus trinket; we have been running normal forever … just for the chance. If it dropped for me now, I wonder if I’d vendor it in disgust.

    1. We have had 2 of them drop, and I would guess that we have had 20-25 people (or more) killing Argus now every week for 4-5 months. And for maybe 2 months we had that number killing him twice a week, once on normal and once on heroic. Our running joke has been that someone will get it finally on a 3rd or 4th alt, and that exact thing happened a week ago, our second drop was our GM on a very minor warrior alt she was using for our Friday fun run. Her response was close to yours of wanting to try and vendor the thing out of disgust.

      1. I think you hit the nail on the head there Fi. We shouldn’t be looking at a gear drop in disgust because the drop rate is so incredibly low, that it forces players to run the content until they want to just quit.

        But Mr. H. Surely knows what’s best for us. 😬

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