Azerite labyrinth

I have spent the better part of Battle for Azeroth thus far being confounded by the intricacies of the whole Azerite gear system. Parts of it are obvious, yet many other parts are a dark labyrinth I seem to be navigating blindfolded. I decided to try and break it out into a system I can understand, so I made myself some notes. If you think they might be useful to you, you can check them out by navigating to the menu item at the top of this page.

Meanwhile, here are some scattered observations (not well organized, I warn you) on the system.

The artifact weapons of Legion have morphed into Azerite gear in Battle for Azeroth. Blizz clearly realized artifacts had some problems, so they tried to fix them in BFA. In the process, unfortunately, they have created a system that is vastly complex — arguably even more so than artifact weapons were. Whereas artifacts had a relatively small number of traits, Azerite gear has so many that the possible permutations challenge even high powered cloud computers. Moreover, Blizz has given players almost no guidance on the mechanics, lazily defaulting to third party sites.

There is also a hidden gear quest that  under certain circumstances activates Uldir-only Azerite traits on special gear. This is Reorigination Array, and Blizz actually kept it a secret until a third party site described it and apparently outed it. Mind you, this was not a mechanic Blizz was planning on doing, it was one they had already implemented. (If you read the Blue Post, you might suspect it is one of those April Fool’s “hotfixes”. But no, sadly it is real.)

The actual RA buffs are significant (and thus an exception to the otherwise-uninspiring Azerite gear traits), so it’s a bit puzzling as to why Blizz kept it under wraps, even after they implemented it in the live game….

I just think Azerite gear is far too complex and time-consuming for the benefits it gives. I cannot help but recall that the same Ion Hazzikostas who has given us this design is the one who wailed that we should not be able to reforge gear as we did in Mists of Pandaria because doing so “requires too much math”. So solicitous of our tiny overworked brains! But he then proceeded to set up Legion gear that required a bank of high-powered cloud computers to even determine when/if gear might be an actual upgrade, and followed that debacle with this Byzantine BFA Azerite system that is almost too complex to model even on high-capacity computers and which is obviously far too difficult for Blizz to give us useful guidance on.

In addition to being complicated, Azerite gear doubles down on the “eternal AP grind” players so hated in Legion. Blizz will continue to add traits and to make them cost ever-increasing amounts of AP to unlock. There will be no end state. This is exactly the burnout mechanic so many players objected to in Legion — a slow, Sisyphean, plodding linear progression to nowhere.

The one saving grace, I suppose, is that Azerite gear traits are — at least so far — pretty puny. Which means there is probably not a significant down side to just ignoring AP completely and accrue it without actually grinding for it.

The system does not remove the requirement to keep multiple pieces of gear in one’s inventory, “just in case” a situation may require a different set of Azerite traits. This is true for every semi-casual player, not just hybrid classes.

Azerite gear has “features” that are nothing short of annoying. Players feel like they are regressing when they replace lower level Azerite gear with higher level stuff, because they are able to unlock fewer traits on the new gear. So you go from a piece with three traits to a piece with maybe one trait, and you get to start grinding AP all over again to unlock more traits — knowing that the process will repeat if you get a higher level piece again. For the whole expansion.

Also, the way Blizz is treating the AP catchup mechanism has a psychological catch to it. There is an example of this on my Azerite Gear page, but basically it is possible for Blizz to actually take AP away from you. It makes no difference in your progress towards AP levels, but even so, it is not fun to work for days to get a certain amount of AP only to have it taken away when because the Azerite research now requires less AP to get to the level you are working on.

For the life of me, I do not understand what is wrong with simple gear: If it is a higher ilevel, then it should be an upgrade. Period. Getting new gear is fun, as is equipping it right away and knowing — without running stats through a supercomputer — it is going to make you more powerful in the game.

Attention Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas: gear in Legion and BFA “requires too much math” — since I know how much you hate that from your comment about Mists reforging, I am sure this situation will shock you. Now that you know about it, fix it, please and thank you. *dusts hands off, glad that’s all taken care of*

On that note, time to start the weekend. See you on the other side.

8 thoughts on “Azerite labyrinth

  1. I don’t even bother any more. When I get an ability unlocked, I look at the two choices and pick the one that I like. I have 0 intention of trying to farm up specific gear. I am taking what I get, and trying my best to not flip a table as I loose more and more haste. I am at 7% now. But hey my Versatility is over 8%. So that’s good right? I honestly feel bad for anyone new to the game. I e played a long time, have only one class and spec I play, and I am so lost that I just don’t care. I do world quests with my wife. When she goes into raid, or gets into groups to do some Mythic dungeons? I log out.

    Supposedly maybe possibly they aren’t sure, if there is going to be any fix for me, it will be 8.1. But I doubt it will be more than tuning. Gotta give the design two expansions before you scrap it I guess. It’s not fun or relaxing to me, and more of a challenge than I have a taste for. I’m not even interested in doing Normal dungeons. I have stepped off the hamster wheel, and am just going through the motions.

    Oh. And thank you for the comment the other day. It was appreciated.

  2. I agree with everything that you say here, including scrapping such systems going forward. Honestly, I liked reforging much more if such a system needs to exist. While it still took work, at least higher iLevel pieces could often be made upgrades.

    In reading your Azerite Gear primer at the top, I’ll tell you how I’ve decided to handle it. Last year, I won a year of paid service on Ask Mr. Robot via one of the contests on WowHead. (Also won mounts and pets, which was fun!) Anywho, I found the tool very valuable in Legion so as I approached BFA, I paid the $12 annual fee to have his site do the math for me. While I lament the need to spend real-world dollars — money many don’t have! — to handle in-game theory-crafting, it works for me. His service is easy to understand & comprihensive, and his communication is strong. I’m a fan. FYI.

  3. I loved the add on program Reforge Lite. It worked in game, you set it for world, normal, heroic. Or something like that. It was updated to follow stat priorities that were established across every class and spec, you could just drop pieces in and it would take care of it for you. It was so much simpler than AMR. Mr Robot was always good to evaluate gems and enchants.

    And I agree, it shouldn’t require you to spend additional real world money to play.

    1. Ion, who as you remind us, said reforging was “too much math” and who gave us the Relic system andAzerite gear is also the one who said “we don’t want you playing Demonology warlock” because it was too complicated. The idea was that Demo warlock had this really high skill cap, but at the same time could perform so well that warlock peons like myself felt “forced” to play it even though we had no hope of mastering it. To keep us from playing it they nerfed its dps into the ground, forcing us into the other two specs for several expacs.

      That was a lie. I was certainly a peon compared to top Demo warlocks. But as my friends and I discovered, Demo 1. Was fun 2. Performed far better than the other two specs even at low levels of skill and 3. Was not very complicated. Peons like me were swapping into Demo and it was too easy to do almost anything the raid needed us to do. Demo was good at prio targets, AoE, single target boss damage, bosses with add waves, three target council fights, and it was mobile

      Demo got nerfed because it could do everything well, on any boss fight, and did well even if you weren’t great at playing it. Once you got a bit of practice on it it did even better. Just as Demo could turn a warlock peon into an omni-talented wrecking ball at low levels of play, and a fantastic player if you mastered it, so too reforging was easy, and made even bad gear somewhat good.

      Now how do we judge if our Azerite gear is any good? I have a pile of 340s, some 355s, a 370. I can stack these traits, since I have multiples, or I can take the benefit of each individually. I don’t use AMR for this. Instead, I use Raidbots which is kept more up to date, along with Pawn strings I paste in from the game via Simcraft. That’s fairly simple I suppose, only requiring one in-game add-on. But we must compare all these different potential sets against each other, for different kinds of fights. Which means simming multiple sets against each other on Raidbots using the Top Gear feature. However, this doesn’t always work, since apparently, some traits actually perform much better than they sim, and vice versa. What I’ve ended up doing is checking out what warlocks I trust are running, and I go with some version of that. Or I use what suits my preferred play style or talents, which in the end, seems to work out best. Probably because being a peon, theory crafting bores me.

      The worst part of Azerite gear (and before it Artifact weapons) was that it takes all the former complexity of our specs and puts it all on gear. I don’t master a spec anymore, I master gear combos.
      It relieves Blizzard of the responsibility to give us fun, playable, balanced specs, instead I envision them drawing up pretty charts of “abilities” and saying “oh this would be cool lets put this on a ring somewhere” and never thinking about what this does to playability, or to player experience.

      When I think back to the specs that used to be in the game, and I look at this mess, I have to wonder if they just really “don’t want us playing this game”. Yet we’re still here. We must be stubborn.

  4. Good article and great comments!
    I fear I have for myself is giving up; throwing on a piece of trait gear and thinking that it doesn’t matter which I choose and moving on. What should be a fun little easy puzzle to play; isn’t.

  5. Thank you for the breakdown of things. I’m not a fan either. For me, it’s simply just “there” now, a little gimmick I try to act as if doesn’t matter at all.

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