I've expressed concerns in the past about the way the badge/point system is developing, and I have to say that the latest patch hasn't really been helping matters in my eyes.
First, there has been the recent debacle of the PvP season ten start. Now, there are several different things that went wrong with this, but let me briefly sum up the point that I consider the most annoying, in terms that someone who only ever plays PvE would understand. Imagine you've spent the last couple of months raiding and are now in full ilevel 359 gear or higher. Then Firelands comes out... and along with it, Blizzard releases a new tier of justice point vendor gear that is six ilevels higher than anything you're wearing, while telling you that this is what they intend you to wear before starting in Firelands. Would you relish the thought of grinding out over 22k justice points in five-mans before getting back to raiding? No? Well, this is pretty close to what happened to PvPers in the past week.
I'm currently feeling a little bit of trepidation when thinking about my first night of rated battlegrounds coming up tomorrow. I thought I was ready for the new season after having worked my way up towards a full set of gear in the previous one, but thanks to the aforementioned change every single piece of my gear is now worse than what's available from random battlegrounds at the moment. I really don't want to let my team down... but I honestly also don't have the stomach to grind out over 22k honour in randoms. All I can hope for is that more people feel the way I do and that we won't just be steamrolled by teams who've got all the new gear already. But it's a downer for sure.
All is not rosy in PvE either however. I read an interesting post at Kurn's Corner today, and while I won't go into detail about which parts of it I agree and disagree with, I did come away from it with a lot of interesting bits of information. For example I hadn't even done the maths to realise that killing all of tier twelve on ten-man normal mode would still give me less valour than doing random heroics. That's just depressing. Likewise I hadn't been aware that three out of the five new tier pieces will be available from vendors only, and aren't even included in the loot tables of any Firelands bosses. Again, I find that pretty sad considering that tier sets used to be the iconic pieces of raid loot. Now we won't even have the option of collecting our tier exclusively from boss drops. Kurn eventually concludes that boss loot isn't all that anymore, and that it's all in the valour points, which are easier to get via five-mans than via raiding. I do think that's kind of messed up.
This then leads to the inevitable idea that raiders have to farm five-mans to continue raiding. I have a couple of guildies who have been doing their seven Zuls a week since the patch, but personally I just shudder at the idea. I like doing five-mans, but not in a seven-days-a-week-and-for-months-on-end kind of way. In fact I dare say that my refusal to farm instances like crazy is part of why I still like them. I can't imagine that many players could keep up that kind of play style without eventually burning out on the content. I do feel sorry for people who feel that they have to play like that to be competitive, but personally I'll be quite happy to not be competitive in this case.
Aside from the issue of simply overdoing it, I reckon that right now is also a bad time for enjoyable randoms in general. I always have the best runs when the rewards have lost some of their shine already and people only really go back because they like dungeons. Grumpy made an impressive post the other day about just how bad some pugs can be right now and I've had similar experiences.
The first time I decided to brave a random heroic since the patch I did so on my shaman. I got heroic Stonecore, no biggie. The first pull went atrociously though; the tank didn't have aggro on half the mobs, nobody interrupted anything and there were some deaths as I frantically struggled to keep people alive through the madness. Afterwards more than one person (three of them were from the same server, I think they must have been buddies) immediately started to insult me, calling me a terrible healer and an idiot. Now sometimes rudeness like that can get to me, but in that case it was just so utterly ridiculous that I could only laugh. I said that there was only so much any healer could do if there was no control on the pull and that they could kick me if they wanted to. Of course they couldn't, because people like that already lost their vote-kick privileges aeons ago. The dps paladin respecced to holy to back up my oh-so-terrible healing and we continued with two healers. People still died! We even wiped once, with two healers doing overtime, because it was just that bad. I mostly hung around to see whether the other two would make any more smartass comments now that their mate couldn't keep them up either, but everyone was quiet. On Corborus we wiped even faster than I expected, as the tank barely even had aggro half the time and nobody dpsed the crystal shard adds so they blew up in everyone's face. At this point the other party member who wasn't part of the amazing trio left, and I followed his example - no deserter debuff and my cooldown was up so could requeue right away. Still, that must have been the worst group I've had since the Cataclysm hit, and that's saying something. Beware!
Anyway, where was I? Yes, valour points. You don't want to go crazy grinding them because you'll burn yourself out, you're putting yourself at an exceptionally high risk of getting grouped with rude and stupid puggers right now, and also... have you thought about 4.3 yet? There have been no news about that patch yet, but I reckon that it's going to be at least another six months away. Now, I did some maths and if I were to buy every single valour item that's useful to my main (that's assuming that no boss will ever drop any viable alternative for that slot), I'd need 9800 valour points, which is as much as you would have after grinding to the weekly cap ten weeks in a row. If you really did reach the cap every single week... this would then leave you with over three months of valour points going to waste (as a raider you'd still get some from boss kills after all). Does that really sound that appealing? I know it doesn't to me.
Firelands was designed to be beaten in tier eleven gear. Bringing my best to the raid, to me as a relatively casual raider, doesn't mean having to outgear the place from the start. There's nothing wrong with maxing out your valour points if you really enjoy it of course, but if it just feels like an annoying grind to you - remind yourself that you're in this to have fun. The Firelands bosses won't get any stronger in the time it takes you to gear up more slowly.
Which brings this back to the PvP note at the start of this post - I feel worse for the PvPers, because if you decide to say "screw the crazy grind" as a PvPer, there's still a chance that you'll run into opponents who have done it and who will hurt you all the more for having taken your time.
Garrisons, Part II: Professions
5 hours ago