World of Warcraft: Shadowlands (opens in new tab) has been pretty great so far, but if there's one thing players seem to agree on it's that getting endgame gear is kind of a slog—especially if you're only focused on PvE activities like dungeons and raids. When we spoke to game director Ion Hazzikostas a few weeks ago for our feature on the state of World of Warcraft (opens in new tab), he mentioned it was one of the biggest pieces of feedback Blizzard was looking to address. And, yesterday, Blizzard unveiled (opens in new tab) one of the ways it's hoping to make endgame gear a little easier in the upcoming 9.0.5 update.
If you haven't been keeping up with Shadowlands (you should, it's good), its gear system is a big departure from previous expansions like Battle for Azeroth. Gear used to be a lot more plentiful but most of it was trash unless you were lucky enough to get a 'warforged' item, which would magically increase its level by a significant amount. In Shadowlands, though, Blizzard dialed back that randomness in favor of fewer but more meaningful loot drops. Coupled with new systems like a Great Vault that gives you a choice of very powerful pieces of gear each week for completing specific objectives, it's a pretty good system—on paper, at least.
Now that players are elbow deep in Shadowlands' endgame grind, they're starting to realize that the rewards from PvE activities like dungeons and raids just isn't comparable to other sources of gear like PvP. In grueling Mythic+ dungeons where WoW players have to race against a timer and a rotating set of deadly monster abilities, the rewards were particularly unfit for the challenge.
"We’ve seen a lot of feedback about the pros and cons of the various sources of gear in the Shadowlands endgame," Blizzard community manager Kaivax wrote in yesterday's blog post (opens in new tab). "After a rewarding first few weeks, we know that many dungeon-focused players reached a point where the only relevant rewards from the system come from the Great Vault. While the Vault should represent a major goal and the source of the best rewards the endgame has to offer, we want to find a way for the loot from the chest at the end of a challenging [Mythic+] run to feel relevant, without bringing back random upgrade systems."
Not only was any gear that dropped from bosses rarely an upgrade, but players would also receive a pithy amount of Anima, the main resource needed to upgrade your undead gang hideout in Shadowlands (opens in new tab). Players quickly learned that other activities, like WoW's PvP modes, were a much better way to earn the gear they needed to push further into its endgame challenges.
As Kaivax explains, Blizzard is hoping to change that in update 9.0.5 by bringing Valor points back. Initially introduced during Catacylsm, Valor points are a currency that players earn from completing Mythic+ dungeons that can be spent to upgrade Mythic+ gear. This way, even if the loot you get during a dungeon isn't better than what you already have, you can spend Valor points to upgrade your gear and get stronger.
There will be an initial cap on how high you can upgrade your Mythic+ gear, but that can be increased by earning achievements. For completing every Mythic+ dungeon with a +5 Keystone (which ups the difficulty), you can increase the item level cap from 200 to 207. If you beat every Mythic+ dungeon with a +10 Keystone, that cap jumps to 213. And if you're really skilled and manage to beat every dungeon with a +15 Keystone, you can upgrade your dungeon gear all the way to item level 220. That's equal to the best loot from the Heroic-difficulty version of Castle Nathria, which is pretty dang good.
This comes in addition to a hotfix earlier this week that increased the amount of Anima (opens in new tab) earned from dungeons. And while no changes were made to raid gear, which faces a similar problem, Hazzikostas did say (opens in new tab) the development team is looking at solutions. It'll just take a bit longer to figure out the right approach.
Valor points aren't live on the main Shadowlands branch just yet. The 9.0.5 update just hit test servers and is expected to launch for real in March.