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Reforging, itemization, and the player

Matthew Rossi

It's not exactly a secret that I'm terrible at keeping my finger on the pulse of the community. I just sort of wander around with my usual private obsessions, doing what I do, and sometimes I blunder into an emergent discussion like a rhinoceros stumbling into a clearing. Such is the case with the discussion of reforging currently going on. The post I have linked to by Mushan basically highlights the discussion, with some folks arguing that World of Warcraft has gone too far in the direction of gear optimization and too far away from the days when you'd get a drop, know it was better, and put it on. As a result of that argument, some are arguing that reforging should be removed from the game.

I can understand this argument, because if we think about it, reforging was never meant to be what it became. The initial purpose of reforging back when it was first announced was to allow players who got a drop that was otherwise significantly better than what they had, but itemized for a different role (so, as an example, a cloth piece itemized for healing over DPS) to make that drop better for the role they intended to use it for. So if your tankadin got a pair of plate lets with crit and expertise on them, he or she could swap some of the crit to a stat more useful for tanking. However, players being what they are, they immediately grasped that reforging also allowed them to trade away stats that were less effective on gear for stats that were more effective. Reforging allowed players to customize their hit and expertise in ways that had never been accessible before, allowed for dump stats to be dumped with even more efficiency than before - it was the absolute biggest change to the game in years, and ended up the largest single legacy of Cataclysm.

Mushan's arguments about removing the process of reforging are good, and I'm not going to belabor them here - instead, what I'm going to do is discuss my own personal feelings on reforging, and how it benefits the game.

What reforging does

For starters, reforging allows for classes to wear similar gear yet have different stat priorities without any of those classes being quite as penalized when a piece that doesn't fit their stat priorities drops. Right now, as an example, haste is lackluster at best for warriors, but better for paladins and DK's. Yet these classes overlap their gear, and thanks to reforging, when a piece itemized with strength drops and it has haste on it all three classes can consider that drop. Likewise, DK's don't value crit as much, but they don't have to merely ignore a crit drop, they can still choose to pick that piece up and make it work.

There's always been and will always be classes that wear the same gear, but value different stats on said gear, and reforging works with this process. The synergy of reforging and variant stat priorities is a solid one. Make no mistake - if you took reforging out tomorrow, classes who wanted to perform on the cutting edge of content would still be visiting websites, making best in slot lists, playing with their gemming and enchanting to optimize their characters. All removing reforging would do is make some pieces rise and some fall in terms of where those pieces fell on those BiS lists. Managing hit and expertise caps in particular would become painful at best, because you would still have to play a game of Jenga with your gear, attempting to assemble the right assortment of gear to get your hit and expertise to their soft caps without going over on either stat and wasting itemization. Make no mistake - one of the absolute good results of reforging has been how it has allowed us to reach those caps without having to pass over pieces with other stats on them to do it.

What the benefits are

The loss of reforging would add fuel to arguments already in place over which character should get priority over which drop because 'it's better for me', an argument that reforging didn't do away with, but did make far less compelling.

Reforging's presence in the game hasn't had any negative ramifications in my game. Now, I understand the danger of assuming personal experiences to be universal (I had better, right?) but that doesn't mean personal experience should be entirely discounted, so let's discuss my personal experience here. Reforging has allowed me to do the following:

  • Create two sets of tanking gear, one optimized for mastery and avoidance, the other for hit and expertise, and those two sets share several pieces of gear.
  • When I switched from DPS to tanking, or tanking to DPS, I could use hit/expertise pieces by regemming/reforging them to suit the new role, getting more use out of gear.
  • Reforging allows me to switch from arms to fury when new gear drops without having to say "Well, I'd like to be arms, but I have way too much/too little of X stat"
  • I've been able to decide how much of certain stats I have, customizing my character. When I want to experiment with haste over mastery I can go to the reforger, change my statistics around, and go hit some dummies and run some dungeons, putting more control of my character into my hands.
Who benefits? We benefit.

This is, to my mind, the ultimate positive result of reforging since December of 2010. The ability to change the stats on our gear has put the ability to decide what stats we want to favor more directly into player hands. Yes, in order to use reforging to its fullest we consult sites like Ask Mr. Robot or Wowreforge or use addons like reforgelite. But here's a dirty secret - on my non-raiding alts, I don't use anything. I reforge to get close enough to the hit and expertise caps that I don't see a lot of dodges or misses, go for the biggest DPS or tanking stat necessary for me (since my 90 alts are all warriors atm, it's usually crit or mastery) and then I stop worrying about it. For characters who run scenarious, heroic dungeons and LFR, it's not necessary to spend a lot of time on external sites.

It is my considered opinion that the depth and variety given to us by the reforging process is worth the minimal cost of using secondary help to maximize the benefit of the process considering that the use of those external sites is wholly optional and, for the majority of players, completely unnecessary. You can look at your character pane and see exactly what percentage your stats are at, and what your chances of hitting or missing a mob of up to boss level are. The game already does that for you.

Considering that reforging smooths over the difficulties caused by classes that wear the same gear but value different stats experience, allows us to control what stats we emphasize (which, when you can have different gearing strategies is a good thing), makes suboptimal upgrades better for us, allows us to switch a talent specialization without needing to abandon our current gear for all new pieces, I'd say the minimal and optional inconveniences required to fully utilize the feature are more than compensated for by its benefits. Removing it would be foolish.

Now, if they wanted to incorporate something like reforgelite into the reforge UI, you wouldn't catch me complaining. But scrapping it? No, that would be a bad idea.

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