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The future of itemization

The future of itemization
Matthew Rossi
Matthew Rossi|March 5, 2014 7:00 PM
I've written long, eloquent defenses of reforging. And this week, I finally snapped. The fact that I have to reforge between my arms spec and my fury spec (and not just reforge, but regem) has finally broken me. I now take it all back - reforging sucks. It compensates for things that are flaws in the modern game, but I no longer find that charming. I just find it irritating that those faults exist and that we have a means to wallpaper over them doesn't change the fact that they exist.

In a way, my relationship with reforging mirrors my relationship with the old tanking scheme that existed before Mists of Pandaria - I knew there were flaws with threat generation, but I'd grown familiar with them. I understood that they were there and how to circumvent them. In the modern game, there are significant flaws with itemization, and reforging is that means to circumvent them, so I've been a big booster of and supporter of it ever since it was introduced back in Cataclysm. But I was wrong. Using reforging to sandpaper down the jagged edges where gear doesn't meet our needs doesn't change the fact that gear doesn't meet our needs - it merely conceals those edges.

We know that we're going to have two new stats - multistrike and readiness - in addition to critical strike, haste and mastery. None of these are caps in the same way that hit or expertise are (soon to be were) - we'll see how they work, but we already know some talents will affect them or be affected by them, like the upcoming Anger Management talent for warriors. So what I'm wondering is, are we finally going to see a situation where there's enough gear with stats individual classes want that we don't need a system to make up for gear's shortcomings? Or are we just going to have to make the best of bad itemization again, like we did back in Wrath?

Things are different now than they were in Wrath, of course. Each class specialization has an armor specialization that prevents, for example, plate and mail classes from wearing leather gear, because back in Wrath days pretty much every physical damage dealer coveted leather. The way gear is itemized was changed as well, though - it wasn't just that people were penalized for wearing the wrong armor type. So I'm hoping that with the removal of reforging, attention is made to each stat being desirable so that we're not punished unduly for the luck of the drop. We've been reassured that this is the goal, but it's been the goal before, and some classes have just hated some stats despite everyone's best efforts to make them good.

Reforging's main use in compensating for that is what makes me eye readiness and multistrike with a cautious eye. What will these stats do to our rotations? Combined with the change to cooldowns that will remove or consolidate many of them, how weak or strong will readiness be? Multistrike, at least, is a reasonably simple mechanic to understand - you get the effect of a second attack off of an attack when it procs. But readiness reduces cooldown duration, and we just lost a bunch of cooldowns. It's pretty easy to imagine readiness becoming a dump stat as things stand. I'm hopefully it won't, though.

Frankly, this new gearing paradigm (on the back of the item squish and so many changes coming) is a golden opportunity for Blizzard to regain that sense of wonder from getting an item upgrade. One of the things that reforging cost us was the delight factor - we didn't look at gear as upgrades anymore, but rather as a game of Tetris or Jenga, trying to line up the blocks properly to achieve proper stat coverage. As much as I compulsively reforge my gear for incremental gains now, and as much as I once defended that process, I now sincerely hope that its removal will be accompanied by a gearing paradigm where players can simply take an upgrade because it actually is an upgrade. No more "Well, Gar'tok is better than my Uroe, but it doesn't have crit, so..." which is the bane of many player's existences right now.

Warlords of Draenor brings us an entirely new game. We have a chance to get back to being happy when gear dropped. I, for once, want that. In order for that to happen, though, we need those five stats to all be good - I'm looking right at you, haste. So here's hoping we get that. It's been a long time coming.

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The future of itemization