WoW! Thoughts! — On the Legendary Collection Quests

Thoughts on how Blizzard has adjusted the droprates and item requirements for the legendary quests in Mists and Warlords.

Blackrock Foundry has been out for several weeks now and players are working along towards completing the next leg in the legendary questline. Legendary quests have always required players to farm a raid for weeks on end to acquire whatever macguffin is needed to progress, but at first glance it would seem Blizzard has lost its mind with the Blackrock Foundry quest. Khadgar tasks players with bringing him three Elemental Tablets, which sounds simple enough, until it is noted that each Elemental Tablet requires 300 Elemental Runes from the raid. That is to say that the player must acquire 900 elemental runes!

Collection quests have long been part of assembling a legendary item.  Atiesh, for example, was an early legendary that required 40 Shards of Atiesh to be collected off of bosses in Naxxramas. By gating these legendary items behind raid bosses, Blizzard ensured that Legendary Items were restricted only to the hardest of hardcore players. If a player was not in a raiding guild with the ability to farm Naxxramas or other raid bosses repeatedly, that player was going to have an extremely difficult time earning a Legendary.

In Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard softened on that position. When Raid Finder was introduced for Dragon Soul at the end of Cataclysm, the first step in the legendary quest chain for Fangs of the Father (the Rogue Legendary Daggers) still required the rogue to enter the raid on Normal or Heroic difficulty and to pickpocket a boss. It was not until the next raid tier that Blizzard decided to allow LFR bosses to drop items for the legendary quests. This is also when Blizzard decided to make the legendary item a cloak – something that everyone can use – instead of being class restricted. To the chagrin of the hardcore players who complained about the introduction of the “welfare legendary”, plenty of players in Mists of Pandaria were able to earn their cloak. Even though the quest was removed with the launch of Warlords of Draenor, players had more than enough time to earn their 20 sigils, 20 secrets, and 12 runestones from bosses throughout the three raid tiers during Mists‘ lifetime.

Requiring players to farm a raid over and over (especially with LFR, where defeating each boss is essentially guaranteed each week) is a common aspect for the legendary quests. This serves two purposes in that it guarantees a determined effort is required to earn the legendary – it cannot just be acquired in one extensive play session – and also, it causes content to last longer, as players must rerun the raid each week hoping to get the required drops. Blizzard even gated some of the Mists quests with reputation and valor point requirements. Throughout the expansion, players had to grind to raise their Black Prince reputation to exalted.  However, Blizzard did reduce the Valor Point requirement from 6000 when it was introduced in Patch 5.1 to 3000 in patch 5.3.

Essentially, Blizzard admitted that the 6000 valor points was intended to be a 6 week delay in keeping players occupied before advancing the quest (since players could only earn a maximum of 1000 Valor per week). By Patch 5.3, there was enough of the questline in place that players who were behind did not need to be delayed as long, so the task was reduced to a 3 week duration.   Ultimately, in patch 6.0 the entire requirement was elimated, as Valor points were removed altogether in that patch.  It is rare for Blizzard to tip their hand regarding their design philosophy, but the changes to the user of Valor in Mists demonstrate just how these legendary quests are intended to be time sinks.

Now in Warlords, the numbers for the time sinks have grown exponentially. When players are ready to enter Highmaul, Khadgar dispatches them to collect 125 Abrogator Stones, and then upon reaching Blackrock Foundry, Khadar requests the 900 Elemental Runes. The outrageously high numbers of required drops seems to indicate that Blizzard is forcing content to last even longer, but that is not the case.

900 is a lot of anything, but what needs to be factored in when looking at the inflated Warlords numbers is how the stones and runes are acquired. The items are no longer restricted to the raid – players can earn them as a bonus from work orders in their garrison or as the result of a weekly follower mission. The fastest way to progress is to kill the bosses, but in theory, given enough time a player could complete the task without setting foot in a raid. For example, if players religiously earn their 3 abrogator stones per week from follower missions, they could potentially complete that leg of the quest in about 41 weeks.

Furthermore, the other aspect of item acquisition is droprate. In Mists, only certain bosses were guaranteed to drop the required items each week, while most bosses had only a chance. For example, when tasked with acquiring twelve titan runestones for Wrathion, each boss only has a 15% chance to drop a runestone. Players would be lucky to get two or three runestones each week. Now, elemental runes are a guaranteed drop, and the only question is how many will the player receive. By increasing the number of the item required, Blizzard has room to tweak the drop rate such that every boss kill feels like progress instead of a lottery. Also, it allows them to offer items in much smaller quantities elsewhere, such as the random single rune from garrison work orders. In the previous paradigm they could have hypothetically allowed a player to randomly find a runestone on the farm, but the droprate would have had to have been infinitely small since a player would be completing 1/12th of the quest at once.  That would be equivalent to earning 75 runestones from a single work order.

Thus, the one stone/rune from a work order at a given droprate is the base from which all other calculations arise. Sadly, it is too early to know just what the droprate is for the elemental runes from work orders, but it appears that each boss in Blackrock Foundry drops around 9 runes, meaning that a full clear of the bosses each week guarantees that players will be ready to progress to the next stage of the quest in about 10 weeks.

Assuming that players are also doing their weekly 18 rune follower mission, they will be earning at least 108 runes per week, which equates to eight weeks of raiding to advance. The delayed schedule of LFR means casual players will have to wait slightly longer. Using Raid Finder only, a player should be able to finish their collection by the April 22nd maintenance. Given that Highmaul opened for LFR on Dec 9th, it seems that Blizzard expects these tasks to occupy us for about two or three months.

To Blizzard’s credit, they have implemented a system to reduce the collection time when gearing up alts.  Once a character on an account has completed earned their 125 Abrogator Stones or 900 Elemental Runestones, the droprate for that item on other characters on that account are increased by 50%, so it should only take 2/3rds as long to grind out the legendary ring on alts.   That’s still a timesink, but not as much of one, and a welcome relief from Blizzard.

Ultimately, Blizzard is using these drops as a way of slowing player progress through the expansion. While the legendary questline is not mandatory, it is a major part of the storyline of Warlords of Draenor, and a significant part of the max level content available (enough that it was credited as new content for 6.1, even though the raid schedule is independent of the patch release). While the 900 number looks obscene, it is simply due to how Blizzard is balancing the requirement for completing content. That said, there is a psychological aspect to knowing that, with good luck, a player could get all 12 runestones in two weeks, as improbable as that might be.

Conversely, it is inconceivable for 900 runes to drop in two weeks for anyone. This may help manage player expectations, as we know we’re in for a slog through the Foundry for the next few months, but it may also be discouraging, as 900 seems like such a high number. Even though the time required for each part of the quest chain has been roughly constant, the initial appearance of the 900 number obscures that. Given how Blizzard squished item levels, they may want to look at squishing quest requirements before the story progresses in patch 6.2.

WoW! Blurbs!

Some like it hot, some like it fixes.

The new short story Code of Rule shows how the Gorian Ogres under Mar’gok came to work with Grommash and the Iron Horde.  I just thought Grommash completed Mar’gok’s follower quest.

Blizzard also put up a comic Blood and Thunder about the Iron Wolf.  Interesting that Blizzard waited until now to give us stories about people we killed back in patch 6.0.

Blizzard reduced damage in PVP by 10%.  Nevermind, no they didn’t.

Blizzard raised the ilvl of Blackrock Foundry gear by 5.  Nevermind, no they didn’t.

The cinematic for the next step in the Legendary quest was revealed.  It should be called Grommash and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

And the first step in the journey to the next expansion has been taken.

Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

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