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The Removal of Master Loot: Has Personal Loot Succeeded in Battle for Azeroth?
23/08/2020 à 23:41
Over World of Warcraft's 15 year history, gear has evolved dramatically. It's no surprise that the rules and systems surrounding it have changed too. The last few expansions have pushed loot rules further towards Personal Loot, first by making it the default option, then by limiting Master Looter to only be available to guild groups, and then finally in Battle for Azeroth by removing Master Looter entirely.
In this article, I'll go over the benefits and drawbacks of this new paradigm, and then give my own opinion on the best path forward, but let's start by explaining the current rules and the relevant ones from the past to provide the context for this discussion.
In Battle for Azeroth, all loot from basically all content is rolled and assigned on a per-player basis. This loot is then soulbound to that player when they loot it, and it's mailed to them if they fail to loot it (except, interestingly, for Bind on Equip items, so check those dead trash mobs in raid!)
If you loot an item that you don't need, you can trade it to someone else provided you already owned and equipped an item of that item level and tagged as appropriate for your role in that slot (or both of the eligible slots for rings and trinkets).
When we talk about "Master Looter," we're referring to an earlier loot system that Raid Leaders could opt into while the raid wasn't in combat, where items would instead drop without being allocated to any particular players and could then be assigned by the Raid Leader. In Legion this was restricted to only be usable in groups where 80% or more players were from the same group, and then in Battle for Azeroth it was removed entirely.
The Benefits of the Current System
Personal Loot as a default loot system has a lot of upsides - it's fairly intuitive and avoids almost all of the loot drama that WoW has historically been home to - one only needs a quick google search to find heaps of articles about "ninja looting" or forum threads from earlier expansions where players bemoaned the unfair tyranny of their guild's loot master.
Guilds have responded in different ways - many guilds already used Personal Loot and are therefore unaffected by the removal of Master Looter as an option. Some guilds previously used Master Looter and among those guilds there is a huge diversity of experience. In some guilds, not everyone was happy about Master Looter - certainly guilds existed where cliques got all of the loot, or trials couldn't get loot.
In other guilds, the loot may indeed have been assigned to the "right" person by some objective criteria, but that doesn't stop other players from believing they should have had it, and it can often be difficult for players to be of the same mind about what the right criteria is for who should get which loot.
Finally, there were several guilds, especially at the high end, that used Master Looter with no complaints from any of the involved players. This is the category my guild falls into, and is a category disproportionately represented among top content creators and the most publicly-facing guilds in the game. For these guilds, the removal of Master Looter is only downsides, and the only argument is about how big of a loss it's been.
The Problems with the Current System
The primary problem with the current system is that it is sometimes impossible to get an item that drops into the hands of the right player. A lot of this problem only exists for the top end guilds, and this problem didn't exist at all for those players when Master Looter was an option, but there are also examples of this negatively affecting even players that never used Master Looter.
Consider an item level 475 belt drops for you - it's got mastery and versatility, two stats that you don't care for at all, and you want to trade it to your friend who badly needs it, but you can't because you haven't equipped a 475 belt yet - you've been using the 470 socketed one with BiS stats you got from a Horrific Vision. The 475 is not close to an upgrade for you, but you also can't trade it - and worst of all, if you don't track this and don't equip it, you won't be able to trade it next week when it drops again!
This creates some weird incentives and solutions for players in every tier of guild. For anyone who wants to be able to just trade gear to their friends, they need to make sure they've equipped appropriate item level pieces - these will generally be upgrades but not always.
For extremely high-end players, the answer to this problem can get pretty degenerate, especially for players who want to be able to funnel gear from their alts to their friends' mains. This only applies to guilds in the top 100 or so worldwide, and not even all such guilds, but there have been cases in BFA where top guilds had all such funneling alts level up every different profession, craft the top-tier item from that profession, then learn the next one in order to be eligible to trade items from Heroic when it came out.
Indeed, through the use of this method, high-end guilds can actually achieve dramatically more ability to gear up their characters through Personal Loot than was possible with Master Looter. Consider a boss with one desirable drop - a pair of Mail Shoulders. In the Master Looter world, guilds Racing to World First could run Heroic Splits with one Mail wearer in each and would be able to give each such character the shoulders IF it dropped. This would be far more than an average guild would be able to distribute during the first week, but there was still no guarantee that any given character would get the shoulders, as guilds would be reliant on the random chance from the boss. With Personal Loot, however, the only barrier is the number of split runs the guild is able to create - in BFA some guilds ran as many as seven split runs and were able to pump all the Mail drops from 16 alts towards the 2 mains that were in that run, effectively guaranteeing every desirable item would be on each main character.
Personal Loot therefore creates rewards and also heavily incentivizes guilds to run a truly degenerate amount of split raids, but this is not a problem that I believe should be front and center - almost any system implemented in the game will be min-maxed to ridiculous extremes by those guilds. The problems with the current implementation of Personal Loot stretch far beyond guilds racing for world first though, as there are many guilds that are more casual that still valued the ability to assign items as they pleased. In some cases, these guilds now experience new social problems when the first week of the raid rolls around, and one player who has done a lot of mythic plus and PvP to prepare for the raid is forced to trade all the upgrades they can that drop for them to the player geared out in questing greens who didn't make a similar effort. Proponents of the current system would say to that person to just not join a guild that required them to trade items, but couldn't the exact same argument be used if Master Looter were still around - just don't join a guild that uses Master Looter?
Where do we go from here?
I believe that Personal Loot is the best way for the game to work in all cases, but I think there are a few weird problems that exist with Personal Loot. For super top end players, who happen to be the most invested in stuff like loot systems in the first place, these problems were avoided with the existence of Master Looter, but even then it would have been a good idea to improve Personal Loot.
My proposal is to keep Personal Loot as the rule for all content, but modify it such that items can always be traded, regardless of item level. In modern World of Warcraft, despite the stated intentions of the developers, item level is not always a good indicator of which items are upgrades - in some cases, like with trinkets, corrupted gear, or items with sockets, pieces that are 30 ilvl lower than others can be the best choice.
Corrupted gear may be going away in Shadowlands, but new systems are already poised to throw a wrench in the loot system - consider Legendaries - a player who has crafted four different ones will be vastly more able to trade gear than someone who only crafts one. Rather than trying to bandaid-fix these problems, I see no reason why Personal Loot can't simply be upgraded to let people trade anything.
When it was first being introduced, the protection of not being able to trade based on ilvl was introduced to avoid the negative feeling of being obligated to trade something that was an upgrade for you, but by the same logic as above, since ilvl doesn't always equate to upgrades, that problem
would already be happening
. If you're a fan of the existing Personal Loot system, I therefore believe that you have nothing to fear if the rules were relaxed such that you could trade anything, and it would also solve all of the problems that people who used Personal Loot now run into, while preventing a return to the era of ninja looters.
An interesting final thing to consider is the way the loot system will interact with the new structure of loot in Shadowlands - Corruption and Titanforging are gone, so to compensate, Blizzard has
said that loot will be less plentiful in Shadowlands
, saying for instance that Mythic Plus will reward "one item from the end-of-run chest," a dramatic reduction in loot compared to BFA and Legion. If you run ten dungeons with this rule, there's a chance greater than 10% that you won't get ANY items! I don't think this is a problem directly with Personal Loot, but perhaps it's worth considering some form of bad luck protection for loot drops in a world where the chances are low enough that it's possible to go weeks without one.
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