Gold, Guilds, and Glory: The Cost of the RWF

The cost of participating in the Race to World First (RWF) at the very top levels has been steadily increasing for a long time now, possibly reaching its peak with the previous race in Ny'alotha. As Corrupted items were crucial for progress in that raid, and guilds spent up to 200+ million gold on everything related to the race (but mostly BoE Corrupted items), the "sell runs" guilds do in the post-race season became increasingly critical, with some guilds even borrowing pretty massive amounts to be able to keep their edge. That was the situation in Ny'alotha, but there have been plenty of previous raids where the gold input demand was extreme, like when an entire guild faction or server transfers (like what recently happened with Exorsus (Экзорсус) and Pieces, respectively), so gold is always a big factor in the race.

To try and delve into everything that goes into a race like this, as well as the specific issues and requirements for Castle Nathria, I spoke with the "gold guys" aka financial experts for three of the top guilds: Veyloris, the treasurer of Complexity Limit; Nexxzz, the GM and Raid Leader of Aversion; and Impakt, an officer of BDGG!

Starym: How gold-intensive is the Castle Nathria/general Shadowlands launch preparation in comparison to both Ny’alotha and the BfA launch/Uldir race?

Veyloris - Complexity Limit: Although you'd think that the answer is that this raid is much, much cheaper than Ny'alotha, the actual answer is that it is less, but by less than you may think. The shortest version is that in Ny'alotha we spent 258 million gold and this time around I expect us to spend about 170 million.

There's a few reasons for this: professions no longer crafting heroic ilvl gear and coins disappearing have decreased the amount of tradable gear tremendously. Previously, going into heroic week with 7 coins meant you would receive on average 1.75 pieces of loot from those alone, plus whatever you were lucky enough to have drop regularly (25% per boss, so 3 pieces from a full clear of Ny'alotha). In Castle Nathria, a full clear only nets 1.5 pieces total, which is less than what coins alone yielded previously. The net effect going on here is that BoEs are a tremendous part of what makes characters strong early on in the race - nearly every character will need all 4 pieces available to them, which is something you've rarely bothered with previously. Previously the idea has been to nab the items with good stats and sockets (and good corruption for Ny'alotha). This time around, it'll basically just be a quantity game.

Nexxzz - Aversion: It is like an expansion launch should be, similar to Uldir and definitely not as expensive as Ny'alotha was.

Impakt - BDGG: Prep for Castle Nathria is very different to previous raids. This is the closest that Blizzard has ever gotten to effectively killing splits, but there are still some things you can do to prep. I would classify this tier as being relatively low in terms of gold needed compared to BfA tiers, but there are definitely areas where you need gold, specifically for professions. The legendary crafting is obviously a big area in terms of prep, since you will want those for every character, but the raid BoEs will still be our largest expenditure in the end, specifically the mythic BoEs. The difference here is that:

  • Sockets are far less valuable than before, which should lower costs substantially
  • We don’t have to look for corruption on BoEs.
    Ny’alotha could easily go down as the most expensive tier in history, and there really is not a close second.

Definitely worth mentioning are the consumables though, because that is probably the biggest difference between BFA and Shadowlands, just in terms of normal gold costs. There are so many new consumables now, and especially with Augment runes being so much more valuable, the amount of gold guilds will need to spend on consumables is going to be in the tens of millions for sure.

For actual numbers, it is hard to say what prices will look like, but I expect that we will probably end up spending about ⅓ of what we did in Ny’alotha on BoEs. The problem now is that guilds are just getting progressively more competitive, where guilds not only have more resources available but will just go to further and further extremes for the smallest edge during progression. I’m sure that if we had to do Ny'alotha now with our current resources, we would be spending at least double what we did previously if not more.

Starym: What do you think the gold “requirement” for the very top guilds should be like? Would you prefer no relevant BoEs existed?

Veyloris - Complexity Limit: To answer the second question first: BoEs aren’t the problem. In this raid, in fact, they serve a pretty key purpose. Like I referenced above, gear is so much less available from the raid, which means that the power level is actually going to be very uniform across top end guilds. The primary determinant isn’t going to be the number of splits you do (like Eternal Palace and earlier tiers) or your success in finding powerful BoEs (like Ny'alotha). It’ll be in acquiring your legendaries and every slot of BoE for each character in your raid. If that sounds like a low bar to hit, you’re absolutely correct. With 0 splits you’ll be able to achieve a power level in a raid of 20 people very similar to what Limit is fielding, as long as you’re willing to buy all the BoEs for your guys. I think that’s great. Gold is something every player has similar access to and something you can set up months and months ahead, and doesn’t rely on you spending 60 hours on World of Warcraft during heroic week to compete.

As far as the gold requirement, I think it’s kind of impossible to answer. If there’s a way to spend gold productively, top guilds will do so in the way that grants the maximum benefit to them because they’re incentivized to do so in ways that most guilds aren’t. The amount they spend is just dictated by standard economic forces and I’m not sure Blizzard should really try and meddle with that too much. It definitely seems like the kind of thing they should design for the casual players first and the top end last (and I will make note that corruption on BoEs was good for exactly no type of player besides auction house snipers).

Nexxzz - Aversion: I think the minimum should be around 50M and with 100M+ you are definitely ready to go for the first Raid. It is fine if the value of the BoE's isn't higher than actual Mythic drops. BoE's are a good catch-up mechanism if you have to gear alts for the 2nd Mythic ID.

Impakt - BDGG: BoEs are fine, it is the extra RNG systems on gear that are the issue. Gold is a resource like anything else, and if you want to be competitive you will always need some amount of gold. Corrupted BoEs in Ny'alotha were a ridiculous extreme that should never happen again, but normal raid BoEs are fine. The problem arises when you start including crazy RNG systems on top of the loot itself, like with corruption and titanforging. Gear in general is much better in Shadowlands which is great, but even sockets and tertiary stats still feel out of place.

For a gold “requirement”, I don’t know if there is a good answer. Most top guilds do tons of raid sales which net hundreds of millions of gold over the course of a tier. The minimum bar is probably set by what the number 1 guild was willing and able to spend in the prior tier, but Ny'alotha is a weird example since it was so much more gold-centric than anything we have seen in quite some time. If I had to give a number, I’d say that anyone competing for world first should expect to have at least one hundred million gold across their guild bank and raiders for this tier, but realistically should have 2-3 hundred million banked. BoE prices can get tricky, and you do not want to be struggling for gold last minute if something unexpected comes up.

Starym: What do you think of the real-money influence in the race that seeps in via gold requirements due to the WoW Token?

Veyloris - Complexity Limit: The fact that you can’t really convert gold back into money without getting banned sort of prevents this from being a thing. The largest influence that happens is just when people go and sell a bunch of WoW Tokens so they can buy carries from guilds, and that’s essentially just top guilds creating a demand for WoW gold with a neat service and doesn’t really affect the race.

To be honest, the real-money influence on the race is almost strictly positive in my opinion. Firstly, it gives a way for people who may not have a lot of time for the game to legitimately get gold and experience content they may be unable to for whatever reason. Secondly, it provides a great baseline for publicity. For example: despite the fact that this is an interview for WoW content, it’s pretty likely that a decent chunk of readers have heard of EVE online and their viral headlines about thousands and thousands dollars worth of ships were destroyed in massive battles. If there wasn’t a legitimate way to convert ISK (EVE’s ingame currency) to money for the sake of comparison, I’d argue it’s pretty likely those headlines don’t make it nearly as far for the simple reason that it’s a lot harder to contextualize for an outsider without such a number.

The conversion between real money and gold provides the same baseline for WoW - it’s pretty hard to find an article that doesn’t reference some real dollar amount of wealth we spent in our victory last race. It provides a way to connect our hobby with the real world - it provides a much better way to grab people’s attention than a tired metaphor. Everyone has heard some variant of “it’s like the Super Bowl / World Series of the hobby” about a thousand times, but something like “oh yeah they spent $35,000” rarely fails to draw someone's interest. In short, I think it’s good publicity and not too much else besides excellent income for Activision Blizzard.

Nexxzz - Aversion: It is a bad situation for the "non professional" guilds who don't have the resources to invest an extra 100M Gold if they want to, but with Shadowlands it's looking very promising that won't be the case again.

Impakt - BDGG: I can say for certain that we have never spent real money to buy tokens for anything guild related, just because the conversion rate is so terrible compared to the amount of gold we can make in game from raid sales. You could spend a few hours each week doing raid sales over a few months to get 100,000,000 gold saved up, or you could (at current US token prices) buy ~870 tokens at 20$ each, spending $17,000 total for the same amount of gold. The numbers are not close - making gold in game for most guilds is so much more efficient than buying tokens.

Starym: What do you think Blizzard could/should do to improve/change the situation with the gold requirements for a race/top position?

Veyloris - Complexity Limit: I think they made some excellent strides with this expansion. Making professions and consumables more of a thing than they have been in a while is awesome, and adds a little bit more interest to where gold is going besides just “spend it all on BoEs”. I think if I were to change anything at all, it would be to remove the ability for BoEs to be socketed, or make it so all BoEs are socketed. In my opinion, BoEs being decently powerful early on in progression is fine, so long as it's in a mostly uniform way. The biggest thing is that their power has to fall off fairly quickly - sockets shouldn’t be so good that items with them are impossible to replace and stuff like corruption should just never exist.

Nexxzz - Aversion: I think that they did it fairly well with Shadowlands - there are just consumables and low item level BoE's, which won't be that expensive. And overall, the preparation for Castle Nathria looks definitely affordable.

Impakt - BDGG: I don’t think it needs any particular attention. It’s a logistical challenge for sure, but as long as the amount of BoEs or other crafting things you can obtain for an advantage isn’t ridiculous it’s fine. The consumables are also a bit of a challenge to prepare and maintain, especially when you are raiding 14 hours a day, but it’s something that everyone has to deal with. Again, the biggest issue here is just loot RNG - BoEs are fine, but there just shouldn't be a 1/20 chance that a BoE will be way stronger than it normally would. Insane gear RNG is the main thing Blizzard just needs to avoid, and it does seem like the game is moving in that direction at least.

Castle Nathria is looking to be easier on the coin purses of the top guilds, and even seems to be set up to give a more level playing field than Ny'alotha! This is great news for the race itself, as relatively even item levels/gear availability will provide a more competitive, interesting race. In our upcoming RWF interviews, we'll be going even more in-depth with the race preparations, as we our next interview will be talking to top guilds about Covenants, Conduits, and everything else that's needed when Mythic Nathria opens on December 15th.

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About the Author

Starym is an old-school raider with a wide history of World Firsts under his belt. He is a long-time news writer and interviewer for Icy Veins and formerly Manaflask. Having raided in the Race to World First (RWF) until the end of The Burning Crusade, he has been covering the events since Cataclysm and the RWF has become his greatest passion in WoW. A (Tauren, obviously) Warrior main at heart, when pushed, he will admit to loving Diablo more than WoW and, thus, should be punished.