Player Perspective: Seliathan's In-Depth Look at Valor Points and Loot Systems

Update: Since the article was written Blizzard have announced the removal of the 1500 Valor held cap, which is mentioned in several places in the article.

Patch 9.0.5 is almost here and the biggest change on the horizon is the Valor Point system, aimed at improving the Mythic+ loot situation which has been frustrating many players. From the general lack of rewards in Mythic+ at the moment, to comparisons to raid and PvP loot, there are many issues with the system that Valor Points will not address, and the new points system itself has a lot of issues itself. We asked a top Mythic+ player, a member of the World First +20 team, Seliathan, to go in-depth and take a broader look at the state of Mythic+ gearing, with Valor Points taken into account.

First off, let's take a look at the official 9.0.5 patch notes on the Valor System and Mythic+ loot:

Gear acquired from Mythic Keystone dungeons are now upgradable with Valor, a new currency that is earned from completing Mythic Keystone dungeons and covenant Callings. The weekly Valor cap will start at 5000 Valor earnable in the first week, and will increase by 750 Valor each week. There will be a maximum of 1500 Valor a character can hold at a time. Gear that dropped before the patch is unable to be upgraded.

  • 200 Item Level: Initial item upgrade level.
  • 207 Item Level: Requires the Keystone Explorer achievement – Earned by completing all eight Shadowlands dungeons at Mythic 5 or higher, within the time limit.
  • 213 Item Level: Requires the Shadowlands Keystone Conqueror achievement – Earned by completing all Shadowlands dungeons at Mythic 10 or higher, within the time limit.
  • 220 Item Level: Requires the Shadowlands Keystone Master achievement – Earned by completing all Shadowlands dungeons at Mythic 15 or higher, within the time limit.

Completing a Mythic Keystone dungeon after the timer has ended will now reward a second item. The item level of the second item will be slightly lower (e.g. finishing a Mythic 7 Keystone dungeon, but not completing the timer now rewards the party with a 200 iLvl item and a 197 iLvl item.

And now, guest writer Seliathan will discuss these patch changes as well as the current and future state of Mythic+ gearing, its relationship with PvP and raid loot, its place in the greater loot game, and potential solutions towards issues that may come with the new Valor Points system.

Core issues with the Mythic+ gear reward system

Mythic+ has, since its release back in Legion, always been a great way for players to gear up. It provided repeated gains of each expansion's main currency, whether it was Artifact, Azerite or Anima Power, as well as allowing for great gear progression, the latter being largely due to the Titanforging and Corruption systems. All other avenues of acquiring gear had weekly lockouts or were simply not as efficient as playing Mythic+ was. A lot of people felt forced into doing Mythic+, and even grinding it out, to best prepare for an upcoming progression race or simply to stay competitive within the high-end raiding, PvP and Mythic+ scenes. This was often criticized, and rightfully so, as no one likes to feel forced to engage with content they do not enjoy. Not doing so would mean falling behind others, and as a competitive and ambitious player there was no real choice. With the removal of such systems, and a return to slower gear progression and less gear from all kinds of sources, Mythic+ needed to change too.

The solution, at least the one we were presented with when Shadowlands released, was manifold. There would be less loot, chances of “RNG” upgrades like sockets would be limited to a handful of slots, the maximum base item-level would be lower than even Heroic raiding, and the benefit of doing a weekly key would no longer be parallel to the PvP weekly chest, but they would now be combined into one. As Anima Power is not directly related to player power anymore and mostly serves for cosmetic rewards within our Covenant Sanctum, there would also no longer be a need to spam Mythic+ for its currency (not to mention the incredibly low amount of AP gained per dungeon). All of these changes had one clearly defined goal: reduce the importance of Mythic+ for character progression, while increasing the need to branch out and do other things.

Comparing Mythic+ to PvP

I think it’s important at this point that we directly compare the current Mythic+ reward system to the PvP system. I feel it’s important to do so because both types of content serve as main pillars of gameplay content within the game, with raiding being the third one.

The PvP reward systems have changed almost every expansion since Mists of Pandaria, and Blizzard has tried time and time again to make it separate enough for players who are mainly interested in PvE to not feel forced to PvP regularly, with each expansion’s iteration of the PvP reward system having had different levels of success in that regard. Battle for Azeroth's main attraction in PvP as a PvE player was the access to a second weekly chest that had a chance at providing high item-level Azerite armor, as well as powerful on-use trinkets and weapons. Most high-end PvE players used this in the early stages of a new tier to gear up just a little bit faster, but quickly stopped doing so when the time and nerves spent outweighed the potential rewards. The ability to upgrade a specific Azerite piece to maximum item-level with a token remained very powerful throughout the tier as well. The return of Honor and Conquest Points, as well as the current upgrade system, hand the player a lot of choices. This amount of player agency has always been something people have been craving ever since the Valor/Conquest Point vendors were scrapped. Master loot being removed from raiding was also often decried as removing player agency from the game where it mattered most, as it further lowered the amount of control we had over our gear.

At its core, the new PvP gearing system is successful for a variety of reasons:

  • Deterministic upgrading through Conquest, with Vendors that allow you to buy specific items.
  • Catch-up mechanics if you start late or cannot play for a week or two.
  • The rewards match the highest rewards raiding can provide, even granting access to 233 item-level weapons that are otherwise reserved for the top-end raiding scene only.
  • Guaranteed rewards compared to raiding or Mythic+, which are still limited by drop-RNG.

It is impossible to deny that the more recent rise of engagement with Rated Battlegrounds can largely be attributed to people wanting to gain access to these benefits for themselves. We now have two pillars of gameplay content being on somewhat even footing, and some might argue that currently PvP is the best way to gear up, in particular due to its catch-up mechanic and the players’ ability to pick and choose their rewards.

What we know about Valor so far

Valor Points are supposed to work as a new framework that will receive more adjustments and tuning to serve as an equivalent gearing avenue next to raiding and PvP. It is important to note that Blizzard is very likely going to adjust the numbers in 9.1 and beyond, but for now we are left with a bare-bones system that leaves a lot to be desired. The system proposed, with its current tuning, serves to narrow the gap, but does little to actually close it. A few key decisions are somewhat mind-boggling and beg the question what exactly the purpose of the new system is. These issues join in with the echo of questions past as to what exactly Mythic+ is supposed to do and where it is supposed to go in terms of its reward structure, especially at the higher end

The currently proposed system lacks almost all of the marks of what make the PvP system so rewarding and why people are flocking towards PvP for character progression:

  • You are reliant on dungeon drops to get the item you want to upgrade first, and items need to be re-acquired after the patch, with most dungeons having 7-10 items and a 40% chance per dungeon to get one of these many options.
  • Awkward catch-up mechanic. Hoarding Valor Points is not an option, as you can only hold up to 1500 Valor at any time.
  • Maximum item-level rewards are not equivalent to PvP or raiding, with the cap being item-level 220 compared to PvP and Raiding with their 233 weapons, and 226 gear.
  • Upgrade costs seem to be quite high, with it taking multiple weeks to upgrade an item from item-level 200 all the way to 220, in particular weapons.
  • Even a fully upgraded BiS trinket or weapon is something you will still want to see in your Great Vault, as it will always be better due to the higher item-level.

The main problem here lies with the fact that there are two individual Valor Point caps. It will take quite some time to first acquire the item you want, and any Valor Points you could’ve gotten during that time will overcap. Once you finally get the item, you will have to continue the grind for more Valor Points until you can finally upgrade the item.

Difficulty vs. Reward

My main concern, personally, is that the rewarded item level and its link to achieving a certain proficiency within the content-type, is not adequate at all. Being limited to upgrading items to item-level 213 until you manage to time all Mythic dungeons at +15 difficulty is nigh impossible. Most of us have seen how high the requirements are for using a Pick-Up-Group to do a dungeon through the Looking for Dungeon tool, and its prohibitive requirements in both Raider.IO score as well as item-level—not to mention the community perception of which classes are most viable. You will need 8 of these. Assuming no other major gear improvements, someone with item-level ~215 from a mix of end-of-dungeon loot and previously upgraded items + the Great Vault, will be unable to find a group to push for that Keystone Master achievement they need to further improve their gear. Due to the difficulty, it is in fact very unlikely that a group of similarly geared people will be able to do so, unless they increase in item-level. You will need to improve your gear by getting raid loot, buying BoEs or doing PvP, before tackling +15s will be reasonable. The point at which these upgrades are achievable are reached when you no longer need those upgrades, except for potentially a specific dungeon trinket.

The same issue arises at the beginning of a new tier, as the proposed system awards the same ability to upgrade items to people achieving Keystone Master and people achieving a 1800 PvP rating. From my experience, and that of countless others, it is no question which one of these is easier and requires less time. With its prohibitive cost, the need to get the item you want to upgrade as a drop in the first place and the time required to not only time +15 keys, but also get all different keys, there’s no question which path is better. And let’s not forget that getting 2.1k or even 2.4k rating further improves the rewards from PvP, with no further goal existing for Mythic+, despite countless groups showing that it is indeed possible to time even all +20 in-time for the most dedicated and successful groups.

As it stands, the new Valor System serves to narrow the gap, but only on paper. In practice, people will rarely be able to make use of it for anything but the strongest dungeon trinkets. Timing all keys at +15 is nigh unachievable for the causal/regular player, while getting 1800 rating in PvP most certainly is. If nothing changes, PvP allows for more choice, better rewards, has a catch-up mechanic, and takes less time to gain access to all of its features.

Potential Fixes

There are a few things, however, that could be done to remedy the situation and bring parity to the three pillars of game content.

  • Increase the 1500 Valor cap (or simply remove it). There is no need to have a general Valor cap, when the amount you can get each week is capped already.
  • Lower the requirements for upgrading items, and introduce new upgrade-tiers to mirror that of PvP and raiding. Not being able to upgrade beyond 213 until you time all dungeons at +15 is too prohibitive, and once you achieve that Keystone Master you will be unlikely to require the upgrades anyway.
  • Introduce new tiers beyond +15. As we have seen already, teams are capable of pushing to +20 and even +25, yet there are no increased rewards planned for people achieving such high proficiency in Mythic+. These rewards may not even have to be gear-related, but could be purely cosmetic. More on that later.

The aforementioned suggestions would improve on the current framework, but do not manage to fix a few other issues. This is why I, personally, would be much more in favor of a rework of the currency system entirely:

  • Valor Points will only be gained from Mythic+ and raid bosses, have a weekly cap, and a cumulative one depending on when the season started. They would be an exact mirror of Conquest Points. They are no longer used to upgrade items.
  • Reintroduce Valor vendors that offer a selection of items for each slot that can be bought directly with Valor Points, similar to how Conquest works. These could be new items entirely, or a selection of popular items from Shadowlands dungeons. While I’m not a big fan of vendors, as gear should be gained from killing bosses, I still prefer this approach to bring parity to PvP and Mythic+.
  • Reintroduce Justice Points. These are used as the currency to upgrade items. They are gained from all kinds of PvE activities, whether it is World Quests, Callings, dungeons or raids.
  • There is one last optional change that I would advocate for, and that is a combination of Valor and Conquest Points, to allow players to pick and choose the content they’d like to engage with, without needing to do both

With all that said, I ultimately do not think that vendors are the best solution, but they’re a necessary one to bring parity to the reward systems. While gear vendors are a nice quality of life improvement and greatly increase the player agency in progressing each character's gear, the game becomes less and less about killing the big bad evil guy and looting his treasures, and instead becomes a shopping experience. As such, I would prefer lowering the efficiency of gearing through PvP, instead of trying to elevate Mythic+ to the same level.

Mythic+ and its lack of rewards in general

When the first information about Mythic+ seasons was datamined back during the Battle for Azeroth beta, my friends and I were ecstatic. Looking at the seasonal approach that was used for PvP for over a decade, there was an unspoken promise of cosmetic rewards, prestige, gear, titles, mounts and a more controlled environment to measure who the best players were. More than 3 years have passed since then and very little, if anything, has happened with this core concept of Mythic+ seasons. It took until season 4, the last of BfA, to get a reward beyond the Keystone Master achievement - a re-colored mount. Seasonal affixes are hit and miss, and often create more issues than they solve. Prideful will be going away next season, and it currently masks some serious balancing concerns for healers, as well as boss-tuning issues within certain dungeons. These issues will become apparent once we no longer have access to the Prideful buff after killing a Manifestation of Pride.

In order to compare performances, we are still reliant on third-party scoring systems, despite a leaderboard for Mythic+ existing on the official World of Warcraft page. It is not used for anything but for Raider.IO to fetch data to use in its scoring system, and I’m sure a lot of people have forgotten about the official leaderboard’s existence. Achievements are capped at +15. No new achievement has been added for going above this, despite some groups timing up to +34 in previous seasons and expansions. Cosmetic rewards are scarce, usually limited to a title and a mount, and no transmog rewards are available at all. Despite the roaring success of Mythic+, its cosmetic rewards are still less interesting and varied than the ones we had for Challenge Modes in Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor, which offered a mount, transmog as well as other helpful tools like being able to teleport right to the dungeon entrance. Gear rewards, even with the newly proposed Valor system, trail far behind similarly difficult raiding and PvP rewards. Being one of the best Mythic+ players does not grant you access to the best weapons or gear—not even close to it. Getting the best gear to become highly successful in Mythic+ is predicated on being a cutting-edge raider or a highly-rated PvP player, and any upgrades gained from Mythic+ are redundant.

What we are looking forward to

As stated in their initial blue post, Valor Points are going to be the framework that is supposed to bring some parity to Mythic+, now that there is no more Titanforging, AP grind or Corruption. The current iteration that will go live this week leaves a lot to be desired, however, and even a well-tuned Valor Point reward system does not change the fact that Mythic+ has been hanging in the air for quite some time now as there is no incentive to push keys beyond M+15.

Some of the more frequent questions are: What is to be done with some affixes? How high is it supposed to scale? Will there be rewards for high-end Mythic+ players that push beyond what was thought to be possible? These questions have been unanswered for the majority of Legion and BfA, and they remain unanswered today. While a much bigger reward system is most likely something that needs to be introduced during a new expansion, the Valor system offers some possibilities to make high-end Mythic+ something to compete for not just for prestige and bragging rights, but tangible in-game benefits.

Many of us will be watching with great interest to see how Blizzard intends to fine-tune this new system, to allow people that engage in Mythic+ content to be rewarded adequately for their time spent, their skill and their dedication towards excelling in one of the three major content pillars that this game has to offer.


About the Author

Seliathan is a first-generation WoW player who has been playing Rogue since the initial release of WoW 16 years ago. Always having taken a competitive approach to the game, whether it was competing on the world-stage in PvP tournament in TBC or raiding at the highest level in Cataclysm and MoP, he has since put his competitive eye on Mythic+. With plenty of world-first keys under his belt, the original Assassination One-Trick-Pony is always looking to delve deeper into Mythic+. Hopefully without having to play Outlaw.