The Rising Gold Cost of Entry into the RWF
With Mythic difficulty coming for The Sepulcher of the First Ones, the Race to World First (RWF) is about to begin. In reality though, the race is already underway! The first week of the new raid can really no longer be called a “warm up”, as the guilds are grinding through dozens of split raids, Mythic+ dungeons, and even PvP rank-ups to obtain the best possible gear!
The focus during the pre-Mythic week of the raid is to loot all the available gear on the right characters. This means some help from outside players, so guilds have been offering rewards for anyone willing to lend a hand. While this may seem like nothing new, things have taken a turn in the Sepulcher — the buy-in cost for the RWF has been drastically increased — at least if you want to compete for the highest placements.
During the Castle Nathria RWF, we spoke to guilds about where they got their gold, how much gold they spent, and how it all worked. However, those were simpler times when the prices offered for the most wanted items were around 1 million gold — a number which easily quintupled in Sanctum of Domination. Now that we’re in the final raid of the Shadowlands, we have reached a 10x situation:
It might be a little hyperbolic to call this the “cost of being in the RWF”, but it isn’t far from the truth — especially in the Sepulcher, where the tier set bonuses are crucial to the success of boss encounters. With this level of gold escalation, it really does beg the question of where we’re heading, as very, VERY few guilds can ever hope to afford offering these types of incentives to outside players for loot.
We sat down with Penkek from top guild SK Pieces to examine the situation from his guild’s perspective, as they offered up the once-highest amount for a single item back in the Sanctum. Now, SK Pieces has gone toe-to-toe with Liquid (who were the first to advertise a 10 million gold reward), and Echo. Let’s find out what exactly is going on here and why these prices are skyrocketing, when the escalation will end, and what it all means for the RWF of Sepulcher of the First Ones.
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“These layers of systems and limitations create a funnel where the rarity of available traders becomes really low. Hence, every single trader that you can add to split raids is another step towards giving someone a 4-set.”
Q-1: Over the past few tiers, top raiding guilds have been charging increasingly high prices to outsiders for gear drops and bind-on-equip pieces (BoE’s). Can you please take us through the history of this trend and offer insights on why prices are escalating to such a degree?
Penkek: Ny’alotha, the Waking City marked a bit of a wake-up call for guilds. Prior to Ny’alotha, the role of gold for a new raiding tier was primarily to buy certain BoE’s. However, once Ny’alotha launched, gold became a major success factor. Being short on gold during Ny’alotha was a big downside — not only as a requirement to buy the necessary BoE’s, but also to cover the cost of logistic options such as paying for character transfers across realms to hunt down certain items.
After that, Shadowlands started. If Castle Nathria was released now, you would see a lot of extra split raids between Stone Legion Generals and Denathrius for guilds to obtain their best trinkets. What happened here is that none of the items were initially tradeable because we all started out without M0 dungeon gear. While this makes sense for the start of an expansion, the high variance between Personal Loot in between the guild and the low access to loot overall made it so that any items acquired would be a huge gain over the other competing guilds. Since any chance for extra items gives an edge over the competition, the importance of finding as many people as possible to help trade loot increased. Castle Nathria was the best tier for loot this expansion. Loot-wise, it was even better than Ny’alotha. There was no way to cheese yourself above the required item level.
Ever since the release of Sanctum of Domination, this is what has changed in comparison to Nathria:
- First, you needed to obtain Domination pieces. These were fully tradable on Normal difficulty from the first 8 bosses, so guilds ran Normal split raids for this. If you could manage it, you wanted to run about 25 unsaved helpers, a raider to receive items, and two saved tanks/healers.
- For these Domination pieces, you also required the specific item to activate the set bonus of the shards you already had
- Shards themselves were completely RNG and the drop rate for even activating a set was undertuned. If you did not have multiple duplicates of your main character spec, chances were that you did not have a (good) shard set by the time Mythic week began.
- Weapon tokens were gone and there were some really cool weapons such as the Dagger and legendary Bow from Sylvanas, and the Fists from Painsmith. Without tokens, the scarcity of these items increased.
- You could use Legendary items to “cheese” your item level, and then trade items that you shouldn’t normally be able to trade. However, this also allowed helpers to use this system to assist guilds in obtaining more items.
The result of the things listed above was a heavy luck-based system. In a way, you could “force” tier drops quite reliably; however, the Shards were random (while being a really big increase). Furthermore, the Shards themselves were not correctly balanced on release, so not having an Unholy set was even more problematic.
Now that Sepulcher of the First Ones has launched, let's compare it to Castle Nathria again:
- First, you need your tier items. You basically want 4p on everyone going into the RWF.
- The first limitation is that these tier items aren’t tradeable if you haven’t looted them before
- The second limitation is that 4p is inaccessible during Heroic week due to the delayed launch of the last 3 bosses of Sepulcher.
- Something different for Sepulcher is that tier pieces are now guaranteed to drop with every 10 people. This is a welcome change to reduce bad RNG for loot.
- Up until two weeks before Sepulcher released, tier was still fully tradable as long as you already had obtained a piece of that same item level or above in the slot.
Q-2: The prices for Sepulcher of the First Ones have skyrocketed compared to the last tier, reaching a massive peak of 10 million gold for specific items in the raid. What exactly is it that’s driving the prices up in this particular instance?
Penkek: In Sanctum, it was a lot less expensive because the RNG component was the Shards, but the Domination pieces were fully tradable. What happens now is that:
- You want to pay whatever price to make sure you can get your own guild enough tier pieces, while competing for price with other guilds
- This leads to an already inflated price for tier pieces
- For the limited pieces (Rygelon/Dreadlords) you need a tier piece to be traded by people who have killed Heroic Rygelon/Dreadlords without having killed normal.
So what makes this actually go up to a price of 10,000,000 gold? Firstly, Dreadlords and Rygelon might be really difficult, not many people might do the boss in Mythic week and kill some Mythic bosses first/reclear heroic. Then, imagine the low amount of people that will be doing Heroic Rygelon and Dreadlords before Normal. And then, on top of that, imagine the low amount of people that will loot tier from that and be willing to trade it away on Normal. On top of that, it’s impossible to get any of those pieces from the Great Vault.
These layers of systems and limitations create a funnel where the rarity of available traders becomes really low. Hence, every single trader that you can add to split raids is another step towards giving someone a 4-set.
“We earned half a billion gold in excess through Heroic/Mythic boosting this past tier. It’s not a problem to do, but we’re not happy with it at all.”
Q-3: Can you talk us through the competitive aspect of this price escalation? You recently doubled your top price per item, presumably in response to what other guilds were offering — how does that decision-making process work, how do you decide that you could afford to offer these crazy prices?
Penkek: Well we specifically tweeted out “no problem”. We earned half a billion gold in excess through Heroic/Mythic boosting this past tier. It’s not a problem to do, but we’re not happy with it at all. The decision making was easy; we knew we had to do this so we did it. For other things, we offer more than the other guilds because we just do not have the same social exposure and fans as some competitors to attract helpers. Also, we are sure we have more gold and the others will have to start taking loans. In a way, that really impacts decision making because the prospect of having to boost that much after progress isn’t great.
Q-4: Do you think that this level of escalation is sustainable in the long run? What would be the breaking point?
Penkek: I think in a way the genie is out of the bottle. Now that these amounts have been offered, are people going to feel the same amount of hype from 300k? Or when something starts approaching a million? The main escalation is the added systems intended to counteract the inherent RNG of loot. The systems are: untradeable if you don’t own it yet, staggered boss release, and still barely doable because it guarantees drops for every 10 people.
Recently, I heard someone say, “This is really getting out of hand, this whole loot situation is just so bad, I feel like we’re all hanging on by a thread hoping the next tier will be better, but it keeps getting worse.”
Q-5: What do you think of the extreme level of barrier this behavior creates for guilds trying to compete in the race? If you hadn’t decided to spend the 5-10 million per item, would you have been able to compete at all with the other guilds that did?
Penkek: Well, SK Pieces is obviously still less known than Echo. We say this completely without envy; we’re happy for each and every guild that’s successful and manages to maintain their lifestyle playing this game. To answer your question, it would have been absolutely impossible to compete without offering this amount of gold for the items.
“In hindsight for Sanctum of Domination, you would have wanted as many clones of your main character as possible. If this meant 8+ copies of your main, that technically could have been done.”
Q-6: Can you explain the “mirror” characters concept you mentioned before?
Penkek: In hindsight for Sanctum of Domination, you would have wanted as many clones of your main character as possible. If this meant 8+ copies of your main, that technically could have been done. This would be to have as many rolls on the RNG Shards as possible. It’s the same thing this tier; the more characters you have, the more chance you have to get a tier 4-set. A mirror is just a main, but it effectively means a second main for the intention of trying to roll RNG on it again, the same spec.
Q-7: How does your guild handle these price increases? People might assume you’re fine with giving out 10 million per item, and that you basically have infinite gold.
Penkek: We actually boosted Mythic as much as we could. We didn’t have to change anything for these amounts; we haven’t even had to take a gold loan. It feels bad that, with our strict boosting schedule, we’re now burning through it this quickly, but it reduces the burden knowing we don’t have to pay off a loan after the tier.
Q-8: What are some solutions you can think of to reduce or even remove this type of behavior?
Penkek: Less layers of systems. Let loot be loot. Normal tier items would’ve been 300,000 gold instead of 2 million to 3 million if they would have been tradeable as long as you just had the item level. Dreadlords/Rygelon would have been around 5 million.
Q-9: What are the other gold sinks this time around, aside from the item buying?
Penkek: BoE’s are mostly in tier slots. It’s mostly just important to get PvP boosts for some people because, for the classes that are less strong in PvP, you need the best of the best helping you to get the rating you want early.
“Having untested bosses in the RWF could be one of the most exciting things in a long time if the fights are balanced properly and there are no ways to cheese them.”
Q-10: And finally, aside from all this doom and gloom, are you looking forward to the race? Do you think it will be a good one?
Penkek: Heroic difficulty of Sepulcher is looking really good, so we are eager to see what having the last three bosses being untested brings to the race. Having untested bosses in the RWF could be one of the most exciting things in a long time if the fights are balanced properly and there are no ways to cheese them.
- Find SK Pieces on Raider.IO
- Visit SK Pieces’ Website
- Follow SK Pieces on Twitch
- Follow SK Pieces on Twitter
- Subscribe to SK Pieces on YouTube
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.