Group Loot in Vault of the Incarnates: Do We Like It?

Once upon a time, World of Warcraft (WoW) had multiple loot systems, with players being able to choose between them for whatever dungeon or raid they were doing. As time went on, more and more limitations were placed on individual loot systems; this was until Battle for Azeroth (BFA) was eventually released. In BFA, Blizzard decided that, going forward, only one loot system would remain – Personal Loot.

With the launch of Dragonflight, Blizzard has once again changed the way the loot system works in WoW. The removal of Personal Loot and the return to Group Loot is a controversial one. While many players have clamored for a return to Master Loot and more agency in how they allocate and receive their rewards from raids, dungeons and other types of content, there are many who enjoyed Personal Loot and its reward system that would not discriminate against certain roles or be subject to manipulation by bad actors in the community.

However, the loot system must be examined while keeping all the other reward and “rental power” systems in mind. Although there is no more Corruption, Azerite Armor, Artifact Weapons, or Covenants to worry about, one system is still in place that heavily affects how people progress their characters: Tier sets.

Recently, we spoke to players of different WoW backgrounds to understand how the simultaneous release of all raid difficulties felt to those who have progressed through Vault of the Incarnates this tier. Today, we take things a step further and explore the pros and cons of the Dragonflight loot system and how Tier sets have affected the gearing process.

Special thanks to Oxi, Whispyr, Neko, Tisumi, Sebek, Please, Ashine, Unholydeathh, Andy, MakeitQuake, and Ricky for lending their time and perspectives!

Table of Contents

Major Loot Systems of Past Eras

Ever since World of Warcraft released all the way back in 2004/2005, the game and its loot systems have undergone major changes multiple times. From the dark ages of writing “N” or “S” in chat, to more robust systems that introduced more player agency and control over loot allocation, to the last few expansions having a forced loot system with Personal Loot in BFA and Shadowlands, and Group Loot in Dragonflight.


One system that had existed since the very beginning was Master Loot. This option allowed the dungeon or raid group leader to loot every mob and enemy, and then distribute the loot directly to the player of their choice. Every boss would be able to drop any item in its loot table regardless of group composition. For example, a bow could drop without a Hunter in the group.

Many guilds used this form of loot allocation and often created Loot Councils comprised of several guild members. These Loot Councils would collectively decide who was most deserving of a particular item, distribute them based on DKP or GDKP systems, or award items to those who would receive the highest DPS or HPS upgrade. Priorities for Loot Councils varied wildly between different types of guilds, and many cite it as the best loot system available – provided that the council was not just stuffing their own pockets.

Sadly, Master Loot came with the big downsides that one bad actor could just run away with all the loot, and Loot Councils could have different priorities than the majority of the players they were supposed to represent. This has caused many issues in the past, from the infamous “Ninja Looters” (players that would loot all the items, leave the group, and disappear like a ninja), to players changing the loot setting last second before a pull or kill, or Loot Councils gearing themselves before jumping ship to another guild.

Ninja looters ruining player experiences since Vanilla
(TRIGGER WARNING: Noise and Language!)

As a result of some of this bad behavior, Blizzard added limitations to the Master Loot system in Legion. Only groups that were considered a guild group, those comprised of 80% or more of their players belonging to the same guild, were able to change the loot system to Master Loot. This meant that no single individual could suddenly change the loot system in a PUG run. While corrupt or unfair Loot Councils still exist to this day, many prefer the Master Loot system as it offered the most flexibility of any loot system in the history of the game, even if that flexibility came with increased risk.


Dragonflight released with Group Loot being the only loot system available to any raid group, regardless of difficulty or status as a guild group, PUG, or LFR group. While the system might seem new to many players, Group Loot had been part of the game for many years prior to its removal at the end of the Legion expansion.

The premise of the Group Loot system is simple – every player can roll on any piece of loot that drops with two different priorities: Greed/Sell and Need, which automatically beats any potential Greed/Sell roll. If an enchanter is part of the group, a disenchanting button will also be available, which has the same priority as Greed/Sell, but allows players without the enchanting profession to still gain enchanting materials.

Only a few specs or classes are able to roll Need on any given item. For example, Warlocks or Mages cannot roll Need on a two-handed sword, just as Rogues or Hunters cannot roll on any intellect-based trinket. Any specialization’s loot eligibility is presented in the Dungeon Journal, and these limitations are hard-coded. However, there is some overlap on items, specifically Tier sets, where the waters get a bit muddier.

We’ve seen adjustments to Group Loot in Dragonflight already, as players were able to roll on loot they already owned, and some players complained about joining a PUG, only to find 20 players of a guild who were there to gear a specific player of their group on an important item. At that point, players effectively had to roll Need against a dozen or more other people, instead of the 3 or 4 they might encounter in a truly “standard” PUG.

Similar to Master Loot, any item in the loot-table can drop from a boss, so it occasionally happens that an item drops that is unusable by anyone in the raid. This is an issue with both Master Loot and Group Loot; however, Blizzard provided a solution to this particular problem over a decade ago by introducing another loot system: Personal Loot.


Up until Cataclysm, the game had a variety of different loot systems that all players could choose from, with Group Loot and Master Loot being the most popular, and Round-Robin and FFA (free-for-all) Loot mostly being used in open-world content when farming hundreds of enemies as a group.

With the introduction of the Looking for Dungeon (LFD) tool in Wrath of the Lich King and Looking for Raid (LFR) in Cataclysm, some of the previously described issues of Master Loot and Group Loot became increasingly apparent. “Pugging” content became more of a norm during Wrath and Cataclysm, as it offered a way to enjoy raid content, follow the storyline, and acquire some additional gear upgrades without needing to commit to a guild or raid team. With Master Loot and Group Loot as the only options, an increasing number of players had their first negative experience as a direct result of these loot systems, and the demand for improvements to these loot allocation methods grew.

Blizzard acted accordingly and, with Mists of Pandaria (MoP), we saw the introduction of Personal Loot. The goal for this new system was clear: The game itself, not any individual player or group of players, would decide who received loot – and the chance to receive loot was the same for everybody. The sequence of how loot was acquired changed from “Bosskill > Loot > Roll” to “Bosskill > Roll > Loot”, with the processes of rolling and looting being automated behind the scenes. In essence, simply going up to a boss and looting it gave us a chance to receive a usable item.

In this way, each class and spec had a variety of possible loot drops from every boss, and the game would only allocate items from this specific pool whenever a player “won” the roll behind the curtain; gone were the days of receiving a bow or gun in a group without a Hunter. The downside of this system was the sheer randomness of loot we could obtain. A boss that dropped a valuable trinket or weapon might just give us the same pants three times in a row, or we would only get rewards from the one boss that no longer had any meaningful upgrades for us.

During MoP and Warlords of Draenor (WoD), any loot received in a Personal Loot group was also immediately untradeable. These trade restrictions were not relaxed until Legion, and even then tradeability was often limited due to the Titanforging system.

Group Loot in Dragonflight

Up until BFA, guilds could choose between any of three loot systems, with Personal Loot, Master Loot and Group Loot existing in harmony. This allowed many guilds to recruit players that specifically enjoyed one system over another, and this level of player agency was greatly appreciated by many. However, once BFA was released, everybody was forced into Personal Loot – and as time went on, many players called for a return to one of the other major loot systems, or a reinstatement of multiple choices and increased player agency.

With Dragonflight, we have changed course once again. Although Personal Loot still exists for other types of content, such as dungeons or world bosses, raids are currently restricted to Group Loot only, regardless of raid difficulty.

The switch from Personal Loot to Group Loot in raid groups was applauded by some but criticized by others, so let’s have a look from some voices in the field at how it has played out in Vault of the Incarnates thus far.

Player Perspectives

Overall, player perspectives on the Group Loot restrictions for raid groups have shown a relatively unified response: Many players would prefer to have a choice between Group Loot and Personal Loot, and Group Loot and Tier sets don’t work together very well.

Before BFA released, raids and guilds had a choice for how loot was awarded in their group. Every player signing up for a PUG or applying to a guild knew ahead of time what they were getting into. As each loot system had its own advantages and disadvantages, players were able to weigh them up against one another and then find a group that allocated loot in the way they wanted.

“I still don't quite understand why we can no longer choose which loot system to use. Personal Loot had its pros and cons, but you could always play the odds in your favor, while Group Loot feels a bit too RNG sometimes. We actually ended up running LFR as a guild because we simply didn't get any of the two Dreadful tokens one of our Demonhunters needed for his 4-set.” –Oxi, Back in March

Many would like to see a return to the way things were set up in Legion, with multiple loot allocation choices that each filled a specific need for different types of guilds or raids. Master Loot offered the most control and freedom for players in terms of loot distribution, Group Loot meant that there was no agenda to loot allocation as only the dice-roll mattered, and Personal Loot ensured that every player would get awarded with loot sooner or later. Furthermore, Personal Loot is the only system that gave control over what items could drop in a raid group in the first place, which was notably valuable for competitive guilds that run split raids. This way, Group Loot means that, if players lose a few rolls in a row, they could potentially clear an entire raid without a single piece of loot – and that just feels awful.

With how important a full 4-set Tier bonus is for player power, Group Loot can often be very random, as you might get the same token you already received multiple times in previous weeks. This heavily incentivizes split raiding in top-end guilds, as just running one additional split raid will give you twice the amount of tokens to allocate.

“Group Loot is a huge step in the right direction, but it heavily incentivizes and rewards doing split raids. Running a single split in your first week will catapult you ahead of the competition, and most guilds will need weeks to catch up and get the same amount of Tier sets. What is really nice about it, is that you can just have family or friends join your raid for more loot, without risking them getting an untradeable piece of gear.” –Please, Rain

Getting every raider a completed 4-set takes most guilds anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks and, with the simultaneous release of all raid difficulties, many guilds hit a wall in their raid progression that could have been overcome by having more completed sets. This creates an awkward environment where many opt to do content they normally wouldn’t, like running an entire guild group through LFR for a single player missing a Tier piece. With Personal Loot, you would instead kill a boss and bench everybody who did not share that specific Tier token, but at least that way no innocent bystanders in LFR or PUGs would be disadvantaged.

“The power and drop rate of some key items like Manic Grieftorch or Tier set tokens is a big issue. Some items drop multiple times every week, others haven't dropped once in six weeks. It's even worse in PUGs where you not only have to hope for an item to drop, but win the roll against many others, and some of them are just rolling for their friends.” –Whispyr, Dead On My Screen

One consequence of all loot being tradeable was that many guilds opted to not assign any loot to their players at all when it first dropped. Rather, a single character was present in each raid that would receive all loot and then log off before the 2-hour window on trading loot expired. This loot was kept for later allocation, and instead of assigning 4-5 items after every boss, these guilds had a massive loot session where all the items were assigned at once after the raid, or even multiple days later.

“Group Loot is an improvement over Personal Loot, but it also incentivizes guilds to run as many splits as possible and hoard all the loot. When you run 9 splits and have 4 characters of the same class, you can decide which one will be your main after all the splits are done. This is a massive advantage over those who run fewer splits, or don't have mirror mains.” –Ashine, FatSharkYes

This level of efficiency helps the progression efforts substantially, but it also widens the gap between those who operate at the highest efficacy and those who don’t – because Blizzard tends to tune encounters around those who min-max the most. While this is less of a concern for guilds who arrive to bosses weeks later, it led to some major DPS and HPS gear-checks early into the tier that many guilds were unable to overcome without an additional week’s worth of gear.

“With how the bosses were tuned, I don’t think some of them were killable without doing splits in the first week. Every time there’s a Tier set system, we struggle to keep up, and it takes us weeks to catch up to those who run splits. Thankfully Group Loot allowed us to fill the raid with Socials and Friends to at least guarantee 3 tokens on each boss, which wasn't possible with Personal Loot.” –Unholydeathh, Arctic Avengers

Every loot system has its advantages and disadvantages. The very best and most ambitious guilds tend to find ways around the downsides of each system, whether it is Master, Group, or Personal Loot. However, similar to the simultaneous raid difficulty release, the drawbacks are felt the strongest by those who wish to progress as quickly as possible, but on a limited schedule or without additional guild requirements like mandatory alts for split-raiding. Group Loot also often disadvantages Healers or Tanks, as most guilds heavily prioritize their DPS players for all kinds of loot – at least with Personal Loot, Healers sometimes got to keep an item because it was not tradeable.

“Grouploot worked well for us, but it increases the pressure to run splits for extra loot, especially Tier sets. It also meant that Healers, and Tanks to some extent, were once again not getting any loot, and often you had to pick suboptimal choices in your Vault just so the DPS could get stuffed more. While I’ll gladly do that for the ‘greater good’, it still feels bad to be left behind on gear.” –Neko, Innominatum

This leads most players to question why we are no longer allowed to choose between different loot systems. Most guilds have a preferred system that would work best for their raid-team, schedule and overall approach to the game, and adopting a one-size-fits-all approach seems very limiting and restrictive. Changing from one forced loot system to another does not feel like a step forward, but simply side-steps some of the major complaints about the old system, only to be replaced by complaints about the new one.

Discussion and Analysis

We could easily have a never-ending discussion on the merits of each loot system, trying to deduce a “best” one, and debating which system has the biggest upsides or the fewest drawbacks. Personally, I don’t think it matters as much as people think it does, simply because every system will negatively affect some, and benefit others. The main takeaway from talking to many different players, is that everybody values player agency, and letting guilds and raid teams choose which loot system to use would be a big step forward.

However, with loot tradeability being a major concern in recent raid-tiers, I find it difficult to discern how to restrict item tradeability with multiple parallel loot systems, as Personal Loot with no trading restrictions would be superior to any other system. There is also the matter of technical limitations, which might be one of the reasons why we no longer have multiple options to choose from.

To me, the more important discussion is one about supplemental gearing systems. While the raid loot system itself has a big impact on player character progression, there are many more systems in the game that help players acquire gear. The Great Vault, Mythic+, and PvP are great sources of loot, but each possesses a certain amount of randomness. Professions have been reworked and are more relevant for high-end character progression than ever before, but engaging with the system is highly time-consuming and confusing for many. The Revival Catalyst offers players a way to complete their Tier set bonus by converting an item of their choosing into a Tier piece, but six weeks had to pass before it became available.

We’ve also seen many other systems in the past that regularly allowed players to receive additional high quality gear. We’ve had Mission Tables rewarding raid loot every few weeks, weekly Bonus Rolls that granted players an additional chance to receive an item on up to three bosses each week, Puzzling Cartel Dinars gave access to very specific pieces of gear in Season 4 of Shadowlands, and in BFA we could collect Titan Residuum or Echoes of Ny’alotha and purchase a piece of Azerite Armor or Corrupted gear – the equivalent of Tier sets back then – of our choosing.

When loot systems and rental power systems collide, issues arise, and solutions have to be found. The current situation is no different, and Blizzard has many years of problem-solving experience at their fingertips that can be utilized and fine-tuned for the current environment. It is clear that Tier sets are the number one concern for many guilds right now, with incredibly powerful raid-only trinkets being another major power-spike that many players chase. The process of acquiring these items is too dependent on RNG right now, and while everybody eventually completes their 4-set bonus, the process could undoubtedly be improved.

Many are asking for an earlier release of the Revival Catalyst, and it might solve some of these issues. The Catalyst released six weeks after Vault of the Incarnates opened its gates, and many players had already completed their Tier set when the Catalyst became available. As it grants access to a tier-piece for every character on the player’s account, releasing it earlier might result in players progressing their characters “too fast”, which might remove too much of the challenge of early progression.

The crux of the Tier set system and the RNG that is tied to it lies in the different types of tokens. While Blizzard could just get rid of the four different types of tokens, it would lead to 20 to 30 players rolling for the same piece of loot on many bosses, and I do not think that is a good solution either. Instead, a more deterministic option to make up for bad RNG seems like the most elegant solution. One such idea is something that was actually used for many raid tiers across MoP and WoD: the final boss instead drops a special “Joker” token that could be exchanged for any of the other ones. This allowed guilds to swiftly gear one player with a single re-clear, if a last-minute reroll was necessary, or fill in the gaps of bad RNG they may have experienced previously.

Sometimes the Tier set RNG can be truly…. Dreadful.

There is also an opportunity to grant a single tier-piece when completing the main story quest that asks the player to kill the final boss of the raid. For example, Alexstrasza could have rewarded players with an essence of Raszageth’s power after slaying the boss, and this could grant a Tier set piece in some way, shape, or form. It could be an optional reagent used in crafting and further boost the value of professions or simply work like a more expedient Revival Catalyst.

The return of Bonus Rolls is another system that I personally think has a lot of merit in the current environment. The Bonus Roll system was retired at the beginning of Shadowlands, and the Great Vault took its place. While this was designed to reduce the overall amount of loot players were getting, I think the landscape has changed sufficiently since then to pave the way for their return. With incredibly powerful trinkets and Tier sets, getting a few additional chances to receive one of these items every week would help smoothen the gear progression curve across the board. Guilds or players that only do a single raid clear each week would increase the number of chances for Tier drops from 5 to 8, or straight-up double their chances on important weapons or trinkets.

It seems unlikely that Blizzard will offer an alternative loot system mid expansion, or revert their choice and return to Personal Loot before Dragonflight concludes. But patches like 10.1 could potentially (re)introduce an additional gearing system, alleviating some of the issues and problems players are currently facing or tune the already existing ones to lessen the disproportionate negative impact the Group Loot system has on PUGs and guilds with a limited raid schedule.


Group Loot is a great foundation and, with a certain player progression speed in mind, Blizzard can fine-tune and iterate on the supplemental systems to make up for any shortcomings of the loot system or loot design. As we are slowly moving closer to Patch 10.1, we are not just excited to see where the story of Dragonflight is going to take us – we are also looking forward to reveals on new game systems and features that could further enhance our gameplay experience. Hopefully the continuous feedback from all types of guilds and players with different backgrounds that has been voiced since Vault of the Incarnates opened will be used to further improve the game for us all.


About the Author

Seliathan has been playing Rogue for over half his life, since the initial release of WoW over 16 years ago. After a long career of Raid Leading, Theorycrafting, and pushing Mythic+, Seliathan enjoys creating all kinds of PvE content on Twitch, co-hosting the Tricks of the Trade Rogue podcast, contributing to the Raider.IO RWF Coverage, and writing guides for Icy Veins.