WoW’s Valor Point System Needs A Major Overhaul
World of Warcraft’s reward loop is in a great spot right now. There are a wide variety of ways to earn gear and pursue power, the Mythic+ grind is an exciting team-based activity that constantly challenges you to learn new strategies and optimize your playstyle, and the Great Vault is more rewarding and less demanding than ever. Pushing Mythic keys, grinding rep, and practicing my rotations is gratifying, and I look forward to logging in each week to make incremental progress with my friends. All of the reward systems seem to be working in sync for the first time in a long time, with one big exception. The season cap on Valor Points, a system for upgrading Mythic+ gear, is an anxiety-inducing, FOMO-driven system in desperate need of a rework. While the intention is to time-gate power, the oversights in its execution can lead to some especially negative outcomes.
Like the Great Vault, Valor Points were reintroduced in Shadowlands and updated for Dragonflight. The system is fairly straightforward. Each time you complete a Mythic+ dungeon you’re awarded a number of Valor Points that you can spend to upgrade the item level of individual Mythic+ gear you’ve earned. Mythic+ gear starts at upgrade level one (ilvl 376) and can be improved all the way to upgrade level 13 (ilvl 415) throughout the season.
In order to prevent players from endlessly grinding dungeons for unlimited Valor Points, there’s a seasonal cap on the amount of Valor you can earn. This cap is increased each week in order to create a time gate. You can only earn and spend so much Valor each week, so no one can grind all day every day and max upgrade all their gear in the first week.
The problem is that you can endlessly grind Mythic+ dungeons for gear, and the harder the dungeons, the better the gear. The keystone level you complete is proportional to the item level/upgrade level of the gear you earn. Mythic +2 dungeons reward upgrade level one gear, Mythic +4 is upgrade level two, Mythic +6 is upgrade level three, and so one all the way up to Mythic +20 (upgrade level 13). There’s no limit to the number of Mythic+ dungeons you can run each week, or the amount of gear you can earn from them.
This means that the more you play, the higher the chances are that you’re going to earn gear that’s better than the gear you’ve invested your Valor points into. If I get a best-in-slot weapon on week one from a Mythic +2, I'm only able to upgrade it one level. I can still earn that same weapon from a Mythic +6 dungeon or higher, and it’s going to have a higher upgrade than the weapon I already invested in. The seasonal cap (and the time gate) on Valor means that you can waste Valor every time you spend it, because there’s always a chance you’ll just earn a better version of that gear.
WoW players debate the efficacy of the Valor System, but I think the argument often misses the fundamental issue. One side complains about the time gate of Valor points restricting their ability to farm as many upgrades as they please, while the other argues that time gating is necessary to maintain the balance of power throughout the season. But time gating isn’t the real issue, the seasonal cap is. By restricting the total amount you can earn but allowing players to earn more powerful gear through other means, Blizzard has created a situation where every time you spend Valor you’re gambling against the odds that you’re not going to earn a better piece of gear later on. You should never make a player feel penalized for engaging with a progression system, but Valor points do.
If you spend all of your Valor each week on a single best-in-slot weapon – the most efficient way to earn power – you’re running a huge risk of earning a higher level version of that weapon and negating all the work you put into upgrading your original, lower level version. The better option is to diversify your upgrades by spreading your Valor upgrades out to as many pieces of gear as possible. This is a safer investment because it's low risk and low reward, but it also means you’re more likely to lose one of your investments. Every time you upgrade another piece of gear, you’re dramatically increasing the chances that you’ll find an upgrade to replace it.
The only real way to protect yourself from wasting Valor is to simply never spend it. Instead of buying incremental upgrades to progress your power level throughout the season, you should only upgrade best-in-slot gear when you can max out the upgrade level. This means waiting until you’re able to complete Mythic +14 or +16 dungeons, getting upgrade level 13 or 14 gear, and spending your Valor to upgrade it all the way to 16. This ensures you’ll never get a better drop than you currently have, and you’ll never waste your Valor.
Of course, holding a powerful upgrade resource all season long defeats the purpose. It should be used to help you get to the higher tier Mythic + dungeons faster, not held until the last possible opportunity to upgrade. But Blizzard made Valor a finite resource that functions like an investment, rather than a linear upgrade material. Every time you spend it, there’s a chance you upgraded the wrong thing.
A few alternatives come to mind. If Blizzardwants to preserve the time gate, it could remove the cap on Valor and instead enforce a limit of levels each piece of gear can earn this week. This way you could grind as much Valor as you want, but you can only upgrade your gear a limited number of times. The upgrade cap would increase each week until you could eventually max out all of your gear, but this wouldn’t be possible until towards the end of the season. It could also make Valor refundable so that if you invest in a piece of gear and find a better version, you can get your Valor back and spend it on something else. There are a lot of ways to fix the problem without breaking the balance of power, but regardless of the path it takes, Blizzard just needs to address it soon. No one should feel punished for spending the Valor they earn on the wrong piece of gear, but that’s exactly what the current system is designed to do.
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