Thanks to @RoxiQT on Twitter for this topic coming up yesterday – I enjoyed reading the conversation and thought to post a long form response.
In short – maybe!
Reforging, for those that don’t know, was a system that existed in WoW from patch 4.0 through until 6.0. It allowed you to talk to a cool Ethereal NPC, and switch a percentage of one secondary stat on gear into another, so long as the stat you were shifting into was not already on the piece of gear. It was introduced to counter growing discontent with stat gearing for DPS, as they used to require Hit (and Expertise if melee) up to a certain level in order to…well, actually hit a boss. The problem with these stats, was that the need for them never inflated over the course of endgame. You always needed exactly the same percentage value, but, as content inflated item levels, the amount of these stats you’d get would increase, and balancing them was hard without reforging. You basically had to pray you got the right pieces with those stats on them to hit the mark as close as possible without going too far over.
In addition, Cataclysm also introduced Mastery to the game, adding a new secondary stat to the mix, so now there was hit/expertise/crit/haste/mastery. Tanks, in addition, also had Dodge and Parry, both of which required some balancing. With this number of secondary stats, and the relatively small size of the gear pool given that, reforging was an imperfect solution for the problem.
I say imperfect, because, at the time, there were other measures that could have been taken. Gear dropped with only one primary stat (strength/agility/intellect) on it, so for most classes, you had a pool of gear for each spec. Paladins would have to have a tank strength set, a DPS strength set, and an intellect set to do all three roles. Clothies weren’t exempt from this problem either – while all of them used Intellect primarily, healing priests needed Spirit for mana regen, and DPS casters couldn’t use it (save for shadow priests gaining Hit from Spirit, and arcane Mages sometimes…deciding they needed spirit? Old WoW was weird sometimes!). You had such a limited pool of options for gear per slot, that reforging was often the only way to build a better stat priority for yourself.
What this meant during Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria was that you could seldom equip an upgrade in the middle of a raid. You’d get the gear, and it would feel great. It’d sit in your bags until you got to town, where you could reforge, gem, and enchant it. There was fun in that upgrade process, a building of excitement for your growing addiction to power increases, waiting until you got to town when all of that power hit you, you saw your stat sheet, and knew next raid…ooh, you’d top those meters for sure!
But often, this process was not without some pain – you’d have to either intricately know your stat weights, ever-shifting as they were, or go outside the game to SimCraft or AskMrRobot, or use tools via addons like Pawn to try and divine the best way to kit your gear, maximizing gems, enchants, and reforging to gain the most possible power.
Stat priority in the game at that time was a bit of mess as well. Often, you’d prioritize a certain stat up to a point, and then drop off to another. You’d cap Hit and Expertise, and then maybe you favored Haste, but only up until a breakpoint like 12.5%, so you’d prioritize it, and then not want it, but only until the next breakpoint, at which point you’d regem, re-enchant, and reforge EVERYTHING to maximize your performance by shedding excess Crit for Haste and the like. It was fun to an extent, in the same way that some people enjoy calculus and hating themselves, but with so many secondary stats and so few options for gear in a given slot, you were always chasing that next breakpoint, and spending tons of gold when you got there to take the same pieces and shuffle the stats again.
So, when in November 2013, Blizzard announced that Warlords of Draenor would remove reforging, making up for it by making all primary stats for a class be present on their armor, dropping Hit and Expertise from the game entirely, classifying Spirit as a secondary stat for jewelry only (along with the removal of tank’s Dodge and Parry, replaced with Bonus Armor, which was limited to jewelry like Spirit), using this stat mixup to add Versatility and Multistrike, and then increasing the diversity of drops per armor slot – it was fairly well-received.
I loved the idea – I loathed the constant shuffle of gear, not equipping upgrades until after raid, knowing I would be more powerful but not being able to see it yet – all of the changes made sense.
And when Warlords of Draenor launched, I said it with my friends on our podcast – I loved that it was gone. Gear was simple, upgrades dropped, you equipped them. The number of enchants needed went down, and became simpler to wrap your head around. Gems were luck-based RNG procs on gear, and without caps to balance around, hell, with the redesign of spells such that Haste breakpoints were less common – it felt great. The WoD dungeons on Heroic, across the board, dropped nearly 6 or 7 options per armor slot. You could get nearly any secondary mix you wanted, maximizing your performance through more gameplay, and being able to immediately equip pieces that dropped and gain that power right there. The first tier of raids continued this – Highmaul had a few choices per slot, and Blackrock Foundry continued the trend.
It was great! “I’ll never miss reforging!”
Hellfire Citadel changed the game on that, bringing nostalgia around for reforging. While there was still a diversity of choices for each slot, there was also an item level spread across the progression of the raid. Within Normal difficulty, for example – early bosses dropped 690 gear and mostly stat-stick trinkets, with mid-tier bosses dropping 695, and the later bosses dropping 700.
Often, you’d have 2 decent options – usually in different item level wings of the raid. While I’d vastly prefer that Haste/Multistrike piece…it’s only 690, and Agility is king, so I guess this Crit/Versatility piece from later that is item level 700 will do better. I’d equip it right away, and it did grant me a bit of a performance boost, but maybe I lost Haste, making my gameplay choppier and less friendly.
Legion has amplified this – dungeons again have a great diversity of choice, so if all you do is dungeon content and high level Mythic Keystones, you might be able to get exactly the mix of stats that you want! However, that hypothetical comes with a major caveat – you would need to run hundreds of Mythic Keystone dungeons to reach a point where enough gear would drop to allow that, and even then, to get the best possible gear set, you’d have to run hundreds at +15 difficulty. You could shave off maybe 20 or 30 such runs if you managed to three-chest every single one, but the likelihood of such is pretty low. Even then, RNG is a cruel mistress and you may end up never getting that ideal chest armor or trinket.
Raids, in the meantime, have devolved back to having a smaller list of options per armor slot, and have exacerbated the HFC problem, by having split-tier levels within Nighthold, and a similar problem across the sub-tier raids of Emerald Nightmare and Trial of Valor. All of this, together, is a problem, but now we have one more – jewelry.
Legion finally removed the tank and healer efficiency stats of Spirit and Bonus Armor, making gearing these roles nearly identical to a DPS. This is great, but one other tweak to jewelry happened – it’s now solely for Stamina and secondary stats. This leads to a hell of a conundrum for nearly every player – you want to maximize secondary stats, but cannot without ideal jewelry, but it doesn’t drop in every possible combination of secondary stats, nor are you always able to get your preferred secondary stat on both rings, or on a neck, say. There is a good number of these pieces that do drop, but again, they are spread thin across the baby-steps of item level within a tier. Depending on the class, the item level doesn’t matter, but in some cases, this plays out horrendously – Fire Mages, notably, in 7.1, desired Crit so much that it was worth taking an item level 840 necklace with Crit as the heaviest stat OVER an 895 Titanforged necklace that had no Crit but instead Mastery (itself a highly valued stat for Fire). This led to the nerf of secondary stats we saw in 7.1.5, but this is still an issue, and would likely be difficult to fully correct in the current system.
This is why, now, I think reforging fits the game better than it did when it was around.
In a world with minimal enchants, gem sockets as RNG or JC bonuses on their crafted items, and a smaller overall roster of secondary stats with no role-specific ones and minimal use of stat breakpoints, reforging could serve us as players – and Blizzard – very well. Blizzard could simply reintroduce reforging to the game as it was at the end of Mists of Pandaria, and it would fit and make players very happy. No need to change itemization philosophy, no need to retune items, and no requirement to rebalance content. Fire Mage gets a ring with no Crit, but it has a lot of Haste they don’t necessarily want? Reforge to Crit, and now, while it’s not as good as a Crit-native piece, hey! It works! They get an upgrade and the wheel keeps turning.
Arguably, with Titanforging and such in the game, reforging actually has more value than it did when it was live. If a piece with shitty stats rolls a high Titanforge, you could reallocate the inflated secondary you don’t like, making it far more valuable.
I get that this opens up a slew of additional potential problems – reforging per spec, needing a reforge in order to want to equip a piece of gear, etc – but I do think it would help alleviate the RNG dissatisfaction so many people express with Legion.
Personally, I wish it was back. In its place, I could even settle for armor having three secondary stats instead of capping at two – for me as Vengeance, if a piece dropped that had a ton of Haste, but also Crit and Versatility as runner-up secondary stats, I’d take it in a heartbeat. Generally, while I really like Legion overall, I do see where RNG could compel someone to stop playing. At least with more secondary stat diversity, or a way to reallocate the secondaries you do get, gear could feel more rewarding overall.
Mainly though, I just miss talking to the Ethereals.