Interesting, surprising news.
Last week, Wowhead showed a CDN update for WoW’s patch version indicating a patch 9.0.5 was in the works. Whatever, surely an error, I thought, no datamining, no content as of yet.
Well, I was wrong. 9.0.5 is on the PTR, already penciled in for a March launch, and the bulk of the patch boils down to systems tweaks, tuning changes, and a couple of interesting things thus far – which we’ll talk about!
The first build, out today with the PTR launch, is mostly placeholder data that seems to pave the way forward for more changes. What we do know is that Blizzard has discussed 3 major points:
The Return of Valor Points
This is exciting on the surface! Getting gear, empowering the gear you have, all of this is…not going so well for some players. Valor Points coming back is great, but the mechanism is less exciting – unless you run a lot of Mythic Plus dungeons.
Valor points in 9.0.5 will serve what is, so far, a singular purpose – upgrading your existing Mythic Keystone gear. Through a requirment of achievements, you’ll be able to start from a cap of item level 200, then move up to 207, 213, and end up at 220, for completing all dungeons in time on +5, +10, and +15 respectively. The cap is a little low, but not awful, although the requirements seem a little harsh to me personally, but an upgrade path is better than none.
You’ll be able to acquire the Valor Points from completing dungeons and by completing Covenant Callings.
Tuning Part 1: Legendaries
Legendaries are getting a round of tuning. The funny thing to me here is that making them craftable and selectable means that the balance problems that plagued the Legiondaries are no longer there, because everyone can get what they want instead of getting stuck with a situational PvP defensive legendary instead of throughput. That being said, I wouldn’t dare suggest that they are fully balanced as of right now – there are still definite imbalances that exist in the current Shadowlands legendaries, masked by the much relaxed acquisition. What I find interesting here is that much of the logic behind where people land on their legendary selection hinges on class and spec balance – some legendaries are likely over-tuned and some are likely under-tuned, but many are popular solely due to how they synergize with existing rotations, talents, and build preferences. That definitely means that any tuning of legendaries must be closely coupled with tuning of classes and specs to avoid potential overbuffs or overnerfs. Speaking of which…
Tuning Part 2: Classes/Covenants
A sticking point that has both been quieter than I expected while still being a clear issue, Covenant choice has been a consistent issue that is highlighted in certain modes of play. For my main spec of Havoc Demon Hunter currently, what surprised me is that there are, depending on the mode of content you play, 3 viable choices – which is pretty good, all told! However, one of those choices, Kyrian, is the most versatile for modes of gameplay and for someone who enjoys tanking occasionally alongside Havoc DPS play, while Venthyr and Night Fae, the other viable choices, tend to have far more narrow and specific use while also generally being less viable for tanking. Meanwhile, if you really had your heart set on being a Necrolord Demon Hunter…I have questions about your taste, but also, in gameplay terms, it just isn’t particularly good.
Blizzard has, to date, avoided making any post-launch tuning adjustments to covenants outside of very small, targeted fixes to Soulbind traits, and that has let things sort of settle into a pattern where most classes have clear winners and losers. Their justification as provided in the blog for the upcoming patch makes sense – the Covenant choice is supposed to be consequential and meaningful and sudden tweaks or changes can shake players of their confidence in those choices as well as make any switches to Covenants more sudden and difficult to manage properly. Waiting until a patch to balance these is…not necessarily ideal, but at least it gives an indication of when the change is coming and the most min-maxy of the players can plan ahead to make Covenant changes if they decide to based on that.
Alongside Covenant changes, there are Soulbind changes, Conduit changes, and some class tuning coming down the pike. The currently datamined content is mostly just placeholders that seem to hint very slightly at some changes coming, but no actual numbers are here to discuss yet. After the recent, very minor aura buffs to underperforming classes, my hope is that we’ll see the kind of targeted changes I wanted with that round of changes.
Datamined Extras: New Mounts, Runes?
Not much else to say on this patch yet from the official Blizzard post, but the datamining has icons for runes that look very close to Frostmourne/Jailer handiwork. What could they be? Well, it is hard to say. One can easily imagine that they’ll slot in easily as an extension of the legendary crafting system, with the Runecarver being able to…well, carve those runes into our gear to offer more power. What kind of power? Well – given that the runes match the weapons we know the Runecarver has made, it seems like it could maybe, possibly suggest craftable legendary weapons. That would be cool and amazing and is something I definitely like in theory, but we’d have to see how it unfolds in practice. On a more boring interpretation, it could represent new methodologies of buffing legendaries, perhaps smaller upgrades like tertiary stats, sockets, or perhaps a third secondary stat for a given piece.
Lastly, there are a couple encrypted mounts – the Sapphire Skyblazer and the Fireplume Phoenix. These mounts have no models seen as of yet, and seem to be promotional (so maybe a store or a freebie with some event in the future?) so there isn’t much to say, but they sound cool!
Bonus Last Item – Explainer Text
Something that I feel personally vindicated in is that a lot of the poorly explained Shadowlands systems are getting new explainer text in 9.0.5, like explanation of Renown catchup, a confirmation that you are at current maximum on Renown, some additional explanations on Runecarving, and a map marker in Oribos for the Great Vault and some additional explainer text for it as well. All of this speaks to my point about the poor communication of systems in Shadowlands, which vindicates me forever and makes all of my insights sterling and correct!
Joking aside, as a patch, this is a bit of a surprise, but I’m glad to see the team working on a quick patch to fix some major issues in a more structured way, and we still have Blizzconline next week to tell us more about it (and hopefully 9.1 details as well!).