Yesterday, I did a thing that was maybe less than ideal.
After a lot of reading (and doing my last covenant weeklies as Kyrian), I pulled the plug to switch to Night Fae. Currently, for Havoc in raids, NF wins out over the other covenants because of a mix of strong single-target via the Covenant Ability and the strongest simming soulbind in Niya. After weeks of making lots of smaller optimizations to my gameplay (and noticeably improving my performance) I finally did a fair amount of reading, decided to make the swap, and did.
Swapping now, a day prior to the final two launch ranks of Renown being added to the game, is a bold play on my part. So far, it has been enlightening as to the gaps in the current design of Covenants, moreso than even leveling an alt was for me. So, let’s recap!
The Switch Is The Easy Part
All you have to do to switch Covenants is talk to the representative for your new choice in Oribos. They’ll badger you about the choice you’re making, and then finally swap you over. The guide I found on Wowhead talked about maybe having to do a fill-the-bar quest to switch, but there hasn’t been any such thing. My understanding is that it does come into play if you return to a previously-abandoned covenant, but for a new choice, it seems fairly okay. However…
Loss Defines The Process
You lose a lot by switching Covenants, more than you might reasonably anticipate. Anima is wiped, as are souls. You start at Renown 1 (the major known component of the switch) and have to re-earn everything. Sanctum upgrades must be repurchased, and the costs can add up. Lastly, because of the Renown reset, you have no good Soulbinds, so prepare to take some time to rebuild. You do get to keep your Conduits, any Covenant gear you’re wearing (but you can no longer transmog other gear to the prior Covenant looks), and as far as I could see, despite Renown being tied to World Quest item level upgrades, the gear on mine, even after a full day of cycling below Renown 29, remain at 194.
If the Covenant ability alone is far better for your spec, it won’t hurt that bad – my DPS is relatively unharmed thus far, and has still improved, which means that a fleshed-out Niya soulbind will only help even more with my raid performance – a reassuring thought. However, it will be an obnoxious process of grinding out those missing Renown ranks. Speaking of…
Even in Patch 9.0.5, Renown Catchup Is Not Explained and Not Great
The variety of activities you can use to catchup on Renown is fine enough, but there are some key oversights. If you level a new character to 60, the Torghast questline from Bolvar is great as each step offers a Renown, and the quests are easy enough to do. However, if you are a raid main level 60 switching Covenants, Torghast has no Renown for you, and that blows. What can you do? Well, you can PvP, run dungeons of any difficulty, kill raid bosses, kill world bosses, and do callings and weekly covenant quests as well as the campaign for your new friends. When your Renown cap is low, this is fine. When it is 40, this sucks ass. Dungeon Renown? On completion only? PvP Renown? Inconsistent. Raid bosses? Not 100%. Callings? Also not a guarantee. Does the game give you any good explanation of how to fix your Renown? Nope!
After about a day of grinding, running through the Night Fae campaign as quickly as I can, doing a handful of Heroic dungeons, killing a world boss, having done both weekly covenant quests and a calling, I’m at…13. For my full Soulbind, I need to hit 30, and for the final Stamina increase bonus, I need to hit 35. Is there a chance of me doing this before raid? Maybe – but it is doubtful. 35 – almost certainly not happening this week prior to raid. This is fine – I made my choice knowing I’d be kneecapped slightly, but the irony is that the players most likely to change are the most likely to trudge through the process and feel unfulfilled by the gameplay on offer. So far, I’d describe my changeover as “chore-like” which is not how I think it should be. At the end of the day, I get it – Blizzard wants this to be a meaningful choice, and okay, fine, I feel that with every heroic dungeon I have to run for a single point of Renown, especially with the quality of groups in said dungeons at this point in the expansion. I just don’t think it should be such a chore. At the very least, if we have to grind out all 40 Renown from scratch without Torghast quests to help, it would be nice to bring over our Sanctum upgrades, or our Anima and Souls, or to otherwise have some sort of signifier of all the effort we went through instead of making it feel completely wasted.
If You Can Tune and Change Covenant Abilities, We Need A Free Change Pass
I guess my biggest bad feeling here is that for many, when Covenant abilities are retuned or completely changed, as was the case for a few this patch, it would be nice to have a freebie Covenant switch, to just roll over into a new Covenant and be able to do the campaign for no Renown, as none would be needed. What feels downright awful and player-punching about the process to me is that Blizzard could rework your current Covenant ability into shit, and if you want to change it, tough luck, go grind out 40 Renown as quickly as you can. There’s no accommodation for design error or shifts – which would be fine in a hypothetical perfect world where the balance was so good that there’s no one optimal choice, but that isn’t the world we live in – not even a slam on Blizzard, just in general – balancing things like that is really hard.
It feels like Blizzard sort of wants to have their cake and eat it too – Covenant abilities are close and we stuck the landing, but also, if we change them completely in a future patch, you’re on your own, good fucking luck. If you’re a Necrolord Demon Hunter today who doesn’t like or want the new ability, you can’t just pack up and roll over to one of the other three choices easily. You have to commit to a new level of investment, a journey of catchup that might take weeks depending on how much you want to cram in at a time.
That sucks, frankly.
Should it be hard to go back to a Covenant? I think maybe. In lore, it makes sense. But just changing one? No – this process feels excessively punishing, which is quite funny given that the original design was never changing and then that was followed by a more painful process which was pared down until we got to where we are now.
But for me, Night Fae offers me a substantial DPS boost in my main mode of gameplay, even as it also means my ability to offspec tank is hit, so here I am, grinding out Renown for a few days straight.