Mythic Plus In Dragonflight – Fixing A Symptom But Not The Issue?

Mythic Plus is changing quite a bit in Dragonflight, and most of these are, to my eye, positive changes.

Currently, in Shadowlands, the way Mythic Plus works is not that different from the past. Keystones scale up to level 30 (a scaling so high that I haven’t seen one challenged myself), there’s a rotating set of base affixes and a seasonal affix that is unique to each season of content, and the dungeon pool is mostly fixed. Rewards dropped in the end-of-run chest have a fixed item level based on the level of the key, and a set number of clears at given keystone levels will reward you with higher item level loot as a choice in your weekly Great Vault – clears that do not need to be timed, but just simply completed. The max reward tops at a +15 keystone, both for the drops inside the dungeon and the Vault, with the in-dungeon drops currently just below that of the Heroic raid and the Vault matching the base item level for the current Mythic raid. There’s no lockout mechanism for Mythic Plus – as long as someone in your party has a key, you can keep going and getting loot, and your consolation prize for a myriad of activities, Valor points, can be used to upgrade items to match the item level of the Heroic raid end-tier bosses.

Throughout Shadowlands, this system has had two sides to it, as I see it and from feedback I see from friends, people I played with, and generally out in the community. On the plus side, Mythic Plus is fun and rewarding to a high degree – a 5 player party is easy to get filled through PUGs or friends, runs are going around the clock, and with no loot lockout and a scaling difficulty system, there is a high incentive to run more – to improve routes, get better at pulls, and learn each affix set inside and out. I think Mythic Plus is one of the most fun things Blizzard has added to the game, and of the “Diablo-inspired” items that have been added since elements of the Diablo III team were fused into the WoW team in Legion, it’s the one that I think is the most positive for the game overall. Mythic Plus has such constant feedback loops and rewarding gameplay that it works well.

On the downside, I think that the current loot scaling of Mythic Plus has a few problems with regards to how it impacts the rest of the game. A Mythic +15, while a sturdy challenge in its own right, is not quite as hard as the later tier bosses of a Heroic raid, and a player that can reasonably do the latter can almost certainly do the former. The reward structure for Mythic Plus, however, currently skews such that higher M+ keys, especially those blessed +15s, are the most rewarding PvE content in many ways – infinitely farmable, no lockouts, a relatively low gameplay threshold to hit the weekly reward cap for the Vault and receive even bigger rewards, and this comes with problems. I think that M+ should be rewarding, to be clear – but in the raid side of the equation, raid guilds can often be torn apart by a culture of haves and have-nots, where the old standby of farming the raid to get loot or, god forbid, have fun with some friends, feels pointless when M+ simply gives better rewards with higher frequency. If your guild raid has a few asshole tryhards in it, they’ll treat raid as showoff for their fancy M+ toys and then bail when the group starts farming the current raid, wrecking group cohesion and creating elongated breaks from the game which can fray the social fabric of a running group. To be clear, this is absolutely a social problem as well, and while I do not expect Blizzard to run along and bandage this one, it exists as a consequence of Blizzard’s rotting rewards philosophy, which does not know how to reward players with meaningful value outside of player power for time spent, an equation which currently skews in the favor of those Mythic Plus dungeons.

Dragonflight aims to fix this…sort of.

As of this week, we now have a clearer sense of Blizzard’s design ethos for M+ in Dragonflight, and it represents the most substantial set of changes to the mode since it was introduced 6 years ago in Legion (oh god, Legion is six years old, fight the pain). In list mode first, these changes are:

-A rotating dungeon pool per season with half Dragonflight dungeons and half throwbacks
-An overhaul of affixes that sees some pain in the ass ones on the bench and a reduced affix rotation
-Changes to difficulty scaling that kick in at level 11 keystones, increasing difficulty beyond
-Maximum scaling of ilvl and Vault rewards at +20 instead of the prior +15
-An additional Valor upgrade tier for M+ drops

So, let’s break these down item by item.

Rotating Dungeon Pool

This is the one that I think is coolest, and I like it for the same reasons Blizzard professes to have done it. M+ feels stale as fuck late into an expansion, when you’ve been grinding out the same dungeons in ever-scaling increments for two years, so a rotating pool that features new dungeons while bringing back older choices (including dungeons that were not previously M+ equipped) is cool as hell. This also diversifies the loot pool, which addresses a common concern. For much of Shadowlands, the true best-in-slot items for some specs, especially trinkets, were M+ ones – which you had to farm each season from scratch. Got that 226 season 1 Inscrutable Quantum Device? Fuck you, do it again to get the 252 Season 2 version, which can only come from your Vault, so good luck there!

Rotating the dungeons also gives players coming in to a later season a fresh start on routing and learning. While affix mix changes routes season to season sometimes, it doesn’t always, and knowing early-season stuff in Shadowlands like trash percentages and linked pulls still helped in later seasons even when the routes did change. Starting fresh in season 2 or 3 could be hell when everyone else expected you to have a base understanding of the original routes. Tanking was a nightmare and the further into the expansion you started, the worse the pressure on you was. A totally fresh pool every season means that routes are going to be relatively new tech early in a season, and if you start with the seasonal start, then you get to be there on the ground floor, instead of already behind the folks who did the prior two seasons of same dungeons. Sure, at some point in Dragonflight, I expect season 1 DF dungeons to rotate back in, but I think the hope is that the old routes are beaten from memory by learning new routes, and seasonal affixes could stand to help that further.

All-around, I think this is a solid change – addresses a core complaint of the current system, makes the player intake process easier each season, and reduces the grindy feeling of needing to win the same fucking trinket 2-4 times per expansion – hooray.

The Affix Overhaul

For Season 1 of Dragonflight, pain-in-the-ass affixes Necrotic and Inspiring get to ride the pine on the bench. This alone nearly sells me a Dragonflight box.

Mythic Plus’ affix system is simultaneously a great strength and a terrible weakness. Currently, the game’s affix calendar creates a cadence of push weeks and shitty weeks where no one wants to do keys, depending on the season. Necrotic weeks often meant finding a tank was a Herculean trial, while Inspiring weeks demanded a high amount of route aptitude, more than usual. The base affixes of Tyrannical and Fortified combo with this in ways as well, as some affix combos are just way worse with one of these two baseline modifiers, and so you can typically tell if it’s a push week without even knowing by just looking at LFG and seeing how many parties are out there for M+.

In addition to a pause on those two painful affixes, Blizzard is also cutting the number of weeks in the affix rotation down to 10 from the current 12. This means more repetition of affix combos, as the affix calendar loops until the season concludes, but this also means that in a season of around 20-26 weeks, you’ll have a chance to learn the combos a bit more and get a second chance (and maybe a third one too) at some of the easy weeks if you’re trying to farm rating or get that gear up.

Lastly, Blizzard is looking at a change I feel mixed on – changing the seasonal affixes. In Shadowlands, every seasonal affix was a kiss/curse design, meaning that the affix-added pain came with some benefits. Prideful, for example, was a mob that spawned at fixed trash percentages, making routing far more crucial – but it also gave a huge resource buff that upped group performance substantially. In Dragonflight, the affixes are aiming to be more solely curses, but simpler. The current testing affix, Thundering, has a timed effect of AoE lighting strikes that stun the party briefly before triggering a dodging minigame to avoid incoming damage. It’s said this will probably change before live, so it’s not worth analyzing this one too deeply, but the general direction seems indicative of the idea that Blizzard is aiming at. As an affix, it’s fairly easy to deal with in theory, doesn’t require massive strategy shifts, but it does require handling in that a group must think about it as they pull trash or bosses to ensure that the tiny stun and the point-blank AoE effects do not cause unintended deaths. On the one hand, I really liked the kiss/curse idea in Shadowlands, and it felt crazy fun to have a ton of extra power in a dungeon for playing well, especially when later seasonal affixes also added a choice component to the affix design for not challenging them throughout the dungeon. On the other hand, learning and executing seasonal affixes well was another pile up of things you needed to study and know before running, albeit with a low level of difficulty. Learning the anima powers or the correct Encrypted order wasn’t hard in a meaningful sense, but there were right and wrong choices depending on the group, class, spec, and the dungeon.

So this one is a bit more mixed to me, but I still think the overall changes are good!

Changes To Difficulty Scaling

This one gets closer to addressing the concerns I raised in the intro.

Right now, the challenge with rewards in M+ is that the difficulty for that max tier of rewards isn’t particularly high. I don’t say that as some amazing player myself, but rather, that learning M+ is an act of dedication more than raw skill. You can pound your face into the wall as much as you’d like until the wall breaks, and while that point is different for each player, it is there for everyone, I believe. Likewise, like a lot of the PvE content in WoW, carrying is possible. How much you can carry depends on the key level, the dungeon, and the skill level of the other 4 party members, but even in the rewards tiers of M+ currently, it is doable.

Dragonflight aims to sort of challenge this by increasing the difficulty of higher key levels, by slightly increasing the scaling per key level starting at +11. Right now, the health and damage dealt values of enemies scale at around 8% per key level flatly from +2 to +30, with the peak key level being a 763% increase in these values. In Dragonflight, +11 keys and up scale at +10% per level, with the maximum increase at a +30 being 1,145%. This is…a lot, obviously, and so what it means is that you’ll see a sharper increase in difficulty in those higher keys, with each step up the ladder representing a larger jump than it does today. While the intent here is not stated quite as loudly as the rest, I think this maps quite neatly to the perception issues I’ve observed with difficulty at current max rewards keystone level compared to Heroic raiding. But, this change has to be discussed with the next one…

Mythic Plus Rewards Cap At +20

So, let’s do the real, raw math here. Currently, a Shadowlands max rewards Mythic Plus at +15 represents four total affixes and a 172% increase in health and damage dealt by enemies. Not insubstantial, but also a level of difficulty that can be readily met by a large percentage of the playerbase that would be interested in keys, given some learning of their kits and practice on low keys. In Dragonflight, the max rewards come at a +20, with that +20 representing a 380% increase in health and damage dealt by enemies in the dungeon. Nearly a 2x jump in max rewards level difficulty scaling. Now the context is much clearer.

By keeping the “max” rewards tier identical to Shadowlands in terms of player power increase, but shifting it higher up the food chain and making that higher point mathematically harder than it is today, Blizzard has pulled a slight of hand that makes Mythic Plus gearing seem less viable on paper. It has the appearance of a solved problem – the difficulty level of a +20 likely aligns higher than the average Heroic raider, and it aligns higher than the average +20 player even today (where the increase is a smaller 300% compared to Dragonflight’s 380%). Does it solve the issue I brought up above with regards to Heroic raiding? We’ll get to that in a moment.

One More Valor Tier

Currently, the Valor upgrade cap for Mythic items stops shy of the endpoint of Heroic raids, which keeps non-Vault M+ items from scaling over the value of raid gear at a similar level of content. However, in Dragonflight, the last and new tier of Valor upgrades will change this, with the current iteration on beta pushing max Valor upgrades into baseline Mythic raid gear and max Vault level M+ gear matching mid-tier Mythic raid gear.

The rating requirement for this final tier is pretty high at 2400, which I assume will mean some grinding up around +20s to obtain the new upgrades, so it isn’t necessarily that egregious seeming – yet. Could it end up being pretty bad? Sure, maybe – until we see more on beta, we won’t know.

My Take

For me, the Dragonflight changes to M+ represent an interesting move for a mode at a crossroads. Whatever your personal take on the loot incentive for M+ was (and mine, again, is that it was largely fine but the impact on Heroic raiding guilds was measurable), Mythic Plus has been very popular for much of Shadowlands and if you are primarily an M+ player, you’ve had a pretty good expansion overall, probably. Something needed to change to better balance the incentive structure between raids and Mythic Plus, because I think that a large number of players of one tend to do both modes, and that means that the incentives for both being structured as they were caused some problems in the mainstream of high-end PvE content.

Blizzard’s approach here is to treat the symptom, however.

Mythic Plus should be rewarding, and I think that it having loot on-par with Mythic raiding is not innately bad. There’s still a tier of loot in Mythic raiding above that of M+, and with the difficulty tweaks, getting as high as you can in M+ is still a factor of luck in the Vault as much as the player skill to push enough keys to get those slots open. In a closed-loop fashion, M+ has always been fine.

However, when introduced to the broader game, this model still has problems with rewards, largely because the actual issue is that raid loot remains anemic, slow, and can often be upstaged by M+. An average raid group takes more time to run, more time to organize, is slower to start, and will maybe get you 3 pieces of loot on a good week – two drops and a Vault choice. Under the forced group loot of raiding Vault of the Incarnates in Dragonflight, that is also likely to change a bit. Blizzard has this issue of wanting raiding to be as it once was – the ultimate mode of PvE gameplay with restrictive, slow gearing as a retention mechanism, but the rest of the game has moved so far away from that old model that it looks old and staid as a result. A big part of this for me is that Blizzard just has no incentive to offer outside of player power anymore, and they put so little into offering stuff outside of gear that the non-gear rewards are the only reason some people I know raid at all. Ahead of the Curve mounts and achievements will get a raid team over the finish line one time, but why would they go back for a second or third round if that raid group can gear faster and higher from easier-to-start M+ groups?

What this leads to, in my experience, is guilds falling apart at the seams and lacking cohesion. You can sucker the whole raid team in for that AotC run, maybe even for a meta achievement run, but past that? If your average player is selfish and has no interest in the team or hanging out, they can do better in M+ and likely already have, so they fuck off until the next season, leaving a smaller raid core that has a mix of goals and struggles to get the remaining team on the same page, and if you do, well, you’ve got potential weeks of grinding to get that one weapon drop you really, really want. But if you can do a high-enough M+, you can push the same key over and over as long as you can find one, until a similar-enough item drops to give you that power. It takes less time per key, with no limits per week, so you just go and go again and again until you get what you want or give up. At the dungeon level, the loot table isn’t so restrictive per spec as to completely block you either, and while the Vault draws from a far wider table, the new Valor tier means you can get a fingertip away from that level of power anyways. If you don’t want to do M+, because you actually enjoy raiding (imagine that!), then you’re basically fucked, sorry. Maybe you can find a group that wants to raid and hang out, but maybe that defeats the purpose since you wanted to play with friends. Even then, groups at that level are trained on the incentive structure of the game by Blizzard, and they’re gonna be pushing keys in almost all likelihood, creating a cycle that is very similar.

I love Mythic Plus. At a point where I almost quit in Shadowlands (prior to actually quitting later in the expansion), M+ was the thing that I kept coming back for and enjoying. I want to make sure that, at this point in the post, this is clear – I think that Mythic Plus should be a rewarding and fun activity and I think the loot structure it offers is, in isolation, fine. The difficulty alignment in Dragonflight probably puts it closer to removing a lot of the problem of M+ trampling on raid gear below the Mythic raid level. However, I think that Blizzard has made some good changes here, but ultimately changes that address this symptom but not the problem – raid loot should be more valuable and should hold value for players below the Mythic raid level. Until testing starts shaping up around both modes of play, it’s hard to say that this isn’t a proper fix either – it could very well create a system where the long-tail of gameplay is grinding up loot in parallel through raid and M+, then using end of raid tier gap time to push keys hard to that +20 finish line. Is that ideal, though? Perhaps, but also perhaps not – then you have raid trampling on M+, and I think that modes should be agnostic so player preference wins the day.

In the end, that’s my ideal state – one where players of either mode are happy just doing that, and players who like both can do both without one superseding the other. Does this fix get there?

I remain unconvinced, at least for now.

9 thoughts on “Mythic Plus In Dragonflight – Fixing A Symptom But Not The Issue?

  1. For me personally, I won’t do Mythic + ever again. Ever since they added Challenge Dungeons? In Pandaria where people would use every gimmick they could, invisibility pots, skipping around everything possible, etc I have grown to loath running anything beyond a Normal or Heroic dungeon. I have, at least to me, a justifiable reason. I started in Wrath, we all learned line of sight pulls, we all learned you don’t pull aggro off the tank, you give the healer time to mana up between pulls. Now? It’s all about beating the clock, get in and through as fast as possible to get a higher key to race through and get higher and higher. The highest I ever did was a +5 and by the end I was so stressed from playing I hearthed out of the dungeon and just logged out for over a week. I don’t think I completed all of the dungeons in Shadowlands on even normal because of the elitist attitude of people, even in my guild that laugh at anyone suggesting running low difficulty content. At the beginning of Battle for Azeroth I was out gearing members of the raid team running heroic raids by focusing on outdoor content that offered upgrades. I was relatively happy playing, I felt that there was a system in place that allowed me to do something other than organized group content, and still stay reasonably close in gear levels if they wanted me to join in. Around the middle of that expansion half the team server transferred, others stepped in and took charge, and they said they needed me. I spent an entire evening dead on the floor because no one gave me any clue where to go. The one evening doing the pyramid I died on the way through a hallway, I didn’t even get to see the fight, they just left me there and went on to the next boss. I died twice more trying to get to them. Someone said “oh, who forgot to pick up Mara’s corpse and carry it to the next boss” with a few people laughing. I exited the game, and just walked away. My wife is the only reason I didn’t disband the guild right then.

    All of the people I’ve played with over the years that played to have fun, tackle a challenge, laugh when some new mechanics one shot the group, and took time to learn and work as a team have all gone, and those left are online all day, playing 12+hours, running Mythic dungeons all night. It’s go go go, and if you can’t commit to putting in the time to get the gear, well, you don’t have a place.

    Right now I am waiting for a beta invite, or to get into the expansion PTR to see if there is any enjoyment left in playing my character. If not? Everything, or I guess the brief descriptions of what I’ve seen coming just sound like doubling down on more of the same, and while I may still stay subbed for a time, the thoughts of dropping $$ for two expansion purchases when I am the only only that’s logged in for a bit every week or two seems like just wasting money.

    Sorry. I’ve got some strong feelings concerning how they have pushed the design towards where it’s at.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mara, I used to play with you in Pandaria and it was always a pleasure. I recognized your name instantly. I loathe that someone made that comment to you. I will message you on the bird app. I am in a pleasant guild.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. > You can sucker the whole raid team in for that AotC run, maybe even for a meta achievement run, but past that?

    Interestingly I’ve always been part of guilds where the common understanding was “the only reason to farm gear is because we need it to beat the content”. Like, even in TBC-MoP, once we had beaten our goal we didn’t really continue raiding. When I started again in Shadowlands, both of my guilds were exactly the same, so it can’t be THAT weird of an idea 😉 And yes, AOTC guilds in SL and also old Heroic Raiding before there was Mythic, I think the achievements were also called AOTC but there was no CE.

    @Marathal I’m not trying to persuade you to anything, but just anecdata: I felt exactly as you did, I hated the idea of timing a run and I was shaking and stressed out to no end. It became a little better when we (in guild groups) decided we didn’t care for the timer and only ran a single M+ per week with the goal to just finish somehow and get our Great Vault reward. I still hated it, but accepted it. Queue a new guild and different people who mostly just roped me in because they needed someone, and so I could skip the “learning on my own” phase and got a little coaching, but most of all the real difference was “don’t worry, we’ll time it. And if not, who cares?” and that somehow helped and I’ve since come around to actually enjoy doing them (with the right people). The fear of losing was completely converted to just having fun and talking on Discord and simply trying to give our best and see what comes of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The raid point is fair – I think it varies for each group, of course. Even in Legion, my raid was still running farm raids for the sake of it, just to shoot the breeze and farm some end boss loot, and there was a sort of fun in that which I miss. It won’t be for everyone, but I think that the lack of value in that loot has kind of pulled some of the potential fun out of it.

      I also agree with your approach to Mythic Plus – they weren’t a thing I did super-often until the season 1 crawl in Shadowlands and then we were running groups in voice, I got to learn more, and it got a lot better and more fun. Having people willing to teach and bring people up makes a HUGE difference!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yeah. Unfortunately those just playing for fun an entertainment, no pressure, if we get it we get it are being driven away. We use to be, our server, the red head step child in the corner of WoW. But we’ve now been connected to 7 other realms, and while years ago we were mostly casual and top 5-10, now we are part of a more progressive oriented group where with a full heroic AoTC clear we are lucky to be in top 50. It is what it is I guess. I’m not rushing to buy Dragonflight. Plenty of real life stuff to occupy us, and honestly there’s a lot more available to watch on TV for less than a sub cost, with better writing and storyline.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there Kaylriene!

    This was such an engaging read.

    I concur that there is nothing innately wrong with having Mythic Plus dungeons drop Heroic, and for some fortunate people, Mythic tier raid gear. In my personal experience contrasting Retails gearing system with that of Wrath of the Lich King Classic, I can see the incentives to open up the gearing system to as many players as possible, providing more options than the previous linear progression, consisting of Normal, then Heroic dungeons, transitioning into Normal, then eventually Heroic raiding once the minimum gear requirements are met.

    I would propose that the solution here is multifaceted:

    – Firstly, since WoW’s launch, gear has been segregated, acquired by participating in a player’s favoured activity in game, either PVP or PVE. Perhaps having gear drop that is optimised for higher end Mythic Plus, and subsequently Heroic raiding, would benefit both parties, whilst simultaneously having the normal, easier versions of this content remain unchanged, retaining that accessibility and those rewards to the more casual player base.

    – Secondly, as you hinted at within your piece, Heroic raiding needs to be as effective and viable as Mythic Plus for character progression, either via boosting reward drop chances, or the rewards themselves, thus incentivising players to participate in their preferred method of progression, as opposed to the most efficient.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello fellow WoW players. I fully understand that this discussion is based around certain aspects of the game. I will address both from the perspective of a smaller casual guild.
      Back in the days before Mythic Plus we were teaming up with 2 other guilds for Raids. This brought together people yes. However, these other guilds were highly serious about progress and there would always be dramatic fallouts after a night of learning a boss if it didn’t die. I personally took it to heart that my friends were being berated. So, in Vanilla Zulgurub I took away all their bluster by out damaging a rogue with thunder fury. It was here that we decided to stop these alliances. This societal aspect of gameplay can never be fixed. It has existed since Vanilla.

      Now we have Mythic Plus. Which allows us to play without the people being described by these posts. It allows us to be geared heavily as well as go in at some point for AotC since raids only require 10.

      So, while I understand all of the things about raid guilds. I put this forth in hope that we all remember that it’s a game. Everyone should be able to progress with loot. Even those of us that prefer not to Raid with full size raids and deal with all that.

      As for cliques forming. I have always acknowledged and supported this in my guild. Peeta and Cronk. Healer and Tank duo since 2004. Avalar is a real life friend of Cronk. These 3 exist as a team. DPS players will be told that to challenge that friendship will mean removal. There’s also another clique. It is a Tank Healer duo. Xellosciant and Shantisee. Then the DPS players just hop in to whichever group they prefer or the ones they like to play with. When we do raids. They are still cliques. Jest at each other but, there is no actual breakdown of social structure because a boss didn’t die.

      This game is supposed to be for everyone to enjoy. Not to fight each other because a Raid boss didn’t die. Less people means less of this. I guarantee it. The Mythic Plus system is literally keeping players like this in the game.

      Of course it is also abused by the Zoomers that just care about efficiency and all that.

      Liked by 1 person

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