Primordial Trophies and Orbs, Oh My!

When a new content patch is on the horizon, I like to go through my policies and see what needs to be updated – typically with regards to loot.  I continue to do this for Cold Comfort even though the guild is in stasis at the moment.  It’s a good exercise, and it helps build up a history with which to demonstrate my ideas on policy transparency.

For patch 3.3, I wanted to update the policies to remove old instances and set a policy for dealing with new items that would drop in Icecrown Citadel.  In doing so, I realized that I had never drawn up a policy for distribution of the non-gear items that drop in Trial of the Crusader.

I’ve heard many people complain about how their guild deals with things like Trophy of the Crusade.  Certainly the way that Blizzard set up the various grades of tier 9 armor didn’t help much, but most policies I heard about seemed to split one of two ways:

  • make them purchasable in the exact same way as gear, with anyone who is interested bidding on them
  • distribute them via some loot council system (even if the main loot system is DKP-like) when a member reaches some threshold (such as having the other materials required for turnin)

The way that you obtained tier 9.25 and 9.5 armor made either approach painful.  In the first case, people would try to grab the trophy early to ensure that they controlled when they were able to upgrade their gear.  In some cases, this let them skip the 9.10 tier entierly.  The second technique led to the opposite behaviour – if you didn’t know exactly when you were going to get your trophy, you might hold off buying your 9.10 set so that you weren’t emblem-starved when you did receive the token.

Crusader Orbs were also tricky, as they were used in 36 recipes to make gear on par with Normal 25 / Heroic 10 drops, but the items crafted were bind on equip.  Imagine that a Blacksmith tank has just purchased four orbs to craft Saronite Swordbreakers for themselves.  While waiting to do the last Titansteel transmute they need, Armguards of the Shieldmaiden drop.  The items are roughly equivalent (depending on the mix of stats you have on the rest of your gear).

Should the member be able to give the orbs back and get their DKP back?  If the items were given via loot council rather than purchased, does the member now owe the orbs to the bank because they would not have received the orbs if they’d already been wearing the dropped item?  What if they’d already crafted the item – are they now at the back of the line for orbs, even though they just wasted them?

Primordial Saronite, the new “orb” of Icecrown Citadel adds yet another variable.  While it’s used for half as many recipes, it is also used in large quantities to progress through the quest to form the legendary weapon Shadowmourne.  While you can purchase the Saronite for 23 Emblems of Frost, doing so would take weeks of pouring all your emblems into the task, and prevent you from purchasing any other EoF rewards in the process.

Even Blizzard doesn’t really have guidance for how Primordial Saronite “should” be distributed, acknowledging that it’s a problem of social dynamics

My Plan

The technique that I came up with was this:

  • half of the Primordial Saronite that dropped from bosses would be given to the current designated member building Shadowmourne (more on how we’d select that person later)
  • the other half of the Primordial Saronite would be available using the standard EP/GP rules, with a GP cost of 70 per.

The GP cost (which could just as easily be applied to an EP or Ni Karma cost) came from this:

  • determine the typical GP value of an armor piece of that iLevel
  • discount this value by 25% (for items that use world-farmable items) or 50% (for items that require emblems for turn-in)
  • divide the remaining GP value by the average number of items required for crafting or turn-in
  • round up or down to the nearest multiple of 5

So for Primordial Saronite, an average of six Primordial Saronite are required for each crafted iLevel 264 item.  The average GP value of an iLevel 264 item is 550.  550 * .75 / 6 = 68.75, which is rounded up to 70.

For Trophy of the Crusade, a single Trophy of the Crusade is required to turn in for an iLevel 245 item.  The average GP value of an iLevel 255 item is 330.  330 * .50 = 165.

Bear in mind that I knew this was an academic exercise from the start.  I was more interested in coming up with a distribution policy that was fair and justifiable, not necessarily one that would provide the fastest level of progression in ICC.  For some contract, take a look at Matticus’ policy for a guild that is focused on progression.

What Is Important to Your Guild?

A policy that favors using Primordial Saronite for crafting gear tends to work better when gear is distributed by loot council in the first place (which is what Matticus’ guild does).  What you’re doing is pushing gear into the hands of your most important raiders (generally tanks followed by healers) before you could reasonably expect equivalent gear to drop from bosses.

I’m not certain how much Ashen Verdict rep you can get prior to the next wing opening up, but I have seen people advertising the new hunter projectiles (which require honored reputation).  Presumably guilds will have access to some the Revered patterns just before or shortly after the next wing is open, by which time you might have enough Primordial Saronite from drops to make one or two items.

If you were willing to blow massive amounts of gold on the Saronite that you find on the auction house, you might be able to go into the second wing with five or six people each wearing one piece of iLevel 264 gear.  Interestingly, the gear crafted using Primordial Saronite isn’t the only way to get that item level into a given slot.  Even if you only consider the first four bosses, there are some tanking and healing slots which could be filled by drops as easily as with crafted gear.

True, most of the pieces have different stat balances (+hit on the drop vs +expertise on the crafted, or +crit on the drop vs +haste on the crafted), but the same can said of various drops.  For the same slot at a given item level, you’re always going to have to balance stats around the other gear you’re wearing.

I can see the point of using the crafted gear later on to quickly gear out new members, or to fill slots for which an item just won’t drop.  I can also see a top-tier guild valuing a tank going into the second wing wearing two iLevel 264 items instead of one, or in the case where the drop has not been obtained, one instead of none.  Outside of that, it doesn’t seem to me that the crafted gear is going to make or break a raid.

Legendary Problems

So now onto Shadowmourne.  Legendary weapons have always been difficult to handle.  They are far more objects of desire than a long-lasting improvement to a member’s performance.  They don’t last very far into the next expansion, if that far at all – take a look at Val’anyr against Trauma, an item which can drop off of a boss being unlocked in a little less than two weeks.  Will everyone who has the Ulduar legendary switch to an ICC drop?  No, but you have to consider the relative effort involved in getting both items.

The difference between the Ulduar legendary and the ICC one is that Val’anyr didn’t take up any resources that could be used elsewhere.  Once you’d chosen the fragment recipient, it was just a matter of doing the encounters over and over until you could create the item.

It’s clear that randomly distributing fragments of the mace (or soulshard fragments in the case of Shadowmourne) isn’t an efficient way to get anyone the weapon.  I suspect many guilds will take a similar approach to Shadowmourne that they did for Val’anyr: choose one recipient, then funnel further drops to them unless they are not present, in which case you choose an alternate via the same mechanism.

And the Winner Is….

So how do you choose that person?  My decision was to use the person with the highest EP value.  Unlike DKP systems, in EP/GP your two values never go down when you get loot (only via decay).  EP just keeps going up, so it’s an accurate measure of the total effort put forth by any one person.  As long as you perform some kind of adjustment when a new content patch comes out, it should continue to reflect performance – if a long-standing member remains at the top, it’s because they’ve continued to raid regularly.  If you decay by 50% when a new patch comes out, then new members can catch up, but only if the long-standing member slacks.

If you accept that legendary items are a status symbol, ego-stroke or “attaboy” towards the member chosen, you may want to detach the decision from loot or attendance.  Who among your members really embodies what the guild stands for?  Talk to your members about this.  You could even do it by member vote, or some kind of content in the weeks preceding a patch.

What you want to avoid is establishing some expectation that the most senior member of a class gets the item by default.  I’ve been in a guild where the most senior priest was a poor leader, didn’t help people, and kept mostly to themselves outside of raids.  While he was a competent and valuable member of the raid, I wouldn’t want to reward that kind of attitude with a legendary weapon.  Take a lesson from Jedoga Shadowseeker and ask “Who Among You is Devoted?”

Having said all that, would I change my policy for Shadowmourne and Primordial Saronite if Cold Comfort the guild was running and focused on progression?  Probably.  Like Matticus, I’d divert Primordial Saronite into crafted gear until we had the Lich King down on normal mode – not because it’s a clearly better use than the legendary, but to give me data to use in making the decision as to who gets the legendary.  If everyone knows that their performance on the bosses during the initial push will factor into my decision, I think you’d see a bit more dedication from the affected classes.  Once we were doing hard modes, I’d probably revert to my 50/50 split idea, by which point the need for crafted gear will have died down considerably.

Finally, a few unrelated notes that don’t really deserve a post of their own:

Strange Updates on MMO-Champion

I did want to comment briefly on an update that went up on MMO Champion entitled “Guild improvements in Cataclysm“.  I’ve read over it twice now, and there doesn’t seem to be anything new – just a rehash of what we were given at Blizzcon.  Am I missing something obvious?  Do any of you notice something new in there?

New Post Category

I’ve created a new post category called Practicum, into which I’ve filed all posts that provide practical advice to guild leaders.  Hopefully it will be of use to people who are looking for tutorial-type posts rather than analysis and opinion.

Lastly, let me wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.  Enjoy the time off you hopefully have, whether you spend it with family and friends in the game or out.

Until Next Time

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