No Perfect Solutions – The Problem With Artifact Weapons and Relics

The artifact systems in Legion have brought about their fair share of enthusiasm and controversy. The system gives us cool, lore-defining weapons (some more than others, but hey). It also brings about the plague of a massively-grindable experience bar stand-in, heavy power gains outside of those once offered by weapons, and character progression that often is more heavily valued than gear.

7.2 is aiming to fix this, and at first, the solution as presented was thus: dual-trait relics.

If you are, for example, a Retribution Paladin, you have only two elements of relic for your weapon in the first place. One of those, Holy, just so happens to tend towards defensive trait enhancement. Fire can stray that way as well, but most Fire relics tend to be offensive, so that’s cool. But you have two Holy slots, and you might only have a pool of three relics to draw from at a given item level range, not factoring in Mythic Keystone relics at high levels. This can be a conundrum – resulting in your best option often being two identical Holy relics, the one that gives a damage increase, or taking a defensive buff for the sake of the item level gain. This is, while somewhat bad, also a good design in my opinion. You have a choice – a difficult one even! Your option is to weigh the stat increase of raw item level relative to the traits – when many DPS traits can often increase your player power by more than the raw item level would suggest. Many artifact traits can be worth nearly 5 item levels in their own right!

7.2 aimed to correct this by making all of your relics buff a second trait as well. It would roll a random trait, but this would always be from traits defined as “throughput” traits – upping your DPS/healing output (what this means for tanks is always a bit weird, because we have damage traits, but I’d be hard-pressed to call them throughput). It would be a journey to obtain it, as it was the second of two new Order Hall research tiers, both of which require that you already have done the second legendary unlock. This was an interesting option, because while yes, it did add another layer of RNG to the game, it added a positive spin on it – it was possible for your worst, garbage-tier relic to gain a throughput trait that would make it not just usable, but perhaps even the best.

With the additional expansion of the artifact system into new branches, fourth gold traits, and the new infinite trait via Concordance of the Legionfall, you would have a lot of new ways to progress your artifact. That is, until a post from Lore today pulled the rug out on that. See that post here.

So, secondary traits on relics are gone. For now, at least – they won’t be a 7.2 iteration of this idea but they seem to want to work on it more to roll out in the future. Okay, this kind of thing happens. The replacement in the Order Hall research is…okay, maybe, at best. With it, you now have a chance for World Quests that give Artifact Power to double the AP you’d receive. A chance…for one subtype of one type of content to give you double rewards. This isn’t necessarily bad – it could be good, even, but it feels flat in terms of power gain relative to second traits on relics.

The discussion thread on r/wow about this has some positives and some negatives about this. When I read these responses, I wonder if this might be a no-win for Blizzard, short of fixing their perceived issues with the second trait system prior to 7.2 launch.

For example, the solution proposed – it could actually end up being really good. A high chance to occur, bigger AP rewards from World Quests, more World Quests giving AP – if the right factors line up, that could be awesome. In the current state of the game – decidedly not.

Why is this a no-win in my mind? Well, let’s break it down:

-The proposed change means less power gain at a very high cost in Order Resources – 50,000 total spent between the two new upgrade tiers.
-It adds another, unsatisfying layer of RNG to the game, where winning the reward feels cool but every lack of double-power will feel like a loss.
-It simply speeds our path along the new power gain we will already be progressing – it doesn’t itself offer any new power or way to really optimize your character.

Some of the ideas on the Reddit thread linked, or my own ideas feel kind of the same, though.

-Could we open a fourth relic slot instead? Sure, maybe – but then you’d have to balance the item level of the artifacts for that, and depending on the type of relic slot added, you’d just have the same problem as present for those looking to min-max.
-Maybe you could open up three floating traits you could just select and buff traits of your choice…but then it would just be a one time power spike with no lasting gameplay interactions. If you make it irreversible, then it is a problem for balancing, if you make it reversible, you’d just have new guides sprouting up every couple of weeks suggesting what traits for what fights, and swapping those floating traits like talents.
-Maybe you could empower your artifact with a legendary-style bonus effect…but you’d either have to make and balance 36 such bonuses, make them generic and somewhat boring ala Concordance, or make one sort of crazy one per class, like old Tier set bonuses. This could, potentially, add so much power to a weapon that there would then be a divide for players with or without, and it’d either just not work in instanced PvP or require some sort of additional balancing.

I think it speaks well to what Blizzard had with the idea of secondary traits in the first place, that all the replacements I’ve seen for it seem too difficult or insufficient.

I further worry about what this might mean for Tomb of Sargeras balancing, particularly in Mythic.

But mainly, I just kind of wish they’d make it into 7.2, because I was really looking forward to them.

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