Houston, we have content….maybe? At least, that was my initial reaction to Jeremy Feasel’s (aka Muffinus‘) preview stream of some of the features to come in patch 8.2, Rise of Azshara. Yet, amidst all the hype he was trying to generate for flying, islands, Nazjatar, Mechagon, and Azshara’s Eternal Palace, there was only one aspect of the patch I had ears for: a revamped Azerite system for the Heart of Azeroth. Without an engaging way to interact with all of the other content, nothing else will matter–at least to myself and likely many other players. So, will this new system save Azerite? Let’s discuss what changes are coming and could be coming to find out.
The New Heart of Azeroth
To begin with, all new pieces of azerite armor will be coming with their traits fully unlocked. This means no more having to grind just to regain the same traits you lost, but with higher numbers. However, pieces will still be dropping with specific trait combinations, so there is still potentially a “best in slot” combination of traits for each piece. In addition, dungeon pieces can still be acquired for Titan Residuum, but you can expect the costs of higher pieces to roughly triple as they did going from Uldir to Battle of Dazar’alor.
On top of all that, though, the Heart of Azeroth itself will be getting a small progression path that starts with giving players an Active ability! Over time, this path will grant access to two additional passive traits at levels 60 and 65; the heart itself will cap at 70.
These traits and abilities will work as such:
- By doing content, you will acquire titan essences
- These essences permanently unlock the relevant trait in the Heart of Azeroth.
- Each trait has both a major effect and a minor effect. The major effect will be that trait’s powerful active ability, while the minor will be a weaker, passive form of the same trait.
- Heart of Azeroth levels 55, 60, and 65 will be required to unlock the three minor trait slots. A simple quest unlocks the initial major slot.
- There are three ranks of each trait that offer stronger effects and extra bonuses. A fourth, legendary rank will be obtainable from the hardest content that cosmetically changes a trait’s major effect spell graphics.
- You can freely change which traits are selected in any rested area or through the use of Tome of the Quiet Mind.
- Some traits are role-specific and can’t be used outside of them. For example, a tank can’t use either effect of a dps-only trait.
At first, I’ll admit I didn’t know what to make of this concept. The one example trait given for each role was kind of lackluster. In addition, role-specific choices have had a tendency to be pretty restrictive in what they usually do compared to something spec-specific. Blizzard’s track record of mostly poor tank trinkets and overall poor tank azerite traits certainly doesn’t help ease my mind either. We also don’t know how easy essences will be to acquire or how much of a grind it will be to level up the Heart of Azeroth to its new milestone levels. This all boiled down to me being skeptical that Blizzard will do this system right and make it empowering to players rather than another bland set of passives.
Possible Heart of Azeroth Tank Trait List
However, thanks to Sloot, we already likely know what every trait that can be selected for a tank specialization will be when the PTR goes up next week!
That being said, the following trait list is from an internal build and is subject to potentially HEAVY changes before even reaching the PTR, let alone the patch itself. There could also be more traits that haven’t been seen.
- Aegis of the Deep
- Burning Embrace
- Engine of Ceaseless Progress
- Essence of Infinity
- Hardened Obsidian Essence
- Memory of Lucid Dreams
- Null Dynamo
- Sphere of Suppression
- Crucible of Flame
- Vision of Protection
- Speaker’s Boon
Minor Effect: You gain 113 Versatility for each enemy within 10 yards, up to 565 Versatility. Additionally, you heal for 1,224 health every 4 seconds for each stack of Aegis of the Deep on you. While below 35% health the Versatility amount is doubled.
Minor Effect: Infuse yourself with burning embrace, increasing your maximum health by 3,430 every 4 seconds, stacking up to 15 times. This effect is lost if you fall below 35% health.
Minor Effect: Every 2 sec, the Heart of Azeroth empowers you with 16 Haste, Mastery, or Critical Strike. After reaching 10 stacks of either Haste, Mastery, or Critical Strike, the Heart of Azeroth temporarily overcharges, doubling the effects of Engine of the Ceaseless Progress for 8 sec, after which the stacks are removed. When you gain a stack of one of the Engine buffs, you have a 20% chance to generate an additional stack, and a 10% chance to gain all three Engine effects instead of a random one.
Minor Effect: (passive) The sands of the infinity swirl around you, increasing your Versatility by 466. This Versatility is reduced by 50% for 7.5 min if you die.
Minor Effect: When you fall below 35% health, obsidian hardens your skin, granting you 7,604 Armor for 4 seconds, then 3,802 Armor for the next 4 seconds. This effect may occur once every 2 minutes.
Minor Effect: Your spells and abilities have a chance to refund 50% of the Mana spent on them and immediately heal you for 10,860. When Lucid Dreams refunds some Mana to you, gain Versatility for 8 seconds.
Minor Effect: Every 15 seconds, gain a Null Barrier, absorbing the next 34,684 magic damage you take for 10 seconds. When Null Barrier expires, it implodes, dealing Shadow damage equal to the total amount absorbed, divided among all nearby enemies.
Minor Effect: Enemies who melee you will attack 8% slower, and you gain 434 Haste and 15% increased attack speed for 7 seconds.
Minor Effect: Your spells and abilities have a chance to grant you Ancient Flame for 10 seconds, increasing your Critical Strike by 150 and your Leech by 64, causing your damage and healing spells to engulf their target in cleansing flame for an additional 10% of the damage or healing done over 4 seconds.
Minor Effect: Reduces the cooldown of <ability> by 16.5% and increases your Versatility by 419. When you activate <ability> immediately heal for 5% of maximum health.
Minor Effect: Every 18-25 seconds, a shard of Azerite erupts from the nearby ground for 12 seconds, granting you X Strength/Agility/Intellect while you are within 8 yards of it.
It’s important to note that all of these heart of azeroth traits were selected on a Protection Paladin at the time and are at their rank 3 level–except for Speaker’s Boon–so they won’t be as impressive in their lower ranks. We can more or less assume that an additional sentence on major effects, in particular, is caused by the higher rank. While we also don’t know how easily the higher ranks will be acquired and what the spell graphics will even look like, I will admit that some of these possible traits could have some real potential to empower players through some synergies with current azerite traits/talents. Until we see what makes it to the Public Test Realm next week though, the only truly confirmed tank traits/effects for now are Burning Embrace and Crucible of Flame.
Analysis of Potential Traits
Knowing what I do now, I’m still disappointed that a couple of the potentially strongest heart traits are found in the passive effects, and I really don’t like that some of the supposedly major effects are also passive. Then there’s the same question as before of balancing tank-role traits between six different tank specializations. While it can be nice to have some specializations desire one trait over another, it is my opinion that Blizzard cannot have a trait that empowers what is effectively a dps cooldown for the tank specs that have them and a defensive cooldown for others. Those two dps cooldowns also have azerite trait synergy and are on two of the highest damage tanks, so I would speculate that such a trait would see some changes before the patch itself.
On the other side of the coin, there are defensive traits present in the potential list that actively punish you for reaching low health (Burning Embrace), while others are rewarding the same act (Hardened Obsidian Essence). Granted, the latter has a cooldown on its safety net and isn’t doing anything before that, but neither is Burning Embrace’s small boon of maximum health while above 35% particularly useful or rewarding one’s ability to stay above that threshold. Overall, it just seems like the system’s possible defensive traits don’t come off as particularly compelling unless they’re actually necessary, and the more offensive-oriented ones may just feel inferior to the traits that only damage dealing specializations can select by comparison.
For now, I’ll still be reserving my judgment, since at least this new azerite system feels fleshed out from the get-go. Whatever the case may be once the system’s available for testing on this coming week’s PTR, it can’t be much worse than what we’ve had to deal with since 8.0.
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