The new dungeon system has created several problems that Blizzard could not have anticipated. One of them has been highlighted for me this week: the average gear ilevel requirement to access normal and heroic Cataclysm dungeons. The idea is not new, it first appeared in game with the introduction of the last 5 mans added at the end of Wrath: Pit of Saron and Halls of Reflection. This is generally a good idea and paces the entrance into dungeons indirectly by level and directly by gear quality.

In principle, I think this is a very good idea. The unfortunate thing is that it has made an issue of an unacceptable, but largely ignored, practice: ninja-ing levelling gear. I’ve met disbelief and disdain recently after complaining and objecting to ninja-ing in normal instances. In fact I had an item ninja-ed from me and complained bitterly until I was removed from the group (proof, if any were needed, that I am indeed a whiner and a loot whore). People expect a hard-line attitude to ninja-ing in raids and even heroic instance dungeons. After all this is the important gear that you will be wearing as you enter the first tier of raids in this expansion. Normal instance gear is trivial and will be replaced quickly.

However, this not entirely the case. With average gear ilevel thresholds for entering the next tier of dungeons, blues from normal instances are now becoming more significant and almost as important as heroic blues. This gear is essential to ensure a steady progress through the instance content. To advance into the next tier of instances a good selection of gear upgrades from the current tier is a prerequisite. This is exactly as Blizzard intended as far as creating thresholds and ramping up dungeon difficulty to 85 goes.

Poor Fleetfoot, the unluckiest of chars, the char who went to Shadow Labyrinth forty one times (after I began counting) to get Platinum Shield of the Valorous, has been unlucky in normals this expansion. As I posted earlier in the week my lucky hunter, Rhianwen, has raced to 85 and tidied up her gear for heroics in a matter of three days. Rhianwen is now amassing Justice and Valor points and collecting a very fine set of blues. Fleetfoot the unlucky warrior is exactly half way to 85 and has a very shoddy set of gear. Two decent ilvl 272 blues, a couple of half decent greens and a lot of very old epics from Wrath. Average ilvl is 256 and as such she cannot enter any other dungeons except Throne of Tides and Blackrock Cavern with the crap she’s wearing.

The simple fact is that over three days I have run Throne of Tides eleven times. Twice the gear appropriate to me didn’t drop. Three times I’ve been out rolled by chars who can equip strength plate. That’s OK, that’s the game. Four times gear appropriate to a DPS warrior has dropped and been ninja-ed by a class/spec that cannot use the gear. Twice I’ve been beaten by shaman healers, once by a rogue and on a further occasion by a healing paladin. I’ve even had a brother warrior tank Need str/hit/crit gear, probably for his off spec, superb.

I’ve noticed one way to predict if ninja-ing of blues is going to occur on the last boss. If someone quietly Needs all the green drops and any blue BoE’s all through the instance there is an absolute certainty they will attempt to ninja final boss loot. Don’t think for one minute that not Needing on all greens means they won’t attempt to ninja final boss loot though, it doesn’t work that way around.

So I’m running 4 or 5 instances an evening, so after four days I think it’s reasonable (unless I was really unlucky and no strength/hit/crit plate dropped at all, which can happen) to expect to have inched up my gear level high enough to enter the next two Cata normal instances: Throne of Tides and Vortex Pinnacle. However, despite being level appropriate my gear hasn’t reached an ilvl of 262 yet.

So the next time someone in your normal instance group complains that someone has inappropriately needed on gear that would otherwise have been theirs don’t simply dismiss this issue and them for moaning about nothing. Don’t tolerate these low level ninjas, vote to remove them from your group. People will only stop this irritating practice if we respond in the same way we do when people ninja gear in heroics and raids. A stronger response to ninja-ing at lower levels will almost certainly translate to a little less ninja-ing in raids and heroics.

That way poor unlucky Fleety will have a slightly better chance to win some gear upgrades and instance somewhere other than Blackrock Depths and Throne of Tides for a change…

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