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Wow Classic Gold: Developer Insight: Universal Upgrade System Improvements for Dragonflight Season 3

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Dragonflight is an expansion that has introduced many changes to World of Warcraft, and one of the largest of those changes is the introduction of the new universal upgrade system in Embers of Neltharion. We’re seeing it have a healthy effect on the game, but there’s still room for improvement. In Guardians of the Dream, we’re keeping the system in place but will be making a suite of changes—many based-on player feedback—to make this system both more sustainable and more player friendly.

Increase the Length of the Hero and Myth Tracks

Fractures in Time retroactively added the Myth upgrade track to gear earned above the Hero track, allowing players to upgrade their gear from Myth 1 (item level 441) up to Myth 3 (item level 447). This did a lot of good things for high-end players, but we’re making a change to address a concern that many had regarding the disparity between the upgrade tracks.

Currently, the Hero track is five upgrade levels long. The Myth track is three upgrade levels long. We’re lengthening each of these tracks by one upgrade level. In Dragonflight Season 3, the Hero track will be six upgrade levels long, letting players upgrade their gear up to Hero 6/6. In Dragonflight Season 2 item level (ilvl) terms, this would be an increase to ilvl 444. The Myth track will now go to 4, which would be like letting people upgrade their Myth gear up to 450 in Season 2.

The reason for this change is to directly address a concern players have shared around the difference between rewards from each raid tier: that there’s no significant benefit to gear earned from Heroic raid difficulty  (and equivalent Mythic Keystone levels) over Normal raid difficulty (and equivalent Mythic Keystone levels). After all, when comparing a fully upgraded piece of Champion gear and a fully upgraded piece of Hero gear, the latter is only one upgrade level higher. However, comparing Hero track and Myth track gear in the same way, fully upgraded Myth gear is two upgrade levels higher.

We agree with this concern. Two upgrade levels is a more appropriate distinction between rewards from different difficulties of content, so you can look forward to a sixth upgrade level on the Hero track and a fourth on the Myth track.

Put PvP Gear Into the Upgrade System

For Season 2, the upgrade system was a bit of an experiment, and we didn’t want to make changes to PvP gearing that was generally working well. However, since results show this went well overall, we’re going to move PvP gear onto the same upgrade tracks as other gear in the game. This change will only affect the PvE item levels on these pieces of gear. The PvP item levels are not changing, nor is the acquisition method for any kind of PvP gear. This also means that players will no longer need Honor to upgrade their PvP gear.  We’ll have additional ways for players to spend their Honor in Season 3 instead.

As part of this change, PvP activity will now allow players to get Flightstones and Crests. Flightstones will come from all activities, and Crests will come from all rated activities with higher level Crests coming from rated play at higher rating levels.

The reason for this is twofold: one, to unify all gear into this single system that PvE players have already learned and keep it so that players only need to learn the one system. New players coming in won’t have to learn two different systems and earn two different kinds of currency to upgrade different sets of gear, as this will truly be a universal upgrade system. Two, it will give players who engage with both PvP and PvE regularly more freedom to choose how they want to use their upgrades, whether for PvP or for PvE gear. Currently those players pay an opportunity cost with their PvE gear advancement any time they play PvP instead of PvE, since those activities don’t give Flightstones or Crests. We want to remove the penalty for choosing to play one type of style over the other for these players.

No More Extra Inventory Space Used

In Season 2, players collected Crest Fragments, then used 15 of those fragments to combine into a single Crest item that was used by item upgrade vendors. Because there are four kinds of crests, this meant that as many as eight inventory slots were consumed by Crests and Fragments. This was mitigated somewhat by the fact that they could occupy space in the reagent bag, but it was still a nontrivial amount of inventory management. For Season 3 and beyond, players will instead collect Crests as a currency in their currency tab. Upgrades will require spending 15 Crests each. The acquisition methods are not changing, and the amount of play needed to earn each upgrade will be the same; essentially instead of getting Crest Fragments like you did in Embers of Neltharion you will get Crest currency in Guardians of the Dream and beyond. Players won’t need to deal with Crests taking up extra inventory in their bags anymore.

We want to put less inventory management stress on players where possible. There are always going to be patch-specific items, reagents, and quest items to find that will be stored in player inventories. Inventory management will always be a part of the game and we think that’s generally good, but it doesn’t have to be a part of the upgrade system.

Players will still be able to spend Crests to create optional reagents for crafting. However, since Crests will no longer be items in players’ bags, several new reagents called “Nascent Crests” will be available from Dragonflight enchanting trainers for purchase with Crests. Nascent Crests will be used in the crafting of Enchanted Crests.

Crest Cap Update

In Dragonflight Season 3, players will be able to earn 90 Crests per week of each type. This means that players will be able to purchase six upgrades per tier per week at most—down from ten in Dragonflight Season 2. This cap will still be progressive, meaning if you don’t earn enough to reach the cap, you won’t lose out on any ability to earn Crests in future weeks.

While it was possible for players to get all ten  upgrades very quickly, it also meant that to keep up, players needed to grind. By adjusting the maximum number of upgrades, it alleviates the pressure to not fall behind while still providing a fully progressive system. Another issue of note  is that players were also reaching their item level cap two or three weeks into the season and then having no item level rewards to look forward to. A common theme in player feedback was that this season ran out of rewards too fast for many of the most dedicated players, and we agree.

By lowering the weekly cap, we keep things the same for most players (who generally never reached any of the old caps anyway) while alleviating the pressure to max out quickly for the most engaged players so they can spend more than two or three weeks before reaching maximum item level.


One of the most common requests with this system is the ability to exchange low-level Crests for higher-level Crests. After receiving this request quite a few times, we agree that in a limited form, this would be both fun and healthy. So, in Season 3, players who have run out of upgrades to purchase with a given Crest will be able to exchange their Crests upwards. To use Dragonflight Season 2 numbers, players had no more use for Whelpling’s Shadowflame Crests after reaching ilvl 411 in every gear slot (using the same rules as the catch-up discount uses), Drake’s Shadowflame Crests at ilvl424, and Wyrm’s Shadowflame Crests at ilvl437. Trade-ups will become available at those thresholds.

Trade-ups will cost a 6-to-1 ratio; once a trade-up is available, players will be able to spend 90 Crests to get 15 crests of the higher level. This will count towards both the cap on the lower level Crest being spent (since you have to earn them) and the higher level Crest being purchased, so players have no incentive to do lower-level content for Crests, though if they’re not capped then they’ll still be able to get some benefit.

For example: Tamsin regularly runs Heroic and Mythic raids, while her sister Cariel mostly only logs in to play some medium-low Keys and do Normal raids with her friends. Tamsin has long since gone past the ability to benefit from Drake’s Crest upgrades, so she’s eligible to trade Drake’s Crests in for Wyrm’s Crests. As long as Tamsin isn’t already capped on Wyrm’s Crests, if she helps Cariel out with a Normal raid night and earns some Drake’s Crests in the process, she’ll be able to trade them in eventually for the Wyrm’s Crests she’s looking for.

The reason for this change is that we want to let players continue to progress their characters even if they can’t or aren’t interested in higher level content, though at a rate that doesn’t encourage that activity among players who are able and interested in doing the more challenging activities. Players who regularly get higher level Crests will not benefit from this exchange to get around the weekly cap, as purchasing the higher-level Crests will still count towards the cap. Additionally, players who help out their friends with lower-level content will now benefit more by making some small progress towards a reward meaningful to their progression level.

Crest Fallbacks

In Dragonflight Season 3, players who would earn Crests from an activity but cannot because of the cap will instead be awarded the next highest Crest they could earn (if any). For example, if a player is ten Crests away from their Wyrm’s Crest cap and completes a 12 Mythic Keystone dungeon within the timer, they’ll earn the ten Wyrm’s Crests to reach the cap, then get two Drake’s Crests instead of earning nothing as they would have gotten in Dragonflight Season 2. If they’re also capped on Drake’s Crests, they’ll earn Whelpling’s Crests.

Our thought for this change is simply that players who have earned Crests should get them. The caps are meant to pace progression, not make players feel like they come away from playing the game with nothing. While the player may not have use for those lower-level Crests immediately, in some scenarios they may be able to trade them in for more relevant-to-them Crests in a later week when they’re not capped anymore.

Thirty-Nine Item Levels

For Season 3, we're increasing item levels by 39 item levels over Season 2. Usually, the jump is 26 item levels, but with the new upgrade system in place, players have been using it to achieve more and higher item levels (relative to the maximum seasonal value) than in most previous seasons. This was intended,  but a secondary effect is that keeping to the same seasonal item level jump would prevent players from earning rewards from the Amirdrassil, the Dream’s Hope raid dungeon or other Season 3 sources that are upgrades of their Season 2 gear.

Generally speaking, when you get a piece of gear from the new raid, it should be a useful upgrade over the previous season's gear immediately. This change ensures that will happen.

There Is No Shadowflame, Only Dreaming

Dragonflight Season 2 Crests are called Shadowflame Crests while Dragonflight Season 3 Crests will be called Dreaming Crests. Here’s what those look like.

We look forward to seeing the updated system in action during Dragonflight Season 3 and hope that players will find it to be an improvement to the system.

We’ll see you in the Emerald Dream!

Oct 23 2023

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