Patch 5.4 is finally here, bringing with it old-school rep grinds, sparkling treasure chests and Huolon dead on the ground because you zoned in seconds too late and that’s happened four times okay four times goddamnit Blizzard, uh, I mean new tier gear.
Blizzard has been hit-or-miss with its tier sets this expansion, but 5.4 is a step beyond. Compared to the season’s solid, surprisingly thematically consistent PVP gear, Tier 16 feels like the results of a Project Runway episode. There are a handful of dazzling successes, considerably more best described as “mediocre but inoffensive,” and then there are the bad ones.
And believe me when I tell you that the bad ones this tier are bad.
So which classes lucked out and which classes are getting a verbal smack to the head from Nina Garcia? Let’s find out.
3. Mages: Chronomancer regalia
This one’s probably contentious, but I’m sticking to my guns.
See, my problem with the Chronomancer set isn’t just about its looks (though, frankly, I think the silver and blue version looks like a pair of hooded pyjamas). It’s symptomatic of a larger problem.
Blizzard, learn to edit. Please.
We’ve all seen the improvement in the quality of WoW’s artwork in recent years, but I’ve long felt that Blizzard’s gear conflates “more intricate” with “better” to its detriment. I mean, look at this:
There’s so much going on here.
Cut away the steampunk goggles-and-hood (in theory, a fine idea — in practice, eh) and those pointlessly spiky shoulders and you’re left with the robe. And the robe is bananas.
The robe is chains and spikes and little turquoise blue lights and swirls and bands and armored panels and browns and golds and whites and reds and it just doesn’t work. I appreciate the craftsmanship, but there’s hardly an inch of fabric that doesn’t have an ornate gold swirl embroidered on it and it’s making my eyes hurt.
Don’t get me wrong, the colours are beautiful — the golds and the reds and those perfect turquoise blues are gorgeous and delicate and could have been used to create something stunning. But there needs to be less going on. Otherwise, all your beautiful detail work will be lost in the noise.
(Oh, and, uh, can I just say that the “boob shelf” you’ve managed to create with the high neckline on female toons could use work too.)
2. Hunters: Battlegear of the Unblinking Vigil
This is what happens when you don’t have Tim Gunn on standby to pull you back from the brink.
Honestly, I’m not sure where this design came from. The Warlock set was obviously a nod to the mogu (more on that later, believe me), but this… I can’t see the relevance. Not to hunters or hunting or even current lore.
But, frankly, even if there is a reason, there isn’t an excuse. The helm is a steampunk take on a personality core from Portal 2 and there’s a dirty brown sheet tucked into what looks like underwear (that, of course, is being worn atop a pair of dark scale leggings — as one does).
The belt is, like every belt this expansion, needlessly huge. I mean, the buckle is almost as large as her head.
It’s a hot mess, but what frustrates me more than anything is that there are hints, here and there, that it could have been great. I love the copper, brown and light blue-green patina together. They’re gorgeous, they’re different, and they give the helm and armour an almost crafted feeling — like jewellery, made with care.
And then Blizzard throws in the green and the red and, buddy, it’s September. I’m not ready for Christmas.
I will say the shoulders are okay. The asymmetry’s interesting and the bauble on the left is a nice touch.
But, overall, I’m not impressed. It’d be the worst of the bunch, if it wasn’t for one thing…
1. Warlocks: Horned Nightmare Regalia
This set makes me so mad, you guys.
It’s hideous. In fact, it’s so hideous its almost unredeemable. I mean, I know I’ve taken issue with the usual warlock aesthetic in the past, but what is this and more importantly how did it make it into the game.
Unlike the Hunter set I talked about earlier, the Horned Nightmare Regalia at least finds its roots in Mists of Pandaria. The robe is reminiscent of existing in-game gear (at first, I thought it was a recolour) and the helm is an obvious nod to the mogu. So, the helm’s ugly, but at least it’s ugly for a reason.
Problem is, its particular brand of ugly doesn’t work with the rest of the set.
If you want grotesque for the sake of grotesque, you can’t compromise. You can’t throw a helm like that on a strapless mustard-and-purple dress with a mess of orange scales down the front and expect to strike fear into the hearts of your enemies. The alternative — a more elegant form of terror, where a dress like that (just not that one, as it’s awful) is appropriate — means scrapping the helm altogether.
If I was somehow granted an almost Godlike control over Blizzard’s art department, I’d lose the helm in favour of a mess of twisted horns growing out of the warlock’s scalp. For the shoulders, I kind of like the effect of horns bolted in place by silver, but the existing shoulder model has to go.
This is why.
And then I’d completely rework the colour scheme and remove the LED lights that have been forcibly installed everywhere because Blizzard does that now.
And then I’d hurl that belt into the sea.
Rogues. At last, the steampunk Hannibal Lector facemask I’ve always wanted.
Next up: Less ranting, more praise. The best of Tier 16 is still to come.