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Buffed.de Interview with Game Director Ion Hazzikostas

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German site Buffed.de interviewed Ion Hazzikostas and discussed various topics including the Heart of Azeroth, Patch 8.2, WoW Classic, and lessons learned in Battle for Azeroth.

If you're fluent in German, we advise you to check out the full article here. If not, don't worry, we have translated the interview and you can find the most important points below.

Interview Highlights

  • WoW Classic is scheduled for a launch this Summer and the release date will be published in the near future. As you may have noticed, we started communicating on various Classic subjects with the community over the last few weeks. The Classic team is still hard at work to deliver technologies that replicate an authentic Classic experience and they can't wait to share more details soon.

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  • Not every BfA patch is going to add new Allied Races to the game, don't expect any new Allied Races in Rise of Azshara. They aren't against adding them when they make sense and fit the story. Brand new races such as Goblins, Worgen, and Draenei are more of a new expansion thing.
  • We'll have two new zones in Patch 8.2 - Nazjatar and Mechagon. What's sure is that players will be able to spend most of their time in both of these new zones.
    • Nazjatar is going to have a storyline that culminates in confronting Queen Azshara.
    • Mechagon, although smaller than Nazjatar, is going to have a lot of interesting player content. Mechagon will be larger than Timeless Isle introduced back in Mists of Pandaria.
  • Queen Azshara is going to play a big role in the Alliance vs. Horde conflict and we will see how her plans pan out in the new story quests of Patch 8.2. Ion also stressed out that there are going to be unexpected turns of events in the story

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  • The conflict between both factions is stronger than ever with Rastakhan dead, Jaina defeated and Mekkatorque in coma, there's no time for peace.
  • It's not surprising that most MDI team compositions use the same Classes during their runs to squeeze out a few extra seconds and they're completely fine with that. When you check live server data of Mythic +18/+19 runs, Class diversity is obviously better, so we thing everything is fine in terms of balance there. If we found a Class that wouldn't be able to finish a higher level Mythic+ run on live that would be a problem. What we'd like to see is more Class variety in higher Mythic+ runs, especially with various affixes.
  • New affixes are designed to make certain Classes and specializations stand out.
  • They're not sure about the target group of players for a game mode that would prefer the new bots with Advanced AI used in the Arathi PvP Brawl as opposed to real players.

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  • There are no new plans to add a fourth specialization, but it's not due to us developers, but because we have a total of 36 specs right now and it can be confusing for players to learn all the different abilities of all Classes in PvP. Let's take Death knights, Rogues, and Warlocks as an example. There are dozens of abilities and cooldown that you need to take into account as a new player. Designing 36 specializations to feel unique and have their ups/downs is really difficult for us to be frank.
  • In the future, we will focus on eliminating homogenization and work on Class and spec diversity. When we reach a point where all 36 specializations feel unique, then we can talk about the possibility of a fourth spec.
  • Ion can't think of another zones besides Azeroth for Warcraft 2.0. They have the ability to change zones (Sargeras' sword, Cataclysm expansion, zone reworks). Destroying Azeroth and beginning on a new planet is something unimaginable.
  • We've been closely listening to Battle for Azeroth feedback and learned a lot from it. We learned that in Legion and Warlords of Draenor, there was a major expansion feature that seamlessly linked to other game content. As a Paladin in Legion, you would experience your story in connection with your Order Hall and Artifact weapon. You'd work toward upgrading your weapon and the Order Hall itself. Battle for Azeroth's main features (Island Expeditions, the Heart of Azeroth & Warfronts) lack this integration.
    • TL;DR: BfA's main features were not interconnected, but developed individually.
    • Farming Azerite Power on Island Expeditions made no sense, according to community feedback, due to issues with the Heart of Azeroth itself.

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  • The Heart of Azeroth implementation is something that we truly regret and we're working hard to improve it. With the Heart of Azeroth, our main goal was to build upon and improve the Legion Artifact system. Artifacts were a huge success, because they offered a progression system, where players unlocked new traits. The system, however, grew less prominent with the introduction of Concordance of the Legionfall Concordance of the Legionfall, so with the legendary amulet in Battle for Azeroth, we tried to make a system that would be interesting and feel relevant for the whole expansion. With every new Azerite piece, players would have new choices and traits, but the initial implementation was bad, because it forced players to use old Azerite gear instead of new, because that didn't have traits unlocked and required a high Heart level.
  • We're bringing many changes to the system in Patch 8.2 and we're developing Heart of Azeroth to closely resemble the Legion Artifact system. We feel committed to deliver the best possible gameplay experience for the rest of the expansion.
    • Starting with Patch 8.2, all Azerite traits will be instantly unlocked and the Heart will have a new avenue of progression, similar to Legion Artifacts.
  • Players claim that we're out of touch with the community, but that's not true. We're spending hours daily, browsing reddit, Twitter, and other sources for feedback.
  • We're listening to feedback regarding solutions to Warforging/Titanforging, but the problem is it only affects a small number of players and we need to take a much larger target group into consideration.
  • They hesitate to implement systems with no character level like they have in Elder Scrolls or Guild Wars, because the feeling of progression is a huge part of MMORPGs.
  • A level squish would be interesting for new players, but they want levels to feel meaningful again. There were literally no new abilities in the 100-110 range and players even grew weaker with higher levels in Battle for Azeroth.
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I am interested on how 8.2 is going to play out with the HoA.  

But this worries me some for the future of some classes:

It's not surprising that most MDI team compositions use the same Classes during their runs to squeeze out a few extra seconds and they're completely fine with that. When you check live server data of Mythic +18/+19 runs, Class diversity is obviously better, so we thing everything is fine in terms of balance there. If we found a Class that wouldn't be able to finish a higher level Mythic+ run on live that would be a problem. What we'd like to see is more Class variety in higher Mythic+ runs, especially with various affixes

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54 minutes ago, Stan said:
  • New affixes are designed to make certain Classes and specializations stand out.

So you're going to be in demand one week and then ditched for the next 5 weeks depending on what class you play, then? Fantastic.

 

54 minutes ago, Stan said:

Brand new races such as Goblins, Worgen, and Draenei are more of a new expansion thing.

WoD, Legion, BfA didn't have any fitting that criteria he just mentioned. So I guess brand new races are more of a "maybe every 6-7 years" thing? Not that I care in the game-sense, it's not why I played or enjoyed the game. But from a credibility thing here it doesn't hold ground either.

 

54 minutes ago, Stan said:

Ion also stressed out that there are going to be unexpected turns of events in the story

Only a year worth of "This *filtered* doesn't make any sense" until things start making sense, great writing. Reminds me of Grommash wanting to ruin Azeroth in WoD and then suddenly being the nice guy. Or a Draenei lady suddenly taking the forefront out of nowhere while our own leaders were just dancing around in our own realm, I guess.

 

54 minutes ago, Stan said:

There are no new plans to add a fourth specialization, but it's not due to us developers

Oh, the players are too stupid again? Just shifting it back into "we devs know better what fun is than you do" mentality from a while ago? Or is that running joke still firmly cemented in their minds?

 

54 minutes ago, Stan said:

In the future, we will focus on eliminating homogenization and work on Class and spec diversity. When we reach a point where all 36 specializations feel unique, then we can talk about the possibility of a fourth spec.

So first you complain that adding in a 4th spec makes things too complicated for players, then you mention making existing specs more unique (thus work more complicated/stand out/different) and then add in the 4th spec to make things more complicated, completely contradicting the previous statement.

 

 

Haven't played since Uldir was relevant. And with these reasons. The devs seem very distant from the players. Just the fact some of these little quests since... MoP or so? they just got worse over time and now we're just bringing turtles to the water, through a maze, shellgames... They don't contribute anything to the core game, feel tacked on, removed in the next xpac to make place for different minigames... All for some currency on a necklace you don't feel any connection with (Unlike the artifact weapons that were actually very instrumental in the "reinforcing" of your class/specialization. Ashbringer?! Finally I feel worthy to carry this after our arduous journey!)

It's just become soulless, a story that makes no sense until a year later (if we're lucky, we don't know if we'll really feel like it'd make sense after this new patch...), specs/classes that feel useless in certain affixes, and with this new direction some will feel more useful than others, but only during certain affixes, so you feel useless after that week is over...

 

Well, what a rant. Rose tinted glasses or not, does anyone really still feel part of a world in this game? Do you feel involved, immersed? random children turning into dinosaurs around your city. DO YOU FEEL IT NOW MR KRABS?!

 

 

Edit: Really? Synonyms for excrement gets *filtered* nowadays on IV? Encourage kids to virtually kill in a game is okay, but their fragile souls can't handle words on the internet that children learn in school?

Edited by Yridaa
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1 hour ago, Ragingwolf said:

I am interested on how 8.2 is going to play out with the HoA.  

But this worries me some for the future of some classes:

It's not surprising that most MDI team compositions use the same Classes during their runs to squeeze out a few extra seconds and they're completely fine with that. When you check live server data of Mythic +18/+19 runs, Class diversity is obviously better, so we thing everything is fine in terms of balance there. If we found a Class that wouldn't be able to finish a higher level Mythic+ run on live that would be a problem. What we'd like to see is more Class variety in higher Mythic+ runs, especially with various affixes

The main problem with that is ppl doing extremely low keys think when watching mdi that those are the only classes that can complete a key... imo there is more problem with the community in that regard then the class balance itself.

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This interview was excellent and as a community its what we want. The team is admitting they made mistakes, they've been listening to our feedback, and implementing it where they can. 

 

24 minutes ago, Yridaa said:

So you're going to be in demand one week and then ditched for the next 5 weeks depending on what class you play, then? Fantastic.

 

 

Thats not what he is saying at all. They are working on class diversity so that classes stand out in different situations. For mythics, some classes will be better at different affixes but everyone would be able to complete the key.  Theres literally quote saying that. Also, today the affixes really play to one spec or another - which is why there is an MDI meta comp with the same handful of classes (prot warrior/resto druid/combat rogue x 2/ww) and its boring as hell. Class diversity at the affix level would add a different element to the keys, but would still be doable. Is that what you prefer?

 

32 minutes ago, Yridaa said:

 

WoD, Legion, BfA didn't have any fitting that criteria he just mentioned. So I guess brand new races are more of a "maybe every 6-7 years" thing? Not that I care in the game-sense, it's not why I played or enjoyed the game. But from a credibility thing here it doesn't hold ground either.

 

This is literally how it has been every expansion homie. 1 xpack will have a new race and the next will have a new class on a 4 year cycle. Allied races add a bit of flavor outside of major release. 

33 minutes ago, Yridaa said:

Only a year worth of "This *filtered* doesn't make any sense" until things start making sense, great writing. Reminds me of Grommash wanting to ruin Azeroth in WoD and then suddenly being the nice guy. Or a Draenei lady suddenly taking the forefront out of nowhere while our own leaders were just dancing around in our own realm, I guess.

 would you rather it be linear and simple? This plot is serving multiple purposes Unsure about you, but i much prefer this kind of story telling to the non existent plots they had in MoP and prior. 

 

44 minutes ago, Yridaa said:

So first you complain that adding in a 4th spec makes things too complicated for players, then you mention making existing specs more unique (thus work more complicated/stand out/different) and then add in the 4th spec to make things more complicated, completely contradicting the previous statement.

 

Adding a fourth spec and making the classes unique aren't related. Making rogues have one unique ability/playstyle and druids have a different unique ability/playstyle doesnt add complexity for playing/learning a class. Adding a fourth class at this stage would be ridiculous since there are a number of classes that a small percentage of players use (feral druids) 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, ThomasC said:

For mythics, some classes will be better at different affixes but everyone would be able to complete the key.

I am not convinced that anything will change. Some classes/specs have indeed been better at certain affixes and this will always be the case. And no, with an "unlimited" scaling difficulty, not every spec or class will be able to meet those tight time checks. This has been an issue in the past and I don't see a way this could be solved without homogenization (Something they're actively trying to stay away from). So, I'm not convinced.

 

1 hour ago, ThomasC said:

This is literally how it has been every expansion homie. 1 xpack will have a new race and the next will have a new class on a 4 year cycle.

This isn't true. There was no new class nor race in WoD. There was no new class nor race in BfA. There was no new race in Legion (but admittedly, a class.) Just to clarify, we are talking about non-"allied race" races right? Like Ion mentions? We haven't had a full new race since MoP.

 

1 hour ago, ThomasC said:

 would you rather it be linear and simple? This plot is serving multiple purposes Unsure about you, but i much prefer this kind of story telling to the non existent plots they had in MoP and prior. 

I would absolutely rather not have it be linear or simple. My arguments against having pretty much all major characters in WoD stand idly by doesn't substantiate or argue for having it be linear and/or simple. I love story telling, and Warcraft is full of it. What I don't like about it is that lately it is taking a year or more to get somewhere in the story. Or you're just fed breadcrumbs for a year and then the plot suddenly accelerates (dare I say; rushed).

We're being told a wealth of stories in BfA in terms of races, the struggles of the Kul'Tiran and Zandalari civilizations only to find out it isn't going to lead anywhere until a year later, and then it may still not make any sense either. You pay for an xpac and half a year of subscriptions and you still have no idea what you're actually up against yet. Yes, N'zoth, whom we've only seen glimpses of back in 8.0. Not even that, matter of fact-ly.

Meanwhile your main story characters are either getting lost (hey Thrall) behave erratically (Hey Sylvanas, Rexxar) and for now none of it has made pure sense. We're all assuming influence by old gods or other strings above the curtains, but for the time I played in BfA (Mythic Uldir, loved the raid by the way, always have loved Blizzard's quality for raid content in terms of mechanics) the story content is beyond disappointing after the first 3 weeks and then it just pauses for half a year?

1 hour ago, ThomasC said:

Adding a fourth class at this stage would be ridiculous since there are a number of classes that a small percentage of players use (feral druids) 

And before 8.1, prot warrior. And a couple of others. Before Blizzard finishes fine tuning to make classes or specs appealing to play, they're already on the boat for the next expansion and revamp of the classes/specs and we reach full circle as the same thing will happen again.

 

 

By the way, the lore in MoP and expansions before that were actually amazing. I loved how the Sha were manifestations of Y'Shaarj, the time traveling in Cataclysm (Especially the "doom" part should we fail to beat Deathwing, and the cult) and WotLK has been my favorite expansion ever because of the bittersweet lore from WC3 coming back to us.

 

What I didn't like, is how the Alliance hated the Forsaken because of the whole Undead thing, but then Anduin has absolutely no issue doing the exact same thing because the Naaru told him to do so. Not exactly BfA so much as it is a book (that's canon though), but this direction of "We did it because it's cool, even though it doesn't fit their character at all".

That's just a droplet in a bucket full of lore that has stopped making sense, like Grommash in WoD suddenly being redeemed for his atrocities etc. But no, I'm sure Ion's word for all these years will finally come to fruition. I'd like to see him put action to the word that people blindly believe and get fooled by year after year.

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This interview was surprisingly candid for master-word-manipulator-Ion, but at the same time a lot of the points are really disappointing.

Quote

It's not surprising that most MDI team compositions use the same Classes during their runs to squeeze out a few extra seconds and they're completely fine with that. When you check live server data of Mythic +18/+19 runs, Class diversity is obviously better, so we thing everything is fine in terms of balance there. If we found a Class that wouldn't be able to finish a higher level Mythic+ run on live that would be a problem. What we'd like to see is more Class variety in higher Mythic+ runs, especially with various affixes.

That's such a bad statement to make. A lot of people watch the MDI and get influenced by it. The situation was already bad - mostly for casters - before the MDI and now suddenly after this weekend everyone demands the meta comp even for low keys. As a 1.9k Mage, I get declines literally all the time; on Monday I got ~20 declines/delists in 20 mins. Also, they really need to nerf Outlul.

Quote

We're listening to feedback regarding solutions to Warforging/Titanforging, but the problem is it only affects a small number of players and we need to take a much larger target group into consideration.

Uhm lol? I understand what he means, but at the same time this is so no true. Just look at the series of posts on the forums and social media filled with complaints and pointers about warforging and titanforging. I am not entirely in favour of removing wf/tf completely, because the game has moved past just having bis lists. However, at the same time if they want to make their loot system Diablo-esque (which they already have tbh), they should add other features that Diablo has like Kanai's Cube and/or ways to reforge/reroll items or just faster sources of gear.

As far as admitting BfA content didn't feel connected and Heart of Azeroth implementation being meh, there's not much to say to be frank. Thanks for being honest but you should have done better instead of rushing a clearly unready expansion. I just hope the grind for neck Paragon points isn't as bad as the Legion one was initially.

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18 hours ago, Yridaa said:

This isn't true. There was no new class nor race in WoD. There was no new class nor race in BfA. There was no new race in Legion (but admittedly, a class.) Just to clarify, we are talking about non-"allied race" races right? Like Ion mentions? We haven't had a full new race since MoP.

AWFULLY dang pedantic, IMO.

His statement is still absolutely true.  New races dont come out in patches.  They come in expansions.  Youre literally mad at him for something he didnt even say.  

Its not EVERY EXPANSION, cuz thats not what he said, but only FOR expansions.  

 

 

18 hours ago, Yridaa said:

I would absolutely rather not have it be linear or simple. My arguments against having pretty much all major characters in WoD stand idly by doesn't substantiate or argue for having it be linear and/or simple.

They cant have 'literally every major character' involved in every step of every story in every expansion/patch/etc, it hasn't happened in the history of the game, ever.  

In Legion Velen was top dog for story stuff and hadn't really been seen much at all prior save his intro in BC.  Now he is kinda sitting it out.  Dont see him much.  

Mekkatorque in BFA has had more screentime and lore since the cata rework with retaking Gnomeregan,, and he's been around since Vanilla.    

Thrall hasnt been seen really since early Legion, but was literally the warchief for years.  

Do I agree with it all? No. But i mean come on...  

Your complaints about turtle saving ... are awfully soft also, IMO.

You cant spend all day killing Old Gods and Titans and raid bosses.  

There are other people around who need help, parts of the story arent the only thing, its literally an entire WORLD of NPCs and enemies and things to tie together and separate.  

I personally didnt like how they left the entire Order hall thing completely unresolved.  Where did they all go?  Why did they stop working for the order hall and go back to just alli/horde?  No closure.

But im not going to sit here and say the entire game story telling is trash and that be my reasoning.

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2 hours ago, PatrickHenry said:

I personally didnt like how they left the entire Order hall thing completely unresolved.  Where did they all go?  Why did they stop working for the order hall and go back to just alli/horde?  No closure.

You didn't even mention garrisons in terms of lore either. First, you're entrusted to create and lead an army in WoD, and now you're a lackey, another simple soldier in bfa. Tying things up isn't Blizzard's forte.

2 hours ago, PatrickHenry said:

They cant have 'literally every major character' involved in every step of every story in every expansion/patch/etc, it hasn't happened in the history of the game, ever.  

That's the other end of the spectrum. There's no middle ground here.

2 hours ago, PatrickHenry said:

Your complaints about turtle saving ... are awfully soft also, IMO.

 You cant spend all day killing Old Gods and Titans and raid bosses.  

I understand the whole thing with saving these "sub-races" like the Tortollan and those foxes, and the lore behind some of those "sub-races" in past expansions have also been fun even if they weren't always intertwined with the main story at that point. I'm talking about bringing turtles to the water when there's a war to fight.

You don't find it a bit immersion breaking? Sure, you can blame things like the UI or addons to be immersion breaking too. But you're required to do these happy-go-lucky-tacked-on-out-of-place quests for a chance at gear upgrades because otherwise you miss out on a chest. It may not matter anymore nowadays, I don't know, but they were pretty much mandatory when I played bfa.

2 hours ago, PatrickHenry said:

AWFULLY dang pedantic, IMO.

His statement is still absolutely true.  New races dont come out in patches.  They come in expansions.  Youre literally mad at him for something he didnt even say.  

ThomasC mentioned the 4 year cycle, which just isn't true. I'm also not mad, just straight up. You know I'm all for a direct approach over these years. Unless you meant Ion here, but that'd be weird because you're quoting a line here that was in reaction to ThomasC.

 

You don't need to have the entire warcraft cast to show up in every part of the story or an expansion, but showing a handful or maybe two is definitely the other end of the spectrum, some characters aren't part of the story for many years. You don't think that's too extreme?

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On 4/4/2019 at 2:15 PM, Yridaa said:

You didn't even mention garrisons in terms of lore either.

Nope.  Another issue I have with it.  But its STILL not what I'd call ruinous the game.  Is there stuff that doesnt mesh?  Eff ya!  

Some of it worse than others, some of it ridiculously worse.  ...but still.  Its a game, made by people.  Certain numbers of people.  With financial constraints and manpower limitations and technology limitations, probably more than I'd imagine in all those categories and more.
 

On 4/4/2019 at 2:15 PM, Yridaa said:

You don't find it a bit immersion breaking?

Not really.  But I acknowledge it for what it is, and in comparison to its overall exceptionalism as far as MMORPG's and gaming in general goes, I find them drawbacks well worth the price of admission, as it were.  Hence still sub'ing.  

 

On 4/4/2019 at 2:15 PM, Yridaa said:

You don't think that's too extreme?

I mean... I guess?  but all my prior points still stand.  I'd like to see more of the other 'main characters,' (but then who decides who is a main character? how do you really thoroughly invest time in NEW characters?  where is the line to when one gets too much and another not enough?) I'd like to see things done a little more my way.  But im not in charge... so I take my losses.

This has to be the longest running, and still popular anyway, single game in history.  If not its gotta be close.  And all my problems with it aside, there is a solid reasoning for it IMHO.  

ETA:  We get the luxury of 'armchair quarterbacking' as much as we like spitballing changes via typing on some page.

We dont have to hire, train and direct XXX people in the creation and success of a multimillion dollar platform and years upon years of lore and previous game history and tech work...  They do.  

And I think for what its worth, they do a fairly great job at it.  Relatively speaking.

Edited by PatrickHenry

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      When you’re dead, mounts are unintentionally highlighted on your action bars as if they can be used.
    • By Stan
      Season 3 starts on July 9th and Blizzard is increasing the item level of loot across the board. Check out our latest article to learn more about the loot found in Grand Challenger's Bounty, dungeons, and more.
      Benthic Gear
      Players can purchase new Benthic gear in Patch 8.2 and upgrade it all the way to item level 430 for a currency earned from participating in Nazjatar outdoor content.
      Base: Item Level 385 Upgrade #1: Item Level 400 Upgrade #2: Item Level 415 Dungeons
      Blizzard is buffing the item level of dungeon rewards by 30 item levels as well as their difficulty.
      Normal: Item Level 370 Heroic: Item Level 385 Mythic: Item Level 400 Mythic+
      Keystone Level End of Dungeon Loot Weekly Chest Loot Mythic 2 405 410 Mythic 3 405 415 Mythic 4 410 420 Mythic 5 415 420 Mythic 6 415 425 Mythic 7 420 430 Mythic 8 425 430 Mythic 9 425 435 Mythic 10 430 440 Timewalking
      Dungeon: Item Level 395 Raid: Item Level 415 Professions
      New BoP items can be crafted in Rise of Azshara.
      Item Level 415: Abyssal Synthetic Specs Item Level 430: A5C-3N-D3D Synthetic Specs Item Level 445: Charged A5C-3N-D3D Synthetic Specs Eternal Palace Raid
      Raid Finder: Item Level 400 Normal: Item Level 415 Heroic: Item Level 430 Mythic: Item Level 445 Azerite Armor (Titan Residuum Vendor)
      Azerite gear purchased from Thaumaturge Vashreen is going up as well.
      Item Level 415 Tokens Item Level 430 Tokens Item Level 445 Tokens
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