M+ ruins gear
Problem: Static loot table
The most obvious problem that everybody should be able to appreciate is that the huge, static loot table makes gearing really uninteresting over the entire expansion. Take Legion for example, where every tier melees would farm a new Memento of Angerboda because it was just a strong trinket. Playing with that same item every tier sucks. It’s especially noticeable with trinkets, but it’s also a problem in other slots, because due to the sheer size of the loot table, it means you can get items with your perfect stats in every gear every season.
This means either you use the same items all expansion, just having to re-farm a higher ilevel version each season, or it pushes raid items to be stronger in order to be worth using. The latter is what we’ve seen for the 2nd half of BfA and to some extent Legion on the trinket front.
Solution: Rotating loot table and the return of old dungeons
Luckily this is easily fixed by just rotating the loot table with each season. Say there’s 12 dungeons in an expansion, 9 on launch and 1 added with each new season. In season 1, you’d only have loot from 3 of the dungeons on the loot table, spread out across all the dungeons. Season 2 would have 3 different dungeons, season 3 another 3 and season 4 would have the last 3. This could be changed to have some overlap between seasons if the loot table ends up being too small.
An alternative, or addition, to having overlap would be to bring back 2 dungeons from previous expansions and mix their loot table in with the current expansion ones. This would both spice up the loot tables and add some old favorites back into the mix. You could easily go back to MoP, as the dungeons were set up for Challenge Modes and likely wouldn’t require a huge amount of work to turn into M+. Going further back might be cool, but I’d expect that to require a lot more work in terms of moving packs around and making sure packs aren’t massively overloaded with mechanics/abilities (looking at you, TBC) and quickly scaling one-shots. The dungeons could be picked for thematic reasons tied to the seasonal affix or current raid tier, or just by popularity in the past.
With one or both of these, the loot table goes from being static the entire expansion to actually changing. This gives both raids and M+ room to drop more interesting and powerful trinkets, as well as avoiding the issue of having perfect stats every season.
Ideally this seasonal rotation would also alter the dungeons themselves in some way each season, so it’s not the same dungeons for 2 years with the only difference being the seasonal affix. Having packs moved around a bit, or even replaced with different mobs based on the current events in the expansion’s story could be one example. Different paths open or blocked could be another. Imagine if Waycrest had a different path open every season instead of it being random, for example. That’d significantly change how you play the dungeon and remove the issue of keys randomly being much harder or easier depending on which door you happened to get.
Problem: Item level
The next issue is one that both M+ players and raiders complain about, but from different angles. M+ players want their high keys to be rewarded appropriately, and raiders don’t want to have to farm M+ for upgrades/BiS.
For most of Legion and early parts of BfA, doing M+ was the best way of getting gear (not counting periods where PvP was better than either, like Nighthold). This meant that raiders had to farm content they didn’t enjoy for hours on end in order to get that Memento of Angerboda, Eye of Command or relic. An infinitely farmable source of gear combined with titanforging caused this disaster.
Going into Shadowlands, it seems to be going the other way, with M+ end of dungeon loot being lower(by 1 ilevel) than heroic raid, and no more titanforging to RNG it higher. This makes sense, because M+ is still infinitely farmable, while raids (and high ilevel PvP gear) are restricted by weekly lockouts.
The weekly chest isn’t really worth talking about, as it’s a solid system that, especially in Shadowlands, doesn’t really cause problems for either side. The only weekly issue with M+ is related to bonus rolls, which for some reason give the same ilevel as the end of dungeon chest. The obvious change to this would be to make bonus rolls in M+ give loot equivalent to the ilevel you would get from a weekly chest for completing that level of dungeon.
Solution: Staggered reward levels
In order to address these problems, I think we should go back to something we’ve had in the past: staggered ilevels within the same tier and difficulty. Basically, as you go deeper into the raid, bosses would drop higher ilevel loot. This makes sense as a self contained system, as the later bosses are typically harder, and rewarding you with equally good loot for killing Champions of the Light and Jaina is a bit odd.
Now how does that tie into M+? Well, with the staggered ilevels, you now have a much more granular way of mapping M+ rewards to raid rewards. As an example, you could map the end of dungeon loot for a +10 at the same as the final boss on heroic, +15 to bosses 1–3, +20 to bosses 4–6, +25 to 7–9 and +30 to 9–12, assuming a 12 boss raid. Obviously those numbers would have to be well thought out rather than just a random example in order for it to work, but the important thing is the idea. The levels would also need to be retuned each season depending on power creep, as a +20 in season 1 obviously isn’t the same as a +20 in season 4. I would also require you to actually time the key to get this reward, with depleted keys dropping one bracket down in ilevel.
This would also include the weekly chest being similarly tied to these ilevel brackets, so it doesn’t stop growing at +10(or +15) while giving a mythic raid ilevel item already. The weekly chest should still give higher ilevel than the end of dungeon chest for each level.
An alternative to having every dungeon drop at the same high ilevel could be to make it work a bit like Horrific Visions. So for example you’d do your first +25 of the week and get a 485 item(N’zoth equivalent), the second would give a 480 item(or the first +23 or something) and so on. There would have to be a floor for this, which could just be the current end of dungeon ilevel of 465. This way high M+ players get one high ilevel item from their weekly chest, with some choice in what to pick via the up to 3 options, and another with some targeting via being able to choose the dungeon. This would allow the dungeon level required for the maximum ilevel to be lower than if it was infinitely farmable(+25 instead of +30 in my examples), as you would no longer get an infinite source of those high ilevel items, but instead a progressively lower and lower reward until you reach whatever the floor ends up being. This would be my preferred solution, as the first solution, while very limited in terms of who can make use of it, would still be infinitely farmable, which goes against how the highest ilevel gear should be acquired.