The Dungeon Finder: Why Use iLvl to Benchmark?

Previously, we looked at some features the Dungeon Finder could benefit from. This time, we’ll muse about how players qualify for queueing for difficult dungeons.

For Cataclysm dungeons, the game calculates an “average item level” (also called iLvl) for your character, and you may not be able certain dungeons unless your gear is powerful enough. Additionally, players must discover the dungeons actual location in the world to be able to queue for them. If players form their own groups, they can enter at will, but they must satisfy these requirements to queue for the dungeons. In Burning Crusade (before the dungeon finder tool existed), players had to complete long quest lines that took them through difficult dungeons and raids in order to access harder ones. Additionally, in order to access the heroic modes of the dungeons, players had to buy “keys” for the dungeon that required high reputation with a linked faction that nigh guaranteed that they had run the dungeon many times on regular mode. Wrath of the Lich King introduced the minimum iLvl idea when the dungeon finder was introduced, making the hardest dungeons require a higher iLvl.

One of the main problems is how the iLvl value is calculated. The system looks at all of your characters equipped items and all of the gear your character is capable of wearing in your bags. From that, it takes the highest iLvl item for each slot and calculates the average. This is the iLvl associated with your character. This system has three major flaws:

  1. Players have an incentive to roll on items that aren’t actually better for them that increase their iLvl.
  2. Players can “cheat” the system by obtaining BoE items and not equipping them.
  3. iLvl is not an accurate representation of a player’s abilities.

The first item needs little explanation. Mages can use daggers, so why wouldn’t a mage roll on a powerful dagger that they won’t ever use, but that would increase their iLvl? Most players would consider it rude to take the dagger if there was a class that could actually benefit from the dagger in the group, but there is a clear benefit for the mage to take it if increases his average iLvl: he can queue for more dungeons. It can be tempting to be a “ninja”; you technically “need” the item in order to queue for better dungeons, right?

Using BoE items to raise your iLvl is another workaround to the system. I had to make quite a few expensive items to level my Tailoring, but why sell them now? If I have them in my inventory, they will raise my average iLvl, even if I don’t equip them. Using this idea, when I was unable to queue based on iLvl, I simply bought some BoEs from the auction house, and once I got better gear, sold it back for about the same amount. Clearly, the method they use to calculate iLvl is not an effective way to measure a player’s gear.

Finally, why is iLvl the universal measure for queueing for dungeons? I’m not “qqing about gearscore” here, but really, I have encountered a lot of really bad players using the dungeon finder, and my DPS is often higher than other player’s with better gear. Plus, most of the wipes I’ve had haven’t been a consequence of having bad gear – such as hitting an enrage, healer running out of mana, tank getting one-shot – rather, it’s pulling too many mobs or not properly dealing with boss mechanics. Cataclysm dungeons are indeed harder, but the answer isn’t requiring a high minimum quality of gear. That merely opens the door for exploits and doesn’t actually weed out subpar players. With the achievement system in the game, why not use achievements as requirements to queue for dungeons?

Here are some simple solutions: Require players to clear Throne of the Tides and Blackrock Caverns before attempting Vortex Pinnacle and Stonecore, all the way up through heroics. Add achievements with additional requirements – like clear a dungeon in a completely random group in a certain amount of time in order to queue for the next dungeon to help avoid gaming. 30 minutes is more than enough from the first to last boss – add achievements in that style to go from dungeon to dungeon and I’m sure you’ll cut back on the bad players. Have a phased gaunlet-style quest that requires you to achieve a minimum DPS by killing a set of enemies in a short amount of time by yourself in order to queue for dungeon sto set a DPS floor. Similar quests could be implemented to escort a regiment through a gauntlet alive for tanks and healers. It would be like a simple competency test/minigame tuned for different levels that gets more complicated as you level and want to get into harder content. I imagine it would be a lot of fun and great tool for benchmarking, as well as a great way to gate off players from queueing for instances for which they aren’t ready. They could even implement simple boss mechanics to practice solo, like the daily quest that let you use a drake similar to the one used in the Malygos encounter. If you are more skilled than average, you can starting queueing with worse gear, but if you aren’t as good at playing, you’ll need more gear to compensate.

All and all, you roll the dice every time you use the dungeon finder. There are ways Blizzard can really improve the system, and I hope they continue to push the envelope. The dungeon finder is way better than trying to PuG in trade chat, but it could go much farther.


  1. I’m not a huge fan of the DF. But I do think blizzard should have only set the ilvl calculator to only the items equipped to the character and maybe make it smarter to read stats.

    ie: Hunter only needs to have a mail piece and the stats be agility and stamina for primary stats. If the hunter has lets say a shaman item that is a higher ilvl and has intellect. When he goes to check if he can queue for a dungeon it will not let him because he has the wrong item equipped for his class.

    Another example would be to not let somebody queue with resilience. Yes the item is better and yeah it has the right stats for your class and spec. but your not helping anybody by gearing with resilience. Because every item in pvp gear usually has a huge ilvl attached to it.

    Id prefer a system that doesn’t let you abuse the ilvl by happening to have a few BoE’s in your bag to up your score. And to hopefully teach people to gear properly for their class and spec. If the person can at least gear themselves right, I wont mind as bad when I yell at them to get out of the fire. Because teaching fight mechanics is something i can handle.

    Teaching stupid I cannot.

  2. well said Dekarde. i couldnt have said it any better myself.

    @heartbourne. I love your idea of the benchmarking quests and such. those types of repeatable quests would be awsome for lets say, new tanks and healers. especially tanks and healers. plus they could teach boss mechanics, heroic/raid flows. proper pulling and threat building/reduction abilities. well they could actually teach you everything you need to know to get started. well thought out brother.

  3. The fact is while it’s difficult for them to read, you can’t just pool a person’s Experience in game from random event’s like PVP/Questing/Achievement’s and say there ready for heroics. People need GEAR for heroics as they are not Faceroll anymore, and there’s only so many accurate way’s to do that.

    Yes, Ilvl may be Exploitable, but there are so many way’s to exploit a system that gamers will dig and tug until they find it. Even if they fix that there’s no way to guarantee that it won’t have another exploit. (trust me, your fool proof ideas only seem as fool proof in theory)

    Ilvl is a fine system as it’s no different from gearscore in it’s retro spec, and until an official benchmark is met people will have to do something they forgot to do when wrath came out before heroics.


  4. Yes, the ilvl system can be exploited. However, in order to gain any benefit by exploiting it, you have to be pretty close to the tipping point.

    No one will be queuing in full ilvl264 gear with a bag full of crafted pvp gear; it’s just unreasonable to expect success by doing so. It’s more reasonable to expect to be kicked for pulling 5k dps or trying to tank with 80k health.

    I most commonly see ilvl ‘spoofing’ among players with an average ilvl in the 320-328 range. They use PVP gear or BOE equipment to boost their score a few points. This seems like a sound strategy and I don’t see anything wrong with it. A player smart enough to figure this out is probably a step up from the average dungeon finder dps, which I might expect to compensate somewhat for gear.

    The real problem these players are working to overcome is that normal dungeons drop ilvl 333 gear, while heroics require and average ilvl of 329. This means that a player attempting to queue for heroics needs to have almost 100% dungeon gear.

    For an example of where this is bad, consider a healer with Rainsong and Sea Star equipped to give them +500 spirit. I’d consider these trinkets best in slot for pre-heroic healing, but their ilvls are 316 and 308.

    Yes, it’s good to require an ilvl floor to keep grossly undergeared players out. However, you can’t test for player skill, and players gain their skills at heroic dungeons mainly by playing heroic dungeons. This is especailly true for BRC and TotT, since the enemies are so much lower level in normal mode.

  5. Note that 346 items are available at just Revered with groups, and that rep can be gotten by running the harder normal dungeons. 329 may seem high, but it wasn’t hard to get. Just that I couldn’t ding 85 and immediately q for heroics

    Then again, as a tank, I run every instance on normal to learn the mechanics and mobs before running it on Heroic. It seems reasonable to have dos and healers do the same. That could be another restriction. Maybe not when people are in T12, but you could have a super high
    Ilevel requirement if you haven’t done the normal mode.

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