Dear people who run PUG raids – forget everything you have been told. Personal Loot is the only loot system you should accept when joining groups using the Group Finder tool and 100% of the raid is a PUG. The common lore that Master Looter will give you more stuff in our PUG raid is absolutely wrong. It both fails at basic math (because mathematically ML and personal loot give the exact same amount of loot), and it doesn’t take into account the amount of scams happening in raids every single day by random people making Group Finder raids for the sole purpose of scamming others (or who accidentally scam people because when it comes time to distribute loot, they have no reason to be honest). Instead, Master Looter is only of benefit if you are in an organized group (e.g., guild or other group of people who know and trust each other, or groups like Open Raid that can be organized and tracked so people can build reputations). The math actually shows that under cases of heavy loot competition (as would happen in PUG raids), you get more loot from Personal Loot than Master Looter.
The PUG problem:
The community in World of Warcraft has a huge loot problem. With the advent of Group Finder and tons of cross-realm raids, we have tons of people forming up raids to scam other players so they can keep the loot to themselves. While some honest people do form up raids and do master looter, someone joining a raid has no idea whether they are joining a scam raid or a real raid. In this loot culture, it feels as though there are people every single day flocking to the Customer Support problems where someone “stole” their loot. In these loot dispute cases, if Blizzard finds evidence of the master looter running a scam, Blizzard deletes the items from the community and doesn’t give them to anyone. That is, every day, it’s theoretically possible that dozens or hundreds of loot items under the master looter system from PUG raids from the group finder are being destroyed and no one has them. There are even people making instructional videos to teach other people how to scam others without Blizzard being able to punish them. When people calculate the value of master looter, however, they don’t count these items that are lost to the void due to scams. Instead, they calculate the value of master looter assuming you are a guild group that distributes loot fairly – which is inherently untrue in PUG situations.
The people calculating the value of master looter aren’t taking into account the amount of pain that master looter causes to people who have their items ‘stolen’ in PUG raids by dishonest master looters every day. So, the question needs to be: why should you trust your master looter? If you have a good reason other than “because they said so,” then master looter is probably fine. If someone doing the master looting has a social contract or reputation to maintain, then master looter is probably fine. If they are a random person you found in the group finder and you don’t have a reason to trust them, then why should you let them control whether or not you get loot? While there are plenty of honest people out there in the game, Personal Loot is just a dramatically better loot system when you are running with complete strangers and you have no way of knowing if the raid leader is honest or not. In things like Oqueue raids where you can get a sense of whether someone is honest or not, then Master Looter is a great system. In random PUGs, there is no social contract to handle loot disputes, so even honest raid leaders benefit from Personal Loot in fully random PUGs with complete strangers, because then you aren’t responsible for dealing with petty looting issues and you can focus on having fun.
That is – even if you are an honest PUG leader in the Group Finder, you are still doing it wrong if you don’t run with Personal Loot because you are perpetuating a myth that Master Looter is better than Personal Loot for PUGs when Master Looter is worse for PUGs than personal loot by far. You do players a disservice by running master Looter in true 100% PUG raids where no one knows each other because there is no way to tell the difference between honest runs and scam runs, and that sets people up to be victims of the scammers. Instead, personal loot gives everyone the same amount of loot in real runs, and gives people substantially more opportunities for loot by totally eliminating scammers. That is, when you join a PUG raid, unless someone posts explicit, detailed, and clear loot policies in raid chat where everyone can see – you have agreed to hand over all rights of the loot to the person with master looter privilages.
Guilds do Benefit From Master Looter
You want organized guild groups among friends to be running with Master Looter - because that gives you the ability to redistribute items among your organized guild team and fill in gear gaps of people who need things. In this way, organized guilds get more items spread across their raid in ways they think is best. That is, the closer you get to your raid being saturated with gear, the more you need to control who is getting the items (e.g., gearing up a new raid member, getting the bow to a hunter who has had a terrible time finding a weapon, etc.).
So, master looter is only better in situations where the loot competition is actually controlled by gear saturation across a raid tier. When there are 4 people competing for a drop in the guild, each time someone gets the item, the number of people competing for the drop goes down by 1. You want to take away the loot opportunity from the person in full BIS gear and give items to the people who are under-geared, and that’s basically the only reason why guilds prefer Master Looter to personal loot in raids. In organized groups, controlling gear distribution means that items go to people who need that item the most, and fewer items get lost to being vendor trash by people who can’t disenchant.
We sometimes bring PUGs into our organized guild raids, and because we are a highly organized structure, we can’t take advantage of those people because our reputation matters in terms of being able to stay a guild. Thus, master looter only works when the person doing the master looting is tied to a social contract and has a social reason for wanting to stay honest – AND when you are guaranteed to have gear saturation with most people running together each week to hit a saturation point where master looter actually starts paying out better than personal loot in the first place.
In PUGs, Personal Loot Gets You More of What You Want
In random PUGs, personal loot is better and personally gets you things you want more. That is, in PUG groups, there are likely to be more people for whom this is their very first time in and they also want that same item you want. That is, rather than one hunter with terrible loot luck you want to give the bow to, you now have 5 hunters who all want that one bow under a master looter situation. Every time someone gets what they want, they stop running in the PUGs and are replaced with a person who needs gear. Because the raid composition changes every single time, and you have no benefit of carry-over from the previous raid.
Master Looter is thus not superior to personal loot in PUG raids because you never benefit from gearing other people up – because you never see those raiders again (when they hit gear saturation, they stop running raids). If you assume that you always have to compete against 2 other people for loot, then personal loot always pays out better – and you may get up to twice as much gear from personal loot than master looter over the course of the expansion (e.g., your chance of getting loot drops from 79% over the course of a full Highmaul clear for personal loot to 33% across the course of a clear for Master looter – that is, master looter costs you tons of loot over time when you run in PUGs where lots of people need gear).
In the PUG, personal loot is better because it always gives you opportunities to get loot in PUG raids. Thus, personal loot actually gives you (an individual person in the raid) a higher chance of getting what you want in a PUG raid because you never compete for your loot rolls in the PUG situation with personal loot. Combined with the likelihood that a person running as master looter in a PUG raid will scam the other players in the raid, it’s not worth the risks to have a minuscule statistical chance of getting the item you want.
There are also risks to being someone who serves as the master looter in raids, because anyone unhappy about how loot was distributed will accuse you of scamming them and will report you. Thus, the risks of being a master looter in PUGs have a cost that people don’t talk about. The fact that actual scams happen every day with the master looter in random PUGs makes being a master looter in PUGs come with an unacceptable level of risk. Being in the raid with a master looter you don’t know also comes with an unacceptable level of risk. There is tons of risk, but no reward, to using master looter in random PUG groups with people you have no social connection to.
Why the myth of Master Looter is persists in PUGs
People are stuck on the conclusions that organized raid groups have come to and use the loot rules for PUGs that help high-end guilds be successful. People want easy answers, and so “master looter = the best looter” has become pervasive and consistent. Personal loot will give people in PUGs a higher chance of getting an item, whereas organized guilds benefit from being able to choose who gets the loot.
Letting someone choose who gets the loot in a PUG, however, pretty much guarantees you will not come out of the raid happy more often than not. If they make personal loot so much superior to master looter mathematically that even guilds would have to swap to personal loot, it would ultimately hurt the ability for organized groups to function. Our guild’s loot system is how we reward people for showing up, for communicating absences, and otherwise adhering to the social contract of our guild. That social contract also ensures that no one in our guild has to ever feel the risk of being scammed when it hits time for loot.
So, there has to be a different way to teach PUGs to use the loot system that benefits them the most. Getting scammed by dishonest PUG master looters, and reducing the risks involved in running PUGs is exactly WHY personal loot was invented, and everyone who lets themselves get burned just contribute to the problem. While some PUG master looters are honest, without a social contract with that person, you have no way to tell the scam artists from the honest, great raid leaders.
PUG raids need to demand personal loot for people to stop getting scammed.
There isn’t a good solution to the problem, other than for players to just refuse to go on scam Group Finder Tool raids. It seems like the more obvious solution would be for Blizzard to prevent group finder groups from using master looter, but that won’t work. Instead, by taking away choice, people would just simply stop running in the group finder and would go back to using addons and other systems to bypass restrictions. Blizzard can’t make decisions about whether or not you trust the person who is controlling your loot. Instead, the community has to put their foot down and demand that Group Finder raids run personal loot if they are true PUGs. In groups where there is no social contract to ensure that loot is distributed fairly, you should demand that personal loot be the only loot system of choice. The only way to fix this cultural problem is for people to decide that Master Looter risks in PUGs are unacceptable and force PUG raids to run with personal loot.
That has to come from us as a community to say – no more chances for scammers to steal our loot. If your raid leader doesn’t have crystal clear loot guidelines, doesn’t have a good Oqueue reputation, isn’t someone you know, and doesn’t have any reason to be fair – then in you just shouldn’t trust them. The Group Finder tool isn’t meant for you to run Master Looter Raids. The new Group Finder tool exists for strangers to run together, and in this case, you should be wary of Master Looting Group Finder runs where there isn’t a clear set of loot rules stated in writing (MS>OS isn’t a clear set of loot rules). By Blizzard’s standards, all loot belongs to the master looter unless there are clear loot rules that show the person scammed you, and you never get the loot after you are the victim of a scam. Personal Loot gives you just as much loot over time as Master Looter will, especially if you end up in scam runs periodically where you have no chance for loot (even if you have 10 good runs for every 1 scam run where someone takes your junk). While some PUG raid leaders are honest, even PUG raid leaders would benefit from using the Personal Loot to avoid having loot drama. Guilds have a social contract to handle loot drama. Random PUGs are either going to have Personal Loot or drama. I think people should be asking for Personal Loot to avoid drama.