When Blizzard introduced heirlooms into World of Warcraft, a largely ignored aspect of how enchants worked became much more relevant. All of the enchants that came into existence as part of “vanilla” Warcraft (that is to say all enchants that existed before the expansion The Burning Crusade was introduced), had no item level requirement. In other words, you could enchant level 1 items through level 88 items (the highest item level in vanilla Warcraft) without any trouble because the enchants did not specify an item level requirement. However, as expansions have been introduced, enchants have required a certain minimum item level as time goes on.
All of the enchants introduced in The Burning Crusade require a level 35 or higher item. The enchants from Wrath of the Lich King require a level 60 or higher item, and Cataclysm enchants require a level 300 or higher item. We should first ask why these restrictions exist, and I believe the answer is very simple: unrestricted enchants would cause havoc in player versus player gameplay. Imagine a level 19 rogue with the Landslide enchant on both weapons. Each time it procs, it will grant 1,000 attack power for a possible total of 2,000 attack power if both proc at the same time. That is an insane amount of attack power for a level 19 rogue. Now imagine a rogue with similar Cataclysm-level enchants on all gear slots in a battleground. It would be lots of fun for the rogue, but not so much fun for anyone else.
The necessity to regulate enchants is completely understandable. The implementation Blizzard has chosen, however, could easily be improved upon. All of the heirloom gear in Warcraft has an item level of 1. Even though the stats on the gear improve as the player levels, the item level does not increase. As a result, the only enchants which can be placed on heirloom gear are enchants that have no item level requirement. That might not seem like a big deal at first, but when a player is level 75 and cannot enchant his or her Bloodied Arcanite Reaper with anything better than 15 strength, it feels kind of lame from the player’s perspective.
Change is Needed
So what can be done to fix it? The answer seems obvious enough. Instead of restricting enchants on an item level basis, restrict enchants based on player level. That would allow someone to enchant level 1 heirloom items with anything they please, yet the effects of the enchant would not be active until the player reached a certain level. To those that feel Blizzard may not have the technology to implement a restriction like that in-game, take a look at the Zandalar Signet of Might and the Greater Inscription of the Gladiator. When originally implemented into the game, neither of those enchants had any restrictions on what level the player with the shoulder enchant had to be. When heirlooms were introduced however, Blizzard quickly added restrictions which applied to all shoulders with those enchants because players were enchanting heirlooms with them. The Zandalar Signet of Might becomes active at level 55 while The Greater Inscription of the Gladiator becomes active at level 70. Similar shoulder and helmet enchants have received the same treatment.
Allow me to also direct your attention to Enchant Weapon – Blood Draining and Enchant Weapon – Blade Ward. Both of them are only active when the player wielding a weapon enchanted with it is level 75 or higher. They are the only enchants applied by an enchanter (as opposed to the previous example which was applied with an item) that require the recipient to be a certain player level to become active. I can only assume Blizzard felt that the traditional item level restrictions would be insufficient for these two enchants, though I struggle to understand precisely why. If the technology exists, why has Blizzard held back from implementing it? I see no downside to player-level based enchant restrictions.
That being said, there is an alternative solution with another added benefit as well as an added downside: scale heirloom item level with character level. The added benefit that would come from this solution is better Looking for Dungeon functionality. Some instances require a minimum item level in order to queue for them through the Looking for Dungeon tool. Level 1 heirloom items severely decrease the player’s average item level. As a result, players are often unable to queue for dungeons using the Looking for Dungeon tool while equipping heirlooms. The workaround for this oversight on Blizzard’s part is to keep an item of the appropriate level in the player’s bank or inventory. Since the game takes the item level of the highest possible option, this will not lock players out entirely.
The downside is determining what happens when heirlooms are transferred to a lower level character. If the enchant was successfully applied because the item level scaled, should the enchant be removed completely when it is mailed? What if the recipient of the heirloom was a high enough level to use the enchant anyway? Would players have to re-enchant heirlooms every time they get mailed? It seems like a poor solution.
The best solution to heirloom-related problems would be to have heirlooms scale with player level for purposes of determining average item level and to remove item level restrictions on enchants. Since it is evident that the technology exists currently in-game to enforce player level restrictions on enchants, I see no reason why Blizzard has failed to implement the change across all enchants.