Monthly Archives: February 2010

The 3.3.3 Honor Economy

Well, this next patch is shaping up to be a doozy on the PTRs for battleground players.

The biggest news is the turn-in ratio of Battleground Marks of Honor: 2000 honor for 1 Mark. Yes, you read that right: 2k for 1 Mark. This is 9 times as effective as the current Wintergrasp honor system, and 8 times as effective as the Mark turn-in quests.

That’s right — all those Marks that are worth 248 potential honor on the live servers are a lot more valuable on the PTR. Stop turning them in now.

The only advantage to Wintergrasp Marks is that they are Bind to Account, allowing you to send them to your lower level alts. So you pay a premium for their transferabillty.

Holy moly. I’m practically speechless about how much potential honor this represents.

Actually, I’m not speechless. Six battlegrounds with a maximum of 100 Marks each with a value of 2000 honor equals 1.2 million honor points.

Say that again with me: 1.2 miiiiiillion honor points.

The best part? It doesn’t count against the honor cap.

Obviously, the situation on the PTR is evolving rapidly. Things are changing there almost every day. I have no way of knowing if this ratio will make it into the live servers.

But the fact that Blizzard was willing to even consider this means that there’s a chance it will happen.

If it does, be ready for it. Your gearing strategy should probably focus upon acquiring as many Marks of Honor as you can, as quickly as you can. Go for high-risk/high-reward strategies like the Blitz, 4 towers, 5 nodes. Do not be conservative – win and lose quickly and move on. This is counter to all previous wisdom, but let me repeat again:

You can have a bank of 1.2 million honor.

Not only will everyone have great PvP sets, but the epic gem market is about to crash.

This is going to be a hell of a weekend in the battlegrounds.

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Upcoming Battleground Changes in 3.3.3

So, yes, I’m still on vacation, but this is some pretty exciting stuff. Wowhead has an article on upcoming changes to the battleground system in an upcoming minor release, most likely 3.3.3. Go visit that link for the full blue post first, then back here for a few comments.

NO MORE MARKS OF HONOR

Everything I just wrote about Marks of Honor? Valid only through the rest of this minor patch. After that, all marks are going away and items that require them will be replaced with honor points.

I like this change. Marks are confusing and the conversion mechanism is clumsy. While I’d like to see how this is implemented (will you need certain reputation levels to buy WSG/AB/AV items? How will turnins for leftover marks be handled once they are no longer awarded – will you still have to match all six, or can they be turned in individually?) I agree with the developers that the Marks system has outlived its usefulness.

One big, glaring question: will Wintergrasp marks also go away?

RANDOM BATTLEGROUND FINDER

Oh my yes. I’ve written about this before, so I’ll just say: thank you, Blizzard. The DF has been a huge success. I hope the BGF will be too.

EQUALIZING REWARDS

There are several interesting changes in the notes about the rewards for Holiday Weekends and Random Battlegrounds. The rewards are equal, so that doing randoms offers no better or worse benefits than fighting the holiday weekend battleground, now confusingly called the Call To Arms battleground. (Confusing, because that’s the name of the daily BG quest).

On the one hand, this is good because it makes for a clear set of bonus rewards. Your choices are simpler when grinding honor: random or CtA.

On the other hand, this doesn’t change the inherent discrepancies between non-holiday/CtA/random battlegrounds. Not so much a new flaw, but WSG will still suck for grinding honor. It does add an interesting wrinkle, though: now you need to know when you should chain run randoms and when you should chain run CtAs.

(Hint: when WSG is the CtA battleground, run randoms. When AV is CtA, run AV.)

The biggest question I have here is about the daily Call To Arms quest that is in the game. I speculated that this would go away with a random BG finder, much like the daily heroic quest did. And having holiday weekends renamed to Call to Arms implies that it’s gone. But what about the Arena points we were getting from that quest? Are they going away too? If so, how will that effect gearing?

My suspicion is that they are, along with the quest, but I’m honestly just guessing at this point.

HKS NOT HONOR POINTS

Having recently dived into the bonus honor systems for Alterac Valley and Arathi Basin myself, the changes they’re making to the HK/Honor ratio and quest/bonus rewards don’t seem that scary. Quest rewards should remain net neutral, while overall honor gains from fighting will go up. There are interesing implications from this change, but nothing to panic over.

Currently, an honorable kill grants 20.9 honor points. The new system should double that to 41.8 points, which is nice. This raises the value of engaging the enemy in combat and has huge implications for many battlegrounds: the Alterac Blitz, midfield fighting in Warsong Gulch, even opening a debate about bringing down the towers in Wintergrasp. Sustained fighting might become more optimal than quick wins… but if everyone is getting 625 honor for a quick win from the CtA/RBGF bonuses, they may not care.

Another effect we’ll see is that the relative impact of completing the weekly quests in WG lessen, so that subsequent battles aren’t so… lackluster in their rewards. This should encourage players to keep up with WG after Tuesday/Wednesday.

MOTIVATING THE LOSERS

Losing the random/CtA battleground will award 5 kills, or 209 honor points.

Considering when you’re getting completely owned in a fight you might walk away with less than 50 honor, this isn’t bad. It’s a slight downgrade from the value of a Mark of Honor (248 honor), but the hassle is less, too.

The tradeoff is really in the immediate utility of honor points versus the delayed value of a Mark; you can keep going in a high-value battlegrounds without having to stop and switch to 5 other venues to get that honor.

TL;DR

Math. We’re going to need lots of math for this next patch.

Hooray!

ADDENDUM

Update 2/19: More news from the blues, this time about Wintergrasp.  These changes don’t appear to be anything radical, to be honest, just some tweaking of the existing internal balance we’d all suspected had been there all along.  It’s nice to have confirmation that the siege zergs are not an exploit, though.

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Gone Fishing

So, I’ll be out for the next week on vacation without access to WoW. Deliberately, even! Shocking, I know, but hopefully very good for me.

I will be working on some posts for when I return, but in the meanwhile, I leave you with the following short story about Cynwise’s own vacation. Enjoy!

DAY 1.

I was surprised by the beaches of Tanaris when I first arrived here, years ago. Has it really been that long? I spent about a week in the barren wastes around Gadgetzan before my business led me to Steamwheedle Port on the coast. Shaking the dust from my robes, I was unprepared for the tropical sights and smells of the South Sea breezes coming through a sleepy port town. But then again, I was much younger then, and unprepared for many things.

I picked up some work back then for the Cartel, security work, the kind I’m good at. Clean out those pirates over yonder, protect this caravan from bandits, that sort of thing. I did it, did some exploring down the coast, hunted for some buried treasure, and did a lot of fishing.

The fishing is what brings me back now, the fishing – and the warmth. Months and months in Northrend take their toll on you; the early darkness, the bitter cold, and the Scourge, the Scourge, everywhere.

This trip was not my idea, at first. But as the Argent Tournament drew to a close and the front moved south to Icecrown Citadel, I felt lost, adrift, and so very weary. The new Ashen Verdict was not like either of its two constituent factions; it was a holy army, an army of belief, of devotion to a cause…and very low pay. Some mercenaries didn’t care, drawn on by the promise of looting Arthas’ minions and treasure hoards. I care, though. I prefer my contracts a little tighter than that. I can work for loot on my own.

So here I am, on the dock of Steamwheedle Port, watching the slow combers come in off the South Seas.

I am here to fish, to see what the sea brings with the tides.

DAY 2.

I discovered that my squire Timothy didn’t know how to fish. I was dumbfounded. “How can you grow up in Westfall, with the largest coastline in the Kingdom of Stormwind, and not learn how to fish?”, I asked. “Fishin’ and farmin’ are two different things, m’lady,” he replied. “Not where I’m from,” I shot back, then proceeded to get him set up for some serious angling.

This is one of those things I don’t understand about the Crusade. They take these boys — some orphans, some poor, some neither — and apprentice them out to people who are, in most cases, totally unsuited for being an adolescent’s mentor. The Argent Crusade might consider me a big damn hero, but — as I pointed out when they first offered me a squire — I’m someone who raises demons to kill people for money. Am I really a role model for any sort of kid, no matter what their circumstances are now?

Then they got all preachy at me, saying how I was a better servant of the Light than I knew, et cetera. I admit I stopped listening, smiled, nodded, accepted Timothy as my squire, and collected my payment. Wouldn’t you? It’s not like you’re going to win an argument with those believers.

Timothy has mostly been in charge of my stables since he joined me, and I think the chance for him to play with talbuks has made it all worthwhile. He wants to be a paladin, obviously, so at least I don’t have to try to teach him how to summon demons. He finds my imp Chojub funny, but most of the others unnerve him. I keep my succubus Helola away from Timothy — he gets far too distracted when she is around. But he’s very good at keeping me presentable when not tempted, and once he’d seen my rather worn campaign mounts off to Eastvale for some R&R, I invited him to come along to Tanaris as well. I’m glad he accepted, and not just because he keeps me organized and put together. I have trouble enough sleeping at night after witnessing the horrors of Nothrend. I have no idea how I would handle it as a child. He deserves a break more than I do.

My efforts to teach Timothy how to fish were met with general approval by the dockworkers. From what I can gather, the next ship coming from Undermine is going to be a big one, but it’s running behind schedule, so there are a lot of bored laborers here. They’ll take any excuse to break out their fishing poles, and getting to teach a young boy the ropes is about as perfect an excuse as I could manufacture.

It’s good to see him having normal interactions with people. I worry about those Crusaders.

DAY 3.

Two orcs and a troll came riding up from Gadgetzan today. They headed straight to the Cartel’s security office. When they emerged a few minutes later, they mounted up and rode quickly down the southern beach.

Ah. Pirate bounty. Good times.

They came back a few hours later, bloodied and worse for the wear, but apparently in possession of whatever proof the security chief required for payment.

I wonder how much good that bounty really does. Wouldn’t it be better to pay someone to exterminate the lot of them, instead of piecemealing it out?

Nevermind. I’m not here to do business. I’m just here to fish.

DAY 4.

Still no ship from Undermine. Half the town seems to be out fishing now, waiting. I’ve gone a little further south along the beach, just to get away from the chatter. After his work is done, Timothy splits his time between the village and my cove. He’s found some friends his own age but doesn’t want to shirk his duties.

DAY 5.

Weather turned humid and hot today. New arrival in the village; a Tauren with a broken horn. He’s got Northrend armor with plenty of Horde insignias on it.

But he seems to be here to fish, too.

I tried to blend in as best I could, but the Kal’uak pole gave me away. He spent several long minutes looking at me, then chose a fishing spot on the north side of the docks. Prudent.

The galleon from Undermine arrived late this afternoon, bearing goods for Gadgetzan and beyond. Steamwheedle Port exploded into activity unloading the cargo and preparing it for transport. Timothy reports that the security office is looking for caravan guards, but the wages aren’t enough to make me stop my vacation.

I’m a little annoyed at the Tauren. Last night was the first night I didn’t dream about the Scourge in weeks, and now I’ve got a reminder of the war several hundred feet away.

DAY 6.

So it appears that not only is the Tauren from Northrend, he’s also been working for the Argent Crusade. Timothy has already made friends with the Tauren’s Argent Gruntling, an orc boy named Krakor. I noticed this morning that Timothy’s self-appointed chores were done a little bit faster than normal as he rushed out the door, leaving me with a packed lunch and no clue what had just happened. I still don’t know the Tauren’s name, but he’s back out there in the early morning hours, fishing without an apparent concern on his mind. I summoned Helola to serve as an invisible guard, but otherwise have tried to concentrate on my fishing.

It’s not working, considering I spend most of my time staring at the waves. But it’s an excuse for doing nothing.

They weren’t able to move the goods to Gadgetzan today due to a lack of guards. Timothy passed along the security officer’s offer, but it’s still not enough for me to pack up and trudge through the dusty interior.

DAY 7.

As expected, the pirates attacked today. They interrupted my vacation, and I am very, very angry at them.

I was fishing as the sun set when two ships came by sea, ships flying no colors. Next came the ringing of the alarm bells in Steamwheedle and cannon fire. I saw that the pirates were launching small craft as well as pulling up one of their ships to the main loading dock, next to the Kezan galleon. They were intent upon seizing both the ship and the offloaded cargo, and they were willing to storm the port’s defenses to get it.

Normally I wouldn’t get involved in what is a mercantile matter, but you know… Timothy was in town, and my gray horse, and a bunch of my crap that I didn’t want to lose, and any chance for a peaceful week here would be pretty much gone out the window if the pirate attack was successful.

Fine. I don’t like pirates, and I don’t like the slave trade. I didn’t want to see these people get captured and sold off on the South Seas markets. Happy?

As I was running towards the port, I saw the Tauren was dealing with a pack of pirates coming onto the beach from three small craft. I didn’t even think, I ducked under the dock and laid into the pirates with shadowfury and flame. Dathon nodded his thanks as we turned as one to get onto the pier and drive the main force of pirates back onto their ship.

That’s his name, the Tauren’s name. The Horde shaman who defended a goblin town with me. Dathon. I found it out, later.

We ran up the sandy slope onto the dock where the first pirates were already engaging the goblin guards. The guards were losing, badly. The galleon was already lost, but the town and caravan had not yet been taken. I took point, swinging my Kal’uak fishing pole like a cutlass, driving the first wave of pirates back and giving me room to work. Dathon threw down his totems and I felt their power wash over me. It tasted different than the Draenei spiritual energy that I was used to, if that makes any sense whatsoever, but the power was the same.

With a word, I dismissed Helola and summoned my Voidwalker, Thoglos, immediately commanding him to shield me as I charged into the mass of dirty, smelly men coming down the gangplank. Thog obeyed, rushing in front to protect me with his massive blue form while his black shield of force enveloped me.

With Dathon’s strong healing magic flowing through me, I did not hold back. Hellfire surged out from my body and blasted the pirates rushing across the deck of the goblin ship. Numerous small fires popped up, but I wasn’t concerned with property damage. Not one little bit. I wanted blood, and I wanted it NOW.

Just as the deck was cleared and my Hellfire subsided, a huge roar from behind me cut through the chaos. Dathon came charging onto the galleon, now with two huge maces in his hands. I spotted his squire on the dock below – he must have brought his master his weapons. I turned back and saw the Tauren charging onto the pirate ship lashed onto the galleon. I quickly cast shadowfury in front of him to give him time to get his footing, then followed behind to lend support.

To say the pirates were unprepared for two veterans of the Northrend war is an understatement. Clearing the two docked ships was a messy, cramped affair, but one that I’ve trained my own troops extensively for, and Dathon used his massive bulk to great advantage in the tight quarters. He and Thog would break down a reinforced door, I would stun or fear everyone in sight, and they would clean up. Our biggest problem was communications; I used the hand signals common to most mercenary bands, but they’re different enough from the Horde signals that Dathon would sometimes fall back when I asked him to hold position, or wait when I asked him to attack.

But we overcame those problems, and in short order both ships were secured, and we turned our attention to the second pirate ship now floating some distance from shore, exchanging periodic cannon fire with the shoreline emplacements.

Dathon made some strange gestures, something about getting out to the ship, but I just shook my head in disagreement and started casting. An infernal meteor shot out of the sky, missing the second ship and splashing into the water a short distance away.

Dathon turned to me, raised an eyebrow, then held up both hands some distance apart, then whistled. His mouth crooked into a slight smile.

“I didn’t miss,” I said, laughing. “Well, I did miss, but just wait a second.”

The Infernal came roaring out of the deep, his flaming rock body smashing a hole through the side of the ship at the waterline, setting planks on fire as he tore through the hold. Dathon nodded once, then bellowed to his gruntling before shimmering into a ghostly wolf form and leaping out to the beach to finish cleaning out the remaining pirates.

I turned my back and watched my Infernal tear that ship apart. I confess, I took a great deal of pleasure in the screams of the pirates as they met their ends.

The rest of the story is simple and bloody. While the port authorities rebuilt their defenses, Dathon, Krakor, Timothy and I mounted up and rode south to Lost Rigger’s Cove in the gathering darkness to burn their shipyards. The fight was short and brutal in the darkness, and soon the South Sea pirates had lost a few more ships… and shipbuilders.

We rode back to Steamwheedle in silence. I demanded a protection fee from the port authority — at my normal rates, plus a 20% emergency support fee — and then split the bounty with Dathon. He looked somewhat confused when I handed him a pouch of clinking gold coins, but accepted it nonetheless.

“Half the work, half the pay,” I said, looking up at him. The Horde insignia on his shoulder armor gleamed blood red in the candlelight. Suddenly, the distance between us was manifest. The shared glories of tonight, of finding a comrade-in-arms, couldn’t overcome that political gulf.

I turned and left. I didn’t know what else to say to someone who fights for a cause like that.

DAY 8.

Yesterday left me grumpy and confused. Whatever peace I’d built up here on this beach was gone.

Dathon was up early too, but this morning he allowed me to witness his morning ceremony, welcoming the spirits of the new day as the sun rose over the water. His calm demeanor irritated me even more as I set my lines and tried to clear my head.

I’d been in Northrend too long. Just because he was a proud member of the Horde doesn’t mean he personally is responsible for all the wartime atrocities of the Horde… but he’s part of a group who has allied themselves with murderous, twisted undead, with the orcs who are responsible for wiping out a majority of my race. I’m a mercenary, but I’m still human, too. I was there at the Wrathgate, and at the Battle of the Undercity. I saw what the Forsaken are doing. I cleaned up after the Broken Front. I even engaged the Horde under Saurfang from the deck of the Skybreaker, when we should have been fighting Arthas.

Yet there he was, a member of that selfsame Horde, welcoming the sun with a calm, beatific expression, here to escape the horrors of Northrend. And we worked well together. Frighteningly well.

Was he rock-solid faith in his path and course, where I felt no such certainty?

DAY 12.

It’s been several days since the pirate attack. The caravan is gone, taking its cargo to Gadgetzan and markets beyond. The weather is cool again, with the gentle breezes I remember from my first visit here.

Dathon and I have a truce, of sorts. Sometimes aided by Timothy or Krakor, we have had halting conversations when the fish weren’t biting. No longer separated on the shoreline by the dock, I cook our catches and we share meals together as the waves roll in and the fish bite, or not.

Tauren seem to prefer their fish delicately seasoned, and a little on the raw side. I don’t think I can comment on Orc tastes yet, since Krakor wanted to try all of Timothy’s favorite dishes, most of which involve some kind of Goretusk. So they both got spicy seafood gumbo instead.

Dathon has told me a little of his upbringing in Mulgore, and was pleasantly surprised that I’d been there. We both glossed over that I’d probably killed numerous guards on my way in to see it, but at least I could speak of the rolling plains with the experience of having been there. He talks of the spirits. I do not talk about demons in return, instead talking about the ebb and flow of markets and a mercenary’s life. Krakor, like Timothy, loves those stories best of all. (I take it that very few of Dathon’s stories start with “it all started when I was drunk in Booty Bay…” That kid needs adventure, and fast.)

I try not to think about the Horde, or the Alliance, or the war. We’re all just fishermen here. There is no world outside this one.

DAY 14.

The letter arrived today. The letter from the world outside that I’d been trying to ignore.

Ambassador Cynwise,

I hope this letter finds you in good health.

As the forces of the Ashen Verdict continue their relentless advance through the fortress of the Lich King, the leaders of the Alliance have agreed that we cannot be so focused upon this single adversary and must seize this opportunity to eliminate other enemies who continue to threaten our nations.

However, it would be imprudent for both tactical and political reasons for the Alliance to withdraw large numbers of troops from the war in Northrend at this time. I have been authorized by King Varian Wrynn to enlist the aid of mercenaries, such as yourself, to strike the initial blows in our upcoming offensive against our enemies.

As you know, our enemies are beset by internal strife. Combined with their own focus upon the Northrend campaigns, we believe that now is the time to strike.

Should you accept this offer, you will be compensated according to the rates set forth in your previous contract with the Stormwind military, and you will be authorized to act with your previous military rank, should you so choose. The King has spoken highly of your work for us in the past and has agreed to give you latitude in pursuit of these essential goals to the success of the Alliance.

The Ashen Verdict will ensure that their war against the Lich King is waged according to their own high standards. I hope you will help us in waging our own war in a similar fashion.

I await your response.

For the Alliance,
Major-General Athelraed

The Alliance is not going to wait for the fall of the Lich King to bring war to the Horde. Someone in the upper brass thinks victory is a foregone conclusion, and has managed to convince the King it’s time to start moving, to lay the groundwork for a massive push as soon as Arthas’s crown hits the icy floor.

Part of me approves of this. This aggressive planning can win battles and wars when executed properly.

The rest of me, though, desires peace, even for a short time. There has been enough bloodshed for my lifetime, for so many lifetimes.

I try to fish, but my heart isn’t in it. Dathon knows something is up, his tauren face showing genuine concern. I don’t know what to say.

He cooks us a traditional Tauren meal for dinner, and I nearly cry at the gesture. The mixture of greens, dried fruit, and fish is delicious. I ask him for the recipe.

It is a good ending to a bad day.

DAY 15.

In the dark of the night, listening to the endless surf, I make up my mind. I scribble out some written instructions for Timothy and wait for the dawn.

Dathon is there, greeting the rising sun, just as he has done every day for the past week. He finishes his ritual, and turns to face me. He takes in the sight of his fishing companion dressed in full battle gear, bright blue and gold Knight’s Colors gleaming in the newly-risen sun, and his face falls. It’s clear I wasn’t the only one trying to forget the insanity of the world beyond the seashore. He waits, calmly. I approach him slowly.

“Here,” I say, handing him my Kal’uak fishing pole. “You’ll need this if you want to catch anything bigger than those Mulgore trout you’re so fond of.”

Dathon makes no move to accept the offered gift. He just stares.

“Take it, you damn dirty cow,” I mutter under my breath. But he doesn’t budge. I’m standing next to him, suddenly uncomfortable about being so close to something so large, so potentially angry at me.

“Take it!” I yell up at him.

He blinks at me, once, twice, and then reaches out a massive hand.

“No,” he says, placing his hand on my shoulder. “We owe each other nothing. Go in peace, spirits guide your path.”

It’s the longest outburst in Common I’ve ever heard him utter. I have no response other than a weak smile.

So I take three steps back and snap to attention, giving him a salute worthy of the parade ground. Dathon continues to watch impassively as I mount my grey horse and ride back up the sandy bank to where Timothy and Krakor are waiting. Timothy, mounted on his pony, had packed in record time. I suspect Krakor helped.

I pause in front of the Orc boy and salute him as well. He returns it, his face grave and confused.

“Come on, Timothy,” I say. “We have a job ahead of us. Onwards to Theramore.” I start my horse on the road to Gadgetzan.

“Yes ma’am,” he says, falling in behind me.

Timothy waves once to his friend in the village below.

I, however, do not.

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On Marks of Honor

Marks of Honor are one of several types of PvP currency in the game. They are awarded from the various battlegrounds for participation: 3 for winning, 2 for a tie, and 1 for a loss. You can have up to 100 of each; check your currency tab to see them.

Wowhead has a great feature allowing you to view what a given object is currency for, so below are the types of Marks you can get and what you can buy with them.

Some of these rewards are quite good, depending on your level.

THE OLD WORLD BATTLEGROUNDS

The first three battlegrounds in Azeroth (Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and Alterac Valley) all have similar types of rewards that are available for a combination of honor and marks.. You can purchase specific types of gear from either vendors at the site of the battleground, or from your faction PvP quartermasters in Stormwind or Orgrimmar.

The Warsong Gulch rewards are actually quite good for their level, if you can get them early enough. Several WSG pieces (the necklaces, rings, cloaks and staffs) are best in slot or near-best in slot items for 19 twinks, which means they’re good for leveling, too. The Arathi Basin rewards are also outstanding, especially the boots. I’ve written about them before, but I love them primarily because you can have both a riding and walking speed enchant on them.

The gear you get from Alterac Valley marks used to be great, but since it’s available at level 55, Outland greens that outclass them in every way are right around the corner at 58. AV marks can get you a very sweet mount and cool Battle Standard, which is always nice.

Combinations of these marks can buy very nice rewards from the faction quartermasters. Of particular value to collectors are the PvP mounts (Alliance, Horde) that used to be a cheap way to get an epic mount when such things were expensive, and tabards, which can be gotten either through marks (WSG, AV) or reputation (AB). You can also get some great looking level 60 PvP sets for RP, though again — anything that’s level 60 from the Old World is outclassed by equivalent level items in Outland.

EXPANSION BATTLEGROUNDS

The battlegrounds from Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King are fundamentally different from the previous ones because they don’t have a physical location or gateway you can visit in the world. They might have a place in lore, but they don’t exist within the World of Warcraft. So there aren’t battleground-specific vendors, and with that lack comes a corresponding lack of cool gear and neat toys.

Eye of the Storm marks can at least give you access to some level 70 PvP gear, which can serve you well as you level through Northrend. Not that it’s great leveling gear per se, but it has good PvP itemization and is some of the first resilience pieces you can get, which does make a difference in a battleground.

Strand of the Ancients and Isle of Conquest marks can’t buy you anything. Perhaps in the next expansion you’ll be able to purchase the current PvP gear with them, but for now they are almost worthless. Keep in mind I said almost worthless. We’ll get to that in a bit.

WINTERGRASP

Wintergrasp marks are different than the other Northrend marks of honor, perhaps because Wintergrasp is itself different. It exists on the map. There are multiple vendors who sell great PvP gear for level 80 characters that can only be purchased with Wintergrasp Marks. This gear is valuable not only because it’s an alternate currency for getting endgame PvP gear, but because the gear is itemized differently than the standard Gladiator gear, allowing you to balance out Crit and Haste and not be overly gimped in one direction or another.

I’ve written a lot about the gear you can get in Wintergrasp, because it’s the one battleground for level 80 characters where the marks really get you gear you can and should use. But it’s not the only reason Wintergrasp Marks are valuable.

THE VALUE OF A MARK

This post was prompted by several terrible battles where people were yelling to either zerg Drek and ignore all the towers in Alterac Valley (“for quick marks! so we can get honor for gear!”), or forfeiting the fight in Arathi Basin to “collect their Mark and get out.”

Both of these actions confuse me a bit, because those marks are less valuable than the honor you get from fighting a good fight. They’re nice to have for later, but a good fight where you meet more of the objectives will yield more honor, and isn’t that why you’re in Alterac Valley at level 80?

Apparently not.

Determining the value of a battleground Mark of Honor lies entirely upon your character’s goals. While leveling, the marks have value for the gear and stuff they can get you. At level 29, the WSG and AB rewards are pretty darn good, and you need marks to buy them!

But marks lose this particular value as you level, because the gear they purchase loses value. My boots from Arathi Basin served me well, but they now collect dust in my bank. So while there’s real value associated with the gear you can get from marks, it decays over time and expansions.

(You can argue that some of this gear has great RP value, which is absolutely true. The level 60 PvP sets look fantastic. But fashion has a variable value because it is so highly subjective.)

The Old World marks definitely have value if you are a mount or tabard collector. The 6 epic mounts and 4 tabards you can buy with them go a long way towards some of those achievements and there are people (myself included) who have ground out battlegrounds solely for this reason. But, much like RP PvP gear sets, this value is subjective. Not everyone needs dozens of epic mounts. And with prices and level requirements slashed on epic mounts, the gold value we could have assigned to these Marks (90 total marks = 60 AV marks = 1 epic mount) has decreased considerably.

The New World marks have even less value than the Old World ones in terms of purchasing power. Eye of the Storm marks at least can help get you some PvP gear, but Strand and Isle marks buy you nothing. So as you level up, one set of marks is losing the value it once had, and the other set starts out with little value and doesn’t gain anything as you go.

So what’s left to do with these marks at level 80?

The good old standby, convert them to honor. Honor is a universal currency amongst PvP, and can be converted directly to gold. So honor it is.

Concerted Efforts / For Great Honor are repeatable quests that allow you to convert 1 mark from each battleground available to your level (except Wintergrasp) into honor. With each new battleground’s release, new marks have been added and the honor rewards increased. Currently, there are 6 marks required for 1489 honor, so any given mark is worth 248 honor. If you figure that each battleground takes an average of 20 minutes — you have to do Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, don’t forget — then we can start really assigning value not only to the marks themselves, but also to the methods used to getting them.

Six marks from six battlegrounds, each lasting 20 minutes each… that’s 1489 honor divided by 120 minutes, or 12.4 honor per minute. It’s really bonus honor per minute, because you’re already accumulating honor by being in a battleground, which can vary wildly from battleground to battleground. Let’s look at the two scenarios that drove me up a wall last night, running the AV Blitz and giving up in Arathi Basin.

SCENARIO 1: WINNING ALTERAC VALLEY

I’ve been in Alterac Valley battles that netted over 3000 honor for the game. Sure, they have been 45-minute long slugfests, with half of our towers down and honorable kills in the thousands, but Alterac Valley is like that sometimes!

Alterac Valley rewards bonus honor based upon objectives, which you can see on the official AV page:

  • 1*20.9 honor for every wing commander (3) that returns to base
  • 2*20.9 honor for every tower/bunker you still have
  • 2*20.9 honor for your Captain surviving
  • 3*20.9 honor for every tower/bunker you destroy
  • 3*20.9 honor for the captain you killed
  • 4*20.9 honor for winning

So, if all your towers and captain are up while all the enemy’s towers and captain is down when you win, you get (62.7+167.2+41.8+250.8+62.7+83.6) = 668.1 bonus honor for the match.

Now, compare this to the Alterac Blitz, where you take nothing, tank the adds, and kill the general in under 6 minutes. You get 83.6 bonus honor for each match because you win, a difference of 584.5 honor.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you’ve got optimal conditions in both cases and are pretty much facerolling the opposition. Waiting for all the towers to go down adds another 4-5 minutes or so to the standard Blitz, which itself takes about 5-6 minutes. So let’s call it 5 minutes for the Blitz and 10 minutes for the Stormpike/Frostwolf Perfection win to make it easy. We should also add 1 minute at the start of each game in the cave, and another minute for the queue. So 7 minutes per Blitz, and 12 minutes per Perfection.

  • The Blitz’s strength is in the number of marks it generates — twice as much as for the Perfection win if we look at the time fighting, and almost twice as much with the queue and start times.
  • Over the course of an hour, you could conceivably run 8.57 AV Blitzes, giving you 25.74 AV Marks for a conceptual value of 6337.14 honor (or 105.6 honor per minute).
  • During that same hour, you could run only 5 Perfection AVs, giving you 15 AV Marks for 3720 honor.
  • However, those 5 Perfection AVs grant 3340.5 honor from reaching all the conditions described above, for a total of 7060.5 honor , or 732.36 honor more than the Blitzes. That’s 117.67 honor per minute.

This also doesn’t take into account the increased number of HKs a Perfection AV generates over a Blitz, since people are actually defending nodes, capping graveyards, things like that. So that will need to be factored into the model somehow, but it just strengthens the point. Perfection gives you an edge in honor versus the Blitz — not a big one, but there

Now here’s the kicker — this direct comparison assumes that you are running not only AV, but all the other battlegrounds too to generate marks for turn-ins. So the more marks you generate, the more time you need to spend in other battlegrounds — battlegrounds that reward less honor per minute.

Consider it this way: for every AV marks you generate, you will have to win 5 other battlegrounds to realize the value of that honor. So the fewer marks you generate, the more honor you get overall. Using Ihra’s holiday HPM results:

  • AB: 79.19
  • WSG: 83.92
  • IOC: 86.44
  • EOTS: 88.56
  • SOTA: 97.59
  • AV: 146.42

… you will have to spend your time in battlegrounds that yield 56.6% – 66.6% less honor per minute than Alterac Valley. Now, some of the bonus honor from objectives is already baked into Ihra’s AV value, so we can’t distinguish between the Blitz and the Perfection values. But we don’t have to! Look at it this way: Perfection generates 15 marks per hour, while Blitz generates 25.74 marks per hour (1.716 times more).

So, assuming all other things in those other battlegrounds are equal, you will need to spend 1.716 more time in those battlegrounds to convert those marks to honor. If it takes you 10 hours to match all the marks you get from Perfection, it takes 17 hours to match the marks from the Blitz. That’s seven more hours at 2/3rds honor.

In that 7 hours, you could run Alterac Valley for 61496.4 honor, or those other 5 for 35700 honor, for a net gain of 25796 honor.

That’s half a piece of Wrathful gear.

To sum up: not only is blitzing AV for marks bad because you aren’t getting the bonus honor for reaching the objectives, it’s doubly bad because you end up spending less time in Alterac Valley.

And no matter how you value honor (gear or gold), that’s a bad thing.

SCENARIO 2: LOSING ARATHI BASIN

Having laid out why it’s bad to value marks over achieving all the victory conditions in a high HPM environment, what about deliberately losing Arathi Basin to get it over with, collect their marks, and move on.

The competitor in me hates these people. I’ll come right out and say it — I hate people who consider it okay to lose. But do they have a point? Is it logical to adopt this strategy?

The reason I was in Arathi Basin last night was because it was the daily BG quest for me. So to me, the marks had no importance — only victory. Victory meant 1489 honor and 25 Arena points, which for a 20 minute battle is +74.45 honor per minute. The marks — at best — were 248 honor apiece, but I was really there for the Arena points. So a win would get me +2233 honor over whatever I got out of the battleground, while a loss… well, a loss gets me +248 honor. Yikes.

I have to assume the people clamoring for us to lose quickly so they can claim their marks, though, were not there for the daily battleground quest. Why were they there? I’m not honestly sure. Perhaps they were grinding out a few marks for some old gear or some mounts, but I have a tough time thinking that’s the primary motivation behind their desire for a quick mark.

What I’m left with is that they are looking for marks for the turn-in quests, which means that perhaps a loss really is the best use of their time. Giving up certainly requires the least amount of effort! If you aren’t trying to reach any of the goals of the battleground, or even engage in combat to get honorable kills, then you’re basically discounting all the potential honor you could get from fighting.

In a high HPM battleground like Alterac Valley, that attitude is crazy. Even a loss gives you a chance to get good honor, which is one of the reasons why it’s such a good battleground to farm honor in. And fighting back to take objectives gives you honor no matter what. But Arathi Basin doesn’t give nearly as much total honor, and since the resource accumulation scales non-linearly, a side with 4 or 5 bases is going to win in a very, very short period of time. How short?

  • If you control 1 base, you gain 10 resources every 12 seconds. 32 minutes to get to 1600.
  • If you control 2 bases, you gain 10 resources every 9 seconds. 24 minutes to get to 1600.
  • If you control 3 bases, you gain 10 resources every 6 seconds. 16 minutes to get to 1600.
  • If you control 4 bases, you gain 10 resources every 3 seconds. 8 minutes to get to 1600.
  • If you control 5 bases, you gain 30 resources every 1 second. 53.3 seconds to get to 1600.

Resources control bonus honor — I think it’s 20.9 honor for every 260 resources gained, or 160 on a holiday weekend. (Some sources say it’s every 330, but more say 260.) The winning side will therefore get 128 honor from resources, and then another 20.9 on top of that for winning, for a total of 149 bonus honor. (Holiday increases that to 209 and 230, respectively).

Let’s put that into the perspective of Alterac Valley: if you do nothing other than kill the enemy captain and general, you get 146.3 honor, about the same as winning Arathi Basin. Every tower you take down is additional 62.7 honor, so the conservative strategy of taking out the captain, towers, and general will net you +250 honor more than winning Arathi Basin. All in about 8-12 minutes, a time which could only be met by controlling 4 bases. The only conditions when winning Arathi Basin is more profitable than Alterac Valley is when you can control all 5 bases, making it an extremely quick small burst of honor.

Compare that to the established value of a Mark of Honor: 248 honor. If you win, you get three, or 744 honor, on top of the 149 bonus honor from the objectives for a grand total of 893 honor when all is said and done. If you lose having gotten to, say, 800 resources, you’ll get one mark worth 248 and 64.3 bonus honor from objectives, but at the cost of prolonging the match at least 15 minutes for that additional 64 honor. (I am ignoring the honor you can get from HKs during that time.)

So staying and fighting for that additional 800 resources nets me +4.28 bonus honor per minute. Which is terrible. I mean, that’s an awful return on your time.

Assuming that it is not your daily battleground, and you’re there just for honor, giving up when you start getting behind starts looking like a valid strategy. Allowing the enemy to 5-cap ends the battle quickly without materially changing your outcome. You are still going to walk away with 250-500 honor, tops. Staying and fighting might give you some HKs and associated honor, but it’s going to be tough going. Whereas if it is your daily battleground, the stakes for winning are much higher, so gritting it out actually makes sense. If you’re getting an additional 2000 honor out of a win, spending 20 minutes getting it is still +100 honor per minute. You can afford to slug it out.

But if you’re just playing for marks to balance out all those sweet AV marks in your bank? Letting them 5-cap actually makes sense, because the single AB mark you get has more value than fighting back for a win. Surrender is a viable option.

Ugh. I feel dirty writing that.

KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM

The biggest problem with Marks of Honor in level 80 battlegrounds is that they have no intrinsic value outside of the honor they confer. And while I’m generally a fan of having a few, universal currencies, in this case the mechanism of the turn-in quest means that a mark from a high HPM battleground is equivalent to the mark from a low HPM battleground in terms of opportunity cost. To realize the value of an AV mark means you have to spend the time in WSG and AB getting their counterparts; but spending time in WSG and AB means you are getting less honor for your time spent playing than simply going back and playing more AV. Which is madness!

This is one of the flaws of the current PvP reward system. While it’s great to have a unified set of currencies, and the three-tiered model works well in PvE and PvP, the incentives for winning need to be better for the worse-off battlegrounds. It’s like if when running heroics through the Dungeon Finder you had heroics with wildly different numbers of bosses and times to complete, and worse, the ones with the fewest bosses (and therefore the fewest Emblems) took the longest to do, while the ones with more bosses were faster and dropped better loot. No matter how enticing you made the daily quest reward in this instance, players would still look at those hard ones and either take the debuff and bail, figuring they could do something better with their time and try a different one later, or grit your teeth and smash through it as quickly as possible to get it over with.

Replace Emblems with honor and you have the state of battlegrounds and the daily bg quests today. Even having a Battleground Finder to randomize the quest location wouldn’t overcome the discrepancy between battlegrounds in the amount of common currency they reward.

Arathi Basin is one of my favorite battlegrounds. It’s one that uses the most small unit tactics, requires great communication and teamwork, has interesting, challenging terrain, and allows for many, many ways to win. It is wrong on so many levels to have to look at the incentives for playing it and conclude that if you’re not in it for achievements or reputation, you’re sometimes better off forfeiting, losing quickly, and taking your mark than sticking it out.

WHY WE FIGHT

When you zone into Alterac Valley, you’re surrounded by people with a lot of different reasons for being there. There’s a lot of incentive for people to fight well, and while the strategy for optimal gains can be debated, all the incentive is to fight the whole way through. Even a turtle in AV can be profitable (and a hell of a lot of fun.)

When you zone into Warsong Gulch or Arathi Basin, though, you have to wonder: why are these people here? This isn’t the best place for me to grind honor for good gear (or money), so why are people there? Are they trying to realize the honor they have stored up in other marks? Are they grinding reputation, or achievements? Are they completely lost?

Or, are they there to have fun, and maybe, just maybe, win?

The key difference between PvP and PvE is that the opponents have to be motivated in PvP. Winning in a raid means downing the bosses and collecting the loot; your incentives are clear. But you never have to consider the incentives of the trash mobs or bosses; they’ll be there, giving their all, no matter what. In PvP, you have to give players on both sides a reason to show up, a reason to compete, and a reason to win.

More than anything else, this is the problem facing endgame battlegrounds today. How do you motivate the losing side? These battlegrounds are still exhilarating places to spend an evening; simple to learn the basics, but hard to master. Competing in them is fun, and can be rewarding in and of itself.

But when the tangible rewards for doing other, somewhat similar activities are far superior, you have a conflict between doing what is right — fighting hard until the end — and doing what is best for you.

Surrender should never be a viable strategy for victory.

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Battleground Exploits

I remember riding back to the Stables at Arathi Basin and finding an Undead Mage on top of the roof, running around and slaughtering the Alliance troops underneath him. It was a mad run to try to DoT him up before he could kill me with massive amounts of fire or dive to the other side of the roof to heal. The stalemate was only broken when a Night Elf Death Knight also climbed up on the roof and killed the Mage.

It took me a while, but eventually I learned how to get up on that roof myself.  I’ve seen dozens of people do it, but it always seemed a tough climb for me, much like getting to the top of the Blacksmith in Goldshire.  I could never do it reliably, but if I’ve got nothing else to do while guarding the Stables I would give it a try.  When I could do it, defending became much easier.

Blizzard considers climbing onto the Stables roof to be an exploit. It doesn’t matter if you climb up via the outhouse, jump the side building, or float down via parachute cloak from the Lumber Mill — if you engage in combat from that roof, they consider it an exploit.

Yet… it’s something that is possible within the confines of rules of the game.  There’s no software being hacked, no mods being used to change any code — just some creative jumping and use of terrain to let you target opponents without them easily able to engage you in return.  Not that it’s impossible — just difficult.

I play a battleground to win.  I might play it for other reasons, but almost always, my goal is to win.  It is my duty to use every bit of my grey matter to outplan, outthink, and outfight my opponents to reach that goal.  I use potions and flasks to expand my abilities.  I use Frostweave Nets like nobody’s business.  And you better believe I will climb up on that roof to defend the Stables if need be.  Every advantage will be pursued.

Does this attitude surprise you?  It shouldn’t, and I suspect you share it.

Within the confines of Warcraft there are strict, specific limits on the things I can do and cannot do.  I cannot blow up the tunnel in WSG, even though I have charges that can blow apart a wall in the Strand of the Ancients.  I cannot use grappling hooks or ziplines to get from the Lumber Mill to Blacksmith to Mine quickly.  I am completely limited to those things that the developers allow my character to do.

How is jumping on to the Stables roof — something any character can do, though perhaps not easily — an exploit, if I’m able to do it in the game?  If hundreds of players can do it?  Through jumping?

Let’s take another battleground example: getting on top of a wall or pillar in Wintergrasp Keep by flying into position before the game starts.  Trivially easy to do, and you can take out defensive cannons and defenders with ease up there while exposing yourself to minimal risk. Smart use of the roofline and LoS, just like on the Arathi Basin Stables roof, allows you to be effectively unreachable by other players on the ground.

Is that an exploit?

The blue post says,

Players accessing any area of Arathi Basin in order to engage other players from a safe vantage point but avoid combat themselves is considered a reportable exploit.

If we use that definition, this is the very essence of an exploit.  But yet — it’s allowed to happen.  You don’t get kicked off the top of a wall when you land there, you get to stand and kill cannons with impunity.  Interestingly, if you’re on a tower you do get kicked to the ground — but only when the battle first begins.

So what gives?  Is this an exploit, or not?  I’m not trying to deliberately break the rules here, but if I can do it in the game… why shouldn’t I?  Why shouldn’t you?  How are you, someone whom I assume is not a Blizzard developer, to know if this is right or not?

I find myself in complete agreement with Cassandri when she says there’s no such thing as an exploit, at least not in the context of in-game mechanics.  There might be bugs, but bugs are not the fault of the user.  We cannot be expected to know the intent of the developers.  Quoting from that excellent article:

…(B)ecause they exist unchanged in the game, that implicitly confirms that they must be working as intended – otherwise they would be changed. We accept them and the best of us turn them to our advantage.

You don’t question whether it’s intentional or not. It’s not your place to question what is and isn’t a mistake in the game. You are a gamer. It’s your job to win.

Cass is writing about PvE in general, and the banning of Ensidia for the use of Saronite Bombs in the 25-man Lich King world first kill.  I’m staying away from discussing that specific topic because it is a charged, emotional debate about ego and bragging rights.  There  is the additional component of whether Ensidia, or Exodus, or any of the other guilds who have been taken to task for exploits in PvE, “should have known” that the encounter was not working as designed.  That’s the whole crux of the debate, actually, which is why it’s so complicated.

PvP is simpler.  If you don’t pursue every advantage — be it in gear, skill, level, consumables, positioning, macros, addons, communications, whatever — someone else will.  If you don’t send people on the walls and towers of Wintergrasp, the other side will.

And if they have an advantage that you choose not to take, you will probably lose.

I don’t want to get banned by Blizzard.  I enjoy playing their game and try to follow all the rules they set forth in their ToS.  I’m not trying to cause problems with their code or servers, or gain an unfair advantage in their economy.  I don’t want god mode cheats.  I don’t want world first titles.  I just want to play their game and enjoy it.

But when I play, I also want to win.

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Destro Warlock AoE Grinding

I still remember the first time I saw a Frost Mage AoE grind. It was in northern Dragonblight, up at the Scarlet Crusade base. This little gnome would round up the Crusaders into a tight herd on his mechanostrider, slow them, freeze them, blink to a safe distance, and then annihilate them with a Blizzard. This crazy little man would pull entire camps, kill them all, and ride away without a scratch.

I was stunned by not just the carnage, but the sytle and élan by which it was achieved. I admit: I was really quite jealous of Mages in that moment.

What I didn’t know at the time is that Warlocks are equally capable at AoE grinding, but with a fundamentally different style. The Warlock Way isn’t to avoid the enemy, it’s to frustrate their attempts to stop us, to turn their own life force against them, and when all else fails — to nuke them down while we laugh at their feeble attempts to stop us.

There are at least four styles that I know the different specs can use to kill many mobs in a single blow.

  1. Destro Locks are uniquely suited to AoE grinding because of both the buffs we have on Rain of Fire and Shadowfury.
  2. Affliction Locks excel at a completely different style of taking out lots of mobs, a style I’ve dubbed the Kali style, which involves casting instant DoTs on the run and then spamming Seeds of Corruption and Drain Life. This style leaves a trail of dead as Affliction locks NEVER need to stop.
  3. Demo Locks can use their Felguard, Metamorphosis’s Immolation Aura, and Hellfire to gather mobs and turn the mob’s aggro against them.
  4. And all warlocks can send a pet to gather up mobs and return them to the master, killing them however the warlock chooses.

Today I’m just going to talk about Destro’s AoE grinding. The core idea is to gather up the mobs with you (and your pet), hit them with Shadowfury, Shadowflame (especially Glyphed Shadowflame), and Rain of Fire, all while absorbing damage with your Voidwalker’s Sacrifice, Soul Link, and your own high Stamina. The more defensive talents you have, the better you will fare.

The process is relatively straightforward:

  1. Round up the mobs while mounted into a tight area.  If you get knocked off, don’t panic, just move on to step 2.  Try to get just to one side of the pack.
  2. Shadowfury the mobs to stun them in place.  You’ll dismount at this point and your Voidwalker will spawn.
  3. Turn and face the mobs and hit them with Shadowflame.  This will put a DoT on them and do great damage for little mana; however, you have to practice to make sure you can aim your cone well.
  4. Trigger your Voidwalker’s Sacrifice spell as you get a little distance on the pack of mobs.  If you’re facing Shadow spells, you can also toss Shadow Ward on for good measure.
  5. Rain of Fire the pack until they die.  This usually takes 1-2 RoFs for most PvE mobs.

Sometimes it helps to actually see a technique in action.  So, I made a little video to show how this works in practice.  (Go easy on me, this is my first video post.)

So there you have it.  Obviously Warlock AoE grinding takes some practice and a good health pool.  Soul Link will really help you out here, but it’s by no means essential.  What is essential is keeping a good tab on your cooldowns, health, and mana, and the willingness to adapt when things go wrong.

Happy grinding!

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Offset PvP Pieces in 3.2.2

I made a rather important mistake in my last post on Battleground Gear for 3.3.2 regarding offset pieces (cloaks, bracers, necklaces, etc.). See, in previous patches and seasons the offset pieces were a currency type easier to get, so last Season Furious set pieces cost honor and Arena points, while offset Furious just cost honor.

Another way of looking at it is that for the same type of currency, you could buy one level better of offset pieces than set pieces. So honor could equip you with Deadly set pieces and Furious offset, using last season as an example.

That changed in the last patch, and for the better, I think. Instead of getting Relentless offsets for honor and Wrathful for honor and Arena points, Relentless and Wrathful offsets are both available for honor – but Relentless is cheap, and Wrathful is expensive.

I rather like thus change. It increases the value of honor but doesn’t trivialize the gear. If you are gearing up a new 80, the Relentless pieces allow you to get up to speed quickly. If you’re upgrading existing gear, saving up for Wrathful is a better plan, because it’s that much better of an upgrade.

One side effect of this might be an increased amount of Arena players in battlegrounds, but I don’t think that it’s going to be that noticable. Arena players, good and bad, have slogged out Battlegrounds in the past for gear. This isn’t really any different.

This is a good change, and one I hope we’ll see it again in future seasons. Making Battleground honor worth something more than gold is a step in the right direction.

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Battleground Gear in 3.3.2

So Arena Season 8 is here at last, which means new fashions have pushed last season’s dowdy looks to the closeout racks. It also means that the purchasing imbalance between PvE emblems and PvP currency that existed at the beginning of 3.3 has been resolved, and it’s now safe to PvP for your gear again.

Patch 3.3.2 has introduced two new sets of gear: Wrathful Gladiator gear for Arena and new Titan-Forged offset pieces at Wintergrasp. Just like earlier seasons, the new rated Arena gear means that older seasons are now available for cheaper currencies. Since Arena points are available from the Daily Battleground quest, battleground enthusiasts can get very good gear without stepping foot in an Arena. It will just take a long while.

Here’s the breakdown of what you can buy with each currency.

  • Wrathful Gladiator (ilvl 270): Arena Points + Arena Ranking
  • Relentless Gladiator (ilvl 251): Arena Points + Honor Points
  • Furious Gladiator (ilvl 232): Honor Points
  • Titan-Forged (ilvl 245): Wintergrasp Marks
  • PvP Enchants: Stone Keeper’s Shards or Honor Points

This model is consistent with the PvE vendor gear model, with three tiers of gear rewards and offset pieces available through reputation. And while we can argue about the relative difficulty of Battlegrounds vs. Arenas, it is in many ways the same argument as the difficulty between Heroics, 10-man and 25-man raids, and ultimately futile. No matter how much you like Battlegrounds, if you want the top gear you play Arena.

Let’s talk about that top gear for a minute. The Wrathful sets are the design culmination of several seasons of gear, each one building upon the elements of the one before. Looking them over, I like them a lot.  I like the design idea that these are the product of our faction’s craftsmen and not looted sets from various Northrend dungeons; there’s a sense of consistency and evolution absent from the PvE Tier gear.  Plus, the different seasons tend to match, unlike Tier gear.

The downside is that there isn’t that much variety between sets, unlike PvE. So if you’ve got a great look going (like Warlocks do) the look of Wrathful gear may be enough to pull you into Arenas. But if you don’t (sorry, Paladins), you’re stuck with the look you’ve got. It can be a problem.

Setting aside the look of each set, the Wrathful gear is a no-brainer upgrade from Relentless. Itemization remains the same between pieces, there’s just more of it.

The new ilevel 245 Titan-Forged gear is a welcome addition and is a good way to get high-quality gear without burning your other currencies. There are essentially three new pieces for any given spec:

These new pieces are not sold by the mammoth vendor, but instead by Champion Ros’slai or Marshal Magruder, who are so new they’re not even on Wowhead yet.  They’re right next to the mammoth vendor, like so:

So Wintergrasp returns as the best place to spend your time while grinding for gear. Do all the weekly quests for honor and shards, and win Wintergrasp for the Marks and access to VoA.

The progression of battleground gear then returns to the same form it was during 3.2, namely:

  • Levels 10-59: Old-world (Marks of Honor) PvP rewards
  • Levels 60-78: Level 60 and 70 (Marks of Honor) PvP sets
  • Levels 70-78: Guardian (Marks of Honor) PvP sets
  • Level 78: Blue (Crafted) PvP sets
  • Level 80: Furious (Honor) PvP sets and offsets
  • Level 80: Titan-Forged (Wintergrasp) PvP offsets
  • Level 80: Relentless (Honor + Arena) PvP sets
  • Level 80: Wrathful (Arena) PvP set

Keep in mind you can’t walk into the Arena in ilvl 187 crafted blue gear and expect to be competitive right away.  You will need to work your way through an honor grind to get yourself into Furious/Titan-Forged gear first.  The best way to do this is:

  1. Wintergrasp whenever possible.
  2. Do the Daily Battleground quest until you win.
  3. Alterac Valley, Strand of the Ancients, and Eye of the Storm for Honor Points.
  4. Round robin of the remaining battlegrounds for marks to convert into honor.

If a particular BG is having a Holiday weekend, give it a go.  The important part is to win quickly, as that keeps your Honor Per Minute very high.  (If you haven’t looked at Ihra’s number crunching on the HPM for holiday battlegrounds, you owe it to yourself to take a look.)

Once you have yourself into a good set of Furious/Titan-Forged gear, you’ve gone about as far as you can go in the Battlegrounds.  (Update: you can still get Relentless/Wrathful offset pieces, and should. Thanks for the tip, Devv!)  You may be able to afford a piece or two of Relentless with the Arena Points you’ve acquired from the daily quests, but you’re going to need an Arena rating to get the top-end gear.

Making the transition from Battlegrounds to Arena, however, is an entirely different post.

Happy shopping!

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Wednesday Reading

Here are just a few of the articles I’ve enjoyed over the past week:

  • Gnomeaggedon rightly points out that It’s All About The Towers in Wintergrasp.  As the Alliance on Durotan shifts almost entirely to defense, I have found that the real fighting is down south, where numbers are evenly matched (but Tenacity is in effect) and the battle is either won or lost by 1) Alliance success in taking down the towers or 2) the Horde overcommitting forces down south and not punching through the gate.  I don’t envy the Horde position on Durotan right now.
  • There Is No Try at Righteous Orbs talks about putting forth your best effort versus half-assing things.  And endgame druids who heal in caster form.
  • Cassandri at Hots & Dots Revisits Uldaman and likes what she finds there.  I really like this series — the maps are well done, the commentary is spot on, and it’s a joy to go through dungeons with Lath and Cass.
  • I struggle with Too Many Choices, too, and sometimes yearn for a time when I had fewer alts competing for attention.  I really want to focus my attention on making someone as good as they can be (hence my rolling, uh, 5 level 19 twinks) and the alt/main dichotomy sometimes weighs heavily on me when I’m logging in.
  • I remember learning about The Dunning-Kruger Effect in my introductory psychology course… and then in introductory management… and pretty much it’s totally, totally evident every time you log into the game and deal with other people.  Critical QQ has an excellent post on it in Warcraft, which you should go read now.

Enjoy!

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