Preparing For Rated Battlegrounds

I confess, I was nervous when Rated Battlegrounds were announced as part of Cataclysm. The idea sounded all well and good, but the devil is in the details of implementation. How would ratings be assigned? How would losses be handled? What would this mean for the current setup? I had dozens of questions without any answers.

We have more answers now than we did then, and while there are still many, many unknowns, the shape of Rated Battlegrounds is starting to coalesce into something we can have a conversation about.

So what do we know so far?

RATED BATTLEGROUNDS ARE A RAID, NOT A RANDOM

The defining feature of rated battlegrounds is that they will require you to assemble a full team, like a raid. You don’t have to be in the same guild, but you will have to assemble your team before you head in. You can’t do this on your own.

In other words, rated BGs require a premade.

This shift mirrors the current PvE philosophy, where you can queue for dungeons and heroics solo, but raids require a group. The new reward system (which I’ll talk about later) reinforces this separation, giving the highest tier of points to raids, rated BGs, and arena, and a lower tier to heroics and regular BGs.

What does this mean for us?

  • Playing in rated BGs will require a network. We have to start expanding our friends list to include good PvPers who can fill out your team, much like finding good tanks and healers.
  • Don’t wait; start joining premades now. This is the best way to learn how to work together as a team, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and expand your network. Even partial premades will teach you a lot about working as a team.
  • Start making guild plans now. If there is interest, consider creating a guild BG Leader position to organize and lead PvP teams. Just like raid teams need a raid leader, rated BG teams will need organization and leadership.

BATTLEGROUND SIZE MATTERS

A corollary to treating rated BGs like raids is that the size of your team will dictate which battleground you fight in, not your preference or random chance. So if you have:

  • 10-man: Warsong Gulch, Twin Peaks
  • 15-man: Arathi Basin, Eye of the Storm, Strand of the Ancients
  • 25-man: Alterac Valley
  • 40-man (unrated): Isle of Conquest, Battle for Gilneas

Alterac Valley is currently a 40-man bg, but in Cataclysm it will become 25-man. I wondered about this when it was announced, but in the context of Rated BGs are Raids it makes sense. AV will become the 25-man raider’s battleground of choice. It’s a brilliant move by Blizzard – they needed a BG that 25 man teams could run, so why not take the most PvE-like one and make it available to them? This way both 10 and 25 man raiding teams can hit the bgs on off nights or after a raid. AV is going to remain a popular BG because of this change.

The biggest problem I see is that it appears not all rated battlegrounds are going to be available at all times.  I’ve seen conflicting posts about this.  Some say that they will have a featured battleground, much like the old Holiday Weekend BGs, that will offer extra points and help consolidate players into a single queue.  This would be ideal for constructing dedicated teams.  What would be less ideal is having only a single rated battleground queue available at one time and rotating between them, which would require some tough staffing decisions.

My hunch is that a core of 15 players is going to be the team size of choice for serious PvPers.  This gives you access to 5 of the 6 rated battlegrounds, with the flexibility of pugging for Alterac Valley.

Here’s what this means to us.

  • If you are a raider, get familiar with WSG and AV now, and TP when Cata hits. Your guild may want to run these three as a warmup to a night’s raid, as an alt run, or as a regular event. Rated Battlegrounds will be an easy way to pick up gear and gems, help with guild leveling, and with the new currency system can contribute to PvE gear too.
  • PvP teams should try to size themselves to run 15-mans consistently. That gives you 5 bgs to rotate through on a regular basis, and puts AV within reach with server pugs. When a few folks are out the 10 mans are still available, and if you have 20 you can split into two 10s.
  • If you are practicing or learning BGs, get the basic achievements now. If people start asking for credentials to get into pugs, which I don’t like but am sure it’ll happen, you should at least have a Victory under your belt.  Veteran (100 wins) of a battleground will have a lot of weight, and Mastery of that battleground will make you a hot commodity.

We’ll have to see how the queues are really implemented before we can plan our teams out.  Having a flexible roster, rotating people in and out through the night, splitting teams, and getting good puggers will all be important skills of your guild’s battleground leader.

NO RATING PENALTIES FOR LOSING

We don’t know much yet about how ratings will be calculated, but we do know that losses will not lower your rating. This is a very good thing.

If you join a team that is struggling, it doesn’t lower your rating. You can try out different combinations, experiment with different strategies, and be a social networker without it affecting your score.

I’m really encouraged by this. By removing the penalty of failure, Blizzard makes it easier to bring casual PvPers into the game and makes losses more like a raid wipe. Imagine the opposite scenario: what if raid wipes caused loss of your raiding ability or standing, say by destroying gear?  Other games have incurred that sort of penalty, but we’ve thankfully moved on in WoW.

Speaking of gear…

GETTING PVP GEAR

The PvP gear grind in Cataclysm continues the trend we’ve seen in Wrath of consolidating tiers in both PvP and PvE , with PvE moving towards a point-based system.

In short:

  • Hero (PvE) and Honor (PvP) points will be the low tier, easier to get rewards from normal battlegrounds and dungeons.  There will be a cap on how many you can own, but no cap on how fast you can earn them.
  • Valor (PvE) and Conquest (PvP) points will be the high tier, harder to get rewards from raids, rated battlegrounds, and Arena.  There will be both a cap on how many you can own and how many you can earn in a period of time.
  • You will not be able to stockpile Valor and Conquest points between seasons/raid releases.  When a new tier of gear comes out, your high tier points will convert to lower tier points.

So far, these changes unify the two systems and honestly don’t introduce a lot of changes in how you gear for PvP.  Regular BGs will give you honor points to get started, and Rated BGs/Arena will give you top end gear.  A nice benefit is that you won’t lose your Arena, er, Conquest points when a new season comes out, but that they’ll convert to Honor points instead.  So you can go buy gems or something.

About that top end gear:

  • Personal ratings will no longer be required for top-tier PvP Armor.  (And thank goodness, since this was a huge barrier to participating in Arenas.)
  • PvP weapons will be divided into two tiers, equivalent to those gained by raiding on normal or Heroic difficulties.
  • Normal PvP weapons can be purchased with Conquest points and no minimum personal rating.
  • Heroic PvP weapons can be purchased with Conquest points and require a minimum personal rating.

Removing the personal rating requirements for PvP armor is huge.  HUGE.  This levels the playing field between players for both Rated and Arena play.  The rating requirements on armor in the current system created a self-perpetuating gap between those with it and those without; this removes that dichotomy nicely.  Keeping the rating requirements on 3 slots (instead of 12) means that the rating will reflect more on your skill than on you outgearing your opponents.

The caps discussed above are welcome changes to PvE, and already familiar to PvPers. We’re used to having the Honor Cap (and hitting it all the time).  Having to spend those Triumph badges means I’ll have to finally buckle down and either get those last few heirloom shoulders, a bevy of heirloom trinkets, or … what, Crusader Orbs?  (I assume I can turn them into cash somehow.)

The other cap, a cap over time on the Valor and Conquest points, are in place to limit the amount of upper tier gear you can get in any given week.  Ghostcrawler described it as making the system “less grindy,” which I think it does.  Once you’ve hit your cap for the week, you’re done.

No word yet on if PvP gear will be available in Tol Barad, the new PvP questing zone, like there was in Wintergrasp. Crafted PvP gear, however, should be quite good at the start of Cataclysm.

STATISTICS CHANGES

The stat changes in Cataclysm are huge.  Dizzying.  Some stats are going away, others are going to be used differently… here’s where we still don’t know enough to make good plans.

One thing we do know, though, is that there will be more Stamina on armor.  A LOT more.  Health pools are going to increase in relation to damage output, which is great news for battlegrounds.  Burst damage in PvP has been a problem throughout Wrath, and a slower pace will be a welcome change.

Interestingly, the place where I’ve seen this slower pace the most has been in the level 19 twink bracket, where health pools are also huge in comparison to the damage done.  If you want to get a feel for how Cataclysm battlegrounds are going to play, visit that bracket.

CROSS-BATTLEGROUP BATTLEGROUNDS

Battlegrounds, rated and unrated, are going to pull players and teams not just from your Battlegroup, but from all servers in your region.  This should even out the queues and give you someone to play pretty much all the time.  It should also erase faction imbalances within a battlegroup, which is freaking awesome all around.

My only concern is with latency, as this potentially adds another leg between you and your opponent (between your server and theirs.)  There are a lot of technical ways around that, though (moving both clients to a neutral server, peer to peer, etc.) so it remains to be seen if this has any impact on actual play.

And for twinks?  This makes freezing your experience viable again.  No more destination battlegroups!  If you want to try experience-capped brackets, but don’t want to change servers, now’s a good time to start making a twink.

BATTLEGROUND SCRIMMAGES

Blizzard calls it “war games mode,” but that makes me think of a nice game of chess, so I’ll call it scrimmage mode.  Scrimmage mode lets you challenge other teams to a battleground fight.  Faction doesn’t matter.

The experience and feedback you can get from this is invaluable.  Set up two 10-mans and run Warsong Gulch or Twin Peaks — and then compare notes.  Who did what well?  Who did what poorly?

Scrimmage mode — fine, WAR GAMES mode — is going to really be a powerful tool.

Even if it makes me want to play chess.

GUILD LEVELING

Guilds will progress in Cataclysm, gaining perks and… other… stuff?  as their players do stuff with the guild.  The details are kinda fuzzy, but one thing is clear — PvP will contribute to guild leveling, hopefully on equal footing with PvE.

If there was a case to be made for harnessing your guild’s latent PvP tendencies under a guild Battleground Leader, this would be it.  Do PvP with your guild, help the guild level.

Seems like a good thing to me!

(Now if only we knew more about what those levels actually do…)

CASUAL BATTLEGROUNDS ARE STAYING

The most welcome news to me is that causal, non-rated battlegrounds aren’t going anywhere.

I like being able to log in after a hard day of work and relax in the battlegrounds.  I don’t want to stress out about it, I just want to PvP to unwind.

And I still can.  Thank goodness.

CATACLYSM IS COMING

Right now, each week seems to bring us news on Cataclysm: new changes to classes, professions, game mechanics. A lot of it seems to be a tease, something to keep players interested as Wrath winds down.

But enough information has come out now that you can start taking steps, even simple steps, to get ready for Cataclysm’s inevitable release.  You can start thinking of battlegrounds as a group activity instead of a solitary one.  You can start networking with other PvPers in your guild an on your server.  You can start putting together premades, or even found a PvP guild.

Rated Battlegrounds are coming.  In a few short months, they’ll be here.  When they were first announced, I was nervous.  Now?

I can’t wait.  Bring ‘em on.

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28 Comments

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28 responses to “Preparing For Rated Battlegrounds

  1. Wait… Am I… looking forward to this slightly?! Aaaaaaaaaaaaah

    • The great thing is BGs are such a short time commitment, too. You can do a quick one in the half hour before your raid starts if enough people are on.

      This looks like it’s going to be AWESOME.

  2. ziboo

    Interesting.

    Good write up on this.

    I’m still mixed, as I love PvP, and spend way to much time in BG’s now, but not sure how I’ll like the rating system until it’s in place.

  3. skinnemuva

    This leaves me a little disappointed. My problem is that I don’t play very often and I can’t. As it is now, there are two other people in the game that I run with at all. I recently leveled my old main from burning crusade up to 80 and i was really looking forward to rated battlegrounds, I just don’t think I am going to be able to find people to run with. My in game hours are just to on and off. Too be honest I was hoping to be able to pug it; PUGs can beat premades and I was looking forward to doing it!

    On the bright side though, I will be able to play with my 59 hunter twink again!

    • Obviously, a lot of this will depend upon your server, but I think there’s reason to hope for a good pugging experience with Rated BGs. Consistently fielding full teams is going to be tough.

      I may have to retwink a 59 DK, too!

  4. I’m pretty ignorant about the PVP changes and rated bgs for Cataclysm (although slightly hopeful – simply because I trust my guild mates and I don’t trust the strangers I meet up with in your average BG).

    “Start making guild plans now. If there is interest, consider creating a guild BG Leader position to organize and lead PvP teams”

    I thought this^^ was extremely well said. Many guilds, even if their sole aim currently is to raid well, have a high percentage of players who like to dabble in PVP too. Whether you can get a 25 man group out of a 25 man guild I’m not sure – I guess we’ll find out.

    This might seem totally noob, or perhaps I missed this in your article, but are the Rated/Premade BGs going to pitch the same faction against eachother as in Arenas? Or are they keeping the Horde vs Alliance thing?

    Going to be a little be stranger picking the enemy out of the pack if they look just like me!

    • Thanks!

      I don’t think it’s a noob question at all. AFAIK it will still be Horde vs. Alliance in the actual fights. I hadn’t expected you to be able to have same faction fights in Scrimmage Mode, though, so the possibility of same-faction rated fights is out there now. I’m honestly curious if they’d do it.

  5. 1) You hinted at but didn’t mention so I’m not sure if maybe you missed it, but they said somewhere that crafting patterns will be updated with each new season of arena…so you wouldn’t be stuck with the cata equivalent of the i187 crafted deathtrap-suit like new 80s are now.

    2) “Playing in rated BGs will require a network. We have to start expanding our friends list to include good PvPers who can fill out your team, much like finding good tanks and healers.”
    This. I’m IN a pvp guild (though it’s small and ineffective) and I still find that I get more response out of the networking I’ve been making a conscious effort to build. Every time I run a premade on my server I ask at the end if anyone would like to trade friends-requests so I can pick them up next time I run one. I think I’m going to be well-set for Cata, and anyone else who’s thinking ahead like you suggest likely will be too.

    • I had missed that bit about new patterns. That’s welcome news! I wonder if the crafted gear will be on par with the honor gear, or slightly inferior?

      • I can’t imagine it would be on par with…otherwise, why get any honor gear?

        There was no i187 honor gear, as I recall…it started with i200.

  6. Nochecazador

    Wow. Very nice write up. I gotta get my characters moved soon to enjoy this to some degree.

  7. I’m a little bummed out about this. I was looking forward to this, but my problem is the time of day that I play. I play between 5-7:30am. Most of my guild is gone, but I can usually get into a few BGs with that time. I just doubt many premades will be going on at that time of day.

  8. Dakotarick

    I am also a little disappointed because the opportunity for me to run rated battlegrounds will be somewhat limited. My guild doesn’t pvp much and I play at some off times with no consistency of when I will be on. I haven’t been raiding due to family/work/time issues so I have really been enjoying BG’s when I have the chance.

    I am a little concerned that there will be a flood of people in Conquest gear running the normal BG’s when their groups are not available. This would be frustrating for a lot of the lesser geared players. I also realize that gear isn’t everything but I need every bit of help I can get.

    Thanks for another great post.

    • That will happen anyway… people who play rated BGs aren’t going to ALWAYS play them. They will want a casual relaxing breaktime (no offense, picking on less-geared people) sometimes.

      • Every so often I see someone in Wrathful gear in the BGs now; I just make sure to pick on them with backup. Arena success doesn’t necessarily translate into BG success (though it can certainly help!).

        On all of these concerns, I think we’ll have to wait and see how it all turns out.

  9. You know we should totally hook up in Cataclysm in some capacity.

    For real though, this post made relaying information to the guys I roll with so easy…I just linked you right into the members section. Excellent post, very well written and very thorough.

    • Thanks! I figured it was worth pulling all the info together just to see the common threads – it’s startling how clear the design philosophy is when you put it all together.

      Maybe we should all roll twinks somewhere and own WSG together. :-)

  10. I am interested in druid healing some rated BGs. I actually spent a ton of time in Vanilla doing that (hence the knight title.) Wrenz is interested too, so, we’ll have to get started… :)

    • You’re on. As soon as I’m off tanking duty!

      In all seriousness, once I kill the LK I’m probably going back to dual PVP specs. I miss Destro.

  11. Linda Pelfrey

    I really hate the idea. When I want a huge hassle getting people to coordinate schedules or log on, drama, and politics, I have my raiding guild. BGs were something you could just do. I could do non-rated BGs knowing I am getting worse gear for not enduring the hassle.

    I think it is time to just forget about BGs.

    • I’m sorry you feel that way. Normal BGs aren’t going anywhere, and will remain something you can just do. For that I’m glad.

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  17. Ethan

    “NO RATING PENALTIES FOR LOSING”

    Where did that information come from, and when did it change?

    • It was most likely in one of the linked posts, on the old forums, so it’s now lost. :(

      Like some other things that were covered here, I don’t think that ever made it to the live system. I don’t even recall seeing anything about it in the Cata Beta, just that they used the same MMR system used by Arenas.