Tag Archives: Gear

ilvl 365 Vicious Gear and the Phantom Tier

I’m sorry; I’ve not been able to let go of the changes to how PvP gear is handled between seasons I talked about in my last post. I think that the issue around compensating players for the miscommunication between seasons threatens to obscure a more pernicious problem – the way in which gear changes between Seasons – which will have effects well beyond the mistakes that were made between Seasons 9 and 10.

Surely, there must be a reason for all this.

THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER

Let’s address the compensation package Blizzard has put together for players affected by their screwups first. Blizzard is going to offer 4k Honor Points to players who acquired gear during the interseason week as an apology for wasting their time; had Blizzard told players that the Vicious gear they were getting would be obsoleted in a week, players could have made an informed decision about gear purchases. Blizzard forgot to say anything, so players spent a lot of time grinding gear only to have it be replaced without warning.

No matter how much s9 Vicious gear was gained during that time, no matter how many Honor Points were ground out on Alterac Valley weekend, affected players will get 4k Honor as a consolation prize. There’s no accounting for the actual investment of time players made, so the relative justice or injustice of this payoff will vary between individuals.

This is a relatively simple fix that, most importantly, can be rolled out quickly, on a large scale once affected characters have been identified. There’s no need to perform a case by case analysis of each character – just identify all characters who made a purchase of S9 Vicious gear during a set period of time, and email them 4k Honor.

The problem is when this refund doesn’t make a customer whole. By not addressing individual effort, Blizzard shortchanges many of the affected players. If you’d ground 12k Honor Points for naught and got 4k back, you might be glad for the little bit back, but you’re still out a lot of Honor.

There are a few things Blizzard could do instead. They could refund all Honor Points spent during that week, and give people another week to make their purchases. This doesn’t replace enchants and gems and the like, but  at least it brings the gear pieces up to parity. The advantage to this solution is that it targets only those people who could have been affected by the miscommunication, and not people who waited a week.

The other option is to upgrade the S9 Vicious gear to match S10 item levels, either in bulk or only for affected individuals. A bulk update is simpler to achieve, but if you’re trying to apologize to players who actually lost time, upgrading only affected players would be the fair thing to do. This could be much harder to implement than one might expect, despite the simple logic behind it all.

I don’t think Blizzard will pursue either option.

THE VICIOUS CHANGE OF SEASONS

I really feel that the new Vicious and Bloodthirsty sets introduced in Season 10 represent a step backwards for Blizzard. They represent a change of philosophy which will make PvP less fun and more confusing should it happen again in Season 11.

Take a look at the way the Season transitions were handled.

The original system that was introduced by Blizzard in Season 9 was:

  • Each season would have three tiers of gear available for purchase: fair (crafted), good (Honor), great (Conquest).
  • When the season ends, a new tier is introduced at the Conquest level, and all the other tiers slide down. Conquest becomes Honor, Honor becomes crafted.
  • Players in the previous season’s Conquest gear are now in Honor gear, and will get upgrades from Rated PvP.
  • Players in the previous season’s Honor gear are now in crafted gear, and will get upgrades from regular battlegrounds or Rated PvP.
  • Players in the previous season’s crafted gear are now a tier behind, and will get upgrades everywhere.

This system is easy to understand, plan for, and keeps the overall amount of PvP gear available to a manageable level. It mirrors the PvE gear setup, providing a consistent, universal gear philosophy that corresponds to the points system introduced in Cataclysm.

The system introduced with Season 10, however:

  • Each season still has three tiers of gear available.
  • When the season ends, the old tiers are removed. Three new sets are introduced, two bearing the names of the previous season’s Conquest and Honor gear.
  • The new sets are effectively a half-tier ahead of the previous season’s version bearing the same name. The current season’s Honor gear is a half-tier ahead of the previous season’s Conquest gear, and the current crafted gear is now a half-tier ahead of the previous Honor gear.
  • Players in the previous season’s Conquest gear are now a half-tier behind the current Honor gear, and will need upgrades from both regular PvP and rated PvP.
  • Players in the previous season’s Honor gear are now a half-tier behind the current crafted gear, and should get upgrades from the AH, regular PvP, and rated PvP.
  • Players in the previous season’s crafted gear should hit the AH ASAP.

I don’t understand how this change benefits players. You take an elegant system which showed no problems and substantially modify it with negative consequences.

  • More gear sets: instead of going from 3 to 4 PvP sets in the game, we’ve jumped up to 7. Each season will compound this issue.
  • More gear confusion: not only are there Glorious Conquest recolored sets for 2200+ ratings (which confused a lot of players), but now there is gear with identical names but different stats.
  • More gear grinding: instead of letting players continue playing in their chosen realm, we’re sending Arena players back to regular battlegrounds to grind out a new set each season.
  • More time spent acquiring gear: not only will rated PvP players have to spend more time getting gear, but casual PvPers – BG enthusiasts, PvEers who like a little PvP on the side, etc. – will lose the benefits of any Conquest pieces they managed to get last season.
  • Different gear systems for PvP and PvE: instead of having a unified system that new players can pick up in one realm and transfer over to another, now we have two different systems.

Consider that last point for a moment: what if the Valor and Justice point systems required raiders to go out and grind heroic dungeons for gear each tier, just to stay competitive?

(Oh, wait, that was actually proposed for 4.2. But it was dropped, and for good reason – raiders wanted to raid to get Valor Points, not run heroics they outgeared.)

Is this trying to get players to spend more time in battlegrounds? I wondered about this one briefly – perhaps because I’m playing Alliance with instant BG queue times I don’t see population problems across servers. But why regular battlegrounds? All of Blizzard’s focus has been on getting players into Rated Battlegrounds, not regular ones.

What problem could adding a half tier to PvP gear between seasons possibly hope to solve?

THE PHANTOM TIER

It’s easy to lose sight of things when you’re angry. I think a lot of people are still really pissed about the miscommunication of the Vicious gear ilevel change and compensation package, which jeopardizes losing sight of the substantial changes made to how gear upgrades from season to season. The personal injustice of now has more urgency than a longer gear grind later.

But I too am angry, and I think I got lost in my own anger at Blizzard bringing the Honor grind back into PvP. The problems that have been introduced are real, and will have a wide-ranging unpleasant effect on people, and there’s no explanation from Blizzard why these changes were made. Getting pissed about what this change meant to a lot of casual players blinded me to a very simple observation.

Season 10 Conquest Gear is an extra half-tier higher than expected.

This isn’t about the low gear. It’s not about Vicious gear. It’s about Ruthless gear.

It’s easy to get lost in the urgent now, in looking at the problems with Vicious gear that will make players spend a lot of effort to get back up to their previous baseline. But that’s not the point of this change. Not at all.

The gear model that I presented above is actually a currency model.

  • Great: Valor, Conquest
  • Good: Justice, Honor
  • Fair: Gold, Materials

The currency model is then mapped to an activity model, corresponding to the rewards you get:

  • Great: Raids, Zulroics, Rated PvP
  • Good: Heroics, Dungeons, Tol Barad, BGs
  • Fair: Playing the AH, gathering, dailies

Now we can go ahead and equate the gear gained from these activities with the currencies that they provide, right?

Except… the model is missing something.

In PvP, going from activity to currency to gear works flawlessly, because there’s no other way to get gear in PvP. You have to PvP to get the currency to get good PvP gear, period.

In PvE, the activity itself randomly rewards you with gear. Currency buys you good gear, great gear even – but not the best gear.

No, the best gear in the game comes from raiding heroic modes. There’s an entire tier of gear that’s not in the currency-based model. A phantom tier, one of superb gear.

  • Superb: Heroic Raids
  • Great: Raids, Rated PvP
  • Good: non-raid PvE, unrated PvP
  • Fair: Crafted, quest

The simple currency based model which worked so well in PvP – where points are the only way to get gear – doesn’t translate when you take Heroic Raids into account. Look at the various item levels of rewards from specific activities.

Source Item Level
 Heroic Firelands  391
 S10 Conquest Gear  384
 Firelands  378
 T12 Valor Gear  378
 Heroic T11  372-379
 S10 Honor Gear  371
 S9 Conquest Gear  365
 T12 Justice Gear  359
 T11 Raids  359
 PvE BoE/Crafted  359-379
 Zulroics  353
 S9 Honor Gear  352

The best gear available at any given time is always heroic raid gear – that’s a given. But look at the point differences between gear types.

  • PvP gear is always 13 ilevels apart within any given season.
  • Heroic raid gear is always 13 ilevels higher than the regular raid gear.
  • T12 Justice gear is 19 ilevels lower than T12 Valor gear because it matches the T11 raiding gear ilvl (per the currency model).
  • S9 Conquest gear is 19 ilevels lower than S10 Conquest gear. If S9 Conquest gear adhered to the currency model (like Justice gear) and converted to S10 Honor gear, PvP would be imbalanced because of the huge gap between Honor and Conquest.
  • PvP gear has a higher ilevel than equivalent vendor-purchased PvE gear, likely due to Resilience in the item budget.
  •  Conquest gear is always 7 ilevels below Heroic raid gear.

The reason that Season 10 PvP gear was bumped up 6 ilevels has nothing to do with PvP at all. PvP item levels were bumped to keep pace with PvE gear, most notably Heroic Firelands gear. Honor gear was kept within 13 ilevels of Conquest gear to keep PvP balanced.

Consider what would have happened if the S10 Vicious gear had not received a 6 ilevel boost: S10 Conquest gear (Ruthless) would be 13 item levels higher than S10 Honor gear (Vicious), putting it at 378 – equal to T12 Valor gear. That’s not bad in and of itself, but then Heroic Firelands gear would be 13 ilevels higher than the Conquest gear – which is a full tier better.

If the best PvE gear available is a full tier ahead of the best PvP gear, PvPers will go after that gear. Each sphere of the game will do this – if the other side grants better gear, then it becomes Best in Slot and people feel they have to go after it. In PvP’s case, such items can unbalance rated PvP play – Shadowmourne in S8, anyone? – which can cause a ripple effect through the lower brackets.

So the reason that we have two different sets of Vicious gear, the reason that we have a lot of PvPers grinding out another Honor set, the reason why the PvP gearing system is out of whack right now, is not because Blizzard is trying to screw over casual PvP players.

No, it‘s entirely because Firelands drops 378 loot, 6 ilevels higher than the T11 Heroic raids. Firelands could have dropped 372/385 loot, but it doesn’t. I can speculate on why this was done – more epic feel, give people who have been raiding Heroic T11 immediate upgrades – but in order to maintain parity between PvE and PvP, PvP gear was bumped up too. That decision had a negative cascading effect for PvPers gearing at the start of the season, as well as inadvertently causing a major snafu with the transition from S9 to S10, but it will keep PvPers from having to get Heroic raid gear in order to be competitive.

I no longer know if this is going to happen every season. I seem to recall that PvE gear levels used to go up in pretty even tiers of 13 in Wrath, but there must have been a 6-point jump somewhere to get to 245. (There was 200, 213, 226, then … 232 in Ulduar, 245 with ToC?) So it might happen, it might not happen.

I feel better knowing that there is a explanation for it all.

I may not like its effects, but at least there’s a reason for the change.

DON’T POINT FINGERS

This isn’t about PvE screwing over PvP.

I mean, yes, in this specific instance a design decision in PvE had wide-ranging implications for PvP players. And it’s a decision I don’t personally understand – because I don’t raid – but because I don’t understand the nuances of it, I’ll take it at face value for now.

This is the price we pay for having an interconnected game. Balance issues in PvP affect PvE abilities. Class issues in PvE can cause problems in PvP. Gear needs to be balanced between the two, which is – obviously – more complex than it seems.

Changes in PvP affect PvE, and changes in PvE affect PvP. This happens all the time. There’s no agenda here, just the butterfly effect. One example of this happening doesn’t prove anything. Instead, let it serve as a reminder: little changes matter.

Adding 6 item levels to Firelands gear caused Conquest-clad PvP players to get new Honor gear at the beginning of the season, but that grind also was also a byproduct of ensuring an even tier between Conquest and Honor gear, and prevent PvPers from seeking out Heroic raid gear for PvP.

Is this still a problem? You bet. If T13 comes out with another half-tier boost, we’re going to go through this all over again.

But at least we can have a discussion about if that boost was worth the trouble it causes in PvP.

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The Changing Face of PvP Gear and the Rocky Road to Season 10

The transition from Season 9 to Season 10 has not been smooth.

  • Conquest Point caps were adjusted to encourage players to participate in Rated Battlegrounds. The resulting system is more complicated than what it replaced, and also splits the uniform PvP/PvE reward model introduced in Cataclysm.
  • At the end of Season 9, Conquest Points were converted into Honor Points (as expected.) Unfortunately, the Honor Point cap was not raised during the interseason week (as intended), causing all points over the 4000 cap to be converted to gold, preventing people from using their earned Conquest Points to complete their Vicious sets.
  • In an unannounced change, Season 9 Vicious sets (ilevel 365) purchased by Honor Points in the interseason week were not the same as the Season 10 Vicious sets (ilevel 371) purchased by Honor Points during Season 10. This means that players who spent the week between seasons grinding out Honor Points to start Season 10 in full Vicious gear found themselves with inferior gear than what they could have purchased once S10 started.

The first one is a policy change, and is irritating because of the devious way in which the change was introduced, but at least it was communicated and isn’t going to be a long-term frustration. Either you’re okay with it, or you’re not, but it’s the way things are now. Rated Battlegrounds are here to stay and Blizzard wants you to play them.

The second change was a deployment bug. Someone fucked up and included code in the 4.2 release that shouldn’t have been in there until a week later. In hindsight it really wasn’t that big of a deal, because the gear you could get with the lost Honor Points wasn’t going to be all that great in a week’s time anyways. But it was frustrating if you had Conquest Points and wanted to do something with a nice big pile of them.

Which leads us to the third change, which actually is a really big fucking deal, and there are two parts of it.

  • There is a major change in the way PvP gear is going to be upgraded between seasons, with significant implications for all PvP players.
  • And Blizzard forgot to tell anyone about it.

Let’s be honest. Blizzard fucked up in not telling anyone about this change, and they know it. They’ve had the good graces to come right out and say it, to their credit. How something like this gets missed is a lesson in corporate communications – someone might have noticed it, but it wasn’t the right person. Sure, I have found forum threads talking about it on the PTR (which does me no good in hindsight), but the right person didn’t stand up and say, hey, we need to mention this.

A lot of people spent time and effort in that week between the seasons grinding Honor Points so they’d be ready for Season 10. It’s a chance to get all caught up – everyone starts off equal at the beginning of the season. Only, because someone at Blizzard forgot to mention a critical point in the patch notes, that effort was wasted.

Don’t forget, that’s real time spent. Don’t try to say that it’s only a week. That’s bullshit. That’s real time people could have spent doing other things. That’s customer time just outright wasted.

Will the communication gaffe blow over? Eventually, maybe, I don’t know. Blizzard has indicated that they will try to make it right, because this is an actual customer service issue, but how can they really compensate them for it? Customers didn’t get the rewards they were expecting for the work they put in because of a corporate mistake. They made choices with their time that were wrong, and time is money.

But that’s not even the biggest problem here.

BRINGING BACK THE PVP GEAR GRIND

And there is no longer a requirement to “grind” unrated BGs for Honor each season, so the real time investment isn’t changing as much as some players are perceiving it to be.

- Zahrym, “4.2 Conquest change

The Bloodthirsty and Vicious Gladiator’s gear of Season 9 (i352 and i365, respectively) are not as good as the Bloodthirsty and Vicious Gladiator’s gear of Season 10 (i358 and i371). You can make a good argument that the set and gem bonuses of the S9 Bloodthirsty Gladiator’s gear are equal to or outweigh the stats of the S10 crafted Bloodthirsty gear, but the S9 Vicious gear is a clear loser to S10. Not by a lot, mind you – but it’s better gear.

The gear progression path laid out for Cataclysm, both for PvP and PvE, was both simple and elegant.

  • Raiding and rated PvP gets you the the current tier of gear (Conquest/Valor Points).
  • Heroics and unrated PvP gets you the last tier of gear (Honor/Justice Points).
  • Crafted gear gets you two tiers back.

Yes, the absolute best PvE gear can only be gotten by raiding, but this currency system made sense. It’s easy to understand the flow between different tiers, it’s easy to plan out your gearing needs when a new raid tier is introduced, or a new season starts. Your current gear drops down a level, and you work your way back up to the next one.

Zahrym touches on this in his post on the 4.2 Conquest Points changes, quoted above. There were many great things with the new PvP system, but one of them was the promise that once you’d geared up for rated PvP, you didn’t have to go back to unrated BGs to do it again. This was good for both Arena players and regular Battleground players, as seasons past would see a swarm of well-geared Arena players either destroy casual battlegrounds, or resort to afk/botting to grind the Honor Points required for their PvP kits. The new system allowed people to assume that, by having a full Conquest set in one season, it would become a full Honor set in the next, eliminating the need to visit unrated Battlegrounds to gear up. Rated PvP players could keep playing what they wanted to play.

And don’t forget – the Honor Point grind for a full set is long. If you’re getting about 150 Honor Points per battleground – a pretty good average, by the way – that’s 179 BGs. At 15 minutes a BG, that’s 44.75 hours of play. So not having to grind out Honor Pieces each season is actually a really attractive perk, and Zahrym is right in calling that out.

But that’s no longer the case.

The change that was introduced in 4.2 is that each season will introduce three completely new sets of PvP gear. These sets will be calibrated for that season, not for the season preceding it. They will (confusingly) share the names of the previous season’s sets, but that’s it. No more cascading tiers, no more smooth transitions from season to season.

Every season, you start the gear grind over again. Rated PvP for top gear, with a weekly cap. Unrated PvP for the rest of your gear until your eyes bleed, or you seriously consider botting.

You can argue that the slight increase in stats between the i365 and i371 isn’t worth the time to upgrade. It’s not a huge difference. It’s only six points, after all!

Well.

What if I rephrased those six points as half the difference between Vicious and Relentless sets? What if the sets were called “Season 9.5″ instead of “Season 10 Honor Gear”?

If you’re in full S9 Conquest gear now, you can upgrade to S10 slowly with Conquest Points, and S9.5 quickly with Honor Points.

The difference between tiers is 13 item levels. The difference between seasons is 6 ilevels. If you’re in S9 Conquest, you’re now 19 ilevels behind S10 Conquest, not 13.

You still think you can’t use some upgrades?

Whether this was done to encourage players to spend more time PvPing in general, or to increase attendance in regular BGs (something I hadn’t thought was a problem, to be honest), or to just make it take longer to get geared up – this has the effect of laying naked the gear grind that’s such a central part of Warcraft’s endgame, of taking the last shreds of a system that rewarded past effort and throwing it to the winds.

This isn’t a slight change. Changing gear distribution so that PvP players are faced with investing time they were not planning to spend is not something you forget about. This change not only destroys the symmetry of the PvP/PvE point system, it brings back the gear grind that we had hoped was gone the way of the dodo.

And that is the real problem with this change.

STOP THE RIDE, I WANT TO GET OFF

I took a break from Warcraft this past week, expecting to come back refreshed and ready to tackle S10 and Firelands. I rather enjoyed reading books at night and going to sleep early, but I still missed WoW. I was going to get into some PvE, see what these dungeons and raids were really like, but still keep my hand in with PvP through Arenas. After all, I have a full S9 Conquest set, I have some time free to work on my T11/T12 now, right?

I may have been refreshed when I logged back in, but my enthusiasm for PvP got washed away pretty quickly once I saw the changes to PvP gear in S10.

These changes are bad ones. They complicate the PvP gear system, which is exactly the wrong direction it needs to go in. They reintroduce a gear grind that is unmatched by anything in PvE.

And, most damningly of all, the PvP developers forgot to put them in the release notes.

If you want to give the appearance of not caring about your customers, about the fans of your game, I think this is just how I’d go about doing it. I think if I wanted to give the impression that I didn’t give a damn about PvP, this is the way I’d do it.

You seriously forgot?

(W)e’ve maintained an open dialog with our developers over the past 24 hours regarding the way in which the PvP season transition went down since patch 4.2 (this includes relaying a lot of the feedback we’ve seen on the forums to them).

- Zahrym, “i365 Vicious vs. i371 Vicious”

I trust that y’all will make up their own minds about this change, and will either decide that it’s a big deal, or not a big deal, and just get to work getting your Vicious (S10!) and Ruthless gear, or go find something else fun to do. I know you will!

But you know what? I liked getting enough sleep, and cleaning out my home directory, and shopping for crap on the internet, and playing stupid cute addictive games on my iPhone, and having nice, relaxing non-WoW evenings with my spouse. WoW is fun, but it’s not that much fun.

I’ll be honest. I’ve never been more disappointed in this game company than I am right now, and the only thing keeping me from canceling my account is that my son wants to see how the Gilneas starting area ends. There have been enough mismanaged changes to PvP in the past few months that, frankly, I’m sick of dealing with it.

I’m tired of the sticks and carrots to get me to do the things that I don’t find fun.

I’m tired of the gear grind. I’m tired of feeling like a rat in a lab being told to do this thing and that thing and oh my god where is my cheese now? Dailies and heroics and rated battlegrounds and cheeeeese!

I’m tired of the bullshit.

I would rather go fly a turtle to Mars than PvP in Warcraft right now.

Blizzard, you can take that feedback how you will.

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Battleground PvP Gear in Cataclysm Patch 4.2 / Arena Season 10

Cataclysm patch 4.2 brings with it the start of a new PvP season, season 10, which means a new tier of PvP gear – Ruthless Gladiator’s Gear – has become available.

Following the Cataclysm pattern outlined in my Season 9 guide and 4.0.6 update, there are still three levels of PvP gear you can consider current: crafted, purchased with Honor Points, and purchased with Conquest Points.

There has been a substantial change with the introduction of Season 10, however. Unlike the previous 9 seasons, last season’s gear has been completely replaced by sets with the same name but different item levels. PvP gear is now marked with Season 9 or Season 10 in the tooltip to help distinguish between the two sets.

The changes affect the gear purchased with Honor Points and Conquest Points last season.

  • ilvl 352 Bloodthirsty gear (purchased with Honor Points in Season 9) has been replaced by crafted ilvl 358 Bloodthirsty gear.
  • ilvl 365 Vicious gear (purchased with Conquest Points in S9) has been replaced by ilvl 371 Vicious gear (purchased with Honor Points).

This means that, unlike every other previous season within an expansion, the gear earned in a previous season is actually worse than the same named set of the new season. Full Season 9 Conquest gear is inferior to Season 10’s honor gear by 6 item levels, or half a tier. This is a noticeable difference in PvP, so you will need to decide if grinding out the full set is worth it. Fortunately, the honor gains from regular Battlegrounds have been increased, so it should take less time than the Season 9 grind, which was too long (without Tol Barad.)

Due to this change, it is no longer advisable to grind Honor Points in the week between PvP Seasons, as the gear gained will be obsoleted at the start of the new season. Max out both your Honor and Justice Points to prepare for the new season, but wait for the new gear to drop before grinding out a new set.

Last season’s crafted pieces (blue gear with no set bonuses) are no longer available, as the patterns have been replaced with the new Bloodthirsty versions. Crafters do not need to do anything to upgrade existing recipes – the new ones just show up. If you have any of the old gear (like a Fireweave Robe), replace it with the new crafted Bloodthirsty gear right now. Or, better yet, go straight to Vicious gear through Honor Purchases.

A new level 85 character who wants to start playing in Battlegrounds should purchase the crafted Bloodthirsty gear as soon as possible. Getting the 2-piece bonus should be your priority if you are only getting a few crafted pieces because of the +400 Resilience bonus. The crafted gear lacks gem slots, so properly enchanted and gemmed S9 Bloodthirsty gear is about on par with the crafted S10 Bloodthirsty gear. A full crafted set is a great start.

You can, of course, start PvPing without PvP gear, but generally I don’t recommend it. Endgame PvP is designed around a certain amount of Resilience gear, and while you might do okay in PvE epics, your survivability will be low.

Let’s take a look at what you can get in Season 10 from PvP.

HONOR AND CONQUEST

The PvP vendors for level 85 are still in the Hall of Legends in Orgrimmar’s Valley of Strength and the Hall of Champions in Stormwind’s Old Town.  There were some minor changes in Season 9, notably the addition of the <Honor Trade Goods> and <Honor Heirlooms> vendors, but otherwise things are the same.

If you’ve never been in these locations before, the picture above shows the Stormwind vendor layout, and below is the Orgrimmar layout. The person you’re going to want to talk to first is the <Honor Quartermaster>.

Regular battlegrounds, Tol Barad, and world PvP award Honor Points. With them, you can purchase last season’s top gear, Vicious Gladiator’s gear from the Honor Vendors. If you don’t participate in Arenas or Rated Battlegrounds, this is the set you should be aiming for. You can only have up to 4000 Honor Points at any one time, but there’s no limit to how many you can earn over time.

Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds award Conquest Points. Conquest Points purchase the current top PvP gear, Ruthless Gladiator’s gear, from the Conquest Vendors. There is a weekly cap to the amount of Conquest Points you can earn that is related to your Arena Rating and Rated Battleground Rating, but there’s no limit to the amount you can have at one time. You purchase Conquest gear from the <Conquest Quartermaster>.

The point costs for each set of appear to be unchanged from Season 9, with two exceptions.

Slot Vicious
Honor Points
Ruthless
Conquest Points
Head 2200 2200
Neck 1250 1250
Shoulder 1650 1650
Back 1250 1250
Chest 2200 2200
Wrist 1250 1250
Hands 1650 1650
Waist 1650 1650
Legs 2200 2200
Feet 1650 1650
Ring 1 1250 1250
Ring 2 1250 1250
Trinket 1 1650 1650
Trinket 2 1650 1650
2H Weapon/Ranged 3400 3400
MH Weapon 2450 2450
OH Weapon 950 950
Wand/Relic 700 700
Minimum Total 26,850 26,850

The exceptions are for purchasing PvP weapons.

  • PvP weapons can now be purchased with Honor Points. This is a great change, as PvP weapons were formerly not something regular Battleground players could acquire.
  • PvP weapons now require a minimum number of points earned in Season 10. You must first get 7250 Honor Points before the Vicious weapons can be purchased, and 7250 Conquest Points for the Ruthless weapons. Points earned the week before Season 10 do count towards this total.

The first change is great for people who only run battlegrounds, and for people gearing up alts. It provides a way to put PvP gear in every slot to get Resilience up, and provides a level playing field for PvP.

The challenge it introduces, of course, is that those weapons are really good for starting out in PvE. This change could potentially drive people into PvP just to gear up their characters for raids, which is – in part – why we have the second change, requiring players to grind out a certain amount of Honor Points before they can get them. This will prevent these weapons from being easily obtainable for PvE, though 7,250 Honor isn’t a terrible amount to grind. The original figure of 18,500 Honor Points was 69% of the way through assembling a full Honor BG kit, and was probably prohibitive.

This is all a good thing. Battleground enthusiasts will now be able to get weapons, and PvE enthusiasts will find better weapons in PvE.

The Conquest weapons are similarly restricted to make them unavailable to endgame raiders at the beginning of Firelands. At the very top tier of PvP play, these weapons will not be unlocked until the 3rd week of Season 10. At the lowest tier, they’ll open up in 6 weeks.

LEVEL 85 GEARING STRATEGY

For level 85 endgame characters, I would adopt the following general strategy for gearing up for battlegrounds, Rated Battlegrounds, and Arenas:

  1. Get as many of the crafted Bloodthirsty pieces made as soon as you can. Any Resilience is good. Go for the 2-pc bonus (+400 Resilience) as soon as you can. These tend to be selling very cheaply on many Auction Houses right now.
  2. Supplement with good items gained from PvE, but only if they’re a substantial upgrade over the Bloodthirsty gear.
  3. Run Tol Barad dailies for the PvP head and shoulder enchants. Use good PvE enchants on your gear in the interim.
  4. PvP in regular BGs for Vicious gear. I use RatingBuster to help show what each upgrade will give me, but in general if the primary stat (Intellect, Strength, Agility) and Resilience bonuses are the same, I upgrade the secondary stats (Hit, Haste, Crit, Mastery) which favor my current specialization first.
  5. If you are upgrading from crafted Bloodthirsty gear, you will want the bonuses on the Vicious PvP hands first, followed by the 2-pc and 4-pc set bonuses. If you are coming off the Bloodthirsty gear purchased through PvP, the order doesn’t matter much.
  6. Once you have a complete set of Vicious gear, use Honor Points to get PvP enchants for your new head and shoulders. You don’t need Tol Barad dailies anymore.
  7. Participate in as many rated PvP matches as you can, up to the limit of Conquest Points you can gain each week.  Even pugging Rated Battlegrounds can net you some benefit.
  8. Upgrade your weakest pieces with Conquest gear. If you have a mix of Bloodthirsty and Vicious gear, upgrade the Bloodthirsty to Ruthless first.
  9. Upgrade your PvP weapons whenever they become available, regardless of level. If you can upgrade to the Glorious Conquest weapons (2200+ Rating), do so in favor of other upgrades.

You can upgrade your Conquest armor to Glorious Conquest armor with a 2200+ PvP rating, but it is purely a cosmetic upgrade. A high PvP rating only gets you better PvP weapons, not better armor.

PVE GEAR IN PVP

Generally speaking, I don’t like having lots of PvE gear in PvP. You need a lot of Resilience to stay alive and do your job, and too much PvE gear dilutes it.

That said, if you are able to run Heroic raids, the ilvl 391 Heroic Firelands trinkets look like an attractive option over the Ruthless trinkets. Much like the Darkmoon Cards of Season 9, these trinkets can give you a damage boost without sacrificing a lot of Resilience.

If you’re able to get your hands on one of those trinkets, definitely consider them for PvP.

RATED PVP CHANGES

This doesn’t affect players who strictly play regular battlegrounds, but there have been some substantial changes to the way in which Conquest Points will be awarded in Season 10.

  • Players will have different caps for Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds. They can earn total Conquest Points up to the higher of these two caps.
  • Rated Battlegrounds will have a 22.2% higher Conquest Point cap than Arenas for the same PvP rating.
  • Arena Conquest Point caps range from 1350 to 2700.
  • Rated Battleground Conquest Point caps range from 1500 to 3300.
  • The Arena and Rated Battleground caps govern how many Conquest Points can be gained doing that specific activity. If one’s total Conquest Point cap is higher than the activity cap, then the additional Conquest Points must come from another source.

I’ve talked about these changes before at some length, so let me focus instead upon what this means to the casual Arena and Rated Battleground player. If you’re running Arenas with friends for weekly Conquest Points:

  • If your Arena rating is below 1500, you will not reach your total Conquest Point cap each week.
  • At low Arena ratings, you can still get a minimum of 1350 Conquest Points, which is equivalent to the Season 9 cap.
  • You can supplement your Conquest Point earnings through a variety of means – Rated Battlegrounds, daily random Battleground/CTA weekend rewards, or converting Valor Points to Conquest Points from raiding, Troll Heroics, and random Heroics.
  • At the lowest ratings (or no rating at all), you’ll need 150 Conquest Points from other sources to hit your cap.

If you are able to run Arenas with your friends, it’s still a worthwhile activity that gives you a gearing edge in regular Battlegrounds. You can supplement it with other activities, including PvP, to gear slightly faster than in Season 9 at sub-1500 ratings.

One last note: if you are primarily a PvE player, you can convert Valor Point to Conquest Points at a 1:1 ratio. Once you have exhausted your Valor Point upgrades, you may want to consider using them to purchase Conquest PvP gear.

UPDATES

Like with previous seasons, I’ll update this page as new information is released.

June 28th, 2011 (Patch 4.2 Day): Patch 4.2 has dropped, but not all of the gear described in this article is available yet. Vicious Gladiator’s Gear is still available at the Conquest Quartermasters, but it now costs Honor Points. It’s marked with “Season 9″ underneath the title, which is a nice addition.

Ruthless Gladiator’s Gear is not yet available, but should be once Season 10 starts. I expect that all of the gear will shift to their normal places once that happens.

I’ve updated the section on crafted gear based on feedback from Poneria and Gameldar, as well as what I’ve finally observed on live. The crafted patterns now have “Bloodthirsty” in front of their previous items names (i.e. Bloodthirsty Fireweave Cowl instead of Fireweave Cowl), and they’re a little different from the original sets. They are slightly higher ilvl than the original (358 vs. 352) and generally lack gem sockets. It’s a moot point for upgrading – if you have Season 9 Bloodthirsty, go straight to Vicious, do not stop to craft – but it’s an interesting move by Blizzard.

I can also confirm that they lack all bonuses but the 2pc +400 Resilience bonus, so get whichever pieces you can get, in whatever order you can get them. The crafted Bloodthirsty gloves lack any unique bonus, so I’ll remove that section from the post – but those should still be the first ones you get with your Honor Points.

Also, Vicious PvP weapons currently require you to have earned 7250 Honor Points in the current season. I assume that requirement will go up to the 4.2 patch notes level when Season 10 starts, so it’s probably a good idea to grind out some honor this week and get them first.

Update 7/8/2011: Wow. I step away for a few days and miss a gear debacle.

  1. Blizzard screwed up the Conquest to Honor point conversion at the end of Season 9, making it so that players who had amassed Conquest Points with the goal of converting them to Honor points lost their stockpiles early.
  2. Blizzard failed to announce that the gear ilevels of the same tier of gear would change between seasons, so that the Season 9 Vicious gear is a lower ilevel than the Season 10 gear of the same name. This caused people to go farm Vicious gear during the week between the seasons, only to be rudely surprised that it was inferior to the gear purchased a week later.

Blizzard has issued an illuminating statement on the matter:

We agree that the mistakes made were very unfortunate and unfair to a lot of players. We’re currently exploring some options to try and alleviate some of the misfortune many of you experienced while purchasing PvP gear in the last week.

… We know we messed up in multiple ways. This not only made our intentions very unclear, but led players to make choices to spend their Honor Points they otherwise probably would not have made.

If everything went according to plan, you probably would’ve spent any HP over the 4,000 cap last week on any remaining Season 9 items you maybe didn’t have. You then would have saved 4,000 HP to get started on the low tier Season 10 items. This is the way we’re looking at it and will let you know if and when we have more information to share.

Looking at some threads on the forums, I see that this was picked up on the PTR but never made it into the patch notes. I’m sorry that I didn’t see those threads earlier – this is really a case where I feel like I let folks down in not catching it. Following the patch notes sometimes isn’t enough. :-(

This season transition has not gone well. Let’s see what, if anything, Blizzard does to rectify the situation.

Update 7/15/2011: I have updated this post significantly to account for all of the changes that took place with this transition. Entire sections needed to be rewritten due to the issues around the transition from Season 9 to 10.

For my analysis of the changes, please see The Changing Face of PvP Gear and the Rocky Road to Season 10. My followup post, ilvl 365 Vicious Gear and the Phantom Tier, goes into the reasons behind the change. There are good reasons, though they don’t excuse the lack of communication on Blizzard’s part. But what’s done is done.

I updated the following in this post:

  • Clarified the difference between the S9 and S10 versions of Bloodthirsty and Vicious gear.
  • Added item levels to gear descriptions as appropriate.
  • Updated the required weapon HP/CP requirements to 7250, not 18,500 Honor Points or 11,650 Conquest Points originally stated in the release notes.
  • Added note about Points earned before Season 10 applying to weapon point limits. (Thanks, Gameldar, for these two!)

Blizzard has said that the 4k Honor Point compensation package will be coming to affected players on 7/19, next Tuesday’s maintenance. Affected players are defined as those who purchased Vicious gear between Seasons 9 and 10, and should receive the Honor Points via in-game email. I won’t be able to personally validate this, but it should be present after the servers come back up.

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The Carrot and the Stick: Rated Battlegrounds and the Conquest Point Cap of 4.2

Ed: Please see my next post for the PTR changes of 6/16/11.

There has been a conflict brewing in the Arena community over the last few weeks over an upcoming change to the way Conquest Points will be awarded starting in 4.2. From the PTR notes:

The game now separately tracks different Conquest Point caps for Battlegrounds and Arenas. The cap for Arena rating will always be 2/3 of the cap for Battleground rating at any given Arena rating. Players may earn a total number of Conquest Points per week equal to the higher of these two caps, but once players have reached the cap for either Arenas or Battlegrounds, they can no longer earn Conquest Points from that source. Conquest Points from Battleground holidays only count toward the total Conquest Point cap.

This is a somewhat confusingly-worded note, but the intent is that there will be a fundamental change in the way Conquest Points are earned. The only way to reach the weekly Conquest Point cap will be through doing Rated Battlegrounds, not Arenas. You can get 2/3rds of your weekly CP through Arenas, then the remainder have to come from Rated Battlegrounds.

If you want to be competitive in higher-end PvP, you must play Rated Battlegrounds in 4.2. That’s the intent behind this change. All rated PvP is not equal. Zarhym writes:

So, as many of you are interpreting this change, it is to encourage more participation in Rated Battlegrounds. We see the fact that participating in Arenas is by far the superior way of obtaining top-notch PvP gear, in terms of time investment, as a problem. If you want to maximize your Conquest Point gains in patch 4.2, you’ll need to participate at least a little bit in Rated Battlegrounds.

We know this may not sound very appealing to those of you who have grown accustomed to spending as little as an hour a week getting the top PvP currency in the game via Arenas over the last couple of expansions. To put things in perspective though, the total number of items that can be purchased with Conquest Points today is much larger than what you used to be able to buy with Arena Points pre-Deathwing world explosion. And there is no longer a requirement to “grind” unrated BGs for Honor each season, so the real time investment isn’t changing as much as some players are perceiving it to be.

On top of that, the frank reality is that the total time investment required in season 9 to get all your points has been much, much too low, as you could do that from a few 2v2 Arena games each week completed in less than an hour’s time. It shows that Rated Battlegrounds are currently sub-par in terms of the rate at which points can be accumulated.

We do feel this change is necessary to keep the time investment vs. high-quality item accumulation in check, even if it doesn’t read well on paper. However, as always, your constructive feedback is welcomed. :)

This is an interesting response, because there are two reasons given for why this change is being made, not one.

  • First, to encourage participation in Rated Battlegrounds.
  • Second, to require more time playing to get high-end PvP gear.

The first one is obvious, but what’s interesting is that it’s not the focus of Zarhym’s post. Of course this is being done to motivate players into playing Rated Battlegrounds. But why? After the first sentence, it’s not mentioned again and the entire response is about the problem of time investment versus gear acquisition.

Doesn’t this strike anyone else as being a little odd? Give one reason, then talk about another one that’s not really related to the first?

Let’s say that the problem is that Conquest PvP gear is too easy to get – a problem that I’m not sure is a real problem, but I can accept it for now. It’s not even that it’s too easy, it’s that it doesn’t take enough time each week if you do Arenas. Put the problem another way: too many Conquest Points are awarded per hour in Arenas.

Okay! That’s a solvable problem!

When we’ve seen similar problems with Battlegrounds and Honor Points in the past, you know what Blizzard has done? They adjust the rate of points gained in a battleground. This is not rocket science – we’ve had several Honor Point adjustments when developers felt that it took too much time to gear up via Battlegrounds versus Heroics (patches 3.3.3 and 4.1 most recently, if my memory serves me correctly.)

The logical response to Arenas giving too many Conquest Points per hour is to reduce the number of CP awarded per match, not to send players into a different activity. I’ve seen many good, creative suggestions about how to handle this on the official forums and Arena Junkies. Any of a number of solutions could be implemented to increase the time per piece. In fact, Blizzard has already done this once before in Cataclysm, normalizing the CP per Arena win in 4.1 so it took at least 7-8 victories, regardless of bracket, to reach the minimum cap instead of 5.

First I’m asked to believe that the graveyard changes of 4.1 were an anti-camping measure, and now I’m being asked to believe that these changes are to solve the problem of Arenas awarding too many Conquest Points per hour?

I… I actually feel kinda insulted by this post. I never thought I’d say that about a Blizzard blue post, but … there it is. I know I’m supposed to take a page from the Vulcans on just about everything, but… really? Really?

You really expect me to believe this is about CP/hour?

THE PROBLEM OF RATING

I think there are numerous problems affecting Rated Battlegrounds right now. These problems drive players to disproportionately avoid rBGs and favor Arenas, which in turn causes problems since Blizzard must justify the development cost of Rated Battlegrounds. My hunch is that, much like in Tol Barad, Blizzard feels that the solution to these problems is one of scale, not design, and that by adding more people the problems will resolve themselves.

They might even be right.

Gevlon describes the underlying problem with Rated Battlegrounds when he writes:

Rated games have about 50% win rate. A bit more when you are underrated and a bit less when overrated, but after you reached your “real” rating, it’s 50%.

If you played rated BGs, you know it’s absolutely not true.

The objective of rated play is to determine ratings. That sounds silly to say, but I think it’s important to come out and say it. It’s not about being “better” or “harder” – it’s about putting quantitative measurements on people’s play, which in turn can elevate the level play with good matching. Ultimately, though, it’s all about assigning numbers.

In theory, every team (and player within that team) has a equilibrium that they’re moving towards, a rating that represents their true ability demonstrated over time. Players should converge on their real rating as they play, and – in theory – they should have a roughly even chance of winning against someone with the same rating. Through the crucible of rated play, your team’s measure is taken.

When it works, ratings can be a hugely compelling incentive towards playing Arena because they guarantee that you’ll win some of the time. You can pick up a new partner and after a few hours of play your rating will settle to that point of equilibrium. Once you’re through that initial period – and it’s often surprisingly fast – things will settle down and you’ll start winning about half of the time.

This is not the situation in Rated Battlegrounds. Team MMRs – the measurement of the overall team’s ability – are often wildly mismatched. And I’m not talking about 100-200 points difference – we’re talking 1000-1500 points variance. That’s just ridiculously unfair matching.

If we assume that the same matching programs are in use between Arenas and rBGs, then the problem isn’t that there’s buggy code – it’s that the finder slowly relaxes its standards until it finds a suitable match. Let that sink in for a minute. Assuming that it’s working correctly, the hugely imbalanced match was the best match it could find.

Which, in turn, means that there aren’t enough teams in the system, period.

At best, there are clusters of teams in the queue, grouped around certain rating points. At worst, the queue is empty enough that the clusters don’t exist, and it’s all about finding any match.

I expect that the truth is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes – the few teams that survive the initial beatdown get established, allowing them to rise a bit, which in turn lets them win against the hapless newbies. It’s a vicious cycle where the strong thrive and the weak are pushed out, causing fair competition to cease at the lower skill levels. (Oh, hi, Warsong Gulch 10-19 bracket before the twinks left. It’s nice to see you again.)

Cross-battlegroup queues was the first step towards solving this problem. Making same-faction matches possible was the next step towards solving this problem, as it effectively doubles the size of the matchmaking pool. Requiring Rated Battlegrounds to cap Conquest Points is a logical step in this progression.

As long as Rated Battlegrounds require a full raid group to enter the queue, this problem will bedevil the system. Twink battlegrounds have similar problems with population, but can draw from individuals queueing in addition to guild groups. Arena 2s and 3s will enjoy fairer matching (and more accurate ratings) than 5s or rBGs due to larger populations to draw from, which in turn is due to the relative ease of coordinating smaller groups.

Much like Tol Barad, Blizzard needs to do something to get people to play Rated Battlegrounds. If the problems are not simply technical, but rather one of scale and player distribution, then driving PvPers into rBGs is the logical solution.

Much like awarding 1800 Honor to the attackers for a victory in Tol Barad, I expect that this will work… in much the same way, sadly.

THE CARROT AND THE STICK

I think we’ll look back fondly on the problems we had with Tol Barad during the first few months of Cataclysm, because this change to Arenas is going to make the TB debacle look like child’s play.

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.

- “Preparing for Rated Battlegrounds,” June 2010

I wrote that a year ago. Let’s take a look at some of the problems Rated Battlegrounds have had since launch.

  • Having both 10-man and 15-man rBGs proved to be very difficult to staff for, causing 15s to be underplayed.
  • 15s were cut to drive players into 10s, which removed half of the battlegrounds from rated play. This left only two types of games – Capture the Flag and Resource/Node Control – on 3 maps. (10-man Arathi Basin was added later to compensate.)
  • Compositions which dominated these two games – especially the 4-healer/1-tank teams in CTF – caused a very defensive type of game, necessitating major changes to all rated maps, which in turn affected non-rated play.
  • Wins were often not recorded properly, sometimes causing teams to lose MMR for a victory. Can you imagine going through the effort of putting together a 10-man raid, downing a boss, and getting penalized for it?

On top of that:

  • Due to a lack of players, inexperienced teams will usually find themselves facing far superior opponents. This demoralizes the new players while boring the experienced ones.

The devil is in the details. Any one of these problems might not be enough to cause a mass exodus from rBGs, but over time, they’ve whittled down people’s desire to play them. Looking at the list above, as well as the cross-battlegroup and inter-faction changes designed to bring more people in to Rated Battlegrounds, paints a rather gloomy picture of this part of PvP.

In Tol Barad, Blizzard used a carrot to get people to fix the problem of people not playing it anymore. By offering massive Honor Point rewards for winning on offense, they caused rational win-trading by masses of their playerbase, completely undermining the zone. They made 2 more changes to the reward structure before finally implementing the solution that actually “fixed” Tol Barad – change the game mechanics to allow for an easier final base cap.

The carrot got people back into Tol Barad, but it didn’t solve the problem.

It backfired pretty badly, to be honest. I’d be shy of offering carrots after that week, too.

So, instead of a carrot to draw people in to Rated Battlegrounds, Blizzard now offers us a stick. And make no mistake about it – this is a stick. If you don’t do Rated Battlegrounds, you will fall behind in Arenas. Instead of offering better rewards from rBGs – or poorer rewards from Arenas, which works out to the same thing – we get an ultimatum. Instead of making Rated Battlegrounds more fun than Arenas, we get handed a chore that must be done.

You will do Rated Battlegrounds if you want to cap Conquest Points each week.

Period.

THERE’S ALWAYS A BIGGER CARROT

Tol Barad has more incentives to play than Wintergrasp, but players are less enthusiastic about it. Rated Battlegrounds have more rewards than Arenas and normal battlegrounds, but participation is low. Conquest Gear is too easy to get, while Honor Gear is too hard.

What the hell is going on with PvP in Cataclysm, anyways?

It’s so strange to be writing about the problems with Rated Battlegrounds when, for me personally, Season 9 has been a blast. I have had so much fun screwing around in Arenas it’s not even funny. This is, admittedly, a very personal perspective – we finally have enough folks interested in Arenas in my guild that we have a definite PvP subculture growing. Some weeks are bad, but most are good, and the time spent in the Arena has been rewarding on a lot of levels.

I still think a lot about my motivations that led me to write Replay Value, and why it is I’d rather PvP than raid. Arenas play a large part of that right now; it’s more appealing to me, with a somewhat fractured schedule, to know that I can bang out my weekly cap in a night or two of play, no matter the comp I choose to go with. I hang out with my friends, we have fun, we win some, we lose some, we have fun. Bring the player, not the class, right?

All of these little carrots that Blizzard manipulates in-game help us justify our specific choice of activity – in-game. They guide us towards certain things that we want. If we want to be a respected PvPer, we’ll probably want a PvP title, so we’ll work towards it. Perhaps we want a cool mount to show off our raiding skills, or a title that shows how much we like Fishing.

But there are bigger carrots out there, motivations that have nothing to do with in-game bling.

  • Am I having fun?
  • Am I enjoying spending time with the people I interact with?
  • Do I have a sense of accomplishment for the work that I’ve done?

Sure, the loot is nice. Shiny purples make you feel like, damn, I done good. Having a character with accomplishments makes you feel better.

But what happens when something in game simply isn’t fun for people?

This is the biggest carrot of all that a game, any game, can offer – this is more fun than the other things you could be doing right now. Why are mobile games so popular? Because they’re more fun than just waiting around in line somewhere. You can play Angry Birds on your phone for a few minutes while waiting in line at the DMV. You can play Words with Friends while killing time at the coffee shop. You can play World of Warcraft instead of watching TV, to unwind at the end of a busy day.

Why are Arenas popular right now? Is it the easy loot? Sure, that’s part of it. But they’re also more fun than Rated Battlegrounds for a lot of players. When I took my casual PvE-oriented guild into rBGs for a night, we got matched up with teams way beyond our rating – and we got stomped. The next rBG night we begged and pleaded for people to give it another try – and got stomped again.

We haven’t been able to fill out a rBG team since. Arena teams? Yes. Regular battleground groups? All the time. But no more Rated Battlegrounds.

This is not an easy problem to fix. Rated Battlegrounds aren’t fun for those who aren’t already good at them, so inexperienced teams find themselves matched up against good teams who destroy them, which drives the inexperienced teams away, perpetuating the imbalance.

I find myself thinking about the bigger carrots more and more these days. Why did I find Wintergrasp so much more fun than Tol Barad? Why do I prefer Arena to rBGs? Are these little carrots even worth it anymore?

Having little carrots replaced with a little sticks makes me wonder about the bigger carrots.

THE PROBLEM OF MINIMUM COMPETENCE

I witnessed a fascinating exchange over Twitter a few weeks ago between members of a highly progressed raiding guild about Rated Battlegrounds. It went something like this.

  • GM: I’d like to put together a Rated BG team.
  • PvPer: Please make sure that the people on it are good, or we’ll get destroyed.
  • GM: Well, this is something that I think a lot of people are interested in.
  • PvPer: Seriously, people need a 1900 Arena rating, or this is a waste of my time.
  • PvEer: I was leveling a priest specifically to help fill out our PvP team, but since I don’t Arena I’m not sure why I’m bothering if that’s your attitude.
  • PvPer: I appreciate what you’re doing, but I’m also being realistic here. It’s not enough to have a priest. We need good players in every position or it’s not worth our time.
  • PvEer: Thanks for demeaning my contribution before I’ve even made it.
  • GM: I just wanted to have us run some rBGs, people.

Rated Battlegrounds are like raids in organization, time investment, and composition. You need to have certain roles filled, players need to invest time in getting appropriate gear, and players need to be able to execute their roles correctly.

They are unlike raids in that the difficulty of the activity will vary from encounter to encounter, and will never get easier – at least if the rating system is working correctly. You will go from getting your ass kicked all the time, to getting your ass kicked some of the time, to getting your ass kicked occasionally but still losing roughly half of the time. Raiding generally doesn’t work like that – you get your ass handed to you for a while, then you make progress, then eventually the boss goes on farm status and you move on.

The conversation I watched unfold on Twitter had two people arguing two very valid, but conflicting, points of view.

The first point of view is that you need to be good enough to play with us. Raiders already know this, and many raid teams enforce strict rules about who can raid or who cannot. If you ignore the labels, the PvPer was actually espousing a philosophy of minimum demonstrated competence – you have to put in the time to show that you can perform up to a certain standard before you get the job. You have to be able to run Heroics before you raid. You have to be able to play in the Arenas before you rBG.

The other point of view is that you need to value the contributions of the members of your team, no matter the level of competence. Dismissing someone’s effort of leveling another character to 85 and gearing it up for rated PvP play based on an arbitrary qualification absolutely destroys their motivation. The PvEer in question is an excellent raider with strong loyalty towards their guild, but without a lot of PvP experience on that character. By adopting the attitude that it’s a waste of his time if people aren’t already really good, the PvPer made his participation conditional on the PvEer’s performance – which is not good for building a team.

(As an aside, flip the roles around and see how this conversation applies to raiding. It’s a fascinating exercise.)

The problem here is that the bar for minimum competence in Rated Battlegrounds is high, because mediocre and fair teams don’t keep playing.

Guilds are in an awkward position here; many have preexisting raid teams of skilled PvE players who would like to try rBGs, but don’t have the same level of experience or commitment to PvP yet. They can’t even practice in regular battlegrounds to help gear everyone up – they can only hope to find a like minded group to war-game with, which is time fighting without improving even basic gear. PvPers in non-PvP guilds are in a similarly awkward situation, having to mentor and assist their guild in preparing for an activity not everyone signed up for.

The new guild system only exacerbates this problem. Guilds are tempted by the new achievement structure to expand their normal spheres of activity. Players are encouraged to do things in guild groups, further increasing the temptation to have guilds just try out things like Rated Battlegrounds – even if there’s not a solid PvP core. Players who want to both raid and PvP either have to find a guild which is a good fit on both, or consider splitting their time between guilds by having a PvP toon in one and a raiding toon in another – a hugely awkward solution.

I brought up this conversation because it reflects a real problem with Rated Battlegrounds – there’s not really any way to do them causally, unlike raiding. You can’t bang your head against them and make some progress. The content doesn’t get nerfed over time, things won’t get easier naturally. You never outgear your opponents, and the way things are structured now, you must have a good level of gear and competency across the team to have a chance. The similarities to the heyday of 10-19 Warsong Gulch twinking are apt.

The only way to make rBGs more accessible to casual PvPers is to lower the overall minimum competence required by flooding the system with weaker teams. Otherwise, the pool will remain populated by dedicated PvP teams who will crush aspiring teams as a matter of course.

I’ll let you try to find a good way to spin that inconvenient fact into a press release.

TAKE IT TO THE MATTRESSES

I keep coming back to that blue post about this change and wondering what the behind-the-scenes discussions are like at Blizzard regarding Rated Battlegrounds. Only they have the real numbers behind participation – only they can really tell if the amount of developer time spent on the key PvP feature of this expansion has been worth it. Are enough players playing rBGs to justify their cost?

The change to how Conquest Points are being awarded in 4.2 isn’t about slowing down gear acquisition; it’s an effort by Blizzard to get players back into Rated Battlegrounds to solve a number of problems that, upon due consideration, stem from not having enough teams distributed throughout the rBG system.

That’s okay. I can understand it. This is their business, and ultimately this is about their bottom line, not mine. I can be curious, I can have opinions about it, but let’s face it – my criteria for the success of a game (is it fun?) is different from theirs (is it profitable?). I can enjoy an activity that isn’t making the developer any money and call it a success. The popularity of Rated Battlegrounds, and therefore their profitability, is not really my concern.

At least it wasn’t, until Blizzard just made it my concern by affecting the fun I was having elsewhere.

There are things I care about as a customer of any product or service, and there are things that I decidedly don’t. I care about the product I get, the service I receive, and the price I pay. If you fail to deliver what I paid you for, here are some things I really don’t care about:

  • Your other customers.
  • Your internal problems.
  • Your bottom line.

This is just business; it’s not personal. I don’t care about your other customers if they’re taking away development resources on things I’ve paid for. I don’t care about your process problems which cause you to be 6 weeks late in installing a circuit, and then cause you to do it wrong. I don’t even care if you’re going to take a loss on the transaction. None of those are my problem.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand that problems happen, I provide goods and services too. I value long-term partnerships, and don’t throw them away because of isolated issues. I want us both to be successful. I want my partners to make money and have a profitable relationship with me.

But when someone says the reason they failed to deliver something they promised due to an internal problem, or due to other customers, I remind them that I don’t care about their problems. I care about my problem, which is that you failed to deliver on a promise!

And if you can’t fix it and make it right, then I will start looking to take my business elsewhere. It’s just business; it’s not personal. You screwed up, which I can forgive, but then you tried to make your problem into my problem, and I don’t forgive that easily.

It took me several days to realize that my reaction to Zarhym’s post was exactly the same reaction I have to someone telling me they’re going to have to limit services I receive due to process problems that resulted from, say, a reorganization, or a new product launch. And hey, prices are going up, too!

I was actually quite relieved when I realized this. Like, okay, I get why I’m pissed about this. Got it.

Why should I care that Rated Battlegrounds need more teams playing it? I enjoy playing PvP with the people I play with. We tried Rated Battlegrounds, didn’t enjoy the experience, so went off to play Arenas instead. It’s not a judgement call on the Rated Battleground product as a whole – it’s just that it wasn’t fun for me and the people I wanted to play with. Other people love them, which is great! But not us, not right now.

I like Product A, and have liked it for a while. But now, in order to enjoy Product A, I have to also buy Product RBG, which is more expensive, is more of a hassle to assemble, and takes longer to deal with. I can get Product A on its own, but I get less than I used to without Product RBG.

And this change is because sales of Product RBG are low. It’s a quirk of the product that if more people had Product RBG, it would probably be easier to use, which is arguably a good thing for the vendor.

But how is it good for me, exactly?

Other people’s problems are not my problems, and I don’t appreciate it when they try to make them mine.

THE PROBLEM OF SHUT UP AND DEAL WITH IT

I don’t think it’s my place to say if Rated Battlegrounds are a success or a failure. In my world, that’s a business evaluation that only Blizzard can really perform, because it really only matters to their bottom line.

As a player, however, I have to look at it and ask why I’m being asked to change my behavior. Why am I being asked to stop having the fun I’ve been having in Arenas and start having less fun in Rated Battlegrounds? Does it add up that this is really about slowing down gear acquisition?

I think that’s what bugs me the most about this change. I understand corporate logic; you can’t come out and admit that a game is not attracting players, because that’s a tacit admission of failure in the marketplace. That’s not going to happen. It’s dumb of me to rationally expect Blizzard to come out and say, “Rated Battlegrounds are not doing as well as we would like; not enough teams are participating, so we’re going to force our PvP players to participate – despite their unwillingness to do so to date.”

Yeah. Not going to see that in a press release.

But this is the second time that major changes have been introduced to PvP due to Rated Battlegrounds that affect other parts of PvP, and the second time that such changes have come out with misleading explanations. And much like saying that the graveyard changes were to prevent camping (when they obviously were not), saying that the changes to Arena Conquest Points are to slow down CP/hour is simply … wrong. Dishonest. It doesn’t hold up.

Come right out and say it: we need more teams participating in the lower rating levels of Rated Battlegrounds. That is the fix that’s needed. If rBGs are to have a chance at being successful in this expansion, more people absolutely need to be convinced to put forth the effort to give them a try, casually, to give the matching algorithm a chance to work.

There’s a little carrot called gear that’s being held out to PvPers to get them to play Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds. The stick is now there, too – if you want to stay competitive in Arenas, you’ll do your rBGs and like them.

I don’t expect this to change, and I don’t expect Blizzard to say anything more on the matter.

All I ask is that that we be honest about why this change is happening, and make our choices accordingly.

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PvP Season 9 Ending Soon

Well, looks like it’s time to get ready to gear up for PvP again. From a recent Warcraft blog post:

Arena and Rated Battleground Season 9 is scheduled to end as early as June 21. …

At the end of the season, Conquest Points will be converted to Honor Points, possibly exceeding the 4,000 point Honor cap. … (A)ny Honor accrued above the 4,000-point cap will be converted into gold at a rate of 35 silver per point.

All Season 9 items will cost Honor Points (equivalent to their previous Conquest Point cost) when the season ends. … Season 10 rewards will be made available for purchase with Conquest Points awarded during the new season.

This is the first time we’ll go through the point conversion Blizzard described at the start of Cataclysm, and the process will be very similar between PvP and PvE gear. Come the end of this month:

  • All Conquest Points will be changed to Honor Points. If this brings you over the Honor Point cap of 4000, you’ll get some gold back, but you won’t be able to break the cap.
  • Conquest Points will get you new shiny Season 10 gear from the Conquest Quartermasters.
  • Honor Points will buy you Vicious gear from the Honor Quartermasters.
  • Crafters will be able to make Bloodthirsty-level gear, as well as the current ilvl 339 blue gear.

If you are competing only in normal battlegrounds, this means you will now be working to upgrade your kit to full Vicious, including the Vicious weapons. Current builds on the PTR have these purchasable with Honor Points, which has never happened before with arena weapons. Take advantage of this and upgrade your weapons as soon as possible. (Edit: You will have to earn a certain amount of CP/HP before you can purchase them – they can’t be your first purchase.)

PREPARING FOR SEASON 10

At this point, there’s not a lot you can do to stockpile points to make this into a hugely profitable endeavor. You can cap out Honor Points and get some money from your Conquest Points, but it’s not really the most profitable use of your time – you’d make waaaay more money fishing up Volatile Fire than trying to make huge sums off your stash of Conquest Points. Remember, you can’t grind Conquest Points due to their weekly cap. So if you have a stockpile, great, but if not, don’t sweat it.

What you can do, however, is have a stockpile of Honor Points ready to go for two reasons.

First, you will want to complete your Vicious Gladiator’s set quickly. If you have not completed your Vicious set, you’ll be able to do that with Honor points. Having capped your Honor now will give you a leg up on the competition then.

Second, you will want 3000 Honor Points to get the PvP helm and shoulder enchants. Once you start getting new Conquest gear, you’ll want to be able to enchant it quickly – but it’s entirely likely that we might get a new round of stronger enchants, so don’t go buying the Vicious ones just yet – unless you’re just totally out of things to buy with Honor, in which case, go ahead and stockpile these. :-)

I haven’t seen any indication of new enchants on the PTR yet, but given the names I’m being conservative here; if someone has knowledge about them, I’d love to know more!

MORE TO COME

There are some interesting changes coming on the PTR to how we purchase gear, but we’re still far enough out that I don’t want to comment on them too much yet. It looks like you’ll need to earn a certain amount of Honor and Conquest points before purchasing weapons, which will change gearing strategies and delaying their acquisition until later in the season.

We’ll see what this all looks like when it gets to live. Stay tuned.

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The Arena Grand Master

The best twink trinket for low levels is the Arena Grand Master. More than any other item, the AGM marks a character as a serious twink, having put in the days, weeks, or even months to get an absurdly powerful trinket for low-level PvP. Anyone can get the Inherited Insignia of the Alliance. Only twinks consider getting the AGM.

In order to complete it, you need to loot 12 (that’s twelve) Arena Master trinkets from the Arena Treasure Chest dropped by Short John Mithril in the Gurubashi Arena in The Cape of Stranglethorn. Every three hours, this crazy goblin comes and drops a chest of loot on the floor of the arena.

So you have 8 chances each day to try to win the Arena Master trinket. That’s the good news.

The bad news is, well, pretty bad.

The first part of the bad news is that the Gurubashi Arena floor is a free-for-all area. As soon as you step foot down there anyone can, and will, attack you. This means competition between twinks can be quite fierce.

The second is that there are two achievements based on getting the Arena Grand Master, so endgame characters will be trying for it, too.

The combination of these two issues makes getting the Arena Grand Master a challenge if you don’t have a guild who can help you out. (And even if you do have a guild like that, it’s still a challenge.)

But overcoming challenges is what playing a twink is all about.

I learned a lot during my quest to get the Arena Grand Master.

  • Park your toon in the Arena, preferably by Short John Mithril. This way you don’t have to corpse-run your way back into the Arena every time you want to check.
  • Check every three hours you’re available. If level 85 characters are there, you can try to strike a deal with them – or ninja the trinket. Log out if you know it’s hopeless.
  • Even if you’re late, check to see if the chest is still there. I would often forget and check in at five or ten past the hour, and discover no one had taken the chest yet. Once, I logged in 45 minutes late and still got it!
  • Be friendly. You’ll get to know a lot of the twink players and guilds on your server when farming the AGM, and often they’ll help you out after their current project is over. You’ll also get a chance to see how they act. Smart twink guilds don’t let their players act like jerks in the Arena, because it’s prime recruiting grounds for new twinks.
  • You can ninja the trinket away from higher level characters. Wait until they are in combat with another player and see if you can get over to the chest without them stopping you. Another favorite tactic is to let yourself be killed, then resurrect right on top of the chest.
  • The Arena Master trinket is Bind on Pickup, so you have to accept the binding to loot it. Be ready for this. Have your mouse in the right spot to click “Yes,” and spam that click. Don’t be caught unprepared – autoloot should be on, and you should click that button.
  • Pick your times wisely. I found I had great success logging in right as I was logging in for work – 9AM on weekday mornings – and then again at lunchtime or mid-afternoon. Others swear by the 3 and 6 AM slots, but my sleep schedule doesn’t allow me to do those. By contrast, Friday at 9PM would be a madhouse in the Arena, and was best served by bringing lots of guildies.
I remember my very first Arena Master, and how impressed I was that I finally got something out of that chest! Then the sinking feeling hit – I was going to have to do it many, many times.

Eventually, though, you get the 12 Arena Master trinkets and can turn them in to the crazy goblin for an exceptional piece of work – 120 extra health, and a bubble that absorbs 2000 damage. It’s pretty awesome.

But then your work is only partly done, because you’ll probably want a second one. If you’re Human, you definitely the second one, and even if you’re not, you still probably still want it for when your PvP trinket is on CD. And for walking around your home city, because an extra 240 health is really cool at level 19.

Getting the AGM seems hard at first, but it’s relatively easy once you get started. It’s a big task, and it requires commitment, but it’s not difficult per se. It just requires dedication and persistence.

If you haven’t tried for the Arena Grand Master before, I recommend you try it. It’s an interesting, unique experience in WoW, and one worth having.

Good luck.

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The Currency Conversions of Warcraft Patch 4.1

World of Warcraft patch 4.1 brings with it an interesting change: conversions between PvP and PvE currencies. From the latest PTR notes:

  • Honor is now purchasable from the Justice Commodities Vendor at 250 Honor per 375 Justice.
  • Justice is now purchasable from the Honor Commodities Vendor at 250 Justice per 375 Honor.
  • Conquest is now purchasable from the Valor vendor at 250 Conquest per 250 Valor.

You could summarize this as the lower tier has a bidirectional exchange rate of 3:2 between PvP and PvE, and the higher tier has a 1:1 exchange rate from PvE to PvP, with no corresponding exchange between PvP to PvE.

These proposed changes are quite interesting. These four currencies are some of the primary rewards for endgame player, and as the different currencies have become increasingly unified over the course of the game, changes in one area of the game can increasingly impact others. There are both good and bad things about having a more simplified currency system, one that allows people to switch between different spheres of the game without necessarily participating in them. The rewards continue to have meaning and power once they’ve served their primary purpose.

What’s even more interesting is what activities the currencies don’t reward, where the walls of separation are maintained, where there are holes in the logical, perfect system.

Let’s take a look.

DUDE, WHERE ARE MY MARKS OF HONOR?

Do you remember battleground Marks of Honor? Marks of Honor were tokens that were awarded for completing a battleground, with different types awarded by different battlegrounds. You needed these Marks to get leveling PvP gear, accessories, mounts, and endgame gear (from Wintergrasp, for instance.)

There were other types of PvP currencies, too: Honor Points (gotten from HKs and accomplishing battleground objectives) and Arena Points (from playing Arenas.) Marks, Honor Points, and Arena Points all existed in a chaotic soup which made gearing up an interesting exercise. Depending on what you wanted, you might need to run EotS a bunch of times, or the original three (WSG, AB, AV) over and over to get the prizes you wanted. Mount collectors will probably remember this as a bad thing.

Oh yes, and there was a direct conversion between Marks to Honor Points (remember Concerted Efforts / For Great Honor?), and a conversion between Honor and Gold, so just showing up to a battleground could be profitable – but only if you had a balanced set of Marks for your level. If you just played WSG or AV (*cough cough*), you were stuck with a lot of unusable Marks.

Marks served a good purpose – they kept people going back to different battlegrounds. Without Marks, entire factions would have deserted battlegrounds in certain brackets – Horde would have ditched Alterac Valley in favor of Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, Alliance would have ditched WSG/AB in favor of Alterac Valley – which would have led to hugely long queue times. Horde players would queue for AV in the Ruin battlegroup in the 51-60 bracket solely to get AV Marks – they had no chance of winning a 10v40 battle.

Marks kept the system running for a while. They weren’t great – they were pretty bad, in hindsight – but they provided incentive for people to show up for the fights, which was all they were supposed to do.

All Marks of Honor (except Wintergrasp) went away in 3.3.3, a change which coincided with the Random Battleground Finder. Blizzard introduced a tool which allowed people to queue for random battlegrounds, instead of specific ones. To avoid creating a conflict of interest with players, they removed the rewards which previously encouraged queuing for separate BGs and replaced them with the Daily Random Battleground quests we’re used to today.

It’s easy to forget how big of a change this was for PvP. We went from 10 kinds of currency to 4. Wintergrasp Marks still existed, as did Stone Keeper’s Shards for PvP Heirlooms, but suddenly it was either Honor Points or Arena Points, and that daily could get you great rewards if you didn’t do Arena.

In unifying the PvP currency, however, the differences in the average Honor Points between each battleground became a larger driver of player behavior. Alterac Valley had the highest Honor per Minute rates of any battleground, especially on it’s holiday weekends, so players flocked there to grind honor. Warsong Gulch had the lowest HPM, so it became the refuge of the randoms and the die-hard. Nothing sucked more than getting stuck in a hour-long WSG and losing. (There was no timer to end the match in the old days.) Players sought out the highest rewards, instead of spending their time grinding out each individual battleground for Marks, which meant the random feature was used a lot, and Alterac Valley, Strand of the Ancients, and Isle of Conquest got to see a lot of activity.

Marks were an artificial way to encourage players to play battlegrounds they didn’t like. It’s funny to put it that way now, but it’s really true. The balancing requirements of the Concerted Efforts repeatable quest (which converted 1 of each available Mark into Honor) kept people going back once all the mounts and gear were there, but it was a clunky system, designed to balance things out. Pushing people into a tool that randomly distributes their placement was a better idea, because all you had to do was reward people for using the random tool, and the unified currency works.

Except, of course, when those people have other ways to get the rewards they want.

THE PROBLEM OF LINKED CURRENCIES

The PvE Emblem currencies in Wrath were almost as confusing to new players as the PvP currencies. With a series of Emblems you could buy progressively more powerful gear. It works much like the Cataclysm setup, only the different tiers had different Emblems, which made it somewhat dizzying when you wanted to buy Heirlooms.

Points are better. Let me leave it at that.

There were two ways in which the PvE Emblems were linked to PvP.

  1. You could purchase PvP gear with Emblems directly
  2. You could convert Stone Keeper’s Shards/Wintergrasp Marks to Honor, which purchased PvP gear

The first method was in place to allow players who primarily raided or ran dungeons to do something with their Emblems once they had stopped being useful for PvE. You could assemble a good PvP set, not quite Arena quality, but certainly Battleground quality, with your PvE rewards. It allowed players to keep getting some rewards out of the Emblems, even if it wasn’t in the sphere that they originated from.

The second method was to let people who didn’t want Heirlooms to do something with those Stone Keeper’s Shards.

In theory, this was great.

The danger of a unified currency, however, is that it links seemingly unrelated activities, and that if one area is unbalanced, it will unbalance the other.

When Northrend Heroics became trivial to run, they became a better place to gear up for PvP than PvP itself. If a Heroic took 10 minutes, and a Battleground took 15-20, people start looking at those Heroic rewards really hard. I remember Ihra’s post when it came out, and my reaction was first of disbelief – then I looked at what I had, and what I could do, and he was absolutely right. I could burn through a Heroic in 10 minutes.

The majority of my PvP gear in the latter part of Wrath came not from battlegrounds, but from unused Emblems of Frost I got in ICC. It was easier than grinding it out or getting into Arenas!

But here’s the thing. You’re thinking, Cyn, that was all well and good, but that was at the end of an expansion, everything was out of whack, purpz were handed out by vendors in Dalaran like candy. That won’t happen again for a good long while! And it was just PvP gear, it didn’t affect Arena balance, it didn’t affect PvE balance! This is Cataclysm! Stuff is hard!

There’s nothing to worry about!

Oh, crap.

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT OF TOL BARAD

For a week, Tol Barad was given an insane boost in rewards -1800 Honor Points per successful attack – which caused a domino effect of win-trading that crippled the spirit of the zone. This allowed people who participated to gear up their Bloodthirsty PvP gear quickly, and with little effort, given that 1800 Honor Points is normally 12-15 battlegrounds of work. After this week, it was fixed so that it awarded less honor on offense (360 per win, plus a daily quest for 200), balancing the rewards somewhat in favor of the attackers, but still rewarding a failed defense. The rewards are now 180 Honor Points for a win, 180 for a loss, and the daily quest for 200.

The Tol Barad example is a shocking one which helps illustrate the challenge of an unified currency – if you are to have an easy, cheap source of one kind of reward, and that reward can be converted into another kind of reward, you may devalue the activities leading up to that reward. One activity can be the butterfly which spawns a hurricane in another part of the game.

In Tol Barad’s case, the explosive increase in honor devalued all other PvP activities. There was no reason to run battlegrounds during that week, unless you were really bored. Tol Barad was better than the random BG finder, which was better than selecting specific BGs, which in turn was better than doing PvP quests.

Now, consider what would have happened if the currency conversion of 4.1 was in place when this happened –  players would get 1200 Justice Points for winning Tol Barad. That’s an offset piece or so.

Thankfully, this inflated reward situation is not the case anymore, though winning Tol Barad remains the highest Honor Per Minute activity you can do in the game (380 Honor Points for about 20 minutes of work). That’s still pretty good. And if you’re grinding Justice Points, it might be a pretty good strategy, too – 253 Justice Points for 20 minutes? That’s 12.7 JP/M, which seems pretty good to my eye. At previous, post-win trading values (560 Honor Points) it was 18.6 JP/M, which would be insanely good. But 12.7 is pretty darn good.

Compare this to the time it takes to run a heroic. Easy Heroics run what, 20-30 minutes with a good group? 210-280 Justice Points per dungeon run? 350 for the first one? That’s 11 JP/M, about two-thirds your TB earnings. So winning your first Tol Barad of the day is a slightly better way to get Justice Points than a good Heroic run.

What about if you are having a bad Heroic run, though? Say you’re pugging as a DPS, so those 350 Justice points take 45 minutes to get – and an additional 45 minutes in queue. That drops your JP/M down to 3.8. Even a loss at Tol Barad, with no quest reward, still gives you 3 JP/M!

What about daily battleground quests? I’ve had some really good nights in the BGs of late, where we get 400 Honor Points or so in the first hour. (It tapers off due to the inital pop of the daily quest.) That’s 4.4 JP/M for an hour of BGs where you win. Still better for DPS without guild support!

Now, 4.1 has some hope for better rewards – the new troll-themed Heroics are supposed to award double the Justice Points that the current instances do, as well as drop better loot. That would bring them well ahead of Tol Barad’s awards for winning on offense, which should keep players doing PvE for PvE rewards and PvP for PvP rewards. (That’s 373 Honor Points per Troll Heroic, to keep ourselves honest – a very good return, but only if you can do them quickly.)

But … Honor is going to be increased in battlegrounds across the board, too, which means all these calculations will probably be moot. Open combat areas like Tol Barad could see considerable increases. AV might reclaim its place as the king of honor farming. Those Troll instances might be hugely hard to complete. There’s a lot up in the air that we won’t know until 4.1 hits.

I expect that we will see some interesting things come out of this. If you are not in a position to get ready access to quick runs of a Heroic, Tol Barad may be an easier way to gear up on Justice gear than running dungeons. The key here is that you don’t have to succeed at Tol Barad to get rewarded for it, unlike a dungeon which you actually have to complete.

So I hope you know how to win Tol Barad, because its going to be a good place for both Honor and Justice Points.

WHY CONQUEST POINTS DON’T CONVERT

There’s a glaring omission in the conversion schema – Conquest to Valor. You can take Valor points and turn them into PvP epics, but not vice versa. I strongly, strongly support this omission.

Unlike Justice and Honor, which you can grind as long as you can sit in front of a keyboard (and even if you’re not there, thanks, afkers), there’s a weekly cap to both Valor and Conquest Points. You can store as many as you want, but once you’ve reached that cap for the week, you’re done. Can’t get any more, don’t even try until next Tuesday.

Because these caps are weekly caps, the key is time and relative difficulty. Players reach these two caps in very different ways, and that difference is why there should be no Conquest to Valor conversion.

  • Valor Points are capped at 1250 per week. To reach cap takes all raid bosses and a few heroic bosses, depending on if you run 10- or 25-man raids.
  • Conquest Points are capped at 1340 or more per week, depending on your PvP rating. The higher your rating, the higher your cap. Hitting the cap takes 5 Arena matches.

Now, consider those two caps in terms of time and effort to reach.

  • Valor Cap: complete ALL raids with 9 or 24 other people, then run a few heroics with 4 other people, against a set level of difficulty. Several nights of work.
  • Conquest Cap: Win 5 rated PvP matches against a variable level of difficulty that adjusts to your skill level. Get a friend and play 2v2s for 2-3 hours.

It’s easy to cap Conquest points, and hard to cap Valor points. I know experienced raiders who didn’t even realize there was a weekly cap until recently!

If there was a 1:1 transfer of Conquest points to Valor points, raiders would rightly look at the situation and say: I will raid, but I must do Rated PvP to make sure I hit my Valor Point cap for the week, every week, every raiding alt. It doesn’t require a raid team, it doesn’t require an entire night – compared to raiding, it’s trivial to get a few wins at any rating, no matter how bad.

(I mean, come on. I’m no Arena wizard and I manage to cap each week. The system is designed to match you up against people with equal gear and skill; once you find equilibrium with your rating, you’ll win about half the time.)

This would be a bad situation, for both PvP and PvE.

Why is the current conversion (Valor to Conquest) okay?

  • PvP gear is better for PvP than PvE gear. Resilience is scaling well this season – too well, some would argue – and combined with the lack of overpowered legendaries like Shadowmourne, makes raiding gear unattractive for PvP. (Keep in mind that the PvP weapons were held back to allow raiding to catch up.)
  • PvP gear can be used in PvE, but PvE gear lacks critical PvP stats. You can raid in PvP gear – it’s not optimal, but the gear has all the right stats. Swap out your Spell Pen cloak, reforge for Hit, and you still have a lot of your primary stat budget. PvE gear, however, cannot be turned into PvP gear, and if you don’t have any Resilience, you will die very fast in PvP.
  • Time is money. The Conquest Cap requires far less time to reach than the Valor Cap, so PvPers will not look at raiding as an quicker option for them to get top-tier PvP gear.
  • High PvP Ratings raise the cap. The better you perform in rated PvP, the higher your cap is raised. This encourages players to try for better ratings, as the gear will come faster.
  • PvPers need more many more points to gear up. Excepting BH, there is only one way to get the good PvP gear – points. This is in stark contrast to PvE, where much of your gear will come from boss drops, and a smaller percentage will come from crafted epics. The absolute best raid gear doesn’t cost points at all – it’s all boss tokens and heroic drops. You can put this another way: Raiders run out of things to buy faster than Gladiators because raiding generates gear.

This is really an argument based upon ease of acquisition, not about balancing between PvP and PvE equipment. The best PvP weapons (requiring 2200 rating) were held back weeks because raiding hadn’t progressed to the point where people would flood Arenas to get gear for PvE. Now, this can happen a lot anyways – people will always go and get the regular PvP weapons, because they’re just plain good gear, and relatively easy to get.  But if you’re raiding and spending your Valor Points on PvP weapons instead of on Tier gear?

You’re doing it wrong.

WHEN POINTS BECOME USELESS

This happens every patch, every season – there comes a point where you buy everything you need. Your gear gets to the point where Justice and Honor points just don’t matter anymore, because there are no upgrades available to you with them. Surprisingly, this happens with Valor and Conquest points, too – at some point you are like, okay, that’s it, nothing else left in the store, why should I bother?

Getting your character to this point always feels strange. I am there with Honor Points on Cynwise – which was a long grind, but that’s a different post – and there’s always a sudden emptiness of purpose, a void where before you knew what you had to do. For nights you log in and say “tonight, I grind Honor! I will not stop until my fingers bleed!”

And then you wake up and go, huh, I really don’t need any more Honor. Now what do I do?

Providing currency conversions helps players overcome this problem. It extends the useful life of the reward for an activity which we (hopefully) enjoyed, so that we can feel that it’s still worth doing, if perhaps with less urgency than before.

If you look at the chart at the head of this post, I tried to break down what you can buy with each kind of currency. There are some anomalies (you can still buy old Wrath-era level 80 PvP gear in Dalaran for Justice Points, if I’m not mistaken) but by and large things have become much simpler than in previous patches and expansions. What do you do, right now, if you don’t need points to gear your character anymore?

  • Buy heirlooms, but that’s for other characters we’re not playing now
  • Buy old sets for RP, but that’s not everyone’s thing
  • Buy accessories, mounts, and consumables, but eventually you have them all
  • Buy trade goods that aren’t worth very much

None of these are really an incentive to keep doing what you’re doing. Patch 4.1 is going to bring something new, something that’s been missing since Wrath:

  • Buy decent gear for the other part of the game you’ve been neglecting

which is, all problems aside, a pretty nice change.

Keeping rewards relevant is important. That’s why I like this change.

THE LURKING BUTTERFLIES OF 4.1

I hesitate to do any serious analysis of HPM and JPM at this point until 4.1 is live. Not only will the new troll dungeons will have different rewards (and difficulty levels), Honor is getting buffed across the board. These are both good changes – the Honor grind was especially long this time if you never held Tol Barad – but they are both potentially disruptive. It might be that at low gear levels, battlegrounds and Tol Barad give better return on Justice points than the corresponding heroics, due to the length of time it takes to get through a dungeon. And perhaps at higher gear levels, the troll instances become the fastest way to complete a set of PvE gear – and of getting the mid-level PvP gear, especially if you’re losing a lot.

See? The mind starts to boggle when you think about this too much. There are a lot of possibilities when currency conversion becomes a reality and all of these activities get linked.

The upside of this change is that players will be able to do more stuff with the points they’ve accumulated. Right now I’m siting on a pile of Justice Points with nothing to do with them.

The downside is that there are hurricane-spawning butterflies lurking everywhere, ready to disrupt the balance of one side or the other. The old, confusing systems were not friendly, but they provided barriers between activities so that imbalances in one area didn’t affect the other.

We’ll have to see how it all shakes out.

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Disposable Heroes: How To Make Reusable Level 10 PvP Toons

It has never been easier to have a blast with low level PvP in Warcraft than it is right now. Gone are the days where getting a character ready for WSG meant hours of grinding, farming, and doing impossible things just to compete with the level 19 twinks.

Not only is it easier to prepare a character for the fast paced, high burst world of level 10 Warsong Gulch, you can do so without committing to a character. You can literally try out characters and reuse all their gear if you decide you don’t like them. Not enjoying the Rogue’s playstyle? Delete them. Finding the Warlock isn’t your thing? Delete. Discover you should have been playing Priest all this time? Level them up, transfer their starter gear from a Mage. Worried about learning PvP at level 85? Give it a try at level 10, instead, and work on understanding how it all works – in a totally OP character.

Not every character has to be a digital representation of ourselves, a testament to our accomplishments in game. Sometimes we want a disposable hero, someone who can pwn faces for a while and then be deleted without regret when they aren’t any fun anymore.

Two significant changes happened to make this possible.

  • The battleground brackets were split in two, separating the level 10-14 players from the level 15-19s. This means the gear disparity is lower between the top and bottom of the bracket, while combat ratings actually favor the low end of the level range (you get more bang for your buck at level 10 than 14.)
  • More heirloom items have become available, making it easier to outfit a character with almost every slot with a blue-quality item at level 10 – when no corresponding blue items actually exist.

The same heirloom gear sets you are getting to level your alts can be repurposed into gear for low level PvP. Combine those heirlooms with Hand-Me-Downs – white, non-binding items usable by level 1s and given the best enchants you can get – and you can build a character who provides a great escape from the drudgery of the endgame.

Let’s look at how you do this.

A little Resilience goes a long way at level 10. (And yes, that's 307 AP, 50% Crit.)

RECIPE FOR A DISPOSABLE HERO

You’ll need:

  • Appropriate heirlooms for your class. That means: chest, shoulders, weapon(s), trinkets (PvP + haste, Int for casters), cloak, helm. If you can’t get heirlooms, hand-me-downs can be subbed in.
  • Enchanted level 1 white gear for the following slots: wrists, gloves, boots.
  • There aren’t really any good pant enchants, so pick up a pair of crafted green pants at level 10.
  • Useful rings are cheap and available at level 10 for casters and level 12 for everyone else. Optional.
  • You can wear a white belt and necklace if you want to. Optional.
  • 4 Traveler’s Backpacks. They’re the size of Netherweave bags, but they don’t bind on pickup.
  • A stack or three of Rumsey Rum Black Label, for +15 stamina. Drink up!

The pants and rings are the only pieces you can’t reuse from this setup, but considering their low cost, they’re easy enough to throw away.

You can learn professions if you want, especially if you think you might level this character eventually. Engineering can also give you helms if your guild isn’t level 20 yet. But they’re not needed. And if you have a surplus of cloth, you can level your First Aid to 225 and use Heavy Runecloth bandages. But again, that’s optional.

You’ll notice that this gear list really corresponds to how you’d outfit any alt of a given class, if you’re starting off and want to breeze through the first 25 levels or so. And what’s surprising is how little gear is really required!

Let’s break down the gear into class/role type.

Cloth-wearing casters (Mages, Priests, Warlocks) should go for:

Nearly every other caster class can make use of these items, so you’ve pretty much covered every Intellect-based spec here. (Holy pallys are an exception for the staves.) Wand users can pick up a quest reward for additional stats (but don’t use the wand, you don’t need it.)

Agility classes (Rogue, Druid, Shaman, Hunter) should try:

You can, of course, get the corresponding mail heirlooms for Shaman and Hunter, but they’re really not necessary. The additional armor is fine, but is hardly necessary. If you have them, great, use them! If you don’t, shoot for the leather pieces first. They’re more globally useful.

You have a lot of choices for weapons at this level, and while there are some pros and cons for each class and spec, you are really after the enchants, not the weapons themselves. If you can dual wield, do so and get +30 Agility (and +60 Attack Power) from the enchants. If you can’t, the Grand Staff of Jordan is an excellent choice even if you gain no benefit from spellpower. It has Hit, high Stamina and Resilience to help with survivability in PvP, the white DPS is equivalent to other 2H heirloom weapons, and it’s better than a 1H weapon with the +15 Agility enchant! If you can use spells, it’s an additional bonus for when you have to pull off a clutch heal or nuke. It’s more flexible than the Repurposed Lava Dredger; which can only be used by Druids and Shaman out of these classes, and lacks the versatility of the GSJ.

Yes. I’m telling you that the Grand Staff of Jordan is a hunter weapon.

Strength-based classes (Warriors, Paladins) should go for:

Holy pallys are odd ducks. You can do all sorts of crazy things with their weapons, like taking a Repurposed Lava Dredger (which has Haste) and adding an Iron Counterweight (which has an insane +20 Haste) and grab the Haste glove enchants (+10 Haste) to make really fast Holy Light casts. Or you could rock the Reforged Truesilver Champion with either a caster enchant or Crusader. But overall, you’ll find that the Devout Aurastone Hammer with any of the caster enchants (+22 Intellect, +29/+30 Spellpower) will see a lot of use if you play healers. Priests, Druids, Shamans, and Paladins can all use this mace, and while Shammys and Pallys will find it more useful at low levels (it can be paired with a level 1 enchanted shield), Priests and Druids will get by, even with their limited offhand selections at low levels.

Level 10 Mage with 1500 HKs, an Alliance Battle Standard and Knight's Colors? Sure!

THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

You can approach disposable heroes in two ways:

  • I’m going to keep them level 10 as long as I can, if they level, meh
  • I’ll level as I go, and reroll when I hit 15

Either way works.

The first way is pretty easy to accomplish – XP is only gained in WSG when your team captures a flag. So don’t be there when this happens. Make a macro with a single line:

/afk

and keep tabs on your FC at all times. AFK out before the flag caps, wait 15 minutes (go do dailies or something), and return to let off some more steam later.

This method lets you stay with someone for a long, long time. I got over 1000 HKs on my level 10 mage without really trying, just by AFKing out.

But – to be quite honest – afking out can be kinda boring.

I mean, you never get to win, to really dominate the battleground, to make it so that the other team just hates you. They hate you for about 3 minutes and then you’re gone. And that’s not that fun.

So the other option is just to level up normally through BG experience, and when you hit 15 (or 19, or 25, or whatever), just delete the character and reroll.

You heard me. Delete the toon and start over again at level 10. I wager you can get to level 10 in 45 minutes or less, just by killing everything in sight with your uber gear. Very little of it is soulbound – not even the bags! – so just delete and start over. Try a different race, a different class. Or do the exact same one if you were having fun.

These are disposable heroes, after all!

No commitment, casual PvP where you get to pwn face and blow off steam. If you don’t know how to PvP, this is a great way to start.

Plus – you’ll learn to love Warsong Gulch. No, really!

Give it a try.

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Resilience Scaling in Warcraft Patch 4.0.6 and You

So on my most recent post about optimizing your gear for PvP, Nadilli left a comment saying:

Resil works in a way different to most stats. The more you have, the better your next point of resiliance works (the ammount increases exponentially). Ie. a character gains more of an effect from resilliance if they have 3400 points of resil than if they have 0.

I disagreed with that comment, because I’m an idiot who doesn’t always think things through, and have reading comprehension fail syndrome, just like the rest of the internet. My response was correct in that the scaling provided by Resilience is linear – which is correct – but I’m completely, totally wrong in that the effect of it is linear – because it’s not.

That’s confusing. Let me explain.

Resilience is funky. Let’s just start with that. Resilience has always been funky, will probably always be funky, and claims that Resilience Will Fix It ignore the fact that Resilience is a funky stat.

This post on the forums helps describe the problem. Each point of Resilience will grant the same amount of damage reduction to you, which makes sense – at level 85, every 100 points of Resilience grants you a little more than 1% reduction of incoming player damage. That’s the linear part. It’s increasing player survivability where Resilience becomes exponential.

Here’s the example used:

  • The attacker is trying to do 100k damage with an attack that does 10k damage. If the defender has 0% Resilience, the attacker needs 10 attacks to kill the defender.
  • If the defender has 10% Resilience, a 10k hit now hits for 9k, which means the attacker will need to do 11.11 attacks to kill the defender. Resilience saved the defender from 1.11 attacks.
  • If the defender has 20% Resilience, a 10k hit now hits for 8k, which requires 12.5 attacks. Resilience saved the defender from 2.5 attacks.
  • At 40% Resilience, the attacks are now hitting for 6k, which means the attacker needs 16.66 of them, which means that the defender is saved from 6.66 attacks.

Each 10% is providing a flat increase to the amount of damage reduced, which is logical and linear. But player survivability increases exponentially with Resilience, which is where confusion sets in. Linear application with exponential effect.

This is changing in 4.1, according to the PTR notes:

Resilience scaling has been modified for linear returns, as opposed to increasing returns. Under the new formula, going from 30 resilience to 40 resilience gives players the same increase to survivability as going from 0 to 10. Resilience now scales in the same way armor and magic resistances do. A player with 32.5% damage reduction from resilience in 4.0.6 should see their damage reduction unchanged in 4.1. Those with less than 32.5% will gain slightly. Those with more will lose some damage reduction, increasingly so as their resilience climbs.

We’ll have to see how the math on this shakes out – I’ve seen some reports that the new scaling on the PTR is buggy and not working as intended, so it’s hard to say how the curve will look.

I think it’s safe to say that player survivability will go down a bit with this change in the higher PvP brackets, and that while gemming and enchanting for Resilience will still be viable, it will be less viable than it is now past about 3.1k.

Thanks to Nadilli and Xylotism for setting me straight on this.

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Optimizing Your Character’s Gear For PvP

How do you know what the best gear is for you to use in PvP? The best talent build? The optimal rotation to use?

It’s with some interest that I’m following Ask Mr. Robot’s PvP Optimization project. Ask Mr. Robot is an online PvE gear optimizer, which shows different levels of gear that should, in theory, result in the optimal PvE performance of your character and spec. I looked at it a few weeks ago, and it looked very slick – but also, as most gear and talent sites have done, ignores PvP and focuses on PvE. I think that focus is actually a good thing, since PvE optimization is more than challenging enough, so focusing on an area of the game with definite metrics for success while building a site means a cleaner product in the end. And while Mr. Robot and Elitist Jerks may not always agree on the best gear and spec for a class, the discussions around class mechanics and simulating performance, and how gear affects that performance, makes for better results overall.

But tackling PvP is an ambitious step, and one that I’m pleased to see the Mr. Robot team tackle. We do these things because they are hard!

PvE seems easier to model than PvP for one simple reason: in most cases, you are able to focus on a single variable’s output to determine success. Damage dealing is the easiest one to model, with one metric – DPS, damage per second – to measure. Healing and tanking are slightly more complicated, but reducing your optimization question to healing throughput (including damage mitigation) and threat generation gives you a concrete goal to focus on. And while I’m glossing over some important nuances here, especially for optimizing tank performance, you can simulate a fight based on these three variables – how much damage do you need done, how much damage is the raid going to take, how much threat needs to be generated to compensate for the damage being done – and optimize individual classes and entire raid groups that way.

PvP is different, and those differences make it a challenge to model.

THE CHALLENGE OF MODELING PVP

The obvious difference between PvE and PvP – the kind of opponents you face in each activity – is only part of the challenge in optimizing for PvP. I’d argue that for modeling, it’s actually not a very big difference at all – you can evaluate performance in a neutral setting, and then modify those results situationally, according to class and environment.

I think a bigger challenge is trying to find balance between competing priorities in PvP which, frankly, don’t exist in PvE. In a typical raid environment a DPS can focus entirely on squeezing out every last drop of performance at the expense of survivability. Self-heals or resistance gear might make it easier to stay alive during specific encounters, but as long as DPS players can move out of bad things, they can delegate healing duties to the healers. Healers are expected to heal tank and raid damage as part of the encounter. DPS are expected to deliver a certain minimum amount of damage to the elements of the encounter.

Success in PvP, however, doesn’t come with optimizing solely for a single task. Generally, you can’t sacrifice your defense for offense, but neither can you emphasize your defense too much, or you won’t have the power for offense.

So what are the kinds of things that you have to take into account in PvP?

  • Survivability – You have to be able to stay alive to complete the goal of the match. In Arenas, dying means you lose. In Battlegrounds, dying means you are getting sent to a penalty box and moved around the map, possibly causing you to lose – but not always.
  • Output – You have to be able to cause damage or heal, and you have to do this job well.
  • Establishing Control – Controlling your opponents through CC abilities, interrupts, knockbacks, etc., all are essential to both staying alive and killing your opponent.
  • Regaining Control – Being able to take back control, when you lose it, through good use of trinkets and other abilities, is essential. Any discussion on optimization can’t ignore the value of a PvP trinket, and the escape abilities of a Flag Carrier are of paramount importance to success in WSG and TP.
  • Unpredictability – You are fighting a human opponent, and doing the unexpected can be the difference between victory or death. It could be simple things, like using Demonic Circle: Teleport and terrain to get melee to follow you into a bad position, or clever things, like using Barov’s Peasant Caller to keep a rogue in combat.
  • Variety – Within each class, and even each spec, there are many ways you can play it well. This lesson was drilled into me when I played a mage twink at level 19; I could build for damage OR control within the Frost tree, and it all depended on how I wanted to play the toon.
  • Environment – Different PvP activities require different emphasis and gear choices. In Arenas, you can build your class and gear around your known teammates, and can be assured of specific buffs or healing types. In Rated Battlegrounds, you have many (but not all) of the limits of Arenas, but often will need to be self sufficient – you will not have the same 1-4 people around you at all times. In regular BGs and world PvP, you may be completely on your own.

The more I think about it, the more gutsy the Ask Mr. Robot team seems for even making the attempt!

GEAR LEVELS VERSUS GEAR CHOICES

The best part about PvP gear is that, at least at the endgame, it’s pretty simple to figure out what you should be wearing. There is only one source of gear after the crafted sets – PvP vendors, no messy drops – so your endgame goals are pretty straightforward – get the best PvP gear you can afford in each slot. If you have Conquest points, get Vicious Gladiator’s Gear. If you have Honor Points, get Bloodthirsty Gear. If you don’t have any of those, get crafted gear.

But this kind of thinking is really about gear levels, not choices. It’s actually pretty easy to optimize for this, since you just have to look at your current activity level and figure out if you are able to get the next tier of gear. Instead of Heroic Modes / Raids / Heroics / Regular dungeons, you just ask Rated PvP / Unrated PvP / Crafted and you’re set. If you have Bloodthirsty gear but do Arenas, you should be looking at Vicious gear as your optimal set.

Gear levels are easy to code for. Gear choices are where we get into difficulties. Which neck piece should you get, the one with Spirit … or the one with Spell Penetration? Should you chose Mastery, Haste, or Crit? What about mixing in some PvE pieces? How much Resilience is enough? What do you enchant for? What do you gem for?

This is where the going gets tough.

Generally speaking, there are a few stats we need to make sure we take care of in PvP:

  • Hit: 4% spell hit, 5% melee hit, more if you’re DW)
  • Spell Penetration: 196 to cap, 240 to cap against Mages, but only for casters … and DKs.
  • Resilience: as much as possible.
  • Your primary stat: as much as possible.

But when we get down to the brass tacks of each class, how do we make a call on secondary stats? Some choices are obviously bad – Spirit does nothing for Warlocks, for instance, and Spell Penetration does nothing for Warriors – but some are not obviously bad, just not optimal. That’s where the Ask Mr. Robot algorithms can come in handy.

RESILIENCE BUDGETS

So one of the big changes I made in my own PvP gear this weekend was going away from PvP gear and getting the Darkmoon Card: Volcano for my warlock. This cost me 301 Resilience (0.82% damage reduction) in exchange for 321 Mastery, a 1600 Intellect proc, and damage procs that seem to happen all the time. It’s been a huge upgrade that causes my output to go through the roof, but at the expense of 1% damage reduction. I honestly think this is a better setup than what I had before, with dual PvP trinkets.

When do you make these tradeoffs? Is it on an item-by-item basis, or a overall sense of where your character is in their gear?

I think, unlike PvE, you might be better off looking at your entire set and making a judgement call. I think my biggest driver towards getting the Darkmoon Card was that my Resilience was at 3300, and that losing 1% (which brought me to like… 32%?) was a small price to pay for the gain of such a good trinket.

I’m fumbling around with the idea of a Resilience budget for each tier, instead of each item, to make these kinds of judgement calls. If you’re doing Rated PvP, you’ll want to have a certain amount of Resilience, but at some point you can make tradeoffs to do what you want to do. Perhaps it’s 80% of the total possible, or 90% – I’m not sure. But I’m pretty sure that if you just do an item-by-time analysis, you’re going to lose out on some benefits.

Of course, if Blizzard decides to apply diminishing returns to Resilience, then that changes the equation substantially.

Balance is tricky.

NO ONE TRUE WAY TO KICK ASS

I actually think that it’s pretty easy to pick good gear for PvP – know which secondary stats benefit your output the most and favor them, hit the caps you need to hit, have a PvP trinket, and stack your primary stat and Resilience. Go pwn.

But good gear is not optimal gear. I guess that’s the part I honestly struggle with when discussing optimization for PvP – you’re going to need to do things that sacrifice one stat for another, and that those choices depend upon your playstyle. You could build a Destro Lock who stacked Crit and play Drakedog-style, or your could stack Haste and play Run-And-Gun. You could balance out between the two and be very successful!

But still… this is still a computer game. It follows rules which can be divined. There is a set of gear for each class which will produce optimal damage or healing while providing adequate protection, because that’s how computers work. There are a set of logical, calculable rules that are being followed here.

I think this is the point where people’s opinions diverge on optimization, be it Mr. Robot, Elitist Jerks, or any of a dozen other Warcraft think tanks. A rational analysis and simulation of optimal conditions provides a mathematical certainty about behavior; but that certainty doesn’t necessarily translate into actual gameplay. At the same time, just because gameplay is so important, it doesn’t mean you can ignore the effects of optimal gear and talent choice!

PvE, PvP, it doesn’t matter: if you come up with a set of rules to evaluate gear, there will be an optimal set of gear for your class and spec. It may not be the best set of gear for you, but it will be the best set of gear for those rules.

I know a lot of players in both PvP and PvE who break gear rules. Lufitoom (the Bloodthirsty) is a great example of a player who defies traditional wisdom with her spec and stacks Mastery as her secondary stat, to great effect.

Ask Mr. Robot is essentially trying to divine a set of rules that will produce optimal gear and talent choices in PvP. I think that’s an admirable goal – otherwise I wouldn’t have written this post. They are trying to produce a friendly tool that will help players pick the best gear by doing the math for them.

But, just like in life, the most optimal path may not be the best one. Use your own judgement.

(And if you’re an Affliction PvP warlock, Haste > Crit > Mastery, because your dots will be easily expelled, and you’re going to need to cast other things, too.)

A CALL FOR HELP

You likely know more about PvPing on your class than I do. It takes working with a class for a while to really understand the nuances of it, and I don’t even claim to get all the nuances of all the specs of playing a Warlock. (You don’t see me Demo PvP for a reason!)

You almost definitely know more about PvPing on your class than the folks at Ask Mr. Robot. They’re building a tool to help players choose gear and talent builds, and are dipping their toes into the waters of PvP for the first time. I think this is a gutsy project, and hope that you will stop by to give them some advice on your favored class.

In the meanwhile: get the best gear you can get, but don’t think that gear is going to make you great at PvP.

Gear is just one factor to being successful.

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