Tag Archives: Gear

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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Battleground PvP Gear in Cataclysm Patch 4.0.6


Another patch has come and gone, and we continue to fight the good fight. Cataclysm patch 4.0.6 has brought a few new items to consider while gearing up for PvP, but nothing that changes the tiers of gear outlined in my Season 9 PvP Gear post.

Of note:

  • Glorious Conquest weapons – the upgraded versions of the Vicious weapons which require 2200 rating to acquire – are still unavailable. They will only become available when PvE progression gets to a point where they will not be substantial upgrades for raiders.
  • Tol Barad rewards have changed to make it worth your time to participate for Honor Points. Losing the battle awards 75 Honor Points, not zero, making it now worth participating in even if you lose.
  • New PvP enchants are now available.

Let’s take each of these in a little more detail.

UPGRADED CONQUEST WEAPONS

They’re on hold. The upgraded weapons you could get with a 2200 rating were first made unavailable due to some problems with the Conquest Point cap early in the season, then delayed further because they are better than most raiders could get at this time. The previous date of January 25th has been pushed back indefinitely, until progression raiding catches up.

This is really a minor inconvenience, especially for the tradeoff of not making raiders feel like they need to PvP to a 2200 rating to get decent weapons. Not having the upgraded PvP weapons isn’t sending Arena players into raids to try to get better stuff – it’s just not there yet. Parity between the two worlds is hard to achieve, and this delay is an interesting way to handle it.

TOL BARAD IS A NOW GOOD PLACE TO GEAR UP FOR PVP

Finally. When I first wrote my Season 9 PvP Gear guide, Tol Barad didn’t have much to offer over grinding regular battlegrounds. The honor return was good if you won, but lackluster if you lost, and there was no reason to collect commendations from the victory or the dailies.

No longer.

After some major flip flops in Tol Barad’s rewards, the battle has now settled in to:

  • 360 Honor Points for an offensive victory,
  • 180 Honor Points for a defensive victory, and
  • 75 Honor Points for a loss.

This is  actually a pretty good return on your time if you’re grinding Honor Points. A loss will usually net you around 100-125 honor for 25 minutes, about as much as a good AV or IoC victory. If you sneak in near the end of the battle, your Honor Per Minute goes way up, but it’s hard to gauge when it’s going to end, and it’s best to just queue for it when you see it’s up.

Furthermore, 4.0.6 has added new PvP enchants, available at both the Tol Barad quartermasters – Quartermaster Brazie for Alliance, Pogg for Horde – as well as the Honor Quartermasters in your capital city.

  • Head enchants give you 60 of a primary statand 35 Resilience. They cost 1000 Honor Points or 40 Tol Barad Commendations.
  • Shoulder enchants give you 50 of a primary stat and 25 Resilience. They cost 2000 Honor Points or 80 Tol Barad Commendations.

The naming convention is also somewhat clearer than previous versions of these enchants, with the Arcaniums of Vicious Agility, Intellect, and Strength for the head enchants, and the Greater Inscriptions of Vicious Agility, Intellect, and Strength for the shoulders. Having the season name in their titles leads me to believe that these enchants may be upgraded over different seasons, but that’s just a hunch. It certainly is nice to keep them all straight!

Finally, there have been some changes to the victory conditions in Tol Barad – it’s easier for Defenders to keep 0/3, easier for Attackers to take the last base at 2/3 – until we’ve seen them in action. It’s not going to change the fundamental structure of the battleground, but it is at least going to – perhaps – make it less frustrating overall.

GEARING STRATEGIES

I like having alternate currencies to play with when talking about how to gear up a character. They make it interesting – it’s not just all about how many points you can grind out.

So, I’ve slightly modified my own recommendations from the original guide:

  1. Get the crafted pieces made as soon as you can.
  2. Supplement with good items gained from PvE.
  3. Participate in Tol Barad whenever possible, win or lose. Do dailies for Commendations for PvP enchants.
  4. PvP in regular BGs to grind as much Honor Points as you can to get Bloodthirsty gear, focusing on offset pieces and the 2-pc set bonus.
  5. Participate in as many rated PvP matches as you can, up to the limit of Conquest Points you can gain this week.  Focus on gaining Vicious set pieces and weapons first. (As Taugrim points out in the comments below, if your class depends on their weapon, get the weapons first, before anything else.)
  6. Once your Vicious set is complete, start replacing Bloodthirsty offset pieces with Vicious.
  7. Once you’ve upgraded your offset, upgrade your weapons to the Glorious versions.
  8. Skip upgrading the Conquest armor unless you have points to burn at the end of a season (and even then, just consider stockpiling them at the cap.)

It’s nice that with a few changes of gear and reward, Tol Barad has become a place that is at least worth a PvPer’s time to visit.

Good changes, overall. I’m glad to see some PvP enchants in the mix finally.

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