Tag Archives: Twinks

Battlemaster

Cynwise - Shrine - Battlemaster Close Crop

My battleground diploma is done.

I locked at 85 to avoid the gear grind, focused on it for 6 months, and got it done.

I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of Mists of Pandaria, but I have no max level alts. I amuse myself hunting rares wearing the best gear possible. I take advantage of long BG queue times by going back to finish those old things I never did before.

I like how the Warlock class is playing in Mists; it’s so very different from Cataclysm. We are far removed from the class which inspired Decline. I really don’t have much to say about it aside from that it’s fun again.

Having a fun class again is a pretty big deal, come to think of it. Don’t take it for granted.

I don’t think I’ll unlock Cynwise anytime soon. I absolutely do not miss grinding gear to remain competitive in PvP. Having to work each and every week to keep up with my opponents isn’t for me anymore, and from the looks of things there’s going a lot of work ahead for endgame characters who want to PvP.

So.

I’d rather just play BGs and have fun with a video game.

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Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

XP-Off Battleground Exploit Needs Fixing

I’m sadly starting to see more of  a pretty simple exploit that has been around for a while. It’s usable in any of the leveling brackets, but appears to be most common in the 10-14 and 75-79 brackets – anywhere gear differences are potentially very pronounced.

The exploit allows someone to turn off XP while queuing for a regular battleground. Normally, turning off experience places a character in an xp-off battleground with other characters who have done the same. Gear is assumed to be of very high quality in these brackets, and players are assumed to know how to play both their class and the battlegrounds with skill. The exploit allows them to queue with leveling characters, giving them a serious advantage.

The advantage isn’t the problem; any player can choose to lock XP for a while, gear up, farm consumables, get great enchants, and then go to town in a normal battleground. You can do this with disposable heroes, you can do it to learn your class better, you can do it because you like winning in PvP. Warcraft PvP is, in many cases, a game of gear. Locking to gear up and unlocking to PvP is part of that game.

No, the problem is that the exploit deliberately sidesteps the XP lock to allow characters to enter a leveling battleground but avoid gaining experience. It’s cheating. It takes advantage of a delay between turning XP off and queuing for a battleground to get a twink into a leveling bracket. They become immune to the experience gain, even accidental experience gain, that moves people along in these brackets. There’s a level 10 toon on my Alliance server with “of the Alliance” – 100k Honorable Kills – who got it entirely by farming battlegrounds with this exploit. It’s one thing to AFK out of a battleground before each flag cap to avoid experience gains. It’s another thing entirely to cheat so you can cap and win as many BGs as you like because you’re immune to experience.

This exploit is in the same category as the Arathi Basin Fast Start exploit from a while ago – deliberately circumventing the explicit rules of the game. There’s not even a gray area here about how everyone can do it – you need to download an add-on for it, and no, you can google it yourself, I’m not linking to it.

But I hate when things like this happen – it’s bad for leveling PvPers, it’s bad for twink brackets, it’s bad for everyone - but the folks who are cheating. There are a lot of good players in the twink community, players who enjoy the thrill of competing with the best gear you can get for a bracket. I find higher quality battlegrounds in the 19s and 70s and 80s than I ever do at 85.

Yeah, I get it. I get that it’s fun to take a geared toon into a 10-14 bracket and rock it. I get that it’s fun to deck yourself out in Cata greens and kick ass in the 75-79 bracket. It’s fun winning. It’s fun being overpowered.

But play by the same rules as everyone else, for pity’s sake.

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Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Green Tinted Goggles

The 20 v. 24 War

When the battleground brackets were split in two – from x0-x9 to x0-x4 and x5-x9 – several other changes were made which were to have a dramatic impact that wasn’t apparent at the time.

  • Characters who had reached the maximum level of their account type (trial accounts to 20, vanilla accounts to 60, BC accounts to 70, Wrath accounts to 80) were now placed in the XP-off brackets, aka the twink brackets.
  • Brackets were standardized so the highest level of an account type (60, 70, 80) were no longer the highest level within the bracket for some battlegrounds.

These changes were made, in part, to remove expansion twinks from the leveling XP brackets. A known problem with level 60 AV would be “Molten Core guilds” – guilds of characters on accounts which never upgraded to Burning Crusade, who raided the old instances for the best gear possible, and who would show up and DESTROY the opposition in the 51-60 Alterac Valley bracket.

(Oh god. Those guys were so good, you have no idea unless you saw them in action. It was hopeless fighting them with a pug. Even my twinked Death Knight got steamrolled.)

Placing expansion twinks in the XP-off bracket (which, logically, is where they belonged in the first place) would have probably not caused much of an uproar without the reorganization of the brackets. PvPing at the top of the bracket almost always guarantees that characters will be as powerful as they can possibly become. The only exception to this was the 10-19 bracket, where level 10s gain a huge benefit to their stats due to favorable combat statistic scaling. Everywhere else, the 9-level gap was just too much.

Expansion twinks found themselves flipped from the top of most of the brackets to the bottom, suddenly faced with level 64 or 74 or 84 opponents. Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds were still open to them, but battlegrounds suddenly presented a very new challenge. No longer was it level 70s beating up on each other, everyone equal – now players had to figure out if it was better to stay where they were and enjoy beneficial scaling, or level 4 levels and get additional gear, talents, abilities, and health.

Surprisingly, most twinks stayed put. You lose a huge amount of effectiveness by leveling from one expansion pack to another, and the gear generally doesn’t catch up until you reach the endgame of the next expansion. The gear available at 64 and 74 isn’t that much better than the best epics of vanilla and BC. In a lot of cases, it’s still not beating the best epics. So there’s a compelling argument to stay an expansion twink, and the x4 twinks never really unbalanced the brackets. They adapted to their new situation.

Then Blizzard lifted the time restrictions on trial accounts, and the F2P deluge began.

CASUS BELLI

In Patch 4.2, Blizzard revised trial accounts to become Starter Edition accounts, allowing people to play up to level 20 for free. No longer restricted to 10 days, players could now take their time and gather the best gear possible, work on professions within the strict SE account limits (no primary profession over 100), and participate in PvP.

Level 20 Starter Edition twinks were born.

Due to the changes introduced above, trial account twinks were placed into the nascent 20-24 bracket, a quiet bracket that was populated by Cataclysm toons who liked the feel of lowbie PvP but who lacked many of the grandfathered BiS gear that dominated the 19s and 29s. The 24s weren’t wildly popular, but it wasn’t completely desolate.

That all changed with the F2P movement picked up steam. The population swelled with level 20 twinks, games became more regular, and a new culture came into the bracket, sweeping out the old.

But unlike the other, higher level expansion twink brackets, the 20-24 bracket has several key differences.

  • Combat ratings are more potent at low levels. Small differences in gear and enchants are magnified because each point matters more.
  • There is no expansion-induced power inflation at level 21. It’s not at the end of an expansion. While stats get less effective as you level through the 20s, there is no sharp decline like you see at level 10, 60, 70, or 80, so a level 24 character retains more effectiveness from level 20 than a level 74, or god forbid a level 84. Levels 83-84 are just brutal.
  • Starter edition accounts are substantially limited when compared to paid accounts. There are few enchants available for them to use. They can’t use the Auction House or mail, so BoE gear is practically impossible to get. Professions are limited. Guild heirlooms, like the head and shoulder slot items, are unobtainable. (Regular heirlooms are available, they just take time to get.) Faction changes are impossible, and quest rewards are distributed unequally between factions, preventing characters from getting the best gear. All of these restrictions add up to a sizable disadvantage in PvP.
  • Not every person in the XP-off battleground is a twink. These are Starter Editions, after all, and many of them are actually people trying the game for the first time. Shocking, I know! But unlike other XP-off battlegrounds, the players here didn’t select to be in the elite bracket – they just wanted to PvP. So there’s a wide variety of gear and player experience.

So here you have a sizable population of players joining a fledgling bracket at a disadvantage. They create their own community, they have their own sense of shared triumph over difficult odds – and having worked a bit myself on a trial edition twink, it’s hard work – but it’s fragile. F2P accounts want to play against other F2P accounts. They want to have that work be rewarded with a fair PvP experience.

But this is where the 24s come in.

THE VIEW FROM THE TOP (OF THE BRACKET)

How big of an advantage does a level 24 twink have in this bracket?

It’s one thing to run some simulations, to build out some test profiles on Wowhead and make educated guesses, but it’s another thing to see how it plays in the field. If you were to look at my level 19 Warrior twink, you might think she’s a real badass in the field. She’s not. No matter how good I make her, she’s still going to suffer in any DPS role because she can’t maintain time on target in the bracket.

Experience in the field matters more than numbers, so I rolled a hunter, leveled her up to 24 and twinked her out, and queued up to see how it played out.

Dear God.

I felt bad for what I was doing to the other team. I actually felt remorse for dominating the battlefield, which … I don’t think that’s ever happened. I’m not built that way.

Solo assault the Blacksmith with three defenders? No sweat. Kite one, pet on the healer, run away, use line of sight with the building to block fire, disengage down the hill, shoot through the hill… done. Base is mine, let’s find another one to cap.

Solo grab the flag, kill my way through midfield, destroy their offense playing cat and mouse in our base, get the winning cap? Exciting stuff. You start to feel like a big damn hero, gun firing rapidly as you strafe away from the pack of attackers, cutting them down one at a time.

I was a hawk among doves. I could get pulled down by a mob, or by the ever-present threat of a twink rogue ambush, but I would be sure to take a few of them with me, every single time.

Exciting? Yes. But – and I’m not joking here – it’s so easy to be good at level 24. I’ve never played a hunter before in PvP and I’m suddenly this titan of the battleground, FC and super-DPS all in one. I know they’re good at low levels, but not this good.

Properly played, level 24 twinks have a serious advantage to level 20s in the bracket. It’s not like the 70s, where 74s are common enough sights but rarely OP. (The OP distinction goes to level 70 mages.) It’s not like the 80s, where 84s are limited to a few select classes who benefit from insane stat inflation on Cata gear, above and beyond what is possible with level 80 Wrathful. No, there is a substantial, significant advantage being at the top of this bracket.

This could very quickly devolve into battles being decided by which side can field more 24 twinks, not about the contributions of the level 20 masses. After playing just a few games at 24, I can see that this is a very real concern.

The game is coded a certain way: level 24 twinks will hold every advantage in this bracket, should they choose to pursue them. The law of the game is silent in this time of war; there is nothing to prevent paid 24 accounts from stomping out the F2P PvP community.

BELLUM VICENI

One of the first interactions with the F2P viewpoint came on my first game after faction changing from Alliance to Horde. I went Worgen to get the Top Hat, but I rolled Alliance first because they have better Agility quest rewards, and I wanted to make sure I had them. I didn’t want to stay Alliance though – the queue times are too long (more Ally F2P than Horde) and I had friends on the Horde side of that server.

This tauren Sunwalker sized me up. “Looks like we have a traitor in our midst,” he bellowed. “Aluwyn’s Legguards? Ashen Gloves? Discyngage here is an Ally!”

I shrugged my shapely elven shoulders. “I wanted the top hat,” I said nonchalantly, fingering my rifle, crafted many years ago in Ironforge.

The tauren leaned in close as the timer counted out the final seconds. “I don’t heal Ally,” he hissed. “And no one else here will, either.”

Okay, I muttered to myself, loading my rifle.

Looks like we’re doing this the hard way.

The F2P community is openly hostile to level 24 twinks. The general opinion of 24s is that they are bad players looking to beat up on the weak, avoiding a fair fight to test their skills and learn from other players. There are shame lists on twinkinfo’s F2P forums, lists of 24s who are to be ridiculed on sight and avoided. There’s praise heaped on paid accounts who adhere to the F2P rules, letting fair matches continue  but allowing the F2P community to group up and circumvent some of Blizzard’s tighter restrictions.

Social pressure is the strongest weapon the 20s have, and they are using it in spades. If you’re 24, you’re bad. That’s a constant message that I hear in forum posts and in-game. 24s don’t want fair fights, they’re bad players who couldn’t manage to win any other way, who get their rocks off by beating up the weak. I hear that too.

I don’t blame them one bit for using this tactic. There’s a very real danger here of them losing the bracket they helped create. The more attention F2P PvP gets, the more people will look at it and go… hey, those F2P accounts are pretty weak, they look like … prey. And if enough 24s show up, not just bad players but good ones, experienced twinks, in sufficient numbers, then their games will die. They’ll either have to upgrade their accounts and roll 24s, or find something else to do.

The 20-24 bracket, as it exists today, is very much the result of Blizzard removing the 10-day limit off trial accounts. I think both sides realize and admit that. Starter edition toons are the reason it’s so popular now, and there’s real truth behind the statement that if it weren’t for F2P, few people would be interested in this bracket. The bracket was developing in a different way before the F2P accounts swarmed it, and while you could argue that they’re now the interlopers, F2P is here to stay in 20-24.

This particular fact is brought up usually to support Starter Editions getting their own, separate bracket, away from the 24s, because the disparity between the two sides is so very great. The 20s are waging a social campaign of shaming 24s, because the game itself is stacked against them.

THE MORALITY OF WAR

The 20-24 War is a battle of two opposing viewpoints of PvP combat.

  • PvP should be a fair contest. The true test of a player’s skill is in a fair fight; by making the playing field as even as possible, player skill and ability becomes paramount.
  • PvP should be unfair; victory goes to those who pursue every advantage over their opponents. If you put in the effort to increase your character’s abilities (through gear, professions, etc.), you should perform better than those who do not. Player skill is important, but that includes their skill in creating their character.

These two viewpoints are in opposition, but are not mutually exclusive. Warcraft PvP is inherently unfair; players enter battlegrounds at all levels with different gear, different enchants. This is how the game is coded, how it is designed, and the players have to adapt to it. But there’s still a desire for fairness, especially at the endgame, of having gear be roughly equal, classes be roughly equal, of performance being roughly equal, of player skill being the determining factor.

Twinks and full-time endgame PvPers both chase the best gear and enchants possible, not just for fairness, but so that they can perform as well as they can versus their opponents. If they come up against a lesser-geared opponent, they’ll beat them and move on. If they come up against someone with better gear, they do their best, but realize that they have to gear up and do better next time.

The ethics of gear are complicated. Is it fair to enter a battleground knowing that you’ve geared enough to make combat trivially easy in your favor? Is that your sin, or is it your opponent’s fault for not going to the same lengths you did? If someone queues up for PvP in broken gray gear, and you’re in enchanted heirlooms, are you morally obligated to hold your fire? Or do you kill them and move on? It’s not fair, to be sure – I don’t think anyone disputes that.

But is it wrong?

What if someone chooses to enter combat at a disadvantage? Do their opponents need to abstain from combat with them, or deliberately cripple themselves?

This is not just semantics for the 20-24 bracket. The core problem is one of perspective, and while the unfairness of 24 vs. 20 combat isn’t in dispute, the morality of it is.

Does the F2P movement have a right to exist? Are the 24s in it wrong for even being there?

That’s what this comes down to.

GRATIS VERSUS LIBRE: FREE AS IN BEER, NOT FREE AS IN SPEECH

The 20-24 bracket is unique in all the PvP brackets because of the presence of Starter Edition accounts. Unlike the other expansion twink brackets (70-74, 80-84), the choice between 20 and 24 is not one where there are advantages to both the low and high ends of the bracket that should be considered. Level 70 and 80 characters receive significantly better return on combat statistics, including Resilience, Haste, and Crit. But 74 and 84 have access to better gear, talents, and abilities. There are real choices here. A level 70 or 80 character has chosen one over the other.

And, most importantly, everyone in those brackets are paying customers.

I’ve been treating the level 20 community as equivalent to other expansion twinks up to this point, but that’s ignoring the very real difference between 20s and 24s: the 20s are there because they don’t – for a variety of reasons – want to pay World of Warcraft’s monthly subscription fee. Because of this, the 20-24 bracket is one of the only places where money provides a real advantage to gameplay in WoW. Fifteen dollars a month buys you the ability to pwn the bracket.

It gets you a lot more than that, of course, but it also gets you this advantage.

This debate is really about establishing a norm around the value of money and subscription services. Warcraft has been a subscription-based game for the entirety of its existence, which strongly implies that Starter Edition accounts are guests within the game; to be welcomed, but not to be considered the norm. If that’s the case, then the 20-24 bracket should be treated like any other PvP bracket – get yourself up to the top, gear up, and go to town. Players who choose to come into the battleground with trial accounts are just like any other undergeared, underleveled toon who enters a PvP bracket; a weakness to be exploited on the other team.

But, through sheer numbers, the F2P community makes up the majority of this specific bracket, so the social norm is different. The normal value of a subscription is inverted by the majority. Instead of “it’s your $15 a month, play what you want to play,” it’s now “this game is free, you’re playing $15/month to dominate it.” The normal ability level is the F2P level, not the paid level.

You can’t ignore the money on this one. You just can’t.

Should a player who pays nothing still have a good experience in WoW? I think most of us, with an eye towards the health of the game as a whole, would say – yes, if it convinces them to purchase the game. That’s a reasonable standpoint both from a commercial and personal point of view – the purpose of Starter Editions is to make money for Blizzard.

A smaller subset of people would say, yes, they should have a good experience no matter if they buy it or not. Often this opinion is based on self-interest – it’s nice to participate in WoW on a limited basis without incurring any costs – but sometimes it’s based on the idea that WoW should cultivate a good reputation within the F2P game community, that it’s something you can pick up every so often without paying for it.

And other folks would say: it doesn’t matter if they have a good time or not. They’re not paying customers.

Does the F2P 20 bracket have a right to exist? Do players who pay nothing have the right to dictate the norms and values of a bracket over those who do?

Does paying money confer rights? Should not paying money be seen as somehow morally superior?

The problem with saying the money doesn’t matter is that you’re then left with a case of people choosing disadvantage over advantage, and 20-24 isn’t as simple as that. F2P players want to have a game where they’re playing a fairly matched game, but the game isn’t set up to be fair.

The social pressure exerted by the F2P community is to ridicule the 24s, to accuse them of bullying and of being bad players, is entirely to maintain this fragile sense of fairness within the bracket. There’s an absolute need to demonize the opposition here, to make people look askance at even thinking of rolling 24s, because if too many paying customers do it, they can’t have their fun.

I think if you look at the situation closely, you’ll start to see that this is really an appeal to emotion, to the inherent moral superiority of the F2P twink – they have to overcome serious challenges to reach their maximum potential.

But all twinks have to overcome limits like F2P twinks.

ON TWINKING AND BULLYING

Are level 24 twinks bullying other players?

It’s a fair question to ask. Would someone have rolled a level 24 twink if it wasn’t for the purpose of playing PvP in a known lopsided bracket? Maybe. Probably not, but maybe. I think before the Starter Edition deluge, the 24 bracket was a nice compromise between 19 and 29 with a gear reset.

But now… ?

It’s very interesting playing 24 – for a while. It’s a challenge taking on multiple opponents at once, of figuring out how to make the most of your abilities to win, to be the decisive player on the battlefield.

But it’s very much like playing in the old 10-19 bracket, where twinks and levelers mingled freely. You have a few 24s, a bunch of 20 twinks, and a bunch of 20s who are not twinks by any means. Three tiers of players there – this isn’t a twink bracket, it’s effectively a leveling bracket that awards no XP.

Three tiers of toons, and two of them are twinks. Not one, two.

While writing The Challenge of Fixing Low Level PvP, I realized that the old-school twinks left the lowbie brackets, but new ones moved in in the form of geared levelers. Just because it’s a leveling bracket doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a strata of twinks, of min-maxed toons, in it.

The 20-24 bracket is unique in that it’s a locked bracket which should be given over entirely to the twinks, but isn’t. It has new players, really new, trying out the game mixed throughout. The legitimate Starter Edition accounts – those of new players trying out WoW to see if they’re going to buy it – are competing against both paid 24 twinks and F2P 20 twinks. F2P twinks with really good gear – BiS dungeon gear, BoAs, fishing hats, the best enchants they can get – are going to outclass those new players, by quite a bit. You only have to see players running around with 500-600 health at level 20 to realize that this is not a pure twink bracket.

If, in defense of the F2P movement, you have to be very careful if you’re going to accuse the level 24 twinks of bullying because they outgear the opposition. Are they rolling just because there are weaker players in the bracket? Almost certainly.

But that’s true of the F2P twinks, too.

PEACE TREATY

There isn’t really a level 24 twink culture anymore; it’s been subsumed into the F2P community, which is actively combating it for their own survival. I think the dynamic of the bracket is really interesting, and that my past few weeks of getting to know it have been enlightening.

My personal feeling is that the F2P PvP community that has sprung up deserves to survive. It represents people embracing serious constraints to create characters who are fun to play. It represents a nice option for veteran players who are just looking for a break from the game. If spinning it into its own bracket does that, great. If not, it will survive or perish on its own merits.

I think that’s an important point to make: a bracket, a community, needs to survive on its own merits. If it’s fun, it will draw people to it and resist attacks. If it’s not fun, people will drift away. It shouldn’t need developer assistance to do it.

But I also think that there’s a real conflict here between the F2P community and the normal PvP community, and that you have to stop and think about the arguments being presented that one takes precedence over the other. Things aren’t as simple as they seem. Don’t buy into the propaganda.

No matter which side of the war you end up on.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Green Tinted Goggles

The Challenge of Fixing Low Level PvP

In Zarhym’s recent foray into the PvP forums, the sentiment that low level PvP is broken in Cataclysm was voiced over, and over, and over again. The floating skull responded diplomatically:

We talked to Ghostcrawler about this yesterday. He’s well aware of this, but more importantly, he’s not very happy about it either. The class design team’s first priority is obviously balance around the end game, but absolute neglect of low-level balance isn’t okay. This is something that isn’t going to improve much in patch 4.3, but we hope to have more sound solutions coming.

I really sympathize with Zarhym here. This is not an easy topic to cover; I think the issues around low level PvP are actually more difficult to resolve than the balance problems of the endgame, because there are contradictory elements that simply cannot be reconciled – elements which do not exist at the end game.

These elements have a name. They are called new players.

And they are the reason not only why low level PvP is imbalanced, but why it should stay imbalanced.

THE PROBLEM OF LOW LEVEL PVP

It’s not enough to wring our hands and say, “low level PvP is broken.” While it may be true (and I believe it is), we have to look at the specific ways in which problems manifest in the battlegrounds.

  • Classes are imbalanced. Some classes have very good burst, others do not. Some have very good defenses, others do not. Some have counters, others do not.
  • Damage is very high relative to health. Characters die quickly in 1:1 situations.
  • Statistics vary wildly between characters within a bracket. Whether it is due to gear, professions, or enchants, players in the very early brackets show up in a wide variety of gear that can make one character ten times more powerful than another.
  • Stat scaling at low levels heightens small differences in gear. Due to rating decay, a few points in any stat will have a more dramatic impact at low levels than at higher ones.

These four interrelated problems cause lowbie PvP to appear “borked” and “broken.” I don’t like using those terms because I think that even in its current form, lowbie PvP is actually a lot of fun, both on the geared and ungeared side. But these problems combine to create strata of twinks within low level battlegrounds that can create seriously lopsided matches.

The real problem of low level PvP is that Blizzard removed one kind of twink from lowbie battlegrounds, only to have the void be filled by by another, more pernicious kind of twink:

Regular, experienced players.

LEARNING TO PLAY THE GAME

Think back to when you first started playing WoW, or your first MMO. Not just the early levels, either – the very first day.

I remember my first login, fumbling around on my MacBook’s trackpad, trying to right and left click with a single button, struggling to simply move and target. Concepts like combat stat decay and burst damage were far from my mind; I was trying to figure out how to perform the most basic functions of character control. And I struggled with it! It took me a week to get up to level 12; I didn’t even know basic MMO conventions. I didn’t get my first green piece until my second character – it was a Disciple’s Vest of the Whale, and I had no idea that green items existed before then.

I bring this up because the starting experience for a new player has a radically different set of challenges than that for an experienced player, and the game must take those into account. It must teach them basic mechanics of the game while also making them feel like they are accomplishing things. In order to retain customers, the game must reward new players and make them feel powerful and heroic – to pull them in and get them so they want to see more, to challenge them just enough so that they hit level 10 and go, WOW, this is awesome, let me keep on playing!

What Blizzard does not want to have happen is for someone to get frustrated at level 5 and walk away from the game, leaving a virtual corpse in the road outside Goldshire.

This is why characters start off with one ability and grow slowly – so players don’t get overwhelmed. This is why early abilities were substantially reworked in Cataclysm – so that each class would have just enough abilities to keep things interesting without overloading someone. It’s not just to make classes easier to learn – it’s acknowledging that new players are learning a lot of other things, too, and that low levels don’t need class complexity to make things worse.

Compare and contrast this with an experienced player, one who has learned the fundamentals of an MMO through the endgame. Zones which forgive the mistakes of someone just learning how to steer their character become trivially easy to a character who has a gaming pad and mouse set up, customizes their UI on the fly, writes attack macros as soon as they log in, knows how to pull multiple mobs, etc.. This isn’t about “catering to casuals,” however you want to take that term – this is about a real difference in skill between someone who is just picking up the game and someone who has played it for some time.

I used to think that the lower levels were easy for me because I outgeared them on my alts. I’d go roll an alt with enchants and heirlooms and stuff would die very quickly. It was only later that I realized I could do the exact same thing in starter gear and quest rewards, because I was a better player than the first time I leveled a character. Of course I should find the content easy! It’s made to be challenging to someone else, to teach them the skills which I already possess!

Think of how big this skill gap is that these early zones have to cover – be accessible enough to a completely new character, but not completely bore a veteran rolling yet another alt.

This is a fundamental truth of the lower levels which cannot be ignored when talking about low level PvP imbalance: the early game has to hook new players on the game and teach them the skills to play it. It has to be accessible to new players – not just to teach them the new skills, but to hook them on the game so they don’t go do something else! World of Warcraft has to be engaging enough through the first 20 levels that someone picking it up for the first time says, hey, this is pretty cool, it’s worth paying money to keep going.

From a business standpoint, this is a far more important priority than keeping experienced players challenged for 30 levels or so. They’ll get their challenge through other means.

Keep this in mind as you think about low level PvP, and as we dive into the math of stat scaling.

WHY THINGS ARE ALL DOWNHILL FROM LEVEL 10: THE PROBLEM OF STAT SCALING AND RATING DECAY

Most of the low level zones follow a fairly consistent character development arc. You start with trivial tasks at the very early levels, overcoming a minor obstacle by level 5 or 6, gaining experience, and overcoming a moderately difficult challenge by 10-12. By then you’re ready to move on to another zone, where the difficulty increases substantially over the next 5 levels or so, but so does the importance of the story – and the rewards. By the time you hit level 20 in that next zone, your character is authentically heroic – low level, but they’ve saved the day in a major way.

This arc is reinforced by a substantial shift in game mechanics that takes place at level 10.

I love going over at Shadowpanther.net’s formula page when trying to explain why a character at lower levels is sometimes better than one at higher levels due to stat scaling. Having each level laid out in a chart provides a better visual aid to see how ratings decay for a lot of people than mathematical formulas.

If you haven’t read these kinds of charts before, the first seven columns go over how much of each combat stat you need for 1% of the value; so if the Crit column in the level 19 row says 2.94, that means you need 2.94 Crit to equal 1%. (3 Crit rating is therefore 1.02% at 19.) The rest of the table relates to a very specific Rogue (and Hunter) stat called AEP, which isn’t relevant to our discussion here.

The Shadowpanther chart helps illustrate how stat scaling works. The more you level, the more value of a particular stat you need to get 1% of it. You need more stuff on your gear as you level in order to maintain a certain level of power. You can think of it as gear getting weaker as you level, if you like, or of driving you to acquire better gear to stay in good form.

Where stat scaling gets interesting is in the really low levels. Look at levels 1-10. There is no change in stat scaling in those first 10 levels – 1 point of Crit will get you 1.85% increased critical strike chance. There’s no gear decay at all until you reach level 11 – when suddenly, stats start to drop off pretty quickly.

Let’s go back to the initial character development arc again, but this time, looking at stat scaling.

From 1-10, characters get increasingly more powerful as they level. They gain primary statistics at each level that apply linearly; if you gain 5 of your primary statistic, you get the full benefit of that 5 points. This happens with or without good gear, mind you – because combat statistics are flat, the more you gain, the better your character becomes.

This increase has a deliberate, positive psychological effect on players. People feel like they’re getting more powerful as they level – because they are. This is much like a traditional RPG, where a level 5 character is substantially more powerful than a level 1 – it’s an entirely different ballgame.  Challenges have to be adjusted for the fact that you’re now a badass. That can be pretty cool.

Magical gear and enchants function in a linear fashion with this model. Just like in AD&D, a +1 Sword in the hands of a level 1 character functions exactly the same as in a level 10 character. It increases the chance to hit and damage the same amount. The damage might be a lower percentage of the higher level character’s overall damage, but that’s a function of them doing more damage overall. The gear remains unchanged.

Let’s translate this idea into WoW: let’s say a piece of gear gives you +3 Haste, which (for example’s sake) gives you +1% Haste at level 1, and at level 80, and at level 85. The more you level, the better gear you gain, the better your stats get. You could wear your level 70 gear and be just as effective at level 85 as you were at 70 – more so, since your base statistics have improved! Perhaps your linear stats (like Stamina and Mana) are lacking, but your gear is as effective as it was when you raided in Burning Crusade! It would make for a very different kind of game, since once you reached a certain level of power on your gear, it would be sufficient to handle most challenges in the game – but that would eliminate the idea of a gear tier, where it gets progressively more powerful.

For the first 10 levels your character gains in power, drawing you in, making you feel like yeah, I’m getting good at this!

Starting at level 11, linear scaling goes completely out the window, and rating decay sets in.

Starting at level 11, characters get decreasingly more powerful as they level due to stat scaling. At some point, they actually get weaker as a result of rating decay, as each point of a statistic they get by leveling counts for less than it used to. Gear becomes required to start making up the difference.

Look at the charts again. See how all the stats (other than Resilience) start going down in potency at level 11? That’s rating decay in action. Each point of a rating contributes less actual impact the more you level.

During the normal questing arc, this change is ideally hidden by moving to a new, more challenging zone. Things feel tougher in the second zone because they are tougher – but it’s not just because the opponents are tougher. You’re getting progressively weaker as you level, at least until you start getting gear to help make up the difference – and even then, you never really go back to the great scaling you enjoyed at level 10.

The story arc carries you towards a heroic achievement at level 20 at the same time game mechanics make you less potent. In a way, it makes a lot of sense to increase the overall difficulty of the game at this point for new players – but instead of making the mobs substantially more difficult, WoW makes PCs weaker and more dependent upon gear. This bait-and-switch works because it prepares players for the rest of the game, where they will be acquiring increasingly powerful gear to overcome more powerful challenges. The challenges are harder, but characters don’t get any more efficient from their improvements. The damage numbers are just bigger. The mana pools are bigger  - but so are the spell costs. You’re not actually any faster or more accurate. You’re not more skilled, you just have bigger numbers.

This ties in directly to the first symptom most people point to when talking about low level PvP’s problems: gear.

THE PROBLEM OF GEAR AND ENCHANTS

Heirloom gear and enchants represent two sides of the same problem – adding stats where new players lack them. They are both fundamentally unbalancing because the early leveling game is balanced for new players who lack those stats, not for experienced players with them. By walking into one of the 1-20 zones with anything other than quest rewards, you’re overgearing the content.

Generally speaking, that means the content is geared for:

  • Mostly whites through level 10-12
  • Whites and greens through level 15
  • Greens and maybe 1-2 blues by level 20

Keep in mind that many slots will not be filled either, even by white gear, so you’ll be missing a head, neck, 2 rings, 2 trinkets, and maybe a ranged slot.

The obvious problem is that there are players who have gear with stats in slots where other players don’t. It doesn’t take long to figure out that someone in blues versus someone in whites is imbalanced.  And that is absolutely true: better gear increases the amount of damage, healing, and health available to low level characters.

But the unseen problem is that, even with rating decay, gear scales better at lower levels. That scaling curve makes small differences much more prominent at levels 11-20 than at 40-60. It’s not just that gear grants more spellpower, attack power, or stamina – it’s that it grants more Haste, more Dodge, more Crit than it will at later levels. Heirloom gear is better gear at level 10 and 19 than at 35. 

But wait; enchants are even worse.

I’ve maintained that enchants outperform heirlooms in terms of raw power, but they’re even more potent at lower levels because of stat scaling. Keep in mind that many of these enchants were to be used at level 60 for raiding, and are not scaled for the leveling game. So an enchant like +15 Agility is pretty good at level 55, but it’s amazing at level 10. With the right combination of enchants, you can approach 100% Crit, Dodge, even Haste (Iron Counterweights FTW)!

But only for levels 1-10. After that point, stat decay kicks in, but vanilla enchants remain overpowered for the early brackets (up to 20-24, at least.)

Consider that you can have two rogues in the 10-14 bracket, and one could have 10x as much Agility as the other. Ten times as much.

And that Agility is giving more Dodge and Crit than at any other point in the game.

Let that sink in for a bit.

You have experienced players with access to gear through heirlooms, professions, and the AH. They can get great enchants which are at the peak of their potency in the early brackets. They have access to consumables (scrolls, rum, buff food) that new players don’t.

And they are playing the same game with players who are over the moon about a blue cloak with +4 of their primary stat on it.

I don’t see any potential problems with this in PvP. Nope.

THE PROBLEM OF CLASS BALANCE

You know, the gear problem is actually probably the easiest problem to solve with respect to low level PvP. Modifying the BG matching algorithm to filter based on an aggregate gear score – be it item level, total attack power/spell power, things like that – would be hard to implement, easy to work around, but conceptually it could work.

Class balance is a much harder problem to deal with at low levels.

Cataclysm brought with it a complete reworking of how abilities were learned by classes. A few gained some abilities early on, but many abilities were moved to later. Most AoE abilities were moved up to at least level 20. And Talent Specialization at level 10 granted some new abilities, but at the cost of a more flexible playstyle. I once wrote in Wrath that I needed to think of myself as a Mage, not a Frost Mage. Now I have to think like a Frost Mage – only lacking a lot of the tools of one.

The abilities at lower levels always present people with a challenge. Things are so basic and elementary at low levels. You have some of your core abilities, but not all of them. You don’t have many things that work together. Very few classes have counters, and those that do are OP.

The decision to move abilities around was entirely driven by making a class easier to learn for new players and for players new to the class. The first 5 levels are very basic, with abilities coming at a relatively steady, bearable clip. (The only class where I feel like you get too much at once is Druid because of Cat form at level 8.) The first 20 levels see a lot of abilities get introduced to a character – but not all abilities are equal, or are granted at the same time. And that’s not a bad thing, for leveling! Druids having Cat form at level 8 is honestly good for their leveling!

But how do you propose to balance this?

Look at the level 10-14 bracket and what different classes gain. Warriors gain Taunt at 12 and Heroic Strike at 14. Warlocks gain Bane of Agony at 12 and Fear at 14. Hunters gain Wing Clip at 12 and Hunter’s Mark & Disengage at 14.

  • Warriors get basically one attack which replaces an attack they already have (Strike).
  • Warlocks get an instant cast DoT (dramatically improving their damage output) and the best PvP CC in the game.
  • Hunters get two different escape methods: a snare and a leap. Both of those can’t be countered at this level by melee classes. They also get an attack buff.

There are two points here.

First, each class changes between the bottom and top of the low level brackets. In most cases, these are important abilities that get picked up in the early levels.

Second, each class changes differently. Warriors are actually becoming excellent lowbie tanks, while Hunters are picking up skills to make them great in PvP.

Third, many abilities have counters later on – but not yet. Warlocks might have a reliable escape from melee – but it comes at level 80. Warriors get gap closers – but at level 35. Counters add a lot of complexity to a class that, frankly, a new player isn’t ready for, and many experienced players who are new to the class aren’t ready for, either.

This isn’t a case of simple DPS balancing, of tweaking damage output to bring classes in line with each other. Each change made for PvP has to be considered in the context of a specific bracket, not “low level PvP.” What will it do at 10-14, 15-19, 20-24? More importantly, what will it do to the leveling experience? Will it give players too many buttons to push too soon?

Here’s the thing – when you take away gear as a factor, like in the xp-off bracket, you still see differences between class performance in both PvP and PvE. This is true at level 10, it’s true at level 70, and it’s true all the way up to level 85. Level 85 is where it’s the most balanced, not only because that’s where the majority of the players play, but because that’s where class toolkits are complete.

If you ask me who you should play in low level PvP, my standard response is to play what you enjoy playing, because then you’ll have fun. But secretly, I keep a list.

(I know, you’re shocked, shocked I say.)

You want to be OP under level 25? Play a Hunter, a Sub Rogue, Arcane Mage (Frost is also good at 19), Disc Priest, or Resto Shammy.

Consider what is really being asked for when people want class balance throughout the leveling experience: please balance 30 specs across 15 brackets in addition to the endgame. That’s 450 different class/spec/level combinations to balance against each other at 15 different points.

Oh, with no real standard of gear.

And make sure it’s balanced for PvP and PvE, too. Don’t screw up the leveling curve and cause players to get overwhelmed.

And don’t forget that you have to keep the endgame balanced, too.

See where this is going?

I’m not saying that classes shouldn’t be roughly balanced – they should, and this is where homogenization comes in handy. And this is a real problem in low level PvP – some classes are just not very good at certain points, even with the best gear you can get on them. I don’t PvP on my level 19 Warrior twink anymore, it’s too damn hard to be successful.

But blanket calls to fix class balance at low levels have to consider the context of that balance, and why it’s not as simple to implement as it is to ask for.

LOW LEVEL UTOPIA, OR THE PROBLEM OF EXPERIENCED PLAYERS

When you combine aggressively scaled statistics, rewards for experienced players that allow them to easily and consistently overgear early content, and a redesigned leveling program which spreads class abilities further along the leveling curve, and then toss that mixture into the early part of a game designed for new players, you get a highly combustible mixture.

Sending it in to Warsong Gulch at level 10 makes it explosive.

The complaints about low level PvP are valid enough – burst damage is too high. Some classes lack any real PvP defenses. Other classes and races may have abilities which are perfectly suited to PvP.

But… these problems have always been there, in the lower brackets, in the higher brackets, pretty much everywhere in Warcraft.

It’s interesting that these complaints are so rampant now, in Cataclysm, when there were periods in Warcraft’s history when low level PvP was far more hostile to new players.

Before the split brackets, before xp-locked brackets, before heirlooms, there were twinks. Twinks ruled low level PvP with an iron fist. They weren’t kind or gracious about it – they were as good as they could be, they played to win against the other twinks, and if you got in their way as a new player you were going to get steamrolled.

It was not balanced. It was not fair. It was not a good experience for new players, to be sure. And twinks were reviled for it, but they had unapologetic fun on their own terms.

With 3.2, battleground XP, and the creation of the xp-off battleground bracket, twinks were moved away from new players and given their own playground. Battlegrounds became a place not to perfect your craft and your self, but rather part of the leveling experience.

And that, right there, is where the current problems started. Not with heirlooms, but with adding experience to battlegrounds.

The promise of twink-free BGs was a heady one. I remember the excitement of those first months when people flooded into BGs to level through PvP. And it’s remained great – being able to mix up PvP with dungeons and questing keeps leveling fresh and exciting. It lets you avoid Outland or Northrend entirely, if you’re burned out on those expansions.

But with experience came the expectation that leveling through PvP should be fair(er).That by removing the twinks, the leveling brackets were now safe places to go with undergeared characters or new players. They weren’t, of course, but as long as the gear difference between characters wasn’t too extreme, the brackets weren’t too out of whack. And that was actually what happened, since those BGs were for leveling, people didn’t stop to get great gear and PvP – they came in the gear they had.

And then came heirlooms.

Heirlooms allowed players to outgear their opponents right from the beginning in PvP, and as more heirlooms have been added, the problem has gotten worse. While enchants are actually more imbalancing than heirlooms, most players aren’t willing to blow 500g on a glove enchant for an alt. (Heirlooms are vastly more popular than Hand Me Downs, so they get the blame for this one.)

Heirlooms gave early PvP levelers the edge they needed to be really good in PvP, to the point where they could dominate (and level faster.) Others noticed this, and got BoA gear too, and Heirlooms are now a really good idea if you want to level through PvP from 10-60. A new twink class was born: experienced players.

Instead of the PvP utopia that removing the twinks and granting XP was supposed to create, the exact same conditions prevailed.

The only difference was that now there was an expectation that new players could participate in low level PvP, that you could go in without putting a lot of work into your gear and still be successful.

The expectation might be there, even if the reality doesn’t match it.

Oh! And that the people who formerly decried twinks had become them. Let’s not forget that.

But PvP in Warcraft hasn’t changed. It has been, and always will be, very dependent upon gear. If you have better gear, you will do better. It’s also very class dependent; certain classes will do better at certain points than others.

Can low level PvP be improved? Absolutely. There are class tweaks that can be made to help both with leveling and PvP – Destro Warlocks getting Soul Fire at level 20 was a good example of this.

But even if you can fix some of the class balance issues, you will still have to contend with the very brutal fact that there will always be a great disparity between new and experienced players. As long as you have PvP as a viable leveling option, there will be wildly different gear levels between players.

Balancing low level PvP makes the endgame balancing act look easy.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Green Tinted Goggles

Fence Jumping in WSG and Terrain Exploits

There’s a spot near the middle of the Horde fence in WSG where, if you approach it just right, you can jump onto the fence and then on to the other side. It’s over the tunnel entrance, to the left of the little juke in the fenceline, by one of the torches.

No matter the faction, pretty much every twink FC knows about this jump. Pretty much every twink knows about this jump after playing level 19 for any period of time – you see people going over the fence all the time, you better figure out how to do it quick or you’re going to be SoL. I expect that this is not as commonly known in Rated Battlegrounds, but skilled FCs know how to do it.

Seriously, this fence jump is the worst-kept secret terrain exploit in PvP. I’m a terrible jumper, and even I can do this jump.

It’s a little odd, then, that Blizzard GMs have finally come out and started saying that this jump is illegal and will get you a warning and a ban:

“Hello Dakoduh! My name is Game Master Rodoux. I’m going to need you to refrain from hopping up there on the fence in Warsong Gulch.” This was followed by a temporary ban when the request was not honoured.

In addition to the GM whispers, twinks are reporting that people are getting disconnected mid-jump. I haven’t had it happen to me yet (and I have jumped the fence in the past week, I FC at level 70 after all) but I’m sure it’s probably a matter of time.

I don’t think this situation is like the terrain exploit charges in the Walls of Wintergrasp. It’s pretty clear that there’s a glitch in the Horde fence, and that you have to hit it just right to get over. There’s no corresponding glitch in the Alliance fence, there’s nothing really ambiguous about this – this is a terrain exploit.

Yet… it’s been in there since WSG launched six years ago, and it’s something that tactics and strategies have adapted around. It’s one of the quirks of the terrain, just like the rocky patches around the zerk huts or kiting melee around the tree stumps while firing at them. Your opponents will use it against you, so you better know how to do it in response. It’s been reported many times on the forums as a bug, but has never been fixed. So folks do the jump.

My working theory is that all changes to the battlegrounds right now are due to balancing issues in Rated Battlegrounds. The developers have already stated that their focus is on level 85 PvP, as that’s where most of the player base is at. The BG graveyard changes earlier this year were aimed entirely at disrupting healer-heavy comps in rBGs, by preventing healers from getting back to the FC quickly.

And if your FC is skilled at jumping the fence in rated play, they have an advantage in getting back to their healers quickly. Graveyard blocked? Go fence. Fence blocked? Go ramp. Healers, keep moving to the left until you meet the FC. This isn’t rocket science – there’s a slight imbalance in the map due to this exploit. Even though it’s been there since the beginning, it only matters now because of rated play. This shouldn’t really be a surprise that Blizzard is treating it as an exploit.

But it is, a little bit. The timing is odd. This is one of those quirks which showed you knew what you were doing in Warsong Gulch, that you’d played the map enough to know all the tricks. It’d been there for ages. And it never got fixed.

The warnings, bans, and DCs are likely precursors to an actual fix of the fence. (I so want to see Orc Peons out there repairing the fence when this gets fixed. For real.) The GMs know it’s a problem, they’re watching out for it now, word is getting out that it’s no longer okay for this jump.

The dead-letter law of terrain exploitation may not have been enforced for 6 years with this jump, but it is now.

Part of me does get frustrated with Blizzard when they suddenly start handing out bans for behavior that’s been accepted for years. That’s the part of me that says, fix your shit, Blizzard, it’s broke, don’t blame players for this. More importantly – don’t put players into a position of choosing between using a jumping exploit or not to win in PvP, because even if some don’t, others will.

The other part of me says, yeah, but just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it’s not still a terrain exploit. It sucks, because it’s part of the charm of WSG – but it’s hopping over a fence that is obviously supposed to block movement.

Here’s to hoping that Blizzard fixes it soon so the issue is put to rest.

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The PvP Pause

One of the reasons I enjoy having a twink like Cynderblock is that, because she is not leveling, I really get a chance to understand the abilities she has, how they interact, and what their limits are. I love XP-locked twinks because I have time to figure out the intricacies of a class and I’m able to get the best gear without it changing on me. Playing with XP off lets you learn nuances to your character, like how to pull trash versus how to pull a boss, or how to quest in areas well below your level versus those well above your level. You determine the right gear and abilities to use in different situations, and then you modify your interface – on screen, macros, keybinds, mousebinds –  to reflect that knowledge.

By keeping your level (and eventually, your gear) static, you are able to deeply understand the abilities your character possesses, and play them to their full potential.

Endgame characters are similar to twinks in that you spend a lot of time learning how a class operates at the endgame, but there are some differences:

  • The gear available to you will constantly change. As time goes on, better and better gear will be released, and no matter where you are on the raiding/PvP tree, your gear will improve over the course of an expansion. This usually represents an increase in power, not playstyle, but it does require some adjustment.
  • Your class abilities will change. Nerfs and buffs happen, often. Spells and glyphs get redesigned, or removed. These changes often affect endgame play more than lower levels, because they’re designed to affect endgame balance.
  • There is more theorycrafting available for endgame characters than leveling characters, so there is less need to figure it all out on your own. You can learn to play a spec effectively by following a guide.

These differences between endgame toons and twinks are pretty small, and the first two come in intervals that leave plenty of time to learn how things work before they change again. You have time to get your UI and macros set up the way you want them, configure Power Auras and NeedToKnow to display the right information, to understand how different talents and abilities interact and work.

But if you stop playing for a while, your class can change underneath you, sometimes dramatically. I played my Death Knight only occasionally in the later days of Wrath, and I found the constant changes to be difficult to cope with. The transition to Cataclysm actually helped me a bit, because I was able to jettison my thought that I should understand the class and instead approach it fresh; but I still struggle with him. Guides have helped, but there is still a sense of discomfort whenever I leave the Frost 2H playstyle – because that’s how I learned to DK, as a level 59 PvP twink.

You also have to play relatively often to stay current on an endgame character’s gear – what is good gear for one raid tier or PvP season will be insufficient later on. Generally, once you’ve geared up for specific PvE content, you stay geared for that content, but new content will need new gear. PvP is an arms race, so if you skip a season, you will be facing better geared opponents, and suffer accordingly.

The last point I made above, that the ready availability of guidance on how to play a spec at the endgame makes you less likely to really master it, is one I wrestle with. You can excel in doing something without understanding all of it. I’ve seen this in many different aspects of my own life, in sports, in technology, in science, and even in video games – performance and understanding are related, but not dependent, variables. But I also think if you pick a spec up at the endgame,  you’re less likely to fully master it than if you leveled with it. That’s not to say you can’t excel at it, just that you’re not going to understand it as well as someone who leveled with it. There’s a knowledge base gained through learning how to do something yourself, of what works and what doesn’t work, that you can’t completely replicate with a guide or manual.

And yet… knowing how to level in a given spec doesn’t mean you’ll know how to play the spec at endgame. It doesn’t mean you’ll know how to squeeze out the last bit of DPS, tank a raid boss, or heal a heroic dungeon. Leveling is not as rigorous an activity as most endgame pursuits. Specs play differently at endgame than earlier. Knowing how to tank Ragefire Chasm like a pro doesn’t mean you’re ready to tank Cho’gall.

But it might help you be a better play of the class, overall.

WHY EXPERIENCE IN BATTLEGROUNDS IS BAD

I have a working theory about why I like playing my warlock so much.

Cynwise was one of a field of 10 characters I rolled when I first started playing. She was the one I got to 20 first, which still took a long time. She’s the one I explored with, she’s the one I learned not just the warlock class, but the game with. After a while, I deleted all those characters except ‘wise and my banker and got on with the business of leveling.

In retrospect, I was not very good at leveling. I was not a very good player, to be honest, but that was fine – I was learning how the game worked. I had sworn off PvP, because that shit is just scary, and I didn’t run dungeons, so I just quested and tried to make sense of WTF I was supposed to do. It was fun.

At level 51, and to this day I don’t know why I did it, but I queued up for a battleground. It was Alterac Valley, and it was exhilarating. We won. And I was hooked.

I eventually figured out that I would do better if I leveled up to 58 or 59, which I did relatively quickly, and then I set about playing battlegrounds full-time. This was before battlegrounds awarded experience, and only AV awarded a pittance for the deaths of NPCs, so it was pretty safe to stay in a bracket and PvP as much as you wanted.

All that background leads up to my theory. It has several parts.

  1. While PvP doesn’t teach you everything about your class, it can provide a crucible to learn how to use your abilities under pressure.
  2. PvP Battlegrounds provide short, manageable periods of time to try out different strategies and tactics, with immediate feedback about how they work. Did you win, or did you lose?
  3. When Battlegrounds awarded no XP, they served as the one place you could refine your play with a character without them changing.
  4. Therefore, XP-less Battlegrounds provided the ideal place to master a class.

I look at some of my high-level alts, compare them to Cynwise, and I wonder if I will ever come close to understanding them like I do the Warlock class. I don’t know about you, but I struggle when I know I’m not as good as I could be at something, and when there are better alternatives for me.

And I really wonder, how much of that is because it took me 6 months to get to level 80, with fully 3 of those months spent playing in the battlegrounds?

I don’t know.

Perhaps it’s a personal failing, but I know that when I get on my Druid, and I suck at PvP or PvE, it hurts to be incompetent. I hate it. I get overrun and wonder how I was supposed to escape. When a tank dies on my watch, I wonder why I’m even trying.

This is a natural response to poor performance, and I get over it, but I am really left wondering – will flailing my way to 85 make me happy? Or wouldn’t I rather go play someone who makes me feel good about myself and my abilities, even if it’s just my ability to play a video game?

I want, very much to take every alt and just PvP on them until I get it. I want to get how the class works before I move on any further.

Losing the ability to play in battlegrounds to our heart’s content at a given level has its downsides. It’s probably not enough to offset the massive benefits that XP-on BGs has brought – greatly increased popularity of BGs in general, making for more fair fights in most brackets – but it also has removed the PvP pause where we master our character before moving on to the next set of abilities and challenges.

WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?

There are no more twinks in here anymore. We’re all just ex-twinks.

- Cynwulf

The other downside of XP in battlegrounds is that you don’t have a chance to form a community in them anymore. You’d see the same faces over and over again in battlegrounds before this change happened, on both sides, and you got to know people. Not in depth, but certainly you’d know if someone was competent or not.

My Death Knight, Cynwulf, was essentially a level 59 DK twink at a time when DKs were so massively overpowered even bothering to call him a twink sounds silly. He hung around in various bars in the cities of Azeroth, drinking his Scourge-induced woes away, and PvPing. I hated Warsong Gulch on my warlock, but on Cynwulf, it was a total love affair. Howling Blast packed a huge punch (and was available at 59). The confines of the map, coupled with having the only epic mounts at that level, meant it was possible to blow off steam and just destroy a battleground.

I particularly enjoyed Alterac Valley on Cynwulf, because it was my chance to tank Galv and Drek. And people knew me as a good tank. Players in that bracket would see me speaking up and know that I was going to tank Drek, and do a good job of it. Warbringers up? Give me a few seconds, let me get D&D/HB out, then go wild. There were healers I’d know would have my back. There was a Paladin who dinged 60 one match and we all had a very fond farewell party for him in the Field of Strife.

But, eventually, XP came, and the decision had to be made between staying and going, between leveling up and continuing to PvP, or hoping for an XP-off queue to pop.

They never popped, so I leveled Cynwulf up. And the familiar battlegrounds were thriving, but thriving with strangers. The community was gone. They might realize who I was from the big numbers I was putting up, but live or die, I was probably not going to see very many of these people ever again.

My hero of the Stormpike was no more. My dear, drunk Death Knight brother was going to have to move on.

I dinged 60 with Cynwulf in Hellfire Peninsula. I knew there was no going back to the 51-60 bracket that I knew so well with him.

It was time to move on.

WHEN IT IS TIME TO MOVE ON

I enjoyed playing Cynderblock so much that I rolled another warrior, Ashwalker, with the intent to level her. Ashwalker has taken up most of my alt time these days. I’m having a blast with her, questing, tanking, PvPing, seeing all the things I want to see in Cataclysm from the ground up.

At level 20, it was strange playing Ash over ‘block, because she had… half the health of my twink? Even decently geared with full heirlooms, there was a huge gulf between the twink and the leveling toon, but the playstyle was very similar, and therefore very comfortable. I tried Arms for a while, but eventually settled back into Protection, first to help tank some instances, then because it was fun in its own right.

By the time I hit the 40s, though, I was starting to get nervous. How does this new stuff work? Where do I put things on my bars? What am I missing? What do you mean, I don’t need to stance dance to Charge? When should I use Whirlwind? Should I look at Arms again? What about Fury? What about PvP?

So I locked my XP at level 49 until I could get my mind caught up to my character.

I talked a little bit about this in the 5×2 Project, but I found this pause really helped me out. It gave me time to fiddle with macros and keybinds and screen layout. It let me figure out what abilities I really needed to hit more often, and which ones didn’t make sense to use anymore. It even gave me time to set up my dual spec correctly!

What it didn’t do was give me a chance to try things out in PvP. I did queue, but never saw a single queue pop. Not one. If I wanted to try something out, I had to try it out in a dungeon. Not that dungeons weren’t valuable, because they were!

But it taught me how to tank well at 49. Not PvP well, but tank well. That’s important, too.

I found myself tempted, while XP was locked, to go do crazy twink things. I very seriously considered getting the Argent Champion and Ambassador titles at level 49. (I have the Argent Crusade tabard as a result.) I considered trying to get her twink-level gear and solo instances at level.

The temptation was strong. I’ll admit it.

But I did the right thingt; I spent only a few days at 49 before finally admitting that I’d gotten the main benefit from the exercise and turning XP back on again. I no longer felt overwhelmed by my abilities or bars. I was back in control. I was comfortable with the talent tree I’d chosen, of my macros, and of how to play. I didn’t need to grind dungeons for titles.

No, after some reflection it was very clear that I don’t need to spend months in the battlegrounds anymore to learn how to play a character. When I did that on Cynwise and Cynwulf, it was because I was not just learning the class – I was learning the game. I was learning how to win the battlegrounds, how they worked.

I needed the six months of time to get my first character up to 80, because there was so much to learn. This included how to play a class, but it also included how to play. I don’t need to learn those lessons again – but I do need to learn how to play a warrior. While that includes leveling, it also includes the endgame, and I know I have a lot to learn there, too. I need questing. I need dungeon experience. I need balance.

Ashwalker just dinged 58, and has entered Outlands. I don’t know what I’m going to do next with her – maybe quest for some rewards, level her professions, run some dungeons, PvP up to 60 – but I still feel like I have a handle on playing a Prot Warrior.

Maybe my theory that XP-off battlegrounds are the best places to learn your class isn’t that good after all.

THE VALUE OF PVP PAUSES

I absolutely think that PvP is a great part of the leveling process. Leveling is, by its very nature, a learning process, and including PvP as part of it is really vital to understanding all of a class.

But it has to be balanced.

I have to be careful to not read too much into my own experiences. Yes, I spent nine months in ICC as a Demonology warlock, and while I understood it well enough to teach it to others, I never felt like I’d mastered it like I had Affliction and Destruction – the specs I had leveled as, the specs I PvPed with.

Yet, I raided well as Demonology. It wasn’t a mark against me that I couldn’t PvP with the spec – I didn’t need to PvP with it. I was there to raid.

It’s odd that we can play a spec, and play it well, and yet not feel like we’ve mastered it. I can look at my Warlock at 85, with her overwhelming number of buttons, and feel totally comfortable – yet my level 70 Druid makes me go AMG WHAT DOES THIS BUTTON DO.

It’s not just a question of complexity – it’s how we handle the complexity. We don’t start off with endgame characters for a simple reason – they’re too complicated to play well if you don’t spend some time leveling them.

It makes sense, though, when we look at why the leveling process exists. It exists to teach you how to play the class. Abilities are given gradually, to allow players time to absorb their use.

The PvP pause from XP-free battlegrounds was nice, and when no other options existed to lock XP, they were the best option to slow down your leveling. Now that you can lock your XP at will, the PvP pause isn’t the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. You can lock XP, figure things out in PvE, and then return to PvP when you’re ready to move on. It’s the reverse of how things used to work – but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

Balanced leveling is the best leveling.

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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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Sabotaging the Enemy: the Ethics of Gear

Sabotage: Level 10 PvP is my first PvP video, and I confess that I had a blast making it. I really enjoy the simplicity of low level PvP, especially on classes I don’t know all that well, and hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.

But while making it, I found myself thinking about how I’d brought a gun to a knife fight.

Malone: You wanna know how you do it? Here’s how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?

Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.

Malone: Well, the Lord hates a coward.

The Untouchables, 1987

Cynchronic has 107 spellpower and a mana pool that will never run out. Darkblade Cyn has 295 attack power and 48% crit. This is how I level lowbies, sadly – geared with a combination of enchanted heirlooms and hand me downs, leveled professions, and every twink consumable in my guild bank. They’re not twinks, but they’re close to it.

Whenever I level through the lower brackets, I’m always struck by how impressed people are by heirlooms in /bg chat. Either it’s because the opponents have them (which is bad) or someone on the team has them (which is good). And inspecting most players in the 10-14 brackets shows why – while some are clad in heirlooms, some in grey or all-white gear, but most are in quest gear with a few decent greens. Heirlooms are substantially better than quest rewards at this point, and they’ll definitely give you an edge at level 10.

But enchants are like heirlooms on steroids. I try not to get baited into this argument in /bg, but sometimes I can’t keep my mouth shut – the right enchants are worth more than heirlooms.

  • Darkblade Cyn gets +15 Agility from gear (heirlooms and some greens) and +60 Agility from enchants. That’s 4x more impact.
  • Cynchronic gets +22 Intellect from gear (with Shadow Goggles), and +7 Intellect/+30 Spellpower from enchants, or 1.68x more impact. Potentially, she could have +61 Spellpower from enchants, or 2.7x more impact.

I don’t know what it says about me but looking at both of these characters, I’m positive I could squeeze out a bit more power with better enchants and gear (Healing Power on the gloves instead of Minor Haste, Intellect on the DHC instead of Spellpower on the GSJ, Agility on bracers instead of Stamina, etc.). But they’re the gear I had lying around, and there are tradeoffs I made for PvP (Stamina has value, for instance.)

So, in any given 10-14 WSG, you could have this huge disparity of gear. My rogue could have +75 more Agility than the rogue next to her.

My own perfectionist standards aside, I was a twink in a leveling bracket.

I brought a gun to a knife fight. They would send one of mine to the hospital, I would send their entire team to the morgue – and then capture their flag.

Well, I wouldn’t really cap it – I’d drop it and /afk out, because I didn’t want the XP gain.

So… is this wrong?

ON TWINKS, MUNCHKINS, AND MIN/MAXERS

There are two great truths to /bg chat in the leveling battlegrounds.

  • Everyone hates lowbie scrubs.
  • Everyone hates overpowered twinks.

Before the great PVP bracket realignment, the most common complaint people would level against their own teammates is that their level was too low. Showing up as a level 52 in Alterac Valley (formerly 51-60) meant that OMG you were solely responsible for the team’s loss. By this way of thinking, the entire battleground became a question of how many x8s and x9s you had vs the other team. (This particular behavior has lessened a lot now that brackets are only 5 levels deep, but you still see it show up with gear complaints instead of level complaints.)

Blaming others for joining the team before they were a high enough level creates an interesting juxtaposition when compared with how people treated twinks, back in the days when the battlegrounds weren’t split. I won’t sugar-coat it – twinks ruined low-level PvP for many casual players, both by being unstoppable to their opponents and being abusive to their teammates. The new system is much better.

But… doesn’t it strike you as strange to put these two attitudes together? Don’t be better than I am, but don’t be worse than I am?

It’s like some strange video game version of Harrison Bergeron. I’m sitting here, thoroughly enjoying myself dancing across a battleground with the cameras rolling, and suddenly someone bursts in and shoots me with a shotgun.

Big Bear Butt recently had a great post on the difference between MMORPGs and old school RPGs that relates very directly to my experience shooting Sabotage: Level 10 PvP. Grabbing an embedded quote from that post:

“Munchkin” is a term used to describe certain types of gamers, namely those who make use of every avenue and loophole in the game rules to maximise the stats, abilities, and power level of their character, making the character into an awesome overpowered killing machine capable of gathering more loot and experience and becoming ever more powerful, even if it means occasionally pulling a fast one or ignoring certain other rules that might provide limitations. Oh, and roleplaying an actual character concept is secondary to making the character ever buffer and the acquisition of more loot and more powerful weapons, if it’s considered at all.

One of the premises that BBB puts forth is that while traditional RPGs (tabletop, LARP, what have you) look down upon this min/max style of play, MMORPGs, by their very nature as computer games, embrace and encourage it.

As a veteran of traditional RPGs, I happen to agree with much of what BBB says; computer games encourage you to min/max because there are fixed, immutable rules about how your characters interact with their environment. You can’t look at a boss fight and go, you know, we need about 100,000 marbles – or ball bearings, small and round is all we need – to defeat this guy, let’s go to Ironforge and see if they have some. You can’t alter the flow of a quest, or argue that something should happen simply because it’s a better story – you are limited, restricted, and balanced.

I once said, in reference to making a RPG for the Star Trek universe, that you have to be able to accommodate characters as wildly diverse as Data and Troi and still make it fun for both players. In a traditional RPG this is possible, since both characters are interesting to play and have stories to tell. But in a computer game, you have to define abilities – and then balance them toward common goals. WoW does a good job of keeping the classes different and distinct while balancing them in two key areas, even if it’s sometimes at the expense of believability. To paraphrase BBB: do you really believe someone who pokes something with sticks is as powerful as a wizard who can bend and reshape reality?

The way in which the two cultures (traditional RPGs and MMORPGs) approach munchkinism and min/maxing is instructive. The attitudes are products of the game environments, and each environment rewards totally different behaviors.

Let’s leave behind lowbie PvP for a bit. This isn’t really about lowbie PvP, anyways. Let’s consider Iwillhurtyou, a mighty warrior who has reached the pinnacle of his profession. He changes race and faction as necessary to play with friends and gain the best racial abilities. He is level 85, completed all of the necessary quests to receive the mightiest enchants, and changes professions as necessary to gain the best bonuses. When he receives a legendary item, he keeps it until something better comes along.

  • In a PvE setting, you’d call him a good raider.
  • In a PvP setting, you’d call him a good gladiator.
  • In a traditional RPG, you’d throw him out of your group until he got a decent name. Then you’d throw him out again for not sticking to a single character concept.

In some aspects, these two viewpoints couldn’t be further apart. Chasing down every last advantage can be seen as laudable or as abhorrent, depending on your point of view.

But min/maxing, munchkinism, isn’t really good or bad per se. It all depends on context.

THERE’S NO EXCUSE FOR RUDE BEHAVIOR

Within the structure of a video game, it’s good to be powerful. Yet there’s a counter argument to that, something along the lines of: you can be too powerful in PvP. It’s not fair to your opponents to go in that overpowered. I’m certain that I was a nightmare for the opposing team.

But… so what?

I mean, I showed up and was better geared than the opposition. Much better geared. It wasn’t about skill – I pressed a few buttons and people died. Because I was better geared, I had to press fewer buttons, that’s all.

I brought a gun to a knife fight and people died. Bad people, people with red over their heads, died. I did the job I was supposed to do in the battleground superbly well.

Does that make the other team bad players? They didn’t bother to gear up to my standards. Does that make the other 9 people on my team bad players? They didn’t bother to gear up, either. Nothing I did is not readily available to someone with an endgame character and some gold. Find a friendly enchanter, level some professions before you queue, and BAM – you are ready to be awesome.

Let’s extrapolate this out to the endgame again. I showed up, raid and arena ready, to a pug. The person who showed up in quest whites and greens to WSG, showed up in ilvl 318s and maybe a few 333s to the endgame pug. They’re not bad at what what we’re trying to do – they’re trying, at least – but they’re just undergeared.

Why should it matter to me?

I’m going to echo another one of BBB’s sentiments – it’s not my place to start criticizing your gear, or your performance. That’s not my role in a pug; we’re effectively strangers who have just met. All I ask is that you try to win.

Just because I happen to have better pixels than you doesn’t give me the right to be rude to you. Nor does it give you the right to be rude to me. We’re people trying to have fun in a game. I don’t know anything about you, nor you about me.

  • So what if someone is at the bottom of the bracket? Maybe this is their first time in. Maybe they’re taking a break from questing. Maybe they like PvP. Shocking, I know!
  • So what if someone doesn’t know what to do? You think battlegrounds come with instruction manuals?
  • So what if someone’s gear isn’t up to your standards, (which are totally arbitrary by the way)? That’s your problem. Deal with it. Someone’s probably looking at you and thinking the same thing.
  • So what if someone outgeared you before and was rude to you? That was someone different. Get over it.

Does having everyone be exceptionally skilled and geared increase your chances of winning? You betcha. But that’s what rated BGs are for, now. That’s what your friends and guildmates are for. You absolutely should strive to be your best, and to inspire others to be the best they can be, too.

But that’s where you have to stop.

Wanting to win doesn’t excuse you for being rude to another person. It just doesn’t. Fun comes before winning. This is, all things considered, still a video game. And you are – hopefully – playing this game for fun.

Just like the 9 other strangers you just met.

PVP IS NOT FAIR

The only place where PvP is even remotely fair is at the highest levels of endgame play, where top-notch players go and get the absolute best gear available to them. Everyone is in relatively the same gear levels, the same gear sets, the same enchants. Differences between classes become highlighted at that level, in part because everyone has worked hard to get the best gear.

For the rest of the time, PvP is a street fight.

Regular battlegrounds, no matter what level, will have a wide variety of gear and enchantment levels represented within them. Even most Arena matches will have this disparity too. Sometimes, you’re just simply outgeared. It happens. Work on your gear, but get over it.

Not everyone you play with  is going to be at your gear level in this game. Sometimes, they will be far under you – sometimes, far over you. In PvP, if you’re substantially outgeared by your opponent, you’re probably going to die. In PvE, if you’re substantially outgeared by your teammate, you’re getting carried through content. It happens.

No matter which way the gear imbalance lies, remember that we’re all here to have fun. Gear doesn’t convey a position of moral superiority; it just makes tasks easier.

Be good to each other out there. Have fun. Go roll a level 10 twink today and enjoy some pwnage.

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We’re All In This Together

The North American battlegroups as we knew them are gone.

Instead of the old battlegroups, all players are part of one North American battlegroup for battlegrounds.  (There are 4 subgroups for running random dungeons.)  This change was announced a few months ago and should have a net positive effect for most players.

  • If you were on the weaker (less populated) side of a battlegroup, you’re going to be paired with more people to be able to fill out BGs.
  • If you’re on the more populated side of a battlegroup, your queues should pop quicker.
  • If you’ve frozen your experience gain, it should no longer matter if you’re in a destination battlegroup – twinking in all brackets is theoretically viable again.
  • Faction domination of a given BG/bracket will likely become very difficult, if not impossible.

For those of us who enjoyed instant queues before, I hope this doesn’t delay them.  I’m sure there will be glitches over the next few days as they iron out a lot of the infrastructure issues, and hopefully Blizzard will shed some more light on the matching algorithms.

But in the meantime, we’re all in it together now.  Play nice out there.

Let me know how things are going in the comments!

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The Level 19 Ambassador

Perseverance.

You’ll hear me talk a lot about perseverance in my posts and videos.  I think more than any other personality trait you can have, sticking with something and seeing it through to the end is what makes people successful in life.  Luck is random.  Tenacity is not.

In PvP, perseverance is vital.  You get killed, you get back into it.  You get owned, you get back into it.  You figure out what went wrong, you make changes, you adapt, you get back into it.

But it’s not just for PvP.  You want something?  Go after it.  Embrace your constraints, set the biggest, most audacious goal you can think of and go for it.

That said, may I introduce Ambassador Cynderblock, level 19 Ambassador of the Alliance.

It took 394 Horde quests and 259 Alliance quests to complete this reputation grind.  It’s only possible with a faction change, and a lot of help from friends.  You should consider how the races will transfer over when doing it.

At level 19, you will pretty much need to do approach it like Loremaster – do every quest you can find, no matter how hard or obscure.  I’ll have full details of how I did it on Green Tinted Goggles soon.

But it is possible.  Just stick with it.

Update: the how-to post is now up on GTG.

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