Tag Archives: Gear

Battleground PvP Gear in Cataclysm Patch 4.3 / Arena Season 11

Today marks the start of a new PvP season, PvP Season 11, which means a new tier of PvP gear – Cataclysmic Gladiator’s Gear – is now available for purchase. All PvP gear has been upgraded at the vendors. Crafted recipes have also been updated.

GEAR TRANSITION OVERVIEW

Following the Cataclysm gear philosophy covered in my Season 94.0.6 update, and Season 10 PvP gear guides, there are three levels of current PvP gear: crafted, purchased with Honor Points, and purchased with Conquest Points.

  • Crafted: Vicious crafted gear (ilvl 377)
  • Honor: Ruthless Gladiator’s Gear (ilvl 390)
  • Conquest: Cataclysmic Gladiator’s Gear (ilvl 403).

Last season’s gear has been completely replaced by sets with the same name but higher item levels. Check the item tooltips to be certain which PvP season the gear applies to – names alone are insufficient.

Item levels have jumped a half tier (6 ilvls), the standard season transition. This means that last season’s gear is worse than the gear you can buy now with the same name. PvP has strict fashion rules, namely that: you’ll need to replace all your gear this season. 

HONOR AND CONQUEST

The PvP vendors for level 85 are still in the Hall of Legends in Orgrimmar’s Valley of Strength and the Hall of Champions in Stormwind’s Old Town.  The same vendors are present as in Season 10.  The only minor addition is Epic PvP gems at the <Conquest Vendor>, which I’ll cover in a separate section below.

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

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

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

One significant change in Season 11 is the introduction of substantial Conquest Point rewards from winning random battlegrounds or the Call to Arms weekends. The first victory of the day awards 100 Conquest Points, and each subsequent one awards 50. This change means that many players who previously did not participate in rated PvP will be able to purchase Conquest gear in Season 11.

The point costs for each set of appear to be unchanged from Season 9, though there are slightly different thresholds for purchasing weapons.

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

PvP weapons require a minimum number of points earned in Season 11 to purchase.

  • Honor PvP Weapons (Ruthless, ilvl 378) require 7,250 Honor Points be earned before purchase.
  • Conquest PvP weapons (Cataclysmic, ilvl 397) require 7,800 Conquest Points before purchase. These should be first available in week 3-4, and commonly available in week 5-6.
  • Glorious Conquest weapons (Cataclysmic, ilvl 410) require 15,700 Conquest Points and a PvP rating of 2200 to purchase. We should start seeing these around week 8 or so.

These point restrictions are to prevent these weapons from becoming attractive alternatives for PvE gear.

EPIC PVP GEMS AND PVP ENCHANTS

No new head or shoulder enchants have appeared in Season 11. Enchants purchased in Season 10 are still viable.

However, new epic PvP gems are available at the Conquest Quartermaster for 750 Conquest Points each. They’re at the back of the available goods selection.

The following gems are available:

My recommendation is to get standard gems until you are in your Cataclysmic gear and have no further need for Conquest Points.

Related to the reintroduction of gems for sale for Conquest Points, it looks like you can no longer convert Valor Points to Conquest Points. My guess is that this change is to prevent raiders from being able to purchase PvP gems through grinding Valor Points.

Valor Points can once again be converted to Conquest Points. As you were.

LEVEL 85 GEARING STRATEGY

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

  1. Get as many of the crafted pieces made as soon as you can. Any Resilience is good. The current set lacks the 2-pc bonus (+400 Resilience) of the previous set, so this is less desirable as in Season 10, but it’s still good to have some protection.
  2. Supplement with good items gained from PvE, but only if they’re a substantial upgrade over the crafted gear.
  3. Run Tol Barad dailies for the PvP head and shoulder enchants. Use good PvE enchants on your gear in the interim.
  4. PvP in regular random BGs and Tol Barad for Honor (Ruthless) gear. If you are upgrading from crafted gear, get the bonuses of the Ruthless PvP hands first, followed by the 2-pc and 4-pc set bonuses. If you are coming off the previous season’s PvP gear, the order doesn’t matter as much.
  5. Participate in as many rated PvP matches as you can, up to the limit of Conquest Points you can gain each week.  Random battlegrounds will also reward Conquest Points – do what you can to hit your CP cap every week.
  6. Upgrade your weakest pieces with Conquest gear. If you have a mix of Vicious and Ruthless gear, upgrade the Vicious to Cataclysmic first.
  7. Upgrade your PvP weapons when they become available, regardless of level. If you can upgrade to the Glorious Conquest weapons (2200+ Rating), do so in favor of other upgrades.

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

UPDATES

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

December 11, 2011: Valor Points can once again be converted to Conquest Points.

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An Open Letter to Blizzard About Mailing Transmogrified Heirlooms

Dear Blizzard:

Earlier this year, you said that mailing transmogrified heirlooms would strip the transmogrification. I was disappointed – I have a lot of alts, you see, even if I’m not the game’s best leveler – but I figured it was a technical limitation that you couldn’t work around in time. Got it! Spend your development resources elsewhere.

And then you released Patch 4.3, and OMG the excitement! New raids! New 5-mans! LFR! Bag searching! (Very slick UI, by the way.) Void Storage! And our very own transmogrification box! All my old gear is new again!

So I was testing things out, mogging all the things, when I decided to try mogging a loom and sending it one of my twinks. (It sounds cooler that way, you see. Saying that I altered the appearance of virtual gear bound to my account through transmogrification and then sent it via in-game messaging systems to a low level alternate character with locked experience might be correct, but it doesn’t flow. It’s kinda dorky to be that precise, if you want to know the truth.)

You can’t imagine how surprised I was when it worked!

I did it again, and again, and again. Usually it worked flawlessly, but sometimes it didn’t.

This was amazing. Wow. WOW. A world of possibilities opened up to me – of being able to create my own look for my leveling alts. I didn’t mind some of the heirloom sets the first few months I lived with them, but this world you’ve created has so many more clothes, and being able to create unique looks for my toons made me love the transmogrification feature all the more.

This … bug, as I suppose it is, made me really happy. It makes gearing up alts fun. Yes, I like PvP, and killing Internet Dragons, and leveling, and playing the Auction House, and leveling Engineering over and over again.

Ok. Maybe I’m exaggerating about Engineering. But I’m not exaggerating that having the ability to transmogrify my heirlooms and mail them to my alts rekindled my interest in the game because it is fun. It’s fun playing dress up. It’s fun making your characters look the way you want, of trying to find just the right look for them.

I told my friends about it, and they found it to be a lot of fun too. A LOT of fun. Simple things like character appearance matter. Looking put together makes you feel better about yourself, and it’s no different for our characters, too. People are embracing this possibility, of breathing life into the same old heirlooms and the same old leveling grind.

People are having fun mailing mogged looms around.

And that’s why I’m writing to you today, to ask you something kind of odd.

Please leave this bug alone.

Really! Just … don’t fix it. Leave it be. Ignore it, turn the other way, close that bugzilla ticket. It adds fun to the game. It doesn’t harm anyone – no one really believes that a level 10 Mage is in S10 PvP gear – but it sure makes the game more lively and interesting. Being able to change the same old heirloom into a Frostscythe for one character and a Warstaff for another is awesome.

There are other, more boring reasons I could ask you to keep it in place. Transmogrification extends the life of content by giving purpose to unused art content, and adding heirlooms to the list extends them even further, thus increasing the yield for your investment in the artwork. There are more important bugs that you can focus your effort on now, issues with the UI and gameplay which are normal after any given patch. There’s Mists of Pandaria, which I’m hoping you knock out of the park.

But I’m going to make a more straightforward appeal: being able to mail transmogrified heirlooms makes leveling fun.

I thought about not saying anything to you directly, of quietly mogging my looms and rolling alts. No one wants to be the person who spoils fun, and if this isn’t what you want transmogrification to do, well, you’re going to find out about it eventually. You probably already know about it already.

And that’s why I wanted to say something to you now, and let you know how ridiculously fun I’m finding this new feature to be. I’m spending hours combing Wowhead trying to make up outfits for my alts. I’m looking at each of my alts and wondering how to make them even more fun to play, how to let them acquire gear but still have a look. I’m suddenly looking at my cache of 30 or so heirlooms and going, this is not enough. I need more heirlooms.

This bug has made me pretty happy to be playing Warcraft this week. So please consider leaving this bug alone.

Some bugs actually ARE features!

Thanks!
Cynwise

This post is also available on the official forums. Please let Blizzard know your thoughts!

Update 12/6/11: My post has been deleted and this has been officially addressed in today’s hotfix note:

Transmogrified items should always lose their transmogrification when mailed.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am right now. I don’t care how silly it was; this was fun.

Update 12/7/11: My post was restored by Blizzard, though mogging has not been restored. In a tweet, Zarhym stated:

Level 20 characters shouldn’t be wearing raid gear.

Keep in mind the nature of twitter is for short messages; don’t read too much into the brevity of Z’s statement, though it goes further than just wearing raid gear – wearing certain specific raid gear is okay, other raid gear (or non-raid gear) is not.

This is a complicated issue.

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Level 60 PvP Gear Not Available for Transmogging

I, for one, was really hoping that scenes like the above picture would have become more commonplace: the bright and dramatic designs of the level 60 PvP gear filling the streets of Azeroth’s cities, allowing players to choose some dramatically great looks at a relative pittance.

However, it is not to be.

Quoth Bashiok, who is just the messenger:

The items out in the world (Marshals, Grand Marshal’s, High Warlord, etc) that use the level 60 PvP art are un-transmogrifiable (including the item level 115 stuff that shares the name from Burning Crusade).

In Area 52 a set of vendors has replaced the PvP Vendors who used to live there. Grex Brainboiler, Krixel Pinchwhistle, Tini Smalls, Kezzik the Striker, Big Zokk Torquewrench, and Leeni “Smiley” Smalls. These vendors sell new, transmogrifiable versions of the classic armor to players who have the Feat of Strength for Legionnaire/Knight-Captain or higher under the old PvP system.

There was a bug with the Feat of Strength granting access to these items, but was hotfixed within the last couple of minutes. If you meet the criteria log out and back in and you should be able to access the vendor.

The design intent with the Feat of Strength achievement requirement was specifically to limit these particular art styles to players who earned them through the OG (and relentlessly difficult) PvP honor system, while keeping the door open to reward them to more people in the future.

In a future patch the items sold by the Area 52 vendors will also be renamed ‘Replica of’ to be more consistent with the items sold by the Darkmoon Faire – they’re currently exact duplicates of the original items that allow transmogrification, which is obviously a bit confusing.

Potentially related, since he’s in the same area, Kezzik the Striker sells inaccessible Season 1 Gladiator’s, Season 2 Merciless Gladiator’s, and Season 3 Vengeful Gladiator’s gear to all players, as the majority of that gear didn’t have restrictions.

This is somewhat confusing if you’re not up on PvP gear sets, so let me summarize:

  • Level 60 PvP gear, of all ranks, is not available for transmogrification. This includes any armor you may have had purchased previously from the Legacy Honor Vendors.
  • If you had the right to wear this armor back in Vanilla, you have the ability to wear this armor as a mog set. However, you can’t use your old set – you have to go to Area 52 and purchase a lookalike set. You have to have the Feat of Strength to be eligible.
  • Arena sets which had been removed from the game (S1, S2, S3) are now available for purchase again in Area 52.  This gear should have no restrictions.
  • All other PvP gear looks to be eligible for mogging. Brutal and Wrathful gear both appear to have no issues. All the level 85 gear I checked seemed fine, too.

This issue with the level 60 PvP gear has led to some confusion about what does and doesn’t work with transmogrifying PvP gear. It’s a pretty simple rule – everything but the  distinctive level 60 gear should work.

To be frank, that kinda sucks.

I THINK WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

I confess, I was really disappointed by this exclusion. I was really looking forward to trotting out the Knight-Lieutenant’s gear I’d ground Marks for back in Wrath and rocking the old-school Vanilla Warcraft look. I knew that there were some things that I wanted to try mogging that probably wouldn’t work – Direbrew’s Bloodied Shanker for one, Dark Herring for another – but that’s because they fell outside the mogging rules as explained by Blizzard.

Having the level 60 gear be excluded really made me go … wait, what? I see a lot of the gear while leveling through the 60-70 bracket, the shields are some of the best looking in the game, and it’s a really distinctive, Warcrafty style. It’s a great look, and I wanted it.

But there’s another side to this, too.

There’s the side of the Warlords and Marshals and all the players who ground out the truly hellacious PvP grind back in Vanilla. For a long time, they had their titles, and they wore them as badges of pride. Once removed from the game, those titles were impressive and had an aura of Old Skool about them, something that later PvPers couldn’t touch. Anyone could get their gear, but no one could get those titles.

Cataclysm took those titles away from these players. Oh, they still had the titles – but Rated Battlegrounds allowed anyone to get them. They were no longer unique signifiers. The vestiges of the old grind were washed away.

So here’s something for those players who did that grind – they’re the only ones who will get to wear the really great PvP fashions as their daily wear. They’ve gotten something special back, something unique, something Old Skool.

I think, had this just been communicated in advance, I wouldn’t be sitting here going, man, this sucks. I’d have gotten over it, just like wielding a beer bottle or fish. It sucks, it’s arbitrary, it’s confusing as all getout, but at least it wouldn’t be a surprise.

I think it’s a surprise to a lot of people, sadly.

ACCEPTANCE

This is going to confuse a lot of players, especially those who pick up some of the 60 PvP gear as they level an alt and then wonder why they can’t use that great outfit later on for transmogrification.

I think it’s a nice gesture to say, hey, as a tip of the hat to our long-time PvP players who did the grind way back when, let’s let them be the only ones who can wear the old armor. It returns some uniqueness to the old PvP grind, and instills a sense of wonder around these outfits.

I’d love it if Blizzard presented it as such, not slip it in unnoticed. Someone at Blizzard made this decision and got it implemented. Someone approved getting the new sets in to Area 52. Folks at Blizzard knew this was coming, and it has the potential to be cast in a really good light.

But it wasn’t. It was dropped in unnoticed. And when gear changes get dropped in unannounced during a season transition, I start getting really nervous. Bad things happen when Blizzard doesn’t talk to their PvP playerbase. I’m really trying hard to forget the last time they forgot to tell us things about how the PvP gear system was going to change.

Sure, I’d selfishly like this change reversed, because then I can have the great old Vanilla PvP fashions for my Wrath and Cata and Mists toons. But if this is a way to honor Vanilla PvPers, I’m actually really okay with that. What they did was special! Preserving uniqueness is a great thing! I can go wear the Burning Crusade PvP gear!

It just would have been nice to not get my hopes up.

 

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Implications of Increased Conquest Rewards in Battlegrounds

Patch 4.3  will dramatically increase the Conquest Point rewards from regular battlegrounds, offering 100 for the first victory and 50 for each subsequent one. It’s a big change for battleground incentives and adds a layer of complexity to gearing decisions in both PvP and PvE. I personally don’t think this is going to ruin battlegrounds, but I also, upon reflection, think that this quality-of-life improvement indicates a lot about where Blizzard is going with rated and unrated PvP.

THE PREMADE QUESTION

Gevlon has written a series of posts on the change where he makes an argument that this change is going to be overall a negative one to those people it’s supposed to benefit due to the increased number of premades which will flood the BGs. It’s a nuanced argument and I think it’s worth reading both posts in their entirety.

Will the new Conquest Point rewards create enough interest in making premades that the overall experience for players? Specifically, will it hit those players who seem to stand to benefit the most from the change – the competent but time-constrained PvPers? If you queue up solo, will your win rate drop below 50% just because you’re facing premades all the time?

There are incentives for people to organize premades. Gevlon takes his experience in organizing and running BG premades and spells them out nicely.

  • Doesn’t affect your rBG rating, so if a few members of your team are out you can just bang out Conquest Points with no risk.
  • Provides visceral fun for your team, because quick, decisive wins can be a LOT of fun. (At least for a bit.)
  • Provides a nicer social environment while PvPing, filtering out the ragers, afkers, and whiny elements you sometimes find in /bg.
  • Yields a little less CP/hour than rBGs, making it an attractive alternative to rated play.
  • Can be done with fluid group sizes, since even a partial premade can have a great impact on a battlground.
  • Allows you to influence BG team composition, avoiding no-healer no-FC scenarios.
  • Great initial gearing tool, since in the first few weeks everyone needs Honor Points.

There are a lot of good reasons there for people to start organizing premades, especially at the start of the season. But will premades have a long-term effect on the season?

Gevlon comes right out and says that the biggest weakness of premades is that there are too few of them to really matter or make a statistical difference in people’s experiences. I agree with him here. I have seen fewer premades in endgame Cataclysm than I did in Wrath, but I attributed that to Rated Battlegrounds siphoning premades away. More small groups and partial premades? Yes, absolutely, we’ll see those. But I suspect full ones are never going to be the norm, since they 1) aren’t possible with the default client and 2) because rated play is still more rewarding per hour.

Premades are probably going to be pretty popular during the first few weeks as everyone gets geared up. But after a while, the dual-reward system becomes a non-motivator and it’s even easier to toss together a 2s or 3s team as it is to get a premade going. Arenas will remain the gearing activity of choice for the semi-organized.

I fully expect people to complain about premades and the Premade AV Enabler, though. No matter how many premades really flood the system, I’m sure they’ll be pointed at as everything that’s wrong with PvP today, which … well, frankly, that attitude overlooks a lot of other issues, as well as puts too much weight on something that I don’t think will be statistically important.

If it does become a problem, though, one solution would be to reward Honor Points in rated play. Taking away the uniqueness of premade rewards would eliminate some, but not all, of the incentives for doing premades.

(They’re still a heck of a lot of fun.)

THE PVE QUESTION

There are two areas in which this change could possibly affect PvE: making it easier to get PvE gear, and sending PvP gear into PvE.

Will this change make it easier to get PvE gear through PvP? Not really. Unlike changes to Honor Point rewards, Conquest Points are isolated from PvE because they don’t convert to anything else. You can’t flip them to Valor Points, you can’t flip them to Honor Points in any meaningful way, so adding meaningful CP to regular battlegrounds doesn’t change things there.

You could argue that it’s better to gear up an alt through regular battlegrounds than through rated play, even once their Honor gear set is complete. While you might not get as much CP as rated PvP, you will get Honor Points at the same time, which can be converted into Justice Points and a solid T12 PvE kit can be built that way. This doesn’t really unbalance things, though.

Will this change send PvP gear into PvE? Probably yes, but not as much as the other gear changes we’ll see with Season 11/Patch 4.3. S11 Conquest gear will be very good (ilvl 397/403) but there are other ways to get it, too.

What we are far more likely to see is crafted ilvl 377 PvP gear flooding the LFD/LFR. Here’s is a case where gearscore gating for Heroics/Zulroics will completely fail, as the PvP gear might be acceptable for DPS, and maybe even healers, but tanks are going to be really squishy and lack avoidance.

That’s a problem unrelated to this specific change, though.

THE BOTTER QUESTION

Will there be more afkers and botters in regular battlegrounds because of this change?

To be honest, probably yes at first. Not a flood, and it should get better over time, but I think there will be an uptick in botters, less so with AFKers. It’s not like grinding Honor, which can be done win or loss. You actually have to win to get the Conquest Points, so AFKing doesn’t really help.

But I wager people who bot now, or who are on the fence about botting, would look at the losses as a cost of gaining the Conquest Points – they’re not actually spending time at the computer doing anything.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

THE FUTURE OF PVP REWARDS

I still think that this change is a net benefit for most players. Getting 25 CP a day was like getting a bad tip for playing battlegrounds – it wasn’t enough to be meaningful with current gear prices. Meaningful CP rewards give players incentive to win, while the Honor Points for the loss are a good consolation prize for losing.

One of the biggest challenges in designing a PvP environment is motivation, especially motivating people when they lose. Not Beck-style losers, but those who find themselves on the losing side. How do you make it so that there’s a feeling that it’s still okay to requeue after getting pummeled? How do you make it so that pursuing your preferred PvP activity still feels valuable, win or lose?

Related to motivating players on a loss, Conquest Point caps motivate people to play up to their cap, and no further. That’s a big problem of rated PvP in Warcraft – once you have hit the cap for you, and your teammates, you’re done for the week. Extra time spent practicing doesn’t net you anything. Blizzard took a step towards fixing this with Rated Battlegrounds by offering Honor after Conquest is maxed out, but that’s an incomplete solution (and also ignores Arenas.)

I think Blizzard is going in the right direction for solving both of these issues.

Having both Honor and Conquest be rewards from any PvP activity (but only Conquest from winning) lets the system give people something for their time spent playing. This motivates people to win – win and you get CP! It motivates people through the losses – at least you got a few honor for that fight, requeue and try again! It motivates people to keep doing the activity after the CP cap is hit – still need Honor gear? Keep playing Arena with your team if that’s what you like doing!

I’d like to see them keep going in this direction in Mists. It gives me some hope that they’re talking about “play what you like,” but the systems have to be adjusted to make that vision a reality.

There are also technical challenges for awarding Honor Points in Arena that I don’t want to dismiss. Should it be based upon kills? Wouldn’t that drive people into 5s, then? What if the opponent AFKs out and no kill is scored? Should it be a flat value for the match, perhaps modified by rating? What if that promotes quick AFKing if the fight looks tough? Should it be a flat per minute rate? What happens if you just run around for 60 minutes? (What if those 60 minutes are spent authentically trying to kill a Holy Pally or Resto Druid?)

I have a feeling that a combination of match-based values and time-based values is the most fair, but it’s not a trivial problem to solve.

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Patch 4.3 Battleground Conquest Rewards

Huh. Wow. I didn’t see this one coming.

In patch 4.3, normal battleground victories will reward Conquest points – even those run after the daily random or Call To Arms reward. 100 CP for the first win, 50 CP for subsequent ones.

Bashiok writes:

In patch 4.3 we’re changing the daily battleground (BG) to reward 100 conquest for a win (up from 25). In addition, every non-rated BG that you win will also give you 50 conquest. There is no limit to how many BGs you can run this way, up to the normal conquest cap.

Our intent is to start acting even more on our Mists of Pandaria philosophies of encouraging players to approach the content they want to, how they want to, and be able to work toward meaningful player progression. Arenas and rated battlegrounds will still earn Conquest faster, but with this change you can now work your way up by running normal BGs, if you so choose.

This isn’t a lot of Conquest Points, but it is enough so that a dedicated battleground enthusiast will be able to actually afford Conquest pieces, which is a very nice change. The previous award of 25 CP for the random daily could get you, at best, two non-set pieces per season if you did them every day.

If nothing else changes, Arenas will still remain the easiest way to gain Conquest Points, though to cap you will still need to do Battlegrounds, too. It remains to be seen if this will be faster than points gained in Rated Battlegrounds; I’m inclined to think it will not, but the dynamics of taking 5 coordinated, geared people into a regular BG might result in a higher win rate that would put them on par with Rated BGs. You’d lose out on the other  benefits of competing in rated battlegrounds (like MMR and achievements,) but that might not be a bad tradeoff. I do think that if we see that happening the rewards for Rated BGs will get buffed.

Honor gear will still be very necessary, especially in the early parts of each PvP season. The Conquest Point cap is still in place and you will not be able to circumvent it; all this changes is how you can earn CP.

It would be nice to see this philosophy extend to Arenas and let them award Honor Points after the Conquest cap has been reached for the week. That would complete the circle and really let all PvP players participate in the activities they like and still get rewarded for it.

Please note that this change does not affect gearing advice for preparing for the next season; you will still start out with zero Conquest Points.

This is a very positive change for Battleground PvP, and will encourage players of all skill levels to continue participating in regular battlegrounds after the initial rush for Honor gear is over. Waiting for your Arena partner to log on? Warm up by pugging a BG and get rewarded for it. Not enough online for your Rated BG tonight? Split up into smaller teams and still work on your Conquest Points for the week.

There are a lot of benefits here, and not just for the casual PvPer or solo battleground enthusiast. This is a quality of life improvement for PvPers of all calibers.

Don’t believe the hype that this is just for casuals.

(Thanks to Narci from Flavor Text Lore for the tip.)

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Arena Season 10 Ending November 29th

Stop buying PvP gear NOW.

Start stockpiling your Honor and Justice points for characters you want to PvP with in Season 11.

Blizzard announced that the current Arena Season will be ending Soon™, and Soon™ means possibly as early as November 15th, next Tuesday November 29th. Nethaera writes:

Arena and Rated Battleground Season 10 is scheduled to end as early as November 15. At that point we will determine who is eligible for the end-of-season rewards, a process that should take approximately one week. It’s very important for players who feel that they may be eligible for Arena titles and/or the Vicious Gladiator’s Twilight Drake to refrain from transferring their characters to another realm or faction until after Season 10 ends. During the break between seasons, all Rated Battleground and Arena matches will be unavailable.

At the end of the season, Conquest Points will be converted to Honor Points, possibly exceeding the 4,000 point Honor cap. All Season 10 items will cost Honor Points (equivalent to their previous Conquest Point cost) when the season ends, with the exception of any items with rating requirements attached. These items will no longer be available for purchase.

Please be aware that higher ilvl PvP items will be introduced and available for Honor points with patch 4.3.

The next Arena and Rated Battleground season will begin for level-85 players approximately one week after the end of Season 10 and will coincide with the awarding of Season 10 titles and mounts. At that time, any Honor accrued above the 4,000-point cap will be converted into gold at a rate of 35 silver per point. In addition, Season 11 rewards will be made available for purchase with Conquest Points awarded during the new season. Matchmaking Ratings will carry over when Season 11 begins, but all Team and Personal Ratings will be wiped.

This is very much in line with what I discussed in Preparing for Patch 4.3 / Arena Season 11, which is a very good thing. It’s a good thing because Blizzard is making sure to communicate the process in advance, detailing caveats about gear level increases, point conversions, and rating changes.

Again, my advice for preparing for Season 11 is pretty straightforward:

  • Stockpile Honor and Justice Points to their cap. This will give you the maximum amount of Honor possible to carry forward into Season 11: 70006667 points.
  • Prepare for 1-2 enchanting and gemming rounds. Get your PvP enchants, Resilience gems, leg armor, and engineering tinkers in place now before prices spike. Tonight, if you can.
  • Don’t buy any PvP gear during the interseason week. Complete your Conquest set if you like for mogging, but expect to replace it once Season 11 starts.

I would plan on taking the interseason week to work on capping your Honor and Justice points, and then either take some time off before the holidays or go play with some alts. It’s a good time to audition a new PvP main, try out new partners, or practice in the BGs.

Now taking bets on if Season 10 will end on 11/15 or 11/22. :) Glad no one took me up on a bet! End date is officially the 29th.

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Item Level Squishing in PvP

Ghostcrawler recently wrote an interesting blog post about the problem of item level inflation over the course of expansions. It’s a post that hit close to my heart, not only due tothe copious graphs, but also because it addresses some fairly significant problems in PvP – problems which, frankly, don’t exist in PvE.

Item levels have risen over the course of Warcraft’s development to convey a sense of increased power and character growth. Because the stats on the gear rose, damage rose – but so did the health pools of the monsters for that expansion. And, due to the diminishing effects of combat statistics, characters didn’t get any more effective as they leveled up, but instead became less effective as they entered a new expansion until they returned to their previous peak. This creates a strange illusion of getting more powerful in relation to older content, while actually becoming less effective in several key areas.

When you level from one expansion to another, each statistic becomes less effective in order to yield the same result. For example, when you level from 70 to 74, the same gear becomes about 25% less effective for certain key stats like Haste and Resilience. Even when you don’t move between expansions this is true – a level 10 character with 90% Haste will have 22% Haste at level 14 in the same gear – but between expansions it’s especially dramatic.

Expansions are the big culprit with power expansion in Warcraft, as each new expansion comes out with bigger stats, bigger damage and health pool numbers, and an increasingly huge disparity between the new and the old.

This chart from Ghostcrawler’s post helps show the stat inflation. It’s a good way to focus the discussion on the impending stat inflation which lies ahead in Mists of Pandaria if they don’t make any changes. If we carry forward his projections, the next line on the chart is going to go straight up and hit item level 600 in 5 short levels.

Put it another way – we could be looking at tanks with 500k… 750k… 1 million health… by the end of the next expansion. In PvP, we’re probably looking at around 400k to 500k health pools, and damage to match.

Let that sink in.

Ghostcrawler walks through two proposed solutions to this inflation:

  • Mega Damage: keep the scale the same, but represent the numbers with (effectively) scientific notation.
  • The Great Item Level Squish: adjust the game so item levels are flatter, except at the very end of the current expansion.

Both of these have some interesting pros and cons.

Mega Damage doesn’t change the underlying structure of the game, but rather presents it differently to players. Much like boss health is now represented by millions, the UI would be adjusted to present big numbers in a smarter fashion. This is relatively easier to implement, which means more developer resources spent on making new content (which is a good thing.) But it also fails to address the past and present issues introduced by item inflation, as well as ignoring the future computational issues when we’re dealing with really huge numbers for the smallest actions.

The Great Item Level Squish is a more involved solution; by reducing the item levels of gear through the leveling process, the entire game can then be retuned so that there’s a flat, streamlined progression through the game up until max level, when endgame gear inflates a bit, like so:

The Squish is a much more involved solution than Mega Damage, and the implications of it for PvP are really interesting. Really interesting.

Let’s take a look.

EXPANSION-FUELED POWER INFLATION AND LEVELING PVP

There are two serious challenges facing leveling PvP today brought about by expansion power inflation.I’m not just talking about low-level PvP, which has its own issues, but the entire curve of leveling PvP, going through from one bracket to another, starting at 10 and ending at 85.

  • First, the power inflation between expansions creates zones where it’s possible to gain the benefits of the next expansion without being in it – all the enchantments, profession perks, consumables, and early expac leveling gear can be gotten at levels lower than their target balance, which serves to destabilize the brackets leading up to an expansion.
  • Second, when a steep power inflation curve is compressed into a single bracket, it indicates a substantial gear disparity between the high and low ends of that bracket. The 80-84 bracket is a good example of this, with dramatically higher health pools at 84. We can presume, if nothing is changed, that the 85-89 bracket will suffer from a similar problem when Mists is released.

The first point has several elements to consider – gear, professions, enchants, consumables – but there are some common threads between each element.

It’s a fundamental axiom in twinking that the earlier you can get an item, the more overpowering it will be as you use it. This seems so obvious you might think it doesn’t bear repeating, but in the context of the Great Item Level Squish it deserves to be looked at critically.

Let’s look at a common example, a level 19 character who tries to get gear intended for a level 30 character.

  • Because the gear is intended for a higher level character, it has higher stats and therefore grants more of a benefit to the level 19 character than gear intended for that level. It’s simply a better sword, helm, belt, whatever it is, than what toons should get at that level. Let’s call this gear statistic improvement.
  • Because the combat rating system diminishes over time, lower level characters get more benefit from the same stats than higher level characters. This is counterintuitive, but the level 19 toon is more effective with the level 30 gear than a comparable level 30 character.

These two points are going to hold no matter where you are in an expansion or between expansions – the earlier you get good gear, the better it will be.

But the steeper the curve of the graph, the greater the inequality. The greater the difference between your level’s average item level and the higher level items you can acquire, the greater the advantage you can gain over your fellow players. And the places of the steepest curves and greatest inequality?

That’s right. In between expansions.

Each expansion introduces leveling gear a little before the endgame of the previous expansion, so at level 58 you can start wearing Outland gear, 68 Northrend gear, 78 Cataclysm gear. (I assume Pandaren gear will be available at 84, when it arrives.) This means that, in the x5-x9 brackets, the top of the bracket has two kinds of gear to choose from – the old and the new – and the new gear scale is usually significantly better than the old one, leaving characters at the bottom of the bracket at a significant disadvantage.

This isn’t really news; if you’ve played the 75-79 bracket lately, you’ve seen the devastating effects Cataclysm green gear has on bracket balance.

Let’s turn this idea around and put it another way: the shallower the slope of the graph, the less impact gear has upon your performance in PvP. Gear from 5-10 levels ahead will be a little bit better than what your average opponent will have, but not as much as it is now. Conversely, gear from 5-10 levels behind won’t be as much of a hinderance as it is now.

If gear becomes more equal in PvP, then class abilities, player skill, and teamwork rise in importance.

While this means twinks become less overpowering, it also means that leveling PvP becomes a bit less of a gear game, and a bit more of a battleground game, and I am very much in favor of that.

THE THORNY PROBLEM OF ENCHANTMENTS, PROFESSIONS, AND CONSUMABLES

While lowering the item levels of gear would help make leveling PvP a fairer, smoother experience, the real benefit comes when we apply the Squish to the real unbalancing elements of PvP – enchantments, profession perks, and consumables.

The above chart shows a rough availability of enchantments and profession perks by level, superimposed over Ghostcrawler’s item level chart. When you really start looking at when things become available, a surprising pattern emerges:

  • Vanilla enchants are available at level 1, but are geared for level 60.
  • Vanilla profession items are available starting at level 10 to grant items designed for level 30 or so.
  • Vanilla first aid can be learned at level 10 to use items geared for level 60.
  • BC enchants become usable in the late 20s and early 30s, but are intended for level 70.
  • BC profession perks are available at level 35, and fully realized at level 50, but balanced for level 70.
  • Wrath enchants are available around level 55, but are geared for level 80.
  • Wrath gems are available around 62-63, but are geared for level 80.
  • Wrath profession perks are available starting at 50 and fully realized by 65, scaled for level 80.
  • Cataclysm enchants and gems are available at level 78, but geared for 85.
  • Cataclysm profession perks are available starting at 65, fully realized by 75, and scaled for 85.

This mess is how twinking works – find the imbalance in the system and ride it for all it’s worth. It’s why you see Tazik’s Shockers and Synapse Springs in level 65 battlegrounds, why Green Tinted Goggles were so good in 10-19s, why Crusader and +25 Agility and +22 Intellect enchants are so overpowered at level 10-14.

The key to the problem lies in a steep item level curve.

Enchants, gems, and professions allow you to gain abilities and bonuses balanced for substantially higher levels – usually the endgame of the respective expansion. The flatter the item level curve, the less impact these abilities have on lower levels. The problem isn’t making them available at early levels – it’s a lot of fun pursuing these little advantages – but rather just how big some of the advantages are. Cataclysm-level damage in the middle of Burning Crusade? Enchants suitable for Molten Core and AQ-40 in level 10 Warsong Gulch? Mongoose at level 29?

This is only a problem if the item level curve is steep. If you bring down the level of each expansion’s endgame, and stop the power inflation between expansions, then abilities, enhancements and consumables geared for those parts of the game become less disruptive when brought down to lower levels. They still remain perks for smart leveling, but not overwhelming PvP advantages.

If you flatten the curve, these all become less disruptive to lower level PvP, and leveling PvP becomes more fair.

THE ENDGAME

The Great Item Level Squish doesn’t affect the endgame that much in terms of gameplay, though it has profound psychological effects. Going from 150k health to 15k would feel… weird. Disruptive. Like something had been taken away, even though the gameplay remains the same. Having Shadow Bolt crit for 20k one expansion and 1200 the next is tough to swallow if you like the big numbers.

I’m a number chaser too: I like big crits and I cannot lie. (You other brothers can’t deny.) I enjoy setting a target DPS for a character and eventually getting it. I like hitting a target health pool on a twink. And I like those numbers to be BIG!

But I look at the Squish and go… this solves so many problems in leveling PvP, I’m pretty sure I could get over that quickly. After a few weeks, the new scale of things would seem natural. Instead of going up in Mists, I went down, but that’s okay, because everything else went down too. I’m still superpowered compared to most of Azeroth – just with smaller numbers.

I don’t like the Mega Damage concept. I’ve played with similar concepts before in RPGs, and they just don’t work well. Having two different damage systems complicates things and solves nothing – except for the psychological need to have numbers that make sense, while still remaining “big.”

If Blizzard is going to spend time working on solving this problem – and I really, really hope they do – I hope they go with the more comprehensive Great Item Level Squish and flatten the gear curve.

Squish that curve as flat as you can, and the leveling PvP brackets will thank you.

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The Curious Case of the Big Daddy and Secretly Scaling Equipment

The Big Daddy is the Cataclysm heavy explosive available to Goblin Engineers. It requires Engineering 440 to use, and 500 to make, it’s expensive, but it also does respectable damage – about 5k – and the damage is tripled against targets at full health. Oh yes, it can crit, too, so you could get a lucky 30k damage off this baby. It’s also off the GCD, so it’s great to use after an instant cast spell, though you really want to use it on “unsuspecting targets” – thats those poor folks at full health – whenever possible.

They’re not quite as nice as the Global Thermal Sapper Charge was in the early days of Wrath – massive siege damage in SotA/WG/IoC was awesome – and they’re not as cheap as Saronite Bombs, which you could make part of your attack rotation with impunity – but they’re good for what they are.

Except… you notice that little bit about “Requires Engineering 440″ to use?

You can get Engineering 450 at level 65, when most characters have around 4k-8k health. Even in the level 70 twink bracket, health pools range from 10-14k, with 18-20k reserved for tanks.

These bombs can 1-shot an entire defending force if you attack when they’re at full health at level 70. At level 80, they can still take out 1/3-1/2 of the defender’s health.

Holy crap.

PvP being PvP, players figured this out, and maxing your Engineering at level 65 became an even easier way to dominating the battlegrounds than rerolling Mage.

(I kid, I kid!)

So far, you’d think that this is a simple story of an item being overpowered in the leveling brackets and getting removed from said brackets, right? I mean, you can’t have bombs that can take out entire nodes of defenders, can you?

But instead of doing the obvious thing – raising the required Engineering level beyond 450 – Blizzard did something really interesting.

SCALING DAMAGE WITH LEVEL

Sometime between 4.1 and 4.2, the Big Daddy was changed so that the damage scaled with level. No longer was it 5k at level 65 – now it was 700. Level 79? 1400 or so. The damage was changed to allow it to still be used at lower levels, but for it to become less attractive overall. Saronite Bombs do more damage at level 65 than Big Daddies, which solves the problem neatly and returns us to the idea that you might be able to use things from the next expansion while leveling, but you probably shouldn’t be using things from two expansions away.

That’s actually an interesting rule to consider: think about how unbalancing Wrath-level gear, gems and enchants would be if they were available at, say, level 30. There are limits on enchants to prevent this from happening, for instance (item level 35 for BC, 60 for Wrath), but no limits on the gems – but sockets don’t show up until BC-era gear anyways, so it isn’t a big deal. With the introduction of Cataclysm, gems needed to have restrictions added because you could have level 60-70 players sporting Cataclysm gems.

So why didn’t the devs just change the Engineering requirements on the Big Daddy to be 475 instead of 440? This would have placed the items out of reach of everyone lower than 75, which would take care of the most egregious abuses. It would still unbalance the 75-79 bracket, but that bracket is already unbalanced because of the availability of Cataclysm-balanced gear starting at 78. The 80-84 bracket is unbalanced as well, but it’s unbalanced because of scaling and the hard ramp of gear. Adding in a bomb that does 5k-30k damage isn’t going to further unbalance things.

Or will it?

Think about this for a minute. Instead of making a simple change that mostly fixed a problem, the developers dramatically changed how something worked by level, making it scale all the way from 65 to 85 (and possibly beyond). It still does a lot of damage, and is great against unsuspecting targets, but it’s not going to 1-shot people in any bracket it’s available in. That took thought, planning, and careful analysis to realize that a simple level restriction wasn’t going to work.

In every sense of battleground fairness, this is a great change. And it’s great for many brackets.

Which is why it’s so unexpected. Not because we shouldn’t expect that Blizzard does the right thing (we should), but that it’s one of the first times I’ve seen an item nerfed in PvP in such a way to take into account its impact in multiple brackets.

The problem with items with fixed stats is that their value increases the earlier you get them. Cataclysm introduced stat inflation into not just the endgame, but up through level 65. The inflation is really unbalancing. It doesn’t take a scientist to notice that if you increase health pools five times between level 80 and 85 that maybe, just maybe, items that are scaled for 85 shouldn’t be used at lower levels.

But hopefully, we can start seeing more fixes like the Big Daddy nerf, which address this inflation in multiple brackets.

Fixing leveling PvP is not simple. Little things add up. I’ll wager you didn’t even realize there was an explosive that could 1-shot you from level 65 to 80 until this post. The fact that it was fixed without your knowledge is a good thing. There are a lot of small, unbalanced items which good PvP players seek out and use against their opponents, and they add up. Not all of them are as big as this one, but hey – this is the Big Daddy we’re talking about.

Smart fixes like this raise the possibility of other items using smart scaling, which would be a good start towards equalizing the brackets. Heirlooms already do this; having normal items start adhering to this rule would help bring leveling PvP back into a more balanced state.

Bravo, Blizzard. Well played.

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Preparing for Patch 4.3 / Arena Season 11 PvP Gear

Patch 4.3 has hit the test servers, and with it information about the next PvP season, Season 11. We don’t have a lot of information about the new tier yet – not even a name for it yet – but Wowhead News and MMO-C both have nice galleries of the new gear.

While 4.3 isn’t imminent, it is coming, and based on the rocky transition between Seasons 9 and 10 I think there are some prudent steps PvP players can start taking now to prepare for Season 11. The current model completely resets gear from one season to the next, and every indication we’re seeing on the PTR is that this will continue.

Crafters will have all their PvP recipes updated to new ilvl 377 Vicious gear, replacing the Bloodthirsty patterns currently known. This means there will be three different levels of Vicious gear in the game:

  • ilvl 365: Arena Season 9 Vicious
  • ilvl 371: Battleground Season 10 Vicious (currently purchased with Honor)
  • ilvl 377: Crafted Season 11 Vicious (coming in 4.3)

While a half of a tier doesn’t seem like a lot, it adds up. You can check the season of each item by looking for the green text under the name of the item in the tooltip.

Following the tier model we saw introduced in Cataclysm, this means that PvP gear in Season 11 should have the following item levels:

  • Crafted: Vicious (ilvl 377)
  • Honor: Ruthless (ilvl 390)
  • Conquest: ? (ilvl 403)

Keeping in mind that the best gear you could have right now is Ruthless-384, I think it’s safe to say that you will be replacing all of your PvP gear at the start of Season 11. Honor gear jumps a full 1.5 tiers (19 ilevels), which means you should just replace the whole thing. Even S10 Ruthless (Conquest) gear should be replaced with S11 Ruthless (Honor) gear – a half tier is noticable.

My other recommendations?

  • Stockpile Honor Points and Justice Points. You will want as many Honor Points as you can at the start of the season to upgrade your basic gear and reduce your Honor grind. Justice Points can be converted to Honor Points, so they can function like a reserve Honor bank, giving you effectively 70006667 Honor Points to start off with. Consider capping both as 4.3 draws near.
  • Prepare for 1-2 enchanting and gemming rounds. Prices on many enchants and gems will drop as Patch 4.3 approaches. Take advantage of price fluctuations and have at least one extra set of enchants and gems on hand and ready to go. If you are planning on doing Rated PvP, get a second set. Current gems may be replaced by epic gems once 4.3 is out, but you can’t stockpile those yet.
  • Don’t expect anything from the interseason period. Last time, a series of miscommunications from Blizzard led to a lot of players grinding out complete PvP sets in the week between Seasons 9 and 10, only to have that Season 9 gear become obsolete the minute Season 10 launched. Plan to use the time either for a PvP break, or for a chance to cap your Honor and Justice points. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t say Season 11 on it.
  • Consider your current purchases wisely. If you’re still gearing up a toon, you may want to consider the benefits and drawbacks to continuing to purchase gear that can be replaced by crafted gear in the next patch. This is really a quality of life decision you’ll have to make for yourself.

My earnest hope is that we’ve already gotten through the rocky parts of the new system and will have a smoother transition than the last one. If everything stays the same, capping HP (and JP if you can) will be the smart way to end Season 10.

Just be sure to wait for Season 11 to start before purchasing any PvP gear. Let’s not all make the same mistake twice.

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Choosing Which PvP Gear to Get First, Warlock Edition

I received an email today from a regular correspondent commenting on my recent CFN post on vanity and gear choice. He has been having a running argument with some DK friends about what slot was more important to upgrade first – shoulders or trinket.

The trinkets, my correspondent correctly points out, have a very high Resilience/Conquest Point ratio, and the on-use effect is very potent for burst kills. The shoulders have a lower R/CP ratio, and their secondary stat is Expertise – not something that Frost and Unholy DKs often go for. But invariably, the shoulders got chosen over the trinkets because they looked cooler. They’re the flashy upgrade, not necessarily the smart one.

But here’s the thing – how much do secondary stats matter? Is choosing the flashy upgrade a really bad move? Once you get past the primary stats and Resilience, how much are these secondary stats influencing decisions? I’ve maintained in my gearing guides that you should pick gear with your spec’s preferred secondary stat first, but is that always the case?

MODEL WHAT YOU KNOW

I turned to Ask Mr. Robot for help on DKs, but his stat weights confused me – sometimes Expertise was very good, other times it was very bad, and I couldn’t tell you why. There are nuances to each and every spec, and I realize I don’t know enough about DKs to really answer my correspondent’s question.

But I do know warlocks. And I know warlocks in PvP. So I built my model around warlocks, instead, with the hope that people who know more about other classes can adapt it to suit.

My approach is relatively simple:

  • Gear can be evaluated by assigning weights to each primary and secondary statistic and totaling their values. This number is a quantitative representation of the relative value of the piece of gear for each spec.
  • This gear value can then be compared to the cost of the gear, allowing you to determine how effective your purchase will be.
  • By comparing the value/conquest point ratios between gear, you can determine which piece will be the best value.

Obviously, this method evaluates the full value of the gear, not the incremental upgrade value. You could easily modify it to suit a specific upgrade query by using the difference of the Conquest gear and your current gear instead of the full value of the gear. But for a starting model I think it’s okay to evaluate the full gear.

I took the stat weightings from Ask Mr. Robot because they were 1) easy to find and 2) relatively neutral. (Just keepin’ it real, yo.) I normalized them down to 0-1, and then added Resilience at 1.00, to reflect that I think it is as important as Intellect for PvP. I think it’s fair for all classes to do this – Resilience should be as important as your primary stat, not more, not less.

Once I had the stat weights in place, I then filled in all of the gear with values from the Ruthless Gladiator’s Felweave set. I left Hit in there, because it’s important, but I did skip Spell Penetration because there are several ways you can reach the Spell Pen cap, many of which can depend on your profession. Spell Power also presents a little bit of a tricky stat to weigh, but since weapons and trinkets use SP not Int I kept it in there and used the stats from the robot.

Here’s the spreadsheet if you’d like to follow along.

Applying the weights to the values on the gear, I came up with a normalized value for each spec (rows 23-26). This number doesn’t represent anything in game, really – it’s a relative measure of gear that only makes sense in context of the rest of the gear available.

I tossed in the Conquest Point cost for each item (line 21), which then lets us look at each piece in terms of purchase value it has – how much bang for the buck we get for spending Conquest Points. This is the value we really want to use to compare gear, because it’s obvious to see that some items have more oomph to them than others – that’s why they cost more. No, we want to compare based on what we get for our hard-earned CP.

My first pass through, I thought that I could stop here – getting a number for each item should be sufficient, right?

Well, not quite.

You’ll note that the weapons (MH/OH), trinkets, and pieces with Hit are better values than the set pieces. I think this has to do as much with the set bonuses not being included in each item’s budget, as with the set pieces costing substantially more points. These items also tend to have more sockets, which further diminishes the item’s onboard statistics. They should probably be higher than they are.

I initially ignored enchants, gems, and set bonuses because when you upgrade from PvP set to PvP set, they are static, while the rest of the gear changes around them. That’s the correct way to capture the upgrade model – ignore stats that don’t change or are not important (like Stamina) and only evaluate based on differences.

But this model only evaluates the gear, without reference to what we’re upgrading from. Even a character new to PvP is upgrading from something; they’re not coming into PvP stark naked.

The solution, of course, is to apply the same analysis to the gear currently worn by a character, and then to compare the difference between the two. That difference represents the value of the upgrade, which can then be divided by the cost of the upgrade.

So the correct model is:

  • Assign a normalized value to each piece of gear based on stat weights for the spec and the amount of primary/secondary stats on the item. This includes both the current gear and the future gear.
  • Get the value of the upgrade by taking the difference between the future gear and the current gear.
  • Divide that upgrade value by the cost of the upgrade.
  • Compare that value between the different gear slots to determine the most efficient upgrade path.

Since there’s no way to be accurate to any given Warlock’s upgrade situation, I chose the Season 10 Honor gear with S9 weapons as my baseline in the spreadsheet (rows 39-62), and then compared the Conquest set to the Honor set.

See, it’s important to think about gear purchases this way – you’re not purchasing a new set of gloves with +300 Intellect for 1650 Conquest Points, you’re purchasing an upgrade of +37 Intellect from your current gloves for 1650 Conquest Points. The key is to evaluate on the cost of the relative upgrade, not just the cost of the new gear.

Here’s how it looks.

As a key:

  • Trinket 1 is the Ruthless Insignia of Dominance, which procs randomly.
  • Trinket 2 is the Ruthless Badge of Dominance, which is an on-use “pump” trinket.
  • The PvP Trinket is the faction Insignia.
  • Ring 1 is the Ruthless Band of Accuracy, which gives Hit.
  • Ring 2 is the Ruthless Band of Cruelty, which gives Crit.

When we change the model to evaluate based on upgrade value and not just purchase value, the set pieces – hands, legs, chest, helm, shoulders – are more attractive because we aren’t ignoring their sockets, socket bonuses, and set bonuses when comparing them to other items. We’re now comparing them to earlier versions of the same gear (which correctly nullifies the effects of those bonuses) and allows us to clearly prioritize upgrades.

I think it’s interesting to see how the upgrade lists differ between specs, all driven by the stat weights originally assigned. Items with Hit are preferable to those with Haste, and the relative value of Crit can play havoc with the lower areas of the ranking.

Since Intellect and Resilience are weighted the same, items with a high Resilience/CP ratio (like trinkets) place higher than you might expect. Take a look at the Intellect/CP and Resilience/CP of the Conquest items to see what I mean:

Since this is Warlock gear, Spellpower devalues the MH weapon’s Intellect budget, as well as the trinkets. And the Intellect / CP chart has a strong correlation to the number of sockets on a piece of gear.

But look at how much Resilience those trinkets give for their cost! If you’re trying to gear up for PvP and improve your survivability, trinkets are the way to go. The set pieces weigh in favorably too here, and that’s before the set bonus kicks in.

INTERPRETING THE RESULTS

Now, all these numbers are well and good, but PvP is not just about numbers – it’s about performance. Is the random proc of one trinket better than the on-use effect of another? If we’re to just evaluate it by the numbers, absolutely yes. One gives more value for the CP (and more DPS, incidentally) than the other.

But this is PvP. Affliction warlocks, for example, are not known for their burst, and having an on-demand trinket that can be used to burn down an opponent at the right time is critical.

I think it’s interesting to see how dependent all this is on the stat weights you choose at the beginning. If you were to go on a straight primary stat / Resilience evaluation, you wouldn’t see a lot of the subtle differences in the gear pieces. Small changes to your stat weights will have a big impact on the gear’s purchase values, so these lists should not be set in stone. They are absolutely dynamic and need to be adjusted to your specific situation – which you should do.

Generally speaking, the pieces high on these lists either have a lot of the primary stats warlocks want – Intellect, Spellpower, or Resilience – or they have the secondary stats – Spell Hit, Haste. When all other things are equal, choose the gear with the best secondary stat – but it’s interesting to see that all other things are not always equal.

It’s nice to see that my general rule of thumb holds – get the stuff that has your secondary stat first – but you should also look at the rest of the item’s budget and cost when choosing what to upgrade next, and use your head.

All those disclaimers aside: the MH/OH weapons are always excellent buys.

VANITY PURCHASES

Getting back to the original question: are players who upgrade their shoulders first doing so out of vanity, or out of logic? If the secondary stat on them isn’t the best one for your spec, how important is that?

I think there’s a strong argument to be made that the shoulders are not a good first buy for warlocks – you get a bigger boost of Resilience from the trinkets.

But there could be other reasons to get them which outweigh the numbers. Perhaps it is important for the player to show others that the character is progressing into the next season of gear. Perhaps the new shoulders are a bigger upgrade due to not having a complete set of last season’s gear. Perhaps the player just likes the look of them! That’s all okay.

It’s okay because eventually, with enough time and focus, you can get all the gear, and it won’t matter which order you got it in.

However, when you are sitting there at the vendor, wondering what to get next – don’t be so quick to upgrade only the visible pieces.

New shoulders are great and all that, but there are other pieces that probably have more bang for the buck.

Like, you know, gloves. :)

Happy shopping!

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