Let's get one thing out of the way: this isn't an epeen-stroking session. When you go into the Tournament Realm joining a 1382 team that went 3-11 on its debut week, you have to set your expectations right. Aside from Amanda Dean, or Mandy, who's professed an enjoyment for Arenas, the WoW Insider team is composed of people who don't have extensive Arena experience. We also have Adam Holisky, who doesn't consider PvP to be the 'real' game (whatever that means), and Amanda Miller, who covers our Sunday Morning Funnies. I do a fair amount of Arena on live myself and our team is rated enough to garner us Season 3 swag every two weeks or so. You do the math. But here's the thing -- Arena is a team game. Like every team sport, it relies on synergy, teamwork, and communication. The top players in the world know this, and team leaders replace underperforming members regularly with a dose of nerd rage for good measure. That's just competitive Arena play.
On the other hand, WoW Insider's venture into the Tournament Realm is more of a journalistic exercise than anything else. For one thing, I'm not even eligible to actually participate in the actual tournament because my country isn't on the list, so my expectations of going far in this tournament is nil. To be perfectly honest, that's a good thing. Ironically, I feel a lot less pressure to perform on the TR with the WoW Insider Team than I do on live. In fact, I even ventured to play as a Retribution Paladin only because I can. I had initially created a Restoration Shaman named Insiderzach but since Mandy was running with a Restoration Druid, I thought I could have a little fun with running double melee with Adam so I made a Paladin. After all, it is my favorite class.
More than anything, this period of the Arena tournament is the time to play around. It's the test period. Now, more than any other time, is the opportunity to tinker with equipment and specs. Adam was running a 45/5/11 spec that's not even the standard 35/23/3 for Arena, while Amanda was running 41/0/20 without Shadowburn as opposed to SL/SL. Mandy was closest to standard with an 11/11/39, opting for Insect Swarm which is an interesting choice if we meet up with melee classes. I mucked around with a 12/0/49 and gemmed and re-gemmed for +Hit and +Crit / +Strength. I couldn't make up my mind on going for the Hit cap of 5% (or 4% if you want to nitpick) since I'd forewent Precision in my build to go up Holy for Unyielding Faith.
It was in playing around that I realized what was so completely cool about the Tournament Realm. You could tinker. You could tinker with your game in a way that you never could on the live realms. You could tinker so much that you could make a character, fully equip her, and decide that you're not happy with the hairstyle, name, or whatever -- and delete her. That kind of flexibility is fun as hell. The ability to play all classes at 70 without resorting to Chris Jahosky-style altoholism is completely worth the price of admission. At this point, I'm not looking at competition. I'm looking at having fun. And nowhere else in the game are you able to experiment as much as you can with the Tournament Realm.
$20 for six weeks of unmitigated practice, experimentation, and opponent class research? Yes, please. There's no better way to find out how other classes work than playing against them and playing one of them. Yeah, sure we're scrubbing it in the TR. But we're having fun. We're not forced to comp or countercomp RMP or Rogue-Mage-Priest -- that comp is so synergistic it sleepwalks its way out of our scrub bracket. And speaking of brackets, we've crawled out of our 1300s hole into a 1435 substrate, so that's certainly something to add to the fun. Even if you're not seriously considering competing for the huge cash prizes -- like I said, I don't qualify myself -- you might have enough fun playing around with tinkering and learning more about each class.