I realize now that the debate about Arenas will never end. A lot of you don't like it -- this is apparently the wrong blog site to enthuse about it. But the fact is that Arenas are a big part of the World of Warcraft today. Some would say too big, but I personally think it fits its niche rather nicely. There's a lot of room for debate on this, and reading through everyone's comments in past columns, it's easy to see that there won't be any resolution to it.
Well, we're not talking about that today. This column is for people who like Arenas. If you're not a big fan of the format, you can skip right to the end of the column and post your well thought-out arguments about it (a lot of you are very impassioned about the matter, and I'm greatly impressed) or you can skip to another post as we've got a lot of good reads elsewhere around the site. No, this column is for those Arena freaks, the guys who get giddy when the queue pops up and get an adrenaline rush when the gates open.
The next Arena season is going to be fun. We'll have ten more levels to slog through and a lot of experimentation to do before we settle on a PvP groove and find out which specs and playstyles actually work for us. At the end of it all, when we finally hit Level 80, a new era of Arenas will begin and there'll actually be three tiers of gear to reward every level of play. For anyone who's ever stepped foot into an Arena and liked it, it promises to be the best season yet.
The new Arena season is going to be fun because it will debut the tiered gear system that Blizzard feels will address some core issues about gearing up for Arenas. First up is Savage Gladiator gear, a set of blue or rare quality items that are purchased with a combination of Arena and Honor points and require no Arena Rating. It might not be the best gear out there, but they're certainly worth the price of admission and will get a lot of players the requisite Resilience needed for competitive PvP.
It's cheap. Savage Gladiator items can be purchased for as low as 3,500 Honor and 175 Arena points in the Wrath Beta. While these may not be the final prices, I think the trend will be to keep these items fairly affordable. The idea is to easily be able to pick up a piece of this every week even at moderate sub-1500 ratings. That really isn't bad for casual play dabbling in Arenas and Battlegrounds. It takes a little effort, and there's a wide selection of gear to choose from. So even if you're not looking to complete Savage Gladiator gear, you can use them to fill out the slots waiting for shiny new epics.
It's cheap. And just like most things, you get what you pay for. Savage Gladiator gear is entry level PvP gear, and it will feel that way once you get past players in Northrend greens and quest item blues. In theory, Savage Gladiator gear should be the equivalent of Level 80 heroic dungeon rewards, so the rarity (blue) is something of an expectational letdown. It's not epic and it doesn't feel epic. However, these are really just rewards to make it worth the time of players who might otherwise gain nothing from Arenas. The idea is to have fun. Dabble in the format, play a few games. Do it wearing only hats, if you want to.
Don't let the name fool you. Hateful Gladiator Arena gear is pretty sweet. I think it rewards a balance of time and relative skill, although I'm sure many players will consider the requisite Arena ratings rather steep. Just like the Savage Gladiator gear, it can be purchased with a combination of Honor and Arena points but this time carries a ratings requirement. The Arena point cost is roughly twice that of the Savage Gladiator items, so theoretically players who average around the requisite ratings should get about a piece every couple of weeks.
Hateful Gladiator gear is pretty darned good for the cost. If you can manage the ratings requirement, they're excellent pieces for competitive PvP and should satisfy many players. The Hateful Gladiator items are Blizzard's idea of the equivalent of 10-man raiding gear for PvP, and can quite certainly be worn with pride in addition to serving PvP needs nicely. The gear will even help fill out PvE sets in a pinch until they get replaced with more appropriate gear. These are simply the best items for the cost and should be the most popularly distributed and aspirational PvP gear in the game.
For a lot of people, ratings from 1665 to 1825 will be prohibitive although these ratings are considerably lower for an entire set compared to past seasons, as 1825 will already qualify players for the shoulder pieces. Personally, I think the ratings are pretty modest -- Season 3 weapons required 1850 and the shoulders required 2000. Every piece of Hateful Gladiator gear is easier to obtain than the S3 weapon. Hateful Gladiator gear also require the most time investment and focus among all the three tiers of gear because of associated Honor gear and ratings. You need to grind Honor in the Battlegrounds as well as have a respectable performance in Arenas.
For the most devoted Arena enthusiasts, there are the Deadly Gladiator items which do not require any Honor points to purchase. Of all the new Arena gear, the Deadly Gladiator sets and weapons most closely represent the old system of Arena gear. The items are considerably more expensive, however, and should balance out as players able to attain ratings of this level should accrue enough Arena points to acquire one piece every few weeks. The helm cost is bugged, according to MMO Champion, but the ratings requirement should fall somewhere around 2100 or so.
The Deadly Gladiator items are simply the best PvP items in the game. The equivalent of 25-man raid rewards for PvP, Deadly Gladiator gear are massive stat boost from other gear -- with some weapons giving over 30 DPS more than Savage Gladiator and about 17 DPS over Hateful Gladiator equivalents. These items give a dominating edge in PvP and even let players perform respectably in 10-man content. Having no Honor point requirement also means technically a lower time investment required to acquire the items.
With gloves beginning at 1900 ratings, most people in the game will not be wearing a single piece of Deadly Gladiator gear. The requirement tops out at the magic mark of 2200, which in some Battlegroups will qualify for a Gladiator title at the end of the season. 2200 is also a massive jump from the next highest rating requirement, which is 2080 for weapons. As anyone who has competed at the 2k bracket would know, point gain beyond 2000 is fairly slow, particularly if you compete in the off-hours.
The tiered gear system
I am excited about the tiered PvP gear system because it allows a lot of flexibility in choosing items. Sure, the Savage Gladiator stuff are pretty underwhelming, but for the low cost they're not a bad deal. The diversity in gear choices gives players a means to progress within the Arena system at their own pace, replacing pieces over time should they improve upon their game. For some players, merely obtaining Deadly Gladiator gloves will be an achievement in itself. With so much PvP gear available, it will help towards players' survivability in PvP in all scenarios.
Right now it's hard to quantify the gear because Level 80 is an entirely different animal. I don't know the complete itemization for max level so it's hard to examine the gear outside of a vacuum. Some things may still change before live, especially the cost. Although I believe the idea behind it is pretty solid -- the tiered gear system affords players a new item every couple of weeks or so no matter the player's level of play. Savage Gladiator gear will be the quickest to obtain, even by skimming above 1500.
Deadly Gladiator gear will take a lot of time to obtain, with 2-handed weapons requiring a minimum of four weeks -- and that's maintaining 2080 rating with a 5v5. In contrast, a 1506 rating in 5s will get a player the Savage Gladiator equivalent in a mere two weeks. More effort, more time, and naturally, more results. It gives players a means to catch up on gear within the current season instead of waiting for the next one to start. More than ever, players will be able to close the gear gap within seasons. This is why, aside from the cool new talents and abilities as well as new Arena maps, the next Arena season will be the best one ever.