Wrath of the Lich King has been great so far. Blues and purples have been easy to come by, with raids and heroic instances -- criticized by some as being too easy -- working as intended. With barely a few weeks after the game's release, many players are decked out in epics. Our Guild Master just got the Superior Achievement a couple of days ago, with many of our members soon to follow suit.
Of course, this comes after repeated Heroic runs, the clearing of Naxxramas, and the extremely easy reputation grind thanks to the new tabard system. Overall, it's a phenomenal gearing system... for PvE. On the other hand, the delayed release of Honor-bought PvP items and mid-December start of Arena Season 5 leaves PvP enthusiasts like myself out in the cold.
With the Honor cap restricted to 75,000 even at Level 80, playing any Battlegrounds or Wintergrasp results in Honor sloughing off into the nether while PvE players can continue to accumulate and spend Emblems of Valor and Heroism. On the other hand, because there are no Level 80 rewards available for purchase with Honor yet, it has become pointless to PvP specially if you are at the Honor cap. This doesn't make any sense to me. I don't want to grind Heroic dungeons for my gear. That's not where I have the most fun. I enjoy playing Wintergrasp and the new Strand of the Ancients Battleground, but unlike PvE players, I get significantly lower returns for my efforts.
This became excessively apparent to me when fellow guild members who hit Level 80 at about the same time as myself began to gear up significantly faster -- with Marks to spare for PvP gear. The new system forces PvP players to grind PvE content in order to stay competitive in gear accumulation. It takes about the same time to run the Culling of Stratholme and defend in Wintergrasp. In the former, you get reputation (with a tabard), a shot at blues and an epic, as well as collect Emblems of Heroism. In the latter, you earn Honor you cannot spend nor stockpile beyond 75,000 and Wintergrasp Marks of Honor which aren't currency for anything in the game at the moment.
Strand of the Ancients is a fun, quick Battleground that gives decent Honor for the time investment although again, if you're capped, there's nothing to spend that Honor on. You also get Strand of the Ancients Marks of Honor which is only usable as part of a quest turn in to get even more Honor which PvP players don't really need at this point. There's no reputation associated with Strand of the Ancients, either, so I don't understand why tabards can't be used to champion a faction's cause within a Level 80 bracket Battleground.
The relative ease by which PvE players get geared up is a very good thing. It's good for the game and the player base. The tuning down of PvE content has allowed greater accessibility for players, but the PvP grind remains the same. PvP rewards -- should they remain the same costs in Beta once they go live -- are exponentially more expensive, so even if Honor gain is faster at Level 80, the rate at which you'll get PvP gear remains the same.
That's another thing. Honor gain is much faster at Level 80 than it was at Level 70, but the Honor cap remains the same. This cap used to be roughly twice the cost of the most expensive Honor item in the game, but Deadly Gladiator filler pieces will cost over 60,000, leaving little change for any other items once PvP gear is finally released on live realms.
Contrast this with the plethora of PvE gear available through Emblems of Heroism and Valor, reputation gear, and a player doing the PvE grind will be significantly geared up come Season 5 compared to a player whose main passion is PvP. I know, PvP in World of Warcraft is mainly an afterthought. It's a disappointing realization considering how successful the itemization through PvP model Warhammer introduced.
World of Warcraft is still a PvE game. I know that. But there just isn't any way for a PvP player to remain competitive with a PvE player when it comes to gearing up in Wrath of the Lich King. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Players grinding 25-man raids may soon purchase Hateful Gladiator gear without having to step inside an Arena if the vendors open up the way they did in Beta. Players who didn't participate in the battle for Wintergrasp can freely enter the Vault of Archavon and walk away with loot.
In fact, the only way to obtain Arena gear prior to the Arena season is through doing the Vault of Archavon, and players don't even need to PvP to do that. They can simply wait until their faction has control of the zone. A player who participates in the battle for Wintergrasp gets little beyond the sheer fun of playing one of the best features of the game at the moment. Like I said, Wintergrasp Marks don't mean anything right now.
Furthermore, Honor can't be spent for PvE gear. There's no point in playing Battlegrounds or Wintergrasp for Honor until December 16, and by then PvE players will have caught up in gear and even Honor accumulated because of the cap. I'm forced to do an instance even though I'd much rather be in a Battleground or in Wintergrasp.
Ironically, it's also faster to farm Stone Keeper's Shards while doing instances when you control Wintergrasp instead of doing some PvP. Players who have never done Wintergrasp easily get the 50 or 100 Stone Keeper's Shards Achievements without even knowing what the Shards are for. On the other hand, players who actually fought in the battle don't get any bonuses. The game sometimes bugs that players don't even get credit for the win. It's happened to me several times that I don't get to complete my Victory in Wintergrasp daily quest because the game is bugged.
The sad fact is that, right now, PvP is pointless. Doing Heroics and raids is the only way to go. I know that the items will become available once Arena Season 5 starts, but why the long wait? A small delay prevents players who have stocked up their 75,000 Honor from getting ahead in the gear curve, but given the ease of the endgame right now, a mere week of running Heroics wipes out that advantage.
Don't tell me to run Heroics. That's not what I want to do. I want to PvP. The problem is, it's a waste of time right now. I've burned maybe tens of thousands of Honor because I'm already capped, but there's nothing for me to buy. It's sad, actually. I would like to say that Wrath itemization is a resounding success -- and it is for the most part, but in the early going it's been something of a failure for PvP.
The crafted Resilience sets are pretty cool, but they are superior level items and PvE easily gets ahead in itemization with the ready availability of both levels of Tier 7. In fact, with the slow accumulation of Arena points and ratings, it's theoretically much faster to get Arena gear through the Vault of Archavon. If vendors in Dalaran start selling PvP gear for Emblems, it'll be faster, too.
Right now and for the past weeks, PvP has been pointless. It would've been nice if it were possible to level from PvP, but it's a distant idea that was only sparked by the Warhammer experience. Will it ever make it to WoW? Maybe. But it's too late for this leveling period. The best thing for any PvP fanatic right now is to grind PvE and accumulate Emblems. It's kind of sad to see that on an Arathi Basin weekend, there are no games on. Until December 16, at least, and until more people hit Level 80, PvP won't be anywhere near as rewarding.