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Blood Sport: Dalaran Arena problems and possible solutions


Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women? Blood Sport investigates the entirety of all-things arena for gladiators and challengers alike. C. Christian Moore, multiple rank 1 gladiator, examines the latest arena strategy, trends, compositions and more in WoW.com's arena column.

Listening Music: Pomplamoose (i.e. Jack Conte and his girlfriend Nataly Dawn) with a Single Ladies cover (originally by Beyonce). Although you've probably been able to guess by now, I'm a huge Jack Conte fan. This cover is short, but very intelligent.

Last Week: We asked the question, "Should racials be removed?" A lot of interesting responses filled the comments section of that article, people have some very strong opinions and it's definitely worth a read.

This Week: We'll be discussing specific issues that plague Dalaran arena. This will be the first in a two-part series -- part two will be Ring of Valor. The author doesn't believe Nagrand Arena, Ruins of Lorderon, or Blade's Edge Arena need much work. Dalaran has already gone through several changes to improve its game play. Blizzard, however, would do well to make additional changes to the arena. I've included some problems with its current implementation as well as some possible solutions.

1) Problem: The waterfall is a major annoyance.

It doesn't come down frequently enough to impact the game in substantial ways -- other than being exceptionally annoying at times. The vast majority of most Dalaran Sewers matches are fought "up top." The ledge on the side doesn't provide great line-of-sight when compared with the boxes.

If your team is fighting near the enemy boxes, but your healer is healing at the other set of boxes and the waterfall comes down, your team needs to adjust position quickly. Sometimes, the opposing team will win games simply because of that waterfall. Yes, your team could make a more conscious effort to prepare for the waterfall -- but should that be what arena is about? EDIT: Arena should be player vs. player -- not player vs. environment. I hope that clarifies this last sentence.

Possible Solution: Remove it!

Instead of the waterfall coming down more frequently (or in a less random manner) to solve the problem, a much more elegant solution would be to just remove it. Yes, while that would take Blizzard biting the bullet, they've already removed the fire strips from Ring of Valor. That took some balls, and they buckled down and did it for the betterment of the game -- and there was much rejoicing.

2) Problem: Boxes (the only reliable line of sight) is in a very overpowered location.

The boxes are located at the farthest possible point away from ramps (the only two ways to get up on top of the platform).

If you abuse "your" boxes, you can often force players to jump off to avoid taking a lot of damage. Players might be line-of-sighting spell damage, a warrior's Charge, or abusing Demonic Teleport. In any case, the cost of jumping down near boxes in this arena is much more costly than jumping down in Blade's Edge, and I'll explain why.

On z-axis arenas, people at the top always have the advantage positionally (warlocks aren't an exception, a Demonic Circle placed on the bottom of Blade's Edge or Dalaran is laughable). When you force an opponent to jump down on Dalaran, you are now 'on top.' Or at least your healer is. If you're melee, you'll just follow them and continue to keep up the pressure. If you're spell dps, oh happy day, you get to remain up top while spamming damage.

In any case, if the opposing healer needs to run towards your boxes to heal their wounded teammate up, you can prepare for that and hit them with crowd control (this is particularly true if your healer is a druid). If the opposing healer is at a staircase (ramp), then the opposing damaged will be running towards his healer and not putting out damage. You can then make the choice to crowd control the healer in the open, run towards the threatened opponent and close the gap, or hide behind your boxes and reset.

You have a lot of options available at that point in the game, and those options are what makes the position of the boxes (a defensive fortress near an offensive backdrop) so good.

If the opposing team decides to fight you on the ground, not only do you have the ability to run away from the ledge and line of sight them in that regard, but the boxes are right there to abuse their line of sight as well.

3) Problem: The Z-axis of Dalaran Sewers is much more punishing than Blade's Edge Arena.

In Blade's Edge Arena, if a member of your team needs to jump down (for whatever reason), you are always near an edge to jump down with him and heal him or peel for him. In Dalaran Sewers, if you are near the waterfall on the top platform -- well, just hope your teammate has a lot of survivability cooldowns available.

4) Problem: Thunderstorm/Typhoon/Blast Wave

Knockbacks are incredible on this map. We've already talked about why Dalaran's Z-axis is so much more punishing than Blade's Edge -- imagine what happens when an elemental shaman knocks the opposing team's dps off the edge and the opposing team's healer into the waterfall.

Then the waterfall Thunderstorms him again and an angel gets its wings.

5) Problem: Fear Pathing.

"Fear pathing," is shorthand for the silly rng (random number generator/generation) that occurs when fear takes you in either the best or worst possible location. I've seen fear run people from the boxes to the stairs and down to the opposite side of the boxes on this arena at least two hundred times. I can't imagine a scenario worse than that one on any arena, and I see it all the time.

Possible Solution for overpowered line-of-sight, Z-axis issues, knockbacks, and fear pathing: Add two more ramps!

Giving players more access to the top platform will decrease the player vs. pillar element of this arena. Creating good position is fairly easy to do on Dalaran Arena -- stay around "your" pillar. There's no way to attack the pillars from the back, so every offensive attempt you make vs. a team that can play well on the defensive might end badly.

Allowing players to sneak around the ledge on the bottom will create interesting lines of play in that they will be able to LOS spell damage or enemy CC while getting closer to the enemy position and boxes. Knockbacks and fear pathing, while both will continue to be quite deadly -- will not be quite as game breaking.

6) Problem: Demonic Circle in the starting pipe.

In season five, players could set it in the starting gate for the entire duration of a match. Close to killing that warlock? Poof, he's gone -- and there's no way to get to him sans Death Grip. Warlocks can actually still set their Demonic Circle in the starting zone and use it once before it disappears -- kind of lame, but unfortunately not an exploit (my warlock gets lots of tells every day for the past three months about how people are reporting him for exploiting).

Even though I could lump this in with a problem of the Z-axis, it's really a bit stronger than that. There's nothing inherently wrong with a map being designed with a height element. Demonic Circle, after all, is just an exceptional tool that can be used to completely negate an opponent's Charge or Intercept. The problem comes when warlocks can negate every ability on the opposing team for an extended period of time -- even Divine Shield has Mass Dispels to counter it.

Possible Solution: Put the starting pipe on ground level and take out the water torrents.

Not only does this take away quasi-exploitation, but it allows players to fight in a new area. If developers are against starting the pipe on ground level, it can be ramped down, which would be pretty interesting to fight in. If developers are also against taking out the water torrents, I suppose that's alright too. Fighting in the pipe only to be pushed out 5-10 seconds later might be kind of neat.

Fixed Problems

Blizzard isn't above fixing problems in arena. Most changes revolve around player abilities, but sometimes the arena itself changes forms. Dalaran has already gone through several changes, some of them very important.

1) Boxes were buggy around the edges.

One of the reasons WotLK PvP started off so poorly in season five was the terrible, terrible shape of the Dalaran boxes. In case you didn't know (and I don't blame you if you didn't), the shape of the boxes actually changed in season seven. Before, the boxes were a peculiar triangular shape -- it was hard to tell if your heal or spell would hit your target or not.

Even though the boxes still have a peculiar line-of-sight element to them, it's not anywhere close to as bad as it was. Trying to heal your teammates around the side edges of the boxes was akin to rolling dice and getting snake eyes a quarter of the time. It sucked.

2) The size of the arena was too small.

Before players were able to mount, Dalaran Sewers was tiny. I'd hate to be a claustrophobic PvPer in season five. Although it was a neat idea to have a unique no-mount arena, the sewers are much more balanced as a larger zone.

3) Scarab Lords.

In season five and most of season six, players were not able to mount inside Dalaran Arena -- unless you were a Scarab Lord. My main is a Scarab Lord, so I know about this first hand. For me it was awesome, for everyone else -- not so much.

When the paladin I played with would apply Crusader Aura, (just for me, bwahaha) I could mount up and get to the opposing team before they got to their ramp (stairs). I might have made a few people quit arena. Oops.

Dalaran Sewers Solutions Recap
  1. Take the waterfall out completely.
  2. Ramps (stairs) should be placed on all four corners of the arena. This will help diminish game-breaking fear pathing and knockbacks. Also, adding ways to attack the boxes from different angles will lower the power of the box line-of-sight, while still providing a z-axis and creating interesting lines of play.
  3. The starting sewers should be on the bottom of the arena or it should ramp down so players run out instead of dropping down. This will solve warlock abuse, as well as give players a unique area to fight in.
Did I get it right? I want to hear what you think about Dalaran Arena! Leave a comment below!

Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? Check out WoW.com's articles on arena, successful arena PvPers, PvP, and our arena column, Blood Sport.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Blood Sport (Arena PvP)

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