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Blood Sport: Moving out of the fire -- in PvP?



Listening Music: All is Full of Love, by Bjork. Icelandic Fantastic! I don't even know a third of what this video is about, though.

Last Week: We talked some Ring of Valor problems and solutions.

This Week: This is kind of like Ring of Valor part II, kind of not. I wanted to talk about PvE elements in PvP a bit more. I dunno, it's a weird article. You've been warned. Onto the show...

"Don't stand in the fire, noob!"

That's really what skill is, right? In the many years I've been playing WoW, I think every guild application I've filled out, I've scribbled "I can move out of fire" somewhere on it. Now if I actually could move out of the fire is an entirely different question, but hey, whatever helps me get accepted, right?

Some guilds even have a humorous section devoted to asking the applicant questions like...
  • "Can you move out of fire?"
  • "Can you do a good Chewbacca impression?"
  • "Can you put out more dps than the tank?"
  • "Am I pretty in pink?"
So why am I writing about guild applications? This is the arena column. This isn't PvE!

Well, arena has become more like PvE than you might have originally thought. Don't write me off just yet!

PvP = PvE?

The fire trenches in Ring of Valor is probably the best example of this. A strip of fire shoots up from inside the earth to consume arena combatants if they position themselves too closely. Ancient Romans would have killed to see something like that -- and that's not just a figure of speech.

In Wrath of the Lich King, in addition to dying to opponents, combatants received an arena that killed them. What fun. While the fire trenches are probably the best example of PvP being 'watered down' into PvE, it is far from the only one.

Nothing New

Incorporating PvE elements into PvP is nothing new. Alterac Valley is a mix of PvP and PvE, and it's been around since vanilla. It also happens to be the most popular battleground, but I don't know if that's because most people enjoy it. Alterac Valley is the best battleground to AFK in, as you are just one of forty individuals. AV awards the highest honor/exp per hour by far when half your time is spent alt-tabbed.

Raiding weapons like Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros and Dark Edge of Insanity were used in world PvP and battlegrounds at level 60 as well. Compare them to the rank 14 PvP axe, High Warlord's Battle Axe. PvE weapons (and lots of other pieces of gear) have always been superior for PvP than gear specifically made for PvP.

Some of you might be exclaiming, "That's PvE gear! So what if they use it in PvP? They earned it, and they should be able to wear it. You can use PvP gear for raids too!"

Go parade around in half PvE gear, half PvP gear and see what top raiding guilds do with your guild application. They might even chuckle behind closed doors about it. However, for some classes/specs, half PvP gear half PvE gear is exactly what some of the top arena teams prefer for themselves and teammates. I don't think we'll be seeing raiding guilds asking their members to hit 2200 arena rating for best-in-slot gear anytime soon.

The Burning Crusade

Who remembers Nagrand tornadoes? Those things got scrapped early because they were confusing and unnecessary. There some YouTube videos of tornado PvP matches, if you don't know exactly what I'm talking about.

Now, before you go shouting, "Wow! Those things look so cool!," yes, they do. I'll admit it, they look awesome. Now remember, they got scrapped early for good reason. They were buggy, random, and completely unnecessary.

Many arena players (I would go so far as to say most) consider Nagrand to be the most balanced arena -- although their opinion would be very different if tornadoes were causing game losses. The absence of random environmental factors was a large part of why arenas and PvP in general was successful in The Burning Crusade.

Scrapping the idea of random environmental variables is what should have happened with Ring of Valor and Dalaran Sewers. Unfortunately, both made it to live servers and made season five incredibly un-fun for the majority of players. I'm not saying majority tongue-in-cheek, arena total representation went down 65% from season four to season five -- even though the total number of WoW subscribers went up. That statistic is almost unbelievable. Sure, other factors were involved here but most of them are directly involved with PvE elements (gear, environmental factors, class balance, etc).

Void Zones and You

Is moving out of "bad stuff" (or avoiding it altogether) skill? Sure it is.

It requires me to be aware of my surroundings, and perhaps a certain timer that the "bad stuff" is on. Deadly boss mods is pretty awesome at showing you interval timers so you know exactly when to avoid "bad stuff", but you still have to hold down your W key for like three seconds.

A good friend of mine (who happens to be in a US-top 20 raiding guild) told me a few months ago that World of Warcraft has boiled down to one thing: Don't stand in the fire. His quote is what prompted me to write this article.

His reasoning is that if Ulduar can be cleared by a raid in full blues with no epic gear, gems, or enchants, statistics aren't usually a problem -- providing the individual is not completely oblivious of his or her surroundings and impending doom. People who stand in fire are worthless to a raid -- they absorb healing that could be better spent elsewhere. Also, if the applicant is not competent enough to notice a ball of flaming embers around them, the individual is probably not going to be among the best of players.

So What's the Problem with Fire Trenches in Arena?

Let's go back to our original fire trench example. They definitely add a new skill level to arenas -- not only do you have to kill the opposing team, but you have to deal with environmental factors which can kill you. In fact, they add a whole new 'skill level dimension' to them. Consider the following points when you compare arena fire with PvE fire:
  1. No Deadly Boss Mods coming up to tell you when the next fire trench will be active.
  2. Death knights can Death Grip you back on top of the fire and spam Chains of Ice.
  3. In an arena fight, you have far less healers which can get you up if you decide to chill out in the fire.
  4. In an arena fight, your healer is often the primary target for crowd control, so you have even less heals coming in.
I mean, when you think of it that way "bad stuff" to avoid in arena is kind of like super-hardcore mode of WoW

Hypothetically...

Could we add a dragon to Ring of Valor? Sure. It sounds awesome on face value -- fight an opposing arena team, while avoiding the massive claws, bites, tail swipes, and fire breaths of Skillogosa. Some people might be excited to avoid a dragon while killing opponents. They might see it as a new and exciting challenge they have not yet braved.

Could we add Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Dalaran Sewers? Of course. Instead of fighting one team of opponents, you're fighting two. The "skilled" players will let the Turtles beat on the opposing team while jumping behind pillars and striking at the right time. Or, in an Alterac Valley-themed twist, we could have the team that defeats the Turtles first be declared the arena victor. And, might I add, turtles live in a sewer, so it's kind of on-point.

Am I straw manning here? Maybe. My point is that while a random variable included to an arena might give an advantage to the more "skilled" player (at predicting it's arrival and departure) -- that random variable does not make the arena more balanced.

The focus of PvP should be threefold:
  1. Fun
  2. Balanced
  3. Fighting human opponents and nothing else

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: PvP, Blood Sport (Arena PvP)

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