Zach of The Art of War(craft) enjoys PvP in all its forms, which includes competitive sports, martial arts and the considerably less badass and infinitely geekier miniature wargaming. Like Warmachines. Or maybe it's because he kind of just likes anything with the word '"war" tacked onto it.
Last week we took a look at the delicious possibilities that Cataclysm will bring to battlegrounds PvP. It's going to be pretty brutal out there, and you're going to need friends. While there is a whole bunch of cool stuff all over, the best thing about Cataclysm for battleground enthusiasts will be the rated battlegrounds. Unfortunately, one of the things this will contribute to is the decline of solo play. In order to get the most out of your battleground experience, you'll need to be part of a group so that you'll reap the benefits of rated matches.
The new Vicious Gladiator gear for arena Season 9 (or rated battlegrounds Season 1) is listed on MMO-Champion, and I'm sure avid battlers are drooling in anticipation of how these sets look. Then again, it could just be me. At any rate, there's a whole load of gear waiting to be claimed through honor and conquest! Most importantly, one thing that separates itemization this upcoming PvP season -- and this is a game-changer -- is the availability of personal-ratings-free weapons and armor through the new system. That marks the first time that max-level PvP weapons will become obtainable by players of all skill levels and the first time that top-tier PvP armor will only have a cosmetic distinction separating them from their ratings-free counterparts. You read that right: PvP gear with ratings requirements will have the exact same stats as PvP gear with no ratings requirements.
What this means is that all efforts are rewarded, regardless of your performance on the battlefield. Better groups or players will acquire gear more quickly, but players will no longer be locked out of gear for lack of high personal ratings. Instead, players can get the higher-tier versions of armor and weapons as free upgrades as soon as they acquire the proper ratings. That said, the gear will still require PvP currency, which means you'll have to get yourself a group to run some rated battlegrounds. You can luck out on a good PUG now and again, but as they say, if you want things done right, you'll have to do it yourself.
Ready for conquest
Given the number of people required to run rated battlegrounds -- a minimum of 10 players -- it's extremely unlikely that set teams such as the kind found in arenas will ever be implemented. The current PvP interface only shows a tab for arena teams, which guarantees that rated battlegrounds will be extremely PUG-friendly and most players can just join a group that will queue up for rated battlegrounds.
The PvP interface, accessible by pressing H on your keyboard, will show three tabs. The first tab is Honor, which allows players to queue up for the various battlegrounds and earn honor points. Players can elect to participate in random battlegrounds that grant bonus honor for winning. If it's similar to how honor works now, there will be no limit to the amount of honor players can gain and spend in a week.
The second tab is Conquest, which tracks conquest points gained through rated battlegrounds and arena play. The rated battleground differs from week to week, although it seems bugged on the beta at the moment and lists 5v5 instead. As I understand it, the rated battleground of the week works similarly to the battleground holidays but aren't necessarily the same. There's a current cap of 13 conquest points per week on the beta, although that number can change when the game finally goes live. This means that there's a hard cap per week for conquest points so players won't be able to grind it the way they do honor. Any games played after reaching the weekly conquest point cap will be towards ratings.
The third tab is for arena teams.
With great power ...
Running a regular battleground crew takes some responsibility. As much as the new rated battleground system is PUG-friendly, you'll achieve best results with a regular crew. If a vast majority of your group are members of your guild, then you'll get the added benefit of working towards guild achievements and contributing to guild levels. Just like raiding with a guild, you'll need to have a solid core group that can play on a set schedule. Having a regular schedule for battleground play will allow you to group with the same people, and if you do it often enough, even PUGs will know when to hang out and wait for slots in your group in case you can't fill it with regulars.
Set a schedule. Treat battleground runs like raids. Have a set time for forming the group and be sure to make call-outs on public channels if you think you'll need more people. It's hard enough to get enough people to dedicate time to arena schedules at the 3 and 5 brackets, so don't expect to run with a regular full crew in the battlegrounds. What's important is that you set up a pattern so that people at least know when to log in if they expect to run with you.
Have lieutenants. The critical thing about having a core group is that you'll grow together as a team. Because you're running with a raid-sized group,you might need to delegate some players to hold particular points and on occasion even issue instructions. Just as the officers in a guild help keep raids in order, it helps to have lieutenants on the battlefield who know how to play the various battleground maps and make quick, strategic decisions.
Prepare strategies. Have several strategies in place before running a battleground map and adjust it on the fly. This means that you should already know what you want to do when before you engage, such as running an all-offense set up in Warsong Gulch or a blacksmith rush in Arathi Basin. Be prepared to adjust your strategies, because you'll be facing another premade who will have strategies of their own. What works in the beginning might not work again, such as capturing one flag in Warsong Gulch with a healer-escorted runner and simply holding midfield. Understand the battleground maps and have at least two to three options at the start of the battle.
Take charge. If you're the battleground leader and the person who sets things up, understand that players will look to you for directions. Be prepared to issue orders and make important decisions in the heat of battle. Unlike dungeon or raid bosses that have set abilities and even patterns that you can prepare for, PvP is fluid; you'll need to keep adjusting throughout the course of the game. Your success will depend largely on how fast you can make the right decisions.
Take responsibility. There's no finger-pointing in battlegrounds play. There are too many people involved and no one person can cause a team to lose, unlike in arenas where one failed heal or late target switch can cost your team the match. It's about working as a team to achieve battleground objectives, which means that losses will rest squarely upon your shoulders as the group leader. Be responsible enough to take the heat for losses. Players respect leaders who don't lay the blame on them, especially when it's not even warranted. The battlegrounds are the casual end of World of Warcraft PvP, and not even rated battlegrounds will change that. So just roll with it. That said, some players will deserve to be removed from a group owing to subpar or AFK play.