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Blood Sport: Rank 1 gladiator PvP secrets (illegal and immoral edition)

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Sport for arena enthusiasts and The Art of War(craft) for fans of battlegrounds and world PvP. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? C. Christian Moore, multiple rank 1 gladiator, examines the latest arena strategy, trends, compositions and more.

Listening Music: A classic -- The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage." Kind of on-theme for what we'll be discussing today, too. The interview at the beginning is 30 seconds long if you want to skip it (but you shouldn't; it's awesome).

For the last two weeks, I've talked your ears off on some strategies and tricks that players use to attain rank 1, largely legally. The season is now over, and a lot of changes to arena are coming via Cataclysm. I debated with myself whether or not to write about the darker side of arena.

I decided that you, the reader, deserve to know about what happens in back rooms when no one is watching. The season is over, and I feel confident no one is going to use this article to ascend ladders unlawfully. Unfortunately, there are reports of people using these very tactics (sometimes in large numbers per battlegroup) to get a soiled Wrathful Gladiator title next to their name. Luckily, some of these teams have been caught and reset without reward.

A curse be placed upon them, their children, and their childrens' childrens' family dog. Sorry Fido, Grandpa cheated. Deal with it.

Our old archenemy win trading has returned

While win trading never completely died since Season 4, last season revealed a giant exploit that was found in the matchmaking system.

As high-rated players are quick to explain, the current system completely revolves around matchmaking rating (MMR). Your team rating (TR) and personal rating (PR) are both attached to your MMR. If your MMR is high and you keep winning games, your TR and PR will follow.

MMR was thought (for many months) to be a very successful prevention method for win traders. In the past, you could simply queue up against your alt on a high-rated team when he was in greens. Now (seemingly), you had to put in a lot more effort. Win traders by and large decided to give up.

Unfortunately, a fatal flaw was exposed with MMR.

Successful win trading now hinges on artificially inflating one person with a ridiculously high MMR; then that person intentionally losing to other teams for gold or other motivations. We're talking an MMR of 3700 or higher -- basically unobtainable by normal means.

Basically, win trading involves a pretty large amount of work and a very good win-loss ratio with friends who are willing to help you raise it to ridiculous proportions. Gladiator-quality players with some other gladiator-quality friends and a large amount of time on their hands can cheat the system pretty badly.
  1. The first step is to find friends who will intentionally tank their MMR. If they're normally playing at 2600, they'll intentionally lose rating (MMR) down to 1800.
  2. Next, the cheater (at 2600 MMR) will join the team and win lots of games with his friends. He will bring his team's MMR up to 2400 with as few losses as possible.
  3. Rinse and repeat.
This gives the player who loses very few games an incredibly high MMR, because the queue system "believes" that this ultra-good player is successfully helping out people who are far below him.

Incoming math As I understand it, MMR is an average of ratings with a split positive of gains. What this means is that on a 3v3 team, if the players are rated 1000, 1500 and 2000 respectively, the team's MMR will be 1500 (mode average). However, if that team were to defeat a 2000-rated team, the MMR that is gained is split evenly between the players. While you would expect the 1000-rated player to advance much more MMR than the 2000, this is not actually what happens. So those players go to 1020, 1520 and 2020 MMR respectively instead of something much more balanced like 1035, 1520, 2005 MMR.

The payoff

Once a player has achieved a ridiculous MMR of 3700 or something crazy-high, he uses another arena exploit.

Arena games calculate MMR wins and losses by using the mode average of everyone who entered the arena. Therefore, if only one person enters the arena and he has a very high MMR, the opposing team will win team rating (and MMR) based on that number.

This normally isn't a big deal, because you don't have 1v3s or 1v5s often enough to make a little thing like this statistically significant in terms of MMR inflation. However, when people intentionally abuse it and queue 1v5 purposely, there are a lot of points to be gained on the other side of the equation.

It's kind of like creating points out of thin air for the "enemy" team. It's sad that people resort to this when arena should be about competition and proving you're the best instead of cheating your way to a suddenly meaningless title.

The GCD hack

If you go to nearly any thread on Arenajunkies.com, you'll find someone talking about the GCD hack. If you're in the dark about it, the GCD hack is (so I've been told) WoW's first true hack.

Blizzard has gone to great steps recently to change the way the GCD works. In case you missed the blue post:


Kalgan
As an update to this, the next beta build will include a slider bar (labeled "Custom Latency Tolerance") that lets you tune how sensitive the ability queue is (including sliding it all the way to zero if you choose). This value allows you to control (in milliseconds) how long before the GCD finishes the client will let you queue your next ability.

Quote:
Does that mean that the plans to add in the ability to replace a previous command is out? or is that still a possibility?

That's still in too. It's just that while overriding is helpful it can still fail if your override gets to the server a little too late and your previously queued ability goes off anyways.

Quote:
Why cant you just make the client dynamically change this setting based on the ping rather than make the player choose it and probably get it wrong?

We plan to do this as the default value (when you aren't overriding it) in a future patch. There are some complexities that prevent us from being able to do it right now.

Quote:
How are you going to address people using the TCPAckFrequency registry hack to "lower" their ping? Are you going to disable it in-game, similar to how you handled the nagle algorithm?

The server now enforces the actual global cooldown value, whereas in the past it allowed a .4 sec slush. So, instead of having a slush factor that let somebody cast a bit early, it now catches the request, waits until the cooldown has actually completed, then casts the spell for you (the queue'd ability) at the soonest possible time.

This series of posts was reported on MMO-Champion. However, a post from Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer) in this same thread was (perhaps wisely) not reported on the front page. Here's what Ghostcrawler started off the conversation with:

Ghostcrawler
We had to change the ability queue system you are describing to fix an exploit that was threatening to become pretty widespread. It is unfortunately one of those cases where a few bad apples ruin things for everyone. :(

We are working on an improvement where the most recent command will override the previous one. If for example you are spamming Hamstring, and then succeed in snaring someone, you can switch to Mortal Strike which will clear out the Hamstring queue instead of wasting more GCDs on Hamstring.

Using third-party software, hackers could change the GCD from 1.5 to 1.0. It's like giving your character a ridiculous amount of haste for free, and it also works on warriors and hunters (not surprisingly, the two classes that benefit from it the most). This makes damage (especially burst damage) shoot through the roof for people who use this software. There are reports of people hovering around 2300 shooting up to 2800 in a day because of this hack. Wow.

I've been told from several reliable sources that the hack is no longer functional; it's pretty awesome Blizzard acted so quickly upon it. Still, scary that something like this existed in the first place. Hopefully this new fix will prevent all future GCD shenanigans.

Sabotage

Win trading and the GCD hack is unquestionably cheating and against Blizzard's Terms of Service. Sabotage is not. It is, however, one of the most deplorable activities one can use to gain an advantage.

Let's say you're the No. 1 arena team on your battlegroup and you want to cement your title for the end of the season. A few weeks before season's end, you try to break up your biggest rival's team (usually the No. 2 team).

This is terrible on so many levels. For one, you're not attaining the title by being the best team on the battlegroup; you're simply destroying the only other team that can rival you. It's like hospitalizing the No. 2 challenger -- why would you do something like that?

I've seen the downfall of many a rival team because someone on that rival team was offered a position on the No. 1 team and decided to transfer, only to play a few games to keep him interested. They had no hopes of getting him up to a high enough PR to receive end-of-season rewards. What's worse is the individual who decided to transfer is viewed as a traitor to his old teammates -- he's in the worst of positions.

I tend to believe people want a cool PvP title because they think people with them are pretty highly skilled when it comes to PvP. You're not really skilled at PvP if you break up another team; you're just skilled at being a giant douche. Even if you win your title, did you really get it by being the best?

If you ever find yourself among the top arena (or battleground) players on your server or battlegroup, please don't resort to tactics like this -- it makes your title meaningless.

Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? Read Blood Sport for pointers on arena play. Don't miss our interviews with successful arena PvPers, and see The Art of War(craft) for the inside line on battlegrounds and world PvP.

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

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