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Blood Sport: An early analysis of Cataclysm PvP

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.

If I had to summarize Cataclysm PvP in one word, it would be fun. Between the novelty of rated battlegrounds, a very strong emphasis (and success) on balancing classes in PvP, and the presence of a diverse metagame at the top of the arena ladders, this is shaping up to be a great expansion.

We're almost two months into Cataclysm now, and it's been quite an expansion for PvPers. Are there problems? Sure. Is the patch going to throw us for a loop and possibly switch things up considerably? Perhaps. But is the whole of Season 9 miles better than Season 5? You better believe it.

Rated battlegrounds (RBGs)

Rated battlegrounds are undoubtedly a giant success story. I've heard many players relate RBGs to raiding -- the number of people required is comparable as well as the overarching strategy many teams employ.

The thing about rated battlegrounds I am most impressed with is the rating system. Now, while there are obvious bugs in the system right now (counting wins as losses, rating changes shown not being consistent with actual rating changes, etc.), Blizzard has the right idea when it comes to the RBG ranking system.

What is so awesome about the system? Your rating is tied to you as a player and not a team. This is incredible. Why? Because this makes it so you can easily play with others without sacrificing gains. Yes, in rated battlegrounds, unlike arena, you can team hop. On my server (Kel'Thuzad Alliance), there are rated battleground groups recruiting in trade almost non-stop -- and no one is being penalized for it.

I'm so impressed with the system that I openly petition Blizzard to change the system to work for arena in the same way (once it has all the bugs worked out). One of the huge flaws of personal rating attached to teams is that once players are on a team that has a high team rating (and they also have a high personal rating), they are punished very severely for leaving the team to help out friends or just play with new people.

PvP should be about playing games and having fun with lots of new people you've never met before. Team hopping was awesome in Season 1 and Season 2. Hopefully, Blizzard will consider changing the arena system (yet again) so arena can work more like rated battlegrounds in this regard.

Overall, the battlegrounds are much more balanced contests than I expected them to be. The better team almost always wins close contests, and I love discussions on correct strategy within battlegrounds. Honestly, even losses are fun most of the time. Simply put, awesome job, Blizzard.

2v2

Compared to the other two brackets, 2v2 seems very imbalanced. Of course, Blizzard intentionally doesn't balance for 2v2 (hence the reason it does not award end-of-season rewards like Gladiator titles or mounts).

Games feel long and drawn-out. When I've done 2v2 with people just to get them conquest points on the week, we've gone to time maybe 5% of the time. That's about 1 out of every 20 games have gone to 46 minutes. It's frustrating to spend so much time in arena just to lose points.

That being said, if you like 2v2, the more power to you. If you are doing very well in 2v2, there's no reason to stop. You can increase your conquest point cap quite substantially by achieving a high rating in 2v2, and it's also the easiest bracket to get a team together with -- so you and your best buddy can play some games and get a few wins to get points on the week, if you like.

If the only bracket you've participated in Cataclysm is 2v2, don't judge the other brackets by it! They're much different, and in the author's opinion, thankfully so.

3v3

There are so many teams at the top of the pile right now. The official PvP statistics page shows only a 3.5% population disparity between the 10th most popular team composition and the first. That is an incredibly low percentage shift and shows how balanced the bracket is.

Now, when I say "balanced" here, I don't mean that every class is doing fantastic in 3v3 at the moment. Hunters are completely absent from the top 10 teams (which is a serious problem), and certain classes are definitely represented very well (mages, death knights). However, no single team composition is dominating the bracket like we've seen in past seasons. Does anyone remember the Season 5 dominance between two compositions? Paladin-death knight-hunter and paladin-death knight-warlock were far above everyone else when it came to high-rated team compositions.

The absence of discipline priests from high-rated 3v3s is discouraging, but it's very encouraging to see the other three healers being very close to each other in terms of representation. None of my teammates have been complaining about how overpowered an opposing healing class is in 3v3. It seems many healers have found their niche, and shaman have finally risen to the top tier. In the past, restoration shaman have required very specific and sometimes peculiar setups to do well. The addition of a defensive dispel to their class has done wonders for them.

One of the great peculiarities of 3v3 this season has been the success of triple DPS teams and the disappointment of the double healer setup. Now, that's not to say triple DPS is the best right now or running a double healer setup is futile. Cataclysm has put a heavy emphasis on survivability and damage in the form of pressure rather than burst.

Three DPS teams are taking advantage of the fact that healers cannot instantly bring a teammate to 100 percent health anymore. Most of their wins come from whittling an opponent down (albeit a quick whittling). It's a very interesting sideshow, and I'm very excited to see if three DPS will continue to be a player in the metagame.

Patch 4.0.6 is slated to make hunters and discipline priests much more desirable to 3v3 teams. I wouldn't be surprised to see discipline priest-unholy death knight-marksman hunter as a formidable force in 3v3 after the patch.

5v5

The largest arena bracket feels very good at the moment. I'm currently playing on a 4 DPS squad, and our team's survivability feels very good. The pace of our games isn't usually a burst-a-thon, even though we're running a bursty team composition. However, it doesn't feel like people take forever to kill. Games are usually quick due to kills being scored within the first minute or two of the game, although I can definitely see some pretty epic contests happening in the future.

Class balance is very heavily debated in 5v5, it seems everyone brings something to the table at the moment. In my opinion, hunters seem very weak at the moment. Warriors and priests also feel a little weak, while warlocks and paladins feel very strong. Other people have disagreed with me, which is very surprising to me, but I guess I can see where they're coming from.

Disagreements about arena class balance are good because it means classes are probably more balanced than we think. Most people overwhelmingly agree when a class is overpowered or drastically underpowered, so disagreement of power level shows balance more than anything else, oddly enough.

Listening Music: Phoenix with 1901. I like the melody, and that the live stuff is just as good as the track on the album, but I can't understand the chorus repetition for the life of me. What is it? Falling? Fold it? Ballin'? A mixture of all three? It might just be something French, I have no idea.

Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? We'll steer you to victory with the best arena addons and let you in on some rank 1 gladiator PvP secrets. If you're looking for the inside line on battlegrounds and world PvP, read The Art of War(craft).

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