Patch 3.2 is finally here, and is anyone else kind of surprised by how fast things are coming these days? To be fair, as most of my co-workers here at WoW.com have assessed, this newest patch is one of the more lackluster patches in a while considering it merely appends to much of existing content (the Argent Tournament). There's a smattering of stuff for raiders, soloists, hardcores and casuals, but what's in store for PvP enthusiasts?
There are a lot of major changes in this patch that will impact PvP greatly, one being the blanket change to Resilience which now affects all damage taken, rather than just critical hits. Another is the effective neutering of the 2v2 Arena bracket with the change blocking access to the best weapons and end-of-season rewards. A third big change coming is the introduction of a brand new Battleground, the Isle of Conquest, which is the technically the first 40-man raid instance since the original Naxxramas. There's also the whopping introduction of experience gain in Battlegrounds, too. Caught your breath yet? There are a lot of other things in between, and we'll take a closer look at everything after the jump.
What does the change to Resilience mean? Basically, longer Arena matches. Resilience now reduces all damage done by enemy players by the same proportion. It is one of the best changes Blizzard has made for PvP. To balance the buff, the resilience rating needed to reduce critical strike chance, critical strike damage, and overall damage has been raised by 15%. This translates, in my fuzzy math, to a 94.3 resilience rating required per 1% reduction as opposed to what used to be 82.
It's a significant buff, considering that there's a trend towards minimizing burst damage in PvP which is usually the result of critical strikes. This means that there'll be a lot more non-crit damage going around, which means that Resilience will come into play a lot more. This results in slower games, particularly with the latest PvP gear, which has progressively higher resilience ratings than past seasons'.
This indirectly impacts burst teams, or teams that essentially rely on training one target until that target is dead. Most prominent among these sorts of teams are the cleave teams of double melee or even the less common 4-DPS 5v5 teams. Over the past few seasons, Blizzard has been working to remove burst elements that don't allow an opponent to react - from nerfing Engineering items to adjusting class abilities and now overall damage reduction.
Ghostcrawler talks about the changes in depth over at the forums, and we've pointed to respected PvP blogger Ming for his take on Resilience, as well. The bottom line is that Resilience becomes hands down the most desirable stat for PvP, just as it should be. The tradeoffs in raw stats is more than made up for the raw damage reduction and players using PvE gear in PvP situations will be at a severe disadvantage. Resilience gems and enchantments will rise in value, as well, as dedicated PvP players will refocus on the most important stat for that aspect of the game.
Many players view Patch 3.2 as the death knell of 2v2 Arenas, which was crippled deliberately by Blizzard in an attempt to shift the emphasis to bigger brackets. The popularity of 2v2 rested on the fact that it is simply easier to manage, resulting in more teams and, consequently, more games. It was high on the list of problems that Ghostcrawler listed were plaguing World of Warcraft PvP.
The change guts the 2v2 bracket as a means for competitive Arena play as players aiming to get the shoulders, weapons, and Gladiator title (and accompanying Frost Wyrm), will abandon the bracket wholesale. On the other hand, because the change still allows access to Season 7's Relentless Gladiator items save for the most prestigious items, the bracket will become more casual-friendly. If the matchmaking rating is reset at the start of Season 7 - which might be likely - the absence of hardcore Arena players will make the bracket more accommodating to casuals and those stepping into the Arenas for the first time.
This change also results in 3v3 becoming the most popular bracket, which would suit Blizzard just fine considering it's the 'money' bracket where virtually all professional competition happens, anyway. 3v3 is easier to assemble and organize than 5v5, while still being open to a wide variety of class/spec comps and representation. Expect 3v3 to become the harshest bracket for competitive Arena play on live realms, with massively improved queue times and wilder shifts in ratings gains or losses.
Isle of Conquest
Patch 3.2 stands to be one of the most significant patches for PvP in some time. The introduction of a new Battleground midway through an expansion is a very good sign that Blizzard is serious about putting some renewed focus on the Battlegrounds. In particular, this new Battleground map isn't just some small or even mid-sized map as we'd seen at the launch of Burning Crusade or Wrath. It's a massive, Alterac Valley meets Wintergrasp-style epic map with elements we'd never seen in the game before.
This is what makes Patch 3.2 so significant for PvP, more than anything. While any raid content will lose relevance as soon as the next raid with better tier gear comes out - or worse, new max levels - Battlegrounds have a playability that lasts for years. The Isle of Conquest is going to be around much longer than Naxxramas, Ulduar, or even Icecrown when it finally comes out. It will be played by characters of a wider level bracket and well through the next expansion. In short, a Battleground is an excellent investment in terms of developer hours.
And what a Battleground the Isle of Conquest is! Borrowing elements from Alterac Valley (reinforcements, generals), Arathi Basin (capturable flags), and Wintergrasp/Strand of the Ancients (siege vehicles, destructible buildings), the newest Battleground adds even more elements such as aerial assault and a progressively variable Honor flow. It's guaranteed to be a popular Battleground, providing great fun, a new experience, and considerable Honor which is useful in obtaining a good selection of Arena gear.
More than anything in Patch 3.2, I can guarantee that Isle of Conquest is the one content that will eat up a lot of hours of players' game time. Naturally, it comes with its host of Achievements, as well, and the Master of Isle of Conquest meta. We'll get to writing an Overachiver's guide once we've seen it live for a while, so stay tuned.