The evolution of team composition
Wrath of the Burst King saw a great deal of fast-damage dealing classes pairing up with two kinds of healers: healers who could either stop enemy damage (druid, paladins), or healers who could assist in the onslaught of powerful damage (priests, shaman). No matter how you cut it, the name of the game was damage. Teams were almost always about who could put out the maximum amount of damage in the shortest amount of time.
5v5 was largely dominated by 2346 and 2346 variants. (Check out the terminology in this article if you're unfamiliar with what a 2346 or anything else in this article is).
In Cataclysm, we'll be seeing fewer teams that revolve around burst damage. Teams that don't have a lot of crowd control potential or effective survivability tools will not be as successful.
Teams like Beast Cleave will be far less desirable. Not only is crowd control becoming weaker and slightly less relevant (which devalues the ability to avoid it with short-cooldown immunities), but damage itself is going to be weaker. Teams like Beast Cleave rely on their class composition to be able to deal a ton of burst damage in a small amount of time; take that away from them, and you've taken away a large incentive to use that specific team makeup.
Mortal Strike nerf diversifies team composition
Mortal Strike is far less of a necessity now that it has a reduced effect. This means that hunters, rogues, and warriors can all be given better survivability mechanics and a greater variety of damage-dealing abilities to put them on even keel with the other classes.
Mark my words: The most surprising aspect of Cataclysm arena will be the sheer amount of novel team compositions. You'll be seeing far more hunter-rogue, rogue-warrior, and warrior-hunter 3v3s (of course, with a healer for each). Moreover, 5v5s will have a lot of new room to work with. Hopefully, rogues will get a lot of love in the survivability department, they haven't been awesome in 5v5 since Season 4.
What's ahead for Vengeance?
We'll be seeing a giant nerf (that is, complete removal from arenas and battlegrounds) if Vengeance ends up being abused in PvP. That is all.
The big deal about Spell Cleaves
OK, so Spell Cleaves (two DPS casters and one healer) are a big deal right now. They've done exceptionally well since Season 6, and many fear their dominance in Cataclysm. Well, I'm here to give a slightly different perspective. I guarantee that Spell Cleaves, in some form, are going to be very good in Cataclysm. Early on, that form will involve a mage.
Mages right now are incredible, and they probably won't see the nerf bat for another month or two. It's not that Blizzard doesn't care about class balance in PvP -- at the start of an expansion, it has its hands very full.
It's going to take a while for numbers to balance themselves out. Once they do, I expect casters to be on a similar level to physical damage dealers. Right now, spellcasters are a good deal stronger. Don't worry, that will change. By the end of Season 9, I expect to see a very balanced team composition structure at the high end of both 3v3 and 5v5 ladders.
Rated Battlegrounds: Will arena suffer?
I've heard a lot of discussion on how rated battlegrounds are going to kill arenas because no one is going to want to play arenas when you can get the same rewards from rated battlegrounds. The arguments usually boil down to the factors of ease and fun. Well, I have a different answer to the question of whether or not arena will suffer because of rated battlegrounds.
Short answer Yay for new and rated battlegrounds!
Long answer Rated battlegrounds are going to increase arena traffic by a giant margin. A giant margin.
Think about it -- battleground gear is useful for more than just BGs. People are going to want to use their new shiny equipment inside arena. The largest limiting factor of arena, after all, is the initial time investment in acquiring a set of PvP gear. The incentive to get Season 1 or Season 2 gear was pretty huge in The Burning Crusade. Not only was it easy, but they made great PvE pieces (not the best, but good nonetheless).
Similarly, battleground gear is going to be much easier to get than a 2200 rating in arena. People are going to get PvP gear just by hanging out with some friends in a rated battleground. That's awesome. Arena players should be rejoicing for not only a new outlet of PvP for us (which come on, we're going to dominate in), but a huge influx of players who've never experienced PvP before will want to PvP with us!
I know a lot of people who have never PvPed before who are so excited to try out rated battlegrounds. Blizzard hits home runs whenever this happens. Here we have a whole group of people who will want to try arenas out after obtaining some gear, and we have the ability to either befriend them and dominate with them or crush them on the other side of the arena!
How cool is that!
Think about when The Burning Crusade came out. Arena was new, exciting, fun. Battlegrounds saw an overall increase in games played, believe it or not. Even with all those players doing back-to-back High Warlord grinds, the number of battlegrounds played went up when arenas opened up to the public.
New PvP outlets breathe life into old ones. People with arena gear wanted to go own noobs in the battlegrounds, and oh my, did they ever.
I remember those days. I had a full set of Season 2 gear and could take on five to six enemies and end at nearly full health. It was awesome. Opponents weren't bitter, either -- they were in awe! They started doing arena soon after to get all that awesome gear and become indestructible, too. In my eyes, Season 2, 3, and 4 were the golden age of WoW PvP.
Hopefully, we'll see something similar when Cataclysm rolls around.
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.