I knew it was underground, so I checked in the Stockades, under the Cathedral, around the old Park, over where all the warlocks hang out... it sounded like a warlock-y kind of thing! Stumped, temporarily, and trying to think of other underground areas in Stormwind, it suddenly occurred to me: the Deeprun Tram! I zoned in, expecting to see it right in front of me, and, discouraged, ran over to the platform, then spotted a tunnel on the track level to the left that I was fairly sure wasn't there before.
And the header image was what appeared at the end of it! Over on the Horde side, it was hidden in plain sight, in a building to the extreme north-east of Orgrimmar, in the Ring of Valor. I have to say, I think that, for a change, the Alliance have by far the cooler set-up here, although with the buggy PTR gameplay right now, the Horde arena is far more entertaining!
Anyhow, it became clear quite quickly that I needed to queue up for a fight somehow. There were pandaren and worgen on each corner of the Alliance ring, so I went and spoke to one of them, and queued for a fight. There are announcers walking around telling you how to do this, but I didn't notice them until after I'd queued! Once I was in line, the same guys I'd spoken to for queue entry were able to tell me where I was in the queue.
The queue report is a very nice feature, though, and I'm sure Blizzard will find a way to ensure the waiting times don't get out of hand. It seems it might make sense to instance off the Brawler's Guild from the main server, and let only a certain number of people in at once, allowing parties to enter together if players want to visit with friends. Of course, I have no idea if this is possible with Blizzard's systems!
Stepping in to the ring
Anyhow, before too long, it was my turn to fight. I was teleported into the ring, I knew it was coming thanks to the queue reports I'd been constantly bugging the bouncers for! The ring looks quite large from above, but feels small once you're inside it. This isn't a criticism though, the size feels just right after a few games. My first adversary at rank 1 -- the lowest rank of eight -- was a crocolisk named Bruce.
Unfortunately, I was rather too busy taking screenshots and underestimated Bruce the crocolisk, and he killed me pretty quickly with his Chomp Chomp Chomp ability! I then found another minor disadvantage of the Brawler's Guild area -- the corpse run. Stormwind isn't renowned for its fabulously convenient graveyards, and getting back to the Deeprun Tram from the graveyard near the Cataclysm portals isn't the easiest route to navigate. I'd like to see a graveyard in or near the instance, or for the bouts to take you down to 1% health rather than killing you, or some other fix. Your corpse appears just outside the arena, so if there are friendly -- and by friendly I mean nice, not just of your own faction -- players nearby, they can res you.
What else is there in the zone?
While you're waiting for your bout to begin, you can check out the other folks hanging around the Brawler's Guild zones. This is likely not an exhaustive list, nor is it guaranteed to remain completely accurate, as this is PTR.
In the Alliance zone, Bizmo's Brawlpub, is Quackenbush, a moonkin who has a druid tree as a pet. He sells all manner of goodies, including healing potions and buff potions which can only be used in the brawl arena. In addition to that, he sells things like what you can see in the screenshot below: basically, cheats!
There was also a bar, with barmaid, and a fellow who felt that there was far too little dancing taking place in the Brawlpub. There are also various other patrons, some of whom you can talk to, but the majority are silently enjoying the brawling.
Stepping back into the ring
While the waiting was fun, for a while at least, it wasn't that long before I was up again. Having observed my fellow brawlers for a while, I'd noticed that the key to many of the fights was kiting. Bruce the crocolisk was no exception, if I'd actually moved away from his chomping rather than taking screenshots, he'd have been a pushover. This is the purpose of the Brawler's Guild ring, allowing patrons to observe other players taking on the bosses that have defeated you. Observe their fights, note where you went wrong, or where they go wrong, and you can apply that knowledge to your own bouts. It's rather like having a constant tactics video played out in front of you while queued for a one-man dungeon, and it's good to watch!
Given that I was in there on the first day the PTR had level 90 templates, it was hardly surprising that the bosses were all rather repetitive, but every now and then a higher ranked player would take to the stage, and a new boss would appear, such as Epicus Maximus below. Blizzard's team have really gone to town on the Brawler's Guild bosses, the names, animations and encounters have been fantastic so far.
Tactically, there's a lot of kiting. Many of these bosses hit quite hard, so as an elemental shaman I was doing my best to keep them away from me. Melee players would be well advised to use stuns, blinds, that sort of thing, to try to keep the bosses occupied with something other than chewing your face off. Taking on the bosses as a tank was certainly viable, but some bosses definitely had enrages if the fight went on too long, so proceed with caution. As a healer, I think you may struggle, but I'm very happy to be corrected.
Other than the kiting, there's a lot of avoidance. You notice all the red circles around Epicus Maximus in the screenshot above? They were all attempts to blow you up. There's also an eye boss, who can be seen in the screenshot in the Horde brawl arena further up, who attempts to kill you with what looks like disco lasers. The adorable little bull will charge into a red-highlighted area, and oneshot anyone in it. So, don't stand in bad. Winning a bout earns you a Brawler's Purse, currently containing a little gold and an amusing gray item.
All in all, this is a really fantastic new feature. I can't emphasize enough how much fun I had in there. As someone who loves PvP, this is a very similar experience -- but you're pitting your wits against something that can be taunted. And the competitive element is great fun, too. The ranks, the folk looking on, some of whom are nice and encourage or offer tips, and some of whom are unpleasant and now on my ignore list! The only fly in the ointment is the wait time, and CM Zarhym confirmed on twitter that this is something Blizzard's team are looking into:
While the Blizzard development team are iterating, I'm happy to wait. The Brawler's Guild is worth it!
Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.