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Blood Sport: Season 3, rise of the Hunter?

V'Ming Chew

Every week, V'Ming - who thinks that gnome warlocks are travesties of nature and need to be KOSed - shares thoughts and ideas on becoming deadlier at the Arenas.

I'm postponing part two of Building an Arena team to look at the effects of patch 2.3, with Arena Season 3 just round the corner on Nov 27. With this patch, we are looking at some of the biggest changes to how a few classes work since WoW's launch in 2004, particularly for hunters and druids.

As usual, let's see what the top teams are doing, before the patch landed two days ago.

No significant changes from last week, as expected. With Season 3 just two weeks away, I also doubt that players will take advantage of the class changes in 2.3 to result in any significant change in class distribution at the top. They will probably stick to their tried-and-tested teams in their bid for Season 2's 'Merciless Gladiator' title.

As the dust settles on this big patch - 281MB to be exact - I'll stick my neck out and predict* the following for Season 3:

  • Hunters will become better represented in 5v5s, with marginal increases in 2v2s and 3v3s. Other ranged dps classes will adjust to this influx of hunters, but inertia will prevent any major shifts.
  • Druids will see an increase in 5v5s, little change in 2v2s or 3v3s.
  • Warriors will see a marginal drop in all brackets, making way for feral druids.

How will this change your Arena games? While top teams will hardly change before Season 3, I'd expect regular teams to fully embrace the changes and experiment with new team makeups. With this in mind, I'd take a leaf from fellow PvP blogger, Zach, to quote Sun Tzu:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Let's look at some of the most significant changes that patch 2.3 brought:

Deadzone is dead

Well not exactly, but the minimum range of hunters' ranged attacks have been reduced from eight to five yards. While still ensuring a difference between melee and ranged weapons - this change should alleviate some of the deadzone problems for hunters fighting in the closed confines of Arenas.

Playing a Hunter effectively in Arenas requires more spatial micro-management, compared to other ranged dps classes. While casters generally only have to deal with line-of-sight, hunters have to deal with line-of-sight AND range. In addition, Hunter traps don't 'seek out' victims, and pretty much stay where they are placed, unlike spell effects (anyone who's seen a shadowbolt tracking its victim will appreciate this). In fast-paced Arena combat, one less button to mash or one less situation to be aware of in the chaos can mean a significant advantage.

Besides the deadzone change, hunters also get the somewhat Mortal Strike effect off their Aimed Shots and a Purge-like effect with their Arcane Shots. With these buffs, we should expect the class to be more effective in the Arenas.

Insta-shifting FTW!

The command /cancelform will now be recognized instantly, regardless of your current form. In other words, Druids can now shift from any form to any other form with a single button press. This should be a significant buff for feral druids, providing greater synergy between the different forms without the risks of shifting through caster form with lower armor. Resto druids can also gain arguably more durability from this change, along with the buffed damage mitigation from Natural Perfection.

Incidentally, the /cancelform change also applies to shadow priests and stealthed rogues. If you're in shadowform and need to bust out an emergency heal, you can click on a heal button and the game will automatically shift you out of shadowform, without triggering a global cooldown. Will less button presses translate into better PvP performance?

For players who don't like this change, you can disable this behavior with '/console autoUnshift 0'. I can imagine PvE rogues disabling this to prevent accidentally shifting out of stealth. I remember disabling auto dismount for a while because I was constantly falling out of the sky!

Fear not!

Fear Ward is now available to all priests at level 20, albeit a little nerfed in terms of cooldown and duration. This means that another much-wanted answer to Fear is more common now. Will warlocks be finally reined in? I doubt it - but it will nonetheless provide more utility for priests, regardless of faction or race.

To make up for the loss of the exclusivity of Fear Ward, Dwarf and Draenei priests get Chastise at level 20, which causes Holy damage and incapacitates the target for two seconds.

Going, going, gone

Diminishing returns (DR) is Blizzard's way of differentiating the same ability between PvE and PvP, without changing player experience too much. The DR nerfbat has hit warriors, rogues and warlocks this time. DR on the slowing effects of Frost Bolt has however been removed (go shammies!).

The DR nerf was in fact scheduled to hit ALL silence and interrupt effects but the change was thankfully repealed, due to the possibility of totally stripping the Shaman class of any appreciable Control utility. Unfortunately for warlocks, the silencing effect of Unstable Affliction is now subject to DR, notwithstanding the repeal.

The big picture

For full details, check out the official patch notes. Here's my rough overview of what the patch means for each class, PvP-wise:

Have you noticed any other 2.3 changes that are changing your Arena games? Are you seeing more ret pallies in the Arenas?

* As with any prediction, these points are at best, educated guesses. So I am entirely prepared to have egg on my face.

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