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Blood Sport: Shape up or ship out in Season 3

V'Ming Chew

Every Thursday, 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. He also dabbles in the dark arts in Blood Pact.

Season 3 kicked in last Tuesday after an extended downtime and here we are with the numbers from Season 2's final week. Despite ladder manipulation by some folks all out to 'win' the season, class representations haven't moved much from last week:

I've added population numbers to the chart, to contrast top Arena class distribution with the general distribution. Two weeks into 2.3, and hunters are still missing from all three brackets, and this certainly has nothing to do with a shortage of hunters in the game.

This isn't surprising as top teams would have stuck to their tried-and-tested teams this late in Season 2. We see warlocks and druids dominating the 2v2 bracket, while warriors, priests and pallies make a solid showing in the 5v5s.

What can the bulk of players with average ratings expect from Season 3?

Matches will last longer, and burst damage, while still important, will not swing matches so much. We can expect even casual PvPers to have some pieces of S1, S2 or even S3 gear now - an overall increase in Stamina, Resilience and gear quality across the board.

In fact, lower-ranked matches will become more competitive - like top-ranked games - as Arena gear becomes more prevalent. Previous one-button 'kill' abilities become trivial; Bestial Wrath is an example that comes to mind.

In other words, Season 3 Arena will quickly force weaker players to up their game if they want to compete. Exciting times indeed.

As mentioned previously, I'd expect hunters and feral druids to become more well-represented in the Arenas. With upcoming buffs to the Mage class, we should also expect more mages making their way into the top teams in 2v2.

Taking a closer look at the stats, we definitely see some 'standard' Arena specs for some classes. While hunters, rogues, priests, shamans and warlocks have two or more viable PvP builds to choose from, the following classes are pretty much pigeon-holed into one build*:

Warrior - Arms/Fury is the obvious choice, with a majority specced 35/23/3. Mortal Strike is the 'must-have'.

Paladin - Holy paladins dominate, the most popular build being 41/20/0.

Mage - Frost mages (17/0/44) are the runaway favorites, for survivability and control.

Druid - Resto druids (8/11/42) are the most common, and they seem to be the king of 2v2 healers.

Are these cookie-cutter builds a result of poorly designed talent trees? Or simply products of the game's PvE-centric nature?

We have seen some efforts, particularly in the last patch, to address the PvP viability of alternative builds - what more can be done for your class? Will you be respeccing to compete more effectively in Season 3?

* Note that the linked builds are just examples from a sample poll of top-ranked players, mileage always varies - depending on your play style.

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