The Art of War(craft): Of Duelists and cupcakes, a farewell to Season 3

Zach Yonzon
Z. Yonzon|06.21.08

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The Art of War(craft): Of Duelists and cupcakes, a farewell to Season 3

In the end we fell short. Last night, our team played its last Arena game of the season after an hour-long wait only to win 1 rating point. It had been that way most of the season, and in the end, it took its toll. We close Season 3 likely to fail in attaining our goal of making Gladiator, falling just outside of the projected 0.5% of our Battlegroup. Scheduling conflicts precluded further games for the week, and as the hours whittled down and everyone was getting tired and sleepy, we mustered enough courage to call it for the season. We thanked each other, logged off the game, and turned off Vent. For what seemed like a long time, the only sound I could hear was the drone of my computer's fan before I finally headed off to bed.

It had been a wonderful, if ultimately disappointing, experience. I love PvP. It's my favorite thing to do in the game. These past few weeks, I dreamt of Arenas every night. Our window was closing and we couldn't find the schedule to grind the final stretch. Last week, we only managed 12 games on a Monday prior to maintenance to scrape by on the minimum requirements and, with wins of 1 or 2 points each, didn't manage to get much closer to our goal for end-of-season rewards. Despite having won hundreds of games with a win percentage of around 81%, we ended up frustratingly short.

Ultimately, we brought it upon ourselves, I think. After tanking our ratings so late in the season with untimely disconnects and some very bad plays, we gave ourselves too little time to make up for our losses. Given our schedule -- an Oceanic time zone on a non-Oceanic server, we often found ourselves waiting long queues with no one to fight. We would wait an average of fifteen to twenty minutes waiting for a match, and when one came up we often got so excited only to earn 1 rating point. Sometimes, and often, it was even 0. If we fought a team that gave us 5 points, we'd get into a frenzy like sharks smelling blood in the water. If we were lucky, it was a team that needed its minimum 10 games and we'd manage to farm them until our ratings became so disparate that we would eventually whittle down those earnings to 0.

Geography, our cruel mistress*
Playing from Asia, most of us had to work with pings of 350-400 on a good day, some even using a variety of solutions just to reduce that number by 10 or 20. Sometimes, we would get hit by what we have come to call "The Curse", which happens to us during a critical time during our runs. One of us would disconnect, or lag out -- a fairly common occurrence for some Asian service providers -- during a critical point in the match. Even worse sometimes, one of us would get disconnected right as the match would begin, making us start the battle short one player.

Arena mechanics work quite differently from the Battlegrounds; if a player disconnects or if the game quits for one reason or another, that player cannot reenter the match. On our last week, our Shaman's connection had become so unstable, disconnecting every fifteen minutes or so, that the risk of him dropping midway through a match far outweighed the benefits of Purge and his massive burst. For this week, anyway. In the past, we played enough games so that all our members would get their minimum 30% of games played. Sometimes there was risk, but we often managed to pull through for, oh, 1 rating point.

Of course, sometimes we wouldn't pull through and our bonehead errors compounded with connection issues would transmogrify that 1 point gain into a 30-point loss. It didn't happen often, but it happened enough times to set us back for weeks because we very rarely played teams within our ratings range. One step forward, two steps back. We would've settled for countless games of 1 point gains, except that the matching system would take an excruciatingly long time before opening up a match. Three hours of total waiting for five or six games of about a minute or two each was a common scenario for us throughout the season.

Open season
I'm not terribly excited for Season 4. To be honest, I think this last week and how we couldn't get over the hump was discouraging. I couldn't stop thinking that if we had managed to clear our schedules enough to play as many games as it took -- despite the mind-numbing wait between matches -- we would've made it. We'll never know now. It reminds me of the long grind to High Warlord, where the grind got worse and worse as one got closer to Rank 14. I remember one week where I skipped a few hours of play and ended up 1% short of the next Rank. It takes the wind out of your sails.

Enough QQ. The season begins. As horrid as the gear may look, it is necessary for us to purchase them in order to stay competitive. For most of us, there are no more purchases to be made from Season 3, so the modest goal of obtaining Season 4 items is progression in itself. With ratings requirements for most items, there's a small sense of achievement similar to PvE progression. Each piece would almost be like downing a boss, with the end reward of underwhelming shoulders tantamount to downing Kil'jaeden. Maybe. For PvP players like us, it's as close as we're going to get. If anything, the gear that we will earn this season will be the gear that will protect us from the cold in Northrend.

Perhaps we've learned a hard lesson this season after coming so close. It is both humbling and exhilarating. I've used this blog entry as a cathartic exercise, and to a degree it's worked. Coupled with the cupcake my wife brought me to make me feel better, things don't seem as bleak as I thought them to be last night. Duelist isn't so bad, I suppose. I likely won't be displaying it, but it's good to have the drop-down option when I look at my paper doll. In a few years, nobody will remember the Lakers for bending over for the Celtics during this year's NBA Finals. Nobody remembers who won the silver medal in any Olympic sport. Nobody remembers the other nominees for an Academy Award. And certainly, nobody remembers a Duelist.

I think I kind of like that. We're getting the consolation prize. We won't have a target painted on our also-ran foreheads. I guess that's fine. We're starting the season fresh, decked out in fairly decent gear, and we'll probably make a few adjustments here and there to adapt to the changes. The sooner this season is over, the sooner we can go out the Arena gates again with our proverbial guns ablaze. Maybe we'll do better, who knows? Maybe we'll scrub it again scraping by on 1 point gains. It doesn't matter. The season's over -- at least for me -- and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. I think I'll eat my cupcake now. Because no matter how bad my day has been, or in this case, an Arena season, a cupcake never fails to make me feel better. See you all in Season 4!

*Thanks to Jessica C.

Zach Yonzon writes the PvP column The Art of War(craft) in between terribly long Arena queues and rushing to prevent his beautiful 7 1/2 month old daughter from falling off the bed. He is looking forward to getting a new sword soon after getting Apolyon, the Soul-Render envy.
Care to read more thoughts from a cupcake-munching PvP addict? Check out The Art of War(craft), where Zach discusses how you can prepare for Season 4, pick the right targets in a skirmish, and even speculate about a DotA-style Battleground in the expansion.
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