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The Art of War(craft): PvP 3.0

Zach Yonzon

For a few weeks, we'll be in uncharted territory. When Patch 3.0 hits, all players will receive a free respec and a plethora of new talents will be available to us. The difference is that players who opt to go 51 points deep in a tree will only get 10 points to spend elsewhere, so we won't have the full PvP experience until Wrath of the Lich King hits and players receive the full complement of talents upon reaching Level 80 along with some cool new abilities.

In the interim between 3.0 and Wrath, PvP will be awkward as players learn to adapt to the new builds, learn their opponents' new tricks, and even attempt new playing styles. One interesting change to PvP 3.0 is the knockback which some classes will gain and use to great effect. Others will be able to leap through the air -- backwards, forwards -- it'll be fun and sometimes frustrating as we relearn how to PvP.

Combat mobility will be different in 3.0, with players getting knocked back and jumping to and fro in addition to the Blinks and Shadowsteps. Druids get the spell Typhoon, a 41-point Balance talent that fires a cone in front of the caster that deals damage and knocks opponents back 5 yards. Shamans get Thunderstorm, a mana restoring spell at the bottom of the Elemental tree that knocks opponents back 20 yards from the Shaman. Then there's the interesting Living Bomb, which isn't a controlled knockback but essentially turns a Fire Mage into Baron Geddon. The bridge at Dun Baldar just got a little more interesting.

Assuming Blizzard manages to fix the spell in time, it will probably be a good idea to be wary of giant chickens because they can Starfall your butt to kingdom come. I already mentioned Typhoon, so they've got that up their feathery sleeve. Then again, it's probably wise to keep away from cats, too. Does Mangle hurt you in the Battlegrounds today? Well, it'll hurt even more when you get a flurry of them when a Feral Druid goes Berserk on your ass in 3.0. They'll also leap at you from behind. Cats are mean.

Tree Druids, of course, have always been out of place in a PvP environment, except perhaps in Arathi Basin where they could pretend to be one of the trees in the Lumber Mill. The good news is, they don't move slow anymore, either so it's not so painful to be a tree in PvP. Wild Growth sucks right now, so I don't envision full 51-point Restoration Druids making too many appearances in Arenas or even the Battlegrounds.

If you thought Hunters were difficult to catch now, wait til 3.0 where we'll see every Hunter hopping backwards with the baseline Disengage, which allows Hunters to -- disengage from their opponents and gain distance. If you didn't hate Hunters then, you'll hate them in 3.0. If you hated them before, you'll hate them even more. If you happen to play a Hunter, you should laugh maniacally because you've just been given some of the coolest toys to play with.

It's inevitable: for weeks following 3.0, the Battlegrounds and Arenas will be overrun with Core Hounds, Devilsaurs, Spirit Beasts Silithids, and all sorts of exotic animals until Hunters realize that the only pet they really need in PvP is a mangy Hyena. Ok, well, that's not true. Hunters will be Stampeding unwary opponents into the nether in Eye of the Storm with their Rhinos, too. If you see a Hunter who doesn't have an exotic pet, there's a good chance they'll be able to disarm you from long range. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Yeah. That's pretty much how 3.0 is going to be.

The good news is that Mirror Image is a Level 80, Wrath of the Lich King spell. The bad news is that PvP Frost Mages can not only blow you up in 3.0, they can blow you up while you're stunned. With Fingers of Frost, you don't even have to actually be frozen for them to stun you. They just will. And then you'll explode into frozen giblets. Oh, and they can cast free, instant Fireballs, too. Frost Mages throwing Fireballs. Imagine that.

Fire Mages will still be glass cannons, although this time around they'll be dishing out instant cast Flamestrikes and Pyroblasts -- without even having Presence of Mind. Of course, there's also Living Bomb, which I'm sure Mages will throw into a throng of enemies. For those oddball Mages who went up Arcane to pick up Slow, they'll be blasting missiles -- yes, missiles -- at you like an episode of Future Weapons. You don't want to be near an Arcane Mage when Missle Barrage procs, really. Not to mention they'll be pelting you with Arcane Barrage the whole time.

Hoo boy. It's bad enough that every healing Paladin will effectively be a Shockadin with 6 second Holy Shocks and ranged Judgements, but they can completely tilt the balance of a fight when they throw out an instant 7k Holy Light on themselves right after they've crit a Holy Shock on your face. And then there're Retadins, who will still be kitable but have more cool strikes like Divine Storm and almost never run out of mana. Don't forget that they can heal themselves in the blink of an eye, too.

If you laughed at Protection Paladins in the Battlegrounds, they'll hammer your face off in 3.0. Not only will they still be a real pain to kill -- if you can kill them, that is -- but they can keep their friends up, too, by being an invincible damage soak. If you play a Tankadin, get rid of that spell damage weapon now and get yourself a high DPS one hander. The only good news for everyone who hates Paladins is that Forbearance now lasts three minutes.

Shadow Priests were once feared in the Battlegrounds but had become something of a joke in The Burning Crusade as they exploded like piñatas in Arenas. In 3.0, face melting returns with them being able to move freely every 24 seconds and being almost unkillable every three minutes. On the other hand, Holy Priests still explode like piñatas. Except this time they can actually save people from dying (even themselves if necessary) with the almost-good-enough-for-Arenas Guardian Spirit.

Discipline will still be an awesome PvP spec, however, with even stronger shields and insanely fast Mana Burns, better heals on shielded targets, and more damage mitigation with Grace. They'll still be tough little buggers, and in 3.0 they'll be tough little buggers with a bite. Penance is like the love child of Arcane Missiles and Holy Shock. Expect to get stung by Penance a lot in PvP.

Has there ever been a time when Rogues weren't feared in PvP? No? Well, it's not about to happen in 3.0, either. A lot of Shadowstep Rogues will still be sticking with their beloved Subtlety tree which just has too many PvP goodies and gains Shadow Dance. Rogues are sharpening those daggers again. But just how many Rogues can resist Killing Spree? In the few weeks following 3.0, expect more than a few Rogues who will use up every attack from Killing Spree on one target. You.

Maybe Assassination won't be too popular for PvP, even though mid-tier talents are great for it. Hunger for Blood also handles Physical bleed effects that used to be a problem, though, and there are some cool PvP talents on the way down to it such as Fleet Footed and Deadly Brew. I don't expect to see too many Assassination Rogues in the Battlegrounds or Arenas after 3.0.

Elemental is a great Arena spec, but it doesn't gain much from 3.0 aside from the self-peeling spell Thunderstorm and damage-reducing Astral Shift. On the other hand, I think we'll see a lot more Enhancement Shamans considering they'll be getting the most love when 3.0 hits. An Earthbind Totem that removes snares? Yes please! Instant cast Chain Lightnings or Healing Waves? Hell yeah! Wolf pets that allow the Shaman to run her own pack? Hot damn. Enhancement will be the most versatile PvP spec in the new era.

Sadly, Restoration Shamans will still have trouble when focused, with nothing to improve their mobility or self-peeling. On the other hand, they become even better mobile healers with Tidal Waves, which allows Chain Heals to proc a mini-Heroism, and the instant cast Riptide. It's no Spirit Link, which was awesome, but Blizzard has said they'd be fixing it so it could get even better for PvP.

Without a doubt, we'll be seeing a lot of Illidan-wannabes running around after Patch 3.0, not necessarily because of PvP viability -- and the snare and stun duration is great along with added armor -- but simply because it's going to be fun. Blizzard hasn't settled on all the abilities of the demon form yet, but with all normal spells available, it should be pretty cool in itself. With Soul Link a frustrating 11 points into Demonology, a lot of Warlocks will be forced into taking the cool 51-pointers or grab it for survivability.

Sure, Affliction locks are squishy, but man do they deal some hurt. With DoTs that can crit and scales with crit, Affliction Warlocks will be causing mayhem and Haunting everybody in sight. Chaos Bolt is a nice piercing spell for PvP, but after a couple of days everyone will spec out of it once they realize that their favored pet, the Imp, is easily one- or two-shottable and that an interrupted Chaos Bolt will lock them out of all schools and render them sitting ducks.

Right about now, every Warrior in the known Azerothian universe is rolling on or bidding for that second 2-hander -- if they don't already have one tucked away in the bank -- in the hopes that Titan's Grip will make it to live. Think that's scary? It gets worse. Fury Warriors will Furious Attacks, their own version of Mortal Strike, so not only will they beat you senseless with dual Soul Cleavers, they'll be gimping heals on you, too. Expect to see a lot of Warriors running with Titan's Grip during the first weeks of 3.0. Be thankful they won't have enough talent points to get Two-Handed Weapon Specialization yet.

Of course, there will be those Arms stalwarts who will enjoy their Blademaster-like Bladestorm. If that wasn't cool enough, I'd advise you to be wary of Warriors still holding their 2-handers with both hands because those guys can unleash a world of hurt with Sudden Death. Imagine being at full or almost full health and getting Executed for 5k damage. It can happen. In fact, it can happen quite often. And when it happens quite often, you will quite often be dead. Best of all, Protection Warriors won't have to spec out of the tree just to PvP. After all, they get the awesome Shockwave and are able to Charge anytime, anywhere. Fun times.

PvP is going to be exciting and new when 3.0 hits, and it'll only be a teaser for what's to come as ten more talent points await us when Wrath comes out. More abilities will also come as we level, at 71, 75, and 80, where the coolest abilities come out. For a few weeks, we'll be having fun with the specs we'll eventually decide to take with us to Northrend... and killing a few enemies along the way.

Zach Yonzon writes the PvP column The Art of War(craft) while struggling with extremely slow Internet and scheming about how to buy the Belkin N52te without his wife noticing.

Do you like PvP? Do you like hearing the sounds of enemies dying and the horns of battle in Battlegrounds? Check out The Art of War(craft) and prep yourself for all the glorious PvP Achievements -- from ones you can pursue now, to the Battlegrounds part I and part II -- coming to game soon.

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