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The Art of War(craft): Cataclysm PvP

Zach Yonzon

Every week, Zach brings you the World of War(craft), which talks about PvP in all its myriad shapes and forms. It will be humorless and dry and deathly boring because Christian Belt already has the monopoly on funny and because cracking jokes in a PvP column just doesn't work since PvP people are supposed to be asshats, anyway.

BlizzCon came and went and nothing is going to be the same again. At least not after Cataclysm, the third expansion for the World of Warcraft. Cataclysm is set to change the face of the game more than anything we've ever seen, it'll almost be like WoW 2.0. The classes are the same, but there'll be new races, new abilities, new mechanics, and a new, revamped world with a renewed faction conflict that will have deep implications for PvP.

Gameplay will change significantly, particularly for Warlocks and Hunters, and there will be changes to talents, talent tree passive benefits, racial abilities, as well as entire systems to rate Battleground play. There will likely be an overhaul to the Arena ratings system, as well, perhaps as soon as Arena Season 7 kicks in. Blizzard isn't content to sit idle on its success, but has in fact taken the opposite direction by overhauling the entire game. They're turning Azeroth on its ear, and it's going to be insane. After the jump, we'll take a look at how the Cataclysm is going to shape World of Warcraft PvP.

New Races
This is huge. Worgen and Goblins impact PvP on every imaginable level, from something as simple as battlefield silhouettes to new racials to faction balance. The Alliance finally get a bloodthirsty, 'badass' race while the Horde finally get their small race in the Goblins. Darkflight and Rocket Jump are racials on 2 minute cooldowns that greatly improve mobility, which will come into play for both escape and closing maneuvers. Goblins have another racial ability shared with Rocket Jump, an offensive spell called Rocket Barrage. It won't be a matchbreaking spell considering it's a racial ability, but could be something to go to when all other class abilities are down for the count.

The new races combined with the new leveling experience will be extremely compelling, so expect a lot of leveling for months after Cataclysm launches. PvP servers will be have their share of griefers who will pick on Worgen or Goblins, so be prepared to park your high level mains nearby for quick changeover when other players get in the way.

New Race and Class combinations
This will have a moderate impact on the classes as racials come into play -- imagine a Protection-specced Tauren Paladin who can stun with both Hammer of Justice and War Stomp. These holy cows would also have higher health thanks to Endurance and Protection talents. A Gnome Priest gets an extra out by way of Escape Artist, while Dwarf Shamans get to shrug off bleed effects with Stoneform or cleanse themselves even when out of mana. Human Hunters with Perception on top of Track Hidden will be the bane of stealthers, while Undead Hunters (especially when specced Survival) are going to be masters of escape with Will of the Forsaken.

The new silhouettes will also take some getting used to, and we'll have to throw our initial perceptions of races out the door. Gnomes will finally have a class that can heal themselves, for example. Players will need to rely more on other visual cues, particularly equipment such as distinctive shoulders, for class identification from a distance. As a corollary to the new races, Blizzard promised a reworking of the racial abilities of the current races to bring them up to speed with the newer, cooler Goblin and Worgen racials. Expect race choices for class to be more meaningful -- an ironic statement in the face of paid faction (and probably race) changes.

Revamped Talents
Blizzard promised the pruning of passive, boring, even necessary talents. This means players will actually become more powerful and unpredictable, with abilities that have cool secondary effects or entirely new abilities from talents. It will take a deeper understanding of every tree to determine what passive bonuses each spec gets. This also means that traditional builds that pick up critical talents for raiding have some flexibility to invest points in "fun" talents like Body and Soul.

Even though Blizzard said they won't be deepening the talent trees beyond the 11th tier, five additional levels still grant talent points to invest in what should be a completely overhauled set of talents. The removal of passive bonus talents will make way for more interesting talents that are either spells in themselves such as Hungering Cold or Haunt, or those that add secondary effects to existing spells such as Body and Soul. Players will be able to customize their characters more than ever before and have even those playing the same class will have entirely different arsenals.

New Battlegrounds
Tom Chilton said they were targeting multiple new Battlegrounds to ship with Cataclysm -- even without all the changes they're ushering into the game, this is an extremely ambitious project. The Burning Crusade shipped and ended with one, while Wrath of the Lich King shipped with one and introduced the Isle of Conquest in Patch 3.2. Cataclysm is targeted to ship with three. That's just... wow. We have no idea about how these new Battlegrounds will look, or how they'll play, but Blizzard's renewed focus on Battlegrounds PvP is refreshing, reassuring, and celebrated by a whole lot of players.

Rated Battlegrounds and the Return of PvP Ranks
This aspect of Cataclysm PvP probably merits a post on its own, but we'll skim over it for now just to give an idea of how amazing things are going to be for the expansion. Blizzard will finally implement a way for Battleground enthusiasts who prefer the Battleground experience to Arenas a way to access the same gear that had previously only been available through Arena play. This improves more players' gear, which should make PvP more competitive and interesting no matter where it happens.

Rated Battlegrounds will also impact how players approach Battlegrounds, making each win more significant. It will become counterproductive to AFK during a match. Furthermore, rated matches require queuing up as a group -- which is the one difficulty in the scenario, although Chilton mentioned that rated Alterac Valley or Isle of Conquest will likely be pared down to 25-man affairs.

There will likely be a new crop of guilds focused on Battlegrounds PvP, with guild advancement leaning in that direction. The return of PvP ranks will excite many old school players, although it's possible that these can be seasonal titles to match the titles obtained from Arena play. There are still many questions that linger about Battlegrounds PvP in the Cataclysm, but it is extremely promising and should breathe new life into PvP as a whole.

Tol Barad
Finally there's the Cataclysm's version of Wintergrasp, an island South of Hillsbrad although Chilton explained that their plans for Tol Barad might require more land mass than they had originally allocated (Tol Barad can be seen in a map inside the manual that comes with the original World of Warcraft game). It will be a zone like the Isle of Quel'danas, a daily quest hub, between battles. This mechanic improves upon Wintergrasp's design which leaves the zone barren before and after matches. At the same time, this reinvigorates inter-faction conflict as the zone becomes a hotbed of griefing on PvP servers.

At this point, it's simply too early to speculate on the details but it's certainly early enough to be excited as all hell. Just as Cataclysm will inject new life into the game, PvP will likewise be given a much-needed jolt. For certain, there'll be persistent class balance issues, but those will tend to diminish in the face of Battlegrounds PvP where team composition, individual player class and spec, aren't as important as they are in the Arena vacuum. More than anything, the game promises to be fun. At the heart of it, that's what it's all about. In the midst of blowing up opponents, capturing their bases, or tearing down their walls -- we're supposed to be having fun. If Blizzard's actions match up to their mighty BlizzCon words, Cataclysm PvP will probably be the most fun PvP we've ever seen in the game.
Zach attempts weekly to write about Arenas, Battlegrounds, and world PvP in one column. He talked about how Season 6 is the best season for casual PvP and discussed the future of the Battlegrounds. He also talked about the new Isle of Conquest in Patch 3.2 and Gearing up for PvP.

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