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Blood Sport: Resource mechanics in arena, Part I


Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women? Blood Sport investigates the entirety of all-things arena for gladiators and challengers alike. C. Christian Moore, multiple rank 1 gladiator, examines the latest arena strategy, trends, compositions and more in's arena column.

Listening Music: Roger Waters and the classic combination of Pink Floyd's "The Happiest Days of Our Lives + Another Brick In The Wall, part II." I hate when the radio only plays half of this piece. Even though Floyd split the piece into two on the album, I find it hard pressed to do the latter half justice by dropping the epic "intro." The helicopters and interlude scream is the best part, be honest with yourselves.

Last Week: We addressed the issue of protection warriors in arena. We talked a bit about a few of Ghostcrawler's posts dealing with the most annoying specialization to face. After that, we discussed some of the problems with both perception and design.

This Week: Before getting back to the beginner's guide to arenas, we'll be discussing energy, focus, and rage. Each have individual benefits and detriments in an arena setting, often very different from one another. More after the break!

Disclaimer: This column is about arena PvP. Even though the author has extensive raiding, soloing, and battleground experience, this article has the perspective of a gladiator. The benefits and detriments described therein prescribe to these conditions, as they would be quite different in other scenarios. In short, if you're going to write an angry comment about how a spell or resource is good/bad in a different area of the game, you're not doing (reading) it right.

While different resource mechanics within an MMO isn't revolutionary, the simplicity and accessibility of our beloved WoW resources is just one of the reasons the game is so successful.

Energy / Combo Points

I'm lumping these two together. Why? There are only two energy users in game (rogue / feral druid) and they both use combo points. Combo points can also (easily) be put on other mechanics, but they aren't. Combo points are also the largest difference between focus and energy.

Energy is one of the best resource mechanics in arena PvP. I won't spend that much time on it because it's a pretty basic, yet elegant, mechanic.

While white attacks (auto attacks) account for a very large portion of rogue and kitty dps, builders and finishers (stuff that uses the yellow bar) is the bread and butter of the energy resource mechanic. Let's compare this resource system to mana to see how it's balanced:

  1. Casters have cooldowns on important abilities (think Chaos Bolt) to limit damage.
  2. Energy-users have energy costs (think Shred) to limit damage.
  3. Casters can 'backload' abilites to create burst. (Curse of the Elements -> Immolate -> Chaos Bolt -> Searing Pain -> Conflagrate)
  4. Energy-users have combo points to create burst. (Ferocious Bite)
Energy and combo points are a kind of damage tax -- just like cooldowns. Because of this, many energy consuming abilities very rarely have cooldowns. Perhaps the most important aspect of energy is that it replenishes while you sit in a Cyclone. When you get out of your annoying crowd control, you have a full bar of energy to work with. Rage and mana don't do that. Energy is awesome.

Pros: Burst capabilities with both energy dumping and combo points. Infinite (no 'going oom'). Replenishes while crowd controlled!

Cons: After an energy dump, lulls can occur. Combo points take a while to build up. Combo points drop if you decide to switch targets.


Talk about getting your hopes up. At BlizzCon '09, developers stated that in Cataclysm, hunters are scheduled to move from mana to focus, a long awaited change which is surely to improve their arena representation.
  • Also receiving a massive overall are hunters. The hunter's need to rely upon mana is completely gone, and instead they will use focus. This means hunters will no longer care at all about Intellect, mana regen or Aspect of the Viper. Focus will regenerate continually, similar to how rogues or feral druids regenerate energy. For comparison, rogues regenerate approximately 10 energy per second, whereas hunters will regenerate 6 focus per second. However, Steady Shot can also be used to improve focus regen, and bring the rate at which hunters regenerate focus to 12 per second. The hunter will have a maximum of 100 focus, and shots might cost 30 or 60 focus, with fewer cooldowns on abilities.
Sadly, focus is just energy repackaged. However, hunters won't have combo points to complicate matters.

So... playing a hunter, somehow, might have gotten easier. While I can hear lol huntard echoing loudly, it's not our intention to poke fun. The general consensus of the arena community is that hunters have a relatively high skill cap (believe it or not). Hunters are easy to pick up, but hard to master. Changing their resource mechanics for the better will help to eliminate that high skill cap. Depending on what your philosophy is on arena, this can be a very good or very bad thing.

Personally, I'll be jumping for joy when I don't have to cast Aspect of the Diaper for mana regen.

This is just an educated guess, but we'll probably be seeing hunters get both a powerful focus-generating cooldown (think Adrenaline Rush), as well as a passive way to gain focus (perhaps on critical strikes). Go for the Throat is an exceptional focus-generating ability, and one that might change to benefit the hunter as well (although probably not as powerful, 50 focus is a ton).

Pros: All the perks of energy.

Cons: Focus seems cool until you realize that Blizzard just changed the color of the energy bar to green and made it move slower. Reliance on Steady Shot to boost resource regen isn't going to be fun, either (movement problems).


Rage is a very interesting mechanic. The resource can be absolutely amazing at times, and terrible at others. Every warrior has lost games due to rage starvation -- it just sucks standing there with your 3.60 speed weapon saying "I really wish I could do something." On the other hand, you'll occasionally get games where it seems like your red bar doesn't drop, even when you're spamming abilities.

After about two weeks of playing WoW, I thought rage was the bee's knees. I advised a friend to play a warrior because rage was the only resource mechanic that scaled. I don't know how I knew about scaling, and I probably didn't know fully what I was talking about -- but there is some truth in the matter. Rage does scale with your damage (and how much damage is being put out against you, although this point isn't very persuasive if at all).

Interesting dichotomy: In arena PvP, when damaged, rage is plentiful but hard to use because of the warrior's shift to playing defensively. When not focused, rage is comparatively harder to generate. Sometimes it feels like a cruel joke.

However, rage excels in it's infinity. One of the reasons warrior/druid was a successful combo in The Burning Crusade was the ability to win long games. Druids had extremely good mana longevity thanks to Lifebloom, as well as mana-returning resources (Innervate and Travel Form into drink). Warriors were able to create a large amount of pressure thanks to Mortal Strike coupled with a resource mechanic that is very effective in long games. Long games actually favor rage (over all other mechanics) due to the ability to provide more burst capabilities with amazing RNG.

Pros: Scales. Infinite. Able to be dumped for lots of burst with ability chains or Execute. Multiple ways to create it. Best long-game resource.

Cons: Inconsistent. Starts at zero. Often rage-starved. Cruel dichotomy. Missing auto attacks really sucks, too.

Next Week

Part II will deal with the death knight rune / runic power system and mana. The week after that, we'll probably get back to our beginner's guide to arena. I hope everyone got gladiator! Good luck in season eight!

Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? Check out's articles on arena, successful arena PvPers, PvP, and our arena column, Blood Sport.

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