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Blood Sport: Underdogs


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: Star Wars stuff, by the Symphony Orchestra of Radio Television of Serbia. I'm not too fond of the whistles and chanting/cheering, but whatever. This is easily the best live Star Wars video I could find on YouTube.

Last Week: We talked about the great Mortal Strike nerf of 2010 and why it's great for arena. Actually, scratch that. It's great for any kind of PvP.

This Week: Underdogs. Everyone loves the underdog. You know you were rooting for the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series last year, even if you weren't a baseball fan. Why? Because the team that was supposed to win it all (and subsequently did) was the New York Yankees (also known as baseball's Evil Empire). While Joe Girardi might not be Darth Vader, and George Steinbrenner only slightly resembles the Sith Lord, people just know -- almost instinctively -- who the "bad guys" are, and we root for the underdogs.

By the way, if you're a Yankees fan, your comments are futile. You're corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force. Also, Star Wars nerds, I know that "the Sith Lord" isn't the most accurate title for Darth Sidious, but it's what most people know him as. If you're angry about this, I apologize and recommend playing baseball once in a while to get your mind on something else (err, oops).

We like to view ourselves as underdogs in the epic world of Azeroth. We are simple (yet powerful) individuals versus the incredible might of the Lich King. Hey, that's fine and dandy. I have no problem with relating to Luke Skywalker, either. We want to see Luke overcome not only his father, but the temptation of the Dark Side.

In the same way, we want to see ourselves conquer something epic in game. I hope I'm not starting to psycho-babble. I'd prefer just babble. Or just psycho. I am the arena guy, after all.

Arena is an incredible way to experience those come-from-behind victories. Yes, epic victories. We're the underdog in arena sometimes.

More importantly, PvP is the underdog of WoW. It's mounting a comeback from The Burning Crusade days. It looks like Cataclysm is poised for a serious revamping of PvP in general, and perhaps arena with it.

Arena was played much more in BC than it is in Wrath, for a few reasons.

Burst happens.

If I recall correctly, games in The Burning Crusade lasted much, much longer than they do these days. Some players were upset about mana draining/burning being a viable strategy that often trumped everything else. The burst damage that accompanied the launch of Wrath of the Lich King certainly diminished mana-draining potential.

But arena representation dropped significantly when Wrath came out. Why? People just weren't having much fun. Well, unless you were a death knight or paladin, of course. Arena battles weren't interesting. They were too quick.

We've come full circle. When resilience was first announced as a new statistic for The Burning Crusade, developers stated their reasoning for resilience as a PvP stat.

Blizzard Staff
...we found as people increase their gear they die quicker because PvE gear is specialized gear. For DPS classes as an example it is designed to do the most damage as possible in the shortest time as possible and it does not have a lot of survivability. If that's the best gear players have available, then what happens is they take that into PvP is that they die very quickly and there's not much time for their strategies to evolve. What we've found is that in PvP we had to create gear with balanced offensive capability and survivability and because of that we had to create this separate set of gear with the new stat called resilience to make sure fights lasted long enough so that they are interesting and have depth.

That quote is from mid-August 2008. The most important section of that quote is "... to make sure fights lasted long enough so that they are interesting and have depth."

Being killed in five seconds while your healer is silenced is not interesting. It has no depth. It takes little to no skill. It is, simply put, exceptionally boring. Wrath of the Lich King was one step forward, two steps back when it came to burst damage. Yes, it's important that some classes should be able to put out enough damage to simply kill a player without being able to crowd control. However, when that damage window is a small fraction of half a minute, that's a problem.

Developers have acknowledged the problem and are looking to keep health pools high while decreasing damage and healing. Sounds like a plan -- the same plan that they had for The Burning Crusade. It worked out pretty well in the first few seasons (before healing became ridiculously good). It might be able to work again.

The arena system was much, much different.

There were no personal ratings, no matchmaking ratings, nothing but team rating. Arena used an ELO matchmaking system (the same one that chess uses). It was a simpler time. For many people, it was a better time.

Teams started out at 1500. If you tanked your rating down to 1200, you just remade a team and tried again. You only needed to play 20 or 30 games with new teammates to achieve a respectable rating, anyway.

Team-hopping existed. Oh, wonderful team-hopping. I pine for you.

Sure, some very bad things happened with the old arena system. Point-selling, win-trading, team resetting, etc. However, I had much more fun in the old system than now, and statistics indicate that most players might feel the same way. Oh well, another article, another time on this issue.

PvP gear was awesome and easier to obtain.

I started playing WoW a few weeks before The Burning Crusade launched. I sucked at the game, just like everyone else did when they first started playing. I got to 70 as soon as I could and was in awe at people walking around in full Season 1 gear. Some even had the arena staff that looked so incredibly badass.

That pretty pink freeze pop was the reason I wanted to PvP. So I started to play arena and read up on strategy. I got some gear and found it easier to achieve gear in arena than through raiding. Sure, I did Karazhan with friends, but I really wanted to deck myself out in Season 1 gear.

Luckily, by the time Season 2 had rolled around, I had gotten three out of five pieces of PvP gear. That was enough to maintain a "high" rating and stock up on full Merciless mid-way through Season 2.

Nowadays, if I'm starting an alt on a new server and don't want to let anyone know who I am, I have to play hundreds of games with friendly people from trade chat just to maintain a ~1800 or better arena rating.

Who remembers people from trade chat saying "300 resilience mage LF partner for 2v2," with 300 resilience being a big deal? I do. I remember when resilience rating was the PvP GearScore before GearScore existed, and it was largely accurate. Crazy, right? Good times.


Maybe it's just nostalgia speaking. Maybe I long for the day when arena was new and exciting. I have a feeling an emphasis on PvP in rated battlegrounds is going to make arena the same way in Cataclysm, especially if Blizzard is going to give us ample survivability ... to make sure fights lasted long enough so that they are interesting and have depth.

I'm excited to see the underdog make an epic comeback.

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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