"Gear smurfing" is making your armory profile appear to have much worse (or much different) gear than what you actually wear in an arena game. For instance, if you wanted to use a lot of PvE gear in arena, you might put on a lot of PvP gear with +resilience gems in them. When opponents look on your armory page, they might believe you to be a hard target to kill because you're chilling out at 1,500 resilience (when you're actually wearing something like 900 inside the arena gates). This provides a large advantage if your opponents get deceived, even if just for a few games.
Gear smurfing is hardly griefing and is a fairly common practice among the top teams on each battlegroup. About one in every three to four teams has at least one member who gear smurfs. This isn't really a big issue for most players.
"MMR smurfing," however, is a big deal. Smurfing is a term that has been used for quite some time in online games. It is a fairly common practice in online FPS games (Halo 2, anyone?), as well as the arena ladders. Smurfing is intentionally losing games so you get paired up against far less skilled opponents.
If you recall back to The Burning Crusade, top arena players would start new teams at 1,500 rating just to "own noobs." Matchmaking Rating (MMR) was created to alleviate this problem -- if players wanted to feel superior to other players in arena, they would have to do it versus people of similar rating. For the most part, MMR has been successful at keeping really high-rated opponents away from players just starting out with arena and having a 1,100 or 1,200 MMR. However, this has started to change in the last few seasons.
Why the resurgence?
2v2 no longer gives rewards. High-rated arena players can find other high-rated arena players to fool around with in 2v2 with no consequences. They're going for gladiator in 3v3 and 5v5 -- not 2v2. 2v2 provides the outlet to make people angry (their goal) while retaining little to no consequence for themselves.
Smurfers make a lot of people kind of happy on their way to the bottom. Then they'll make a lot of people very, very upset when they take 20+ points from them easily. You see, the idea is to get their 2v2 MMR rating to 900 or 1,000 so that their gear and skill is overwhelmingly overpowering. When they enter an arena, they will absolutely destroy whoever is on the opposing side.
Maybe you've played against a smurfer and been on the winning end -- the arena gates open and ... there's no one on the other side. Boom, +16 points. Sweet, I guess? Even winning against a smurfer and getting a good chunk of points isn't very satisfying. It's super-unsatisfying when you fight them, they destroy you and you lose 25+ points. Feels bad, man.
Solution The best thing to do here is to just stop queuing. If an opposing team is decked out in the best arena gear and stealing away 20+ points from you, they're probably going to be playing for a while. Your team just doesn't want any of it. Spread the word to other people on your server if you see them playing 2v2. Griefers love nothing more than a steady stream of opponents to annoy -- try to take that away from them.
Playing as annoyingly as possible
Pillar-humping the entire game -- they don't even try to win. They just try to not lose for as long as possible. They do as little damage as possible while burning your mana. Then, when you're completely OOM, they don't kill you. They just watch you squirm. They constantly crowd control your teammates, only to run away, mount up and flee to another part of the arena.
Or, conversely, they get you very low on health and then crowd control you or your teammates so they're freaking out trying to get heal or get healed ... then they just stop and /dance. Then, after a 20+ minute battle, they'll either just obliterate you in 10 seconds or leave the arena. Even if you win, you don't feel like you've accomplished anything.
And they always have annoying macros for opposing teams they disdain. These macros are usually filled with 255 characters of /spit, /fart, /clap, /lol, etc.
The worse is when they win by getting a killing blow with unarmed melee or a Shadowfiend. Or they rank 1 Resurrection someone on your team (yep, it's possible), just to instantly kill them with a Shadow Word: Death.
Solution If you're completely outclassed, you can learn what they do to kill you when they actually go for a kill. You can also probably learn a lot from your opponents in the way they heal, do damage or coordinate crowd control.
If you're wondering how to make them stop, well, you probably can't. Your best choice of action is probably to try to enjoy the game as much as possible. Instead of struggling to win (which your opponents will enjoy seeing you squirm), you might incur a quicker death by stopping and /dancing. If they're going to waste your time, you might as well waste theirs. Remember, their whole goal is to get you as annoyed as possible.
Taking it beyond the arena
If they want to take it to the next level, they'll make a level 1 "spy" on your server and send you trolling messages. Some of my personal favorite openers:
- "yo dude you suck at arena srsly go get a lyfe"
- "Good games chap, care to go give it a go in the near futures?"
- "we just beat you in arena and i like your sword where did you get it i want one"
- "You're really good but your partner is terrible; I bet you could hit 2800 if you ditched him."
Don't feed the trolls! Don't respond to them; don't even acknowledge their presence. They'll probably grow annoyed of you and move on to their next griefing opportunity. You can report them to Blizzard for griefing, although it might not get you anywhere. Oh well, at least you can try.
Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing
Donkey Kong? Check out WoW.com's articles on arena, successful arena PvPers, PvP, and our arena column, Blood Sport.