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The Art of War(craft): Random thoughts on Cataclysm PvP

Zach Yonzon

Zach brings you the weekly column The Art of War(craft), in which he talks about good, old-fashioned PvP.

Changes in the beta are fast and furious. There's practically a new build every week, just about whenever the live realms go on maintenance, sometimes even sooner. While a lot of the things in the beta are subject to change, we're beginning to see some things that will probably stick. By now, big changes like the new soul shard mechanic, hunter focus and even the new paladin holy power system are probably locks to go live. For today, we'll take a look at a bunch of things all over the beta that will likely contribute to the PvP experience come Cataclysm.

Some of those other few things that will probably make it live are the worgen and goblin racials, which we can view as templates for the new batch of racial abilities. The developers mentioned that they'll be handing out new racial abilities to bring the rest of the races up to speed compared to the worgen and goblins. Some of the abilities won't have PvP applications, but other passives will contribute to some degree, such as Viciousness and Aberration for worgen. But a few active abilities jump out as exceptionally useful -- and fun -- for PvP, such as Rocket Barrage and Rocket Jump for goblins and Darkflight for worgen.

These abilities could be indicative of what racial abilities will be added to the game. Both Rocket Jump and Darkflight are long-cooldown, activated movement abilities, with Rocket Jump being a sort of forward-facing Disengage. Quite possibly, other races might receive some sort of mobility bonus or movement-related effect, which should help toward giving all class specs some options as far as mobility is concerned. At least one or two of the new racial abilities should be good for PvP, especially activated ones. Will we see humans retain Every Man for Himself or taurens keep War Stomp, and will the undead still have Will of the Forsaken? Probably. What we do know is that goblin and worgen racials have raised the bar, and it's imperative for developers to allow other races to gain equal footing.

A short note on tanks

One thing that we mustn't overlook is the new Vengeance mechanic for tanks. The developers have decided to allow tanks to deal more damage as a means of generating threat. In PvP, Vengeance means that tanks get stronger the more they get hit. The downside is that Vengeance is a stacking mechanic that builds over time, so it doesn't figure to play much in short PvP encounters. The beauty of tanks in PvP, on the other hand, is that they tend to last a lot longer -- especially with healer support that tanks actually seem to attract. More than ever, tank-specced opponents shouldn't be dismissed with the assumption that they don't deal much damage. They certainly won't have the high burst of DPS specs, but they'll be able to hold their own.

Fighting on sea legs

It should be interesting to see that there'll be a new dimension to world PvP with the new water mechanics in Vashj'ir. This isn't implemented in the rest of Azeroth, but a passive buff in the new underwater zone called Sea Legs grants water breathing, a 60 percent movement boost and faster movement on the sea floor. It would normally be a scary thought if we were to have to engage in water under the current mechanics -- water movement is clunky, awkward and lends itself too much to classes with better mobility. It's not just about moving faster, it's about moving faster in a three-dimensional space.

That's what's different and exciting about underwater combat in Cataclysm. It's combat on different levels without having to fly (which necessitates being out of combat). Players can attack from above or below, although being on the sea floor works too, because it'll be kind of like walking on dry land. The amazing thing is that you can just jump and float up into the water, similar to how you would fly off with a flying mount. The space is different, the architecture is different. You start off on a shipwreck on the seabed operating from a mystically trapped air bubble. It's pretty cool.

Why is this notable? For one thing, world PvP is going to be a whole lot of fun in Vashj'ir. It'll be tricky, and you'll need to watch not just your back or what's up top, but also what's below. It's interesting, too, because I think there's a huge potential for the environment, and I've got a feeling it'll come into play in a future battleground. The developers have been pushing the envelope, anyway, and the Isle of Conquest air drops were a daring foray into new forms of movement. Moving around in Vashj'ir, I get the impression that an underwater battleground isn't a far-fetched idea at all. Given that Blizzard will be rolling out several new battlegrounds throughout the expansion, I wouldn't rule it out -- and in fact, I look forward to it.

Endgame abilities

In past expansions, each class has received at least two new abilities -- one granted a little past the previous max level and another at max level. Because Cataclysm is changing the game in such a big way, some classes are getting more than the expected two abilities, with some getting new skills even at early levels, mostly to complement the new playstyle of the class (such as Soul Harvest). Of course, the abilities gained at level 85 are powerful and usually help define the class in PvP.

It's not clear from the current beta which abilities will make it unscathed (or relatively unchanged) to live, but some pretty cool things are in store for everyone. They're different things, too, and not just mundane DPS boosts or bigger heals. Druids, for example, get the Stampeding Roar I'd been raving about at level 83. But more importantly, they also get Wild Mushroom, which is an interesting ability because the mushrooms go invisible after a short period -- a mechanic that's practically unnecessary in PvE. The ability essentially makes druids some sort of stealthy bombardiers. I can see the ability used extensively in PvP, becoming an important part of the druid's arsenal. The druid can plant up to five of these explosive mushrooms, and they have the ability to detonate them all at once. This is what I mean by different. The new abilities are fun.

The warriors' Heroic Leap is an ability that didn't make it out of beta the last time, but hopefully the developers have worked the kinks out and it finally ships this time. Imagine warriors flying left and right, slamming into and stunning their opponents! Never mind if the damage isn't spectacular -- it's going to be cool! We'll take a better look at all the endgame abilities and speculate on how the endgame PvP environment is going to shape up some other time, but the fact is that these new abilities will take advantage of game mechanics in completely new ways.

That's what's so intriguing about the endgame. From the start, we'll get an overhauled talent system, a new stat in mastery, three tiers of glyphs (that's another area that should be interesting to talk about once we have more details) and a whole lot more ... Everything changes. The new abilities encourage a different way of approaching the game, and the complexion of Cataclysm PvP will be very different from today. There'll always be the question of balance, but I think we can let the developers work those numbers out. For now, get excited for the fact that the new abilities are pushing the envelope.

Zach delivers your weekly dose of battlegrounds and world PvP in one crazy column. He's written a primer on how the new talent tree redesign affects PvP, how sub-speccing will work at higher levels, and how the new Azeroth will affect world PvP. He even gets excited about low-level PvP in the expansion!

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