UI and gameplay issues
Before we even get started on balance, a good number of big issues in arena remain, and really ought to be addressed, as they don't even relate to balance. I thought I'd lay them out here, as in their current state knowing about them is pretty essential.
Icons/buttons/bars are currently regularly disappearing upon entering the arena. Clearly, this is a huge problem, I've encountered this bug a couple of times myself, and none of your keybinds work either. A player affected by this bug is completely disabled, all they can do is run. One of the things that can cause it is reloading your UI while in the arena waiting room, so try to avoid doing so. One thing that can cause the UI to need reloading is trying to alter talents and glyphs based on the new system that allows you to see the class and spec of the players you're facing.
Certain addons can interfere with the talent and glyph changing system, causing a popup to appear which asks players to either reload the UI or ignore the addon and therefore often be unable to replace talents and glyphs. Should this happen to you, I strongly suggest sticking with your suboptimal talents and glyphs rather than disabling and reloading, and ending up with no action bars or keybinds. Lesser of two evils!
On the topic of action bars, talents and glyphs, as you may have gleaned from the last paragraph, these can be changed in the waiting room in response to the classes and specs you're facing. However, these revert after the match to your previous set-up. I can see why Blizzard did this, it's to ensure you're not paying for each arena-based change with a Tome of the Clear Mind. But, it seems intensely frustrating to have to redo talent changes every time when you're repeatedly running arenas, and want to maintain things between them.
I'd prefer to be given an option on leaving the arena to revert or retain my talent and spec changes. Yes, of course, I could do them between matches to ensure their permanence, but it's counter-intuitive that, having just made changes, you need to make them again! This is particularly true, for me at least, for action bar changes. So, again, if you're doing arenas, be aware of this issue, if you consider it to be one!
Balance: where are we?
Balance in PvP is always tricky at the start of an expansion, particularly at the start of an expansion where talent systems, specs and spells have been fairly extensively reworked. It's also hard to wade through the complaints to assess where genuine issues lie, as PvP is essentially subjective, based on what class and spec people PvP with, their own ability, and the ability of the players they face.
One thing which seems clear is that what I'm going to call gimmick abilities, such as the hunter Stampede or the druid Symbiosis, are causing problems in arenas. Symbiosis was always, always going to be a nightmare to balance, just because it's so complicated to do so. However, one of the current strongest healers in the game also having access to many of other classes' most powerful abilities is an issue, for example, Ice Block. Hunters have recently suffered a kind of nerf to Stampede, resetting the healing provided by Spirit Beasts back to the intended level, as it was healing for way too much before the hotfix. The Bestial Wrath ability was also hotfixed to make it break CC rather than grant CC immunity. However, this ability still seems very strong indeed, even with the hotfixes, and can be used to force cooldowns early, giving an advantage to the hunter team.
Burst remains very high from some classes, with critical strikes causing big problems. Renowned EU priest Hydramist posted a telling video where he is taken from 65% to 1% in one global cooldown by a warrior. Hydra is a seriously outstanding priest, rank 1 in 3v3 and 5v5 last season, so to see him suffering at the hands of warrior burst is telling indeed, particularly when considering the steps devs have taken to reduce burst damage in Mists. Warriors are far from the only class with high burst, though, with warlock Chaos Bolts hitting like trains, among others.
High burst damage is a very frustrating gameplay element to counter, as, unless it can be pre-empted, it's nigh on impossible to deal with a single global cooldown which takes away 64% of a player's health. Blizzard have tried to remove it for good reason so it's annoying to see it back, and I hope this is repaired soon. But, given the issues above, it's not that bad.
PvP Communication with the Devs
This is a problem which both Blizzard and their customers have been trying to deal with lately. A while back, Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street posted in the PvP forums. That this was newsworthy in itself is indicative of the fact that PvP-focused players feel neglected and ignored, and feel that the game prioritizes their PvE-focused friends. Part of this issue is communication, as Ghostcrawler said:
It's not that PvP isn't important to us. It is. But we haven't yet found a good way to engage the community in a public discussion on PvP issues.
This was part of a long post, you can click through the source link to see the whole thing, in which he discussed what I touched upon earlier -- the subjective nature of PvP. According to the big GC, it's not just subjective like I described earlier, but subjective in that reliable data simply cannot be obtained or created by players.
I definitely appreciate where he's coming from regarding the subjectivity of players. One poster on the forums nailed it with the comment "Hey Blizzard, nerf rock. Paper is fine. Love, scissors." But I'm not sure I agree with the position that it's impossible to obtain objective data in PvP. There must be ways it can be done, and while it may be the fact that I am a PvPer myself coloring my judgment, it feels a little like an excuse to me. And while players' communication to Blizzard may be suboptimal, Blizzard's return communication has hardly been outstanding.
So, join me in communicating about issues with Blizzard. Don't be drawn into flame wars, try to provide parses via World of Logs or similar of wargames, of cooldown-blowing on high resilience targets, or whatever you can think of to generate objective data.
Lastly, Blizzard Blue Daxxarri posted this today:
I think you'll be interested in what we have to say in an upcoming blog on the subject of PvP.
So keep your eyes peeled for some long-awaited and much needed input from Blizzard. I sincerely hope this does something to address PvPers' concerns, rather than waxing lyrical about the game's philosophy.
Do you want to capture flags, invade cities, attack towers, and dominate the enemy for your faction? Do you dream of riding your War Bear with pride? We'll steer you to victory with secrets of Battlegrounds and Arena, prepping you with proven addons and keybindings that win! Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.