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Has Patch 5.1 broken PvP?


If you read the forums, you may well think it is. There are several very vocal threads about the state of PvP right now, about the heavy burst coming from melee classes with the weapons upgrade, and the absence of a resilience upgrade to repair it. Those threads are always very vocal, always very convinced that PvP is worse now than it's ever been. While I try my best to be positive about the game, I'm not entirely sure that the forums are wrong, this time around at least.

PvP Power and PvP Resilience

Patch 5.1 brought about some changes to these two stats, introduced by Blizzard to help make PvP balance easier. They essentially provide a dial, which allows the increase and reduction of damage, healing and defense in PvP, without those changes impacting PvE. They're a great idea, but before Patch 5.1, as I spoke about months back, they weren't quite working as intended.

One of the stated aims of PvP Power particularly was to remove the viability of PvE items in PvP. Blizzard's team have been very keen that PvE gear does not become viable in PvP, and up until recently, PvP weapons were, for melee classes in particular who are far more directly affected by weapon stats than casters, not the best choice for maximum damage output.

And Blizzard's team stuck to their guns with the launch of patch 5.1, ensuring that PvP weapons remained the best choice by substantially increasing the PvP Power on almost all weapons. There was a slight delay on fist weapons, but that was soon rectified.

I am not good enough at maths to assert with any confidence that the new PvP weapons are better than the equivalent PvE weapons, but the increase in PvP Power has had a few other ramifications, linked, in part at least, to some other changes.

Another element which patch 5.1 brought to the table was a change to how PvP Power interacts with healing. For hybrid classes at least, and for any class with a heal, which is most of them, PvP Power's coefficient was completely removed from healing, if they are not in a healing spec. So, taking retribution paladins as an example, prior to patch 5.1, PvP Power affected both damage and healing. Now, after patch 5.1, PvP Power only affects damage. Equally, if that paladin switched to holy, PvP Power would only affect their healing, and not their damage.

None of the above changes is unreasonable in itself, hybrids were healing for too much, and a situation where PvP weapons are far from the best choice for PvP is extremely suboptimal. It was my most-complained-about element of Cataclysm PvP, which I dearly hoped Blizzard would fix with Mists. And it's great to see that they are working on it.

But these two changes combine to create a rather imperfect situation. The increase to PvP power most benefits melee DPS, as again, they are the classes most affected by weapon stats. There has been no corresponding increase to PvP Resilience, and no other changes to help mitigate this. Furthermore, in full DPS comps particularly, healing has been substantially nerfed. I was fortunate enough to speak with Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street yesterday, and to have the opportunity to briefly discuss these issues with him.

"I don't think it's there yet"

Greg freely admitted that PvP is not currently balanced in Mists, going on to say that "I think we still have some work to do to get to the point where people go into a 3v3 or rated battleground or something and say "you know what? That felt fair"... ...Even though we nerfed the big outliers in 5.1, damage still went up a bit, which felt crappy compared to our goal of trying to lower the burst."

Has Patch 51 broken PvPHe went on to add that Blizzard's team may consider an increase in baseline resilience to compensate for the increased damage, and might consider changing the nerf to hybrid healing to be a 50% reduction in PvP Power's influence on heals, rather than a 100% reduction. He asserted that the change in healing for hybrids was around 20-30%, but agreed that it probably felt like more.

It's easy to forget that there have been efforts made to reduce the burst damage in PvP, with changes to warriors' Taste for Blood and destruction warlocks' Chaos Bolt being prime examples, but it's certainly reasonable to say that an increase in overall burst and damage was not what was needed. Greg noted that he thinks this is "hopefully the worst it's going to be", which will be a small comfort for PvPers who are frustrated with the current situation, but the promise that the situation is being monitored is something. Greg's point that they don't want to rush to make changes after 3 days is reasonable, but something is definitely needed. He preceded that statement with an assertion that players would begin by upgrading weapons and trinkets, if they had ones of decent quality, but would then begin to upgrade items with more resilience, going some way to alleviate the issue, but not enough.

Gear Escalation

This has been a big concern over on the PvP forums. Patch 5.1 brought with it the possibility to upgrade gear with conquest points, as well as honor. Honor upgrades, while far from trivial, are of no particular concern as far as gear escalation goes, it's conquest that needs to be looked at.

The gear escalation issue is essentially that players starting off early in the season build up conquest sets fairly quickly, and create a gear gap between themselves and other players. Players starting late-season are effectively unable to catch up until towards the end of the season, when the early birds have run out of upgrades to get.

This has been the same for seasons now, but patch 5.1 has added a new influence to this issue -- the ability to upgrade gear with conquest points, coupled with a recent hotfix preceding patch 5.1 that drastically increased the conquest cap. Giving players the potential to buy more upgrades and items with conquest makes the gear gap even harder to bridge for the new player, and removes the fun from starting PvP mid-season.

And yes, base resilience has been added to all characters, but all that means is that there are players running around in full conquest gear with glorious conquest weapons, likely now upgraded to a 498 item level, and 30% base resilience, and players running around in PvE gear with 30% base resilience. This might mean the un-geared player lives for a few moments longer, but it doesn't mean the fully geared player has stopped being a wrecking ball in battlegrounds. THis is particularly bad given the absence of honor weapons.

Ghostcrawler tweeted the following recently:

While this is a reasonable stance, it doesn't seem that gear should be such a deciding influence on PvP success, particularly given how off-putting it is for new PvPers to be completely demolished in PvP situations.

I took the opportunity to ask him about PvP escalation, and his response was that "we need to offer something to help the PvP players with alts... it still feels crappy for the guy who has 3-4 PvP characters that they want to gear up. I joked about Conquest of the Ancients or something like that to make that feel a little better. It will make it a little bit harder for someone who joins Mists of Pandaria half-way through with no gear to get fully upgraded conquest gear to compete with the bad boys." The justification for the upgrades for conquest gear was that PvP players had complained about having nothing to spend their conquest on, but it seems like this is a minor concern compared to the aforementioned issues.

Ultimately, the developers admit that PvP is in a bad state at this exact moment. But, they are working to fix it, they are listening to players' concerns, and hopefully will take steps to rectify the key issues before too long. Unfortunately, this first season of Mists of Pandaria has seen an awful lot of problems, with the early issues with hunters, the return of huge burst damage, the MMR bug, and now these problems. It does seem like Blizzard's team are trying to rectify the issues, but is it too little too late for season 12?

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