We've had a lot of exciting news about PvP changes in 2012, with some promises not delivered upon, and some sweeping alterations in our chosen section of play. But let's get the tin foil hats on and see what we think is coming in 2013.
As I write this, the PTR is active, and I urge all arena and battleground fans to get in there and PvP as much as you can. Ghostcrawler has commented several times on twitter about how there's often not a great deal of PvP testing in PTRs and betas, which in turn leads to issues like warrior burst and the hunter Stampede bug going unnoticed. So, let's not let that happen again. If you're a PvP enthusiast, download the PTR, get on there, and PvP.
The big winners and losers from the Patch 5.2 PTR changes appear to be to be monks and rogues on the winning side, and warriors, mages and feral druids on the losing side. This is not entirely unexpected, nor is it unfair, as monks were very under-represented at high level, as were rogues, with warriors and mages being on quite the opposite end of the scale. Feral druids I've included simply because of the Cyclone nerf, which is a heavy one to one of their major, and most aggravating crowd control abilities.
Looking at monks' representation is something of a double-edged sword. To compare their PvP representation to their PvE representation, where they began the expansion as one of the more powerful healers, is perhaps a mistake. their under-representation in high-end PvP could, it seems, simply be explained away by the fact that they're a brand new class.
In examining the class changes, the new level 60 talent, Ring of Peace, seems very strong indeed against melee, or as an additional interrupt against casters, with a proximity requirement. The length of the silence/disarm is likely to be reduced in PvP. Other changes which I predict will be wound back or toned down include the change to Cyclone's diminishing returns. I would be very surprised if it continued to DR with Banish, Seduction, Bind Elemental, Hex, Freezing Trap, Wyvern Sting, Gouge, Sap, Hibernate, Paralysis, Polymorph, Ring of Frost, Repentance, and Quaking Palm!
Rogue changes look overpowered at first, but many rogues have responded that they would sacrifice too much to take the new talents, such as Marked for Death. New level 60 talent, Cloak and Dagger, which makes Ambush, Garrote, and Cheap Shot now have a 30 yard range, and causes the Rogue to teleport behind the target when they are used, is certainly very interesting in the notes, but seems not to have even made it to the PTR! Instead, rogues have a talent called Hit and Run, a temporary teleport, which seems unlikely to replace Shadowstep in all but very specific circumstances.
As far as classes go, general predictions are that arms warriors will be toned down, as will frost mages, but they will remain the strongest of the pack. Rogues will catch back up, but not to Cataclysm levels, and monks will be considerably buffed, but remain somewhat under-represented.
Gearing for PvP
A recent blue post confirmed that conquest points would continue to be reset and converted into honor at the end of seasons. While this is no great surprise, it's good to confirm that the status quo will remain for that at least, particularly in light of a recent tweet from Ghostcrawler:
@millerkoop The gear in 5.2 will work a bit differently. We'll explain it all soon.
With an optimist's hat on, I would assert that this relates to the current unfavorable situation where those players who are joining late in the season, or are trying to gear alts, have almost no chance to catch up to fully geared players. Not only that, but the item level disparities created by the early downgrade in honor gear item level, coupled with the conquest point upgrade system, mean that those who are fully geared can decimate those who are not.
With a pessimist's hat on, this could relate to the fact that, currently, with quite some dedication, it is possible to gear to a high item level via PvP. Fully upgraded conquest gear, with the exception of tier 1 weapons which are ilvl 470, is item level 491. This is higher than can be achieved via un-upgraded raid finder, or indeed via the 5.0 dailies, and given the changes to PvP gear so that resilience and PvP power no longer replace other stats on gear, this is a viable approach. The dev team may well want to remove this alternate gearing method, and not unfairly.
So what could they do? Perhaps a heavier focus on PvP power and resilience on gear would allow for the removal of good PvE stats, alleviating the second issue, but the first still needs to be addressed. Simply compressing the item levels so that conquest gear was not so far ahead of honor gear, or that the upgrade system allowed less points per upgrade, would go some distance to narrow the gap. Or perhaps the upgrade system could be reworked for PvP to allow players to increase just one key stat, not dissimilar to reforging? It will certainly be interesting to see what comes of any redesign. What do you think?
New PvP Content
Initial datamining has recently pointed to a new style of battleground, or at least a new battleground -- Defense of the Alehouse. Could this be the DotA-style battleground Blizzard have allegedly been working on for years? And how would a genuinely DotA-style battleground -- which would be a battleground where players work to earn resources to improve their characters or heroes, with heavy NPC or creep involvement, towers and lanes -- translate into WoW? It seems likely that the DotA concept would be so diluted that it was barely recognizable, as it would not fit well into the existing game model. It could be something along the lines of Wintergrasp, where players earn resources and rank, or have features like the summoning of NPCs in Alterac Valley.
Either way, do players really want epic, lengthy battlegrounds in their random queue? The frustration of the random queue arises when a player is looking for a 10-15 minute Warsong Gulch and ends up in a 45-minute Alterac Valley, or vice versa.
If this does appear in patch 5.2, which it might, I suspect it will be a heavily diluted DotA experience, similar to Alterac Valley. If it doesn't emerge for longer, a more authentic DotA could be possible.
Dev Watercooler on PvP
A while back, Ghostcrawler delivered his Dev Watercooler on PvP, laying out various ideas Blizzard had for the future of PvP. How have those changes panned out?
The changes to rating that would have discouraged camping did not, unfortunately, make it into patch 5.1. No mention has been made of them so far in patch 5.2, but with a new PvP season accompanying the patch, I think it is possible that they may appear. The loss of control UI did appear, and has been hotfixed a few times, making it a fairly useful tool. Honor and conquest upgrades also made it into the game, but given the above, have caused as many issues as they have solved, if not more!
Tol Barad and Wintergrasp have both been opened up to higher level brackets, too, another fulfilled item on Ghostcrawler's list. However, a great deal of the other changes mentioned have not made it into the game. Unimplemented changes include low level battleground character scaling, an improved scoreboard, rated battleground rewards, and, most importantly to some, an improved battleground matchmaking system. In all fairness, though, some of these are huge changes, requiring a great deal of design and development, and I think players can hold out hope for seeing -- with the tin-foil hat on -- at least an improved scoreboard before the year is out. Anything else would be a very welcome bonus!
However, it seems that, while the aforementioned would be great changes, the devs need to focus their efforts on stabilizing and repairing the existing PvP game, before introducing new elements. Class balance adjustments would go some way towards this goal, as would gear changes, so let's hope those take center stage for 2013. 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.