Thirdly, what kind of difference in skill level should I expect compared to what I meet in random BGs? Do I need to be dominating in BGs to even stand a chance in Arena or is there a place for the casual/inexperienced player as well?
Any other tips and advice you can give for somebody looking to try arena would also be appreciated.
Just to give you some context, I'm an enthusiastic but somewhat time constrained player (being a phd student with two kids in pre-school age). I raid 2x3 hours / week and we're doing decently considering our limited time (5/16 HC in T14) and I consider myself an above average (for randoms) PVP healer and not completely terrible PVP DPS. I would love to do PVP on my non-raid days since I, like you, hate questing.
Well, all very valid questions, and in responding to them, I'm going to break this down into chunks. Micke's opening paragraph, first, it's only a waste of your time if you don't enjoy it. The arena learning curve can be fairly steep, and to make this very clear once and for all, you're going to lose quite a bit at first with a dedicated team of novices. Why? I'm not saying you're bad, I'm just talking about the bald reality that, if you have no experience in arena at all, you may well need to drop down a little from the starting rating of 1500 to start winning consistently. It's just a temporary situation, and all part of the learning curve. What does this have to do with time-wasting? You might feel that you're wasting time, that you're bad, that you're wasting others' time, but you're not. This is just how it goes. It's my heartfelt opinion that there's no such thing as "not good enough to try". We all have to start somewhere!2v2, 3v3 or 5v5?
Micke asked about brackets, wondering which was the most noob-friendly. That's an interesting question, and the answer very much depends on your resources. If you're a solo person wanting to just get to the cap every week via some trade adverts, like Micke says he is, then my telling you to only do 5v5 would be very unhelpful indeed. Even 3v3 would probably be a bit daunting, because a trade advert with "LF3v3 no rating no xp" probably won't get you very far. 2v2 is definitely the easiest for the solo newbie, simply because it's the easiest to get into and start practicing. And that's what you need to do.
However, if you have some friends who are interested in doing arenas with you, or maybe even know some people who do arenas already and would be happy to join you, it's a different matter. Assuming that you have the resources at hand to do 2v2, 3v3 or 5v5, I'd say that 3v3 is probably the best bracket to shoot for, unless you have a pre-existing group of four players who are happy to add you to their 5v5 team. I love 5v5, it's a ton of fun, but if you're all completely new to arena, it can be incredibly chaotic and confusing to face off against organized teams. But if you're OK with that, go for it.
The reason why I recommend 3v3 is that, as a general rule, the more players you have in the arena, the more balanced the match becomes. Blizzard's representatives have stated on many occasions that duels aren't balanced -- there will be classes that are better at duels than other classes, simply because of how they work. And, inevitably, there will be comps that are better at 2v2. There's a reason why 2v2 doesn't award titles and the like any more, and this is it.
3v3 is the happy medium between the chaos of 5v5 and the imbalance of 2v2, and there's a reason why it's the comp played in tournaments. But, having said that, the most important thing to do when you're getting started is practice. And that generally means 2v2.What's a reasonable gear point to keep from being totally useless?
This is another question that is at least somewhat subjective. If you're scouting for teams through trade chat, your "required" gear level is going to be rather different to what you need to play with friends. People in trade don't want a player in most of the crafted set, and a few bits of PvE gear, they want someone who's at least got a little PvP experience, and realm by realm this differs enormously. So for PuG arenas, I would aim for at least mostly honor gear, if not full honor gear. Of course, honor gear is Malevolent now, the 476 item level gear, so strive to get as much of that as you can. But don't let low gear hold you back from trying. You never know, you may find someone who just wants another body so they can queue.
But if you're playing with friends who don't mind your rather crappy gear, then just get as much of the crafted gear as you can. Remember that, with the new season, crafted gear is last season's honor gear. Different servers will have different levels of gear available. Fill in the gaps with the best PvE gear you have available, and above all, do what you can to stack resilience. At first, resilience is your most important stat. To learn, you need time, you need to stay alive in order to use your abilities, but your armor won't help you: you'll fold like origami without resilience. So gem for it, enchant for it, do what you can.What should you buy first?
Weapons are available for honor, but require that you earn 7250 honor before getting them. Starting from day one, then, you can spend 3750 honor before you should start saving for a weapon. If you aren't human and don't have a loss of control trinket, get one! They're 1750 honor. After that, gloves are a good choice, at 1750 honor, as they provide a bonus to a key ability. You'll have an annoying 250 honor spare, so perhaps build that up to 1250 and get a ring or cloak. Then, buy a weapon, and off-hand if that's your thing.What sort of skill level will I meet in arenas? How good do I need to be?
This is related to what I was saying earlier about rating. When you start off with your very first arenas, you'll have a match-making rating of 1500. If you win matches, this will increase, if you lose it'll decrease. It's fairly usual, at first, for your rating to decrease from this level. Don't be disheartened. This relates to skill levels. There's no minimum level of skill below which you shouldn't even be doing arenas, whatever your skill level there will be other teams in your battlegroup at that skill level. You just need to find them!
Comparing arenas to battlegrounds is like comparing oranges to grapefruits. They're similar in purpose, structure and content, but at the same time one provides rather a different experience to the other. Arenas are far more co-operative than random battlegrounds, far more organized, and far smaller! You're a more important part of the team in arenas, you may well be attacked far more, shut down far more and CC'd far more. While battlegrounds are great to learn to play your class, and for gearing, they're a different experience.Other tips and advice?
Practice is the biggest thing you will need to improve. PvP is not like PvE -- you can't hone your DPS on target dummies and have that transfer to arenas. The best way to improve at arenas is to do arenas. I'm running out of space, but check out a few of the other guides I've written
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