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Tie-breakers in the arena


An interesting discussion began on Twitter a few days ago, between ArenaJunkies moderator QTPawzz and Blizzard's Senior PvP Developer, Brian Holinka. The two were discussing arena draws. If you're not familiar with the current system, if in 2v2, team A kills one member of team B, but cannot kill the other, meaning that at the point where the match times out there are two of team A but only one of team B remaining, there is a draw. QTPawzz was complaining specifically about his experience as an affliction warlock, trying to take down a discipline priest 1v1, his own partner presumably having died.

QTPawzz' suggestion was a shorter time limit, as well as a mechanic whereby the team that did the highest damage would win. It's an interesting idea, and something Holinka didn't seem averse to, given his responses. It's certainly a question that is likely to be both divisive and highly subjective, depending on the class or role that a player has adopted in PvP. For example, as someone who principally plays healing classes, with a side of DPS, the idea that the team with the highest damage should win in the event of a draw is immediately offputting.

Were I to put my angry trousers on, I would say that doing this would be a slight against healers, an assertion, or an admission that they are second class citizens in comparison to DPS. That they don't matter. And that's not something that anyone who plays a healer wants to feel. However, let's try to be sane about this. The way I see it, there are various options with various pros and cons, so let's spell them out. To be very clear, I'm not expressing any personal preference. I'm simply working through the ideas.

The current system

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The current system, while irritating to QTPawzz, has its merits. The basic notion supporting it appears to be the idea that if you can't kill both members of an opposing team, you haven't defeated them. When the arena times out, if team A has not defeated both members of team B, there will be a draw, meaning that both sides will lose rating. While it's a reasonable standpoint, this encourages turtling -- playing defensively with no intent to attack -- mainly from healers. If sufficiently skilled and geared, and facing opponents like affliction warlocks, they can extend a match to the timer, and a rating loss for both teams. The advantage for the turtling team is that they would likely lose less rating than if they suffered a straight loss, so if they have the patience and the ability, it's beneficial to hold out until the timer.

Arena tiebreak systemsThe question is whether this type of gameplay is necessarily a bad thing. It's something that's very class-specific, and comp-specific, and while healers do get a perverse satisfaction from holding matches out to the timer for a draw, it's highly irritating for DPS who can't kill them. It's a philosophy issue, really, the question being whether the other side has to be completely eradicated for a win to be declared, or whether one loss from one team constitutes a defeat. I suppose a consideration might be whether the remaining opponent would have any chance of securing a victory against the other team, which, in the case of a lone healer, seems unlikely.

The suggested change

The suggested change, as mentioned earlier, is to award the win to the team that dealt the most damage. While, as I mentioned, as a healer this grates somewhat, and indeed several Twitter responses indicated that it was not well received among other players, there is certainly merit to the idea. In QTPawzz specific situation, where by whatever means he was left alone with a healer, that healer had no intention of killing him. Even if the match lasted a week, that healer would almost certainly have been unable to land a kill. The healer was not attacking.

But again, it's philosophical. If the healer simply intends to outlive the DPS, is that a victory for the healer? Arguably, they have been able to heal better than the DPS has been able to DPS, therefore, in a rather roundabout way, it is a victory for the healer. But surely the point of healing in arenas is still to enable DPS to land kills? Much as it rubs healers up the wrong way they are essentially a support class, you can't heal players to death.

Arena tiebreak systemsOne potential argument against this system is that sheer numerical output does not win arenas. Instead, it is skilful damage output, knowing when to burst, when to CC, when to use cooldowns. PvP is not a raw numbers game. What's more, the offset of DPS is, of course, healing. A really good healer can offset really strong DPS. Sure, it's a matter of time, and that healer's team needs to be putting out their own damage, but matches are so far from pure DPS.

Nonetheless, it bears repeating that this system would only be in place in exceptional circumstances. Fortunately, it's not that often that a team will stretch the timer out to the point where such a system would even become relevant.

Other options

Other ideas that might merit consideration include one suggestion to simply have the team that loses a player lose the match at the time-out. This would likely work well for 2v2, and indeed, many say that it's how the game ought to work anyway. However, in situations like the one QTPawzz found himself in, who would win in a 1v1 stalemate? We find ourselves drawn back to the start of the discussion with no clear resolution. And the situation becomes even more complicated in larger compositions, where, admittedly, timeout games are far less common.

Another option might be a balanced consideration of both DPS and healing, a pure numbers game, where, in the event of a timeout, the totals are added up for neat throughput. Sure, some numerical bugs such as the lack of absorbs might need to be repaired, but maybe this is a possibility. Healers would certainly like their numbers to be considered, given all that we've said above.

Of course, it would most likely also result in stalemates. If there are two players alive at the timeout, the numbers of damage and healing are likely to tie up quite neatly. This doesn't seem like a viable approach.

So what do you think? What appeals the most to you, philosophically? Is the current system just fine? Do you like another suggestion? Or have an idea all of your own?

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