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Patch 5.4 PTR: The new Arena Tie-Break system


WoW Insider reported last week on a pretty crazy debuff that a player had found on the patch 5.4 PTR, The Crowd Chose You!!!. At the time, we were very sure to clarify that, as Brian Holinka mentioned on Twitter, this was not a tie-breaker in itself, rather it was, and is, a match-ender. It is the mechanic by which a match is ended once a tie-break system has decided who should emerge victorious. Rather like boxing, where not every fight can end with a knockout, and the judges use specific criteria to judge the winner, the tie-break system is in place to ascertain who should be awarded a victory, and give them this buff to put that victory in place.

As I discussed in a Blood Sport a while back, the important element here was always the mechanic within the game that decided who would get the buff. For clarity, the current mechanic is very simple: if you are unable to kill the entire of the other team before the timer runs out, you will draw, and both sides will lose rating. The arena system currently favors a knockout, and refuses to recognize any other type of win, to continue our boxing analogy. But this is all set to change in patch 5.4, so let's take a look at the patch note excerpt that clarifies the new system.

Battlegrounds and Arenas

  • For Arena matches lasting longer than 15 minutes, one of the teams will receive a buff called "The Crowd Chose You" that increases damage, critical strike chance, stealth detection, and reduces damage taken. The buff is awarded based on the following criteria.
    • Team with the largest number of players alive.
    • Team that brought an enemy player closest to death (lowest health).

So, what do you think of this new system? It seems like the cut-off time of 15 minutes is logical, after all most matches last less time than that, or turn into tiresome ongoing turtle matches which would benefit from this sort of thing. Overall, the two criteria seem to make sense, even if, as a PvP healer myself, they are rather galling. It feels somewhat like an exercise in healer skill to successfully turtle out a match, but I wholeheartedly agree it should not be encouraged.

I have long thought that the team with the largest number of players alive should win a match, even if the opposing team wasn't able to completely wipe the others off the map, but of course that is a matter of philosophy, and not everyone will agree with me. As far as the second criterion, bringing an enemy player to the lowest health, as a healer this is, again, a little rankling, as part of the fun of playing a healer is to save your team-mate from those sorts of dire situations. But nonetheless, if one team gets a player to 5% and the other team gets a player to 10%, the first team came closer to a kill than the second.

Playing the system, not the game

My only concern with this system is the potential for it to be gamed. Of course, with any tie-break system, there is that possibility, but it seems possible that players could work out ways to play to the system, rather than playing as normal. Thanks to its design, I think the system largely avoids any pitfalls in this particular area, but there is the potential for 3-healer teams to troll rather effectively, particularly if they somehow manage to get an opponent down to, say, 50% health, while never letting any of their team drop below 80%. The numbers are hypothetical and purely illustrative, and this would be quite a feat, but perhaps something worthy of consideration. Classes such as blood DKs, too, in tandem with two healers in 3v3, could likely game this system fairly effectively thanks to their relatively high (for a tank) damage output.

This system will also need to be communicated very, very effectively, both via blogs and patch notes, and perhaps even in-game. As someone who makes it their mission to encourage new players to step into PvP, I am aware that it is possible that newer PvPers won't have heard of this system, and will wonder why they're suddenly one-shotted by a resto shaman's lightning bolt. Because of the one-shot mechanic, this will need to be abundantly clear to prevent it from discouraging, and indeed confusing players.
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