Saturday, July 28, 2012

That whole "Base PvP Defense" thing

One of the things that has always annoyed me (and a lot of other people) about PvP is the barrier to entry. Sure, you can go out and spend a few thousand gold on crafted resilience gear, but that's a substantial price to pay for someone who's not even sure they'll enjoy the activity yet. They could also convert their Justice and Valor Points into Honor and Conquest and buy some of the more current items, but those points represent a significant time investment to most players even this late in the expansion and, unless they're swimming in points with nothing to spend them on, can probably be better spent somewhere else. The only other option is one the majority of players will take. Put on your best PvE gear (and maybe a piece or two you grabbed from Baradin hold) and queue for a random battleground. After all, why spend the gold or points on something you may hate when you can try it out for free first?

Quick! Everyone kill the Warlock!

PvP in Cataclysm

The problem with the last option is that you're likely to spend the entire time getting globaled by Season 11 geared Subtlety Rogues who, after they've figured out how squishy you are, will hunt you down relentlessly. You won't learn to defend yourself because you won't have time. You won't be able to kite the Warrior with slows and snares because he'll have you dead before Throwdown wears off. You won't be able to trinket out of the Frost Mage's Deep Freeze because he'll have a Shatter combo lined up that will put you at the graveyard before you realize what's happening. You'll spend 20 minutes being ganked, globaled and generally drug across the floor while simultaneously being yelled at and insulted by your teammates for not following their obscure and acronym-laden instructions (MOAR D AT MT NOOBS). Most people will leave group, wipe the boot print off their face and never queue again.

Now, a part of me says that this is the ultimate learning situation. By the time you hit 85, you should already have a grasp on your class and it's defensive capabilities. You should know where your Nether Ward and Death Coil buttons are and be glyphed for slows before you even queue. You've had 85 levels to get at least an idea of what you're doing, it's time to sink or swim.

The problem is that reality very rarely reflects that concept. With the leveling game being what it is, most players will breeze through Vanilla, BC and Wrath content without even looking at their Anti-Magic Shells or Spellsteals, let alone learning how to use them effectively. If you leveled through the Dungeon Finder, chances are that all you've learned on the way to 80 is how to spam your biggest AoE. If you quested to 85, you likely only learned that you can pull two (or three or one) mobs at a time without dying. Eye of the Storm in dungeon epics against people with over 4000 Resilience is not the place to learn those things either.

It's like if someone decided a new rule for baseball: the first team to hit the ball wins and, by the way, the other team goes first. You'd never learn how to hit the ball because you'd never make it to the plate.

PvP in Mists of Pandaria

Blizzard is making a change in 5.0 that grants all players a base 30% damage reduction from other players. The idea is to make it so that curious first-timers or PvE focused players can walk into a battleground and not spend the entire time getting one-shot by the opposing team. They'll be able to contribute in a meaningful way other than simply baiting the Rogues away from the flag carrier. PvP gear will still give you an advantage in the form of extra PvP Defense (the new name for Resilience) as well as a bunch of PvP Power (basically a +Awesome stat for healing or damaging players), but it should make things more manageable for those who are gearing up or just killing some time in random battlegrounds before their raid. In theory, a Season 12 player should still win against a Tier 15 player (unless there is a significant skill gap) every time, but it won't be case after case of watching yourself be stun locked and bleed to death over the course of two or three seconds.

As a seasoned avoider of all things PvP, I was pretty interested to see how this works first-hand. I jumped on the beta, logged in to my level 86 Pandaren Resto Shaman (her name is Lovehandles and she's adorable) and queued up for a random BG in my mix of 378 dungeon epics and leveling greens. I was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised.

Just to give some context, I have an 85 Resto Shaman on live that I've been playing since ICC. She was originally Enhancement but I fell in love with the Resto toolbox while grinding Emblems (Glyph of Deluge can suck it, Chain Heal is the prettiest spell in the game) and learned to heal fairly competently. I'm not amazing so you probably wouldn't want me healing your Heroic DS pug, but I don't suck enough to be kicked out of random dungeons. That said,  I have never actively PvP'ed with her in a meaningful way. I did one or two Alterac Valley runs at level 80 so that I could set up my raid frames and get an idea for how effective each of my spells was, but that's about it. I also did not have any of the raid frames, bar addons or spell trackers that I'm used to. I was, for all intents and purposes, your standard PvE idiot running around in crap gear doing everything wrong. I was fully expecting to go get globaled repeatedly the way I do on live servers with my Warlock.

Instead of being dead weight, I actually felt like I was contributing. By chaining my defensive tools like Capacitor and Stone Bulwark Totem, I could actually hold off a single player pretty handily. In large group situations I was able to do effective healing and keep people alive without hiding in the corner in hope that no one would see me. I still died quickly if I got swarmed with pets or a couple people decided to focus me down, but not once did I get one-shot by a Shadowstep/Ambush combo or die before Kidney Shot wore off (have you figured out that I hate Rogues yet?). I can't believe that I'm actually going to say this, but . . . I actually had a lot of fun in that battleground.

Going Forward

I don't follow PvP theorycrafting. I don't know how PvP Power will scale as we get into Season 13 or 14 and I don't know how effective that base reduction to player damage will be at the end of the expansion. I don't know how good the other players in my BG were. They could have been seasoned Gladiators or just clueless paste eaters that rolled a premade of a class they've never played to see the pretty new spells. What I do know is that, for the first time, I'm actually looking forward to building my Season 12 set and not just for transmogrification purposes.

I 'm feeling strangely compelled to go convert some of my Shaman's excess Justice and Valor points and queue up.

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