The Fix That Wasn’t

22 06 2009

Blizzard has made a few strange decisions regarding Wintergrasp and arena. Today I want to talk about why I don’t like the way Blizzard has gone about making these nerfs/changes/whatevers to Wintergrasp and the 2v2 arena bracket. I’ll start off with Wintergrasp (it sounds more frosty than arena, I guess?).

The problem with Wintergrasp: too damn busy (i.e. too damn laggy, but is it performance lag or network lag?)

The WG fix: make Wintergrasp battles less attractive, hopefully drawing fewer people per battle

The WG problem redux: the fix didn’t do anything

My future is uncertain!

My future is uncertain!

The problem with this “fix” overall is that it really wasn’t a fix but a way to get players to stop using content. Blizzard is now changing Wintergrasp to a BG-like queue system (which you can read about here if you’re out of the loop) that will allow only 100 people from each faction to participate in the battle at the time. Will they in turn change the weeklies back to dailies? I doubt it – but since the change was (at least partially) done to disincentivize WG, it’s a possibility. But why didn’t Blizzard simply make it a queue from the start? Did they really expect people to go only once a week to do dailies? That seems preposterous. The queue system is a much better idea of a fix, though in practice I don’t think it will make a difference.

Here’s why: I had a 5-year old laptop a few weeks ago, and have since gotten a new one that can actually handle WoW. On the old one, I could barely move in Wintergrasp Fortress during a battle. Rarely were there more than 99 people of my faction in the keep with me, so that won’t change. Given 50 Horde and 50 Alliance fighting in one place, though, and my old laptop would just hide in the corner weeping and I’d get around 2-3 FPS, if that. With my new computer, not a single lag issue in WG (except for once when the whole zone experienced a few second delay, but that was the exception not the rule). Also, in a recent WG, my GM was with us and counted out how many people were in the battle: 120 Alliance. A cut to 100 won’t change the amount of performance lag, since there will still be 100 (less on my server) running around killing us and making our FPS low.

The new “fix” is more of a fix, but still not likely to change anything about Wintergrasp. Those with old computers will probably still feel the lag.

The problem with 2v2 arena: it’s not balanced, FotM (flavour of the month), it’s too fast-paced

The fix: 2v2 rating no longer allows you to buy the newest season of arena gear

The problem with the fix: it’s not a fix

So what Blizzard seems to be saying here is that they are giving up caring about 2v2 arena, a bracket that many care strongly about and others enjoy playing (I fall into thse second group, I find it to be fun and easier to setup than 3v3 or 5v5). In 3.2, where you won’t be able to get gear from 2v2, it seems like Blizzard will use this as an excuse to give up attempts at balancing it. Like the first WG “fix” this change wants you to stop playing 2v2. The message that this sends out is possibly a dire one: if something is broke, don’t fix it. There have always been broken elements of the game, like one class being overpowered either in PvE or PvP or another being underpowered, but Blizzard’s always taken the approach of fixing classes rather than saying “ummm don’t play that class anymore, okay?”

The 2v2 arena “fix” and the recent changes to WG are sort of like making Paladins unusable in PvP. Of course, that’s taking it to the extreme, but that’s what it feels like to me. If something isn’t working properly, well, fuck it and move on. But unlike Exorcism, which has been changed so much in the last few patches it’s hard to remember what it started out as, 2v2 seems to be going the way of the dodo. WG on the other hand will likely see more change or be instanced, eventually.


You may have noticed a lack of discussion of 3.2 DK-specific changes. Every time I think about writing something about them, my thought always ends in “but we’ll have to see how it looks on the PTR.” Blizzard has been pretty vague as to the specifics of the changes, specifically how the new dual-wield talent will really work and what the buff to Blood Strike really means. So… check back when the PTR pops up and results from tests start flowing in.


From Raiding to the Arena

8 05 2009

Out of line of sight! In line of sight! In sight of the line! Argh!

I’ll be honest, for a very long time while I played my druid and my first few months as a Death Knight, I abhorred PvP. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of Wintergrasp, arenas and BGs to get geared and help a druid friend of mine get one of the furious gladiator weapons. I won’t purport to be able to present strategies that will help you become an expert in PvP, because I’m still learning these kinds of things. I will, however, offer some advice on what I’ve found helpful in learning to be better in arenas.

1. Situational Awareness is different in arenas than raids

In a raid situation, situational awareness is largely related to your own survival. Stay out of the fire. Move out of the eyebeams. In an arena, you need to pay as much attention to your feet and the fire you may or may not be standing in as to those of your partner. I’m really only playing 2v2 with any seriousness, but one of my biggest failings so far (though hopefully it’s improving) was not being aware of what my partner was doing or what was happening to her. Love your minimap, keep track of your arena buddies and try not to LoS away from your healer. Learning when to use Death Grip or Chains of Ice to keep her safe from rogues and other dangerous things. This brings me to my next point.

2. The UI you use for PvE may not work for PvP

The UI and mods I use for raiding are largely set up to let me know when the boss is going to do the next thing. These events are typically on predictable timers and so you can often avoid them by thinking ahead and planning what you will be doing. You also rarely need to target more than one mob, and extra targets are usually tanked and so stay relatively stable. In an arena, this is not the case. You need to have a way to easily cast on 2+ (depending on the type of arena you play) targets as well as switching between them. This can mean setting up hotkeys to cast on a focus target or using Clique and a PvP unit frame (I use Gladius) to make casting easier. A mix of these is probably best so you can best protect

My UI in a raid.

My UI in a raid.

your partners by way of being able to cast, without searching for buttons or tab-targeting, Chains of Ice, Death Grip and Strangulate.

3. You need to learn a new kind of timing

In raids, it’s obvious when you have to interrupt, switch targets, or turn on Frost Presence. Kel’Thuzad casting Frostbolt? Time to Mind Freeze. One section of Mimiron going down faster than the rest? Switch targets. OT dead? Turn on Frost Presence and do your best to tank whatever’s loose. In an arena, you have to decide when to use Mind Freeze, Strangulate, as well as the spec-dependent abilities such as Gargoyle, Hungering Cold and Mark of Blood. Since these abilities all have CDs that feel like they take forever to end, managing them is important. Some tips:

  • Save strangulate for when you think you can achieve something important, like killing one of your opponents, within the duration of the spell.
  • Save Mind Freeze for important spells. This seems obvious, but I sometimes mistakenly interrupt a Restoration Shaman’s Lava Burst only to have him cast Lesser Healing Wave two seconds later.
  • Use Gargoyle when you are going to have at least 6-10 seconds of uninterrupted (i.e. not running around feared) burst on an opponent. Gargoyle is immensely helpful in killing healers
  • Don’t pop your PvP trinket (or Every Man for Himself, damn humans!) on just any stun. Save it for when you absolutely NEED to get out of it to save your partner or finish off a wounded opponent.

For every cooldown, there’s an appropriate time to use it in order to get the most out of the spell, whether it’s a simple Leap/Gnaw combo or the invaluable Empower Rune Weapon.

4. Macros are your friends.

For spells you cast a lot, like Chains of Ice, it may help to have macros set up that automatically cast on your focus target. For example:

/cast [target=focus] chains of ice

This macro will cast the aforementioned spell (or any other spell you want) on your focus target without you having to click unit frames and lose your current target. Macros like these save you time, which is worth a lot when you are trying to get a warrior to stop beating your healer’s face in with a big stick.

In conclusion, if you’re moving from raiding into arenas, like me, the switch can be quite jarring. My advice is to slowly start using more and more PvP-related mods and macros to give yourself time to get used to them. Just as moving your hotkeys around often can slow down or confuse your reactions, completely changing your UI or the way you play is hard to do all at once. Take time, enjoy the process, and kill some horde.