WoWInsider has an interesting article on the decline of Arena based on stats for Season 5. For me this is just an indicator of the decline of PvP since Wrath, with the exception of Wintergrasp. I've never been a really big fan of Arena, but I was tempted to join the Arena tournament because of the Armored Murloc pet. The tournament really changed my mind about how fun Arena can be though. It's great being with two mates on vent, having a laugh and slaughtering priests with your rogue. Even after my first few games however, I could tell how badly broken the class balance was; Death Knights and Paladins are just way too overpowered. As great as my Rogue is in Arena, it's pretty frustrating to see he's gimped in PvE because of it, but that's a separate issue. In most games we entered, we could pretty much tell the outcome of what the game will be by just looking at the classes of the other team, and the rankings show that most of the top teams all have the same classes dominating.
Around a week after Wrath came out, I wrote my review of the expansion and even as a player who had been away from PvP for several months, it was clear in my eyes that this Season was not going to be a success. Here's what I wrote;
- I really don't understand Blizzards philosophy towards PvP gearing, because it goes against everything they're trying to push for in PvE. In case you don't know, all the PvP gear available at level 80 requires you to do Arena. Basically there will be 3 tiers; Blue quality gear which requires Arena points (no rating), normal Purple quality items that also require an Arena rating and finally the high end Purples that require a high level rating. Now for someone who enjoys BGs (mainly Alterac Valley) and has zero interest in Arena, we're basically forced into doing Arenas. It's the equivalent of telling people you can do 5 man instances but sorry you cant get any gear rewards till you step into a 10-man raid. Can you imagine the reaction? Blizz has really been pushing Arena and E-sports for a while, but I don't thinking forcing people is the way to go about it. I spent most of my level 70 end game (over 95%) in Battlegrounds, I think this will flip it the other way. I know the new Season does not start till December, so I'm still hoping they change their minds on this, but so far no one in the community seems to care. Maybe I'm missing something but at the moment I have no idea where I will be getting resist gear, so I won't be able to enjoy BGs even casually.
It's funny how my prediction was correct, I've gone to spending most of my time in Alterac Valley to becoming a raider. The new gearing rank structure has been a total failure. Not only is Arena less popular than ever before, but the best Battleground in the game (Alterac Valley) is unplayable on many realms. It either has one hour wait times, or not enough people of either faction participating. The main problems;
- Honor is less important, so why go to BGs? Also you can get easy honor from doing Wintergrasp which is still new and shiny and more fun for people who are sick of playing in the same BGs for the last several years.
- Why bother getting your ass handed to you in Arena by Pallys when you can just get your PvP gear from Vault of Archavon, Wintergrasp or Honor?
- People gravitate towards the easiest way to get gear, which has shifted from BGs/Arena in TBC to Puging Naxx in Wrath.
It's strange that Blizz's strategy for raiding has shifted in the last four years to encourage everyone to enjoy it, yet in Arena they are rewarding literally a few hundred players and leaving the rest out in the cold. I'm not suggesting cutting back on the rewards for the top 5% but the bar is too high for the casual player, i.e. total disparity between the effort involved and the reward. Even people who played for just fun (and not gear) will be bored once they are beaten by the same class combination 10 games running.
I really hope they do learn their lesson for Season 6, and there have been some encouraging signs. Alterac Valley will be added back to the requirement for BG mark hand ins quest, and also you will be able to enter BGs from anywhere in the world. Certainly I would be more likely to sign up for a BG whilst waiting for the raid to begin. I think they should add more vanity awards in for BG marks and honor also, these have been barely improved for a long time. Put in new pets, tabards and mounts. Even some bind on account items would be useful. Ultimately though, the class changes in patch 3.1 will determine if Arena can make a recovery in the next season.
The good news is that Blizz are adding a new Battleground to the game and hopefully this time it won't be Diet-Wintergrasp (I'm not too keen on Strand of the Ancients). We might just see a return to the good old days of making Battleground Pre-mades! In the meantime, I'm off to make some easy money in Wintergrasp.