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There are a huge number of changes coming to the game in patch 5.4.  Some of them were expected and some, like this one, where not.  As of patch 5.4 the whole arena system is changing dramatically due to two big items. 

Firstly, battlegroups are disappearing and instead you will be fighting across all realms. Next up is the big one, the removal of arena teams!

Here is what Blizzard had to say about the changes:

PTR Patch 5.4 Notes - Redesigned Arena System

Redesigned Arena System

  • Players no longer need to create or join an Arena team to compete.
  • Similar to the Rated Battleground system, players in a party of the appropriate size (cross-realm groups are supported) may queue for an Arena bracket of the same size (2v2, 3v3, or 5v5).
  • Each player will have a personal rating that increase or decrease based on victories and defeats against other rated opponents. Opponents will be selected based on the average Match Making Rating of the party.
  • Conquest cap, requirements on gear and enchantments will be based on the player's personal rating.
  • The Arena ladder will no longer be sorted according to Battlegroup. Just like Rated Battlegrounds and normal Battlegrounds, all Arenas will now be region-wide!
  • At the end of an Arena season, the top players in a region will still earn titles and mounts

So what does this all mean and how will it affect players?  I will walk through what it could mean, especially to the key area that Blizzard seems to be going after, the current non-arena players.

What do you mean no battlegroups?

This is really not a huge deal, but is important to be aware of.  Battlegroups were pretty much just a way to share arena instance servers across servers and to group up players.  As soon as PVP was across even 2 realms, limiting it in anyway (battlegroups) was just a technical limitation and nothing really game changing. 

The fact that the server infrastructure now allows everyone to play in one giant battlegroup should be viewed as a plus.  It should cause no real difference in your arena experience.

What do you mean no arena teams?

That’s right, the whole entering the arena with a partner or team is now no longer required.  Instead you can enter a queue in a group of the appropriate size to compete in an arena match and the server will match you against another team and put you into an arena. This is all pretty much like the way Rated Battlegrounds work. 

While it isn’t worded in a way that clearly states that you cannot create an arena team anymore, that is in fact the case.  You will NOT be able to create a team at all. In the PTR the whole ability to create arena teams has been removed from the game UI.

Instead of a set team you will be able to join up with a player or players that you know in a group and then join the Arena queue.  Your rating will now be entirely your own and not your teams.  Therefore you can compete with one friend one week and then a different friend the next week.

One interesting affect of allowing players to join as a group instead of as an arena team is that you can join up with friends from other realms into a group and then queue.  This means you will be able to play with friends that you normally could not have.  A nice side effect, but worth the downsides?

So how will standings work?

Standings will work pretty much as they always have except that they will be personal instead of team based.  There are good and bad points about that though.  It could be very good since all of your ratings are individual you have a bit more control over how you are rated.  As you play with other players you will find out how you really stack up.  If you are a much better player than your friends then you will find that out pretty quickly as you bounce through different groups.

That is also a down side though, since you know who is better and worse it could lead to stress between friends as you may need to search for other people to play with to advance your rating.  Or if you are not as good a player, you could be left out with no one wanting to play with you.

This isn’t all that different than it currently is, as you can easily tell who is the best and worst player on a team anyway, it just makes it more obvious.

The one really big difference compared to the current system though, is that you could not artificially reset your rating.    

Season ending standings and rewards will work exactly the same as they do now, except they will be for players and not teams.  You could therefore play with several different friends over the course of the season and end up being the only one that gets a title or reward.

More Information from Blizzard

As you can see, the changes are fairly substantial, and therefore Blizzard posted a blog providing even more information.

Daxxarri - Patch 5.4 Arena Update

Big changes are coming to World of Warcraft’s Arenas that will make participating more convenient and competitive than ever before, and some of those changes may begin appearing on the PTR very soon.

Today, competition is limited to the realms within your Battlegroup, and your ability to participate in the Arena system requires having a static team with friends on the same realm. In the upcoming Patch 5.4, we’re building on technological improvements we’ve made over time (such as region-wide matchmaking) to expand the pool of competitors and improve the Arena experience for all World of Warcraft players.

One of the first things you’ll notice in Patch 5.4 is that you’ll no longer need to join or create an Arena team to compete. Instead, queuing will work much as it does for Rated Battlegrounds: you can queue for an Arena battle in a party of the appropriate size (still 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5), and your opponents will be selected based on the average Match Making Rating of your party.

For the most part, the mechanics of Arena will remain the same. You’ll still gain and lose personal rating based on your wins and losses, though your Conquest Point cap will now be based on your Personal Rating. The rating requirements to purchase items will also be based on your Personal Rating.

The change will confer a few advantages over the old static-team-based system:

  • You’ll no longer need to worry about invitations, joining, or leaving an Arena team. Now you can play with who you want, when you want.
  • You’ll be able to join a cross-realm group and queue for Arena matches with friends from other realms.
  • The Arena ladder will no longer be sorted according to Battlegroup. Just like Rated Battlegrounds and normal Battlegrounds, now all Arenas will be region-wide. You’ll be competing with a field of opponents that includes every Arena player in your region.
  • As before, at the end of an Arena season, the top players will still earn titles and mounts.

So is this better or worse? Messiah's Opinion

To be honest, I am not really sure….
Blizzards stated aim with these changes is to bring more players into the Arenas to fight it out.  The perception is that players are scared off from competing in the arena system due to the complication of finding and joining an arena team.

I say that I am not sure as I don’t really know if not having to be on a team or not will actually help players want to compete.  Looking at it from my typically non-pvp stance, I am not sure it would encourage me to jump into the arenas. I have played in the arenas with friends in the past, and have had fun with it, but I am not sure if not having a team would encourage me to play or not.  I almost think that because there is no set team I would be less likely to play.

I can see how this new system may be better as a way to encourage more overall arena battles in a week though.  This would be due to a player being able to play with a friend or friends to do a batch of arena fights, and then with a different group later on or the next day.  This could lead to many more fights taking place, as well as some players getting significantly better since they can practice more.

When looking at who can get better by being able to play more matches though, it all points towards healers, at least to me.  In almost any arena team you need a healer, sure there are a few exceptions win 2v2, and that means healers will be in high demand.  I can see situations were a healer could get in 5-10 times the number of games of a DPS class fairly easily each week as they jump from team to team to help out.  This happened before with arena teams, but their rating was obviously affected as it counted based on the team they were on, now it is individual.

Those are my thoughts on the new arena system, what about you?  Make your comments known by posting below.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.