The most anticipated new feature of the upcoming Cataclysm expansion is Rated Battlegrounds. Currently a different Battleground is selected every weekend to be the special sponsored BG for the weekend and gives enhanced rewards to players that win at it. This system will be applied to Cataclysm but rather than just lasting for the weekend it will be the special Battleground for the entire week. This will be the Rated Battleground for the week and will take BG competition to a whole new level.
The weekly Call to Arms will soon also be the weekly Rated Battleground!
Make your Team!
Most players are already familiar with the system for creating Arena teams where you purchase a charter and gain signatures in a procedure similar to making a small guild. With the varying Battleground sizes and the size of the teams involved this wouldn't be feasible, so there won't be Rated BG teams per se. Your win-loss record will be tied to your character rather than a team and you will have the ability to queue with anyone you please without the hassle of being tied to a specific team, the only stipulation is that to queue for a Rated BG you must queue as a full sized group; there is no matchmaking system for finding allies.
Currently it's unknown whether or not Blizzard intends to cycle through all of their Battleground maps in the Rated BG rotation. It's difficult to envision a competitive, rated Alterac Valley or Isle of Conquest and could be a true pain to get 25 players together and coordinated for these. Everyone's favorites, Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, will no doubt be hot spots for high level competition as well as Eye of the Storm and perhaps the new Twin Peaks BG.
Ever since The Burning Crusade, Battlegrounds have taken a back seat to Rated Arenas both in respect and rewards. That's about to change. Rated Battlegrounds will have the exact same rewards available as Rated Arenas with the possible exception of the Gladiator title and associated mount. Players that excel in BGs will also have access to rare titles and perhaps mounts as well.
In Cataclysm most of the currency used to buy items is being simplified into 'points' similar to Arena Points and Honor Points currently, this applies to both PvP and PvE. The currency used to purchase high level PvP gear will be called Conquest Points. Conquest Points will be gained through both Arenas and Rated BGs and may be available through both simultaneously.
High end rewards will no longer be exclusive to elite Arena players
The rating requirement has been removed from all Conquest Point pieces other than weapons as well which will allow players access to gear that previously may have been unreasonably difficult to obtain.
Tactics vs. Strategy
There is a long running debate in the World of Warcraft community over which is the purer form of PvP -- Arenas or BGs? This is a silly debate, but yields a relevant comparison between the two competing PvP playstyles which are strategic and tactical. Battlegrounds favor strategic play, it's possible to lose the majority of PvP battles in a Battleground and still win because your team completed their objective. Arenas, on the other hand, end as soon as everyone on the team is dead (and it's very difficult to resurrect allies!). These are primarily tactical conflicts focused on eliminating the enemy in a single fight.
The strategic component of Battlegrounds will have several positive effects on the game:
1. It will downplay imbalances between the classes -- In a 10vs10 fight each class will typically bring something useful and you won't be victimized by being kited to eternity or dying when your healer gets silenced for 5 seconds. This will make it easier for Blizzard to balance classes effectively since they won't have to worry about the unique situations that arise with the myriad 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 team compositions .
2. Mundane abilities and bizarre specs can become exciting again -- Death Grip seems pretty played out at this point, just another ability on a 30 second cooldown. BGs will revitalize abilities that have become boring, especially AoE crowd control, knockbacks, and 'grips'. Imagine the potential of Priests with lifegrip if you can grip your allies up cliffs? Chaining Death Grips to bring your enemy up entire levels of buildings into the rest of your waiting allies is one of many new potential options for these incredibly powerful abilities.
3. Class composition isn't perfect? Don't sweat it! -- Battlegrounds, with their resurrection function, are much more forgiving of sub-optimal compositions. It's more important to complete your objective than it is to win each and every fight that you get into with your opponents. Players won't be left out because they aren't playing the flavor of the month class or don't bring a game breaking buff like Bloodlust.
Blizzard employees have stated in plain terms that going forward PvP is going to be balanced around Rated Battlegrounds. Arena players may hate it, but they're painting by the numbers here; most people don't participate in Arenas and don't like them so Blizzard is betting big on Rated Battlegrounds in Cataclysm. If nothing else, the ability to get fast queues in Battlegrounds while playing with your friends should be a great feature for BG lovers who aren't wild about playing with random people. It's something to look forward to!
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