Should Arena PvP be Fair?

I continue my rant on all things PvP this week with a look at the at the current class mix and how they stack up in arena PvP. I want to take a look at more than just a look at the classes though, I want to look at the philosophy behind PvP. Should each class have a valid spot in arenas? Should each class be able to survive in one way or another? Or are some classes just meant to rule the arenas and that's it?

Let's start with looking at some of the class mix issues and then analyze a bit why they are the way they are. After looking at the team mixes for arena maybe things will become clearer.

Team Balance

I chose to use my battlegroup as the example group, but having taken a quick peak at a few others, the results are very typical and do not vary a whole lot.

In 2v2 you would expect the most diversification since it is mainly about speed of the kill and bursting through their healing if they have any. There are many different teams that do well in the middle brackets with a huge variety or classes. Also in 2v2 individual skill plays a huge role. As in PvE content, the more players involved the better chance a lower skilled player has a chance to be involved. The exact opposite of what I expected was true here though. Of the top 5 teams only 1 was made up of something other than Mortal Strike Warrior - Restoration Druid. That single other team was a Disc Priest and Combat Rogue. In several other battlegroups the top 5 were all MS Warrior and Resto Druid.

In 3v3it spread out a little bit more, however Resto Druids were still on 3 of the 5 teams, and MS Warriors on 4 of the 5 teams. The other healer of choice here was disc Priests. Warlocks had spots in 3 of the teams and there was a single mage, rogue, pally, shaman and hunter mixed in. Still not a whole lot of variety though.

In 5v5 it gets a bit of a change with the healing role being taken over by Paladins for their survivability over the druids versatility. In fact, not a single team in the top 5 had a druid. Every single one had a holy Paladin though, and either a discipline priest or shadow priest (two teams having both). The other think almost every team had in common was a mortal strike Warrior, with only one team not having one. Three teams had shaman on them and three had warlocks, and there was single representation from mages, rogues and hunters.

Does it strike you as odd that almost every small team had a Druid, every large team had a Paladin and almost every team had a MS Warrior? It sure does strike me as being a bit more than coincidence..

Some Really Bad Balance issues

Let's start by looking at Druids. I covered them last week pretty well, so all I really have to say about them is that in small battles their versatility, ability to heal without stopping and ability to get out of almost all crowd control, makes them the no thought choice for small games of PvP. There is no other healing class that is as adaptable and mobile as a druid.

Next up, Mortal Strike Warriors. The class on almost every single top team out there, no matter the size. Mortal Strike Warriors are there because of 3 things: near rogue level damage, durability, and Mortal Strike. Mortal strike lowers all healing against their target by 50% for a short time. In Arenas where it is all about burst damage, this can easily give you the game. While hunters can now provide the same type of healing debuff, they are not as resilient to damage and lose a lot of damage output when closed upon.

Paladins really shine in large combat situations as a healer as they can take a huge beating without going down. They can buff players in the group, shield them and bubble themselves if things go really bad. While their heals are relatively slow, they can ignore most incoming attacks to make sure they get the heals completed. No other healer comes close to the survivability of a Paladin in PvP and hence they have earned the nickname the arena cockroach.

Some Smaller Balance Issues

While the above are issues are supported as truth by the fact that it can be demonstrated by the top teams, the following are more my feel on balance issues.

Warlocks are very powerful in PvP due to their ability to "Dot and Run". There is no real need for a warlock to single target a player and stick with them. The best locks out there in PvP ensure that there are multiple DoTs on every opposing player and then take shots at the teams current target. This is usually enough in any group to make the healer stretch themselves thin keeping players up to allow focus fire on another player to take them down. They also have their pet that makes spell casting difficult for casters to even remove the DoTs or heal.

Rogues with stealth and stunlock make it very possible to destroy players before they even have a chance to do anything. Combine this with a whole group that can stealth or go invisible and you have a team that you can not prepare for at all until you are hit, which may be too late.

The last issue that has started to become more common is groups of hunters. While hunters by themselves are underrepresented in arenas, they are starting to fight back. A full group of 5 hunters in 5v5 can be quite a challenge as they usually pick a cloth wearer and all send their pets after it, and focus fire on a different player. They can quickly take out several players in this way as they have double the force. I have seen this work exceedingly well in 3v3 and 5v5.

To Balance or Not to Balance

This is really a huge issue for many players as they have high level characters and want to fight in the arenas, however if you are not the right class you almost need not apply. Sure you can fight it out in the middle brackets, but you will never compete with the big boys no matter your skill level. Should this be the case?

Look at any battlegroup and you very quickly can verify that unless you are way out of the norm, you need not even try to compete for the top spot in 2v2 unless you are a resto Druid or a MS Warrior. The same goes for 3v3, there are some classes that work well and some that don't. In 5v5 most of a team is preset from the start, you need a MS Warrior, Holy Paladin, Warlock, Discipline Priest and one other.

As in anything, there are exceptions and skill does over ride pure class. However when you combine the knowledge that specific classes do better with the skill to back them up, there is currently no stopping them.

I'm really torn on how to resolve this issue. I really believe each class should be unique and as different as possible. However, I also believe that they should all be balanced against each other well. As shown above this just isn't the case, and while I am not sure what to do about it, something really does need to be done about it.

Currently you can struggle all you want in the arenas and master all your class skills and still come out on the losing end against a team that basically "out classes" you, simply by having the wrong class makeup. While there are some obvious classes that just shouldn't work together, like 5 DPS in a 5v5 without a healer, most groups should have an equal shot. In a 3v3 any mix of 2 DPS and a healer should have a competitive chance, any 5v5 with 3 DPS, 1 healer, 1 backup healer should have a chance.

While Blizzard has done an amazing job of balancing the classes for a PvE environment, the current balance in PvP leaves a lot to be desired. Especially since high quality epics are being awarded based on supposed skill, which can be overridden by class choice. Blizzard, it's time to step up and make things fair in the arenas for everyone.

The Messiah has had his say, what’s yours?  Do you think druids are overpowered in arenas? How would you fix them? Do you think they are good the way they are? I want to hear your comments and explanations.

Email me at: Byron Mudry - ([email protected]) or post in our forums thread!

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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.