TL;DR – yes. Let’s discuss why.
First, some important context setting. I am NOT the typical PvP player of WoW. I have vacillated often between loving PvP and loathing it. I find that many people I am stuck with in random battlegrounds can, charitably, be described as “cancer.” It is that which often pushes me out of PvP, rather than the gameplay itself.
As I will also often admit when playing PvP, particularly on-stream, I am not very good at it. On maps I have had ample opportunity to play and understand, I can do well, but even then, the nuances of PvP go unnoticed without explanation. I don’t know what the threshold is at which point the whole team goes on offense, rather than defending our bases/flags/balls (Describing the objective of Temple of Kotmogu without sounding like a teenager’s first joke is hard). I’m not sure what players I should be bursting down, other than that it usually, but not always, is the healer.
So I like it and do well when the group uses chat clearly, concisely, and maturely – calling out objectives, strategies, and incoming rushes that need defense. Nothing makes me stop playing quicker than bad team chat (my one streamed Arathi Blizzard game yesterday had two people on the team calling everyone else “cucks” while a hunter misspelled ableist slurs and yet some others talked about how Warlocks should top DPS in PvP, devoid of context.)
But enough stage-setting. Let’s dive in.
Legion PvP – Stat Templates and The Prestige
PvP has a checkered history in WoW of simultaneously being a thing everyone can access and play, while also having one of the highest barriers to entry. While yes, in many past expansions, one could queue up without much preparation and go, it is not ideal. My first PvP experience was at level 17 on my priest, when I went to the Barrens to challenge my level 60 shaman roommate. My guild was already there, and I knew he was there too, so I went off in search of a fight. I threw DoTs at anyone I could get, and when the heat was on, I ran away while hitting Fade, since, you know, it reduces my threat! (This was my lesson that capital-T threat didn’t really exist in PvP haha). It was fun enough that I ended up doing instanced battlegrounds when they came around, doing Warsong Gulch quite often as I leveled. I only ever hit Master Sergeant on the PvP grind back then, because I enjoyed questing and PvE more, but there has never been an expansion in which I’ve done zero PvP content.
Sometimes, I’ve gotten close. I didn’t play much in Burning Crusade but I did some Eye of the Storm when it was first introduced. I did a pretty solid amount of PvP in Wrath, and in almost every expansion save for Warlords of Draenor, in which I played maybe 3 Ashran matches and one BG total.
PvP has, since TBC, been largely about dragging yourself through the early parts of gearing up, where even if you have amazing PvE gear, you’re often getting dragged because of not having Resilience. Which, to be fair, was okay – I liked the degree of separation and having additional goals to work towards, but it could make your first few matches seem impossible and make the entirety of PvP feel unreachable for folks.
No matter the solutions over the years, that problem has never truly been fixed.
I would argue stat templates and flattening the gear curve specifically for PvP has worked, but with a caveat – the loss of character customization.
Gear templates were (and still are) a great idea…in theory. It puts everyone on a level playing field, eases the process of balancing, and makes the flat percentage scaling from item level over 800 predictable and capable of also being balanced. However, there are two quirks I don’t like – that it doesn’t easily show me what my template is, and that I have no means to customize it.
Stats have a big role in the feel of your character’s gameplay. Haste smooths out a lot of rotations and addresses some of the big bumps in gameplay. Crit can add excitement and also adds smoothing for some specs, like Fire Mage. Mastery enhances gameplay overall. Versatility silently does whatever the fuck it does normally. I could be okay with a valuation system that allows me to tweak these stats to my preference, even if it isn’t 1:1. Maybe, it is determined, that for my Havoc DH, Crit is too strong in PvP, so I get 10% base on my template. But maybe I can take 1% of that and make it into 1.2% Haste, or 1.1% Versatility, or maybe 1.3% Mastery. You can place emphasis on balancing those secondaries for me, but if I prefer the way that Haste plays, maybe I should be able to dump excess secondaries into Haste. Or maybe there’s a balanced base pool of stats, and then a small excess allocation, similar to how leveling in Diablo II gave you stat points you could freely allocate.
The other thing is that I feel like PvP gear acquisition is far too stingy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know what it looks like for a high-end Arena player or Rated Battleground participant with actual MMR rating, but speaking solely to the casual experience here – I raid two nights a week and have 932 average item level, without having touched Antorus (until tonight). The PvP gear I am getting from a similar level of play is 870, with occasional warforges as high as 910. Now, I believe Prestige has a role here, and I am only Prestige 1, so take that into consideration, but still – PvP gearing feels excessively stingy. I could go and do a handful of World Quests and get better gear, including PvP appearances from Warden Tower quests, and be better geared than the casual, all PvP player.
Speaking of Prestige, however – what a lovely system. Yes, it is effectively a long grind, but what I like about it is that it does not hide its grind behind any artifice. It knows what it is, and you know what it is – and that alone makes it better than MMR or the Legendary grinds, since it is highly visible and easy to understand. Further, it adds a sense of reward to PvP that I’ve never felt. Getting gold and copious amounts of Artifact Power from doing PvP is a good feeling, and it makes me want to do it more. The little cosmetic perks are also great and go a long way towards making the system feel more valuable.
The other facet of Honor as experience, one that I also like, are the Honor Talents. What we lose in being able to shape our gear stats is offset slightly by these. Not fully, mind you, but at least enough that it allows some choices to affect your gameplay. I do wish these were more interesting, though, as, at least for Havoc random queuing BGs, there are a couple pretty much mandatory ones to deal with casters. I hope this system continues forward.
Overall, I think the PvP changes are a bit of a mixed bag, but their impact is noticeable. You can, as someone who has not done PvP at 110, queue up, have a sense of achievement as you grind through your Honor levels, gaining new talents, gold and AP rewards, and gear. It makes PvP in WoW more accessible than it arguably ever has been, with maybe the exception of Vanilla.
And, to me, that is worth some of the rough edges of the systems.