Just step into the arena

The World of Warcraft arena is a ladder system, with all teams starting with a rating of 1500. When your team joins a queue for a fight, you should get matched against a team with a similar rating to yours, then after the match you gain or lose rating points depending on the relative strengths of the teams, e.g. if two evenly matched teams meet, the winner gains 15 points, the loser loses 15 points; if Team A is ranked higher than Team B, then Team A might only get 13 points from winning (with Tean B losing 13 points), but if Team B wins they might get 18 points (with Team A losing 18 points). In theory, after a while, you should end up with a fairly stable rating, winning roughly 50% of your matches around that level.

Every week at maintenance time, so long as your team fought in at least ten matches, and so long as you were in at least 30% of those matches, you get awarded arena points based on your rating (and what do points make? Shiny purple items!) The actual formula for calculating the points for a five man team is (apparently):
X = Team Rating, Y = Arena Points
If X>1500: Y = 2894/(1+259*e^(-0.0025*X))
Else: Y = 0.206*X+99
A two man team gets 70% of those points, a three man team gets 80%. If, like me, you haven’t broken out your Casio fx-82 since A-level maths, the English version is “High rating: LOTS OF POINTS! Low rating: NOT MANY POINTS!”

For those of you who might like to optimise your arena point gain (not me, obviously, I play for the competition and camaraderie, I’m not some kind of min-maxing munchkin, no no no), your strategy depends on whether you’re above or below average. If above, you’ll want to play a lot of matches within the first week to reach your stable rating; if below, you’ll want to play few matches per week, eking out as long as possible the time when your actual rating is above your stable rating. It doesn’t really make much of a difference; in the murky depths of lower ratings you maybe get all of about 20 more arena points for losing 10 matches in a week instead losing 20. If there was a really noticeable difference, there’d be a greater temptation to form a team, fight ten matches, get your points, disband the team, form a new team (resetting the rating to 1500), fight ten matches etc. As it is, the 40 gold per person cost of starting an arena team makes that prohibitively expensive for most sane players.

Now, I’m not under any particular illusion about my own PvP “ability” (and just to forestall the inevitable flamewar, for “ability” substitute “skill”, “class/spec”, “gear”, or whichever other element you think is by far the most important part of PvP, obviously *everyone* knows any noob can win easily if they’re wearing epix/(insert class here) is so overpowered they win every time/skill is the only deciding factor). A first week’s record of one win and nine losses crushed my very-briefly-held fantasy of stepping onto the arena sand and suddenly finding myself transformed into the ultimate fighting machine dispatching opponents left and right in a dazzling series of blows, and confirmed my more pragmatic forecast of dying horribly a lot (our one win came when facing a single opponent, his team-mate presumably having disconnected). We emerged in Nagrand from our final match, PvP flagged from being in the arena (you can see where this is going, right?), and were just engaging in deep tactical analysis (something like “I’ll…no. No.” “Hrrrmm.”) when an Orc hunter opened fire. Not being at all prepared (we’re not on some kind of PvP server, you know, we don’t expect oiks to actually go around attacking people standing around in the middle of a zone, even if they are flagged), the resulting corpse run really rounded off that week’s PvP as Not Much Fun.

Still, you can’t put me off prospective EPIC LEWT! so easily, so I’ve carried on fighting in the arena for the last month or so, starting matches at the Shattrath battlemaster to avoid wandering ruffians. Due to participating in a mix of team sizes, and re-forming the two man team to shuffle the participants, most weeks have consisted of ten matches, losing the majority of them while on the way to a stable rating. As I wrote a week ago “we’re hopefully not too far from being lowly enough to be pitched up against other suitable incompetents”, and last night our two man team, with a rating around 1350, prepared to die heroically some more. I don’t really have a point of reference for arena ratings, I don’t know whether 1350 is “fairly bad”, “astoundingly bad” or “a hamster running over the keyboard would do better than this”, but as our most recent bouts has been five straight losses to end up at that rating the previous week, I thought we had a bit further to slide before encountering more suitable opposition.

A funny thing happened, though. We won our first match. And… our second match. I won’t regale you with the full play-by-play gory details, much as I’m sure you’d enjoy my commentary of “then I was all, like ‘shiv’, and he was all, like, ‘mana shield’, and I was all, like, ‘kick’, and he was all, like, ‘no way’, and I was all, like, ‘way!'”, but we ended up with 8 wins, 2 losses, and a rating around 1460 (this isn’t a great boast, there’s still 8716 better teams than us on our battlegroup alone, but it’s my best results so far).

I’m not really sure what changed since our last matches. We hadn’t been madly practising tactics; I’d improved my gear, but not by a huge amount (the slight run speed boost of the Swift Windfire Diamond meta-gem in my Helm of Assassination being particularly handy in a couple of Benny Hill-type chases). All I can think is we were lucky in getting the opponents we did (or we’d been particularly unlucky previously). Look out for next week’s exciting update to feature more triumphalism if we manage to bump our rating above 1500, or for a stony silence indicating this was an aberration and we returned to our losing ways and plummeting rating.

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