As World of Warcraft turns five years old, ZAM recaps the past six months of one of the best new additions to WoW from three years back: competitive 3v3 arena!
As everyone is probably aware, World of Warcraft just turned five this week, and it seems as though the entire MMO gaming world is celebrating this momentous anniversary. Beneath these celebrations, however, one particular portion of the World of Warcraft community may be waiting until January 30th to celebrate the three-year anniversary of an even more momentous event in WoW history - the birth of competitive World of Warcraft Arena PvP!
While Tom "Kalgan" Chilton, game director and the self proclaimed World of Warcraft "PvP guru" notes that only about 20-25% of World of Warcraft players engage in Arena PvP, at least 40-50% of the WoW population are active participants in the widely appealing battlegrounds, like Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, Alterac Valley and Lake Wintergrasp. Either way, it's been almost three years since the possibility of being a professional World of Warcrafter became a very real possibility, so it seems suitable to bring everyone up to date on where the world is in competitive World of Warcraft.
Before we begin, it should be noted that, while the competitive community in World of Warcraft is quite well connected, it is, unfortunately, quite small in relation to the overall population of WoW players. In the same interview where Kalgan noted the percentage of players participating in various PvP activities, he also pointed out that a little less than 1% of arena fans actually break the prestigious '2000 rating' barrier. Considering that sponsored competitive World of Warcraft players must, at least, rank within the top 100 teams of the World of Warcraft Arena Tournament Server (about 2200+ rating, which can often translate to about 2600+ rating on a regular server), it's quite difficult to imagine just how far some of these players have to push to get to the highest echelons of competition.
Half a year ago, we reported on the ESL Global Finals for World of Warcraft 3v3 arena, and how HON, an incredibly talented Rogue / Mage / Priest team from Korea managed to turn a game-losing 2v1 situation into an astonishing tournament win over their other Korean competitors, SK-Korea. Of course, it didn't escape anybody's attention at the time that the top two slots were taken by Korean teams, and, unfortunately, North America's best team ended up placing 7th overall.
Well, over the past few months, North America has done a fairly decent job of picking themselves up, picking up 1st place and 4th place in the Blizzcon World Finals (thereby garnering a North American team, "TSG," the title of Global Champions), and also grabbing top honours for MLG Ohio, an invitation-only tournament for top rated competitive 3v3 teams. When Season Six ended in August, and Season Seven began in September, it seemed as though the best World of Warcraft PvPers were to be found in the USA.
Interestingly, at the most recent World of Warcraft tournament, MLG Anaheim, it seems as though Korea is finally here to take back its position as the professional gaming leader. This time around, North America was absent once more from the top 4 teams, with three of the slots going to Europe's Check6, SK-EU and Complexity. The one and only Korean team, "Button Bashers," (formerly HON) remained undefeated the entire tournament, playing under with their traditional Rogue / Mage / Priest (RMP), a team often considered to be the most skill dependent and most "balanced" team of all.
Oddly enough, Button Bashers was considered to be a team coming in with the most disadvantages, as the other top European competitors were playing teams known to be direct "counters" to the RMP standard. Check6 ran what is colloquially known as "Beast Cleave," with an Enhancement Shaman, Beast Mastery Hunter and Holy Paladin, and they were predicted to be the clear winners of MLG Anaheim, as few teams can stand under the devastating pressure an uncontrollable Enh. Shaman and BM Hunter can put out. The other two top teams, Complexity and SK-EU, played Death Knight, Warlock and Restoration Druid, nicknamed "Shadow Cleave" (not much originality…) for its reputation to be able to "cleave" through opponents with overwhelming Shadow damage, instead of… beasts.
Either way, Button Bashers managed to demonstrate, once more, why Korea is considered to be the birthplace of the best competitive gamers; the world watched as the only Asian team at the tournament stuck to their roots and managed to go undefeated the entire tournament while playing what was considered to be one of the weakest team compositions entering. One commentator even noted that "it was simply beautiful to watch skill overcoming comp disadvantage," in reference to Button Bashers' gutsy performance.
Ultimately, eyes will be glued to the MLG Pro Circuit Finals, taking place in Orlando on January 8-10, as players will compete for the $15,000 prize, and Global bragging rights until next year's Blizzcon 2010. Hopefully next year will also mark the resurrection of the North American pro gamer, as we're currently at the bottom of the ladder in comparison to Europe and Korea!