The way Blizzard describes the arena can be a little confusing, so I wanted to make it a bit clearer here.
Rank- How your team compares to other teams. If you are "rank 1", you are the best team in your battlegroup.
Rating- Your team's "score". More on this later. If you have a rating of 1, your team is the worst team on the server (and ever created).
Arena Points- The points you earn to buy things from the arena vendor. These are NOT accumluated the same way as honor: kills or wins don't matter. They are converted straight from your rating. A rating vs points earned counter can be found here:
The arena works very simply.
Players fight against other players in 2v2, 3v3 or 5v5 brackets. The team who wins has its rating go up, while the team who loses has theirs go down. If a strong team defeats a weak team, their increase is small. However, if a weak team beats a strong team, their increase is tremendous (while the strong team loses alot). Teams can consist of up to twice the amount of minimum players needed to participate (2v2 can have at max 4, 3v3 at max 6, 5v5 at max 10).
Points are aquired at the end of the week based on your team rating (see above).
Things that do affect points earned: Your rating (based on your team's wins and losses against whatever ranked opponents).
Things that don't affect points: Number of Players on your team Matches played (past 10).
One interesting note is that points are NOT summated from bracket to bracket (i.e., if you're in three active arena teams -one for each division- your points are only taken from the team that would earn the most points). Another good point about points is that they do NOT decay. You can leave for a week, a month or even a year and still have the same amount of points as you did when you left. However, you cannot stockpile points past 5k. This is to prevent players from stockpiling points at the end of one arena season so that they may buy alot of the new gear released at the start of the next season. And while we're on that:
Seasons are like baseball seasons, except instead of just bringing about new rounds of competition they also bring out new pvp rewards. These are blizzard's way of being able to reward newer prizes as the game progresses, always providing more and more incentive to go into the arena.
Besides learning EVERYTHING about your class (including other tactics that you wouldn't normally use since all of your cooldowns under or at 10 minutes are available in arena combat) you need to learn how to actually play the arena. Unlike other PVP areas, time played does not equal points returned. Each team starts with a rating of 1500. Each victorious game brings your rating up, while each losing game brings your rating down. A good strategy is to play and win just enough games to get your rating to 2000 and stop. This is because at 2000, you have a very small chance of going up, but a very large one of going down. This usually takes most teams about 9-10 wins. Also, if you're having an offweek and losing alot, your team should stop playing after hitting 1000 as you don't want to go any lower. Either way, to get points you have to participate in at least 30% of the arena battles your team plays in(to prevent free loaders). Finally, 5v5 teams gain more points than 2v2 teams do (about 80% more actually). Since points are not summated, if you are playing on a decent 5v5 team you shouldn't even waste your time in 2v2 play. An additional note someone pointed out is that ratings are carried over week to week: in other words, if your team finishes one week with a 2000 rating, you start the next with a 2000 rating. So, you want to perform your very best in the minimum number of games you need to play (10) so as you don't lose your rating. If you do happen to sink under, remember to keep going for 2000. Either way, always try to stop playing when your rating is around 2000 as its very easy to go lower but hard to get any higher.
So as you can see, the arena requires more than just being good at your class: you also have to know how it works.
Finish each week with a 2000 rating, and you can generally have full arena gear within 3-4 months (about the time it takes to get full raiding gear anyway).
Hope this helps some people confused over it.
Some good questions have arisen down the thread, so in an attempt to keep you from having to read the full thread here they are:
Quote: So If Team A wins 18 matches this week, at a rating of 2100 against all teams that are less than 1500 rating.
And Team B wins only 10 matches at a rating of 2100 against all teams less than 1500.
They would get the same rate up? Or Team A would get slightly more for winning more matches?
- Consider that both teams have no losses that week
Team A and B would get the same amount of points. The only thing that matters for arena point calculation is your team's rating: not wins or losses. This is why if you are a high rated team (above 2000) you should only play the minimum amount of matches possible (10) so you keep that high rating while if you are a very low ranked team (below 1500) you should play as many as you feel necessary to get your rating up. The ideal rating is 2000 as you get the most points for your work (2000 is fairly easy to get. Although 2500 does yield a rather large amount of points it's very difficult to get and you could end up actually going lower and thus getting less points).