PhD in PvP: Introduction & First Age



PhD in PvP: Introduction

Duelist readers, I want you to think back… way back… all the way back to elementary school.

In those days, school tended to be designed towards the average student. This meant that if you were smarter than average, it wasn’t particularly hard to excel. Sure, the rules might change a bit from year to year. Think for example of that fourth grade teacher who insisted that you write every assignment in longhand cursive – and the sigh of relief the next year when you were allowed to type your assignments for a change. Still, most of the time, it did not take that much energy or effort to do respectably. And the system was designed so that you really had to try to fail!

The first real change to this system happened in high school: the classes became more involved, the work became more challenging, and you were expected to take on more responsibility as well. Nevertheless, though, you were still competing against the same people as you had been in grade school. So even if class rankings looked a little different here than in grade school, failure was still pretty rare and it still was very attainable for most to do well.

PhD in PvP: IntroductionBut it’s in college that things really changed. Because of selective admissions, the people who were in the bottom of the class before are no longer there. So that means that if you were in the middle of the class in high school, you’re probably going to be in the bottom of the class in college. That said, enough people are still in the game at this point that you don’t need to be that exceptional to be near the top!

PhD in PvP: Introduction

Finally, we move from college onto graduate school. The only people left in the game at this point are those who not only have shown significant aptitude for the subject, but have enough inclination for the subject that they’re willing to turn it into their entire lives. So even if you were at the top of your class up until this point, you’re not going to be exceptional… or even average… unless you’re as willing to invest enormous amounts of time and effort as your classmates.

Now what does this have to do with the game known as Wizard101? The answer: I feel that the evolution of PvP over the history of Wizard101, from the first age to the second age to the third age to the fourth age, very closely mirrors the transition from elementary school to high school to college to graduate school.

I) First Age (2008-2013): The Grade School Years

If you were lucky enough to PvP in the earliest days of the ranked arena, you’d notice that the majority of people didn’t really prepare for battle at all. The average PvPer would show up with standard dropped gear (mostly from mobs) and the type of predictable strategy people would use for PvE mobs or bosses. And it would be a select few players that would go onto strategy websites at all to learn how to play much better than that!

PhD in PvP: Introduction & First AgeSo if you were new to the arena in the beginning of first age and were serious about PvP at all, here’s probably what went down. A simple Google search would probably take you to some Central strategy guides for your school of choice. Following the guide for deck and spells, your first few matches would probably be very easy wins against unskilled opponents (with the possible exceptions of the occasional challenging match against a Warlord 15-25 levels below). You wouldn’t start seeing serious competition until somewhere around 700 rank, and things wouldn’t get particularly hard until you did well enough to start facing 800-rank opponents (as the cost of full Arena Gear was 158 wins and 800 rank).

Nevertheless, one day you’d hit 800 rank while having at least 158 wins to your name, at which point you’d go to Diego, buy your Commander Gear, and no longer be at a physical disadvantage. From there, it would be smooth sailing onto Warlord. Eventually you’d start facing opponents sufficiently challenging that you’d struggle to win half of your matches, but you’d probably solidly be in the Warlord range at that point.

Over the years, a number of changes affected PvP: the addition of a trainable, hatchable, grindable form of gear known as “Advanced Pets”, the increase of the level cap (replacing Arena Gear with Waterworks Gear or crafted gear), and various changes in the ranking system.

But, at top level, none of them really increased the difficulty of getting to Warlord at top-level PvP; after all, most of the average PvPers didn’t really put in any effort into being hardcore/competitive. (In fact, even a year or two after Advanced Pets came out, you’d be well above average at these ranks in the Arena if you had an Epic Pet with Spritely, Spell-Proof, and any two other talents!)

PhD in PvP: Introduction & First Age

The only thing that really changed the difficulty of getting to Warlord was the changes in the ranking system, and then only at mid-level: for a year or two in the 2010-11 range, the PvP ranking system did not factor in level when determining point changes after rank. So by the time you reached 700 rank or so, most of your opponents would be Privates about 10 levels ahead of you. While the system prepared matches designed to give you a 50/50 chance of winning, you would actually need to win about 3/4 of those matches to maintain your rank as wins would give you 8 points and losses would cost you 24. Similarly, by the time you hit Warlord, you’d be looking at opponents about 20 levels ahead, 2 points up for a win, and 30 points off for a loss. As such, many mid-level (Adept and Magus in those days) might find getting from Commander to Warlord to be a tedious, meaningless slog: once they reached 800 rank and got their Arena Gear, they might search for more interesting PvP challenges than “defeat nearly all Level 60 noobs in Waterworks Gear”.

Nevertheless, that PvP glitch was fixed in mid-2011 and with it, the only real obstacle to making Warlord in First Age. If you’ve been with Duelist from the start, you’ll notice that Duelist came into being around 2012 with PvP strategies, as did Mega Pets (which made it easier to have a good pet but harder to have a perfect pet). As you can see from the guides in those days, it wasn’t much of a challenge to be enough better than the average duelist to make Warlord. The focus was either on “easy” ways to make Warlord or on more challenging strategies/guides/narratives: dueling well above Warlord level in rank, challenging 2v2 setups against “puppet teams” featuring a top level wizard when your own team probably only has Adepts and Maguses, and winning against the skilled competition you’d find in a Central tournament. Oh, and there was also Kevin the Noob…

Part two will be here soon!




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