PhD in PvP: Part 2 – Second and Third Age

PhD in PvP: Part 2
Second and Third Age

PvP has changed over the ages. There is no comparing the first age to the third or fourth age. 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. In part one of this series I gave you an overview of the ages as well as a more detailed description on the first age. In this article, we will look at how things changed during the second and third age.

 

II) Second Age (2013-2015): the High School Years

If you were around in the Arena during the 2013-2015 years, the way you experienced Second Age PvP probably depended on which level you PvP’d.

Everyone’s PvP ranks were reset to the starting value of 500 for the first time ever. Kingisle also made several changes that affected the Arena. Firstly, Kingisle eliminated “infinite reshuffle”. They also added new types of PvP in the form of tournaments. In addition they nudged us to more aggressive forms of gameplay. Regardless of all these changes, there were still fundamental differences between top level Second Age and mid-level Second Age.

 

If you were top level, the biggest changes you saw came in the form of shadow magic, shadow-enhanced spells, and a sequence of farmable dungeons and instances (Hades from Aquila, Morganthe from Khrysalis, and Malistaire from Darkmoor) to farm to give you significantly better gear (especially in terms of Pierce). Even though the level cap only increased from 90 to 100, the mix of this improved gear and Shadow Magic affected PvP more than the thirty levels prior!

That said, it was a real grind to get all that gear. This was especially true when upgrading from Aquila gear to Darkmoor gear. The new fast-paced game made luck a much more important element than it had been previously. Between the grinding and the luck involved, you might already have seen PvP get less exciting and popular. There were fewer and fewer people seeking out top level PvP. Nevertheless, there were still enough casual players in the Arena. Because of this it wasn’t that hard to start with ranking up.

However, if you were a mid-level player like me? This was a golden age! For the first time, Level 50 players now had a set of gear that was inarguably better than standard Arena Commander gear. Also, all it cost was 1800 Arena Tickets! The increased Resist and Block (very useful against lucky Criticals from high-level, low-rank opponents) made it look like this age was going to be even more defensive than before.  However, a new vendor named Brandon Mistborn appeared selling rings, athames, and wands (named “Duelist”, no less). This shifted the pace of the game to an exciting, offensive style.

With the improved gear, the sky was now the limit for ranking up at Level 50. This brought all sorts of new duelists… and new strategies… to the arena at that level. As such, it kept the cost of entry low as it didn’t take too much to reach warlord. Granted, the Duelist gear cost a large number of Arena Tickets, but you could always play tournaments for those.  My “Anything Goes” guide for Grandmaster Thaumaturges was absolutely a product of this era: “try whatever you want! It could very well work.”

Mid level or top level, though, this new age represented a fundamental change in gameplay. However, it wasn’t really one that drove success out of reach.

That said, one small change at the end of second age was a warning of things to come – and quite possibly fits into the game like “college admissions”: it’s obnoxious, not everyone will make it through, and you don’t need it to succed now… but you WILL need it to advance to the next phase. And here, I’m talking about jewel socketing, introduced three months before the end of the age.

At this stage of PvP, it was not necessary to win. The boosts provided by jewels ranged from “insignificant” to “minor” (with the possible exception of pierce jewels at high levels). In fact, quite a few PvPers avoided working with them altogether (just like many people still used their old Epic Pets in the months after Mega Pets were introduced.) Jewels were a new dynamic that combined the frustrating aspects of grinding, farming, and crafting. The fact that they reached down to Level 15 were a loud warning to mid-level duelists: “In the future, you won’t be able to avoid obnoxious PvP dynamics by staying low level”!

 

III) Third Age (2015-2017): the college years

On a bright summer day in 2015, the third age of PvP was ushered in with three major changes. First, a rank reset (again). Second, a pet update involving jewels. Third, a relatively minor tweak to Critical.

However, because there were so few new PvPers, the rank reset meant a major shifting in the PvP curve. The average person left in the arena was now significantly better than the average person in earlier ages. Remember that the PvP rank system in the Arena is designed so that the average player has rank 500. If the “average” person standing had rank 800 in second age, a rank reset would mean that someone who was at 800 rank – at the cusp of getting Commander gear at low level – before the reset would only be at 500 rank now.

So this meant that upon entering the Arena for the first time, new players would have to perform at the “old” Commander level merely to keep their 500 rank! At midlevel, where the best PvP gear is rank-restricted, things got even worse. Because these opponents had reached 800 rank in Second Age, they would probably already have Commander or Warlord gear. This gear was off-limits to newer players. To get their gear, they had to prove they could consistently beat these geared players. And they had to do it WITHOUT HAVING THE SAME GEAR THEMSELVES! If you looked at the Central forums around that time, you’d see lots of comments comparing Third Age PvP to a job application, where you’re applying to be a janitor but they judge you on the standards of a Senior Vice President.

Things did mellow out a bit after a few weeks or so. Enough for Warlord to eventually be within reach again with the right cards and strategy. I remember taking my own Thaumaturge, Victoria StormBane (Level 59 at the time) into the arena during Third Age. Her first match in the arena was a rematch of the Grandmaster Newcomers Tournament finals. Only this time Cole had 69 resist to Ice, which I couldn’t really penetrate through! Two matches later, I faced him again… but remembered what I did to dispatch him in the final match of the same tournament (Feint into Judge wearing a Balance amulet; his resist against Balance was much more reasonable) and got the win.

Nevertheless, though, I was only winning about half of my matches. After the first few days, ranking up normally fit into a pattern. Id get a few easy wins until I reached the point where I started facing hardcore Level 50 Warlords. I would be lucky to beat these more than half of the time, so this formed a bit of a rank wall for me. But the rank wall gradually receded further and further back. By the end of a month I sat with an 85-60 record, good for 900 points and Warlord rank! By contrast, in the previous ages I was consistently winning at least 3/4 of my ranked matches… and had no problem getting to 1500 rank in Second Age. (And remember, I had my warlord gear throughout the entire Third Age! I couldn’t imagine winning at Grand without it.)

PhD in PvP: Part 2 - Second and Third Age

During the rest of Third Age, KingsIsle making frustrating tweaks to the game as fewer and fewer people frequented the arena. When Polaris came out, KI changed Critical again: Block became much harder to come by (and at midlevel, a non-issue) and Critical Heals became stronger than ever. Then came yet another Critical tweak: Critical hits now only provided a 25% (and later 30%) boost to your attacks, making Critical essentially a heal boost (and Block nearly completely irrelevant).

Tournaments costing Gold instead of Crowns was nice. However, the Level 50 Elixir made it clear how far the game has evolved. If you paid KingsIsle enough money, they would allow you to skip the first five worlds of PvE and get right at Level 50 (many in earlier days would call this “skipping the entire game”)! Of course, you still wouldn’t have the gear to be competitive at Level 50 PvP… but at least you could ignore Malistaire during the entire process!

PhD in PvP: Part 2 - Second and Third Age

Oh, and throughout that entire time, the level cap went from 100 to 110 to 120, but it’s not like that had any real influence on the Arena… especially with the fact that the Critical system punishes you for leveling up! That’s all for the second and third age! In the next installment, we will look at the fourth age.

 

What rank were you in the 2nd and 3rd age?

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