Ahoy there, loyal readers! The lack of posting isn't because of a lack of time, nor disinterest, but in fact, it is the result of quite the opposite. I've been too busy playing WoW and enjoying RL because 3.1 has allowed me to take full advantage of the best of both worlds.
Would I care to explain why 3.1 has changed the status quo (of being a digital zombie)?
With the advent of 3.1, Blizzard has completely changed the Arena rewards system. Now, starting at reasonable ratings, players can buy il232 Furious Gladiator gear with Arena points and/or Honor. In addition, Ulduar 25 equivalent il232 weapons available at a mere 1850 rating. These tier 1 Furious Gladiator weapons are not only slower than their PvE counterparts, but are itemized towards PvP, lacking many of the PvE characteristics of Hit, Expertise and Haste. This is a godsend for those PvPers who have previously spent countless hours raiding for weapons as previous seasons did not grant PvPers access to such high quality and PvP specific items.
Simply put, there is little incentive for many PvPers to grind Ulduar since Ulduar 25 drops are il226 while Furious PvP gear is of il232. For a pretty good list of reasons, check out Serennia's article on World of Ming, who talks about this very same topic.
What do I think about all these PvP gear changes?
I think the changes are phenomenal. It encourages players to remain active in PvP, it doesn't give ridiculous benefits to players who are in top PvE guilds, and provides a somewhat balanceable 'expected gear' notion to the table. This means that because the disincentive of wearing PvE gear, developers can expect that most players will wear Furious Gladiator gear, giving the developers a more consistent data set to aid in future class and ability balancing. As it is, Season6 is probably one of the most balanced seasons ever and we can only hope this trend continues.
On top of all of these changes, Blizzard has once again changed the arena rating system. The new system starts teams off a 0 rating instead of 1500, but grants ~47 points for a win with no points taken away for a loss until the team hits 1500 rating. For the casual players, this allows players to steadily improve as they learn about their team composition and develop some semblance of synergy/coherence prior to becoming eligible to lose points. Psychologically, I can see this as a benefit for casual players as they are encouraged to play more without fear of losing. Starting at 1500 and then losing 200 points in 10 games to get points for the week as a casual team is pretty demoralizing and it seems as though Blizzard agrees.
Time wise, the key point of this change is that many PvPers suddenly have an option when it comes to attending raids instead of being forced to raid for hours for a chance at a weapon drop. Like many other PvPers I've cleared my calendar of raids and have started PvPing full time. Naturally, it is far easier to coordinate 2-5 people being online through texting or IMing so that we can grab a few Arena matches here and there. The side benefit of all this is that, now, it's not so much of a big deal to go and get some RL stuff done during prime evening hours because your PvP buddies can get online either at a pre-arranged time or through a simple text message.
So, as of right now, my Priest is paired up with a buddy's Ret Paladin and we've grinded our way to the mid 1900's in 2's. I haven't started playing 3's yet with anyone, but hope to do that soon. Our 5's team is in the low 1800's and the amusing aspect of the 5v5 bracket is that there is a complete dichotomy of teams that we encounter. We either fight poorly geared and poorly skilled players for 2-3 points per win, or we fight Gladiator's for double digit losses. In fact, just last night, we went 19-0 for 2-3 points a win, and then lost 29 points to a Glad team in 3 losses.
My Druid is paired up with a buddy's Warlock and it's like Season 3 all over again, when we ground up to 2k and nabbed our Vengeful Gladiator's Shoulders. Unfortunately, the class comp is about all that has remained the same as the gameplay is incredibly different these days. We play far more aggressively and my Warlock buddy is far squishier. Any pet that he chooses to bring out is promptly 2 shotted and at times we've resorted to bringing out the Imp just so that it could phase and provide Soul Link without getting obliterated. I believe that the comp does have a strong future as the popularity of War/Druid is rising and Lock/Druid generally had equal to favorable matchups against War/Dru if the pet could be kept alive.
The only aspect of this new season that utterly sucks is having to re-grind for all of the Furious Gladiator offset pieces. 300k+ Honor will make any BG enthusiast want to gouge their eyes out.
... It may be time to pop my Asian Racial and grind ridiculous amounts of honor.