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PvP Beginner Guide 5.4

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This guide introduces you to the stormy ocean that is called PvP, hopefully answering a lot of questions you might have at the beginning.


We cover a few topics:



Why Should I Play PvP?

You are probably reading this guide as a more or less experienced PvE player with next to no PvP experience. We imagine that you went into a battleground and did not really know what to do, you could barely do anything useful and you died a lot. This can lead to the perception that PvP is hard, confusing and unrewarding. Let me show you in the next paragraphs that PvP can be much better.

There are two big reasons why you may have had problems being useful in your first PvP battle. The first reason is simply the gear most people have when trying that first battleground. Similar to PvE there is a certain set of gear that has to be acquired in order to play PvP competitively. There is no way you could run the latest raid in heroic mode with mere questing gear, but the problem in PvP is that there are no tiers of difficulties - so you are thrown into the PvP equivalent of the heroic raid with the wrong gear. You have to have a bit of patience, but when you got your PvP gear in the end, you will feel awesome and then it is your turn to annoy the quest gear people. With each new piece you will feel that you just became stronger, that you can battle harder opponents, better players. You will die much less, yet do more damage and heal more. So read carefully for your first introduction to PvP!

The second reason is simply that, in the beginning, you are bad at PvP. There is a steep learning curve natural to PvP, which is far higher than the PvE learning curve. Back in WotLK I was bad as well. I clicked my skills, turned with the keyboard. But I can still remember my first Arena match, it was so absurd. My teammate wanted to play Restoration Druid, but he forgot to change from Balance to Restoration. Our opponent in that 2v2 match was just one player - a Protection Warrior. We should have killed him, yes. But we failed miserably. We lost that 2v1 and tell the story to this day. I did not really get better in WotLK, but I still had loads of fun. When we reached that 1000 rating we were happy. It was not high, but still something. You do not have to be exceptional at PvP to have fun, just as you do not have to be excellent at PvE to have fun in LFR or guild raids.

The best thing about the complexity of PvP is the fact that, no matter how good you already are, you can always improve, always get better. Unless you are top of the 3v3 ladder, there are always players you can surpass. And surpassing them will make you feel awesome, you will feel the true PvP spirit. You want more, you want to get better. Once you are good enough, you can do so much that was not possible before. Win Tol Barad 5v2? Possible. Annoy the crap out of dozens of people in the dueling zones of Orgrimmar or Stormwind with 5 man? Absolutely hilariously funny. Carry Warsong Gulch with 3 people? Not a problem. When you find people to play with, it will be the most intense experience you ever had in WoW. No matter whether you reach your most anticipated 1800 rating, battle 20 players of the opposing faction or win that Rated Battleground together, you will even have fun when you lie with your face in the dust eventually - 20 players are not an easy undertaking for a few people.

We can see that PvP is challenging. In order to master it you need a lot of theoretical knowledge, but also practical experience. Icy Veins aims at providing you with the theoretical knowledge, but in the end it is up to you how good you become and how much domination you force upon your enemies. Just remember that PvP is not always about winning and that you do not have to be elite to have loads of fun with it.

Mechanics and Gameplay 101

There are important gameplay mechanics unique to PvP every player should know. Although explaining these concepts may seem very abstract, understanding them is crucial to every PvP situation.


PvP Power / PvP Resilience

The developers had to find solutions for two PvP-specific problems:

  • The damage done is too high in relation to the available health pool.
  • PvP gear has to be more viable than PvE gear in PvP, while it has to be less viable in PvE.

PvP Power and PvP Resilience are the two stats that aim to solve these problems.

PvP Resilience reduces the damage taken from other players. The base resilience is 72% and you can increase it with some gems and enchantments by one or two percents - a huge number considering that only 1/4 of the original damage will be done. The base resilience is that high to let everyone enjoy the survivability historically only players with completed PvP gear had - this was changed in 5.3 and mainly aimed at bringing more PvE players into PvP. PvP Resilience solves the first problem mentioned.

The second problem is solved by PvP Power. It effectively increases the damage you do against players and healing and the power of absorbs you do in open world zones and (competitive) PvP zones such as arenas and battlegrounds. Classes with heal specs only gain 75% of the damage equivalent as additional healing. As a Windwalker Monk you may have 35% increased damage and thus 26.25% increased healing. Other classes, those without heal specs, gain 50% of the damage equivalent as a healing increase.

PvP Power does not affect some percentage-based healing spells, like spell_holy_testoffaith.jpgDesperate Prayer.

The important notion is that neither PvP Power nor PvP Resilience count towards the item level budget, which means they are additional and free stats. Comparing a PvP and PvE item with the same item level will theoretically make both items equally viable in PvE, but the PvP item far more viable in PvP than the PvE item. However PvE items are still more viable in PvE than PvP items, because the average item level of a PvE item is higher, but PvP items provide a solid base for PvE.

The order of application is another important factor you should know about. When damage is done against a player, it is first increased by PvP Power. The targeted player will then decrease that damage by their resilience value. Let's say an attack would hit with 1000 damage. The 40% PvP Power increase the damage to 1400. The receiving player has 72% resilience and reduces the hit to 392 damage. The same applies to PvP healing. It is first increased by PvP Power and then decreased by other effects, such as ability_creature_cursed_05.jpgBattle Fatigue, inv_misc_herb_16.jpgWound Poison and ability_criticalstrike.jpgMortal Wounds.

Battle Fatigue

ability_creature_cursed_05.jpgBattle Fatigue tries to address the problem that healing is too powerful in PvP compared to the available health pool. It reduces every healing and absorb aimed at a player in PvP combat by 55%, even percentage-based heals. If you want to test the effects of Battle Fatigue, make sure that the player you might be dueling is not in your group, as you can not apply Battle Fatigue to players in your own group.

There are multiple effects that influence healing and knowing the formula is vital. We can show the mechanics in an example: A healer has 40% PvP Power, which means they will also do 40% more healing. Their healing spell would heal 1000 health points before applying PvP Power. The healing is increased by 40% to 1400 due to PvP Power. The target is struck by ability_criticalstrike.jpgMortal Wounds, which is a 25% healing reduction. Battle Fatigue and Mortal Wounds are applied multiplicatively, so the order is not important. When both debuffs are applied the healing done is reduced to 472.5 points, seen in the following calculation.

1000 (Base) * 1.40 (PvP Power) * 0.45 (Battle Fatigue) * 0.75 (Mortal Wounds) = 472.5

Crowd Control and Diminishing Returns

A crowd control (CC) is a class or racial skill which is used to restrain enemy players or pets from fighting. There are many flavors of CC, but generally speaking it is used both offensively and defensively. Healers may be prevented from healing their allies or a damage dealer's burst may be countered, which provides a significant advantage to your team and may decide between win or loss.

Some CC spells like spell_shadow_possession.jpgFear can be used without a cooldown. The problem is obvious, since a player could in theory be crowd controlled infinitely. To prevent that from happening a mechanic called diminishing returns (DR) was introduced. It is very simple: The first application of a CC in a specific category has 100% duration. Subsequent uses have 50% and 25% duration, until with the fourth use the target becomes immune to that category. Once a CC was not applied for 15 seconds after the last CC of the same category is removed, the duration is set back to 100%. As CC will not be applied when the target is immune, 15 seconds after the third CC was removed the target will always be vulnerable to the CC category again.

A general CC list ordered by categories is available here.

Breaking CC

Without a means of breaking out of CC you are helpless if an enemy lands a 4 to 8 second CC on you in a very critical situation. For example, a healer's team mate is on low health. But because an enemy player fears the healer and thus prevents them from healing, their mate dies and they lose the team fight. Those occasions are covered by a mechanic that removes all CC effects every two minutes. spell_shadow_charm.jpgEvery Man for Himself or spell_holy_dispelmagic.jpgPvP Trinket provide this ability. Note that the PvP trinket and Every Man For Himself share the same cooldown, so humans can not have two PvP trinket effects. Examples for current PvP trinkets are inv_jewelry_trinketpvp_01.jpgGrievous Gladiator's Medallion of Cruelty and inv_jewelry_trinketpvp_02.jpgGrievous Gladiator's Medallion of Cruelty.

Some classes can remove a limited set of CC categories with a skill that does not share the cooldown of the PvP trinket. For example spell_monk_nimblebrew.jpgNimble Brew, which removes fear, root and stun, and spell_deathknight_iceboundfortitude.jpgIcebound Fortitude, which removes stun despite not being mentioned in the tooltip.





In every structured PvP instance, that is Battlegrounds and Arena, all non-PvP items are scaled down to an item level of 496. This threshold will increase by one point per week to account for the increase in average item level of PvP players. The downscaling ensures that PvP gear is the most competitive gear in all important forms of PvP. If you exclusively wear PvP gear this should not affect you.





Should an Arena match last longer than 10 minutes, which is usually enough time to win or lose, a stack of achievement_bg_winsoa_underxminutes.jpgDampening will be applied to all players every 10 seconds, which reduces the power of all healing and absorption effects by 1% per stack, so, for example, after 5 minutes the healing is already reduced by 30%. This mechanic replaces The Crowd Chose You, which was introduced in patch 5.4, through a recent Hotfix and is supposed to reduce the possibility of hilariously long Arena matches, which are rather common in 2v2 when both teams have a healer, because more often than not, the healing is too high for the damage that can be done by one damage dealer. Should the fight last 20 minutes, it ends in a draw. 



Respond Quickly

PvP is a fast paced game mode, thus it is very important to quickly react to all kinds of situations. It is absolutely mandatory to bind all your skills to keys on your keyboard or mouse. It is also required to use WASD or a similar method to move and your mouse to turn around in order to be valuable at all. In fact you should use A and D for side-strafing, not turning around. Rather than using S to go back, you can run away with A and D while still facing the enemy. Since S is 50% slower - by some it is infamously called "backpaddling" - you can unbind it from your keyboard. You even should, which will quickly make you stop backpaddling. I unbound S from my keyboard and have ever since lived a happy existence.

Abilities should be used on key press, not key release. This is currently the default behaviour, but you may want to double-check. It is also possible to spam skills rapidly in order to have them used slightly quicker. This might seem minor, but it will give you a small advantage.

A significant combat advantage is often gained by using focus macros. Targeting a player in combat to use a specific skill - for example a CC - will make you lose your current target and thus important time. The possibility to target a second player exists and should be used. The second target is called focus. Using these targets is explained in the macro section of the Interface and Macro Guide.


It is of course crucial to know what to react to and when, but having the technical limitations out of the way allows you to concentrate on the actual gameplay. You can find more tips in the Interface and Macro Guide.




Knowing at which positions to stand in certain situations is crucial for your success in PvP combat. This is called positioning and a big factor that separates a good player from an excellent player.

The hard thing about positioning is to know when you have to play defensively and how you can do so. You generally want to take a defensive position to avoid damage and crowd control. This can be done by using any obstacles provided by the environment. Pillars in arena are a prime example of such obstacles. A ranged damage dealer is not able to hit you when you are out of his line of sight (LoS). For instance, a mage that just used his burst cooldowns should be avoided by getting out of his line of sight.

Healers should always try to play in a defensive position mainly to avoid incoming crowd control and they should only leave it when they need to heal their team mates. It is also important that one stays in the line of sight of his healer when low on health. Communication is vital in such situations.

A combat advantage can also be achieved by disturbing the position of the enemy team. For example you may be able to root the healer of the enemy team behind a pillar, so he is not in the line of sight of his allies anymore. This will create a lot of extra pressure and possibly lead to a kill. It is generally favorable to bring a player in some kind of disadvantageous position. In the last example the healer has to get out after the crowd control wears off, so he will be out of combat for another few seconds.

How to Gear Up


Confused by PvP gear? You are not alone. Read this.



Honor and Conquest Points

The points used to buy gear in PvP are similar to PvE and split into Honor and Conquest points. There is no weekly cap on the Honor points and you generally achieve them by killing players and reaching goals with your team in battlegrounds. In order to be mildly competitive in PvP you should at least have a complete set of PvP gear that is bought with Honor, so farming Honor points at the beginning is absolutely mandatory. Honor gear, currently called Tyrannical Gladiator's gear, has an item level of 496, the weapons have an item level of 498.

Conquest points are a bit more complicated. There is a cap on Conquest points that is progressively increased once you reach 1500 rating in either rated battlegrounds (RBG) or arenas. The basic RBG cap is 2200, the basic arena and random battleground cap is 1800. The highest rating in arena increases your arena and random battleground cap, while the highest rating in RBG increases your RBG cap. You will notice that the RBG rating is valued more. 1600 RBG rating gives you more Conquest cap than 1600 arena rating. Gear bought for Conquest points, currently called Grievous Gladiator's gear, has an item level of 522.


The order in which you gear your character is important in PvP, as certain items are clearly better than others, especially when it comes to using your Conquest points.

The first thing you want to get is a PvP trinket (for example inv_jewelry_trinketpvp_01.jpgTyrannical Gladiator's Medallion of Cruelty or inv_jewelry_trinketpvp_02.jpgTyrannical Gladiator's Medallion of Cruelty). It gives you the opportunity to break CC, which we explained above. Since humans already have a built-in CC breaker, you don't need to buy a PvP trinket as a human. Weapons are the second most crucial item in your equipment, but you can only get them once you have reached 7250 Honor/Conquest points. As they will cost 3500 points, we have a disposable budget of 3750. This budget can either be put into the PvP trinket, gloves or shoulder items, each one costs 1750 points. The gloves are slightly better because of the small buff they provide, so you should get them first. After getting the weapons you should finish your set for the bonuses and then buy the remaining pieces.

Always remember to fully enchant and gem your items, do not save your money for Conquest pieces, it is not worth the loss of stats.

To sum it up, follow this order:

  • PvP Trinket and Gloves; if human: Gloves and Shoulders.
  • Weapon(s).
  • Rest of the set (Head, Chest, Shoulders, Legs).
  • Remaining items.

When gearing with Conquest points, instead of purchasing the PvP trinket you can buy gloves and shoulders - you already have a Honor trinket available. The Conquest weapons are still the biggest upgrade to your equipment, so you should go for them.



PvP Trinket Damage Reduction


As of 5.4, if two PvP trinkets are equipped, the damage taken will be reduced by 10%. This is, as always, applied multiplicative and not added to the PvP Resilience. This change was made to reduce the viability of PvE trinkets in PvP.


For example, if a player is hit by 1000 damage, the damage will be reduced by 72% because of their resilience and by further 10% because of two equipped PvP trinkets, which results in only 252 damage done. This is 28 damage less than without the PvP trinket bonus, which means that the full damage is reduced by about 2.8%. This is a considerate amount and it remains to be seen whether PvE trinkets are out of question in PvP now.




Game Modes

There are several PvP game modes available with different kinds of rewards.



Battlegrounds (BGs) are the first PvP mode you will come across in your PvP career, starting at level 10. They are used to acquire Honor points and generally feature a team based goal. Some battlegrounds like Warsong Gulch have Capture the Flag mechanics, while others like Arathi Basin feature domination. The amount of players on each side ranges from 10 to 40.

It is usually more useful to queue for random battlegrounds, because you will receive bonus Honor and even some Conquest points - 150 for the first win of the day and 75 per win afterwards. Note that you can veto up to two disliked battlegrounds when queueing random, for example Alterac Valley and Isle of Conquest, the 40-man battlegrounds which often end in a zerg fest.

To find more about various Battlegrounds you can read our guides:


Tol Barad and Wintergrasp

Tol Barad and Wintergrasp are zones where the two factions on your server battle for a certain location. Wintergrasp was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King and the factions battle for the Wintergrasp keep; One faction defends it, while the other tries to conquer it. The objective in Tol Barad is similar, one faction tries to defend three strategic points while the other faction tries to capture them. It was introduced in Cataclysm and provided very high Honor yield.

While Wintergrasp is generally considered dead, Tol Barad is still visited by some players and easy to win with a few friends, depending on the server. You can win within a time frame of 15 minutes if you are defending and even faster when you are attacking depending on your performance. You will receive 270 Honor for defending Tol Barad and an additional 60 per undestroyed tower. 450 Honor will be awarded for attacking - provided you actually win - or some Honor for participating. The weekly quest available on the other half of the island in your base camp will also give you 300 Honor, so it is generally worth it to go Tol Barad a few times.

Rated Battlegrounds

Rated Battlegrounds (RBGs) are similar to battlegrounds, but you need a fixed group of 10 people and it rewards Conquest points instead of Honor. Each character has a personal RBG rating starting at 0. Based on your and your team mates' rating you will be given a possibly equal rated opponent. Upon winning you gain rating, while it may go down when losing. The rating used to find opponents is different when you have a personal rating of 0 - it is called the match making rating (MMR) and starts at 1500. It goes up and down based on your success and should approach the personal rating after some games. Defeating an opponent with a higher MMR will grant you more rating than defeating a weaker opponent.

Your personal rating is used to increase your Conquest cap. 50 rating will approximately increase your cap by about 100. Rated battlegrounds generally grant a higher cap than arena.


Arena games are the pinnacle of PvP. They are basically a deathmatch between teams of equal sizes in a small arena. Three different brackets are available: 2v2, 3v3 and 5v5. The PvP combat is specifically balanced for 3v3 matches, thus 3v3 is generally considered the main bracket of arena.

It is vital that you play a team setup that is actually working. For example in 3v3 you rarely see a tea consisting of 3 damage dealers, as having one healer is standard, but a few teams have been successful playing such a setup. The combos that are good differ from patch to patch due to the changing class balance.

Like rated battlegrounds, Arena games are rated as well. There are two ratings involved. The match making rating (MMR) is used to find opponents that are - in the best case - as strong as you are. The MMR starts at 1500. The personal rating determines your placement on the ladder and Conquest cap, but by a smaller amount than the RBG rating does. Arena teams have been removed in season 14 with patch 5.4, bringing the system in line with the RBG system and hopefully making it easier to play with your friends.

Being at the top of the ladder in your battlegroup will possibly grant you the chance to receive a special arena title, like achievement_featsofstrength_gladiator_07Gladiator.



If you have any questions, suggestions or mistakes to point out, feel free to reply here or send me a personal message.

Edited by Marco
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Quick thank you - i have recently started to get interested in PVP and found this guide very helpful and concise. Especially appreciated the suggestions about prioritizing gear acquisiton.


See you on the Killing Floor!



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Thank you for this guide. It really is helping me in finally getting into PvP after 10 years of playing WoW!

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Hi, really helpful guide, but as a total noob, I play the game for about a week, I have few dump questions: First from where can i buy this gear(is there diffrence between the vendors or all pvp vendors sell the same - for example the one in ogrimar and this in other city. And also is it better to go fot two two piece sets or one full? Thanks in an advance:)

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