You see, in a recent Arathi Basin run, I was the only non-Pandaren in the group.
You read that right.
The Alliance had fifteen players: one Night Elf, fourteen Pandaren.
The Horde was nearly as bad: one Blood Elf (a monk), one Tauren (a Druid), thirteen Pandaren.
Orcs? Humans? What are those?
You know how some people were excited because the Pandaren capable of being on either faction meant that you couldn't rely upon silhouettes any more? In this scenario, you don't even bother looking at silhouettes; you just rely upon your add-ons. Due to the scenery, I felt like I was in some bizarre recreation of the Spanish Civil War, but with pandas. The only thing that was missing was a few Messerschmitts flying overhead. (Note to Gnomes and/or Goblins: make yourselves useful and build some Spitfires and ME-109s!)
Leveling via BGs is often something that goes in fits and spurts.
Unlike leveling via instances or questing, gear acquisition becomes a bit of a problem. Sure, you can use heirlooms to make up the bulk of your gear, but what if a) you don't have heirlooms for the class you're creating, or b) you can't afford or don't want to move heirlooms over across servers? Here are a few options:
- You can go do some questing to get a few pieces here and there, but the Old World's quests discourage cherry picking. In the pre-Cata days, you could do a quest here and a quest there, grab what reward you wanted, and then go on your merry way. Now, with the linear quest lines in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, you can't do that without running a lot of quests to get to the one you really want. Forcing you to quest through the majority of a zone kind of defeats the purpose of leveling via BGs.
- You can run the occasional instance, but you're at the mercy of whatever gear drops.* Instances, however, will level you very very fast, especially at low levels. If you're not careful, you'll end up leveling via instances instead of via BGs.
- If you've the cash, you can look through the auction house and rummage through the available gear. That has the advantage of speed, because you can quickly hunt through the AH in between BGs, but it's not very cost effective. But hey, if you play the AH already or are sitting on a pile of gold, why worry?
- If you don't mind being out in the world a lot between BGs, you can also craft your gear. The speed of BGs proccing these days --anywhere from 1-6 minutes-- means that you're either going to have to set aside some crafting time for your toon or you're going to just have to live with getting one or two items at a time in between BGs. For the gathering professions, however, you can also level fairly quickly, so you have to be careful that you don't outlevel the gear you're hoping to craft.
- Visiting the Silverwing Sentinels/Warsong Supply Officer and their Defilers/League of Arathor equivalents is a good way of supplementing gear at low levels. Once you gain access to Alterac Valley, another vendor opens up for use. While this isn't perfect --you have to travel a lot-- it will fill in gaps.
The net result of all this is that I've often found my toons undergeared in BGs, particularly when I'm up against toons with a full set of heirloom gear supplemented with the highest available crafted items. I may play BGs, but other people live them. It isn't until you get up to L78 and you run into the people with Cata greens that you see a disparity on the same level as in the lower three tiers of BGs between the haves and the have nots. When you're a toon with about half white gear going up against the heirloom equipped, all of the skill in the world isn't going to keep you from being one-shot. When my Rogue finally got enough Honor to buy and equip the heirloom dagger, my DPS and kills took a big jump. I didn't change my play style, I just added a really nice piece of gear, and that bit of min-maxing was all the difference.
Lara at the now sadly defunct Root and Branch blog had written a story encapsulating this disparity, entitled Don't Fret Your Pretty Little Head. Although she wrote from the perspective of instances, it also applied directly to BGs. I often wondered which was worse, the nerd rage of dungeon puggers or the nerd rage of the BG puggers, and I think that the prize has to go to BG puggers, because they can bitch and moan and whine and be anti-social without repercussion. If someone is an ass in an instance, you've at least got a shot at getting rid of them via vote kick. In a BG, you're stuck with them unless they go AFK, and believe me they know it. They're the ones always saying that the faction you're on sucks, that you suck, that you don't know how to play your class, that your mother had sexual relations with a turnip, etc.
But you know what? Gear matters, often more than skill. Sure, gear can cover up deficiencies in skill, but gear can also help you dominate beyond what skill can't provide. Skill isn't going to give you an extra 200 health in the L15-19 BGs, and being one shot is still being one shot. Additionally, how you acquire skill is more difficult than acquiring gear: you actually go out and play the game, take your lumps and learn how things work.
And you get told that you're an idiot. Frequently.
Who'd want to put up with that abuse when there's a nice, easy alternative in place?
For those who have the honor and/or gold, that is.
*I ran Shadowfang Keep to get the mats for the Rogue weapon, but discovered that the dagger I got from the Silverwing Sentinels was actually better. Go figure.
**The speed of BGs proccing these days --anywhere from 1-6 minutes-- means that you're either going to have to set aside some crafting time for your toon or you're going to just have to live