Well, Cynwise gave a great overview on the problem with PvP scaling as it’s currently implemented. I can’t add too much maths to it, but I did step into a Warsong Gulch and did science of my own last night in the 85-89 bracket, locked.
I took a couple of screenshots to compare later. My rogue is offensively geared- nearly in full Mists gear- and I do fairly well against geared level 89s. Of course, as a rogue, I’m always going to chose targets of opportunity than jump into the middle of a fight, but that’s just how it works.
I stepped into Warsong Gulch and…woah.
Also, of note especially for plate wearers, is that my armor also degrades as level increases- so my effective health is lower than it seems through simple math.
Observations From the Gulch
Good players are still good players. Good gear is still okay gear. Players at the “bottom” of the bracket- low-level characters with mediocre or bad gear- suffer because of the scaling. They have more HP and might live a little longer, but I was essentially killing a level 89 who was still clad in Cataclysm greens. It was no more challenging than it was previously, and they were able to do less damage to me over the course of a skirmish, because of stat decay on things like hit, haste, critical strike, and mastery.
As it stands now, those in the locked and leveling brackets would do better by only engaging in battlegrounds if they are at the very top of their bracket, where gear that is budgeted for the “effective level” for that bracket is available. If twinking survives, it will only be at the tops of brackets, and players that previously had a fighting chance (such as well-geared free to play players at level 20) will be nothing more than sitting ducks with artificially inflated health pools.
The Problem With Gear
The main issue here lies in the fact that increasingly better gear is available at the top of many leveling brackets- especially from 55-59, 75-79, and 80-84. In the case of the 80-84 bracket, Mists of Pandaria blues have polluted the available gear, giving some players at the top of the bracket gear that is a higher item level than heroic Dragon Soul gear. The thing about most locked brackets is that the truly good gear exists in a vacuum- sure, green gear from the next expansion in the series is available a few levels before one might actually step into that expansion’s content- but this changed with Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria. In Mists, especially, there are pieces of gear that only requires level 80 to equip- the gear jumps down to not only the previous expansion, but into Wrath of the Lich King, as well.
The problem comes in when a relatively balanced environment is disrupted. One of the more appealing things to some people, about locked brackets, is that “Best In Slot” gear will rarely change. Once you have geared, you have geared. Mists changed this by reaching back two expansions and providing gear rewards that were more powerful than anything in Cataclysm and obtainable across the 80-85 level spread, and not just isolated to levels 84 and 85 at the end of the previous expansion. I like to think that the possibility of these items being used for PvP was discussed and intended, but with the current state of battleground scaling, it doesn’t quite appear that way.
Other Changes, and a Solution
The main problem that battleground scaling seems to try and fix is the fact that there are, quite easily, characters in the low-level brackets who have geared to their best and are at the top of the bracket, and lower level players have a hard time fighting on equal ground with these players. However, the current implementation is not effective at solving this issue. Stamina is an extremely important stat before resilience is available, in the unlocked brackets, and it seems like the aim of the battleground scaling is largely just to grant artificial stamina to players in the form of an increased base health pool. Another change that points to this is that the favorite drink of many players in these low-level brackets, Rumsey Rum Black Label, used to grant 15 stamina before patch 5.2.
If the main problem lies in the fact that, even at levels 85-89, there is a disparity in health between the bottom and top of the bracket, scaling as it is implemented is not the correct solution. Rather, a better solution would be to introduce static health pools among the brackets. Those at the bottom would have their health raised and equalized with those at the top, but their secondary stats would not degrade. Those at the top would be largely unchanged, but they would have higher attack power, spell power, and armor, to counterbalance the better scaling for secondary stats found at lower levels. Resilience would need to be adjusted for this at levels below the 85-89 bracket (and, honestly, should have been adjusted already to account for the 40% base resilience at the end of Catacylsm), but would remain a very beneficial stat to have.
As it stands, however, Blizzard has failed to fix the problems present in the leveling PvP brackets, and as only made the environment worse for the players at the bottom of the bracket, who are unable to acquire gear suited to their artificially boosted level. I hope that they will reconsider the scaling as it s now and implement a different fix, but I remain pessimistic.