How to get ready for WoW Classic PvP

© Blizzard Entertainment.
Written by Elliot Gardner
After almost 15 years of World of Warcraft, we're heading back to where it all started, but PvP is a bit different these days – here's how things have changed.
Millions of World of Warcraft players – bright-eyed Battle for Azeroth fledglings and withered old WoW veterans alike – are chomping at the bit to jump into WoW Classic this summer. But it’s been a very long time since those legendary Vanilla days, and WoW has changed a lot in the meantime.
If you were looking to Classic as a brand new (or rather...old) world to conquer on the PvP scene, full of nubile characters to gank, you might be surprised by how different the game’s player vs player combat systems will end up being.
Maybe you’ve just misremembered how it all worked, or perhaps you’re fresh on the scene, but to stop you getting caught out we’ve highlighted some of the biggest differences between Battle for Azeroth and WoW Classic you can expect to see.

How it’ll all work

First off, it’s worth pointing out that much like 15 years ago, WoW Classic won’t be launching in its final state. Blizzard has announced that Classic will be rolled out using a six phase content model, with each phase slowly introducing the various dungeons, raids and other features that were found in the Vanilla game.
For those interested in PvP, what phase you play in has the potential to dramatically alter your experience. When Classic launches, there will be no formal PvP system in place, but you’ll still be able to duel players and cut down the other faction to your heart’s content. The official PvP ranking system will come in phase 2, the first Battlegrounds in phase 3, the remaining Battlegrounds in phase 4, and large-scale PvP objectives in Silithus and Eastern Plaguelands in phase 6.

Class design and PvP

Orc in Orgrimmar, World of Warcraft.
Back to basics means unique class identities and limited abilities
Class and ability design was completely different in Vanilla WoW. Blizzard’s evolving ethos of ‘bring the player, not the class’ has meant that over the years, most classes have had several abilities added to their toolkit to allow them to survive in a much broader array of situations. Stuns, silences, interrupts, stealth and mobility abilities are now seen across the spectrum of classes, but this wasn’t always the case. In Classic, there will be a return to a much more ‘rock, paper, scissors’ approach. Some classes were just plain outmatched by others, with some being seen as plain over or underpowered by the community. Much of the fun came from managing to pull off a win against a class that was supposed to outperform you.
The fact that there were far fewer abilities and longer cooldowns meant that timing your abilities could also be crucial. If you didn’t cast Divine Shield at the right time as a Paladin, you might feel the full brunt of a Pyroblast from a Mage. There was also less concern about wasting the time of players. Some abilities had much longer cast times and duration, and crowd control effects, such as polymorph, could leave you watching helplessly as a mage kills your friends for much longer than in WoW today.
You would also die a LOT faster. Being one or two shot was pretty frequent, as health and stat pools were much lower. And if you were undergeared and came across a player in the wild, good luck. Gear is scaled in Arena combat in WoW today so that PvP is based on skill. Not the case in Classic.

A different PvP ideology

Stormwind in World of Warcraft Classic.
No more Warmode; back to PvP Alts and Gurubashi Arena!
In Battle for Azeroth right now, toggling on the ability to fight the opposing faction – Horde or Alliance – just requires you to head back to your capital city and click the Warmode button. This was, of course, a relatively recent addition, being implemented near the end of the Legion expansion. Classic will go back to the days of PvP realms. In other words, if you’re not on a dedicated PvP server, the only way to engage in the faction war in the open world is to flag yourself manually. If you’ve decided to level a character on a PvE realm and want to head off to Stranglethorn to sneakily kill some Alliance, you should probably invest some time in that PvP realm alt.
WoW today is a sizeable esport thanks to the Arena system, but many forget that this was quite simply not a feature in Vanilla. There were the three Battlegrounds – Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin and Alterac Valley – which allowed you to engage in structured large-scale PvP, or if you really had a hankering for arena-style combat you could head to Gurubashi Arena, but this was a purely ‘player vs all’ affair, with you being pitted against everyone, no matter your faction. Duels, which are still in the game today, were much more commonly used as a method of determining skill, but there were still no rewards for taking part. Guilds entirely focused on duelling weren't uncommon, with players setting up their own rewards system and ranking structure.
Speaking of Battlegrounds though, you might find yourself missing a few mechanics you may have gotten used to over the years. The flag carrier in Warsong Gulch wasn't shown on the map like it is today. Part of the fun was stealthily darting behind trees and into buildings with the objective being hoping you’d not been spotted, or looking over the battlefield hoping to catch a flash of a red or blue for you to chase after. Alterac Valley was very different too, with the ‘reinforcement’ mechanic seen today not being implemented until the game’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Instead, the only way to win was to rush down the other side’s General, meaning the game had the potential to go on for much longer if teams were evenly matched or well-coordinated.

Rising through the ranks

Dungeon in World of Warcraft Classic.
The Dishonorable Kills system returns...
The ranking system for PvP was dramatically different in the old days too. Rather than ranking up by earning a set amount of Honor points like today, you would instead be tracked against every other player on your server.
You would still accumulate Honorable Kills by you or someone in your group killing someone in the opposite faction – be that in a Battleground or out in the world – but during the weekly reset (weekly scheduled server maintenance), the points you accrued throughout the week, known as Honor Contribution Points, would be totted up to calculate your PvP rating. You would still receive a ranking – everything from Private for the Alliance or Scout for the Horde, all the way to Grand Marshal or High Warlord – but this was not a season-based system as seen in the live game today, where you gain levels and unlock talents and rewards.
Instead, you rank up by earning a set number of points, with higher points coming from killing a high-ranking player, or a faction-leader, for example, but if you stopped engaging in PvP, your rank would deteriorate, with you dropping back down to lower rank titles. Because you’re evaluated against every other player on the server, the only way to improve your PvP rating in Classic will be to put more and more time into it.
Controversially, the Dishonorable Kill mechanic will also be implemented in Classic. This system punishes you for killing, or being part of a group that kills, an NPC of the other faction. The idea was that too many players were killing important quest givers or vendors, making things frustrating for the other faction. The point of a PvP realm was that it should be dangerous for your character, not for them to be waiting around for an NPC to respawn.
The problem though, was that this meant experiences like raids on capital cities, ended up punishing any PvP-focused player who took part. Dishonorable Kills could quickly lower your rank and were extremely frustrating for anyone who wanted to reach the higher echelons of the Honor system. Regardless, they’re being implemented along with Honor in phase 2, so if you’re hoping to become a PvP all-star in Classic, maybe steer clear of opposite faction quest hubs.
PvP has always been a huge part of the game. After all, what’s the point of playing in a huge world if you can’t compete against the rest of Azeroth, but how WoW catered to player versus player gameplay has evolved gradually over the 15 years the game has been live. Classic is going to be a different, exciting experience for the majority taking part once the game launches. Just make sure you’re prepared for pretty different old-school approach to player killing.