Adrian Archer: The Classic Arena Tournament is a perfect celebration of TBC Arena

We spoke to the Blizzard Entertainment's WoW esports team to talk about the Classic Arena Tournament for TBC Classic

Classic Arena Tournament Burning Crusade
Blizzard has announced the Classic Burning Crusade Tournament. Se spoke with Blizzard regarding the event. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.

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With the Burning Crusade Classic launch on June 1, players have been levelling, getting their attunements and pre-bis collected. But for some, the game has only just started. As of June 15, TBC Arena has kicked off, and to celebrate, Blizzard has announced the Classic Arena Tournament event in July, with a $30,000 USD prize pool.

Gaming Verdict managed to sit down with Anthony Vitale, Associate Esports Manager at Blizzard, along with Adrian Archer-Lock, the Associate Product Manager on WoW Esports and former Pro WoW Arena player. We spoke of the excitement about TBC, the Classic Arena Tournament’s purpose, building on WoW Classic esports’ future, and the key PvP differences between WoW PvP in Retail and TBC.

So much has changed since 2007 and 2021. What are the big changes we are revisiting, and what is exciting about revisiting the old school Arena?

Anthony: Well, I think it’s pretty exciting that we have people being able to experience the game, who haven’t experienced Burning Crusade at all. So I probably would start by calling that out. I think it’s exciting that there’s going to be new players who came into World of Warcraft after TBC’s launch.

Another big change is there’s going to be a lot of people who play the game differently, and who think about the game differently. That’s why I think it’s going to be exciting to kind of reintroduce this very first era of Arena to a lot of new players.

Likewise, there are some mechanical differences that have been gone over in a blue post that I couldn’t detail by memory here, but some of it is like where the rating starts out. Making sure that earning ratting is congruent with how it was in the past, so that shouldn’t feel too different. But I think everybody in the excitement around Arena, having already participated in so many other Arena tournaments since then, I think, is going to be a lot about how people approach the game mode, while also exploring it for the first time.

This Classic Arena Tournament is a perfect celebration of Arena coming out in TBC and that’s definitely something, with the hype and excitement around TBC, and the number of people that are just enjoying the game. – Adrian Archer-Lock

Speaking of going back to how things were in 2007, we are even seeing the return of tornadoes in Nagrand Arena. What are your thoughts on bringing them back?

Anthony: You know I don’t have any specifics on the exact reason why we brought the tornadoes back, other than I know that I understand that they were a feature originally back in TBC. I know that the Classic Arena Tournament is harkening back to that same feeling from before. 

I think the tornadoes are a really fun way to show that Arenas were quite different than how they are now. with you know with those types of mechanisms put towards the end of the rounds.

But it’s exciting it’s going to be on Nagrand Arena. A lot of people are going to be jumping into Nagrand Arena today, and I think the tornadoes are going to be something that people will be talking about, in terms of how they swung the match in their favor, or didn’t swing a match in their favor, and I see a lot of excitement from people when they encounter them.

Adrian Archer: Yeah I was watching Chanimal stream this morning and they already had an encounter with the tornadoes. I think for things like that it goes back to your first question of the big differences with Arenas back in the day and now. People are so much more knowledgeable and everyone goes into it with ‘this is what I think is meta’, and ‘this is what I think is going to be played in the top level of competition’. 

I think all these little things like tornadoes throw a wrench in that, and they change things up. And certainly from the viewership standpoint like when you’re watching the games as I love just watching you know, in the players on beta and stuff like that it’s very fun seeing something come in and impact them. Sometimes they are surprised by it; sometimes they use it to their advantage. I think it was Hydra I was watching tornadoes to kite Rogues. It’s like dam these really gifted players are coming in and using the environment to their advantage, it is really cool to see.

Some things like tornadoes bring variances to the actual games. But from season to season, there could be changes to things like that too. So, it brings variance to the overall expansion as well. I don’t know, though it is really fun to watch from my perspective.

At some point in the game, those tornadoes were taken away from Nagrand. Was there a reason for it, such as competitive integrity?

Adrian Archer-Lock: yeah I mean I can I can talk to it, I suppose the tornadoes were active in season 1 so we’re fine to say they’ll be active in the Classic Arena Tournament. The only map they are available on is Nagrand, so it is only one of the three maps. To be honest, the variance they add is part of the map design. Nagrand is a very even map, and lots of the community tournaments and standard AWC events start on Nagrand.

The tornados can evenly impact both teams, so it doesn’t really affect competitive integrity, and even though it adds more variance to the betterment of the gaming experience.

Anthony: Yeah you hit the nail on the head, Adrian. Nagrand is a very open map with spaces to get away from it, so it’s an interesting place to add them at first. We’ll see how it goes for the first season, and if we look forward to future (CAT) seasons, potentially it could change. But, for this season now, people are excited to see how they interact with their own games.

Following on from changes from retail AWC to TBC Arena, there is no dampening mechanic, and TBC Class design means some classes don’t have stuns, etc. What are your thoughts on this and what should viewers be ready for?

Anthony: So I think one of the most exciting parts about TBC Arena that isn’t quite followed or focused anymore is player buffs and the removal of those buffs. I think that is something that is going to be really interesting to focus on how players use their buffs, purges and dispels to control the ride of the match. And I think the differences in cooldowns between classes is important. So tracking the optimal cooldowns is going to be common practice here.

I think right now players are going to jump into twos to try and figure out how it all works, the differences in cooldowns, and the focus on the dispel meta.

Adrian: I have a 70 Shadow Priest, and I know, one of the things I’m going to be thinking about a lot is mana because. In mainline (retail wow), classes have different resources now. Shadow has Insanity and Void form, but in classic, they are a mana hungry class. I think people with mana burns, just like, that’s one of the additional things to think about.

I know one of the conversations AV(Anthony) is having with our crews and talent internally is how do we want the UI to look so we can tell the best story in these matches. In mainline, lots of things like how does someone’s Combustion line up with a Cloak of Shadows, you know its cooldown trading and often a huge factor.

In TBC, while there is big cooldown to watch for; Bloodlust springs to mind. There are other factors to think of like dispel meta, mana, etc. Our job for this tournament is to A. work with the casters t convey that to the audience, especially someone who is watching for the first time. Secondly, the visuals of the UI, making sure we are telling that story. But yeah, either way, there are completely different win conditions and that will be exciting to watch as it’s the first time we have done this in like 15 years.

One thing you spoke a lot of is mana burns. How are classes like Warlocks and Priest managing it, who are the targets for it, what is the thought process of using it?

Adrian: It entirely depends. Classes like Rogues and warriors don’t have mana, but a lot of the Ranged DPS, including Hunters, and the Healers use mana. Mana is a very limited resource, and to be honest, it’s going to be interesting to see what the teams prioritise.

The instinctive thought is like: ‘Oh, if I drained the manna from the healer, he can’t heal anymore, and we win the game that way.’ But actually, I’ve seen a lot of other strategies, for example, if you can mana burn a mage, they become essentially useless for the rest of the game. Obviously, people can stop them from drinking to get their mana back. It is something that you know, could be a winning strategy, but I genuinely don’t know what the best strategy is.

It is one of the reasons I’m super excited for the Classic Arena Tournament. You know I want to find out what the best players are doing so I could go to do it myself, but right now I think it’s anyone’s guess, but I do think that’s going to be a big part of the gameplay.

Anthony Vitale: Yeah, I play a warrior so I don’t have any mana, and I like to chase people around with my Deep Thunder but that’s that. So, I’m going to learn a lot about it from my teammates I’m sure, especially the Druid that I plan on playing with about how difficult it is to manage mana. But yeah, it is an exciting part of what I think is going to be kind of the top tier players is focus on how to control it.

There have been a few community Arena events recently, such as the OTK TBC Arena event. Did you get any inspiration or insight from it?

Anthony: So we did get a lot of inspiration from it, not necessarily from the show, but the excitement around the show itself, I mean we were excited about the show as well there’s a lot of exciting people on that, and there were players who haven’t competed in a long time, but also players who’ve been competing, or were competitors way back in the day. Some are from Wrath and some even from the Burning Crusade era. We were excited to see that happen so early on in the beta and people were kind of attracted to it.

In terms of the actual spectator tooling what’s interesting is a lot of the observer tools and addons that we put into the game were tested by that tournament. So, we had a great deal of feedback afterwards on how it worked and how some of these tools that we moved over from the retail version of the game synced up with TBC classic we found some bugs. We got a lot of great information out of that in terms of not only the excitement that we see for the tournament and the game, but also the tooling to make the broadcast for the Classic Arena Tournament the best it could be.

Adrian Archer-Lock: My personal favourite part of it was (I don’t know how much of the podcast you saw) one of the members of OTK/(Esfand) was a talent for the show. He did these green screen live interviews where he just basically green screen interviewing the players. firstly it’s just a stroke of genius I love, seeing that kind of stuff like super integrated into the game. Secondly, it gave it a really nice human to feel and that’s one of my favorite things about when I’m playing classic myself. That feeling of guilds being super impactful, the players you play, needing to work super close to each other to achieve your goals, and I think OTK tapped into that really nicely. I really enjoyed watching the show.

From the OTK tournament and through player knowledge, we know that Lock compositions are very strong in TBC. Could we see some changes if they are too strong, as seen with Paladin seals and Feral Druid DPS before launch?

Adrian: I don’t think so, since we’re not working on the Dev team directly perfect that’s a question that we’re really in a good position to answer um I will say that one of the things that’s been really exciting about working on this esports project, the Classic Arena Tournament is that the Dev team have been super excited and we’ve been working really closely, in collaboration with them. You know talking about things like the tornadoes you talked about earlier and some of the other decisions like how will games end.

There are different challenges when it comes to TBC. And the Dev team have been super super close in coordination with us on those things. And for sure you know if we’re seeing one composition like Warlock/Priest dominating the tournaments then that’s something that we’re continuing to talk about. But I can speak to you now if there are plans to then go and say okay well, should we buff or nerf enough this class? Etc.

Obviously one of the big things with TBC there has been this talk of some changes, which is a conversation that I know the Community and the Dev team follow very closely and very mindful of. Like when a change is appropriate and when it’s not.

So, there is nothing that we could say on that one today. But it’s definitely something where you know we constantly talk about it. Arena is a huge part of TBC so I wouldn’t rule out anything, else I wouldn’t say anything is going to happen either.

Read More: TBC Arena Tier List.

At the start of the year, Blizzard spoke of doing alternative events outside of the MDI and AWC. Would you say the CAT is a one-off or could it become its own thing?

Anthony: The plan for Classic Arena Tournament is definitely to celebrate the reintroduction of Arena which is starting today with the Arena rating coming back in. And so the plan for Classic Arena tournament right now is to be a single tournament will. Would we like to do more Classic Arena Tournaments in the future? I think so. But we have not announced anything in terms of like any ongoing classic Arena tournaments or anything to that nature. But we are very excited about the one that’s coming up, we hope it’s a big success so that you know we, the Community gets behind it and we can maybe even do some more.

Adrian: Honestly, I’ve been having so much fun with this kind of one-off style tournaments this year for WoW esports. Like World of Warcraft is such a big game and, with Classic continuing to grow, the game is only getting bigger, right? Like it has got these two mainstream branches now and one of the things that was really nice for the one-off of MDI was it allowed us to kind of go to an environment and test a brand-new format and see you know, do we like this format as something we’d want to pursue further in future.

I think when we were talking about it, and when we saw the Community reaction to the tournament the answer on most of our boards was Yes, this is something really exciting let’s look to do more of it in future without kind of committing ourselves to a huge season, initially. This Classic Arena Tournament is a perfect celebration of Arena coming out in TBC and that’s definitely something, with the hype and excitement around TBC, and the number of people that are just enjoying the game. Doing more is definitely something we want to do, even if we don’t have anything to announce firmly today.

Looking back to 2007, one of the first-ever official Blizzard tournaments was 5V5. What was the thought process of making this a 3V3 and not 5v5?

Anthony: Well, we chose three 3v3 at first, because we felt like it would focus really well on like the balance between all three of the brackets. But we understand that there’s a lot of people like I was saying, who jumped right into 2s as their very first version because for them it’s very accessible and you can try double DPS and things like that.

Five be five similarly you can kind of pile everybody and all of your friends and make. This death ball comp or you know, maybe you focus a little bit more healer heavy and try to outlast your opponents so five the five definitely has a place. I’d love to explore the opportunity to do tournaments for all brackets so that’s something that I’m excited about. Though we feel like 3v3 is the best balance between how long a match should end up being for people to watch and enjoy. It also adds that spice, that extra element of skill that a three-player team requires. We’re really excited to see how it turns out for burning crusade it’s, as you said something that Burning Crusade changed to eventually but didn’t start out as, so it’ll be exciting to see how a season one tournament looks with only three-player teams.

Adrian: Yeah, yeah, the Community typically gravitates towards 3v3 as the most competitive format I think it’s fair to say. In my opinion, I used to love playing 5s like that’s what I am super excited about. Like AV, I would love the idea of doing something with that.

I think even my first rank one title way back was in 5s, so I have a lot of attachments to that bracket. Um, but I think it makes sense that you know as a celebration of competitive Arena, the Community normally favors 3v3 for the reasons AV just went through. And I think it’s the perfect kind of starting point there for what that should look like in the first tournament.

Both 2s and 5s are competitive. All of them have really high-end rewards in Classic so there’s a lot of opportunity for sure.

The CAT is not the first time you’re running Classic esports events, with the WSG and AB events in Classic. What have you learned from those events that you can bring to the CAT?

Anthony: So just for a little bit of background I’m relatively new to the team I joined just this year. But I’ve been in Blizzard for over 10 years, and I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for much longer than that. Classic is my favorite game and so actually part of the reason why I joined the team was the excitement around the Warsong Gulch Summer Bowl as well as the Fall Conquest and Arathi Basin last year. We learned a lot from those tournaments, in terms of not only like the size of teams, how people interact with our system for putting teams together, and seeing how difficult it is for people to field larger teams.

But we also got a lot of input from the broadcast side making sure that we have a broadcast that looks uniquely Classic. While still, you know, being able to use a lot of the elements that we currently have for the other broadcasts that people enjoy so much. So, bringing in a lot of those elements there, we did increase our budget from last year to this year to be ready for the excitement that we felt was coming with the launch of Arena. We got a lot of great feedback from then and we’re also going to see a couple of the casters who we felt did a great job during the Summer Bowl and the Fall Conquest. Venruki, Ziqo and Supatease will be joining the desk, and then we also have some special guest commentators who will help kind of add to the excitement.

We know that people are hungry for Classic content that’s a whole subset of players who really love Classic and don’t quite see it as often on Twitch or YouTube. We’d love to show them more and that’s that’s kind of the inspiration behind is building on last year for sure.

Adrian: Classic as a game and the Community is very different from Retail. We’ve got some really exciting stuff in over broadcast package that we’ve levelled up this year and it’s going to be ready for TBC. Without giving too much away, we also have some exciting kind of new styles of video content there’s like a lot of cool stuff that’s coming in that space. As AV said, you know, bringing some of the favorite talent back to the show plus some new faces that I think people can be very excited to see on the show, for the first time. If you think of everything that happened in that show last year, which was already a very good foundation for Classic, in my opinion, it is being levelled up across the board.

Plus the gameplay is going to be much faster-paced 3s. We’ve seen how fast that was already from some of the tournament’s you discussed earlier, as I just think it’s gonna be a really good experience and I’m just excited to watch.

Activision-Blizzard is in a YouTube exclusivity deal. How come The Great Push and CAT are on Twitch?

Adrian: yeah so we still are YouTube exclusive, for our main esports programs on World of Warcraft which is there in the Arena World Championship, and the Mythic Dungeon International.

Some of these other events that we’re experimenting with this year, you know this TBC event isn’t really an experiment more so just kind of a celebration of TBC and Arena launch. But The Great Push was much more of a kind of ‘hey let’s experiment with this brand-new format.’ It wasn’t really in the same kind of competitive vein that you would see with the fully fleshed out MSI with a $300,000 prize pool.

The Classic Arena Tournament is not part of that main programming, which is how come, you know we just want to broadcast it everywhere, we still have it on the main channel on YouTube. But we also want to make sure that we’re reaching out to audiences across different platforms that we have exposure to. And then I think this TBC thing is kind of another example of that right. It’s an event where our goals are just to kind of celebrate World of Warcraft Arena with our community at large.

That means you know finding them on YouTube and having all the great VoD repositories there, finding them on Twitch where a lot of our players are playing. I think that’s kind of the great thing about being able to be everywhere for this tournament.

You mentioned bringing back casters for TBC. What has it been like for them getting into TBC?

Anthony: Well, at least the stream that I watched the most lately has been Venruki’s stream and I can confirm that he’s been playing quite a lot of Burning Crusade (Adrian laughs – ‘Quite a lot.’) He is amazing at Retail as well. I know that he’s ready for Burning Crusade. Ziqo and Supatease are the same, they were excited when we were talking about it. I would say we were all in College, but maybe even younger when Burning Crusade first came out. We all have fond memories about it, and I think it’s reignited their BC engines if they were not already you know on full blast.

But yeah, the translation from Retail to TBC I think is going to be relatively smooth for them. I think a lot of the mechanics and everything still applies. And they’re great casters so you know we’re confident that their ability to convey what they’re seeing is going to be top-notch. The prep that I know that they’re putting into it has been a lot. I’ve been catching it on stream and it’s exciting.

Adrian: Yeah I saw the clip of Ziqo. He has like three Mages, and he was like multi-boxing between each one manually. He’d pull a pack on one screen, then would start drinking, pull the pack on the next screen. They’ve been going ham, and I mean some of those guys to like they just love Warcraft PvP right, it doesn’t matter what expansion you throw them in it doesn’t matter what Arena or battleground.

Venruki and Ziqo had that epic duel in which I remember, which tournament was was it the Tips Out tournament last year. Where it was like the semi-final and they went head-to-head and had this insane Mage v Mage duel. These guys just live and breathe Warcraft PvP and you know I think there’s not a single format that they couldn’t cast and excel at, so I think they are absolutely great.

A question for you Adrian. I know you are a Priest player at heart so what are your thoughts on playing a TBC Priest?

Adrian: I really like old school Disc Priest. So I actually used to main Disc like way back. I didn’t play original Vanilla but I did start in TBC. The old design of yes you’re very squishy you can get killed easily, your mana is not super great, but then your offensive capabilities and getting Shadow fiend too, which is a super powerful tool only if you can use it well though. If it gets CC and or feared whatever it is a bad Shadowfiend. And what I think it has like a 4 min cooldown in TBC?

I love the kind of high-risk reward of Disc and I mean Disc Priest is clearly one of the Healers we are going to see in the Classic Arena Tournament. Since I’ve been playing Disc and Shadow Priest it’s something I’m very excited to see.

The only spell I would love to have which we’ll have to wait until later expansions for is Penance. I love Penance, I think that was my favorite added ability to Disc Priest, but you know we get Shadowfeinds, Power Infusion, and Pain Suppression to play with.

It is such a raw experience playing Disc in TBC because every single global you do matters a lot. If you waste mana it’s going to be bad, if you use a damage global button and you get stunned afterwards and die that’s not good news.

I dunno, I could speak to this topic for like an hour, which I probably shouldn’t do. Uh yeah, I’m just excited to actually get into the Arenas after my workday today and actually just go play.

Anthony: Mee too!

And what about you Anthony? You mentioned you’re looking forward to playing Warrior in Arena. I’ve heard stories about the BoP Mace from Blacksmithing.

Anthony: Well yeah I mean I’m absolutely going to go mace spec in and hopefully plough through players with my Deep Thunder. But yeah, the Warrior for me it’s for PvP, it kind of just what feels right.

The movement, the various charges, the intervenes, swapping to my shield and getting good spell reflects off, that’s going to be a lot of fun. And then, of course, a well-timed mace proc is always welcome.

Adrian: Haha, we never say no to those.

Anthony: Yeah we always take those, especially if they come at the right time.

But I do plan on playing 2s at first, which is actually going to be very challenging for a Warrior and A Resto Druid. It will be fun, but it will be a challenge as there are strong casters out there I’ll have to watch out for. But past that, my goals aren’t super lofty. I don’t want to become a gladiator, but I do want a high enough rating to equip the shoulders, so 2k rating. I feel that I have to at least look cool if I am going to be playing Arena, so that’s my goal for this Season.

CAT Announcement

The Classic Arena Tournament kicks off on July 17-18 for its  Gamebattle qualifiers. Furthermore, fans can expect to watch the finals of the Classic Arena Tournament to take place on July 23-25.  Anyone interested in competing in the Classic Arena Tournament can head over to the Gamebattles sign-up page and register for the EU and NA events. The closing date for the CAT is July 9th, snapshotting individual player rating for seeding purposes.

For those looking to simply play TBC Arena, to top 10% of the players can earn the Vanquisher title, earning the juicy title and the other aesthetical features that come with it.