Spotting the trends in match-ups and point gains
Back in The Burning Crusade, a buddy and I noticed something strange — when we’d queue on weekdays or late at night, we’d encounter an endless parade of double-DPS teams like Rogue/Rogue that would absolutely devour us and send our rating plummeting.
But if we queue’d on weekends, especially on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the casuals were out in force and we’d find ourselves stomping through the competition.
Of course, your battlegroup, your time zone, your rating and even the time of year all play in to how arena queues play out in World of Warcraft’s ranked arena matches. But with the right amount of experience and a willingness to experiment with different queue times and strategies, you could make a bumpy ride into the higher brackets a smoother one. You can also save your team some grief in the process.
Legally manipulating queues — the advantage is real
First, the obvious: There are going to be teams that have your number, and flavor-of-the-month combos that will provide headaches for the team you field. The best response is always to adjust your strategy, communicate on Ventrilo and try to take the other team out of their comfort zone by baiting them into making moves they don’t want to make.
But if you’re still encountering problems and bumping into the same team (and you will at some point, invariably), there’s no shame in (legally) manipulating the queue to your advantage. You can no longer abandon an arena and keep your points. But you can call a break if you’ve been stomped by the same Rogue/Mage combo four out of the last six games. In those cases, it’s wise to call an AFK, go grab a drink, and wait a few minutes before you requeue.
At peak hours, this should be enough to land you a different set of opponents. If it’s not, consider calling off the matches for the night, or at least for a few hours. There’s nothing worse than handing over dozens of arena points in one sitting to the same team because an empty queue is pitting you against the same combo every time.
Know when to queue, and when not to queue
Find out when your server’s peak hours are, and check your server’s time zone against that of the servers in your battle group. You’re much more likely to encounter casuals who are killing time with a few matches if you’re playing late on a Saturday afternoon or on a holiday weekend.
If you’re queueing at 3:30 a.m. on a Wednesday night, you’re asking to get stomped. The only people playing at that hour are insomniacs, day-shift workers, and obsessive, ultra-serious PvP hardcores who can’t wait an extra day to inflate their rating for that new mace or belt.
Back in the day, you could get a sense for who was queueing — at least on your own server — by standing in front of the battlemasters in Shattrath, Orgrimmar or Ironforge. The advent of queue-from-anywhere PvP has dispersed those crowds, but you can still get a feel for how populated the queues are by testing the waters.
If you’re waiting five minutes between matches and running into the same tough combos after a few matches, it’s time to give it a rest and come back when the queue is more active.
Understanding how WoW’s arena queues work
Other things you and your teammates should be asking yourselves, post-match: Do we understand how queues and rankings work? Do we understand the difference between actual and "hidden" rankings? Are we paying attention to the match summaries? Are we getting a good sense of how many points we’re gaining or losing after each match? And are we finding ourselves matched up against teams of similar hidden rating, or are their ratings higher or lower than ours?
These questions are important because the so-called "hidden rating" is a major factor in determining how many points you gain or lose. If you decide to queue during a high-traffic time on your battlegroup and you’re routinely matching up against teams with ratings 50 points or more below your own, you’re going to gain points slower, regardless of your overall record.
Understanding why ratings — and not win percentage — are most important
It’s important to understand the significance of hidden ratings for ranked teams. This is why you see teams with sub-.500 records in the high brackets — losses against teams with rankings upwards of 2k aren’t going to hurt as much compared to losses against 1700-rated teams. Especially when your hidden rating is, say, 1790. It’s also why a team in a sub-1500 bracket could conceivably have a winning record, yet stagnate in the middle brackets.
Likewise if you find yourself in an empty queue, piling up points against higher-rated squads that don’t match up well with your comp. Stay in the queue as long as you can — those opportunities are rare. If the opposing teams insist on re-queuing, you can take advantage of their carelessness by piling on the points.
Do your homework on queues and make your job easier
Ultimately it comes down to you, your teammates, the degree to which you communicate, and cooperation in executing your game plan. Those are all more significant factors in a successful arena team. But like a baseball manager who pulls his starting pitcher in the eighth inning to match a specialist against a dangerous slugger, doing your homework and knowing when to pick your battles can make the ride to the top brackets much easier for you and your team.