SWTOR's PvP Brackets Explained

I've been spending some time in all three PvP brackets recently and I have to say it's quite interesting how each of them has its own unique flavour.

Lowbie: 10-42

I freaking love the lowbie bracket and I'm clearly not alone. Just the other day I ended up in a lowbie arena with two people who both professed to have repeatedly created new characters just to play more lowbie PvP, even if it meant deleting higher level characters to make room in their roster.

What makes lowbie PvP so great is that it's relatively simple in terms of combat gameplay. If you want to interrupt someone, you can. If you want to knock someone off a raised platform, you can. At the higher levels there are often a variety of counters for pretty much every move you could think to make, which can be frustrating if you're not on top of it and end up doing things like wasting a knockback on someone who just used an ability that makes them immune to knockbacks.

This relative simplicity of combat seems to attract people who love to focus on objectives instead, which means that the bracket consists of this odd mix of utter newbies who are only just taking their first steps into PvP and don't have a clue what they're doing and hardened veterans who are on their umpteenth PvP alt just for the hell of it.

Huttball in particular can be amazing fun! I'm kind of lukewarm about it at max level, where I neither love nor hate it, but in the lowbie bracket you can actually have some really fantastic games. I think the reason for this is that the lack of cooldowns at this level makes it almost impossible for a single person to just grab the ball, run and score, as they are very vulnerable to being rooted and killed, and healing power is limited as well. This makes scoring a goal a proper achievement that requires teamwork and repeated passes, and you very rarely get one team just steam-rolling another - the character power to do so just isn't there.

Since there are fewer people queueing than for max-level PvP, there's also a bit more of a community feel, as you'll often see the same names over and over again - and since it's random whether they end up on your team or the enemy's, there are no hard feelings either. Mind you, the downside of this smaller community is that you'll get a higher proportion of arena pops than at max-level whenever there aren't enough people queueing, and during off-hours pops might stop altogether. Your mileage may vary on whether that really is a downside (maybe you really like arenas or only play during prime time anyway).

The one thing that's definitely a downside is that due to the nature of the lowbie bracket, you'll also run into the noobiest of noobs, so you need to have some patience with players who do really silly things such as run around without using their stealth on a stealth character, or are completely oblivious of what just happened when they end up catching the Huttball. They seem to make up only a minority in any case.

Midbie: 43-74

Midbie is a step up from lowbie in terms of combat as characters will have most of their abilities by now, but most will still be missing some of their cooldowns at least. There's a bit more pressure to know not just your own but other classes' abilities as well, in order to engage in proper counter-play.

Still, the more objective-oriented mindset from lowbie still continues in this bracket. If you just want to kill people, you can get faster and more frequent pops at max level after all. And with how quickly levelling is these days, you'll get there in no time simply by doing story quests, meaning that many people ending up in midbie PvP have usually made a conscious choice to be there instead of questing, similar to the lowbie PvPers.

Midbie also has to deal with the same double-edged sword of a smaller community, which means more name recognition but also slower pops and more arenas.

Max-level: 75

Max-level PvP contains both the best and the worst of SWTOR PvP. With the sheer number of abilities a level 75 character has, not to mention utilities and now also Tacticals and bonuses from different gear sets, there is a lot of room for skillful play. Most of my "I can't believe he just did that" moments in PvP have happened at max level, usually when I'm in awe of someone seemingly predicting my next move within barely a second and successfully countering it in that time. Unfortunately I myself am not that skilled at all this, despite of having all classes at max level, and I'm more likely to find myself frustrated at being outplayed in ways that are really hard to counter if you don't have sufficiently fast reflexes and intimate knowledge of every single ability in the game.

The large number of cooldowns, healing and self-healing also mean that you're more likely to end up in somewhat tedious stalemates, such as arenas going to acid, or nobody being able to cap the middle turret in Civil War.

Finally, you end up with all kinds of bored max-levels who don't really care about objectives and just want to pass the time killing each other with big numbers. I'm hardly surprised anymore when such matches are accompanied by one guy muttering to himself in a foreign language while another yells in all caps about how we're all terrible and should uninstall the game. The queue pops are fast, but basically you pay for the increased quantity with a decrease in quality as far as teamwork and community spirit go. Then again, sometimes a quick bout of face-smashing may well be all you're looking for that night.

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