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A History of the Game, Explanation of the Esports Scene, & Introduction to the Charlotte Phoenix

World of Warcraft (WoW) has been a staple for online gaming since its launch in 2004. The fourth entry in the Warcraft universe, the MMORPG expanded on where Warcraft III ended, and has had over eight expansions that have kept the game going strong for the last 16 years. The franchise has made over $9 billion in revenue, making it one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time. A back to basics version of the game, dubbed WoW Classic, doubled the amount of WoW players since its launch in August 2019. While player versus enemy (PvE) game modes, such as raids, have been one of the most popular features of the game, there has been another mode that is starting to gain more traction than ever.

Player versus player (PvP) ranked game modes have long existed in WoW, going back as early as the Honour System that was first introduced six months after launch. Arena battles, which became the standard of WoW esports, were introduced about a year later. Two teams of three would battle each other on a smaller map.

“I first got into WoW back when it first released.  A friend invited me over after school one day and showed me the game.  I was 100 percent hooked as soon as I played it,” said Charlotte Phoenix Co-Owner and Founder Josh “Shade” Richardson. “In the second expansion Blizzard launched their Arenas. I literally played one arena and stopped doing almost all PvE modes so I could devote time to PvP.”

The Arena has three main roles: Healer, DPS (damage per a second), and tanks. Between the three main roles there are different classes, such as druid, paladin, shaman, etc. Each class has different utilities and jobs, such as stuns or silences that help your team attack the enemy. While the meta constantly shifts with updates, most teams prefer to do two DPS and one healer. The first team to score a kill usually goes on to win the entire map, but sometimes its possible for the game to be turned around if the team that secured the first kill is weak.

2007 was really the beginning for the birth of WoW esports, with a grand prize of $40,000 on the line for the grand finals of that years WoW competition. It all went down at Blizzard’s annual convention, BlizzCon.

“When BlizzCon rolled around and they introduced the Arena World Championship, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Shade. “A convention center packed with tons of fans, screaming for their teams, lights, high production value; it all had me hooked.”

The Arena World Championships (AWC) has been joined by other WoW esports, such as the Mythic Dungeon International, but the AWC took a big leap last year. In 2019, the AWC had four different regions (North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia), with 8 teams from around the world advancing to BlizzCon for the finals. While the AWC has been moved online in response to Covid-19, and the Latin American region is currently inactive, the esport has not shown any signs of slowing down as competitors and teams alike look to the future.

“Since they have added a bigger prize pool and had to move everything online, I would love for them to use this momentum they have drummed up and attract other orgs into the space,” said Shade. “Spacestation Gaming just entered WoW the same time we did; Cloud9, Golden Guardians, Method, and many more orgs are involved.”

For the Charlotte Phoenix, their AWC team is a long-term investment that has already shown success.

“The team has been amazing.  After not even qualifying for the first AWC cup, we managed to qualify for the next 3 and earned enough points to finish 6th in North America and qualify for the AWC circuit. Our team is unstoppable when they are in the arena,” said Shade. “I think the biggest goal is to show people that we are an org that takes all esports seriously. No matter what we compete in we want to be one of the top teams. I strongly believe that our roster delivers on that and I believe that this is a title we can stay in for a long time.”

The North America BFA Arena World Championship Circuit, which the Phoenix will be competing in, starts August 22.

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