There are three main forms of PvP item level modification: alternate PvP item levels, where PvP gear's item level is boosted upon engaging in PvP activities; the PvP item level minimum, where all gear is scaled up to a minimum item level in designated PvP areas; and the PvP item level cap, where all gear is scaled down to a specified maximum within designated PvP areas.
Any piece of gear that is currently being modified by a PvP item level will state its adjusted item level, followed in brackets by its true item level, e.g., "Item level 590 (522)".
Alternate PvP item level
All PvP gear automatically scales up to a higher item level as soon as the player enters a designated PvP area (including battlegrounds, arenas, skirmishes and Ashran), or engages in (or is engaged in) PvP combat anywhere else in the world. Each piece of PvP gear will have its alternate PvP item level displayed on its tooltip.
The item level boost can only be triggered through the stated forms of PvP participation, but once activated will function against all targets including PvE targets for as long as the player is participating in PvP.
PvP item level minimum
All gear (including PvE and PvP gear) will be scaled up to a minimum item level in designated PvP areas, including battlegrounds, arenas, skirmishes and Ashran. The level will be lower than that of current season and even starter PvP gear, but will reduce the disadvantage suffered by newly levelled characters and those who have not yet acquired higher quality gear. However, items below a certain level will not be scaled up.
The PvP item level minimum will be increased each season in order to keep up with current gear. As of November 2014, all items at or above item level 560 will be scaled up to item level 650 in level 100 PvP areas.
PvP item level cap
The PvP item level cap is a mechanic introduced in patch 5.3 that scales down the gear of all players in all designated PvP areas to a specified maximum item level. The season's current conquest point PvP rewards are exempt from the cap.
The current item level cap can be ascertained by participating in one of the related forms of PvP, while wearing non-PvP gear above the cap; the gear's item level will be scaled down, with its adjusted item level reflecting the current item level cap.
The item level cap was introduced along with a number of other changes to PvP in patch 5.3, in an effort to improve players' experience and to make PvP more accessible to players not already possessing appropriate gear. As explained in the PvP Gear in Patch 5.3 blog:
- We also believe that the changes will make it easier for those who aren’t PvPing now to give it a try or possibly motivate those that play only rarely to play more often. While they will do less damage than a player with PvP gear, they will have the same survivability, Stamina and Resilience. The damage differences shouldn’t be so great that they will be ‘insta-gibbed’ by the average opponent in PvP gear either. We expect these improvements will make PvP more fun for both hardcore players who want a more even playing field, as well as competitors who just want to dive in and have some fun without feeling the need to assemble a specialized gear set.
Despite these changes, Conquest (and Honor) gear should still prove superior for use in PvP:
- Since all [non-PvP] gear will be scaled down to the Conquest’s item level of 496 as a maximum, the Conquest gear will always be better by a significant margin because it will have PvP Power on it (which doesn’t count toward the item’s item level budget). Even Honor gear, with its considerable amount of PvP Power, will provide more damage in PvP than normal and Heroic raid gear. For example, a Heroic Thunderforged weapon and a Conquest weapon will be the same item level in PvP, with the same amount of primary stats, secondary stats and stamina. While the PvE weapon will do very good damage, it will still do less damage than the Conquest weapon due to the presence of PvP power on the PvP weapon.
Overall PvP item level
- Within PvP areas
The combined effect of these mechanisms within PvP areas is that the item level of all gear is brought to within a specific range: no lower than the PvP item level minimum and no higher than the PvP item level cap. In addition, PvP gear will be boosted by several item levels, giving it an advantage against otherwise comparable PvE gear. This design reduces the disparity between highly and poorly-geared players, while still allowing PvP gear to provide advantages over PvE gear of the same item level.
- Outside PvP areas
In PvP encounters outside designated PvP areas, only the alternate PvP item levels will activate, allowing players in PvP gear to gain an edge over PvE gear-equipped players. The PvP item level minimum and PvP item level cap will not apply.
Patches and hotfixes
- Hotfix (2014-11-17): An item now needs to be at least item level 560 or above before being eligible to be scaled up to 650 in level 100 Battlegrounds and Arenas.
- Patch 6.0.2 (2014-10-14): Alternate PvP item levels and the PvP item level minimum added.
- Patch 5.4.0 (2013-09-10):
- Grievous Gladiator gear is now exempt from the item level ceiling.
- The item level ceiling will increase at a rate of 1 item level point per week until it reaches a maximum of 512.
- Patch 5.3.0 (2013-05-21): Added.