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How does balancing work in World vs World?

My friend keeps telling me that players are always "Balanced" in WvW and I keep telling him that with my gear as a level 59 thief, I'm not as effective as a level 80 thief - when we trade backstabs, I deal around 700 damage while the opponent thief backstabs for over 4000.

Can someone explain to me how this works?

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See @ObliviousSage's answer, but note that the amount of backstab damage is dependent on much more than the level of your gear and even the number of trait points available. Much of it is dependent on your specific build, which stats your gear boosts, what traits you have selected, what sigils you have on your weapons, whether you're behind your opponent, etc. A good dagger/dagger thief can burst you down in a couple of seconds and combine things like steal damage, lightning (from sigil), CnD, venom, etc. with the actual BS for over 15k damage. If you survive that, a heartseeker should do.... –  Amos M. Carpenter May 23 '13 at 5:17

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

It's complicated, but you're right that you're not as well off as a true level 80 character.

Your attributes are scaled up to what they would be if you were level 80 (916 in each attribute). The footing is perfectly even for this aspect.

Your equipment is scaled up to have the same relationship to a level 80 character that it normally has to your level. So if you have a green-quality chest piece that's 2 levels lower than your current level, it's scaled to give the stats of a green-quality level 78 chest piece. This aspect can actually favor lower level players (since it's easier to keep your gear level appropriate at lower levels than at higher levels, until you hit 80) if they have very good gear for their level, but most people who are serious about equipping their level 80 characters will have rare (yellow) or even exotic (orange) level 80 gear in most/all slots, which a lower level character just won't be able to match.

You don't gain any trait points. True level 80 characters will have more trait points than you, which means they'll be getting more attribute bonuses from traits than a lower level character will.

TLDR: Yes, you and your equipment are scaled up to their level 80ish equivalents, but true level 80 characters will still have better attributes than you thanks to having better gear and more trait points.

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+1, this answer pretty much covers it. You can also read more on the wiki page, including how the inverse works, i.e. downscaling. –  Amos M. Carpenter May 23 '13 at 4:55

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