While Wizard 101 is fundamentally a PvE (Player vs Environment) game, the PvP (Player vs Player) arena system is mostly enjoyable, usually challenging, frequently lopsided, and sometimes frustrating. Let's take a look!
The arena is accessible from Unicorn Way. Diego now sells PvP reward gear, and the door to the area is right behind him. If you are a subscriber, then you may participate in "ranked" matches or "practice" matches. All other players are limited to practice matches only. Ranked matches affect your PvP ranking (think chess) and also award Arena Tickets (used to purchase gear from Diego). You gain 10 tickets for a win, 3 tickets for a loss, and no tickets if you flee! Though you do not gain any tickets for practice matches, you do have more control over the match as far as levels go - you can set the minimum and maximum levels.
With ranked matches, you can only join your friend's team. If you want to join a team of non-friends, you join one randomly (based on level and rank). After clicking on the practice or ranked match master, you may view matches taking place, quick-join a match or create your own team. For matches underway, you can discover other player's level and PvP rank by hovering over their school symbol.
Before you join a match, I suggest you take a look at your deck. There are probably some spells in there that work great in PvE, but maybe won't translate well to player opponents (threat-management spells and low-level minions come to mind). Buy another deck and use that for PvP - that way, switching is painless! Now, what kinds of things should go in there? That depends on what kind of matches you are playing. If you plan to only engage in 4v4 battles, then you wouldn't stock any minions. Likewise - if you plan to only solo duel, then you may not pack many area of effect spells. Regardless, the most common tactic is: blade yourself, trap the enemy, then hit them with your heavy-hitter spell. In low level PvP this may be all you need to win a match! However, as you gain levels, you'll rely more on shields, debuffs, and healing.
Low Level PvP (1-20)
Like I mentioned above - expect to last three to four rounds in this tier. Once an enemy player is buffed, you are trapped, and they have four pips - game over. A damage soaking shield could keep you alive, but those are expensive (pip-wise). The other shields may be helpful - if you run into the correct damage type. Spending some training points in the Ice school could help, as they have several useful shields.
Hopefully, you get to act first and you can beat them to the punch (or they fizzle). Of course, not all schools of magic are created equal when it comes to damage, so try to gauge your opponent's main school early.
Mid Level PvP (20-40)
Past level 20, the matches become more interesting - as you can't usually defeat an enemy player with one uber-prepped spell. At this tier, I suggest your wand be the same damage type as your bread-n-butter damage spells. Why? Well, a shield against your damage type could ruin your day, and if your wand deals the same damage as the Kraken you plan to cast next round - then you can remove the shield first with your wand and go from there. (Note: there is no shield which specifically targets Balance damage, so the Balance player has a little more freedom here). Of course, the opposite can be argued - if your wand is a different damage type than your big guns, then you can safely blade yourself and not waste that blade as you wand the opponent. As with most things - your mileage may vary. I've had excellent results with my wand mirroring my main damage type.
To defeat enemy players, the same general tactic works here - blade, trap, and burn. However, things don't move quite as fast. You and your enemies have more tools available to mitigate and heal damage. If you are in a team match, coordinate with your teammates and take down the enemy healers (if present). Also, try to fully defeat one wizard before moving on to the next. Even if that wizard gets healed, they lose all buffs and pips when they come back!
Some Weeds in the PvP Garden
Unfortunately, PvP is far from balanced.
After you register your team (or yourself), the system will attempt to place you in a match against similarly levelled and ranked foes. However, this does not always work and you could be facing much higher or lower level players. These matches are rarely challenging for the overpowered team and I'd rather wait for a more fair match than be thrown up against impossible odds.
Further, the team which acts first every round has a huge advantage as they can finish-off wounded enemy players, react to enemy spells, or get their shields up before the other team. Instead of randomly determining who acts first for the match, I think a better system would be to award the "initiative" to the lower powered team (compare levels, factor in PvP rank, etc).
Now comes my biggest problem with the current state of Arena PvP: disconnects. Right now, if someone disconnects, the whole match will usually "bug-out" with nobody getting the win and much time wasted. Some of my most memorable moments have been in PvP, and to have a match error during an epic battle is quite disappointing.
Heal over Time spells (HoTs) don't seem to revive defeated teammates in PvP, so use those with caution.
Not all is lost, however. For the most part, the people I duel in PvP are downright pleasant! Sure, there are jerks afoot, but I find the atmosphere to be more respectful than PvP in other MMORPG's. Also, the battles are more engaging than PvE fights - thus, the victory is sweeter and the stories more epic.
There's no risk involved in Wizard 101 PvP, so what's stopping you? Shrug and try your best when you're outgunned. Hopefully you or your opponent doesn't crash and you should have a good time against the most dangerous animal of all - your fellow wizard.