The year of the Rat is upon us and while this column usually relies on cold hard numbers and shies away from wild speculation and baseless assertions, I shall indulge my Lunar New Year festive mood to venture into some strictly amateur crystal ball gazing for the classes. As with any prediction - astrology, fortune cookies or otherwise - read this with a large pinch of deeprock salt, and understand that a positive attitude is always a good way to overcome defeats and disappointments.
This year is the beginning of a new 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac and is a better year than the last. However, many changes are still afoot, especially with Wrath of the Lich King on the horizon. The Rat's resourcefulness and enterprising nature gives rise to many opportunities along the way, and you'll have to be as nimble and smart as the Rat to take full advantage of them. Mobility and haste ratings become differentiating factors in winning Arena matches, as Resilience becomes increasingly ubiquitous when more and more players get their Arena gear.
Unfortunately, the Rat's intelligence has a dark side and manipulating the system for individual gain is certainly not above the Rat. Good examples are players selling entire Arena teams and other manipulation of the ladder system. There will also be more betrayals and confrontations - also known as drama, whether at the guild or Arena team level - as people grow increasingly restless during this period leading up to the expansion.
Let's look at what the year of the Rat means for the various classes in the Arenas, in no particular order.
This mainstay gladiatorial class gains more prominence this year. Warriors will continue to be rewarded for their durability and longevity in Arena matches. Warriors should stick to their tried-and-tested play style in the Arenas, while seeking to improve on their mobility. There might be some dissenting voices about the role that warriors play, and even their power level, but do not pay heed to them as you work your way steadily up the ladder. Do not develop tunnel vision as you are at your best when you fully grasp the combat situation at hand.
The opportunistic Rogue is probably most similar to the Rat: smarts and agility FTW! While the year of the Rat can be a successful year for rogues in the Arenas when speed becomes an even more critical factor, they need to be careful not to over-extend or over-commit themselves. Watch for good opportunities and strike hard, but always be mindful of counter-attacks that might put you at a disadvantage. Rogue players also need to watch their health, both physical and in their relationships; avoid excessively long hours of play and late nights. Remember your loved ones in real life!
Opportunities awaits the Mage in the year of the Rat. Mages should take good advantage of the changes to their class and make a focused effort to excel in the Arenas. Handle challenges with confidence and intelligence and they can be easily overcome. However, be wary of getting into Arena teams with members you don't know - especially in the smaller brackets. You might be dropped rather unceremoniously for the "proven" classes in those brackets. A good solution is to form your own team and recruit people who believe in mages as much as you do. Like rogues, mages also need to be careful of over-extending themselves. Stay on your toes and watch for the ample opportunities that will present themselves during combat.
The year of the Rat is a year of changes for the Priest. Being able to cast Fear Ward in Shadowform is probably just a sign of things to come. There is opportunity for performing well in the Arenas, but always watch your own health in combat. Be consistent or successes will slip away as easily as they come; avoid taking foolish risks. This is a good year to take a step back and take a good look at your class to truly find a play style or build that suits you in the face of oncoming changes.
Shamans will be rewarded if they continue to play intelligently and roll with changes. Some changes may seem like nerfs in the beginning but can work out well eventually, if you take the effort to learn and adapt. If you are a new level 70 shaman, you will find many challenges keeping you busy. However, these challenges are all surmountable, with a little bit of effort and perseverance. You may feel overlooked and under-appreciated at times, be prepared to step back from the game and give yourself some breathing space to spend time with loved ones in real life. It is, after all, just a game.
Tactics must be executed with thought this year for druids. Timing is key and look before you leap; other classes will be adjusting to your highly mobile play style and developing tactics to counter it. Always be aware of your surroundings and do not act hastily. This year will also be the year that druids will reap rewards from their preferred healer status in the smaller brackets, but consistency and situational awareness are still key to continued success in the Arenas. Tunnel vision and not watching your own health are pitfalls to avoid.
This often underrated Arena class will truly come into its own in the year of the Rat. Hunters need to overcome confidence issues and prove themselves to be reliable teammates in Arena combat. There are good opportunities all around to succeed as people warm up to the idea of good hunters, but beware of skeptics and naysayers. Avoid arguments; the best way to prove them wrong is to perform well in the Arenas. As with the other classes, while Arena success will come with perseverance and dedication, do not neglect your loved ones in real life.
Warlocks may be glad to know that this year brings many surprises. There will be both buffs and nerfs but warlocks should be pretty comfortable with both by now. Cries of "Locks are OP!" should slowly fade away and you will continue to be valued by more informed players in both your team and guild. There will be new opportunities for warlocks to shine in the expansion but players need to watch out for account theft. Protective measures in the form of anti-malware, prudent surfing and password management habits are key.
Not an entirely eventful year ahead for paladins, unfortunately, other than the perpetual risk of depleting your mana supply in matches. Be wary of naysayers, although you will find invitations from good 5-man teams rather forthcoming, especially if you are an established Paladin. Prepare for different combat situations by practicing diligently and discussing tactics with your teammates.
Do you have any predictions for your class?