When I first started the arena, I thought "Hey, me and my friends can just get together and play." And we can, but there are limits to success based on composition. Some of the most successful teams are based on archetypal compositions such as Rogue, Mage, and Priest (RMP). These typical compositions are based on synergy among classes. Focused mana draining is another fairly successful team structure.
The key to successful arena play is usually to control the playing field. Drain teams deny their opponents the ability to attack or heal. Drain teams focus on characters that have mana depleting abilities, plus have a few other tricks up their sleeve to pull out when necessary. Your main contenders are Hunter, Priest, and Warlock.
Despite line-of-site issues, Hunters find a real niche in the Drain team composition. Hunters drain mana with a Viper Sting. The hunter can only have one sting on at a time. This can be added into a Beastial Wrath build by maxing out points in Improved Stings. The Viper sting lasts eight seconds and is on a fifteen second cooldown, so be prepared to reup your stings. Of course the Hunter must still help to physically control other opponents. A well time Scatter Shot or Freezing Trap can go a long way.
Pro-tip: f you're squaring off against a Cleanse-happy Paladin, you can try tricking them with a rank one Viper Sting; they'll waste their mana cleansing your sting while you invested few of your own resources into the debuff.
Shadow Priests are just plain evil. That being said, they are an excellent addition to any Drain team. Mana burn has no cool down. It's like ganking someone's handgun and pistol-whipping them with it. Improved Mana Burn reduces the casting of this spell from three seconds to two. Vampiric Touch helps ensure that your team has the mana advantage, and Improved Vampiric Embrace is a primary source of heath regeneration for the team. This build mixes particularly well with a Warlock.
Discipline/Holy Priests can, of course, use Improved Mana Burn as well. They don't have the latent mana and health benefits of the Shadow Tree. This build is preferable in two versus two matches, since the Priest can be more flexible. Priests, especially Discipline Priests have become a staple among arena teams.
All Priests should keep their shields on teammates under heavy fire. If you listen really hard, you can even hear the cursing of Warriors who can't build up rage from hitting a Power Word Shield. Since the Priest is usually a priority target you can help control by kiting your foes into Hunter traps or into at the prefect range for ranged attacks.
Possibly more evil than Shadow Priests, Warlocks are natural drainers. Drain mana transferrs 200 mana from the target to the warlock for every second that it's channeled. The spell lasts five seconds, but only three ticks are enough to more than cover the its initial investment. The super-snuggly Felhunter also helps to control casters. This pet finds buffs to be a delicacy and can preventing casting using Spell Lock.
A SL/SL (Soul Link/Siphon Life) build makes them both brutal and hard to kill. Siphon Life returns health as it damages your opponent. Soul Link increases the Warlock's damage, and transfers a considerable amount (20%) of damage taken by the 'Lock to its minion. Always keep your dots up, and remember fear is your friend.
Drain Team Composition:
Drain teams are seen by some as being cheesy and an alternative to actual skill. I have to disagree with this sentiment; there is nothing wrong with using your class abilities and composition to your advantage. After all, the goal is to win, right?
Drain teams are tough to play in two versus two matches. These matches typically go fast. It can be very difficult to alive for long enough to drop someone's mana low enough to take them out of combat. There is also the increased risk of coming up against a team that doesn't rely on mana. A well played Warlock/Discipline priest combination has potential due to survivability and dispel abilities, along with a sprinking of ccs.
It is possible to run a viable team that includes all drainers in the three versus three arena bracket. More often you'll see two of these players along side another versatile class. Nihilum took second place in the MLG San Diego Tournament with a Hunter, Priest, Druid drain team. This type of team focuses on whittling away at a healer's mana. To make healing doubly difficult the drain team can bask in the reduced healing effect of a hunter's Aimed Shot. However you comp it, this archetype needs members that can drain, control, and deal damage.
The Hunter, Priest, and Warlock are joined very well by others in the 5v5 setting. You'll often see them joined by two healers. A Holy Paladin or a Resto Druid are versatile healers that can help to combat other drain teams.
Drain team Do's and Don'ts:
1. Do keep your pets up. They're like adding an extra member to your team. Felhunters will often meet their demise early in the arena. Master Summoner will help be a great boon to your efforts.
2. Don't sic a Hunter pet on a Shaman with a Water Shield, unless it's a primary DPS target. Really, your pet will be become a mana battery for the Shammy, doing little damage but causing the Shield to proc.
3. Do destroy a Mana Tide Totem with extreme prejudice. This returns mana quite a bit of mana to any team members to be caught in it's area of effect, and a little, bitty bullet will take care of it.
4. Don't allow your drain target to disengage and drink. Keep an eye and/or a pet on them so they never get the chance to sit down.
5. Do be flexible. If you come across a team that doesn't rely on mana, you can still win. Just focus more on control and give 'em heck.
6. Do set assist and focus macros to make sure everyone stays on the same target.
Just like RMP, with drain teams, you can either beat them or join them. Until next time, happy arenas.