The Colosseum takes us inside the world of the Gladiator (Brutal, Vengeful, Merciless and otherwise), to interview some of the top Arena fighters in the battlegroups. Our goal is to bring a better understanding of the strategy, makeup, and work that goes into duelling it out for fame, fortune, and Netherdrakes.
You may have heard of him. Jeff "Aelli" Ware of the Reckoning battlegroup has been rocking battlegrounds and the Arena, scoring a Gladiator rank in Season 3 during the last week of play. And as Amanda told us at the beginning of the season, Aelli planned to do even better in Season 4. And now, he's succeeded at doing just that -- Lookin for Sponsor, Aelli's team, has hit the #1 spot on the Reckoning 5v5 ladder. What's the big deal?
Not only has Lookin for Sponsor achieved something pretty cool -- they've done it with only two people. Aelli pilots the team's four Shaman all by his lonesome. He's what's known as a "quad-boxer" or "multi-boxer," and controls four of the team's five characters. We were fortunate enough that Aelli was willing to do an interview with your intrepid WoW Insider team, and share some thoughts on both his unique playstyle, and the Arena as a whole. The interview is after the cut.
WoW Insider: What unique challenges does your team have? If you're four-boxing it, how do you coordinate with your partner?
Aelli: On the surface the multi-boxing advantages appear amazing because they allow what every team dreams of: being coordinated. Which easily blinds others from seeing the disadvantages multi-boxing introduces.
Your mindset needs to change to an all encompassing outlook on the entire game, your situational awareness of Everything that is going on around you expands. Playing a single character in a 5v5, your job is to focus perhaps on another player and lock them down the entire match, or heal your group, or simply just do damage on the target called.
In my scenario, it is everything combined. I need to know where every single player is on the map and what they are doing, or at least the most threatening to me – which is usually damage dealers. I digress though, the unique challenges I face personally are:
AoE Fears destroy the coordination, locking down of the "main" character can hinder 4 players at the same time, and finally Rezzers on the opposing team are a nightmare to manage and keep them in combat, since they can spread out and perform tasks individually.
WoW Insider: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?
Aelli: I lay all of my totems out inside the gates 15 seconds before the match starts, at 5 seconds I pop a Bloodlust (hey I've got 4) in preparation for the opposing teams rushing me. This allows me to be completely prepared and to not waste precious global cooldowns.
Besides that each map has a "sweet spot" that I like to run to, if they do not rush – I bunker down in my preferred area.
WoW Insider: Which mods do you use -- how have you customized your screen?
Aelli: I don't utilize too many mods, I prefer a clean UI with as much ingame screen real estate as possible. I use Bongos, AG Unit Frames, MBbuffbar, and ECB for casting – these do not help at all for multiboxing, they are just for aesthetics.
In Arenas, Proximo, which is pretty much standard for any team, and Spell Alerter for crucial spells/skills the opposing team is performing , i.e., Rez/Shield Reflect.
WoW Insider: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)
Aelli: My style for picking targets is unique. Compared to most 5v5 makeups who enjoy taking out the enemy healers first, I prefer to kill whomever can do the most damage on their end as a priority. With the amount of burst potential I can offer, any target is an option. It may not be the best – but if it presents itself on a platter I'll take it.
Aelli: What makes it easy about my setup is that only 2 players need to be online to make a 5v5 happen, so whenever any of my healers are online, we get the party started. When you're higher rated in the brackets though, you won't find good teams playing unless it is prime time, which usually means anything after 7-8 pm, up to 1 am. I'll queue at any time of the day though, but definitely prefer the competition prime time offers.
WoW Insider: What's been the biggest change in your strategy between each bracket of ratings? (1500s, 1600s)
Aelli: As you progress, the teams play a lot smarter and more defensively. Using cooldowns effectively is important, playing a more defensive role myself in assisting my partner on heals, and making sure Grounding and Tremor totems are down at all times.
WoW Insider: What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)
Aelli: When my healer starts screaming that he's got a rogue on him and was just counterspelled for 20 years (Queue Bubbajiggles), I need to switch off and recover the stability of our health while placing the other team in defensive mode.
WoW Insider: You hear a lot about clicking versus binding. Which skills do you still click, which do you tend to bind?
Aelli: I'm not a clicker, everything is done via keyboard. Which also excludes sometimes mouse movement – a lot of players rag on me for keyboard turning, but if they saw the process and what goes into it, they would understand as well. (I am at all times physically pushing buttons on 2 separate keyboards at the same time.)
WoW Insider: What are you trying to improve?
Aelli: There is always new compositions out there, or new strategies teams try. The ability to adapt quickly and be one step ahead is crucial, as well as becoming smooth in all aspects. I'd say every week I find a new way to improve some aspect of my team.
WoW Insider: What are the reactions you tend to get to your unique playstyle?
Aelli: Multi-boxing is a Love/Hate thing for most. It's pretty hard to find a neutral party, and those that do dislike it are very passionate! I don't save the comments I get, but... it's interesting to say the least.
WoW Insider: Now, in terms of your team's composition, I know you use four Shamans and a healer. Does the Shaman class have something unique that lends itself to a multiboxing arena team, or does that just happen to be your favorite class?
Aelli: I'd say it's both, but the Shaman itself does have quite a few benefits for survivability. Other combos work in the Arenas, but they have to enter in with the mentality of Kill or be Killed. With Shamans it's a more defensive approach since you can take a few hits.
WoW Insider: You're number one in your BG right now. I gotta know -- how's that feel? Did you think you'd pull this off, or was it a pleasant surprise?
Aelli: It feels good, but it has been a long time coming. I knew I could hit it if I pushed for it. Being that it is early in the season, the next challenge is maintaining it throughout the season.
WoW Insider: Do you have a particular partner you prefer when you play?
Aelli: I enjoy the Paladin class primarily, but more important is the skill level of the healer, and sometimes you don't always get what you want. Right now I have two really awesome healers (Bubbajiggles and Restorate) who both happen to be Shaman, which gets the job done. My Paladin teammate (Llendari) is currently on vacation, but I'll be getting him into the mix when he gets back. He is who I hit Gladiator with last season.
WoW Insider: With the obvious caveat that I know you're not the Paladin in the team, I still expect you're pretty knowledgeable about the dynamic. What is it specifically that makes the Paladin great for the team?
Aelli: The combination of Bubble/BoP on myself and the very powerful heals they can dish out, as well being in full plate - it makes any heavy melee team a lot more manageable. Shaman, though, work well against heavy caster teams. So depending on the night, one is better than the other.
WoW Insider: I understand if this might be revealing strategic secrets and you might wish to keep those to yourself. But one of our goals for this interview series is bringing things to help our readers raise the level of their own game. What do you think you'd recommend for folks, to help them improve their own skills? Or, more simply, what advice do you have for newer Arena fighters?
Aelli: The most important aspects of the Arena are communication, and growing as a team. Make sure you find a foundation of players who have the same common goals as you when you get into it. Either for fun, or to be #1, everyone should be on the same page. As time goes on and sticking with any team, a way of fighting forms that is unique to your group and enables you to excel.
WoW Insider: You definitely sound like, as your team advances, you seem to be playing more defensively. Is that because of the nature of your team, or is that more about the playstyle you see at your level?
Aelli: I'd compare it to any sport, perhaps. In some ways, if you play against really good players in basketball, your skill level attempts to match theirs and you get better. If you play against players who are not up to your level, you play more lackluster and not as seriously. I think that directly relates to the lower/medium brackets compared to high end.
So, overall, I'd say in hindsight, I should always play defensively, but some teams require me to go offense. It really depends on the setting that presents itself.
WoW Insider: How long do you think it takes for you to make that decision? (I.e., How long do you wait before you know you have to go offensive?)
Aelli: Right out of the gates, identifying their team makeup. 3 healers and 2 damage dealers, I can move forward on them without worrying about dying as easily. 4 damage dealers and 1 healer, I need to worry myself on getting blown up
WoW Insider: How many matches did it take you to reach Gladiator last season?
Aelli: Good question, it wasn't too many -- maybe 125-ish. The season was pretty spread out in points so it was easy to rise up. I'm playing 5v5 tonight -- we'll see if I maintain the rating!