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 dueling it out for fame, fortune, and Netherdrakes.
This is the last weekend of Season 4, which is ending early in preparation for the sweeping changes in the content patch. Even while we hear exciting news from BlizzCon, the final, definitive matches of the season are being played out on the live servers.
Sodah is a Druid on Detheroc, a member of several very highly ranked Arena teams. At the time of this interview, Sodah's sitting at #2 for 2v2 and 5v5, and #3 for 3v3. You can imagine he's got something to say about the way the Arena plays out, especially with the content patch and Wrath right around the corner.
Check out the interview behind the cut.
WoW Insder: Who are your teammates right now? What's the general plan behind your composition? What challenges does your team have? How do you prefer to run your comp?
Sodah: My teammates are Venruki, a mage, and Happyminty, a rogue. Our setup is a burst damage setup. We are constantly arranging Crowd Control on healers, and trying to align Kidney Shots with Shatter combos.
We never ever outlast another team – we always win with a damage swap or key crowd control. Our team has a lot of trouble against double healer setups and drain teams, unfortunately.
WoW Insder: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?
Sodah: Our opening strategy really depends entirely on who we're fighting. I'll stick in stealth, position myself ideally to get a Cyclone as an opener, and work from there. Venruki will be invisible, and Happyminty can generally get a Sap.
Sapping Warlocks and killing pets is a great opener. We also like to be Sapping Priests and getting on the Mage, or Cycloning Warriors and getting on their druid, etcetera.
WoW Insider: Which mods do you use -- how have you customized your screen?
Sodah: Mods are more of a detriment than anything for anyone who plans to go to a LAN tournament. I have slowly phased out almost all of my mods in favor of the default Blizzard UI.
Still, Kollektiv's Interrupt Bar is helpful to track Counterspell cooldowns, and Proximo is a great way to track your team's progress so you know when to get key Cyclones in on your opponents. It's also worth it to get Quartz so you can track your focus target's casts and avoid Fears, Mana Burns, Cyclones, or other skills quite easily.
WoW Insider: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)
Sodah: Our team at this point knows what to target for every single composition that we're going to see. We always discuss the general strategy right when the gates open. All three of us can call swaps, but Happyminty is the most reliable person to call swaps since he's the one who knows if his Vanish, Shadowstep, or Sprint is up. Venruki and Minti have been playing together long enough now that they intuitively know when a switch is needed and how to pull it off smoothly.
WoW Insider: How do you schedule your playtime? Do you try and work during "good times to queue?"
Sodah: We really just play when we're all online. Generally it's me and Venruki sitting around playing DotA waiting for Minti to log on...
WoW Insider: What's been the biggest change in your strategy between each bracket of ratings? (1500s, 1600s)
Sodah: Your strategy against the best teams is equally valid against worse teams, so there's no need to alter strategy if you're remaking your team and crushing people in Season 2 gear.
WoW Insider: What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)
Sodah: If my mana sucks compared to the enemy healer, or if Venruki's mana is getting low super easy and we're not going anywhere, we immediately change strategy. This means turtling up, getting extra defensive crowd control out, and kiting for a bit. It could also mean desperately swapping targets and blowing the rest of our cooldowns. In general we won't need to radically change strategy midmatch because we already have a solid strategy down for every team we could fight.
WoW Insider: What's the key for your composition's strategy? Are there multiple tactics you can use?
Sodah: The key for our team is perfect crowd control aligned with multiple bursts. We set up constant bursts, run the other team out of cooldowns, and finish off a target when there's no Nature's Swiftness or trinket up any longer. There are a few tactics I can personally employ, the extreme of which being where I can be super offensive against the other healer, or turtle next to a pillar. I alter my play style depending on how the other team is fighting us.
WoW Insider: You hear a lot about clicking versus binding. Which skills do you still click, which do you tend to bind?
Sodah: People that insist on clicking are just too lazy to play with something they aren't used to. It only takes a week, just bind everything. I do indeed click Tranquility, but I have nearly everything bound, including rank 1 trash buffs. The reason behind it is simple – it's much easier for your muscle memory to acquaint itself with the keyboard rather than dragging your mouse to a new destination, and it's just plain faster.
WoW Insider: What are you trying to improve?
Sodah: I could use a lot more focus binds for faster CCs, rather than relying on checking the field or tab targeting. I could also work on playing another class like Priest, if only I had one.
WoW Insider: What are you looking forward to in Wrath, for your class? What are you kind of dreading?
Sodah: Druids really took a big hit in Wrath. I'm looking forward to speccing Moonkin, I guess, because restoration druids have almost no improvements and lots and lots of huge hits to their versatility.
I'm actually really pissed how Blizzard wants us sitting in tree form and spamming HoTs rather than going bear form to tank damage and to interrupt casts, or CCing enemy targets. It's super frustrating that the only way to have your team survive in the Arena is tunnel vision heals and never use 2/3rds of your abilities.
WoW Insider: Season 4 ends in about four days. What are your thoughts about that? Do you think the short season makes a difference in the final rankings?
Sodah: It's a little disconcerting that it ended so fast. Between Happyminty moving and having no internet, ESL Los Angeles, and Blizzcon, we have a total of two days to get our #1 spots. But in general, I don't think the short season is a detriment for most people.