This is not Merlizzel's first season in the Arena. In fact, during Season 5, this Discipline Priest was frustrated with his inability to achieve Gladiator.
Now, however, he's placed 11th place in his battlegroup for 2v2, 38th in his battlegroup for 3v3, and 3rd place in his battlegroup for 5v5. Clearly, the changes of 3.1 have had an astounding difference for Merlizzel.
Since Merlizzel's enjoying a graduation this weekend, he was only able to answer similar questions to the basic package we ask all Arena fighters. However, Merlizzel definitely spent a lot of time expounding about specific tactics he and his partner use in the Arena. Check out what he had to say after the cut.
WoW Insider: 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?
Merlizzel: I run pretty cookie cutter lineups. My partner for 2v2s is Pàra (Rogue). I run Rogue/Mage/Priest in 3v3 with Araltus/Pàra and in 5v5, I just run with a random 2 healer and 3 DPS composition with whoever is online at the moment.
I am a relatively new transfer to Mal'Ganis and I was out for most of Season 5. So, I have a fairly limited choice of partners, but that doesn't mean I'm not completely content with my arena mates.
I'm most familiar with 2v2, playing around 400 games in the first two weeks of S6. Disc Priest / Rogue is the most popular top comp this season, which isn't surprising given the heavy nerfs to the Paladins and DKs that pretty much facerolled us last season.
Para and I played for about 3 months total last season but we couldn't get above 2560ish (Gladiator Cutoff was 2510+ I believe) because we got rickrolled by even mediocre Paladin / DKs. The 'gib pally' strategy worked most of the time, but if the DK was half decent at his class we couldn't pull it off.
This season is a little bit different -- we have a good chance against DK/X, but Death Knights still give us the most trouble. This is especially true about good Shaman / DK teams who constantly kite us with Chains spam, Desecration, and Earthbind / Cleansing totems.
Mage / Rogue gives us a hard time, too, but we're working on that. My partner and I tend to play fairly aggressively, we don't sit around for 5 minutes at the beginning of the match to wait for a clean opener. It's pretty much just balls to the walls from the get-go. Our communication isn't top notch, but that hasn't kept us from being a top team in our battlegroup.
RMP is even more prevalent in 3s than Priest / Rogue is in 2s, so I won't discuss 3s strategy here. One thing, though, is that our Frost mage uses the shittiest glyphs known to PvP. I'm rather embarrassed to say that he uses Glyph of Frostbolt (+5% damage on Frostbolt but removes the slowing effect). I can't believe that a Gladiator Mage would even consider using that glyph in arenas. Looking for Pro mage for RMP, PST!
5s is the most hectic of all arenas. Perfect timing, CC chains, and flawless play are unecessary. There's little finesse, just faceroll. We do use a Rogue in our 5s, which proves to be a problem against melee Cleave teams who just sit on our rogue. This was with Mutilate spec, though. We haven't tried 5s yet with Shadowstep, which seems to be promising.
WoW Insider: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?*
Merlizzel: As with most priests, the opening is always shielding yourself and your partner and casting Prayer of Mending on whoever you think is going to be a focus target. I usually just sit mounted behind a pillar and wait for my partner to give me the green light.
Sometimes Para uses Cloak while stealthed to get a clean opener - that initial Sap makes a huge difference in most fights. After that happens, I usually mash dispels on our kill target. Holy fire -> MB -> Shadow Word: Death and DoT while trying to Fear their partner.
I'm not as Mana Burn happy as most priests, which is a good and a bad thing since Mana Burn is one a priest's greatest strengths. I remember letting my partner die once while Mana Burning. Since then, I vowed to never let that happen again because I felt like such an idiot at that point. If my rogue notices the opposing priest in a mirror Mana Burning when his rogue is in any bad position, he'll blow CB and I'll try to burst him down. This has worked quite a few times and the other priest probably feels as dumb as I did when his partner goes from 100% to 0% in less than 2 Mana Burns. 13% manaburn to 10% manaburn was a good nerf and I don't think that nerf hit our team as hard as it did to some others.
WoW Insider: Which mods do you use -- how have you customized your screen?
Merlizzel: I use a ton of mods, including Afflicted, MSBT, Interruptbar, Gladius, Bartender, etc. - all the typical arena ones. If there's one thing I'll say about priest mods, it's that most priests don't utilize MSBT to its full potential. The helpfulness of those triggers is quite underestimated and you should really take a second look at how you use MSBT.
WoW Insider: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)
Merlizzel: In 2s and 3s, Para will call out who he's going to Sap and who he's going to kill. Full Kidney Shots are always called out, and if he needs to switch because he's getting kited or because I'm getting burned too much or something, he'll say it over Vent. 5s is a little bit more disorganized, but the melee will always say who they are sitting on and stuff just dies randomly. That's just how 5s is.
WoW Insider: How do you schedule your playtime? Do you try and work during "good times to queue?" Is this different now than in previous seasons?
Merlizzel: Our guild ("we met on eHarmony") is a fairly hardcore PvP guild. I don't even think 90% of our guild has even stepped into Ulduar, especially since the 2350 Furious weapons are on par with the best weapons in the game. S5 was kind of crappy because the best weapons were from Kel'Thuzad 25, and I never got that damn torch!
My other gear isn't the best either. I'm still using Satin Gloves and I also have a Hateful Chestpiece. I only got arena points from 7 weeks or so of S5 (Hood/Shoulders/OH/Wand). I'd probably be using Spirit Off-Hand and Wand if I had the gear, but alas.
Anyways, S6 I actually plan on getting the Staff over the Salvation/OH combo. The staff has 2 gem slots, has a better enchant (+81 SP vs +63 SP), slightly better iLevel since there isn't a 2350 OH, very fast speed for a staff (2.0 so you can stomp dem totems), and it costs less Arena Points. Oh, and staffs look cooler than the mace.
WoW Insider: What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)
Merlizzel: Usually, we try and identify why we lost. If it's because of an error in our CC chaining, inappropriate usage of cooldowns, bad positioning, or anything like that. we'll try to figure out a solution and change our strategy for the next game.
Sometimes, though, there's nothing you can do. In particular, we had a recent string of games against this Shaman and Death Knight team that just stomped us. The Shaman was really good at rotating his totems and placing them out of LoS, so Fear never lasted more than 2 or 3 seconds. If we sat on the Death Knight, he would just go defensive and the Shaman would drink all day long and rock me in the mana war. If we tried to kill the Shaman, the DK just spammed Chain of Ice - that, with Descration, Ghost Wolf, Cleansing Totem, Death Grip, and Cleanse Spirit almost made it impossible for us to stay on the shaman for more than 20 to 30 seconds or so. We haven't figured out a good strategy versus that team, but it would be nice if Blizzard changed the DK's glove bonus or finally fixed the drink bug.
WoW Insider: What's the key for your composition's strategy? Are there multiple tactics you can use?
Merlizzel: For 2s, just like any other Priest / Rogue, it's either a mana war with burns or you go for a CC and burst combo. We do have several strats, but the Mana Burn one is the one we tend to use the least. Some mirrors like to Crippling Poison both of us and let their rogue restealth, but we find that to be unnecessary most of the time.
WoW Insider: You hear a lot about clicking versus binding. Which skills do you still click, which do you tend to bind?
Merlizzel: I have almost everything bound except for Resurrection and drinking, I believe.
I also click, most of the time, to select my partner. It is a really bad habit - I should get used to F2 and F3 but I've been doing it for so long now that I hardly notice anymore. I'd like to add Mind Sear to my keybindings to occasionally get that Rogue out of stealth. I haven't gotten around to that yet since it's so hard finding a free key to use that isn't scroll lock or F10 or some complete garbage like that.
WoW Insider: What are you trying to improve?
Merlizzel: My positioning tends to be a whole lot worse than other priests. Prior to Season 5, I was far more used to playing as a Shadow Priest so I didn't really need to pillar hump or anything because Shadow Priests were never CCed. They were the kill target 95% of the time.
Pillar humping is necessary sometimes, and that's why we have a lot of trouble against Mage/Rogue. I get out in the open to go for a Fear or something and I get completely CC-chain fucked because of it. It's getting better though. Another thing is my communication. I don't really talk that much - I call out Pain Suppresion and drinks, but other than that, I'm quite quiet for the most part.
WoW Insider: A lot has been made of healers not having a strong role in the last season. What do you think about that commentary?
Merlizzel: Priests got buffed hard. Death Knight's HoT removing thing got taken out, so that actually lets me put renew back on my bar and it brings Druids out of hibernation.
Shamans have always been fairly decent if they can rotate their totems properly, and Paladins are still decent healers, just not the best anymore. Damage still seems out of control (I've seen my partner drop 10k health in one global to a solo Death Knight or Ret Pally) but hopefully as Resilience and Stamina goes up, we can have a playstyle that's more like S2 through S4. In particular, against Mage / Rogue, I've died in a cheap shot a fair number of times. That shouldn't happen
WoW Insider: What are you hoping to see improved?
Merlizzel: Blizzard has gone a long way in balancing PvP. It took them a whole season to change Death Knight, Pally, and Hunters (TNT stun anybody?) but the changes thus far in s6 and 3.1 have all been pretty agreeable.
I hope to see Chains of Ice changed somehow. Even as a dispeller, I think it's overpowered in some senses. Changing the glove bonus would be a big step, but I'm not sure if it would completely solve the problem. I have pity for non-dispelling teams.
Another thing that I get pretty aggravated over sometimes is Divine Plea and Barkskin/Innervate. The former is way better than the priest's 6 minute cooldown Hymn of Hope and the latter has almost complete dispel protection. Divine Plea was complete bullshit in S5 so maybe that's where most of my hate for it is coming from. And druids have such little presence in S6 arena thus far, so why am I complaining. Lastly, I wish that the drink bug would finally be fixed. Maybe then we could beat that damn DK/Sham team . . .