I know that more than a few of us have no interest in hearing from another Death Knight. While the class dominated Season 5, and still seems strong in Season 6, we should remember that few successful Death Knights started the Arena with the opening of Wrath of the Lich King. It's with that thought in mind that I found what Gladiator Grave had to say interesting.
He could have been focused on things like "Death Grip's awesome, and I use it against casters." Instead, Grave echoed many of the most important sentiments we here from many successful fighters. Synergy, coordination, and communication are the hallmarks that Grave recommends.
Check out the full interview after the cut.
Grave: Currently, I am only taking 2s competitively right now. I am still in the middle of sorting out a 3v3. I have no plans to run a 5v5 since it usually ends up being a bunch of bloodlusted chickens with their heads cut off running around hitting all of 3 buttons. My current 2v2 partner is a Holy Paladin by the name of Nerflol. He is a real life friend of mine, and we have been building synergy together for a while. One of the most underrated things you can have in this game is synergy. Sometimes you mesh well with your partners, other times no matter what you do you just can't make it work together. Since I'm an Unholy DK currently under alias Grave - we run DK/Holy paladin in 2v2.
Generally, our strategy has been running the other opponents out of resources (ie: OOM). Running a JotW paladin means we can usually take advantage of the mana regeneration and out last the other team.
If we don't make the healer go OOM, usually our games end in us catching someone that overextended and both DPS to get a gib. Personally, I prefer to play aggressive since it's more fun to have a faster paced game. I don't think anyone enjoys spending 10-15 minutes in the same game.
We are still adapting some game plans against certain teams. The only real struggle we seem to have had is against select few Priest/Rogues, DK/Druids with a few other exceptions. As a whole though, we generally have a winning chance against every team we face, we never really get blown out of the water. Consistency might be our biggest struggle, hopefully that smoothes out with enough practice and patients.
WoW Insider: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?
Grave: Well, we have been playing together for a while now, and generally as soon as Gladius shows us what we are up against, we generally both already have a game plan in mind.
There is not an outline of what we should accomplish against a certain group composition. Many people fail to realize that arena is dynamic and is always changing. If someone overextended, we get on him. If someone used a long and important cooldown early or when he shouldn't have, we will get on them accordingly and punish them for it. We don't say "I'm on X, you get Y," and tunnel vision them the whole game. I swap probably 20-30 times in a 5 minute match. I'll get on the most efficient target under the circumstances.
WoW Insider: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)
Grave: Since I'm the DPS, I'm usually calling the shots. I call when I swap, I call when I'm going in for a kill or burst. My partners play off me. I keep voice activation on my microphone so I can call everything I'm doing. Literally everything.
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?
Grave: I'm currently a Senior at Penn State as a Finance major. My partner Nerflol also attends Penn State University. We are both pretty busy with college, but we find time. We like to play on Tuesdays or early in the week before people are sitting on their games. Usually we play 3-5 times a week in 3-8 hour sittings. Depends on who we queue against, how we are playing/feeling etc. We've been on this schedule as long as I can remember playing in Season 1.
WoW Insider: What's been the biggest change in your strategy between each bracket of ratings? (1500s, 1600s) Is there a big change for this season?
Grave: Biggest difference between the 1500-2000 and 2100-2800 ratings is probably what we talked about earlier. Being situationally aware, being able to adapt to strategy (there is no set strategy in arena). If you don't do these things, it leads to excessive tunnel vision and not enough swapping.
WoW Insider: What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)
Grave: You really have to have a good knowledge of the game and all classes when stepping into Arena. You need to know what other classes are capable of and usually how they respond to your attacks. Watch for big cooldowns, like Pain Suppression, Iceblock, Trinket etc. They are all important to note when they are used. If you can catch someone in a bad spot with no trinket, you know he is going to have to eat what you feed him. If a healer uses his trinket, odds are you know your CC is going to land, and you can then blow offensive CDs to go for the kill. So as for tools to be able to see how to change your strategy, it usually comes between knowledge of the classes and ability to be situationally aware.
WoW Insider: What's the key for your composition's strategy? Are there multiple tactics you can use?
Grave: There are always multiple tactics to use. Some are better then others after you find out with enough practice. We also tend to tweak our strategy depending on the actual person playing. It may be a Rogue and Priest we know and we know they play in a certain way. We may also encounter a known Rogue or Priest with different people and we tweak are strategy because we are familiar with how they play.
WoW Insider: You hear a lot about clicking versus binding. Which skills do you still click, which do you tend to bind?
Grave: I have every single key bound. Call me crazy but I've come close to binding Hearthstone. It's a good habit to get into, keeps my eyes on what's going on instead of a cursor to click things.
WoW Insider: What are you trying to improve?
Grave: I'm always trying to improve. You hear people say "I played the best I possibly could, nothing I could have done better." That statement is so common in today's Arena it is really irritating to hear. 2500-2900 rated players usually surround me and the majority of them carry this attitude.
To be blunt, it's a piss poor attitude. There is always room to improve in something so dynamic. Most of the players genuinely think they are the best at what they do. While they may be good, we are all human and nobody plays perfect 100% of the time. I think this has been a big attribute to Nerflol's success and my own. We are very level headed and never really get worked up or yell about a kill or a death. After a loss, we usually evaluate what happened, what mistakes did we make ourselves, what do we think our partners could do better?
Something I'm trying to improve on as a Death Knight is my rune and runic power management. While I think I'm seasoned (having played a rogue/warrior for many seasons) at resource management, the DK system is relatively complex to perfect. Overall, carrying the mentality that you "can't win them all" is something I think everyone still needs to work on.
WoW Insider: A lot has been made of healers not having a strong role in Season 5. What do you think about that commentary?
Grave: A DPS will always only be as good as his healer. This has been this way since Season 1. Although melee tends to scale better than healers, healers are equally if not more important in today's day and age. You see less and less of them, and the good ones are rare to come by. I think in a perfect world, a healer is more important and is harder to be the best at. You carry an underlying pressure of not letting people die. There will always be times a DPS can't kill a player, but you don't get second chances at a healer. You either keep them alive or they die and you typically lose.
WoW Insider: What are you hoping to see improved in 3.1.2? We've seen some changes, obviously, but there's more to come.
Grave: I'm assuming Ret Paladins, Death Knights, and Rogues are next on the chopping blocks for more nerfs, tweaks, or whatever you want to call them.
Some things are good how they are, others are imbalanced, while others are underpowered. It is always a struggle to find the perfect median between all classes for relative balance. I think Blizzard so far is taking the right approach with things like the Juggernaut nerf. Instead of removing the ability or changing it completely, just tone it down a notch and see where that places them. I personally would like to see Blizzard make the game 100% PvP based. Spend all their resources balancing around PvP and the arena. It is much easier to change a PvE encounter/boss then it is to tweak a class. Once you've established a fair playing field for PvP, you can then tweak bosses accordingly by adding/removing HP, Adds, etc. I never understood their logic in having a PvE game, and balancing the PvP around it. PvE is much more static and easier to change with constant values.