The Colosseum takes us inside the world of the Gladiator (Brutal, Vengeful, Merciless, Furious, 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 Frostwyrms. We're especially focused on the people who play these games, to further shed light on the world of the PvP player.
Mages in the arena are still something a little special, even if we've managed to pull away from the days of Death Knight and Paladin dominance. Arena Master Daryonic from Shattered Hand is the Mage on the battlegroup Ruin's 4th rated 5v5 team, FORTHENERDPOINTS. (At the time of this writing, he's also on the 12th rated 3v3 team titled Vs WMDs.)
Like many PvP players, Daryonic has shifted his focused away from 2v2 arena toward 3v3 and 5v5. We were able hook up with Daryonic, who took the time to share with The Colosseum his views on current arena dynamics, and what might be coming next season. Check it out behind the cut.
WoW.com: 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?
Daryonic: My teammate for 2v2 is Archlite (sometimes Discipline and sometimes Shadow). For 3v3, my teammates are Vianctela (Destruction warlock) and Vvettersmom (Resto druid). In 5v5, Vianctela (Destruction warlock ), and Deviator (Elemental shaman ), Zyori (Holy paladin), and Keyree (Mutilate rogue).
Since 2v2 is no longer run 100% seriously, I won't go into detail about them.
For my 3v3 team, our general strategy is to place two of our opponents in a CC cycle while we burn down the third. If the person we are attacking pops some sort of defensive cooldown, or one is applied to them (i.e. Pain Suppression) we quickly look for either a poorly positioned teammate or a vulnerable target. (For example, a Retribution paladin just popped Avenging Wrath). And then we pop large, offensive cooldowns.
Our challenges come from a few specific comps. As we have two clothies with one leather wearer, comps like Beastcleave (Enhancement shaman, BM Hunter, and Healer) tend to apply so much pressure to any one of us that we drop quickly and can't make a recovery. Also, well-played Warlock, Druid, and Warrior teams have a tendency to outlast any pressure we put out, even with CC's on their entire team. There's also that occasional "pop everything and rush someone down" team that catches us off guard, but that rarely happens.
For my 5v5 team, our general strategy involves calling out 4 targets very rapidly. Two targets are for myself and Vianctela to control (usually healers), a primary kill target, and a swap target. We burn the kill target until a defensive cooldown is popped, then attack the swap target as soon as we see it popped. Our biggest challenges really only come from two specific teams, as they are all talented players who have worked out specific strategies to beat our comp.
WoW.com: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?
Darynic: In 3v3, we like to immediately position ourselves in such a way that we can run out of line of sight of ranged DPS classes. We then tend to CC DPS classes in order to force a trinket, where we can set up a kill with a Deep Freeze or a Fear.
For 5v5, we like to rush a pillar in order to prevent our opponents from having decent positioning. We'll drag melee classes away from their healers and set up kills from there.
WoW.com: Which mods do you use -- how have you customized your screen?
Daryonic: The biggest mods that I use for arenas are Gladius, Gladminish, Afflicted3, and Xperl Unit Frames. I set up my screen so that every piece of information I need is readily available at big moments (like target swaps).
WoW.com: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)
Daryonic: For 3s, I generally call the targets, and get a consensus from my teammates. We've gone against so many teams that we already know what to do for 90% of them, and say something simple like "Kill X" and we do the rest from there.
In 5v5, our rogue Cassia generally has some hammered out strats for most teams and we all follow suit. Whoever notices a decent target swap first is generally the person to call it out in Vent, which could be anyone. Some nights I feel like being in charge and some nights other people take the lead. It all depends on the night.
WoW.com: How do you schedule your playtime? Do you try and work during "good times to queue?" Is this different now than in previous seasons?
Daryonic: We actually use Arenajunkies.com in order to try and queue up with the other top 5 teams or so. We tend to play on Sunday or Monday nights, whenever we can get everyone online. For 3s, we play whenever the three of us are on, because we generally just love playing. 2s are more of an out-of-the-blue sort of thing, where we only do it when we're bored.
WoW.com: What's been the biggest change in your strategy between each bracket of ratings? (1500s, 1600s) Is there a big change for this season?
Daryonic: For 3s, things don't really start to change too drastically until around the 2300-2400 area. This is where high-rated queuers become rare and losses become more drastic. One loss can set us back half an hour's worth of work.
We focused a lot more once we reached that range, whereas the earlier games tended to be more "okay blow up X. He's dead. Switch to Y. Good game."
In 5v5, it's a totally different story. When we started the season, we did not have very much competition, and games were simply volleys of damage going back and forth. Our strategies became more refined once the top 20 or so teams hammered themselves out, and we started developing more complex strategies.
At this point in time, we know exactly what to do for all of the top 10 or so teams in our battlegroup.
WoW.com: What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)
Daryonic: Offensively, the biggest change comes when something like Shield Wall or Pain Suppression is popped. We're so hard-wired at this point that it's second nature to start attacking something else when we see that happen.
Defensively, when we see that we've unloaded tons and tons of damage into someone, I'll drop a couple frostbolts into another target to "Test the waters" and if I like what I see I'll call a switch to my partners.
WoW.com: What's the key for your composition's strategy? Are there multiple tactics you can use?
Daryonic: The biggest key is having synergy with your partners. It took my 3s team an entire season to hammer out exactly how each of us plays with the other, and we can nearly predict what the others are going to do before they do it. Also, having open communication between all of your partners is critical. There are three to five viewpoints on the battlefield, and every single one of them adds a new piece of information which is critical to pulling off a win.
Lastly, practice practice practice! Every time we lose a game, we will analyze what happened at every moment of the game to figure out what we can change to make ourselves or our strategy better.
WoW.com: You hear a lot about clicking versus binding. Which skills do you still click, which do you tend to bind?
Daryonic: I keybind everything except for a few spells. I get a lot of flack because I don't keybind Cold Snap, but I have a method to my madness. Buffs like Arcane Intellect and dampen magic are also clicked, but they are generally not used very often outside of the gates, so response time is generally not that important.
WoW.com: What are you trying to improve?
Daryonic: The biggest thing I'm trying to improve is watching my own health and predicting enemy bursts better. I have a tendency to not realize I'm in a high-pressure situation and neglect my Ice Block in favor of a guaranteed kill. Some call it tunnel vision, I call it an aggressive playstyle.
WoW.com: When you say you're trying to understand and control burst against you better, do you think that's a reflection of the high damage in Arena? Or is it just a peril of your class?
Daryonic: One thing that I and many others feel is that damage in arenas has gotten to a point where its out of control. I've never felt it was kosher to have an entire strategy dedicated to "do as much damage to *insert cloth class here* before our cooldowns run out." Granted, certain classes are weaker than others at taking damage, but having scenarios where it is literally impossible to avoid dying seems obscene.
I've heard suggestions from "increase stamina on PVP gear by 30%" to "stop allowing PVE gear in arenas", but I'm not really sure what the true answer is. Hopefully the next expansion will pull away from this path.
WoW.com: What changes are you expecting for your composition in the next season? Do you think you'll continue to perform as well?
Daryonic: The biggest change next season is coming more to my partners than me. Destruction warlocks are receiving a nerf to their upfront burst on conflag, and Resto druids are having their Lifebloom global cooldown lengthened. Both of these nerfs directly impact our team in terms of damage, but our CC viability is still there.
We may be doing less damage upfront, but our control over opponents remains unchanged. In regards to performing as well next season, I view the nerfs as a sort of double-edged sword, as our hardest teams include Destro warlocks and Resto druids. This may actually make our lives easier, while making it harder to damage certain classes. (I'm looking at you, warriors.)