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.
Celestior of Mal'Ganis is the mage member of LOL YOU MAD, the 1st ranked 5v5 team on the Stormstrike battlegroup. His 2v2 team is currently ranked 19th, and his 3v3 team is ranked 56th. This all adds up to a mage that probably knows his PvP-fu.
Celestior was kind enough to talk to The Colosseum about his impression of the current season, as well as what keeps motivating him to play. Check out what he had to say 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?
Celestior: I play with a lot of people for fun, but my main team has been my 5s team. My teammates are Audiolol, Tommylol, Filovirus, and Cprawr.
The general plan behind our composition is to pour unhealable burst into the squishiest target on the opposing team. During that time, Filovirus and I are generally spamming CC on the two opposing healers to prevent them from keeping up with our burst. If the fight drags on, we've generally forced so many cooldowns and trinkets in the beginning that our CC becomes overwhelming. Against mediocre teams, most of our fights are over in less than 30 seconds.
Our team generally doesn't have many challenges, except the fact that we don't get to play together very often. As a four-DPS team, we can get gibbed just as easily as we can gib people. Many of our losses come to one of us dying instantly while our sole healer is eating some insignificant CC for a fraction of a second. We're forced to compensate for a lack of heals with peels, and once our paladin's cooldowns are all down it can get nasty.
WoW.com: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?
Celestior: Our opening strategy varies. Many times we choose to simply rush and kill the other team in less than 10 seconds. This works when we're chain queuing against average teams and we just want to get in as many games as possible in a short period of time. Against good teams, we choose to wait back until a target of opportunity comes out into the open. If they polehump the entire game, we'll have someone bait them out and kill whoever charges after us.
WoW.com: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)
Celestior: The majority of the time, Audiolol calls out swaps because he's the Mortal Strike. Of course, all of us call swaps at times because many times we can't all attack Audio's target. With the amount of burst we put out, targets that aren't the main target die relatively often. In fact, we refrain from switching sometimes because multiple targets get low. Sometimes this costs us games, other times it leads to wins. We learned from experience when the right time for each is.
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?
Celestior: Haha, We haven't really played at all this season. We literally only play one of two times a week, and only ten games per week. Sunday night or Monday night, because it's impossible to get all 5 of us on at the same time. Many times, this doesn't work out either, although we try our best so we get points for the week.
We would love to queue at "peak" times, but it doesn't really work out with school, work, going out, etc. We've still been able to hold first for the majority of the season though once we got Filovirus back.
WoW.com: What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)
Celestior: It's pretty easy to tell when a target isn't dying. Even with 4 dps, if they pain suppress the target and have sacrifice up on a shield walled warrior, there's obviously no reason to continue bursting him. The power of the composition lies in our ability to rapidly swap targets and instagib them. It's roughly the same concept as PMRLS, except PMRLS purges swap targets while we just unload heavier burst into it.
WoW.com: What's the key for your composition's strategy? Are there multiple tactics you can use?
Celestior: The key for our compositions strategy is unhealable burst combined with spammable cc and ridiculous swapping ability.
On a triple DPS team, if the other team chooses to train a DPS. it locks down a significant portion of your damage. Generally speaking, our enemies choose to zerg our shaman down. That's great and all, except that leaves a Destro lock, Frost mage, and a rogue freecasting into one of your teammates while our shaman can still toss out a lava burst into the target if he gets a second of breathing room. There's no good way to "lock down" our damage, so surviving our burst depends on how capable your healers are at coordinating the use of their cooldowns.
WoW.com: What are you trying to improve?
Celestior: Nothing in particular, but there's always room for improvement. By now, I know all the "tricks" of being a mage, but matters of situational awareness can always be improved upon. I'm sure there have been times when I used Counterspell on a healer instead of stopping a cast that killed a member of my team, or used it to stop opposing burst instead of CSing a heal that would have guaranteed a kill. It's just the kind of thing that can only be improved by playing more.
I've also been trying to keep a better mental image of where all my teammates are, because one of the most irritating things that happens is when someone out of my LOS gets hexed and I waste valuable time finding them to decurse.
WoW.com: What motivates you to keep playing?
Celestior: I think every arena player eventually gets bored and wants to pursue other things. However, I think one of the biggest motivators for me to keep playing is the trashtalk that runs rampant among the arena community. Everyone thinks they're the greatest player, and I think the Arena Junkies forums uses the word "bad" more than anywhere else on the web. If it wasn't for the rivalries and incessant tells from level 1 alts telling me how much of a "expletive" I am, I think I'd be bored of the game by now. Mal'ganis is a very active server pvp wise, and I'm glad I made the move here.
WoW.com: What's the biggest thing that differentiates a good player from a great player?
Celestior: In all honesty, it's positioning. Even low 2k players usually have a relatively firm grasp of their class's mechanics. It's not hard to pull off your optimal damage rotation, or to know who to CC and when. However, it's very easy to differentiate a good player from a great player when you watch their positioning.
A great player will make you work hard to CC them, get out of LoS instantly before they see their healer even get CC'd, force you out into the open if you want to get a kill, etc. Average players will know when to use their skills, but they'll constantly be standing out in the open and be easily CC'd or swapped to. A great player won't leave the pillars unless they know they have some kind of cooldown up to break out of CC.
WoW.com: What do you think of the state of arena this season?
Celestior: I think in terms of balance, it's decent. Obviously certain aspects of the game still need tweaking, but I wouldn't say it's bad in comparison to other seasons. The only downside to this season is that there really isn't any serious competition in any US BG except BG9. I'm sure that will change soon as top players migrate off to grab rank 1 titles on easier battlegroups. But as of now, BGs that used to be competitive seem to be shadows of their former glory. Still entertaining nonetheless.