This week, WoW.com had the pleasure of interviewing Diziet of Lightning's Blade, a healer who plays a 2500+ rated druid-warlock-death knight 3v3 composition. He also balances competitive road cycling and a PvP blog on Elitist Jerks on the side! Diziet had a lot to say about arena and WoW PvP, in addition to some other things that might surprise you.
WoW.com: Why do you play restoration druid? What is it about the class's toolbox that appeals to you for competitive arena?
Diziet: I started playing a druid late in season three. I was overwhelmed by the extensive mobility and flexibility of the druid and warlock classes, having played a mage. The concept of playing a flexible class with a seemingly never ending repertoire of abilities was a very different experience than that of playing a mage during late season 3.
Druids provided, and still provide, a great and easy to use amount of 'raw power', an amazing amount of healing output usable on the move. That was a very different and powerful play style rewarding basic and strong gameplay. Back then, and still now, druids could just stand in the open and out heal any kind of caster without casting a single spell, based on hots alone.
I always stuck with a very defensive style of gameplay on my druid, utilizing tree form even in The Burning Crusade days. I would try to watch for any kind of hints of target switches or incoming crowd control spells from my opponents and I would try my best to prevent or negate them by doing simple things such as moving away, out of LoS (Line of Sight), or by putting hots before damage came.
Back during TBC, druids had the ability to either play a more control based playstyle with feral charge (a tool I utilized a lot) or with a restokin spec to provide damage (something similar to what priests might do now). I enjoyed those play styles quite a bit too, especially in the 2v2 and 3v3 brackets. With the talent tree changes in WotLK, I was forced to play a more one-dimensional but effective play style.
So, in a nutshell, I was attracted by the raw power of the class (in terms of heal per second, heal per global cooldown, and heal per mana), and used it to build a very defensive healing style.
WoW.com: You mentioned you were attracted to the warlock/druid play style as opposed to the play style of your mage. What do you think about the mage/warlock dichotomy in Wrath of the Lich King as opposed to The Burning Crusade?
Diziet: Well, I still kept playing my mage and appreciated the power of a well timed Shatter combo. I certainly still miss all those 5v5 matches that would end when we killed an overly aggressive warrior in a global on a target switch. It was just that the relative power of damage vs health pools vs healing power (and the relative lack of mastery in skill and understanding of the game back then, especially during the first two seasons) favored a more mobile play style.
Druids and warlocks could do almost everything on the move back then, and also happened to be the two classes that best countered mages (enhancement shamans and hunters were not quite popular). I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side.
WoW.com: What do you think about wizard cleaves this season?
Diziet: As far as the prevalence of wizard cleaves (double spell dps + healer) in the current arena environment, I suppose it has to do with the power that two ranged Counterspells can do to create both real and psychological pressure on the opposing team's healer.
A mage + warlock team creates immense pressure on a team without a magic dispel (and often just one is not enough!) by providing strong crowd control options. The threat of a Spell Lock or a Counterspell that would land on a healer in a hectic moment of action when damage is flying around, health bars are dropping to dangerous levels, and teammates are shouting over Skype about crowd controls and damage is not to be underestimated.
I know that many people, myself included, can often make a mistake during such an intense moment (like playing against a warlock/mage/shaman team with super hasted casts). Another mistake can happen against a warlock/mage/priest team when they are putting out so much pressure that the priest on the opposing team feels compelled to Smite your team mates just to add that little bit of damage to end the game quickly. The slightest mistake can end the game very quickly.
I often find myself pressured not to cast any spells at all, or to pull off a fake cast against the opposing team when I know there are two smiling casters waiting on the other side with me as their focus target, just waiting for that Nourish or Regrowth to go off.
I think that in the current patch, warlocks and mages complement each other. The power of crowd controls and lockouts scales greatly the more of them there are in your toolbox. Key tools like Glyph of Polymorph (If you're playing with an affliction warlock) allow the two magical archetypes to function well together on the same team.
WoW.com: As a restoration druid, what are your responsibilities in an arena game?
Diziet: It's important to note that your first responsibility is to heal! To do that I take care not to fall behind on healing, not to get crowd controlled unless it can't be helped at all, and not to leave myself vulnerable to my opponents to switch to.
I also take care to watch positioning of everyone at once (with my comp in 3v3 that's my two team mates and the two pets, along with my opponents). Often by looking at what my opponents are doing I can make a great prediction of what their future actions are. For example, if a mage or priest is slowly (or quickly) making their way towards me, I know to do certain things. Similarly, positioning can help anticipate target switches on my teammates or pets, and I take special care to notify my teammates if I see they haven't caught wind of our opponent's plans in the same time as I have.
I also talk about my healing, and I can ask my teammates to use an important defensive cooldown (because as a healer I understand fairly well if someone is going to die soon based on my actions and abilities alone). Sometimes I have to also nudge my warlock to Life Tap if I see him sitting at 5% mana for too long!
The last task, and the one that is most difficult to accomplish, is that to to land key Cyclones on healers during a target switch. It's my teammates' responsibility to direct the switches, and make me aware of the plan a few seconds before it happens.
WoW.com: What do you do when a mage or priest is running towards you?
Diziet: Well, it depends a lot on what has happened before. For example, a priest running towards me might just try to fear me, so I would first check if he has Psychic Scream available (via an addon like Afflicted, though most of the time I know it myself without a mod to reference). I would then see where my warlock's felhunter is, if it has a Devour Magic available, and if I have other magic debuffs (or if the priest is really good and knows to Shadow Word: Pain me, or tell his partners to debuff me).
Then I make a decision to either eat the fear and get dispelled -- or run away from the priest and not risk the fear (but lose a strong position). As I do that I take care to put up HoTs on the teammate that is being focused (or on myself, or on my other teammate) in anticipation of a target switch. There are really a lot of outcomes but only a few actions my opponents would do make sense in any specific situation, so I usually just take a very quick inventory of the situation and formulate a plan.
In the case of a mage, it often means that he either wants to move to a position to switch on me, or to Frost Nova and Deep Freeze me. I either preHoT myself or get ready to shift forms. I also notice what the mage's teammates are doing in the same time (for example if his shaman partner is drinking, or if the rogue had just Vanished, or if the shadowpriest had just put Shadow Word: Pain on me, these all warrant different reactions).
It's also important to note that all this is done almost instinctively, without me stopping for even half a second to think about exactly what to do. I suppose having quite a bit of experience helps make the right decisions.
WoW.com: I suppose it does.
Diziet: I have lost games to strategies that were new to me at some point (many times). It took losses and losses to learn that a rogue Blinding me means I ought to prehot myself after I trinket the Blind and preHoT myself the rest of the game as long as he's got Vanish up. A shadowpriest running towards me is a very dangereous thing, and a warlock running to force me to run on top of his portal will surely end in him portaling and casting Howl of Terror. It often takes a few losses to some new strategy or gimmick before I run all the options first, but sometimes an opponent might pull some very new and interesting and strong move, but I might create an effective counter to it on the fly.