Listening Music: Stevie Wonder. I listen to this stuff when I play arena -- teammates think I'm ridiculous. I think they're ridiculous for not appreciating Stevie. Although, I guess it is a bit weird to hear kill targets shouted while You Are the Sunshine of my Life ... is blaring in the background.
Understanding the big picture
Gladiators look at arena battles very differently than most. This isn't because they're naturally gifted at solving complex riddles or puzzles -- they just have enough arena experience to understand things that others might not. Well, get ready, because this is the start of your crash course in seeing what we see, how we see it.
So sit back, relax and crack open a cold one.
You already know what momentum is, even if you think you don't.
When everything seems to be going right and the enemy is exactly where you want them -- that's momentum in your favor. Whether you know it or not, you play differently when you have momentum in your favor: "good momentum." You aren't looking to protect your teammates -- you're going for a kill. You're screaming to your teammates on Vent, "He's running behind the pillar, follow him, you're closer!" You're not worried about that mage casting Frostbolt -- you're actually happy he's still trying to do damage rather than Polymorph you. He clearly doesn't understand the danger his team is in.
This is even more evident to you if you're a healer. Your team is at full, your teammates have the enemy healer very low -- why not help out on damage? So you sling a Mind Blast > Shadow Word: Death combo, just because you can.
These are your first steps to understanding the big picture and arena at large. They aren't small steps; they're giant leaps.
Using good momentum to your advantage
You'll be able to tell when you have good momentum by a lot of different signals. The important thing to realize is that there is always a reaction for every action.
- Action An enemy (or enemies) is low on health because your team is putting out effective damage.
- Reaction A healer is spamming cast-time heals to get his team back to full.
- Action An enemy is low on health but has not used a short-term immunity cooldown.
- Reaction He's going to use it. Plan on his using it. Seriously. Really. Not kidding.
While it's a good idea to get opposing classes to use immunity cooldowns, be prepared to do something else the second that Ice Block comes up. If you're a warrior, get ready to use your Shattering Throw. If you want to impress people, start charging it up before the mage even uses Ice Block! If you have another teammate who is continuing to do damage on the mage, chances are he's still going to use it anyway. If you can predict the time when he will use Ice Block, your Shattering Throw will hit him and he'll be dead meat.
Priests have a particular knack for this kind of handywork with the ability to Mass Dispel short-term immunity cooldowns away. Perhaps you've played against a priest who removes your Hand of Protection or Ice Block instantly. While it seems like he's a mind-reader, he's probably just a very good guesser at when you'll use your cooldown because he's aware of your health bar. You can do this too; it just takes time and practice. Try it out in battlegrounds; you'll be amazed how well battleground skill (in this regard) translates to arena skill.
If you don't have a Shattering Throw or Mass Dispel, don't worry about it. Just be prepared to switch to another target instantly. A warlock-druid-shaman team has no way to remove Ice Block from a mage on a rogue-mage-priest team. Instead, they'll get the mage low, force him to Ice Block and immediately switch to the priest so the mage has to remain in Ice Block for a longer period of time.
If they switched to the rogue, the priest would be able to heal the mage and he would become active again. They'd rather play 3v2 for the full 10 seconds then return to blowing up the mage.
The same thing holds true for 5v5, except you have more viable targets. Just be prepared to switch.
- Action An enemy is low on health near an area with line of sight.
- Reaction He will often run behind it to try to avoid your incoming damage.
- At a beginner skill level (just hitting 80 with a first character), enemies won't even attempt to use LOS to avoid damage.
- At an intermediate skill level (1,500+), players will use LOS every chance they can because it's exceptionally effective. Enemies will continue casting nukes, only to be LOSed easily. Or, enemies will just chase them around the pillar, creating a wonderful display of tunnel vision.
- At an expert skill level (2,000+), players stop using LOS because it's become less effective. Enemies just stop attacking them and go on their teammate when they try to LOS, which is usually much worse because now they are far away from the battle. By this point, if a player is wounded, he will usually run toward his healer.
- At a gladiator skill level (2,400+), players start to use LOS again, but many times only offensively. Players by this point have learned how to "trap" opponents. By having the enemy chase you around the pillar, you can separate him from his team and your team can nuke him. By this point, if a player is wounded, he will usually run toward the center.
I default to attacking another opponent when enemies successfully elude me. It keeps DPS time up and allows me to remain in combat. Moreover, that enemy has just removed himself from combat -- he's no help to his team. Think of it as a power play! A 5v4 in hockey is pretty good; it's just as awesome in arena! Better yet a 3v2, or a 2v1!
Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? Read Blood Sport for pointers on arena play. Don't miss our interviews with successful arena PvPers, and see The Art of War(craft) for the inside line on battlegrounds and world PvP.