Listening Music: James Taylor's "Fire and Rain." 40 years later and just as awesome.
Whether you're doing BGs or arena, the big picture is the most important part of PvP. Arena and battlegrounds are almost entirely about figuring out what's going on at that time with your team against what is going on with your opponent's team. The players who see where the battle is headed before their opponents will always win that game.
Some members of my team are usually pretty curious about my apparent foreknowledge when it comes to battlegrounds. I call everything out before it happens -- that is, I'll call, "Farm, 4-5 incoming" before the enemy team even spawns. To me, it's obvious that the enemy team is going to head to our farm. To others, this prediction seems like witchcraft or a lucky guess.
The only thing I'm utilizing in this example is an understanding of spawn points.
Spawn point predictability
If you've played first-person shooters in which spawn points are predictable, you've most likely got a heads-up by just naturally keeping spawn points in mind. In battlegrounds, spawn points aren't just predictable -- they're 100 percent knowable.
When I call out incomings in Arathi Basin, 90 percent of the time, I'm doing it before it happens. If the entire enemy team is spawning at the gold mine, they can only quickly get to the stables or farm. If most of them just made an attempt to capture the stables and failed, they're obviously going to try the farm next. It's a matter of simple trial and error on their part, and it benefits those who can see it coming.
Understanding spawn points is the first step to figuring out the big picture when it comes to PvP. While this particular example might not have a ton of relevance within arena, a similar effect does.
Predictability in arena
Arena doesn't have spawn points -- but it does have ebb and flow from the same battle to the next. When your opponents attack your paladin and don't kill him while burning all their cooldowns, they're probably going to go for another member of your team next time. Be prepared for it. This can happen in the same game or (more likely) in the next.
If the opposing team is made up of two physical damage classes and a healer, they're likely to view clothies as high-priority targets. Use this to your advantage! Call out on Vent (or Skype) what the enemy wants to do and how to counter it.
Ever hear the expression "one step ahead of everyone else"? That's exactly what's going on here. They're usually just talking about what they want to do -- you're making a prediction (that hopefully lines up with theirs) and a game plan to counter it. That gives you a huge edge.
If you had your paladin sitting behind a pillar for most of the game yet they went for him anyway, that tells you something very important about the enemy team -- they're willing to forfeit positioning for what they view as a good target.
Punish them by predicting what targets they will attack and put them on your side of the arena, away from the center. When they go to attack your teammate, have your team stop them in the center with stuns, roots, and slows. Your teammate can run away for a little bit, then come back to help DPS/heal. The enemy team will hopefully be very far behind at this point, and you can ride your advantage to victory!
Slow down the game
Think about it -- the first time you entered arenas, you probably got blown away more often than not. Everything seemed like a blur; most of the time, you didn't even know what you died from. Sometimes, you didn't even know which enemy killed you.
When people get more familiar with fast-paced battles, a few globals seem like 10 to 20 seconds. It's much easier to figure out how to win an arena match when you know exactly what happened within the match.
There are a few things you can do to successfully slow down the game.
We already talked about this a little bit, but it's really important for understanding so much. Sometimes you make predictions and they fail; those times are when you learn about your enemies.
Some predictions are easy to make: The enemy rogue is trying to line-of-sight behind a pillar because he's low on health. He's probably going to want to stealth once he gets out of combat. That's an easy prediction. A difficult prediction might be where he wants to move to once he's hidden.
One of my old teammates would take videos of our games from his perspective, and we would review them after we were done for the night. It was awesome. It allowed us to figure out where we were weak and where we were strong. It also gave us insight into the enemy team -- especially positioning of healers during certain points within the game.
Videos also had the beneficial side effect of keeping us honest so no one could say, "No, I gave you Blessing of Freedom 5 seconds before you died." Yes, we played with a holy paladin that would make assertions about what he did in order to not put the blame on himself.
Ask teammates for advice
Your teammates are a valuable tool; they have insight into your tendencies. Because of my teammates, I know I have a tendency to switch DPS targets before my team is ready to start spreading around damage. I tend to be a poor communicator when this happens, so I'll always tell my teammates to remind me when I'm doing this.
When we review our games (either in memory or on video), I always start by asking my teammates to point out huge mistakes I made within the games and ways we can change them. Sometimes it will be trying to burn a stun cooldown to get a kill when we weren't in a position to do so -- I could have instead used it defensively when our opponents went for a kill. Other times, I'll completely miss a kill opportunity because I'm off in la-la land crowd controlling enemy healers to my heart's content.
Having friends tell you exactly what you're doing wrong will help you to slow down the game. Whenever I crowd control enemies, I now remember to look at enemy health totals to make sure I'm not wasting my time keeping track of healers when I could be Kill Shotting someone. That kind of goes with something we'll talk about soon: priorities!
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.