Players and playtimes
Arena is a team sport. It's a given that you want good individual players, who can exploit the full range of their toons' abilities. What's more important than that is to have players who work well together. The speed of Arena matches demands a certain chemistry between team members; that's where player personalities come in.
Interestingly, some roles and classes are more suited for some personalities than others:
Warrior: the core of many Arena teams, naturally falling into the role of leader. As leader, the warrior player will generally need to call out assists and make snap tactical decisions. You'll want a player who is knowledgeable about all the classes and PvP, preferably with loads of in-game experience. This person needs to be someone whom the team will listen to and trust in combat. He or she is generally an 'alpha' - driven, assertive and outspoken but not an egomaniac.
DPSer: this player is competitive and revels in 'scoring'. However, he or she must be able to take instructions from the team lead. Due to the 'alpha' tendencies of this player, he or she can easily double up as second-in-command if the leader is incapacitated in a bad spot during combat or otherwise occupied. The second-in-command should generally be a ranged DPS class, to complement the warrior leader. This player also needs good people skills, and be able to pep up the team, especially after a string of losses.
Control (Mage, Warlock): control with surgical precision can provide great superiority to a team in a match. This player should be mellower than the leader and DPS junkies, and needs to maintain composure in chaos. The player must understand that his or her primary role is to control the flow of the match and provide tactical advantage, not to rack up kills or brag about large crits.
Healer: the healer player derives satisfaction from supporting other players in their roles. While this person may not be as aggressive or outspoken like the leaders, he or she should have fierce pride in "not letting anyone fall". Paladins and priests generally fill this role in a 5v5 team, but priests generally need to be more geared up than paladins to perform as effectively in the Arenas.
Subs (not the sandwich): it helps to have backup players whom you can 'sub' in, when real life calls a core player away, or simply mixing it up to counter certain team combos. Get a backup healer and/or DPS. You should play with your core line-up as much as possible once you have established it. As such, the expectations of substitute players need to be set right, as core players should always get priority. Practice and shared experiences improve teamwork and help greatly in developing 'chemistry'.
Once you have the team, set playtimes that work for everyone. It's polite to inform the team in advance if you can't make the scheduled playtime, so that substitute players can be roped in. The frequency and duration of play sessions will depend on your team's goals. Expect to put in more than 10 games per week if the team is aiming for the top (duh).
A good team also knows when to call it: pressing on when players are frustrated or tired will NOT help your ratings. Always remember that your teammates are made of flesh and blood, just like you and I.
We all know how important your madskillz are, but PvP effectiveness is also, for better or worse, a function of gear. The ultimate PvPers' frustration: losing to inferior teams with better gear.
In a best case scenario, each player should start with some pieces of PvP gear gained from BG honor or previous Arena forays. Good (blue and above) PvE gear may suffice initially, but will quickly lose their effectiveness as you progress due to lack of Stamina and Resilience. Unless you wear plate, focus on maximizing Resilience as quickly as possible.
It's much easier to field a team in 2v2 than 5v5, so 2v2s are a good fallback to earn gear, even if you can't get your 5-man team together for certain weeks.
Some PvPers insist on not relying on addons, "Don't let addons play your game for you!" For the rest of us mortals, any help will be appreciated. Addons will not win you matches (if they did, Blizzard will probably act quickly to foil them). They usually repackage information or functionality that you already have and present them in a more intuitive or in-your-face fashion.
One of the most popular Arena-centric addons used at the moment is Proximo. Proximo provides enemy unit frames to help with identifying and coordinating targets. The addon creates a class icon and health bar whenever anyone in your party mouse-overs or targets any opponent, quickly forming a full picture of the other team. This saves the need to shout out opponents' classes at the beginning of combat and prevents confusion on assist calls.
Set REALISTIC goals, depending on the team's playtime, experience and gear. Are you aiming for the top and fancy Arena titles? Or are you happy with 10 games every week just for the epics? Do you want to simply have fun? Adjust the team's goal as it progresses - at a certain point, the top wouldn't seem so far away anymore.
This is probably the most under-rated aspect of running an Arena team. Make sure EVERYONE on the team owns and USES a microphone! Use WoW's in-game chat (not so great quality), or use a Vent or Teamspeak server. IM programs like Skype can provide good sound, but my personal experience suggests that they contribute to lag.
Voice communication helps with situational awareness: calling for a timely counterspell, heal or nuke can mean the difference between defeat and victory. Some comms discipline is also needed: shouting, swearing and crosstalk do nothing but add to the chaos of PvP combat.
- Be aware of what's happening around you in the Arena, don't get tunnel vision.
- Be conscious of your own healers' LOS and range, don't get yourself killed by overextending.
- Make sure most, if not all, of the abilities and spells you use in the Arena is key bound and that you are absolutely familiar with your bindings and interface. You do not want to look down at your keyboard in the heat of battle!
- Learn to anticipate opponents' moves, rather than react to them.
- Emulate the top teams in terms of gear, spec and class composition; they are up there for a reason.
- Practice, practice, practice!
When you start out in the Arenas, you WILL lose a lot of matches. Remember that getting to number one is not an overnight affair; treat each loss as a learning experience. A positive attitude really helps - afterall, you play this game for FUN, right? Good luck in Season 3!
Looking at the top teams a week after patch 2.3, we see no major movements in class distribution. There are slightly more rogues and priests in 3v3 compared to last week
, but I hesitate to infer anything from this.
Next week, we'll be looking at the stats for the final week of season 2.