The Colosseum: Retrospective and Analysis, pt. 2

Michael Gray
M. Gray|11.08.08

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The Colosseum takes us inside the world of the Gladiator (Brutal, Vengeful, Merciless, 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 Netherdrakes.

We heard a few days ago that even rated matches being played out now will not earn Arena points (which would reset at the opening of Wrath anyway.) That's kind of a slap in the face! for folks who were hoping to win that one last piece of gear before the expansion hits on Thursday. Still, this really cements the idea of us being stuck in a Limbo Season, and supports the idea that now is the time to review the last few months and take some time to understand our lessons learned.

Last week, we started reviewing the answers given by Colosseum interviewees through the last three months. There were three basic themes that seemed to repeat themselves. We'll take a second to review those, then progress with our analysis of the Colosseum so far.

We have three basic themes we've gathered so far. First, "Composition is king." This isn't just a matter of some classes being overpowered or being the "best." No class is an island in the Arena. If you think of your class as a collection of stats, tools, and abilities, then you can more easily consider how those tools will line up with another class. It's often been cited that the power of a Druid and Rogue together is the raw synergy the two classes have with one another, given the stealth and crowd control they can produce.

Second, "Practice." This isn't just about honing faster reflexes, though that's certainly important. Sheer volume of practice will teach you how both you and your partner will react to enemy compositions and tactics. You'll get to know what the other guy's going to do, and what you should do about it. And, what's more, it'll teach you and your partners to follow the third principle -- "Communicate."

In the same way no single class is an island, no player can operate in the Arena in a vacuum. You have to let your partner know what you're doing, what you're going to do, and sometimes what you've already done. Practice and repetition will tone down the granularity by which you have to explain your actions. "I'm on the priest to interrupt him" becomes simply "Shocking the priest."

WoW Insider: How do you schedule your playtime? Do you try and work during "good times to queue?"

Answers among the Arena fighters varied. Many of our high-ranked Arena players are actually also active in raiding, which supports the idea that they're playing World of Warcraft as a "whole game," instead of fragmented pieces. As a result, those folks tend to queue whenever they're not busy raiding or prepping to raid.

Others, of course, have difficulty on their battlegroups finding equally matches opponents. This can be an issue for high ranked players because if they happen to lose to a much lower rated group, they stand to lose a lot of points all at once. By queuing against folks on a similar tier, the give and take is a little more equal. Those teams looking to queue against only equally rated groups go through many contortions to make sure it's feasible -- communicating with other players, queuing during odd hours, and otherwise carefully testing the waters.

WoW Insider: What's been the biggest change in your strategy between each bracket of ratings? (1500s, 1600s)

Strategies change across rating brackets. In the 1500s, high-rated players just burn down the other teams through aggressive, burst-oriented play. While less true in Season 4 than previously, in that range of play, you expected to see opponents without a lot of coordination, and certainly without a surplus of the PvP-mandated Resilience stat.

As you get higher, though, things change. You start paying more attention to the flow of each match, and start seeing team compositions change. There are fewer Hunters, for example, and more specifically oriented "counter comps." Still, many of our interviewees said they play across all brackets basically the same -- good habits should be maintained, and bad habits should be eschewed.

WoW Insider: What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)

The universal answer is "Mana." If your healer is running out of mana (OOM) faster than the other team's healer, then you need to radically shift gears and try to reset the match. When the priest or druid is dry-humping their mana bar, certain doom is right around the corner.

Rogues Vanish, Warriors pop their sword and board, and everyone generally buttons up to try and give their healer a chance to drink. Drinking in the Arena is a fine art in and of itself, and has been the source of some nerfs over time. Still, when that little blue bar of life-giving-energy is about gone, you have no choice but to try and replenish it.

The natural caveat, of course, is that if you have the other team on the ropes anyway, and reasonably expect you can get your kill immediately, then go for it. But that's one of the things you have to practice, and know whether to go for the throat.

WoW Insider: You hear a lot about clicking versus binding. Which skills do you still click, which do you tend to bind?

Okay, folks. If ever we have a universal answer, this was it. Bind your keys. Turn and move with your mouse. Click the occasional odd ability if you must but in general, you really, really need to get your chief abilities bound to your keyboard. Your reaction time and muscle memory will be so superior that you'll wonder how you ever did without it. If you're not sure the keyboard is for you exactly, there are peripherals like the Belkin Nostromo that'll get the same job done. (Some would say a Nostromo performs better than a keyboard, since there are so many customization options available to the game pad.)

The next season starts on December 16th. While you can only skirmish now, it's a good time to grab your partners and start your do-si-do. By the time Season 5 rolls around, if you take the lesson to heart, you'll find yourself climbing the ranks in no time.

The Colosseum is a new interview series by WoW Insider, meant to reveal strategies, compositions, and tactics from the Arena fighters who use them. For more PvP information, be sure to hit up Blood Sport and the Art of War(craft).
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