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The Art of War(craft): Motion Theory Part II

Zach Yonzon

Last week we went over the importance of motion in PvP. Unlike in most PvE encounters, movement is vital to PvP. Kiting and taking advantage of line-of-sight is standard fare, so unrestricted movement is essential. Thankfully, in World of Warcraft, plate- and cloth-wearers alike move at relatively the same speed. It's difficult to imagine PvP at a plodding pace, which is why movement-impairing spells and abilities are key to PvP.

Every class has skills and talents that either enable unrestricted movement or hampers an opponent's ability to move. In PvP, learning to harness these abilities to the fullest can spell the difference between a mediocre PvP player from an excellent one. As a melee class, my favorite targets are those players who don't bother to move. Even melee classes engaging other melee classes benefit from constant movement, always trying to go behind the opponent to remove chances to parry or block as well as remove oneself from attack range. Let's go over the different classes and their movement enhancing or hampering abilities.

Inarguably, the best and greatest class for mobility is the Druid. Druids are the masters of movement and are the most difficult class to chase down. The best Druids are absolutely, perfectly beautiful to watch in combat, changing forms to break snare effects, cast spells, and attack. I've been struck in awe with the grace and ferocity of many excellent Druids who use their many forms to the fullest. The act of shapeshifting frees the Druid from Polymorph and movement impairing effects, making the Druid's only limitation being their mana to pay for their transformations. The Restoration talent Natural Shapeshifter helps in this regard, as well as the baseline Innervate. In PvP, however, it's interesting to note that Druids are mostly immune to mana drain effects, anyway, as their non-caster forms don't use it. CLARIFICATION: That is to say, Druids in non-caster forms (Cat and Bear) are immune to mana drain effects.

Druids have very few weaknesses with regards to movement. In World PvP, the instant cast Flight Form opens up a wild range of combat possibilities. In Battlegrounds and Arenas, Travel Form and Cat Form's Dash is used and abused to escape range and line-of-sight to the constant frustration of opponents. It's no accident that the most popular healing class in 2v2 and 3v3 Arenas are Druids. Should Blizzard ever implement an Arena with water, it would be interesting to see Druids abuse their Aquatic Form, too. Ironically, the Druid's 41-point Restoration talent, Tree of Life, is a liability in PvP specifically because of its movement penalty.

But what truly makes Druid so powerful in motion isn't simply their myriad forms, but because of their arsenal of instant cast spells. In the fast-paced game of PvP, instant cast is king. Healing-over-Time spells, which Druids specialize in, are also key because they keep ticking after they've been cast, allowing Druids to resume their elusive ways. Rejuvenation and Lifebloom combine to make targets extremely hard to take down. Add Nature's Swiftness and Swiftmend to the mix and you have potent, uninterruptible healing that often makes Druids (or their friends) in the throes of death bounce back into the fray with full or nearly full health.

As if their nearly unrestrictable capacity to move weren't enough, Druids also have Entangling Roots, which not only immobilizes opponents, it also damages them for a token amount. The Balance spell Nature's Grasp is a valuable 1-point talent -- an instant cast spell that is usable even in feral forms, giving Druids yet another escape mechanic. With a 35% proc rate, there's little urgency to get its improved form, as it's likely to proc within the 45 seconds as the druid is getting hit. Lastly, Druids are also equipped with what is arguably the best crowd control spell in the game, Cyclone. Infinitely flexible, Cyclone is only one of the many spells Druids use to maintain freedom of movement.

If the Druid wants to keep combat up close, as in the case of Feral Druids, they can do that, too. Aside from Entangling Roots and Nature's Grasp, Druids in Bear Form have Bash and the talent Feral Charge, both of which stun the target. EDIT: Feral Charge immobilizes, not stuns. (Thanks, Nandini!) In Rogue-like Cat Form, Druids usually open with Pounce and intersperse their attacks with Maim to interrupt spellcasting as well as prevent escape. A Druid's versatility in combat is simply unparalleled.

Of all the classes, Hunters are the most reliant on kiting. A Hunter is most powerful at range, even with the change to the so-called dead zone, a range that was too far for Hunters to make melee strikes -- 5 yards -- and too near for them to make ranged attacks -- formerly 8 yards. In PvP, it was paramount to abuse this dead zone in order to neutralize a Hunter. The removal of this range restriction has made Hunters more capable of dealing with opponents who get close. That said, Hunters operate best at long range, and they are equipped with several powerful abilities to keep opponents at bay.

The earliest snare that a Hunter gets is Concussive Shot, learned at Level 8 and is a staple opener or second shot in PvP. Improved Concussive Shot further gives the chance to stun the target, allowing the Hunter more control over engagement distance. Because it applies a daze effect on the target, Steady Shot becomes even more effective. Concussive Barrage in the Marksmanship tree is another ability that applies daze, but because of a low 6% proc rate off Auto-shot -- which doesn't work while in motion -- it isn't highly desirable. A Hunter's shot cycle is completely different from a raid DPS cycle when kiting because it removes Auto-shot from the equation. As always, instant cast is king, which is why Arcane Shot and stings are key to a Hunter's kiting repertoire. Hunters also have Aspect of the Cheetah, which significantly increases run speed at the risk of getting dazed when struck.

That's not all, of course. Hunters have even more tools at their disposal to widen the gap between them and their opponents. The movement-impairing Frost Trap and immobilizing Freezing Trap are part of a Hunter's kiting arsenal, the former effective against multiple opponents -- specially with the Hunter Survival talents Entrapment and Clever Traps -- and the latter against single opponents. It is fairly common these days, however, to see Hunters opt to use Snake Trap in conjunction with Feign Death, which can cause temporary targeting confusion for their enemies. Snake Trap snakes can also inflict Crippling Poison to add to a Hunter's plethora of snares. Should Hunters find themselves within a less than comfortable range, Wing Clip is a spammable melee strike that can buy the Hunter time to move away, particularly if the Survival talent Improved Wing Clip procs.

Speaking of Survival talents, the under-appreciated 21-point Counterattack expands a Hunter's plethora of immobilizing abilities. Marksmanship and Beast Mastery's key distancing talents also sit at 21 points, with Scatter Shot being so useful in PvP that many Hunters take Marksmanship points just to get it. Beast Masters often use the stun pet ability Intimidation as an opener, but can also be used to break free from particularly sticky opponents such as Warriors. Despite their limited ability to free their own movement, Hunters have a barrage of movement-controlling abilities, making them to game's premiere kiting class.

While not particularly known for movement, Mages -- particularly Frost Mages -- are masters of keeping opponents in place. The PvP-favorite spell Frost Nova is more often than not used to immobilize more than it is to damage, and most Mages find it practical to use Rank 1 of the spell. Frostbolt, Frost Armor, and Cone of Cold all have chill, or snare, effects that are synergistic with many Frost talents, the latter being an instant cast spell that can be cast on the move. Improved Blizzard is a talent that also adds a chill effect to the spell. These all work very well if the Frost talent Frostbite procs -- specially with the help of the new Ice Block-replacing talent Icy Veins -- which in turn helps Shatter as well as the Ice Lance spell, which is instant and spammable. It all meshes together so well that it's no wonder that Frost talents are extremely popular in PvP.

Though few Mages take the talent, it's worth noting that Permafrost improves chill effects, adding to a Mage's ability to restrict movement. The 41-point Water Elemental also has its own Frost Nova in Freeze. Not to be outdone, however, Fire Mages have their own array of snares and incapacitating effects. Impact, for example, is extremely annoying when it procs -- imagine being crit by a Pyroblast and not being able to move. Blast Wave is another useful talent that Fire Mages use to slow multiple opponents, while Blazing Speed is one of the absolute best PvP talents in a Mage's spellbook. Because melee classes that close the gap can be a cloth-wearer's bane, Blazing Speed allows Mages to break free and cast from a safer distance. EDIT: I can't believe I neglected to mention Dragon Breath (writing at 3am in the morning is hell for prepared mental notes). This 41-point talent instant cast spell is useful for incapacitating multiple opponents at once and is a Fire Mage's favorite when leaping into the fray. (Thanks, Jweiss10!)

The Arcane tree, of course, has the aptly-named Slow spell, which not only reduces movement speed but attack and casting speed, as well. Finally, how can we not mention Blink, a Mage's signature spell. It frees the Mage from stuns -- take that, Rogues! -- as well as immobilizing effects. It's an extremely useful movement spell that allows a Mage to control the distance of the battle, since it's sometimes a good tactic to move closer to opponents in order to cast spells such as Frost Nova. It's also an excellent spell interrupt, whether to move out of range or to Blink towards the enemy and appear behind them.

Paladins are a melee class with very limited ranged abilities, making movement essential. As healers without any instant cast healing spells aside from the mana-inefficient, 15-second cooldown, and 31-point talent Holy Shock, Paladins cannot keep moving the same way Druids can. This has considerably lowered Paladin representation in 2v2 and 3v3 Arenas. However, Paladins have some abilities that enable unrestricted movement most notably Blessing of Freedom. Despite being nerfed in Patch 2.2, Blessing of Freedom is a staple PvP spell that Paladins use not only on themselves but, more importantly, on allies. In Arenas or in Battlegrounds such as Warsong Gulch, BoF is a key spell that allows allies to move with relative impunity.

Blessing of Protection is another key spell that can aid in unrestricted movement. While its more popular use is in preventing your clothie friends from being torn to shreds by Rogues or Warriors, it is important to note that there are many snare effects that are Physical in nature, such as a Hunter's Wing Clip or a Warrior's Hamstring. Daze is also a Physical effect, as well as many incapacitate abilities such as Maim and Gouge, or even stuns. It is important to note, however, that the recipient of BoP cannot physically attack so it must never be placed on allied Warriors, Rogues, or even Hunters and Retribution Paladins except under the rarest circumstances.

Speaking of Retribution Paladins, the Retribution talent Pursuit of Justice was buffed in Patch 2.3 from a 2-point talent with an 8% speed increase to a 3-point talent that grants a passive 15% movement and mounted speed increase, making it essential for PvP. Most serious PvP players will have a passive movement buff in one form or the other, so PoJ is a key ability to keep opponents close. This works very well with what is arguably the most important PvP spell a Paladin has in his arsenal -- Seal of Justice. Judging Seal of Justice on an enemy will cap their movement speed to 100%, making escape through speed increases impossible. It is one of the few spells that hamper Druid mobility because it isn't classified as a movement-impairing effect. Judging this seal is a key opener for Retribution Paladins. EDIT: Judgement of Justice also has an undesirable effect that it makes the target immune to fear. (Thanks, Battalion!)

Retribution also has Repentance, a 6-second incapacitate effect that Retribution Paladins use to close the distance or as a situational spell interrupt. Because it is an incapacitate effect, Mages cannot blink out of it, but note that it only works against humanoids, so it cannot be used to catch Druids in feral or tree forms. Paladins also have Hammer of Justice, which can be used every minute for both escaping and preventing escape. Talents in the Protection tree lower the cooldown of Hammer of Justice to 45 seconds, while the PvP sets' 4-piece bonus grant a further 10 second reduction allowing 6-second stuns every 35 seconds with the proper spec and gear. Protection Paladins also use Avenger's Shield, which dazes up to three targets.

Lastly, there is Divine Shield, a Paladin's defining spell. It is the single most powerful protection spell in the game, countered by only two spells -- Mass Dispel, which removes it; and Cyclone, which it cannot break. Divine Shield allows the Paladin unrestricted movement and unparalleled protection, breaking every form of CC except for the aforementioned Cyclone. While Paladins cannot move and cast as freely as Druids, Divine Shield allows 12 seconds of unrestricted movement, healing, or attacks, barring Mass Dispel. In PvP, sometimes 12 seconds is enough to turn the tide of a battle.

With the exception of the Shadow talent Mind Flay, Priests have little by way of movement-impairing abilities and is arguably the most gimped of all the classes movement-wise. Perhaps the most important PvP talent that Priests have with regards to distance control is the first tier Shadow talent Blackout. Shadow Priests can spam Rank 1 Shadow Word: Pain in an attempt to proc Blackout's stun while contributively stacking Shadow Weaving to five. Racial abilities of the Shadow school such as Touch of Weakness or Shadowguard can also proc Blackout (as well as apply Shadow Weaving).

Despite their limited access to movement control, Priests can use Psychic Scream in a pinch to escape opponents and is key in Arena matches, particularly 5v5, to cause confusion and break coordination. Other than these small concessions to movement, it's probably a good idea for Priests to invest in a good pair of shoes and some energy drinks.

Next week: A look at the other classes' -- Rogues, Shamans, Warlocks, and Warriors -- abilities to manage and control combat distance as well as enchants, items, and consumables that aid in movement.

Zach Yonzon writes the weekly PvP column The Art of War(craft) in between picnics with Lady Liadrin and playing with the Light.

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