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The Colosseum: Retrospective and Analysis, pt. I


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.

Season 4 ended some time ago, and Wrath is only a few weeks away. While we don't have official word about when Season 5 will start, it probably won't be until Blizzard's finished balancing the classes. Right now, the Arena is a sort of blasted land, filled with teams taking advantage of the relatively unrated play to experiment with new compositions, new talents, and new strategies.

We're going to take advantage of the break ourselves, by looking at the collective of interviews we've gathered in our three months of the Colosseum. There are definitely common themes across what each Arena fighter had to say, and it'd be helpful to take some time and understand what those common themes are, and what they say about the Arena.

WoW Insider: Who are your partners right now? What's the plan behind your composition?

There are a few truths to the Arena, and one of them is simple: "Composition is king." Your group composition refers to which classes exist in your team, and says a lot about which tactics are available to you. If you have a Rogue, your toolkit includes a remarkable amount of Crowd Control and lockdowns. (This is, of course, why so many people say rogues are overpowered.)

If your team doesn't have a healer, it falls into the group "Double DPS." There are very few, if any, high-ranked 3v3 teams that don't work with a healer. The Armory's information about group composition is always unreliable, since it only takes snapshots of information. While you may not see a healer in a given team right now, chances are that a healer's stepped away from the team recently. Restoration Druids are usually the preferred healing class, since they can cast on the move and offer "spammable" Crowd Control in the form of Cyclone.

Most Double DPS teams seem to be dual-rogue. Again, they get by on their crowd control, ability to lock down players from taking actions, and then Vanishing when they need to reset the game. This aspect isn't limited to Double DPS, however. Nostalgia and Drwhy equally rely on their ability to "reset" a match, bringing the whole affair back to square one. This reset-aspect (and the ability of classes to enforce a reset) is key: giving yourself a minute to rest, reset your adrenaline, and get all your cooldowns back up gives you another shot at winning a match. Of course, you also try to avoid making again the mistakes that forced you to reset in the first place.

WoW Insider: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?

The "pro" opening strategies have been surprises to some readers. When the whistle blows and the match starts, there's a wide variety of strategies. As you can guess, a lot of it seems to depend on group comp.

A Rogue team will go for a Sap, trying to get that advantage in the first few seconds of the match. Otherwise, though? The steps seem obvious. First, find out what you're fighting. Second, communicate quickly and effectively on Ventrillo. (As a note, no one discussed using the in-game voice chat.) Third, basically, go for it.

By comparison, a more "defensive" composition (like those involving a Hunter or Shaman) will try and "hole up." Megatf said if he suspects a Rogue is on the opposing team, he'll "flare and trap." If there's a Warrior on the other team, of course, you'll try and get that Warrior in combat as soon as possible, in order to deny him the free-rage and stun from using Charge.

So you're opening strategy is definitely going to be affected by your composition. But there wasn't really any universal answer from our interviewees, except "Find out what you're fighting as soon as possible."

You can do this by scanning any visible enemies, and reading their buffs. If you see Mark of the Wild, they've got a Druid. If you see an Arcane Brilliance, then there's a Mage hiding out Invisible. There's some homework involved for new players learning which classes provide which buffs. Once you can do tell a class comp by the buffs, however, you're going to find yourself with a leg up.

WoW Insider: Which mods do you use -- how have you customized your screen?

Interview respondents fell into two categories on the subject of mod usage. The first kept a clean, unmodified User Interface. The reason they do that is because when they went to an official competition, there are no mods allowed. They play in the live realms as close as possible to that format, to keep their training as "real" to the competitive model as possible.

The second category embraces mods as being a vital part of their competitive model. Most mods vary by class, with Warlocks preferring mods like Afflicted, and others leaning towards Quartz. The universally used mod, however, was Proximo.

Proximo "pops" your enemy's name, class, life, and mana bars into a clickable focus frame as soon as you mouse over them. For the remainder of the match, you can simply reselect your target by hitting their name in Proximo.

Many of the Arena fights also used a Focus Frame mod, like FocusFrame. Since this functionality has been added in patch 3.0.2, however, we'll see if folks continue to use a mod-based Focus frame, or use the in-game feature.

WoW Insider: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)

Two more of the universal tips from our interviewees are "Communicate" and "Practice." Few interview questions highlight the critical nature of those principles as strongly as the question about target designation.

When the Arena gates open, you have very little time to plan and formulate. This is where practice becomes so overwhelmingly important. If you've fought a given competition hundreds of times with your partners, you'll have built a good feeling for how your team's going to act. Communication becomes more easy, because you're no longer saying simple things like "I'm going to sap the healer." It's assumed, everyone on your group knows you're going to do that.

Practice hones your skills not only personally, but as a group. You can act knowing that, in general, your druid healer is going to be poledancing. He doesn't have to say it, and you'll eventually form an almost "ghost sense" of where he is.

Target designation becomes much simpler, because you don't have to make it up at the beginning of each match. You'll all focus your fire on the same target, and you'll have saved precious reaction time.

Please join us next week as we continue to look at Season 4's collection of Arena Interviews.

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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