WoW.com: How did you get into the Arena, considering you're on a roleplay server?
Aethros: Well, I wasn't always on an RP server. My first character was an enhancement shaman on US-Dethecus (PvP), who I played throughout Burning Crusade and is currently elemental on Cenarion Circle (Tempestion). I like to think that running enhancement/resto druid in 2v2 all those years helped me as a player, as enhancement shaman weren't particularly strong back then and I'd need to play intelligently if I wanted to have any hope of winning.
About a year ago, me and my friend from high school transferred to Cenarion Circle to play with our other real life friend. I miss the world PvP, but playing with people you know is always worth it.
WoW.com: Who are your teammates right now? What's the general plan behind your composition? What challenges does your team have? How do you prefer to run your comp?
Aethros: My current teammates are Xain (warrior) and Flo, a holy paladin, in what's normally called a TSG composition. TSG isn't the most intricate comp, as you have no spammable crowd control and your main tools to lock out healers (Gnaw, Strangulate, HoJ) are all on relatively long cooldowns. At a higher level, once you can't just zerg healers into oblivion, TSG is about creating early pressure from DK interrupts, and then continuing to swap targets so their healer has trouble catching up. It is also primarily the death knight's job (outside of Disarms and clutch focus intercepts) to keep the other team's DPS off your healer.
We have the biggest trouble against Wizard Cleave teams (2 DPS casters and one healer). At least so far, everything else has seemed beatable. The problem with Wizard Cleave is that if you have no CC of your own, a team with two or three potent crowd controls is eventually going to blow one of you up if you don't play super-defensively.
WoW.com: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?
Aethros: As soon as the gate opens, I'll right-click Gladius to set my focus target (usually a healer). From there, Xain will immediately charge our primary DPS target while I get diseases up, stomp totems if they're up, summon my Gargoyle, and if Xain isn't stunned or disarmed, chain interrrupts into their healer. Warrior damage is so ridiculous right now that I almost don't need to DPS.
Picking the correct primary target is, of course, crucial as the rest of a game. Even a long match against a double healer/warrior can depend on whether you can get enough pressure going in the first twenty seconds. Sometimes, it's not always about whether the target is necessarily squishy, but if you can shut down their damage through sheer pressure, such as with hunter teams where keeping in melee range will make your healer's life a lot easier.
WoW.com: Which mods do you use -- how have you customized your screen?
Aethros: I use Bartender, Gladius, Quartz for cast bars, DKI Runes for my rune display, and my personal favorite, NeedToKnow to track my diseases. I messed around with things like Afflicted and SpellAlerter for a while, but I found my screen was getting too crowded.
WoW.com: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)
Aethros: I'm usually the one who ends up calling out targets and switches. When the match begins, I'll usually try and frame the game in a general context, usually calling not just the primary target, but the first switch. (Unless it's a priest or a warlock, in which case the poor guys can get trained down in the first Gnaw-Strangulate-Death Grip-Mind Freeze.)
Of course, in the heat of the match, with as much spread damage as warriors and DKs can put out, you have to make some swaps on the fly. All three of us call these types of plays out.
WoW.com: How do you schedule your playtime? Do you try and work during "good times to queue?" Is this different now than in previous seasons?
Aethros: All of us are at university at the moment, so we all play too much. We're online often enough where any given evening we can decide to get some games in or just take it easy.
WoW.com: What's been the biggest change in your strategy between each bracket of ratings? (1500s, 1600s) Is there a big change for this season?
Aethros: Ideally, you don't really want to change your strategy between brackets - if you deserve to be at the rating you're at, then hopefully you've been playing that well the whole way. At lower MMR what you do have is a much wider margin for error, and you'll also deal a lot more damage.
If we get queued against somebody at 1800 MMR (which happens occasionally), the biggest difference is that we can swap to targets we wouldn't normally be able to, and kill targets much faster as lower-rated players aren't as experienced in peeling for their teammates.
WoW.com: What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)
Aethros: The key to any TSG's pressure is ultimately your team's ability to keep the warrior playing offensively. If Xain is forced to play defensively (for example, during an RMP opener), my priority is simply to keep him alive. Against different teams this strategy takes different forms, but it's not uncommon for me to ghoul stun a warlock and Death Grip the mage simultaneously in order to prevent their coordinated burst.
It's also important to know when you're overextending. Even if the hunter's at 30%, if he's kiting you behind a pillar and you're at maximum range from your paladin, you really don't want to Rambo behind that pillar or one of you is going to die. Part of playing TSG well is knowing your limitations.
WoW.com: What's the key for your composition's strategy? Are there multiple tactics you can use?
Aethros: Number 1: Keep your warrior doing his chop-chop thing. This means using Anti-Magic Zone judiciously to protect your warrior, interrupting caster DPS as you can, and keeping the other team's movement controlled with liberal Chains of Ice.
Number 2: Protect your paladin. We currently have a 100% win/loss ratio in mirror matches against other TSG simply because none of the teams we've faced have known how to protect their healer properly. This means your warrior needs to know when to intervene and disarm, and you as a DK need to know when to peel for your healer with chains of ice and death grip.
Number 3: Keep diseases rolling and chain your interrupts. If we can chain HoJ into Strangulate into Gnaw into Death Grip into Mind Freeze on a healer, the chances are pretty good that something's going to die.
Number 4: Know when to switch. Tunneling a hunter when you have no interrupts left for the healer, wading through a frost trap is a bad idea. The key to playing TSG is keeping their healer behind, and often this can't be accomplished without several hard switches.
WoW.com: How do you feel about the Icecrown Citadel being released before the new Arena season?
Aethros: As an Unholy DK, I was livid that 3.3 went through before Season 7 was over due to the awful changes to Scourge Strike. Suddenly, I couldn't pressure many high-armor classes the way I used to. Since I play 2s as well, it's been incredibly frustrating trying to pressure good holy paladins. Without my druid's assistance on damage, I probably wouldn't be able to.
WoW.com: What are you trying to improve?
Aethros: Right now, I'm mostly trying to improve my "field vision." I've played soccer at a pretty high level most of my life, and playing in the center midfield position has given me the ability to take in a lot of information panoramically. However, playing WoW, there's always the temptation to stare at health bars and forget the rest of what's going on. In particular, I'm trying to work on predicting when the other team is going to switch targets on us, so I can better prepare to peel or call out a different strategy.
The Colosseum is WoW.com's interview series spotlighting 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). If you would be interested in being interviewed, hit us up and tell us about yourself.