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The Art of War(craft): A handy guide to winning at everything, part 2

Zach Yonzon

Zach enjoys PvP in all its forms, but the form through which he enjoys it most is the winning form.

Today we'll continue our handy guide to winning at everything. By "everything," I mean PvP encounters, and by "winning" I mean as close an approximation as you can get to not embarrassing yourself. Last week, we talked about the absolute basics of heading into battle, which starts with your machine and your internet connection. For a lot of hardcore PvP players, these are investments as much as athletes or hobbyists would invest in sports equipment like better bicycle parts or top-of-the-line running shoes. They won't make you win, but as with all tools, they'll give you the edge with all other things being even.

Sometimes, distance can be a limitation when it comes to our connection, although there are ways to compensate for that. One of these methods is SSH tunneling, which in a nutshell carries your World of Warcraft data on the express lane, while normal connections are on the freeway on which everyone else has to contend with traffic. It's like knowing the shortest route to a destination, while normal routes force you to contend with longer roads, more turns and more stoplights. The technical explanation is more complex than that, but what this basically does is lower your latency -- sometimes by as much as several hundred milliseconds, which in PvP translates to landing that killing blow before your opponent does. There are several paid services that provide tunneling, such as Gamepath or Lowerping, and I know of a lot of players outside the United States who use these services to achieve better response times in the game.

The one real danger with using an SSH tunnel or a proxy is that your IP will be hidden from Blizzard, which likes to see players' IP addresses to ensure nothing fishy is going on. Botters and farmers often route their traffic through proxies to hide their country of origin, but what gives them away is all the trading and suspicious activities they do in game, not their IP addresses or lack thereof. If you're using ping-lowering services to PvP -- which I personally think is the only justifiable reason to subscribe to one -- then you should be all right. A hidden IP address isn't a bannable offense by itself, as far as I know, although you'll probably need to check with The Lawbringer to be sure. There are also services that allow you to connect using your own IP using a third-party client, if you want to be on the safe side.

Does it actually work? Yes, SSH tunneling lowers your game ping significantly, and for many players outside the United States (and sometimes even in the United States), it's the only way to play the game without lagging. It's not a cheat, as it doesn't tamper with any of the game files, so if you're inclined to spend a few extra dollars a month to achieve better performance, then by all means, go for it. Like I mentioned, it's an investment. There are also other solutions that should allow you to lower your World of Warcraft ping by fiddling with your computer's registry settings, although this will also affect your other network connections such as torrents, web surfing and others. I also wouldn't recommend messing around with your computer's registry settings unless you're completely familiar with them.

The way you play

All right, so I think I've made my point about your internet connection. You need a fast one in order to have a better chance at winning. Equally important to your hardware or connection speed -- and arguably more so -- would be your playing skill. You might have heard the saying, "It's not whether you win or lose; it's how you play the game." In my experience, however, how you play the game is directly linked to whether you win or lose. So while your ability to play is entirely in your own hands, I'll try to go over some pointers on how to play that I've found rather useful when PvPing the World of Warcraft.

Move with your mouse. PvP is all about movement. I've stressed many times in the past that the ability to move is critical in PvP, and although the game is easier than an FPS because there automatic targeting, movement is still key because there's still line of sight. The very first pointer any self-respecting PvP player will give you is to learn how to move with your mouse. There are very basic and practical reasons for this, the first being that your character simply rotates significantly slower using your WASD (or other equivalent) keys than flipping around with the flick of your mouse. Nothing illustrates this better than the jump shot. The jump shot is an instant ranged attack that a player performs in mid-air, in the middle of a jump, while running away from the target. Basically, you jump, spin 180º to face your opponent, fire, spin 180º back to your original direction, and land. Try doing this while using your WASD keys. You can't.

Mouse movement allows extremely fast directional changes, so while your movement speed is restricted by the game, the speed at which you can change direction is limited only by how you input the instruction. And mouse trumps keyboard. The game is set by default to make your character run when you press the left and right mouse buttons. Alternately, you can toggle an autorun key (set by default to the NumLock key) and change directions using your mouse. As much as possible, don't rotate using your keyboard and don't walk backwards.

The second practical reason for using a mouse to move is to free up your keyboard hand for pressing important spells. If you move using the WASD keys, you'll only have about half your fingers free to press spells. Sometimes, you might even have to pause movement for a bit just to reach over and press a spell button. That's just no good. You need to keep your movement and spellcasting controls mutually exclusive, so that one doesn't interfere with the other. When you use both mouse buttons to move forward, this precludes clicking on spells on your UI because that means you'll have to stop moving in order to click. This is a good thing. In fact, this is why multi-button mice are an excellent investment. So you can press keys without having to let go of both mouse buttons. This brings me to my next point ...

Keybind your keys. Don't click on spells. As much as possible, keybind everything. This is important because clicking is imprecise, clumsy, and above all, slow. Try pressing a default spell button like 1 or 2 on your keyboard. Then try clicking on the same spells using your mouse. Keystrokes are obviously faster -- they're more accessible, don't require your cursor to travel across the screen, and they won't hinder mouse movement. More importantly, sticking to hotkeys will keep your eyes on the encounter at hand instead of distracting you to look for a particular spell. Keybinding relies more on muscle memory rather than visual confirmation and response, which means it'll always be faster.

As you become more and more proficient hotkeys, you can even target your own party members with keybindings instead of having to select them manually with your mouse. Of course, sometimes you won't even have to actually select your target but simply mouseover them using a macro. That's another thing -- macros. The most customized play experience makes extensive use of macros, unlocking an extremely potent feature of the game. There will be times when you will need to use your mouse in order to do a mouseover, especially when you're a healer, so as you can see there are exceptions to using the mouse to move all the time.

We don't have room to discuss everything in detail today, but next week, we'll dive into the cool world of binding your keys, a look at some macros, and maybe a teaser on further configuring your game to suit a PvP-oriented playstyle. Until then, try to win at everything. It shouldn't be too hard.

Zach delivers your weekly dose of battlegrounds and world PvP in one crazy column. Find out how the Cataclysm talent tree redesign affects PvP, how sub-speccing will work at higher levels in the expansion, and how the new Azeroth will affect world PvP. Visit Blood Sport for the inside line on arena PvP.

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