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Blood Sport: Bad momentum, part 2


Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Blood Sport investigates the entirety of all things arena for gladiators and challengers alike. C. Christian Moore, multiple rank 1 gladiator, examines the latest arena strategy, trends, compositions and more in's arena column.

Listening Music: Katy Perry's banned Sesame Street appearance. I appreciate Perry's timbre and unique enunciation. It's off-putting to see her music becoming increasingly overproduced, but I guess that's the business of pop music.

I wrote last week on momentum and had to truncate a lot of talking points. I wasn't satisfied with only talking about two aspects of the bad momentum that forces you to adapt your gameplay, so we'll be discussing more aspects this week.
  • Action You get Counterspelled out of your healing school.
  • Bad reaction You spam heals mindlessly.
  • Good reactions You communicate, use other schools and improve your positioning.
Every healer, even professional WoW players, get locked out of his healing schools. Sometimes, Counterspells hit your heals at the very worst times. Your teammate will be straddling the line of life and death when you go for a quick Flash of Light and boom, you're suddenly locked out of your holy school. Your teammate dies.

Relax. There's not a lot you could have done in that situation; the opposing team simply outplayed you into that position. Talk with your teammates to figure out a way to not get yourselves in life-or-death situations in the future -- the problem wasn't with your getting spell-locked.

What to do when you're locked out

Other times, however, Counterspells hit you when there's no real danger to your teammate. These are the times you should be doing something other than waiting for your holy (or nature) school to come back online.

Most importantly, communicate with your partners that you're not able to heal. This will allow them to pop defensive cooldowns and react differently than they would normally. Even the best arena players need to be told that their healer isn't able to heal because of a school lockout. You should be doing this already, but if you aren't in the habit of calling out when crowd control or Counterspells hit you, start to get in the habit! It will help you when rated battlegrounds come out in Cataclysm, if nothing else.

Use other schools! If you're a discipline priest who just got locked out of your holy school, start slinging some shadow spells until the lockout wears off. An additional DoT like Shadow Word: Pain can help your warlock partner apply more pressure to the enemy team. I mean, you're not going to be doing anything else during that school lockout, anyway -- might as well help in any way you can.

Lastly, take the time that you would be spending using a cast-time heal (which requires you to be in a fixed position), to get yourself into a more advantageous spot. This will help prevent oncoming lockouts and hopefully give your team a position advantage to gain leverage on the opposing team.


  • Action An enemy team that you have never defeated (but which has beaten you many times) appears on the other side of the arena.
  • Bad reaction Give up.
  • Good Reactions Slow down the battle in your mind and figure out what they're doing, or try a completely different strategy, expecting to find a weakness for future battles.
I've been on both sides of this scenario. When I first started playing arena back in Season 2 of The Burning Crusade, we would always seem to queue up against a pair of opponents who were far more geared and skilled than we were. I think we lost to them 50 times before ever bringing one of them to half health. They were simply better than we were.

We started to leave the arena whenever they were on the other side. We figured it was better than the two or three minutes we would waste by having to play the games out. Could we have continued to try to beat them? Sure. Instead, we decided to just give up whenever they would appear.

Fast-forward a week or two into the future. The end of the season was nearing and we hadn't played our feared PvP overlords for a few days. Suddenly, they were on the other side of the arena. Instead of leaving the arena like we normally did, we decided to play for it.

We killed one of them. Now, we didn't win the arena battle. Mere seconds after their healer died, my lone opponent killed my healer and I was left in a dueling situation with a far superior player. I lost.

Even if we lost, we killed one of our dreaded enemies, and that gave us hope. We knew that we could win, even if it was unlikely to happen more often than not.

David vs. Goliath

Try to understand everything that's happening. Ask your teammates to give a full account of the arena match after it's finished. Ask them what happened that allowed the other team to walk away with the win. Try to tell an accurate account yourself. This will help you to realize everything that happened and prevent it from happening in the future.

Watch for key points within the match. Do they use defensive cooldowns immediately, or do they try to save them for times when they're close to death? This will help you gauge how you can win against them.

Against teams that use defensive cooldowns very sparingly, coordinating a large amount of burst damage will often be enough to get a quick kill. When enemy teams underestimate burst damage, it allows for quick-swap kills much more easily than teams with a trigger-happy finger on a defensive cooldown (like Ice Block, Pain Suppression or Divine Shield).

Against teams that blow defensive cooldowns without fear, try getting them to pop their defensive cooldowns very early, then pop your own to avoid their offensive damage. As long as they're using cooldowns more quickly than you are, you should have the advantage.

When everything else fails, try a completely different strategy, one that might not even be "good." Try rushing the other team with your healer, doing a ton of offensive damage. If you're an all-melee team, try attacking the enemy plate class instead of the cloth user. It might sound terrible -- and it certainly is in theory -- but it might be exceptionally effective against a team not expecting it.

We started winning against our arch-nemesis by doing just that. We played very differently than most teams of our same composition, and it paid off with shock value. When the enemy team tried to adapt to our "bad" strategy, we switched back to the normal strategy most teams employ and punished their adaptation. Eventually, we were able to beat them more often than not and get back many of the points we had lost to them in weeks past.

It was a glorious day.
  • Action A teammate dies.
  • Bad reaction Give up.
  • Good reaction Assume the enemy team is going to play poorly; play like you're still going to win.
Lastly, I just want to make a quick point about arena. Even when things seem hopeless, every cloud has a silver lining. Orangemarmalade's 1v2 is the most famous example of perseverance in the face of defeat. You can 1v2 enemy teams -- you just have to believe in yourself.

That's when you exceed your expectations and do things you never thought you could.

Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? Read Blood Sport for pointers on arena play. Don't miss our interviews with successful arena PvPers, and see The Art of War(craft) for the inside line on battlegrounds and world PvP.

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