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Blood Sport: Iron Sharpens Iron, part III


Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? C. Christian Moore, multiple rank 1 Gladiator, examines the latest arena strategy, trends, compositions and more in Blood Sport.

Check out part one and part two of this series on allowing others to shape your arena gameplay. I feel like this recent series is a way for me to tell a bunch of stories -- and oh man, do I love telling stories. I've been growing very fond of a well-told anecdote.

Transitioning to another arena bracket (5v5)

If you'll recall from part two, my 3v3 teammates were content with a Gladiator title, while I was not. I told them I would stay on the team as a safety net, but that I was creating a 5v5 for rank 1. Both were very supportive and encouraged me throughout the entire process, even though they did not decide to join in my quest (they were already on high rated 5v5s).

By this time I had a formidable reputation from being high-rated in 2v2 and rank 1 in 3v3. A lot of high-rated PVPers offered me spots on their already semi high-rated 5v5s. Most of the teams used the "weak-link" sales pitch. If you've never heard it, it goes something like this: "Our 5v5 would be rank 1 with ease if it weren't for a single member of our team. But if you replace him, we'll probably go undefeated to Merciless Gladiator." They usually talk a lot of smack on that "terrible" teammate when offering you the position.

If you ever get this sales pitch, recognize that this is a giant red flag. If this were true, why haven't they already replaced him with someone else? If he really is the only thing holding them back, they could easily swap him out and do far better than they're currently doing. Moreover, is one person on a 5v5 really that important? Each time I've hit rank 1, there was a somewhat unified consensus that one player on the team was only slightly above average quality. When 80% of your team is exceptionally skilled, the other 20% doesn't have to be of the same quality to reach exceptional success.

While I entertained and explored some offers, I eventually decided that enough talent was floating around on our server that I could start a 5v5 from scratch. Besides, once I got a solid three or four man roster, maybe other well-known and well-respected PVPers would leave their teams to join mine. I talked about options with maybe 20 PVPers that I was interested in playing with and they all agreed that 10 days was enough time to hit rank 1 in 5v5, especially as the 5v5 ladder was starting to explode in popularity and there was no shortage of teams to play.

Moral of the Story Reading between the lines is often difficult, but very doable. Sometimes you have to stop paying attention to what people are saying to understand their motivations. Doing it on your own can be a very profitable and rewarding experience, and even if you fail, the lessons that you can learn from some in-game entrepreneurship can have a very positive impact.

Now hiring!

I decided to play a drain team setup (the first of many I would use) that was gaining in popularity on other battlegroups, but was not attempted on our own. I put up a forum post on our realm forums that looked something like this:

  • Rank 2 2v2 leader / rank 1 3v3 leader looking for 4 other players for possible rank 1 5v5. Please send me an in-game mail (or post here) if you are interested in having a unique Gladiator title in front of your name. I'm not interested in shaman (sorry guys, not looking for a 2346 at the moment).
I shouldn't have closed my eyes to running a powerful team composition at the time -- I might have made lasting friendships if I didn't ignore shaman at the time (although to my defense, they were pretty terrible outside of a particularly strong team composition).

The response was overwhelming. The thread capped out in two days. My mailbox had 100+ applications. I was flabbergasted. I sifted through all the applications looking primarily for past experience and gear (two very common entry barriers). Some applications simply said "I'm good, you should know who I am," while others wrote 2-3 page resumes.

I narrowed down the applications to about 20 players that looked promising. I had never been in a discerning position when it came to arena, so having to make choices between who made the cut and who didn't was a very difficult task. I asked friends to comment on applications as well as sit in for interviews. They provided valuable insight that helped me to discern the good from the bad. I was particularly interested in one individual that passed all my tests with flying colors until one of my trusted advisors explained that he thought he was coming off as a flatterer to get the position and had swept tough questions about game situations and inter-related team conflicts under the rug.

After 20 some interviews, I was convinced I had a pretty solid team on my hands. We could run a variety of team compositions to countercomp the top teams (as I had done in 3v3), all while keeping a primary set of five.

Moral of the Story Sometimes you get to be in the driver's seat. Develop a group of advisors that will help you make difficult decisions, otherwise you might be overlooking terrible flaws.

Forming the team

As I was about to start up games, some kind of intuitive sense came over me to ask around among the top tier players to make sure there wasn't anyone I had been passing over. My spidey sense was tingling. Had I not followed this intuition, the team might have wound up much, much worse.

Through some arena acquaintances, two players had transferred to our server around the 2 week end-of-season announcement. They were a hunter-druid 2v2 pair from another battlegroup who had attained rank 1 but were pushed out of contention by a relatively rare countercomp that proved to be a solid wall. They transferred battlegroups because they were positive they could hit rank 1 on our battlegroup in 2v2 and perhaps 3v3. 5v5 never entered into the equation.

In the three or four days that I was looking to set up a solid 5v5, they had ascended to the top 5 ranks of our 2v2 ladder. I pitched a drain team suggestion to them, which I had assumed they would turn down in their quest for rank 1 in 2v2. To my pleasant surprise, they explained that they were very interested in 5v5 but assumed that all contenders already had teams and would not take them. I explained my situation and they were completely on-board with it.

Moral of the Story Even when everything is going great, it might be able to go better. Explore all of your options, and get your friends to explore theirs. Amazing things will happen.

My first rank 1 title

Although we started off with nine people on the team wanting to switch around team compositions near the top, we had quickly amassed a ridiculous amount of team synergy and communication with our starting five. We dismantled the competition with ease and rode a wave of wins to a near undefeated season end. We had just ended the arena season solidly locked into the rank 1 spot with an impressive win-loss ratio. The amount of excitement was overwhelming as we watched those final seconds tick down.

Everyone on the team was very skilled (our paladin was arguably not up to snuff with the rest of us, but he certainly improved over later seasons and added more rank 1 titles to his name). However, as a special aside, I cannot help but praise the skill of the hunter I played with. He held the entire team together and was easily the best PVPer I have ever mashed keyboards with. I could write an entire article about how he approached the game and how it formed how I think about strategy and tactics, but that will have to wait for another time.

Moral of the Story Sometimes things turn out far better than you expected. Enjoy them while you can. No matter what you're doing, there isn't a lot to get excited about -- but when there is, make sure you make the most of it and try your hardest to remember those memories.

Listening Music Toto's Africa. I've been on an 80's kick recently. You're gonna have to deal with it. Bwahahaha.

Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? We'll steer you to victory with the best arena addons and let you in on some rank 1 gladiator PvP secrets. Be sure to check out our guide to PvP keybindings.

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