Such a negative start to a column! But to go back to our normal, positive mood, how can a beginning Arena team improve?
Learning how to learn to improve
1. Practice, practice, practice. Do Battlegrounds. You're probably doing them anyway to try to pick up extra conquest or honor, but they are also really useful practice tools for Arena. See them as an exercise in survival. When you're being beaten up by a couple of players from the other team, that's the time to try all those survival skills you put on your action bars after having a look through your spellbook! You did that, right? If you didn't, do it right now.
Even if you normally Arena with a healer, there are going to be times when they can't help you -- if they're being chain CCed, for example. Those are the times you need to react, assessing just how much damage you can take before your survival cooldowns need to be fired, and the only way you're going to learn is practice.
Do Battlegrounds with your Arena team, and move as a pack. It's a great way to practice, to learn each other's abilities, and to have a bit of fun!
Also, seek out players of classes you're having trouble with, and duel them. You may well lose at first -- you may well lose every time -- but this is an excellent way to learn how those classes work and how your moves can counter theirs. If you can do this with someone who's willing to talk to you about the duels and isn't so attached to their e-peen that they refuse to tell you their secrets, this will be an even better learning process.
In the face of losses, take heart if you learned to do something that stopped them doing something to you. 1v1 is never going to be completely balanced, so don't worry if you just can't kill a certain class.
The Wargame system is fantastic too. However, having said that, I've barely ever used it. If you can find people willing to play with you, do!
As I mentioned previously, the key to PvP is reacting. It's not like PvE, where you can react to a repeated set of abilities. To react in PvP, you need to have a handle on what other classes are up to. You can get addons to help, but knowing what's going on when you're getting clues like a DK's suddenly gaining a green shell or your being encased in a Deep Freeze is going to be a huge help.
While PvE is good for learning the basics of your character, it's not a replacement for PvP practice.
2. Broaden your field of vision. When I first started in the Arena, I had a gaming version of glaucoma -- a condition that substantially narrows your field of vision. I was only able to focus on one thing at a time. It took me quite a while to realize this was what I was doing; I could either look at my opponents' health bars or my partner's. As a tank, I was used to monitoring my own, but I occasionally missed a close kill by becoming too focused on healing myself up.
Whenever I try Arena on a completely new class, the same thing happens. Because of the additional mental input required to remember what I need to do, the ability to take in a lot of information at once is reduced. On my shaman, reacting is almost automatic.
That almost-automation is what you need in order to free up your brain for positioning, CC chains, switching targets effectively etc. Of course, there are going to be conscious choices taking place, too; I'm not saying the conscious aspect is removed. Driving a car, or riding a bike, is a great simile. Remember when you first began to learn and it all seemed impossible? And then how it slowly became second nature and you barely have to think about the basics? That's how you need to be in Arena. How do you get there? See point #1.
When you're next in the Arena, try to widen your field of vision. Don't stare at your bars waiting for cooldowns. Don't become entranced by an opponent on 18% health and not notice that you're on 1%. Don't stand in the middle of an Arena hitting an opponent while two mages pile Frostbolts into you. Half the battle is realizing you're doing it, then you can take steps to correct it.
3. Learn to win from losses. If your computer can handle it, recording your games is a fantastic way to learn. Programs like FRAPS can record your game and the accompanying Skype track. Watching your games can inform you on what actually happened that caused that game to turn for or against you.
If you can't do that, after each game, try to have a little think while you're waiting for the queue to pop for the next one about what it was exactly that caused you to win or lose. "They had better gear" or "they had a much higher MMR" is permitted, but try not to always that as an explanation of loss!
Rather than focusing on what you couldn't do, focus on what you possibly could have done. For example, if you just got facerolled by two melee, perhaps you could have CCed one or both of them rather than trying to immediately put out damage.
Try to see if patterns emerge in your wins and losses: patterns of class combos, certain Arenas, actions, positioning and so on. As I mentioned in my addons column, REFlex is great for this.
You don't have to be cruel to be kind
Try not to blame your partner(s). Sure, maybe it was their fault, but do your best to focus on your own performance. On the other hand, if you think your partner is repeatedly doing something that is causing you to lose, try to talk about it, but don't be unkind.
It's hard to do this in PvP. There aren't simple answers like "don't stand in bad" -- it's often actual decisions that cause losses, and these can't be explained away like not realizing that puddle was an angry one! When you're talking to your partner, don't push too hard. Maybe there are good reasons why they're not doing what you're suggesting, and maybe they can adapt, but it takes time to change a learned playstyle. Equally, if you're on the receiving end, try not to be defensive.
On that note, be flexible. Don't blindly stick to one tactic because you read about it on a website. If you have ideas, try them out! They might be horrible failures, but how will you know that without giving them a good go? Don't completely give up on a tactic because it fails once or twice.
Lastly, if you're on a losing streak, take a break. Losing can get frustrating. Take a moment, have a cup of tea (can you tell I'm English?), do a Battleground.
Do you want to capture flags, invade cities, attack towers, and dominate the enemy for your faction? Do you dream of riding your War Bear with pride? We'll steer you to victory with secrets of Battlegrounds and Arena, prepping you with proven addons and keybindings that win! Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.