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Blood Sport: Sitting down with a top arena team


I was lucky enough to attend the World of Warcraft European Invitational tournament in Cologne, it was a fantastic tournament, with some of the most exciting games I've watched in a while. If you want to check out the video coverage, you can do so by visiting ESL's twitch TV channel.

Among the games, I was lucky enough to sit down for a chat with one of the eight competing teams, Eat Nerds Get Birds. This amusingly, if hastily named team comprised Jimos, playing a retribution paladin, Dreamz, on a restoration shaman, and Colarn, on an Arms warrior. While they weren't one of the top 2 teams who made it through to the World Championship finals in China, these guys are PvPing at the highest level, and it was great to sit down with them and get their tips on what makes a good arena team, and discuss various other elements of PvP right now.

Q: Do you go into matches with a pre-defined strategy, or are you more going in to see what happens and react accordingly?

A: We always, always have a pre-defined strategy for our comp against pretty much every other comp. We don't think you could play without that, it's pretty vital. You need to work out what strengths your comp has against the other comps you see a lot, and play to those strengths. To devise these strategies, though, you need to try out lots of different approaches, and see what works and what doesn't. When you're trying things out, you need to take a strategy and do just that. You might lose a few games if your strategy is bad, but if you don't give it a proper try you won't know!

Your strategy can't always be totally concrete, as you're playing against people not computers they can do things that will mess you up, so you do have to be a bit flexible, but the key is to carry out your strategy while stopping your opponents carrying out theirs. We also have preset tactics to deal with certain abilities, like BoP-ing Blinds.

Q: What are the keys to success with a comp such as yours, i.e. 2 melee with a healer?

A: For us, it's really important to connect onto the initial target. We will pick a target that we can connect to, more than any other consideration, as double melee that is really vital -- if we can't hit something we won't do any damage so targets that we can't get near won't be good ones. Other than that, swapping quickly and efficiently is really key. We can deal a lot of damage when we can connect, so being as efficient as possible is really really vital.

Other than that, communication is so, so important. We have a restoration shaman, so a relatively squishy healer, and we don't have great peels, so we have to know when they're about to connect to our shaman and when the damage will be done in order to respond accordingly. Given our limited peels, and bursty damage, it's also really important that we don't overlap our cooldowns, so we have to communicate really well on that. Communicate everything!

Q: That raises a good point! Dreamz, how do you deal with being tunneled as a restoration shaman?

Have good friends! I joke, but that is really important. Shaman don't have a huge amount of cooldowns for personal protection, and our big one needs other people to be in it too!

Q: What have been the problems with PvP in Cataclysm?

A: PvE gear. PvE gear has been a huge problem in PvP in season 11, and we're glad it is being nerfed for Mists, but we'll have to wait and see. It's really affected balance, you can see it with the sheer number of three DPS teams appearing towards the end of season 11.

Also, once you get up to higher ratings, you hit really long queues, and it's hard to get up to the top. The problem lies with the system: if you've got a really high rating early in the season, you can just stop playing, and people coming up later in the season can't get that high as there's nobody playing in the very top ratings, so the lower teams can't play teams rated higher than themselves and gain rating.

Blizzard could fix this really easily (although not necessarily from a programming perspective) by implementing rating decay. Rating decay would mean that if you don't play, your rating gradually declines, so then really high rated teams would have to play to maintain their rating, and upcoming teams would actually have a chance to get to rank one, which they don't have if they start later in the season with the current design.

Q: How do you foresee PvP changing in Mists?

A: Well, hopefully the stat changes will remove PvE gear, but we'll see. It looks like there will be a shift towards drain games, so, games which are basically a healer mana war. It seems like Blizzard are doing their best to totally remove burst from arena which has its good sides and bad sides. It could be a reaction to the 3DPS teams in late Cataclysm, but they seem to be trying to make healers even less vulnerable.

Warlocks will probably be the flavor of the month class, along with monks. Seeing how restoration druids have been in the past -- awful one expansion, amazing the next -- they're due an expansion of being amazing in PvP!

Q: Are there any vital PvP talents for any of your classes from the new trees?

Of course, as tournament players, we haven't been playing so much on live and beta. However, for retribution paladins, the slow seems like a must-have.

Q: What are your top pieces of advice for people looking to succeed in arena?

It's really hard to give little tips! OK, well, know your class and others. That's really, really important. You have to know your class inside out, and do your best to know others as well as possible, so you can try to predict what they're going to do and stop them doing it.

Also, maximise your use of macros and the like, there are so many out there that you can just copy and paste, you don't need to know how to write them, but if you do that's a bonus. If you want to play in tournaments, it's great to try to play without addons if you can -- you can really see the difference with some of the healers here, guys you can never interrupt on the tournament realm are getting interrupted all the time because they don't have interruptbar. That's a huge disadvantage.

What else... Well, as we sort of said before, prepare tactics for every comp, and play your strategies differently, see how things work out. But have something in mind for every comp you face.

Lastly, believe you are good! Stay positive, when I (Dreamz) first started, I wasn't that good, but I believed I was good, and with time I became a good shaman! It's also really important to evaluate yourself honestly, be prepared to admit to yourself that you mess up, and try to do it better!

It was great to sit down and chat about PvP with these guys, they had some great advice, and just to add to what they were saying about strategies for different comps, with the changes to arena in Mists, this is even more important, given how you can change your talents in the waiting room in response to the classes and specializations you're facing.

You can find Jimos on youtube, and Dreamz on facebook. Colarn doesn't have a page yet!

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

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