Have you ever played any other games competitively? If so, what skills did you learn from them that helped you to be a better arena player?
This is a fantastic question. I played competitive Counter-Strike 1.6 pretty much my whole gaming "career." Back when I played in vanilla, I was also competing in CS 1.6, and when I quit after The Burning Crusade, I really focused on becoming a good CS player. I have won over $5,000 in prize money playing Counter-Strike at LANs, and I think the most important thing I brought over from competing in that game to succeeding in this one is also the most critical factor in WoW arena -- communication.
Being able to effectively communicate and work with your arena partners is the deciding factor in WoW arena or any other competitive game. People aren't just born thinking on the same page, so in order to develop team synergy and coordinating you have to talk, and talk in a manner that allows you to strategy and work as a unit. Communication is what separates run-of-the-mill non-gladiators from gladiators, and even more advanced communication and strategy is what separates gladiators from rank #1-caliber players.
What do you think about hunters in arena right now? Are they overpowered, underpowered or balanced? Why?
Hmm, this is an interesting question to address, since the consensus right now of most of the cry-babies on ArenaJunkies.com is that hunters are extremely overpowered. If you ask the cry-babies, they'll tell you hunters are arrow spewing angels of death that wreak havoc on anything in arena with merely a wave of a hand or smashing of a face.
I'm going to keep this answer short and simple, instead of launching into an already controversial and drivel-infested debate. Are hunters overpowered? Yes. Against certain classes (most notably mages), hunters do ridiculous damage. Are certain classes overpowered against hunters? Yes. Has WoW arena always been a struggle of rock/paper/scissors and an imbalanced playing field? Yes. Are good players able to overcome these inherent challenges and not sit in a pool of their own tears, but figure out ways to outplay, outthink and outcomp certain classes to give themselves the best chance of succeeding? Yes. Do they succeed? Yes.
If you had to narrow it down to only one thing, what would be the most important responsibility of a hunter in an arena match? Why?
It's an analogy I have used often times before, but the hunter on every team should be the quarterback. The combination of short-cooldown crowd control (Silencing Shot, Scatter Shot, etc.) combined with big-cooldown burst (Readiness) makes a well played marksman hunter one of the most dynamic and game-changing classes in the game. Combine this with a bird's-eye view of every fight, due to the necessity of keeping range and planning your damage with line of sight plus dead zone issues, and you have a class that has an extremely important role in any team.
What's your general game plan? Do you try to play offensively or defensively?
We almost never walk into a game with a set strategy. There are certain targets and positional adjustments that are made often against certain comps due to their effectiveness. I think it is a bad idea to fall into a habit of using a "game plan" or set strategy against any team. The element of surprise and the ability to react and exploit opportunities and opponent weaknesses are what separates a good team from a great one.
I guess as a general rule of thumb (and I am going to speak of this from a hunter perspective) is to exercise controlled aggression in every game. If you find an opening or have a chance to land some clutch CC, calculate that push and punish the opposing team. If you find yourself under heavy pressure and feel the need to hold position or play defensively in order to probe the other team for weaknesses, that's what you have to do. I think it is important for hunters (and arena players in general) to find positions where you can push without sacrificing too many defensive cooldowns and be able to turtle up, on the same token. Most of the times against an inferior team, you end up playing extremely offensively the whole game, just because they never find a time to recover from your first push so you can safely force through the rest of their cooldowns and get a kill.
If you think of an arena match as a UFC fight, if one fighter is completely outclassed, they are taking heavy pressure and damage the whole game. If the fight is more even, both sides take turns playing offensively and protecting themselves -- and just like in a cage fight, sometimes the weaker fighter lucks out and lands a crazy left hook that ends the game.
A lot of gladiators "PvE to PvP" -- they raid in order to get best-in-slot gear for arena. What do you think about this? Do you think some the best PvP gear should come from raiding?
I don't think it's right that some of the best PvP gear comes from PvE. Shadowmourne is going to be game-changing if it is ever in the hands of a competent arena player. Unfortunately, it's just part of the game. I am in one of the world's best PvE guilds right now, but I don't ever raid with them. However, just from having access to the PUGs that the main raiders run on their alts, I have come across some fantastic PvE gear that definitely gives me an advantage in arena against people who just use PvP items across the board.
I think this factor is a reason why the Tournament Realm (coming out in a couple days! :D) will be so exciting. You level the playing field a bit when everyone has access to the same gear.
What are you trying to improve?
WoW, at its core, is a very simple game. Reactions are extremely limited by the GCD (global cooldown between spells), and every spell/spec has a couple go-to moves and proven rotations that are effective with that class. It's really not that hard to master how to "max DPS" or "use the right healing order" in WoW. That's like baby steps for any serious player.
As I stated earlier, the key distinction between good players and great ones is their ability to outplay the opponent mentally and strategy-wise. I can make a comparison to Counter-Strike here. In the top level of competitive play, every single person can aim and destroy your average player. The game-changers are the people who out-think and, as a consequence, out-play their opponents. This is what I am working on improving, and this is what I think the next challenge for me will be -- to out-think and out-play the best.
The interesting thing about WoW is that we have a competitive PvP game inside of an MMO that focuses on raiding. Because of this, there is constantly a balance between the two aspects of the game, and every patch brings new and interesting surprises. I think that is one of the reasons why WoW is so exciting for me is because it's an ever-changing game. You are never fully "perfect." You just have to try and be the best you can, given the constantly changing landscape.
What's your advice to players who want to start playing arenas for the first time?
Be a student of the game. I know, I know, sports cliché. I think one of the biggest surprises and challenges of a player looking to get into arena is that in order to be successful, you not only have to master your own class, but you have to master every class in the game and realize (mostly through experience, and probably multiple failures) how they approach fighting you and what you need to do to overcome that.
Be patient. Don't give up. Use the resources available to you like ArenaJunkies.com, and find other people who are just as interested in winning as you are -- because after all, it's a team game. Oh, and have fun, of course.
Thank you so much for the great interview, Loinclothz. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Yes, I'd like to encourage all prospective arena players who are looking to take their game to the next level to check out Skill-Capped.com. The site has instructional guides, videos and a forum with the best players in the world at your disposal. Feel free to message me personally on AJ or skill-capped if anyone has any questions. I wouldn't be the player I am today without all the people who gave me tips and helped me along the way.
Shout-out to all the people Ive played or raided with in the past: Unleashed and Hello Kitty Club on Akama, all the people still on Korgath, and of course my current arena partners and internet boyfriends on Sargeras, Adamz, Jigs, Chaimer, Bobsauce, Mezu, Threefaced. Much <3. And thanks to WoW.com for interviewing me and giving me the opportunity to share a little of what I've learned with the audience.
The Colosseum is WoW.com's interview series spotlighting strategies, compositions, and tactics from the Arena fighters who use them. For more PvP information, be sure to hit up Blood Sport and the Art of War(craft). If you'd like to be interviewed for The Colosseum, please feel free to contact us -- be sure to include your armory as a link!