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Blood Sport: The art of switching characters for PvP

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.

I've spent my time in the skin of many different classes when striving for gladiator. Even though my Cataclysm main has been a warlock for some time now, I've enjoyed the time I've spent on my mage, warrior, druid, rogue, death knight and paladin. While I also have a level 80 hunter, I quickly decided it wasn't for me (not being able to shoot people from point blank range bugged me far too much) and moved on to greener pastures. I have yet to play a priest or shaman in high-level arena, but I definitely wouldn't be surprised if I got the urge.

For better or for worse, I know a few things about switching main characters.

My overarching purpose in leveling up each of those classes was to use them for PvP reasons (including my warlock). I'd be lying if I said all my decisions were correct ones; most of them worked out very poorly due to lack of foresight. However, I have learned a few things from personal experience and from watching friends play Chutes and Ladders with alternate characters.

When not to play another class

The allure of an overpowered class can tempt one to switch characters. Such thoughts include gems like:
  • If I had a max-level character of that class, I could be one of the best players on my server.
  • Gearing out characters isn't that time-consuming.
  • I need a change.
  • Even if I don't like the character, an extra 85 will probably come in handy.
While those thoughts might be true, those reasons are rarely the actual driving force behind a character change. If we actually sit down and write out what we are really feeling, we get something like:
  • I want to be overpowered.
  • ... now.
Don't switch classes because you want to be overpowered. "Overpoweredness" comes and goes with patch notes. Every class in WoW history has been exceedingly strong in PvP at one time or another.

One of my closest friends decided to switch classes to maximize his chances of getting on a rank 1 team; it was still early in the season and he figured that he could become geared and skilled enough to succeed with it by season's end. It turns out that the nerf bat was only a few months away, while his original character got buffed like crazy! Had he just stuck with his first love, he would have been in a much better position. Sadly, he stopped playing his old main completely and swapped an undergeared, slightly overpowered character he was exceptionally skilled with for a very geared but lackluster tradeoff.

Don't switch classes because you want to play a certain team composition with friends. When I first got into PvP, I found myself making all kinds of new friends -- friends who wanted to succeed and had a blast destroying people in arena. One of these friends played the same class as I did, and sadly, it was pretty difficult to come up with a viable team composition with both of us on it. We tried a combination of 5v5 and 3v3, but nothing seemed to work. We alternated for a bit (he was just as good as I was), but due to playstyle and role inexperience, the teams we were on preferred me to him.

He decided to create a healer as his new main so we could play together. While he was no means below average at playing a healer, he just didn't mesh well once he hit max level with his paladin. He went back to his original class and decided to change battlegroups. Sad times. Turns out he was just as good as I thought he was, and he hit rank 1 multiple times on a different battlegroup. We're still great friends, and I'm so glad everything worked out well for him.

Sometimes things don't work out with team compositions. Yeah, it sucks, but there's absolutely no reason you have to make it work. You can play rated battlegrounds with friends now, and besides, arena isn't everything. Changing your main class just to do arena with friends isn't the most ideal of situations -- if you're going to try to make it work by switching classes, at least attempt to make it work by playing a poor team composition at first.

Don't switch classes because you had fun PvPing with a class at level 15. One of the best hunters on our server made a sudden decision to abandon his main to level up a priest. Good hunters are hard to find. Why did he decide to level a priest? You guessed it: He had a blast PvPing on a lowbie priest. This isn't to say that changing characters because you like a class is a bad thing -- we'll get there eventually.

Low-level PvP (especially in battlegrounds) is far different from top-tier arena. Dropping your main class that you've had great times on is not the most well-thought out of decisions. Who knows if you'll like it at max level? Things might change entirely; you might die far more easily than you thought you would, or the kind of teams you're required to play on might bore you. If you're having a great time on your main, take up the second class as an alt -- don't drop everything blindly!

I actually put down my main character (a paladin at the time) to play a hunter for this very reason. It might have been the worst PvP decision I've ever made within WoW. I sacrificed a rank 1 gladiator title and lots of friends (who were counting on me to heal for them) because I had a blast leveling a hunter. I immediately realized that hunter was not the class for me and dropped it after a month of hitting 80. Sad times, all around.

Reasons to play another class

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. -- Thomas Edison

You are not happy with your main character. For whatever reason, sometimes a class can be exceptionally boring. If you're an altoholic, you probably know boredom quite well. I personally love warlocks, but sometimes playing a warlock and nothing else is just a drag.

Keep the main your main character until you hit max level and have a few weeks of arena under your belt. It might turn out that all you want to do is play your new character. Go ahead and make it your main. Tell your friends, start thinking about future teams, etc. Until then, just treat it like you would an alt and don't give yourself over to it. Treat a new character like a fun fling, not a devoted spouse. You're still married to your first love, and it's going to take quite a lot for that divorce.

I know a guy who leveled six classes to max level before he found the one that was right for him. He hasn't deviated from it since he made it his main. I thought he was the epitome of altoholic. Mage, warrior, warlock, druid, rogue and paladin -- all didn't suit him, and he knew it. He hit max level with them and within a month he was back to something new. He had leveling to an art. On a whim, he decided to level a hunter and wham-o, absolutely loved it. I think a hunter has been his main for close to two years now.

You want to explore another area of the game. If you play a rogue but instead want to tank for a PvE guild, yeah, you're gonna have to switch characters. Again, treat it as an alt at first. You might not like tanking with that character. Actually, you might not like tanking at max level at all with any class. You also might not like PvPing on that character, either. There are a lot of "you might not" statements here because they're true -- the perfect class for you might be something you never expected, but then again, you might have already found it.

Still, I highly recommend diversifying your interests if your main goal is PvP. Arena and rated battlegrounds are always interesting because you're playing against humans and not a computer, but sometimes a change of pace is exactly what's needed. Variety is the spice of life, and WoW is no exception.

You have another class close to max level and you'd like to try it out in PvP. If you are a raider with an alt or two at max level (or close to it), perhaps it's time to test out PvP on one of the alts. Maybe you've tried PvP on your main and just don't like it -- but have you tried PvPing on your warrior alt that you use for gathering professions? You might love it.

Listening Music: I Got a Woman by Ray Charles. If you have only heard this via Kanye West, I am very happy I could be the one to present this to you.

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.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Blood Sport (Arena PvP)

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