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Blood Sport: How to start a new character for PvP, part 1

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.

How do you know if your class is the right one for you in PvP?

One of the best ways to find out if you really want to play the class is to analyze your playstyle. What are your tendencies as a player? Do you rush in and try to battle it up, even if you're a healer? You might want to try out a warrior or death knight. Do you stay back and try to play as defensively as possible? A mage or hunter might be more suited to your tastes. Perhaps you like to annoy opponents by jumping behind pillars when they switch targets to you -- an affliction warlock or holy paladin might be right up your alley.

Arena has a flavor for almost everyone. I determined long ago that I love to rush in and play as offensively as possible. My first character I ever made in WoW was a retribution paladin! However, I shifted around a bit before discovering the power of warlocks. I stuck with warlock for the longest time because DoTs were incredibly overpowered and it felt like I couldn't die against seven monsters. Deciding to play a class because it was overpowered while leveling was probably not the best decision, and I wish I had thought about PvP more when deciding on a main character.

The right playstyle

Here are three questions regarding playstyle. Try to be ast honest as possible -- it might surprise you to find that you might enjoy playing a different class.
  1. Do you like applying damage, healing, or both?
  2. Are you primarily offensive or defensive?
  3. In what situations are you at your best?
  4. In what situations are you at your worst?
There's no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. This is what we call playstyle -- what your disposition is toward different strategies and nuances of arena.

My own playstyle

Here are my own answers to those questions:

Do you like applying damage, healing, or both? I'm not a healer. I've tried it before, and I've had great success with healers in arena, but it's just not me. I like playing healer types in other games -- support is usually the most needed and versatile of choices -- and I really appreciate that role. I don't know what it is about WoW, but I just want to run up to someone and beat his face in. WoW is very fast-paced, so perhaps I like being the one applying the pressure rather than recovering from it. I'm not really sure, but I know I don't like WoW healers, even though I haven't technically played a priest at max level.

Are you primarily offensive or defensive? I love playing offensively. Taking control of the battle from the starting seconds until we get the last killing blow is the way I like my arena matches to be played. I've met several skilled defensive teams in arena; affliction warlocks, hunters, restoration druids, and holy paladins are usually quite good at being able to lure their opponents into a poor position, then taking advantage of it using crowd control chains or multiple cooldowns popped in a row.

I've never been a fan of that playstyle. I'd rather just run in with my team and blow something up. The teams that I've experienced the most success on have also had this philosophy -- not necessarily because it was the best philosophy, but because everyone was on board with what we were doing and preferred it to using trickery. Were I more inclined to a defensive style, I would probably have more success with similar-minded players.

In what situations are you at your best? While this might seem in slight contradiction to the previous question, I'm at my best when I am being targetted by the enemy team. I enjoy the challenge of putting out offensive pressure while surviving. I actually play much worse when I am not being targetted, largely because my peels (removing an enemy DPS from dealing damage to someone on your team) have always been one of the weakest parts of my game.

I have the blessing and curse of feeling as though I am invulnerable. Regardless of the class I play, my teammates have always commented on my ability to stay alive longer than I should be able to, and I take great pride in being able to survive for extended periods of time. I also take great pride in not allowing my DPS to drop much while being targetted. I've played with teammates who do almost zero damage when they are targetted -- this is an Achilles heel that needs to be remedied immediately, since if a damage dealer is not dealing damage, the game might as well be 2v3 or 4v5.

My favorite moments in arena have been when my back is against a wall, but I manage to survive the onslaught. In a Burning Crusade 3v3, we were playing warlock-priest-rogue against priest-mage-warrior. My priest and rogue had died, but the enemy priest and mage were very low on mana. I had full HP and mana and decided to attempt to 1v3 them. After applying DoTs to all three players, I drained the mage's mana from 15% to 0% while setting my pet on the priest, who ran behind a pillar to drink. After spamming Drain Life to stay alive on the warrior (and getting a few lucky Nightfall procs to kill him), I quickly feared the mage and spell locked the priest. I ran behind a pillar to bandage myself while bouncing my pet back and forth to prevent drinking. They killed my felhunter. I summoned another and mounted up to get to the other side of the arena, where I caught the priest before he was able to get much mana back. I got enough damage in to kill him while the mage couldn't do much with very little mana, and the rest is history. (Warlocks were a strong counter to mages back in the day; after the priest fell, my team went nuts on Ventrilo).

In what situations are you at your worst? On the other hand, I've encountered plenty of matches where my opponents completely ignored me, and with the exception of my damage increasing, I sometimes felt incompetent. When I'm being pressured, I have only one option: Get in damage when I can and survive their onslaught.

When they attack my teammates, options abound. Do I crowd control enemies or continue to push out damage? Which enemy should I crowd control? Should I try to position myself more offensively or defensively? What does my teammate need to hear from me? When I'm under pressure, all this comes naturally. I get myself into an offensive position and call out my cooldowns -- I don't have to worry about peels because I'm busy worrying about my life total and theirs. In the games I've lost, I'd say over 90% of them have been because I made a very poor decision when I wasn't being focused. I might have called a switch to an incorrect enemy at an incorrect time, or tried to peel too much and forfeited too much damage as a result (or vice versa).

Next week, we'll talk more about how certain classes fall into different playstyles and also talk about keybinds, leveling strategy and gearing up.

Music: The Petebox with a cover of Where is My Mind, by the Pixes. Pretty interesting stuff.

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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