It's no secret that other people influence our lives. This is a widely understood precept of life, but one that is not often directly tackled. Parents look after their children to make sure they aren't "hanging out with a bad crowd." Nearly everyone has heard or spoken the expression, "It's not what you know, but who you know."
Sciences have been created to study how people affect one another. Sociology and psychology are studies of human interaction. Advertising, marketing, and economics have a firm foundation in understanding influences that we exert on one another -- and this isn't a recent phenomenon. Ancient proverbs speak of men sharpening each other as iron sharpens iron. Skills are honed by the acceptance of constructive criticism.
Arena is no exception. Doing arena with players who are better than yourself will make you a better arena player, and that's what we're going to be talking about today.
Buy your way to the top
The first high-ranking arena team I was on wasn't really a high-ranking arena team. Even though it was #2 on our battleground arena ladder, it was purchased at that very high rating by a very wealthy individual. We'll call him Bob the shadow priest.
Back in the early seasons of The Burning Crusade, one could buy a very high-rated arena team and invite people to it for easy points each week. Well, one could also buy a high-rated arena team and play a bunch of games on it to secure the Gladiator title and a unique 310% speed flying mount along with it.
Bob the shadow priest had amassed a small fortune of in-game gold via the auction house. With plenty to go around, he decided to purchase the #1 5v5 team on our server (it was #2 overall on the battlegroup). Bob had dreams of attaining a Gladiator title by recruiting the best players on the server and having them carry him to glory.
I had made a name for myself in the past month or so, and I was given an opportunity to try out for the team. I was very excited, as I thought they were completely legit. To my surprise, I had to try out with four other players of my class, and they each had a terrible opinion of each other. I got the spot because of a few recent accomplishments to my name, and I didn't seem to be critical of others, which apparently was a big plus in Bob's book.
It didn't work out. We were a ragtag bunch of semi-skilled PVPers who didn't have a lot of communication or experience. We dropped the team from 2,200-something (rank 1 teams back then were much lower rated, due to differences in the system) to 1,950 in a matter of three to four weeks with only playing 10 games a week. Bob became disenchanted with the prospect of hitting Gladiator and disbanded the team. We all knew it was coming.
Moral of the story The easy way out in arena (much like everything else) rarely, if ever, works out. Buying your way to the top is not a fruitful effort, and neither is joining a team where an individual is always looking for the easiest way to win games.
Rebuilding the 5v5
A few of us really enjoyed playing with each other, however, so we continued to do 5v5 after our purchased team was disbanded. We were able to play 50+ games of 5v5 each week and develop a solid set of communication skills that allowed us to improve our team rating to 2,100. We shifted around the team composition often and enlisted the help of several friends to carry the burden of the two extra spots that we were unsure about.
Bob wanted back on the team once we were approaching Gladiator. We kindly refused his petition, not because he was a particularly terrible guy, but because we knew he was not only the weakest link but also still harboring feelings of ownership over the team. He thought that he deserved to be a part of the team, as he had brought most of us together. Bob quit WoW a season later.
We ended up getting the bottom-most Gladiator spot in 5v5 that season, and we were all very excited about what we had accomplished. From a bunch of know-nothing, excitable kids, we transformed our team into a formidable force -- a force that was still easily dispatched by the top ~7 or so teams on the battlegroup, yet we were still Gladiators. That was more than any of us had every accomplished, and we were proud.
Moral of the story There's a silver lining to every cloud. Even when things seem at their worst, a group can rally together to accomplish great things.
Lessons in 2v2
After I hit Gladiator, I was eager to run around with my shiny new title and play as many games as I could with anyone who was willing. I must have logged over 2,000 games within the first month or two of that next season.
I found a discipline priest who had never accomplished any kind of arena feat before but was very fun to play games with. We'll call him Tom. Tom had a great attitude and was kind enough to call me on my mistakes, even though I had a Gladiator title and he didn't. We server transferred together, played on every arena team together, and eventually became very good friends. Out of all the people I've played arena with, Tom taught me the most. I learned not only about my failings within the game, but also about my personality in real life.
However, Tom never achieved Gladiator. Not even once. He couldn't play as often as other priests because of real-life commitments. Well, that's the excuse I provided for him time and time again.
You see, I was actually hampering myself by always playing with Tom. Tom and I started off at similar skill levels, but I ascended past him pretty quickly. I insisted every team I played on also have Tom on it, because he had helped me so much as a player. A time came when I was offered a spot on the rank 1 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 on the battlegroup but had to refuse each because I wanted to play with Tom and they didn't have a spot open for him (at least, that was their excuse).
I eventually gave in and played with other people in 5v5. I soon realized how much I had been bogging myself down by putting an unnecessary requirement on all my arena teams. I had also been missing out on potential friends just like Tom.
Morals of the story People who are below your skill level can drastically improve you as a player and a person. Don't write them off. On the other hand, don't be blinded by how awesome they are as a person -- you need to arena with other players in order to improve.
Listening music Iron and Wine, also known as Samuel Beam, with Flightless Bird, American Mouth. I want to see everyone who has musical talent and a strikingly beautiful voice like Samuel Beam be able to live off their talent.
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.