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Blood Sport: Finding your PVP playstyle in arena

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 found one of the most common excuses for not having an arena team is conflicting playstyles with past teammates. While often times these excuses are not really the problem (far too many arena players are self-centered and unreceptive to criticism), playstyle differences can be a factor in not meshing well with certain players.

I'd like to provide you with a few common playstyle differences, my take on which side of the spectrum is generally more popular, which side is generally better, and what I tend toward.

Offense vs. defense

You can't get knockouts if you don't throw punches.
You miss 100% of balls you don't swing at.
The best defense is a good offense.


Sports clichés can be applied to arena with varying degrees of success. It's true that in order to win in the arena, a team needs to put out damage and kill the enemy before the enemy kills them (cue John Madden reading that last sentence out loud in your head). This necessitates a strong offense while being able to neutralize an enemy's offense.

As your offense improves in arena (putting out damage, crowd-controlling enemy healers at crucial points in the match, etc.), defense will also improve, as it is easier to recognize patterns and momentum shifts when you're not always playing off your back foot.

However, playing defensive is a lost art in arena. Successful defensive play is usually seen most with teams that have the least defensive capability (oddly enough). Rogue-priest-mage, 4-DPS 5v5s, and 2-DPS 2v2s often have very good tactical play when they notice an enemy team attempting a kill. Crowd control on enemy DPS is very important in these moments to regain time on short cooldowns. Not getting a kill early on can be devastating for these teams, and these players have learned how to stay alive for those few extra precious seconds to have another kill attempt.

  • Most popular Among high-rated players, offensive playstyles are very common and defensive playstyles are exceptionally rare.
  • Generally better Offense. A high-rated defensive team can definitely throw players for a loop, however.
  • What I tend toward I prefer my teams to be offensive. I don't like long games, and I don't like lots of mini-comebacks within an arena match. I like to feel like our wins are decisive and we don't have to use odd strategies to defeat opponents.

Crowd control vs. damage

Some players gravitate toward pumping out as much damage as possible and crowd-controlling as little as possible. Others like to have complete control of the battlefield and would rather have their opponents neutralized before aiding their team's offense. While this dichotomy seems similar to the offense vs. defense question, it's a different topic entirely.

Crowd control is usually used best when going for kills. Hitting enemy healers with crowd control when your team is charging up its proverbial laser is a common way for arena games to end. Similarly, crowd control can be used on enemy DPS to continue applying pressure to another enemy or halting an attack.

Leaning on damage as your default strategy allows your team to keep consistent and constant pressure up. Offensive-minded players will often default to damage, as it opens up avenues for attacks once the opposing team is playing defensively (usually a place where players have problems). The best arena teams can keep damage at high levels while playing defensively. This all-around effect allows them to stump the competition by appearing to be invulnerable to disruption and strategy changes. Enemy teams often don't know how close to winning they really were. Popping all your offensive cooldowns against an opponent to only have them kill you using very little cooldowns of their own is very demoralizing.

  • Most popular Since Wrath of the Lich King, damage has been the standard playstyle of most arena players. It's hard to argue with a strategy that is a win condition.
  • Generally better Having a playstyle that revolves around doing tons of damage stacks very well with other players that are exceptional at pumping out tons of damage. When you get the right team together, very nasty things can happen.
  • What I tend toward I actually tend toward crowd control. It took me quite a while to break the habit of casting Fear or Cyclone on as many targets as possible while allowing my teammates to actually kill our opponents.

Leader vs. follower

Some people are natural leaders. They exude confidence and demand obedience to strategy formulated beforehand. It's pretty easy to let a good leader take control of an arena team, especially if he has success to back up his communication skills. If you're a leader, you probably feel most comfortable being in control of what your team is doing, even perhaps on a micromanagement level.

If you're a follower, you probably have a good amount of advice, criticism, strategy, tactics and so on but will easily lay down your views to try out things new. You also probably don't care about who on the team is in control or who calls targets, just as long as it gets done.

Leaders butt heads with other leaders pretty often. If you've ever been on a 5v5 team where two or three players are constantly arguing about who's job it is to do X, Y, or Z, chances are you have too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

On the other hand, having no natural leaders cause other problems. I've been on 5v5 teams where no one took initiative to contact other members of the team. Not being able to play a single game of 5v5 for an entire week is a pretty sad event. Constantly questioning our own strategy and trying to change it without having a set focus is another problem that happens when no one steps in to take charge.

  • Most popular Following. Most people don't really care about in-team power struggles or roles and responsibilities that much. As long as the enemy team is dying, everything is good.
  • Generally better Leadership. Being able to call targets and form strategies is an important part of playing arena.
  • What I tend toward I tend toward taking orders and listening to other people's strategies. Yep, that makes me a follower the vast majority of the time. I find it helps me more as an arena player to get a diverse array of opinions and perspectives on how to defeat enemy teams. Unfortunately, unless I am playing with my regular teammates, I'm usually the most decorated individual on any given arena team, so they expect me to take leadership. I'm actually a very poor target caller. My strategies are usually pretty good, but they're mostly from experience rather than intuition or natural talent. I guess I get to experience both worlds in this regard, but I'm much more comfortable playing with people who just tell me what they expect (as I can almost always accomplish it -- being a follower doesn't mean you can't be confident in your abilities).

Listening Music Grizzly Bear's Two Weeks

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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