I was all ready and waiting to write a post regarding a couple more simple Battleground strategies this week, but then I got an email. I receive a fair few emails from readers regarding PvP issues they're having, and I do my best to answer them as well and as quickly as I can. But then I got this message from Balduun on Ravencrest (US), and I had to write an article on it. Why? Because it's a question I can imagine so many teams struggling with, and one I've battled with myself many a time.
So let's read Balduun's email:
I primarily play a paladin (Prot/Holy), and usually use my holy spec in arenas. I'm currently playing with 2 other guildies who I consider to be very good players (feral druid and sub rogue). My problem is this: even though we are good players, we know our classes, we discuss strategy, switch targets and generally try to confuse, communicate in vent, this and every other team I've been on (I've dabbled in arena with varying degrees of partners since season 2) cannot seem to cross the 1400-1500 line. When we started in PvP, we were down near the 1100-1200 area, but now we all have mostly Cataclysmic pieces with gems and some enchants.
I know this is almost an unfair question, but why do we keep getting stuck? We have a few tough losses, where we make a mistake and we pay for it with a loss (where we feel we should have won). But a lot of times, especially against disc priests, and sometimes resto shammies, we just feel overmatched. Is it normal for good players to be below 1500? Is our team comp just crap? If I was in PvE and someone was under performing by a lot, I would suggest it was their rotation/priority system that was messed up. Talents, enchants, gems, even gear doesn't affect dps as much as a rotational issue.
I know I'm asking a lot of questions here which there isnt a good answer to, but hearing what I'm saying, what is your gut reaction?
What isn't it?
Well, firstly, Balduun, it's not your comp. Your comp's definitely not a bad one. Ghostcrawler has recently commented on how subtlety rogues are almost too good in 3v3, and feral druids are another class that can combine hefty burst with decent crowd control, especially those damn instant Cyclones. Paladins are in a good place healing-wise for Arena at the moment, too, and while perhaps not quite so strong as other healers in utility, you have a couple of great moves that more than make up for it. So I don't think that can be blamed. Furthermore, great players in odd or unusual comps can do fantastically. Just look at OMG, who won the BlizzCon 2011 final with what was considered a strange comp at the start of the tournament.
It also likely isn't gear, by the sounds of it. Most players, like you, are going to be in at least some 403 gear by this point, and as long as you're gemming, enchanting and reforging correctly for your class and spec, it shouldn't be a big concern. Of course, if you're in Cata greens in the Arena, you're going to be outgeared by quite a few of your opponents! But again, great players can still win matches in bad gear.
OK, so what is it?
1. You can always improve. This is the one most important aspect of upping your game in PvP, in my opinion. Be aware that you can always improve. Even if you're a rank 1 gladiator, there's someone at your heels.
Without wishing to be unkind, you seem to imply in your email that you're very good players who are playing strategically and well yet can't progress. Rather than focusing on what you have down already, focus on your weaknesses and improving them. Hate being tunnelled as a healer? Go throw yourself into suicide missions in Battlegrounds and practice surviving against several DPSers. Yes, they'll get you eventually, but how long will it take? Do you struggle with certain classes? Get out and duel them, or seek them out in Battlegrounds.
Read tips and watch class videos. Check out Arenajunkies.com and Twitch.tv for videos and streams, and try to watch those from the perspective of the class and spec you're playing. If you can find any for your comp, watch those. Try to make sure they're recent.
When you're reading and watching, don't sit there thinking "Yep, I do that." Focus on what the players you're watching are doing that's different from what you do, especially positioning. Try to pick up ideas, and try them out in your matches. Try to play as regularly as possible, even if only for a few matches at a time. Seven short sessions per week is better than one mammoth one.
2. Communication is paramount. I have said this many times previously, but it deserves being brought up again just because it's so, so important. You mention using Vent, which gives rise to a couple of questions. How's your latency? Often in Arena, when things need to happenm they need to happen now. Not in a few seconds -- now. This is one reason why many players prefer Skype.
Second question: Are you using push-to-talk? If so, don't. Watching streams and videos, you'll likely notice there is nearly constant communication between the teams. That just doesn't work with push-to-talk.
What should you communicate? When you're in trouble, when you're targeting for heavy burst, when you're switching targets, when you need a peel, when you're cc'ed, when you need heals, when you're using offensive or defensive cooldowns, when you fall off the side or run away or use line of sight to avoid damage, and when any of the above happens to the enemy.
3. Watch cooldown usage and switching. This is a big part of strategic play. If your enemy blows every cooldown they've got, offensive and defensive and you have all yours, you're immediately in an advantageous situation if you can outlive the cooldowns. Paladins have big, instant heals; try not to immediately bubble when the going gets tough. Don't trinket the first stun you get into.
And watch your enemy cooldown usage. Has a healing pally on the opposing team just used Hand of Protection on himself? Well, then you know he has a full minute of Forebearance before he can bubble. You could dispel it and focus him.
Using paladins as an example again, if they get to 20% health and bubble, immediately switch to another player. You're a bursty comp; there's no reason to waste that burst on a player that's mitigating it unless you're 100% certain they're going down.
Restoration shaman Spirit Linking when someone is in trouble are just asking for a hard switch, for example, especially if the shaman has used cooldowns already. If you're facing a disc priest, dispel your burst target as much as you can; they don't have heavyweight heals and use shields instead. Force a Pain Suppression, then switch hard and fast as the disc priest heals up your first target.
Switch to badly positioned targets, out of line of sight or far away from their healer. Between the three of you, you have a lot of CC to keep them there and pull the healer over into Cyclone range. Know your enemy, their strengths and weaknesses. How? Refer to point number one.
4. Know your crowd control and interrupts. It's pretty obvious that you should use them. But don't use them willy-nilly; try (and this is hard) to coordinate them. Opening on a caster? Have your rogue Garrote from stealth, then into a Hammer of Justice, then a Kidney Shot. That ought to be half a health bar at least, unless they trinket. Get your druid to instant Cyclone another target when Predator's Swiftness procs. On the opposing side, keep your DPS dispelled as much as you can -- if melee can't connect, they can't burst.
5. Record and analyze your games. If your computer can handle it, get FRAPS and start recording your games. Watch both the wins and the losses, and try to focus on what you did well and badly rather than what your teammates did. Try to figure out what went wrong and what went right, what you did to win and what might have made you lose. Think about what you could do better or differently next time. If possible, upload your FRAPS videos to YouTube for your teammates to look at and have them do the same.
If you can't FRAPS, get REFlex. This nifty addon logs all your wins and losses, and while it won't tell you why, you can see which comps you're losing to and winning to and which Arenas, whether you're winning short matches and losing long ones, and so on. It's up to you how you interpret that data.
Do you want to capture flags, invade cities, attack towers, and dominate the enemy for your faction? Do you dream of riding your War Bear with pride? We'll steer you to victory with secrets of Battlegrounds and Arena, prepping you with proven addons and keybindings that win! Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.