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World champion gladiator Venruki cracks open arena PvP

World champion gladiator Venruki talks arena PvP
There's more than one World of Warcraft within Azeroth. The high-stakes realm of competitive arena play is one such microscosm. Compared to WoW's gargantuan PvE player base, relatively few players delve very deeply into arena play, and an extensive fandom for arenas as an e-sport has been slow to catch on. So when Blizzard took the Battle.net World Championship to Shanghai last month, the StarCraft II-crazed event cracked the door wider for gladiators from World of Warcraft.

At stake: international dominance and a prize pool of nearly $200,000. The BWC threw the top 10 WoW 3v3 arena teams from across the world into a high-pressure, best-of-five round robin series. The top four teams emerged to face a brutal double-elimination bracket for the global championship. When the void zones dispersed, one team remained: Bring It, a North American team composed of frost mage Venruki (Elliott Venczel of Calgary, Canada), BlizzCon veteran and warlock Snutz (Kelvin Nguyen, also of Canada), and well-known PvP shaman Kollektiv (Timothy Yen, United States). We caught up with Venruki to crack the high-stakes world of WoW arena as an e-sport.

WoW Insider: Congratulations on your win! I'm guessing you've been kicking back and taking it easy since the championship?

Venruki: Thank you very much! I have been taking it easy since the championship. It's funny though, I thought after BWC was over I could finally take a break from World of Warcraft ... Recently seems like I play more than I did before. I'm still having a lot of fun with the game.

How do you go about preparing for a championship like the BWC, anyway?

Because the game was on the new expansion Mists of Pandaria, I knew that I had to play ... a lot. I practiced over 1,000 games of 3v3 arena in the couple of months I had to prepare. When my team was on, I played with them; otherwise I would practice with whomever I could find. I knew that to do well, it was going to take knowing the game inside and out.

World champion gladiator Venruki talks arena PvPMain character Venruki, Vengeful Gladiator, undead frost mage
Guild hey im mvp
Realm Tichondrius (US)

WoW Insider: How familiar were you with the other teams? Had you played against them before?

Venruki: The only team I was semi-familiar with was Team EG; other than that, we were sort of going in blind. The information we did have was all from speculation and snooping to see what the other teams were running. Turned out that a lot of teams did a great job hiding what they were going to run for the tournament.

The pressure must have been insane, especially since your teammate Snutz had come so close to winning in previous years. Everyone was saying this would be the year. Was there a lot of pressure to make that happen?

I was actually on his team in 2010, so I also felt the sting of getting second. But yeah, I did feel pressure because I think Kollektiv and especially Snutz deserved a winning finish at the world finals. Oddly enough, even though the stakes were very high, I felt much less pressure during this tournament than others in the past. Maybe those years of experience finally paid off.

World champion gladiator Venruki talks arena PvP
The travel and excitement of being in Shanghai itself must have made things more difficult. How long were you in Shanghai? Did jet lag and being abroad have an effect on your ability to stay sharp?

Shanghai was great, but it's always harder to attend an overseas event. Blizzard did make it easier on us by bringing us in a few days early. By the time the event started. most of us were pretty much fully adjusted. I believe in total we were in Shanghai around a week. Most of the time was spent in the hotel, but there were a few days we were able to go adventuring.

So how did Bring It come together as a team? How did you meet, and how long have you played together?

Snutz and I have been playing together for a couple of years now. We were on the same team for 2010 Blizzard regionals/BlizzCon and multiple MLG events. As for Kollektiv, he's always been one of the top shamans on the PvP scene. We knew we wanted to play with a shaman for this years event, so it was a pretty natural fit.

World champion gladiator Venruki talks arena PvP
What do you think your strengths are as a team? What would you say each of you brings to Bring It?

I think our main strength is just how much experience we all have. We've been doing tournaments with and against each other for years, so we all know what to expect.

Aside from being great players, what do we all bring to the team? I'd say that Kollektiv brought a lot of in game support; he created a couple of scripts for us that were very useful. Snutz bring a lot of energy to the team while we are playing, getting us pumped up, so to speak. If I had to say something about myself, I'd say I bring sort of a calmness to the team. If we lose a game or things aren't going well, I think I do a good job of helping us stay focused on the big picture.

Do you play other aspects of World of Warcraft, beyond arena?

I used to. Every expansion, I can get excited to level and try out what the new game has to offer. That doesn't last long, though. I always go back to just playing arena, RBGs and sometimes dueling.

World champion gladiator Venruki talks arena PvP
Let's talk about PvP itself for a bit. What do you think about PvP balance as it stands here in early Mists?

I still have a really enjoyable time playing the game. There are a few classes that really struggle right now and don't really stand a chance at high-level play. Stuff like that is always bad but has been a part of the game for a long time. Blizzard is still frequently updating the game to try and balance everything, so I applaud them for that.

How do you think the new PvP power and resilience stats are working out?

From what I've seen, they are working as intended. PvP and PvE gear is probably the most separated it has ever been. The only real issue is because those stats are so important, it's hard for undergeared characters to do anything in arena. Not really sure how that can be fixed, though.

Where do you think crowd control has ended up here in Mists?

In MoP, Blizzard added a lot of instant crowd control. Because of this, I feel like crowd control is a big focus. That being said, there are still comps that can just brute force you down with little to no crowd control. I wouldn't say that crowd control is more of a focus than previous expansions.

World champion gladiator Venruki talks arena PvP
What about mages? How have mages changed in PvP since Cataclysm?

Mages have changed a lot and are still changing. Recently, changes are being made to mages every couple of days. I still think the core of mage play has been true for the last couple expansions: lots of control and a lot of burst.

Is there still a place in arenas for fire mages, or is frost so strong that it's the only real choice?

I think there is a lot of potential for fire. Frost Bomb was recently nerfed, so a lot of top mages are experimenting with fire. I do think before the nerfs fire wasn't really comparable, but now they are on more of an even footing.

World champion gladiator Venruki talks arena PvP THU
Any tips for readers seeing to take their mages from average to great? Cool mage tricks?

Tough question! I think if you're trying to improve playing any class, it's important to optimize your key binds and the way you target. The most important thing is to be able to actually accomplish your game plan without bad binds/clicking slowing you down.

Other than that, getting the right mods/compositions and strategy are all super important. I recommend watching top mages stream so you can see what they are doing that maybe you aren't. Twitch TV is a great website to watch top players play; if you're interested in watching my stream it's just twitch.tv/venruki.

So what are you foreseeable game plans? More competition?

I'm still playing a lot of WoW and trying to remain competitive in it. I probably should sit back, relax and take a break, but I'm enjoying myself a lot still.

And enjoying that prize money? What will you be doing with that?

Nothing special. This money is going to help me get rid of all my student loan debt. I'll probably be able to keep a little of it I'll end up investing. I'm not really a big spender.

Catch Venruki streaming at Twitch TV.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: PvP, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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