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How to PvP

Recently I've written a couple of guides on initial PvP gearing and the most efficient ways to get honor, and on PvP gearing in more detail. Along the way in those two guides, I've been touching briefly on various aspects of how you can get started in PvP, but what I've never done here at WoW Insider is just spell out what to do from the ground up. Let's say you've never PvP'd before. Let's say you've never even dueled. You might be a high-end heroic raider, you might be someone who's just got their first level 20. What do you need to know?

Death is not a failure

Honestly, if you only read one line of this article, make it that one. And this one, I guess, or you wouldn't know which one to read. If you're a PvE-er it's particularly relevant. You'll have the mentality of wiping, of death being the end of a pull, the end of a run, a failure. And this mentality will cause you to hate PvP. In random battlegrounds, where the majority of PvP takes place, death should be treated as a time-out.


You got a little ahead of your health bar, so you've been benched for 30 seconds to recover before you return to the fray. And yes, in arena, death means that you may well lose. But learning from it is the key. What happened, why did you die, what could you have done better, what could you try next time? Try to see death as a learning experience. A flaw in a strategy, not a wipe, a complete failure. There's a reason why there's a "deaths" count on the scoreboard. Everyone else is dying too.

How not to die

But nobody really wants to spend all their time in the graveyard. So now that I've told you to accept death as an inevitable part of PvP, let's see how to avoid it. First up, don't be on your own if you can help it. One of the biggest mistakes I see newer PvPers making is being caught out on their own. It's very unusual, in that situation, that you'll face off against another solo enemy. What's more likely to happen is that you'll come across a group, and get killed. Stick with your group. If you get picked off and killed, try to find your way back to them. Unless you're a stealth class with good speed, don't head over to cap bases or flags on your own.

The other most important step is to know the survival tools at your disposal. If you're a pure PvE player, these might not all be completely familiar to you as they're utility spells that may not fall into your usual rotation. So open up your spellbook, and pull everything out that isn't obviously a non-combat spell, e.g. Far Sight. Put it all on a bar, look at all the tooltips.

Things that will have a PvP application include:
  • any heal,
  • anything that makes you invulnerable, prevents, reflects or absorbs damage, or shields you,
  • anything that makes you faster or makes your enemy slower in any way,
  • anything that makes you enemy do less damage or healing
  • anything that makes you do more damage or healing
  • anything that gets you away from melee enemies, slows them or stops them moving,
  • anything that interrupts or silences caster enemies
  • any CC break
  • any other CC at all.
So that should cover most of your spellbook, along with the stuff that does the actual damage and healing itself. Yes, there are some duplicates in that list, but I'm trying to make sure I'm covering all bases here for the different ways people could interpret things. It's going to be a lot of stuff, most likely. Blizzard are looking at addressing button bloat in Warlords, but for now this is what you've got to work with.

Put it all up there, in plain sight, and try to learn to use it. A good way to start, if it's rather a lot, is to aim to use 2-3 abilities in a given instance. Try different applications and uses, see how you go. You'll only render them reactive and remembered by repeated use, so build up to incorporating it all into your gameplay, and keep practicing.

Response not rotation

I have a good number of messages from PvE-focused players looking to start in PvP, asking me what their rotation is. Well, for starters, for most classes in PvE, rotations have gone the way of the dodo. It's all about priority now, so if you have the option to cast spell A, then do, if not then use spell B, C, D and so on. In PvP, while the way you deal damage will be similar in its basics, the nature of your "rotation" is rather different.

PvP is all about reaction. There's no point in dealing the maximum possible damage if your team-mates are dead. There's no point in blindly PvE-ing through your rotation as a group of enemy players rush towards you. Where PvE is about maximizing your efficiency in a predictable situation, PvP is about responding quickly and effectively to a variable situation. I tend to liken PvP to a question and answer session -- what do I have that counters what this class has? What do I have that can be used in this situation to ensure that I get out of it alive, or that I kill someone else?

So for example, you're a mage fighting a DK. Don't blink until after he's gripped you. DK fighting a mage? Wait until he's blinked, then grip him. The mage can repeatedly root the DK to try and make him grip, then blink. The DK can stun the mage to get him to blink, then grip him.
Positioning and environmental awareness

While spells are obviously the majority of your action on the battlefield or in the arena, another big element of PvP success is awareness of your environment, teammates and enemies; and positioning relative to those three.

I've already mentioned the importance of not being alone, but there are other things to consider. For example, in flag running battlegrounds, if you're the flag carrier, do you want to run down the side where your team's graveyard is, where they're respawning, or down the opposite side where they're not. There's not a 100% right answer of course, but it's something to think about. Do you want to go down the ramp? Do you want to go down the tunnel? Use your zone map, and look for your team-mates. Big gluts of them are probably where battles are happening. Do you want to go there or not? That's dependent on your current situation.

Moving into arena, line of sight and positioning are really, really important for success. You'll likely already be familiar with the concept of LoS, so I won't go to the trouble of explaining it, but it's a key defensive ability. It's relevant in battlegrounds too, although things that look like they should offer LoS often won't. If you're taking damage, find a pillar and hump it. If you're a DPS with a healer, try not to put yourself on the polar opposite side of a pillar to them so they have to run all the way around it to heal you. If you're about to get CC'd, use LoS to escape it.

Practice, practice, practice

This has been a rather high-end philosophical look at PvP overall, I grant you, but hopefully the general ideas will stick. The one biggest thing you need to do to get better at PvP, beyond gear, beyond anything, is practice. When I used to row, I was told that I'd need to practice three times a week to maintain, four or more to improve. The same applied when I played musical instruments. The same applies for PvP. If I take a week off, I'm rusty as you like. Practice, practice, practice. Do all you can. It is the one surefire way to get better. I'll be doing more of these, keep checking back!
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 olivia@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Blood Sport (Arena PvP)

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