Did you think I'd miss the chance to post this video up when we're talking Arena?
So the it's time for this year's Arena Tournament 2011 and this year we're entering. That's right, Runzwithfire has stepped into the Arena Tournament with visions of glory, fame and scantily clad women; although is more likely to finish the tournament with a debilitating injury, tetanus and a small semi-aquatic creature clad in a risque gladiator's outfit. Anyway it got me thinking more about Arena and PvP in general.
Now I've been a PvE Mage since I first rolled Runz back in 2009, but before that I had my Arms Warrior in TBC and my focus was very much on PvP (possibly because before WoW I was an avid Halo and Halo 2 player on Xbox). I've found that over the past few months, what with me no longer being on the progression raid team whilst all these shiny new raids are about, that my attention as a Mage has drifted back to towards PvP and the Arena in particular. Don't worry, I'm not suddenly going to turn this place into some kind of PvP shrine and I will still continue to argue that PvE balance should be more important than PvP balance. But there is something in PvP that stirs a carnal instinct in me, the desire to taste the blood of my enemies and teabag their broken bodies (yes I really did spend A LOT of time playing the Halo deathmatch games before WoW).
There's more after the break, so click the title or the Read More button
Why So Serious Runz?
I've been starting to wonder exactly what it is that has me hooked on PvP lately, because after finishing dailies or non-progression BWD run I am desperate to enter Arena for at least a match or two. What started out as just a bit of fun and easy conquest point farm has become a tooth and nail crawl towards higher and higher team rating. That crawl towards rating has been made all the more difficult by the fact that neither myself nor my 2v2 partner, Tuek, started out seriously and neither of us were overly experienced with very very little knowledge of positioning in the different arenas or the best methods of chaining CCs.
But it's addictive; the flush of victory urges you to play more whilst the crush of defeat inspires you to regain lost rating. We now carry on playing matches regardless of whether we're point capped, we're looking at strategy guides, maximising PvP specs (I was using my PvE Frost spec for a long time cos it didn't matter) and we're learning to co-ordinate CCs and separate healer/DPS teams. Tuek is even considering giving up her beloved Feral spec to go PvP Resto, although I still maintain she should play with what she finds fun not just what is considered a more advantageous team pairing.
Looking the various recent articles regarding Arena, I was struck by two recent ones in particular that prompted me to think more about my newfound (or re-discovered) bloodlust; Blood Sport on WoWInsider and an article called Replay Value on Cynwise's fantastic website. In particular, I'm drawn to two very good points, one from each article. The first is competition; I can be very competitive. I sort of come in two flavours here, either I don't think I'm good enough to do something at all so don't bother or I have the urge to win - that's why I'm DPS, I like to win at meters. At this stage I think it's good to point out the difference between competition and trying something to learn, if you try something to learn then you shouldn't be afraid of failure because that's probably the best way to learn, but as you become better and more sure of your abilities you may start to find that desire to learn change to a desire to win. That's certainly how I've started to feel about Arena of late.
The point Cynwise makes, and perhaps the one I really identify with most, is observation that PvP really has the highest replay value in WoW. No two battlegrounds are the same, no two Arena matches are the same even if you're facing the same team match after match. You're facing human opponents, not a set encounter mechanic. That to me is both terrifying and exhilarating. I enjoy my raids but I enjoy progression raiding or my first encounter with a boss most of all, once you learn the mechanics of an encounter and a boss becomes farm then the desire to do that boss again lessens (unless you need gear ofc). You never (well, rarely at least) get this feeling of tedium in Arena because every fight is going to be unique in some way. This has the added bonus of really teaching you to be adaptive in order to counter your opponents strategy and I think it's this element of strategy that has me hooked. See, in Halo I'd usually prefer objective based matches like Capture The Flag (CTF), or at the very least team match ups, rather than just seeing how many headshots I could rack up. But in the Arena you're not just facing a person with an itchy trigger finger, you're facing their class, their spec and their synergy with their team mate's class and spec and that's what makes it so fun.
Getting Into PvP & Arena
I know many PvE'ers with a distinct dislike for PvP and Arena in particular, certainly when I was progression raiding I was one of them. But there are several advantages for doing so; first up I don't think any other element of the game can teach you quite so much about all your class (or at least your spec's) abilities than PvP because so often you're forced to use all of them. It definitely teaches you to have greater 3D awareness around your character which can be difficult when looking on a 2D screen. It forces you to be adaptive to unexpected situations and finally it can really help with avoiding PvE burnout especially whilst you're waiting for new content.
So why do so many people dislike it? Well there's a few reasons, and I guess a big reason one is that fear of failure. No-one likes being consistently stomped on by other players, it's just not fun for anyone on the losing side and it can quickly deter anyone from really getting into Arena or PvP. There is also that perception of the elitist attitude that many PvP'ers have which really puts people off. You only need look at forums and the constant Arena class balance whiners to make you question whether you want to actively want to participate in this part of the WoW community. Some people just aren't of a competitive nature so the idea of fighting other players doesn't seem to offer them anything compared to facing off against PvE content which is a mutually beneficial team experience. Finally many players only have so much time they can devote to the game so PvP doesn't get a look in.
These are all things that put me off of participating in Arena matches for a long time but here are my top tips for overcoming them and getting to experience yet another fantastic part of the world we call Warcraft:
1. Pick the right partner for you. If you're not a highly competitive person then picking an uber-competitive elitist who is going to scream and shout at you the whole match (and probably after) is not going to do you any favours. If you're just learning then don't even worry too much about what class/spec you team up with. I definitely wouldn't have gotten into Arena so much if I didn't have such a fantastic partner. We're both learning and we both have infinite patience with each other, having a great team that gets on well, has fun together and has synergy is going to be far more enjoyable than picking some randomer from trade chat or the leetist PvP player from your guild that doesn't suffer newbz gladly (although the leetist PvP player who wants to teach you with understanding and patience would probably be a very good choice for a team mate). Remember, having a partner that reminds you that this is a game and you're meant to be having fun makes those loses far more bearable than the bloke who rage quits cos you missed an interrupt. It's a lot like PvE in that respect.
2. Pick the class and spec that feels right for you. You should be playing with what you both find fun not what with what the PvP forums tell you you should be playing with. There's plenty of time to sort all that out later if you get the bloodlust. I began playing with my PvE Frost Spec and I had absolutely no intention of changing it to PvP. It wasn't until we started getting into it all and having fun with the Arena that I started looking at changing things.
3. I find it helps not to think of the other team as players but as very smart AI mobs. Why? It takes a lot of that competitive element between opposing players out of it allowing me to be calmer and concentrate on what I should be doing and working with my partner rather than thinking how much I must suck compared to my peers. Just don't forget to be adaptive.
4. Maintain a certain element of the PvE mentality. Although every fight is going to be different, there are strategies and counter strategies for class combination just like there are strategies for every raid encounter. When/if you start enjoying Arena more then start reading up and prepare for it in the same way you would a raid. Post battle analysis is also another good PvE tool to use in PvP. Just like in a raid you're not looking to proportion blame to anyone, you're looking to see where you can improve and try to figure out strategy. Remember you don't just walk into a raid unprepared and down all the bosses first time it takes preparation and it has a learning curve. To many players enter PvP thinking "hey I know my class, let's go pwn" and come away with their tale between their legs because they didn't know the strategy for dealing with the opposing class.
5. Remember, you only have to play as many matches as you want to. If you're short on time just play a match or two. If you're on a losing streak and starting to rage then take a break or play again tomorrow. Remember, the only person you're racing here is yourself cos there's no world firsts in PvP. Arena queue times in my experience are usually pretty fast and matches never take that long. It really is a great distraction after a hard raid or as something else to experience if you're feeling that PvE burnout.
The Arena Pass 2011
Now is probably a pretty good time to have a go with the Arena because the Arena Pass is on. You may question my sanity in suggesting trying your hand in a tournament but seriously all types of different PvP skill levels join up and on top of that the Arena world gives you access to all the top end gear straight off the bat and it's free to swap gear, enchants and spec. Even if you don't have any intention of seriously playing to win the tournament, it's a great learning experience in which you can freely try out different specs, different gear combination and enchants and really see what works for you. The only downside is that it costs about 12 quid to participate, but most people seem to have spent that on a winged lion lately so why not also spend it on opening up a whole new part of the game to yourself. And remember, even though the actual tournament is 3v3, you can still practice 2v2 or 5v5 on the Arena realm.
As for me? Well there I am, stepping into my first ever Arena Pass competition with my Guild Leader and one of our raid's top healers who is also a very experienced PvP'er. Do I expect great things? Not really, this is actually the first time I've done 3v3 and it is a world apart from 2v2 in so many ways. Am I going to have a shitload of fun whilst learning to be a better player? Hell yeah I am!!!! And on top of that I get yet another mini-pet to add to my collection, sweet!
For those interested in Arena Pass, registration is on until 21st June. We're currently in the practice phase (where match wins/losses don't count) until the 8th June, then Phase 1 starts which lasts until the 22 June. I will try to keep you posted on my team's progress once Phase 1 hits and I sincerely hope to see you all on the sun scorched and blood soaked sand of the Arena very soon.