Mastering the Arena: Trial by Arcane
Earlier this week, Blizzard opened up World of Warcraft's Arena Tournament servers for public signups. Every time they open, players can pay $20 for access to a separate server loaded with max-level characters, the best gear/enchants/gems in the game, and unlimited gold to spend—all of which adds up to provide the perfect competitive PvP environment for arena fans. The last time the tournament server was live, Josh grabbed a few of his friends and gave it a shot. We'll be sharing their thoughts on what they learned and if they thought it was worth the money over the next few days.
I’m not sure what I expected to find when I logged into the Arena Tournament realm for the first time, but I certainly didn’t expect major cities devoid of all NPCs and barely any players running around. Instead I found 30 Goblins on raised platforms selling almost every enchantment, poison, trinket, armor piece, and gem that a PvP hound could want. And my toon was loaded with enough gold to purchase everything.
I chose to play as a Goblin Mage because, as a veteran of Arena with my Rogue and Warrior characters, I’d always envied the Mage’s ability to continually control other player’s movements. I felt like a demigod in my first match. No one on the other team looked at me as they chased down my teammates' Rogue and Warrior, so I was free to stand still and spit out spells like a magical machine gun of death. Then I noticed I hadn’t used a single cooldown. Oops. I’d built my Arcane talent spec on a whim, and suddenly I realized that my action bars were full of spells I only vaguely understood.
I made a plan for myself. Every match, I’d focus on using a new spell. One match, I Polymorphed everyone I could see, and learned to anticipate the enemy’s use of trinkets. I also discovered that I could use Polymorph to set up a perfect Ring of Frost freeze on the enemy healer.
On and on it went as I began to get better at each facet of a mage’s role in our group. When we ran an all-damage-dealer lineup, my job developed into controlling the enemy damage and using crowd control on the healer so my teammates, Matthew and Marty, could secure a kill. When I ran with Jessica’s Priest and Marty’s Warrior, I focused on helping Marty burn down his target, and used crowd control spells to keep the enemy damage off Jessica.
It sounds so easy when I say it like that, but in reality I was panicking during every fight and constantly forgetting my objectives. Some matches, I forgot to Polymorph anyone at all, and I frequently failed to Ice Block before dying. When I died because I couldn’t find the Evocation button on my action bar and instead accidentally tried to conjure food in the middle of a fight, I knew I needed help.
I prefer to get my advice from more personal sources instead of through websites. So I called up my old roommate, James. Back in The Burning Crusade, we played Arena every week together, me as a Rogue and he as a Frost Mage. I’d seen him make some epic moves to save the day over the years, so after I switched to a Frost spec, I knew he could help me sharpen my skills.
“Multitask, multitask, multitask,” was the first thing James said to me. “You’re a magical assassin shepherd,” he continued, “At the beginning of each match, decide who your crowd control focus should be.” So I started picking a crowd control target at the start of every match and announcing it to Matthew, Marty, and Jessica so we could work together to contain them. Suddenly, we were essentially fighting 3v2 because we kept the enemy target out of commission most of the fight. I got to the point where all I was doing was Polymorphing the enemy team and using Counterspell to interrupt the enemy healer.
I’d gone a bit too far in the opposite direction—all crowd control and no damage—but luckily James was there to help straighten me out again. “Don’t forget to keep a steady flow of brimstone, arcana, and ice barreling towards your enemies at all times, only pausing to interrupt the enemy’s plans regarding your crowd control,” he told me between matches. “Oh, and always Ice Block sooner than later. If you Ice Block with only 1,000 health, you’re coming out with only 1,000 health and you’re going to die. Your body is burned and the ashes never make it to your family. Do you want your children to grow up fatherless?”
I like that James doesn’t sugarcoat it. Furthermore, his advice is applicable to anyone who’s stepping into the Arena: coordinate with your teammates to pick a target for crowd control abilities, but don’t get tunnel vision.
I felt more confident than ever stepping into the Arena after that. All it took was a few conversations with a good friend who was able to watch what I was doing and provide personalized feedback. I still have a lot to improve on—I didn’t quite break even with my total win-loss record—but at least next time I’ll remember to Ice Block.