This week, we'll be discussing how to create and develop successful arena strategies. Quick aside: I see many players confusing the terms strategy and tactics. Strategies are overarching game plans for how to defeat specific enemy teams. Tactics are specific skills used to accomplish strategies. If strategy is the blueprint to a skyscraper, tactics are the best way to weld steel beams together.
- Strategy We can rotate crowd control on the enemy mage and rogue while DPSing the priest after he trinkets.
- Tactic The rogue is on Fear diminishing returns, start using Polymorph on him.
Some things need to be addressed before anyone can start formulating strategies.
What is your team composition? In 3v3, there are double melee plus healer setups (cleaves), double spellcaster DPS plus healer setups (wizard cleaves), double healer setups, and triple DPS setups. Your team composition will largely determine your general strategy and game plan.
What is your overall goal? Do you want to burst the enemy team down early before they can get a handle on stopping you? Perhaps your goal is to put out a large amount of damage and eventually make a hard switch onto a target after crowd-controlling the healer. Perhaps you're a mana-draining team that wants the battle to last forever.
What positioning are you going to use? Think of Nagrand arena. Upon the gates rising, most teams find temporary solace on the left pillar closest to them. The enemy team usually does the same thing. Is your team going to follow a common opening positioning scheme, or are you going to rush in? Or, are you going to try to take control of the center of the arena, or try to weird out opponents by going to the pillar on their side opposite from them? Eventually, you'll find your team will probably have different strategies based on different enemy team compositions (and different positions for each map).
What is the enemy team? Your strategy will vary greatly depending on what kind of composition the enemy team is composed of. Double healer teams usually require heavy DPS on the squishiest target while crowd-controlling the other healer. Draining one of the healer's mana can also be helpful. Chances are you're not going to be able to burst down a double healer team, so you will need to adjust strategies quickly.
What class on the enemy team is your best DPS target? On each of my Rank 1 teams, we've had a very organized ranking for optimal targets. After enough games and strategies, your team will become familiar with what targets are squishiest for you. Constantly change it up -- you might be surprised by initially thinking a class is very difficult to kill when it's actually one of your easier targets.
If your strategy works
Keep doing it! Although I am a large proponent of switching strategies up (as we will see shortly), it's important to make sure the strategy is a viable one and wasn't a fluke. Figure out why it worked on as many levels as possible. Did it catch them off guard? Try using the same strategy again and see if they're still having a difficult time with it. If so, you might have a winner on your hands. Use worse teams as practice for high-level teams. Tweak it a bit before moving on to another strategy.
If your strategy doesn't work
Keep doing it! Most teams quickly abandon strategies that don't work right away. Good strategy takes time to develop. Just because it doesn't work the first few times doesn't mean the strategy itself is flawed. Perhaps opposing teams are more skilled and have developed counter-strategies that are farther progressed than your initial stage of strategy. That doesn't mean your strategy is bad; it just means it's not refined. Try a few more times to figure out what's wrong. Go over all the angles. You might have a weak link that gets fixed, and your strategy goes from terrible to amazing.
A past 5v5 of mine had a very interesting problem. When fighting teams that had both warlocks and druids on it, our paladin would be so afraid of being Cycloned or Feared that he would hide behind pillars and constantly out-range our teammates. We told him to not worry about crowd control and run out into the center. He got CCed to hell and back. We tried it a few more times with varying degrees of success and decided it just wasn't that effective. We decided that it was easier to just attack warlocks than have our paladin stop pillar humping. It was better than having him in the center of the arena, but we knew we could do better. We started attacking restoration druids, and while they were considerably harder to kill, our paladin was never Cycloned, which was worse for us than Fear (as we could dispel Fear). It worked out spectacularly.
If your strategy really doesn't work
If nothing is working, scrap your entire strategy and start over. Try copying enemy strategies, especially if they're using a similar team composition to your own and appear to be successful with it. You can also try to disassemble an enemy team's strategy and figure out how to best combat them. If they're always attacking one member of your team, have your focused teammate stay back and pummel them with slows, snares, and burst DPS.
Okay, so this article has been pretty basic. Of course, that's because strategies are usually pretty basic. Next week, we'll be going over tactics and how to incorporate them into your strategies. That will be much more complex. Because there are nearly infinite tactics per combination of classes, I'll have to summarize a bit there as well.