What Works in the Arena

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As we approach the end of the first arena season, the top teams have begun to appear across the battlegroups. Many have wondered what the key to their success is, whether it is the players, the gear, the experience, or the group make-ups. The focus of this article is an analysis of the general consensus on group composition of the top 5v5 arena teams, and a collective discussion on each of the classes’ role in battle.

To begin with, here is the class breakdown of the top 5 US arena teams:

Team Pandemic: Arcane Power Frost Mage, Warrior, Hunter, Paladin, Priest
The Fighting Mongooses: Frost Mage, Elemental Shaman, Paladin, Priest, Warrior
The Huks: Paladin, Elemental Shaman, Soul Link Warlock, Warrior, Priest
Ninjas in Pyjamas: Warrior, Paladin, Priest, Arcane Power Frost Mage, Rogue
Pro Up: Paladin, Priest, Warrior, Frost Mage, Hunter

As you can see, every team listed has a priest, paladin, and warrior. These three classes are the building blocks of top tier arena teams. Warriors are essential to any team primarily because of mortal strike, several different interrupts, and durability. Paladins can heal for ages, and with the right spec and gear setup, they are hard to stop. These two classes have excellent synergy in any arena situation. Priests bring another dispel, Power Word: shield, fear, and the underestimated mana burn. The way arena fights are playing out now with everyone in 200 resilience, fights are becoming more dependent on lasting in the long run rather than burst. Mana burn allows for the priest to knock out a large ammount of a players mana pool.

The classes that appear here and there on the top teams include hunters, elemental shamans, frost mages, and warlocks. Unfortunately, rogues and druids still need some tuning in order to become viable in endgame 5v5 arena. Most teams run a frost mage due to its excellent durability with ice block, and if played well can assist down targets while keeping others in sheeps. Take Malice (Ecilam) from Team Pandemic for example, he has been playing since beta as a frost mage. He says:

“I have considered fire due to the massive amount of damage pyroblast can do, but for the way the game is right now I believe ice block to be necessary for our group make up. My role in 5v5's is to control the other team via polymorph, counterspell, and frost nova and to provide burst damage via arcane power when necessary.”

Another class several teams include is hunter, who also have superb survivability with deterrence and a high resistance to snares. They also bring long term consistent damage, and traps that can completely lock down a melee train. Invasion from Pro Up says:

“The main spells I use are frost trap (with spec’d entrapment), viper stings on the healers, and I spend a lot of time kiting since they focus me first. In my opinion a team with a hunter on their roster has a large advantage because of frost traps. Our team is centered on a large burst vs. casters.”

A few teams incorporate elemental shamans for their simultaneous ability to output damage, help heal their team, offensively dispel, and bringing several support totems to the group. Korbin of The Fighting Mongooses says:

“My primary role on our team is to support the warrior in killing his target. Depending on the situation this could mean purging, dps, interrupting healers, and of course dropping totems. Sometimes it is necessary for me to heal but I am generally offensive support.”

We only see a few teams with warlocks. With curses, fears, interrupts, high damage output, and strong durability, a warlock can be clutch for any team. Tiz from team HUKHUKHUKS says:

“What I do in arenas is entirely dependent on what the situation is. Most important I have found is to cause general disruption; both by annoying their healers, and keeping their offense from teeing off on a target too much. But as one of 5 people, a warlock is defiantly not supposed to be shirking DPS entirely, which is a mistake I think a lot of warlocks do.”

Any of these classes listed above brings its own unique advantage to any team in the arena. Some work together with others and some don’t.

There are many issues players have with the arena overall. The fact that no team can be successful without a paladin and warrior, and that the druids and rogues are rarely viable. Any winning team includes a paladin and a warrior, plus other support classes. Previous PvP oriented games have groups set up with 6 – 8 players instead of 5, and have had more success. In WoW however, any more than 6 may turn out to be a disaster, with the way damage is. Many feel that if another player slot is added to groups you won’t be pigeonholed into a preset group. Another problem is the epic necklace Talisman of the Breaker. The concept of the item made interrupting a healer or caster nearly impossible. Especially paladins with improved concentration aura, which gives even more interrupt resistance, it is nearly impossibly to stop their casts. It took the skill out of timing a counterspell, shock, pummel, etc... and it let's the caster endlessly spend his or her mana.

All in all, the first arena season has been quite an experience. Many new teams have come out of the woodwork and some of the old school teams are at the top as well. Hopefully Blizzard can learn from its mistakes (from patch notes it seems they are heading in the right direction) for seasons to come. We have learned what specs, group setups, and gear work and what doesn’t in top PvP competition. In the end, however, it is the player’s abilities that determine their ranks among the competition.

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