Welcome to the war, comrades. You have been selected to receive the latest training and tactics fresh from the warfront. The tried-and-true strategies you are about to hear are extremely effective and CLASSIFIED. Let’s get to the briefing. Today, we discuss some higher-level strategies for Arenas.
More after the Jump…
After last week’s introduction to the concept of Arenas, I thought I would get more in depth about strategy. Specifically, I want to talk about meta-strategies, i.e. strategies that transcend class balance, rotations, and which mark to use. Meta-strategies are philosophical in nature; they are more general, and thus more applicable to many situations. I will be taking examples from two real-world areas where strategy is paramount: chess and fencing.
“You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a
game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games
before becoming a good player”
– Jose Raul Capablanca
The first thing I was told about PvP by the wise officers in my guild in Lord of the Rings Online was, “You are going to die a lot…and that’s okay!” This has stuck with me to this day. When I lose a game, I keep on trying. I learn from it. I look at the game as a whole and think “What could I have done better? Was there a better strategy? What did the other team do that made such a difference?” Being willing to learn from lost games, or getting upset about -16 points to your rating, will make or break you as a player.
“Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation”
– Max Euwe
When I set up a strategy at the beginning of the Arena, it follows a certain train of thought (which guy is the healer, are there any players in PvE armor, any players with low health, is there a particularly painful DPS class, etc. etc.). This is based on what I know of the mechanics of the game, the classes, and general strategies. If I lose the first round miserably, then I think about what I noticed. Do the enemy players spread out? Do they cluster up? Do they stand near walls? Near railings? Does the tank switch guard well? Do the DPS focus well? I think about all the possible things they do, then I form counter-strategies, keeping in mind that they are doing the same thing.
“The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake”
– Savielly Tartakower
This is a famous saying among chess players, and for good reason. Think about it for a minute. It doesn’t say, “the winner of the game is the player that plays perfectly,” because of course, that is impossible. It doesn’t even say, “the winner of the game is the player that makes the fewest mistakes.” It says, “next-to-last mistake.” Ask any player what the objective is in an Arena, and they will probably say, “to kill the other team.” Even I said this in the last article I wrote. A rephrase of this, which in some ways is more true, is to say, “the objective in an Arena is to be the team that survives the longest.” You don’t have to win the game in 30 seconds. You just have to win the game by being alive when they aren’t. Yet, I have played over 40 Ranked Arena matches, and not one of them has reached the sudden death round. Attrition, not speed, may be the best strategy, but no one seems to be using it.
“Chess teaches you to control the initial excitement you feel when
you see something that looks good and it trains you to think
objectively when you’re in trouble”
– Stanley Kubrick
This quote reminds me of two things that are really difficult about Arenas: not overextending, and keeping cool under fire. The former is important, more important than people realize. The number one thing you can do to get yourself killed is to overextend, which is where you push an attack too far and cut yourself off from your allies. You have to control your instinct to tunnel-vision and keep pushing the attack on a vulnerable target. You might not get the kill, but your team would be down a player if you got caught behind enemy lines.
The second thing, keeping cool under fire, simply comes with practice. When muscle memory and defensive instincts kick in, you go into autopilot preventing incoming damage, while simultaneously thinking about other things, such as a counterattack. Some basic tips to help yourself learn to react to difficult situations:
- Play as many duels as possible.
- Allow yourself to get to 20% health against a really difficult elite, then attempt to kill him. Allow your health to get even lower as you improve.
- If you are DPS, play a healer in regular Warzones. Nothing teaches you how to avoid focus fire like playing a healer.
“I prefer to lose a really good game than to win a bad one”
– David Levy
This is a good attitude to have about close games. Be sure to always have good sportsmanship and offer a “gg” in /say or /general for a close match.
“You need not play well – just help your opponent to play badly”
– Genrikh Chepukaitis
This leads into our discussion on fencing, but you want to make it easy for the other team to do things I have told you to avoid doing, like overextending, pushing the attack, trying to win quickly, etc.
There is a concept in fencing called “intention.” It is a basic measure of how far ahead you are thinking. It basically boils down like this:
- First intention: A basic attack. The intent is to hit the target.
- Second intention: A strategy composed of an initial feint designed to draw a response, which is anticipated and countered with a second attack that succeeds at landing.
- Third intention: A strategy composed of two feints, for which the responses are anticipated and countered, based on observations of reactions to similar situations. The third attack is meant to land.
- And so on…
Truly excellent fencers think several moves ahead, in a similar fashion to chess players. A good fencer takes note of movements and responses of the opponent to stimuli, whether it be a feint attack, or a simple step forward. The fencer uses this to construct a series of feints and responses that ultimately result in a successful attack. I have witnessed true brilliance on the national scale with fencing, even watching one of my clubmates pull off a fourth intention attack. It was truly a beautiful sight.
So what does this mean for Arenas? It means taking a longer view of the Arena. It means planning out moves in advance. You don’t have to kill the healer the first time you attack them. Maybe all you want is to make them burn all of their cooldowns, while maintaining a healthy distance and escape route. Get in, make them react, get out. Let them make the next mistake, this time without cooldowns to save them.
In fencing, there are two types of bouts. There are “pool bouts,” which pit fencers against each other in a rotation, where you fence everyone in your pool to five points. Then there are longer “elimination” bouts. These bouts are to 15 points, with three periods of three minutes each, with a one minute break in between periods. You have nine minutes to score the 15 points, yet some green fencers try to score as many points as possible in the first period. More experienced fencers let noobs burn themselves out to make it easier later.
In Arenas, we are given five minutes and plenty of running space. There is no reason to continually pressure the other team irrespective of your team’s health and situation. I have actually seen a team kill a healer, then continue pressing the attack when they are low on health, only to die one-by-one because they didn’t stop to let their healer fix them before they renewed the attack. Develop an awareness of the time you have, and use it to better strategize against your opponents. Remember, strategy requires thought, but tactics require observation. Tactically assess the situation, and change your strategy to suit it.
Hopefully these tips help push your game to the next level! Does this help you think more broadly about Arenas? Let me know in the comments!