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Monday, October 27, 2008

The Colosseum: Nostalgia

The Colosseum takes us inside the world of the Gladiator (Brutal, Vengeful, Merciless, and otherwise), to interview some of the top Arena fighters in the battlegroups. Our goal is to bring a better understanding of the strategy, makeup, and work that goes into dueling it out for fame, fortune, and Netherdrakes.

A few weeks ago, we spoke with Drwhy, who had a great deal of positive things to share about his partner, Nostalgia the Rogue. And while the seasons of the Arena are over until Wrath, Nostalgia was kind enough to take the time to talk to us about his experience in the arena. Check out what he had to say behind the cut.WoW Insider: Who are your teammates right now? What's the general plan behind your composition? What challenges does your team have? How do you prefer to run your comp?

Nostalgia: Right now for 2v2, I'm running a lot of compositions, going back and forth between teams, helping friends, etc. With the season coming to an end, it's really becoming hectic.

The best part is people are actually queuing, whether they are fighting for #1 or just to get Gladiator. The main comp I've always run is Priest/Rogue. (Obviously, With Drwhy). I know he gave an interview about how Priests generally run in that comp, so I guess this will be more of a Rogue point of view.

3v3 is my favorite bracket, although it's much harder finding 2 good players than 1 good player. And playing Drwhy restricts me to pretty much Rogue/Mage/Priest, and Rogue/Priest/Druid. So I've been focusing more on 2s.

The combo of Priest/Rogue actually requires some really good plays from the rogue and priest. Generally, you lose before the gates open, so you just fight uphill. Every Warlock team is easy, up until top notch Warlock/Druids, when it really becomes a challenge.

Warrior teams are pretty much all hard. When we leveled our gladiator team a few weeks ago, we played a Shaman/Warrior in our first game, in the 1500s. He just basically got a WF/WF/Mace stun/Mace stun/Mace stun/Stormherald stun and some more WFs in between. Luckily the Warrior was in S1/S2 gear, but it really dropped him to like 1% and we had to basically change our entire game plan.

Also Rogue/Druid becomes really hard to any team that catches on to our strategy. Also as Rogue/Healer (Priest), games do tend to drag on. If we're losing, we try to reset the fight. So after a while we decided we need to play offensive 99% of the time to win.

Basically, if you saw a Fraps of me and Drwhy playing, you will be wondering why he's not in Shadowform. We're always offensive, as much as possible. I'm always hitting something, even if my current target is getting away. I turn around and hit a healer, go kick something, or just use a Throw on the healer to make sure he doesn't drink. Drwhy is always mana burning, DPSing a pet, always doing something.

WoW Insider: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?

Nostalgia: Gates open, I 90% of the time remain stealthed. Sometimes against mirrors, I need to win the battle for the middle of the map. So, I'd mount up a quarter of the way, unmount and Stealth. If we've been playing another Rogue team with the JC trinket or he's human, I'd pre-Vanish to ensure I don't get sapped.

Against warriors, we have to make sure Drwhy doesn't get charged. So on Blade's Edge, he's using the ramp as LoS. I usually distract, or Sap while he puts a Dispel or a DoT to put him in combat.

Against double DPS (Rogue/X), we try to seperate them. So if they have a Rogue going for Drwhy, I start on their caster and I'll kill their DPS faster than their rogue will kill Drwhy.

If they go for me, I just try to play extremely defensive. Hug pillars to avoid any casts being made on me, Save Cloak for wounds rather than burst.

You always want to save Cloak. My priest has Pain Supression early on, I have Evasions to negate most of the Rogue's damage. Generally if you use Cloak early, there will be another opportunity for them to burst you, and you definately will need Cloak to survive.

WoW Insider: Which mods do you use -- how have you customized your screen?

Nostalgia: There are 3 main mods I use.

Afflicted. This is pretty much mandatory for online play. After a while you pretty much don't look at it anymore just because you are so used to all the timers and what's happening and when etc. But for players starting out or just inexperienced, it is reallly REALLY handy.

Make sure you only set up stuff that you really need to look at. There is no point in tracking random stuff like Icy Veins. As a rogue, I can't do anything about it. But KS timer and Intercept timer, those 2 things are probably the most important things. CoS Cooldown.

Next, some form of ability tracker. Tracks your length of stuns, how much time left on blind, left on Sap. For me, I use Classtimer. The beauty about this, is that it tracks what you want on WHO you want. I have it track Blind, Sap, Gouge,etc.

An example of this is when we play a mirror team (another Priest/Rogue). I keep Mind Numbing on the Priest while I'm on the Rogue. This means that if they go into a Mana Burning fight, the priest will go OOM much before mine. This mod shows me a timer of my Mindnumbing on the priest and I can just go and re-Shiv it when it's about to finish (also tossing a Kick here and there, since that's why I'm usually going to go to the Priest in the first place).

Next, Pitbull. Yes, yes, a unit frame mod. The thing I love about this is that the cast bars come included (even though I use Quartz, Quartz is kind of nice for casters).

The main feature is focus frames (not only focus casting bars). I have a whole frame of my focus target, and his target. Also buffs, debuffs, and the works. This helps because if we're playing a druid team, I can see his mana the entire time, what he's casting (to dodge Cyclones). If he gets Innervate, I'd help my priest with a gouge or maybe a KS so he can dispel it. Really good.

My whole UI is Astika's (now known as Ceramic) UI. I believe it is called Spartan. It is REALLY clean and really nice whether you arena or just raid. is where to get it. Mine is a tad different, just some PvP Addons + Omen/DTM and some epeen . . err I mean damage meters.

WoW Insider: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)

Nostalgia: Well, we've been playing for so long, we just know what to do at the beggining.

However, after the first minute, the fight always changes to something new. And then depending on my PoV and my priests PoV, one of us might call a switch, or just stay on current target. If the priest gets a Fear on him, or he thinks he might get a Fear on him with some burns, it usually means I'm going to have to switch to their priest for a few seconds to stop burns.

But then again, this is also something we discussed during our time of play. Like back when we were newbs in S1, I'm sure if he got Feared, I wouldn't have done anything. The game finishes and we'd be like okay what happened. Oh, you got burned when feared.. you can't stop getting feared? That's fine, I'll just get on the priest when you do. And then that's kind of a rule we have now.

After playing hundreds of games, it's kind of systematic. If this happens, we do this. If that happens, we do that. But we're both responsible for game plans. If he wants a switch due to him losing the mana war, we try to get a switch. But it would never be like "Oh, I'm switching now without notice."

We usually plan it during the game. "Hey I'm going to switch soon to help you get mana." "Okay, that's fine. Let me grab a Fear so you can catch up to him."

WoW Insider: How do you schedule your playtime? Do you try and work during "good times to queue?"

Nostalgia: The main advantage of playing 2s is more time to play. Coordinating 5v5 matches is such a pain because... well, you need 4 other players to be on at the same time. With work and school, it's really hard.

We don't usually do it in advance aside from saying something like, "Hey, you going to be on tommorrow?" Thing about being above 2100 or 2200, is that you really can't queue when you want. We sit in 5-10 min queues to play a 1800 Warrior/Shaman who can possibly gib the priest. Same with double DPS. We make 1 mistake and that's 30 points we just lost.

We usually try to queue at about 6 server or ask on AJ if anyone else is queuing to see if it's worth the respec and time.

WoW Insider: What's been the biggest change in your strategy between each bracket of ratings? (1500s, 1600s)

Nostalgia: Umm, as a Rogue, early brackets I'm just tunnel visioning players and trying to kill them as much as possible. They tend to lack the ability to change between offensive and defensive play.

So when me and Drwhy storm them and start putting damage, they start making mistakes. Druids would do some bad things like getting Feared, into blind into Sap into MC into another into god-knows-what. At 2200, we do transition between offensive and defensive.

We start really strong. When Drwhy can drink, I try to stop their healer from drinking. And we rinse and repeat. At that level, skill is pretty even. So it's all about game plan. How can you get your healer to drink and prevent theirs from not?

But if we do start putting pressure, we usually try to keep it going. It's much easier to keep pressure and make them get into trouble by making stupid plays, than resetting the fight and starting again.

Also, I put out a lot less damage against better teams. Half the games versus Rogue/Druid teams, I just get into stealth during every Fear to Sap the rogue and let my priest drink.

It's more about control than damage. You will have an opportunity to put out some burst damage, but for most of the game it's control. Drwhy is the same. We take a fight to where it's favorable for us, and then we stop resetting, and then we both go offensive.

WoW Insider: What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)

Nostalgia: Yelling is usually a good signal. Heh, we usually expect everything since we've played against like every comp a billion times.

But like an example would be, "Hey, I'mm going to put pressure on this warrior, go bug the druid with burns and dispels." That's fine and all, but when the warrior resists your 2 Cheap Shots and 3 Kidney Shots (it happens more often than not, I've had atleast 1 KS resisted versus every warrior team), you're not putting any pressure.

And while the right thing to do is put pressure on the Warrior, sometimes you are just like, "Okay, this is not going to work, he's got full HoTs, druid was drinking while I was getting mace stunned, no wounds left." Obviously in this specific case, staying on the warrior is a bad idea, and we either switch, or reset the fight to the best of our ability.

WoW Insider: What's the key for your composition's strategy? Are there multiple tactics you can use?

Nostalgia: Well I'll take Druid/X, for example, since they make up 99% of the 2v2 ladder.

We never beat Druid/Warrior, Druid/Hunter, Druid/Lock, Druid/Rogue or pretty much anything Druid, without a CC on the druid. Our options are limited, we have a Fear, and we have a Blind/Sap. The thing is, a good druid won't get Feared due to him running from a Priest when a Priest gets close.

Also, a good Warrior, Rogue, Hunter, or Lock won't let a druid feared. They all have slows that can stop the priest from getting to the druid. All those classes also can either kite me, or stop half my damage, or CC me.

This means that not only can we not kill their DPS with a druid healing, they can also survive while their Druid is drinking. Half of these classes have pets disallowing my priest to drink, the other half put so much pressure that my priest can't get time to drink. Also Abolish Poison owns me. So what are our options?

Well, for half those match ups, we will not win without killing the pet. If we do not kill the pet Drwhy will be OOM and we have to run around a pillar for 5 minutes for him to regen mana. This is actually a viable strategy.

We kill pet, we OOM the hunter so he can't summon, or I stay on the warlock and put massive pressure on the lock while he has no pet.

Another problem is that with a Druid sticking on a Rogue with Cyclones, it becomes a fight of them trying to summon a pet, and us trying to stop them. Unless it's early on the fight, I'm usually cooldown starved, and if they are coordinated, they can summon another one. So we take full advantage during that time.

Against Rogue/Druid, we just control the Rogue till he decides to leave the game. But full duration Fears, then getting Kidneys on him usually help (in a position where the druid has to come close to the priest and gets Feared). Druid will trinket, and you wait for another opportunity to do it again with his trinket down. Follow it with a Blind, and a Sap, and hope you get a kill.

If not, reset and try again. It's more or less the same for Warrior/Druid, minus Fears on Warrior. It becomes really hard against Warriors that Intervene when they are in trouble, and know when to go sword and board.

WoW Insider: You hear a lot about clicking versus binding. Which skills do you still click, which do you tend to bind?

Nostalgia: As you can see on my UI, I bind everything. (Bindings are also displayed there). I also have a focus cast on pretty much everything. Focus blind, focus shiv, focus kick, focus gouge. I also have some macros like Shadow Step focus target, then Kick focus target.

Also, some things when you play 3s is good like having a countdown macro. Basically, we'd call a switch on the pet, and Id put a macro that would count from 10 to 1. At 1, we zerg the pet real quick without the healer being able to anticipate it.

But generally you never want to click anything at all. Something like bandages might be 'okay' but any abilities should be bound. Especially a rogue, when you have a 1 second GCD and you really to play with finesse and clicking won't let you.

WoW Insider: What are you trying to improve?

Nostalgia: 90% of Arenas is communication. So, if you want to improve, that's where you start.

When we first started doing 2s, we must have overlapped a 10,000 Fears and Blinds. Then it would be like "Hey, should I Blind now or are you going to Fear" to be followed by "Fear is down, Blind." But, by then a druid has had full HoTs on his player and the CC is wasted.

What we've been doing now (and is still a Wrok-In-Progress) is basically calling everything 5-10 seconds before. We literally say, "I have a fear in 10 seconds, try to force the druid near me." And I'd be like, "Kidney in 7, dragging him away."

WoW Insider: What are you looking forward to in Wrath, for your class? What are you kind of dreading?

Nostalgia: I'm hoping for less RNG. Some classes right now pretty much rely on RNG.

For example, stun resists (fixed now), dispel resists (still a problem). Really makse our comp irritating. Some classes are better than others (example Druids).

However, unless you make all the classes all the same, this is bound to happen. Also, Racials really make this game frustrating. We played a Shadow Priest/Rogue team. He dispels Fear Ward off me, I Cloak right after. Then he waits and Fears me (by this time hes at like 30 %) and silences my priest so he can't dispel it off me and they just kill my priest.

If I can get back in time, we win. If not, we lose. The only problem is, every time we lose, I'm realize that if I were Undead, we wouldn't lose. (Due to Will of the FOrsaken.) They play a big role, and I don't think it should really be in the Arena.


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