Thursday, November 12, 2009

Arena Tips, or "How Husband Says He Could Change My Mind"

This is going to be a joint post with husband on how people who don't really like arenas could potentially learn to love them.

I personally hated them for the following reasons:
  • We queued at slow times, so each battle had a 10 minute wait.
  • I hate being forced to do things to get any benefit (i.e. 10 games a week requirement).
  • I hate spending much time on something I'm ambivalent about.
  • The titles mean nothing to me.
  • It wasn't very fun.
Husband's Gladiator friend told him that to progress in arenas, it's all about grinding out games. Do a ton every week and your rating will creep up, especially in the first weeks of a season. That's just not attractive to me at all.


"Potentially learn to love them" is a good phrase. Most people dislike arenas when they start out, and not everyone will like arenas even if they become good. However, many will become frustrated very quickly at the beginning and give up forever without really taking the time to figure out why they hate it so much or if they're missing out on something exciting. All you need to learn to enjoy arenas is one or more of the following motivations:
  • You want access to the higher level PvP gear
  • You have a competitive nature
  • You want to spend time with someone who does enjoy arenas
  • You want the titles/prestige from a high arena rating
If you examine yourself and you really don't want any of those four things, then no amount of anything will make arenas fun for you and you're better off not wasting your time. The third one on that list is a little iffy and requires a certain degree of desire. I have a friend who was pressured/begged into arenas during Burning Crusade and hated almost every minute of it. He enjoys the game as a whole much more now that he doesn't PvP. He wanted to hang out with the other PvPers, but he could also spend time with us doing other things so the specific desire to arena with us was only "meh."

Being motivated to do arenas is not enough to enjoy them, however; it's only enough to get you started. For myself in Burning Crusade I played quite a few matches and hated much of the time spent. I truly enjoy playing them now, so what changed? I think there are several keys.

Desensitize yourself from losing. In most video games people play, especially if you played a lot of video games as a child, there is an unfortunate part of your mind ingrained with "I am the hero, I am supposed to win!" From Mario to Metal Gear Solid, The Legend of Zelda to whatever sequel they're up to now, even all the PvE content in WoW, the point of most games is to beat it. The game is specifically designed for the player to have fun.

Competitive games aren't like that, since they have a human winner and a human loser. Arenas in particular are unforgiving. Unless you are in the upper echelon of PvPers, after your team rating stabilizes you will win about half your matches since you will be mostly playing people of similar gear and skill level. Get better gear, become a better player or team, and your rating climbs...until it stabilizes again, and you start losing about half your matches. It's the way the rating system is designed.

In order to deal with losses, you have to separate yourself emotionally from them. It's not so big a deal, really, but it's a rude awakening if you've grown up always winning at video games. The way to take these losses in stride differs from person to person, but I find the best way for most people is to simply expose yourself to it enough that it's not an affront, it's just another loss. One method is to play a lot of games and just get used to it. The thing that worked for me was watching people stream their arena games on It was strange seeing top-rated players lose some games, not get worked up, and just queue another. Take them as learning experiences or just shrug them off, either way it's no big deal. Other people take the more zen, philosophical approach: "it's only a game."

Identify exactly what is so frustrating. One thing I noticed in Burning Crusade is that the result of the games that I got most upset over were not always losses. Win or lose, I hated sitting in stuns, unable to defend myself. It took a surprising amount of time to identify that exactly because my reaction when opened on by a Rogue was to immediately become frustrated at the Rogue class, and subconsciously give up. "Rogues are OP!! I hate them!" did very little for me or my enjoyment of the game. Once I realized specifically that sitting in a stun was my trigger, I could begin to work around it. I could never improve because of that stumbling block of which I wasn't even aware.

Learn how to become better. Note that this isn't the same thing as "become better." Many people push against the same brick wall week in and week out, 10 games a week thinking "we'll keep improving." The truth is that it's hard to become better when you don't know what you're doing wrong, and this is a situation I'm all too familiar with. This point could be one (or many) posts by itself, but it's important that you have some hope of advancement. Without that nebulous hope or concrete goal to work toward, that you actually get closer to, the grind is discouraging. The short, cheat-sheet answer is to play with teammates who are better than you.

Another important thing when starting out is to play as the same team composition and character specs consistently. Chasing after flavor-of-the-month specs and comps does very little for actually learning how to succeed in the arena mini-game. You'll reroll the new team, it will seem amazing, then you're reach that point, that same brick wall, and you won't know why you aren't improving. Things like positioning, timing, situational awareness, and communication are the skills that matter most.

Play with people you like. Playing with a whiner or someone who criticizes harshly is no fun, period. One bad apple really can ruin the bunch, so be comfortable with your teammates.

So there you have it. Summed up into a single sentence, how to learn to stop worrying and love arenas is this: Find your motivation, then decide to enjoy yourself! It's that simple. Now let's see if I've convinced my wife...


  1. Due to a trying raid and weary mind I read that whole thing thinking it was Birdfall that wrote it. It so happens that I am ON an Arena team with "husband" and heard a lot of his good advice to our struggling-but-improving team in this article. The three most rating-altering lessons I've learned in my years as an Arena competitor are:

    1) Play a character and spec you enjoy. The aforementioned friend who hated Arenas but liked his PVPing friends was playing a spec he hated (Holy Paladin) in an attempt to fit in. Go for what you love and try to make it work.

    2) Play with people you enjoy. I've had a number of partners and teams. Finding a consistent partner that gets along with you personality-wise is essential to having fun with arenas instead of breaking your keyboard in frustration.

    3) Watch, react and move. This isn't PvE and your opponents aren't going to stand still. They aren't going to linger while you cast Polymorph or Cyclone. Watch how other players react to you and how they try to stop you from doing what you want to do. React to their attempts to do stuff to you (don't let the Cyclone hit when Counterspell is off cooldown). Move constantly and put yourself in a good position. The best arena players are one-step ahead of their opponent and wind up precisely where they need to be when they need to be there... not by luck, but by design.

    That's my two (three?) cents.

  2. That's why I only try to arena with Husband and a select few other! But mostly Husband! (<3)


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