WoW for Noobs

BY Andrew Miesner / January 21, 2009

Competitive WoW for Noobs

    At this day in age in online gaming you’d have to have been hiding in a dark hole for quite some time to have not heard of World of Warcraft. For years now it has been the MMO archetype and multiple games have been designed in attempt to overthrow its dominance, all of which ultimately resulted in failure and left their respective companies with heavy losses. The World of Warcraft market is huge now with over 11 million subscribers paying $15.00 a month to play (not including China) – making it the most universally popular game around at this point in time. Its success can be contributed to many facets; however, there is no doubt that a game cannot remain at the top for so long without commanding commitment and competition of subscribers. For those of you who many not be acquainted with the competitive World of Warcraft community, or even the notion of how an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) can be competitive, this article is for you.

There is a community out there (probably entrenched primarily in the CS community) that believes WoW can’t be, shouldn’t be, or simply isn’t a competitive game. This idea is understandable considering the game isn’t like any other competitive game in the history of pro gaming. There is no necessary acclimation to ‘aiming’ like in Counter-Strike, and all players are NOT created equal. This is to say, World of Warcraft has a variety of classes that individuals can play including: Priest, Mage, Rogue, Death Knight, Warrior, Druid, Paladin, Shaman, Hunter, and Warlock. Each class is jam packed with different abilities – think 40+ abilities per class – all of which are unique in their own way but often follow certain trends. This article isn’t intended to go through all of these specifics, but the idea is to give you all an idea of how much there is to learn about this game to fully understand it. Moreover, between each class there are approximately 50+ “talents” that players can select (and change at will) that modify their 40+ abilities that they already have. This creates an incredibly dynamic and versatile game where trends are set and broken consistently in the competitive field.

The Arena:

    The arena is essentially where it all comes together competitively, players can compete in 2v2, 3v3 and 5v5 competitions in an arena, if you live, and the opposing team dies, you win. Pretty straight forward right? Well, if that’s all there is to arena then that would be it, but now one must look at all of this keeping light the infinite (nearly, really) number of combinations that can be created from the aforementioned classes, spells, specializations, etc. Let me put it this way, in 3v3 alone there are 720 (if my math is correct) different class combinations (assuming no repetition between classes) that a team can face. In 5v5 there are 30,240 different possible class combinations a team could choose between to run against one another. This versatility among options is primarily that which makes the game so dynamic.

    When I played Counter-Strike the round would start and every time it was the same, there were 5 guys on the other team, they all did the same things, looked the same, and it was 100% even from the start. World of Warcraft is entirely different, when the round starts I don’t know what that team is going to run, I have to wait and see and attempt to adapt immediately. Teams have to reason and strategize on the fly based up on what the opposing team is playing against you. Let’s take 3v3 into consideration for example (which is the most common competitive bracket – used in all tournaments at this point), in competitive World of Warcraft play it is very common for players to be capable of playing multiple classes, and in between each round (best of 5) teams can change anything and everything they desire about their current team setup. So if the gates open and a team runs out with Warrior, Warlock, Druid my team has to play in an ENTIRELY different way and with an entirely different strategy than if they ran out with Hunter, Druid, Paladin or any other combination. As you could expect, there are trends and at this point in time there are probably about 30-40 “common” group compositions that people run. They are the most stable and have great overall utility and versatility allowing players to beat more than just a single team. However at the same time there are specific group compositions that are concocted by players for the sole reason of catching another with their pants down so to speak.

    Some group compositions are inherently better against other group compositions, the only time it’s truly 100% balanced (still arguable here) is when two of the exactly same compositions (and the same races, but we won’t even go into that) face off against one another in the arena. This is why it is so important for professional players to be able to multi-class. If you expect Sk Gaming to run Priest Mage Rogue against you, then can pull out a group composition has an advantage against it. Nevertheless however, they can expect you to come out with a counter and come out with something you don’t expect either. Due to this probably 30% of every match is decided before players even face off, strategy and forethought are required to simply choose what exactly one team wants to pull out against another team.

While group compositions are important, on the fly decision making is truly what makes WoW different from any other competitive game. Suppose Team Complexity is facing off against Team EG in the world finals and it comes down to a 1v1. Sunman vs Frod for the win, in Counter-Strike there is a limited amount of strategy that can be used to outsmart or outclass your opponent to take the round, but at the very end of the day whoever makes the shot and gets the frag wins right (don’t bring up bomb plants etc, it’s a damn example)? Sunman isn’t a phenomenal player simply because he plays smarter than everyone else, it’s because he’s got the reactions of a mongoose and the aim of a [insert clever animal here]. Competitive World of Warcraft is not the same – each kill does not come down to who shoots who first – it comes down to a seemingly infinite number of other factors that determine the outcome. Having a set strategy that you and your team have rehearsed and prepared for is paramount; likewise is one’s ability to adapt quickly based upon what the other team walks out the gates with, or what their strategy is. Making smart decisions on the fly is the largest factor that separates the pro’s from the average players in World of Warcraft. It’s game of recognizing the mistakes made by the other team and capitalizing on them as quickly as possible. 

Ultimately however, one cannot truly appreciate competitive World of Warcraft without participating in the game and in arenas; it is only there that you can actually realize the scope of it all. I played Counter-Strike for 4 years and idolized the pros just like all the other fans, but it wasn’t my ticket. I struggled to cal-main after years of practice but at the end of the day I simply couldn’t make the same shots Sunman and Volcano could. World of Warcraft on the other hand is a game I was able to actually connect with, where it didn’t come down to aim, but more to innovation, strategy, and on the fly decision making. While all of these are important aspects of CS, I would just say the percent of importance is slightly different. WoW is 50% Strategy, 40% Decision making, and 10% innovation, as for CS, well you’d have to ask the pro’s what they think, but I assume AIM would be a pretty high % in there.

    Hope this gives you CS players an idea of what WoW is in comparison to other professional competitive games out there and perhaps slightly heightens your respect for those of us who put the time into it to be the best.  COL 4 Life!

-Jordan “coL.HappyMinti” Mance