Updated Thu, Mar 03, 2011 by Cyrak
This season has created a whole host of new viable arena teams, some of which quite frankly shouldn’t be viable for the good of the game. Building a team is easier than it was in season 8 due to the increased viability of melee and the fact that they aren’t necessarily shackled to a caster or hunter.
We’ll go over the good and the bad and give you an idea of what can work and what will dominate.
A cleave team is an invented term in the PvP community. It basically refers to any team that uses 2 DPS of the same type. Two melee or two casters paired with the healer constitutes a ‘cleave’ team. These teams are popular because they typically have a low skill cap and are pretty effective.
Melee cleaves tend to rely on training one target all game and either killing them with crazy burst damage or quickly running their healer out of mana by forcing them to use their inefficient quick heals. These type of comps aside from the popular TSG (Arms Warrior, Unholy DK, Holy Paladin) weren’t seen much towards the end of Wrath of the Lich King due to the crazy crowd control of casters and just the strength of casters in general during that period. Now many melee enjoy extremely high damage as well as increased mobility. This allows these team comps to get on a healer or caster and have 2 interrupts, pushback, and pretty crazy damage.
Melee Cleaves are typically considered to be low skill cap to say the least. Image by Ryzer.
Dominant Melee Cleave Comps:
‘Turbo Cleave’ – Enhance Shaman, Unholy DK, Healer
TSG – Arms/Fury Warrior, Unholy DK, Holy Paladin
New to S9 – Enhance Shaman, Warrior, Healer
New to S9– Warrior, Feral Druid, Healer
As you can see, the general theme here is two highly mobile and high damage melee paired with a healer. Other comps not listed here can also work if played properly such as subbing in a Rogue into pretty much any of those teams. These teams are frustrating to play against and are generally considered easy to play and looked down on. Nonetheless, they can definitely win games and can go as far as feeling like a hard counter to some comps that can’t peel off their ridiculous damage.
Casters cleaves are the second type of cleave team. These gained huge popularity towards the end of season 7 and have continued to the present. The point of these teams is to make the other team unable to play their characters for long enough to score a kill, something they do well albeit not as well as last season.
These teams are generally considered the high skill cap comps due to the requirement of rotating crowd control on multiple targets without breaking it or overlapping. Managing diminishing returns by looking at Gladius however doesn’t exactly require GSL caliber skill levels so don’t be discouraged from running these teams.
The biggest offender here has always been and continues to be MLD (Mage, Warlock, Druid). This is the quintessential caster cleave team because it brings about 15 (not even exaggerating) different forms of CC to the table including Polymorph, Fear, and Cyclone which are all on different diminishing returns. This means that it is possible to put a player in an 8 second fear into a 4 second fear into a 2 second fear into an 8 second polymorph, 4 second polymorph, 2 second polymorph followed by 6/3/1 cyclone. Do the math. That is 38 seconds of straight crowd control that doesn’t include improved counterspell or spell lock silences. By the time the last cyclone ends fear is already off of diminishing returns and can be reapplied for full duration. You can imagine how the game ends when this team starts to CC a healer.
Other caster based teams can employ similar strategies and CC chains, though none as long. Long CC chains have become more important as of patch 4.0.6 because of the removal of bloodlust from arenas. Casters have always benefitted disproportionately from straight haste buffs and many relied on bloodlust to create key pressure to force trinkets or land kills. Now that it’s gone the CC is more of a factor.
Dominant Caster Cleave Teams:
MLD – Mage, Warlock, Druid
MLS – Mage, Warlock, Shaman
Shatterplay – Mage, Shadow Priest, Healer
Most of the hybrid casters have gone the way of the dodo this season so really the only casters left standing are Frost Mages, Affliction Warlocks, and Shadow Priests. You’ll find some combination of these on most teams running caster cleaves.
Traditionally the teams consisting of a melee DPS, a caster and a healer have always been solid and have been considered the best ‘balanced’. Thankfully these teams are doing well again this season. Building a good mixed team is all about finding classes that have synergy with each other. The best example presently and historically has got to be RMP (Rogue, Mage, Priest). This team possesses a huge amount of crowd control, burst damage, and mobility and seems almost designed to play together. Nearly all of this team’s CC is on different diminishing returns and the classes just seem to fit together properly in terms of the roles they play.
Aside from the team campers there's a refreshing amount of diversity at the top.
There are of course a ton of different viable mixed comps. In truth you can run nearly anything to a high rating if it’s played by good players and this applies doubly to the overpowered classes of the moment. Unholy DKs fit into nearly any spot in a lineup as do Frost Mages. The really dominant teams seem to be ones that have been strong in the past though. Whether that’s a comment on players running what they know or the state of the game is something I just can’t answer.
Dominant Mixed Team Comps:
RMP – Rogue, Mage, Priest
RLS – Rogue, Affliction Warlock, Shaman
New to s9 – Unholy DK, Shadow Priest, Holy Paladin
Shadowcleave – Unholy DK, Affliction Warlock, Healer
The common theme of the good mixed teams is a controlling melee class paired with a high DPS caster. If the caster has a form of spammable casted CC then that’s even better. These teams use their control to dictate the pace of the game and eventually to set up a kill using what CC chains are available to them. The exception would be the Shadowcleave type teams that just throw up DoTs on everything in sight and use that incredible DPS pressure to break their opponents.
Keep in mind that while the teams we’ve gone over are the “dominant” ones, that doesn’t mean they’re the only viable ones. You can run nearly any combination of classes to 2200 for your weapon upgrades so don’t feel like you are shackled to something that the highest rated teams run!