Frequently, though less of late, I find myself reeling over the glory days of arena play, if one can truly speak as if the days were truly glorious. We have not played an actual arena match in about a month, and by a an "actual" arena match, I mean one in which we were trying as hard as possible to win, talking on vent the whole time, sometimes shouting about things under or out of our control. Essentially, this is what I refer to as the glory days; the sense of strife is what made them glorious. We were not the best, in fact we were far from it and never once broke into the 1900 bracket. We can very close at one point - our highest rating is listed as 1873 on the armory's statistics page, but I feel like we actually hit 1891 at one point. Either way, we were not even eligible for the previous season's shoulder gear.

Bah, that's not the point.

The point is this: I'm at work and I have very little work to do, actually. This economic depression we're going through has left my little company with few clients willing or able to spend and thus we are short of some work. In any case, I'm sitting here watching some of the old wow videos I have, mainly arena videos, and I'm watched one in particular that struck my fancy - Heidiheinken's Warmaster video. This video is dated at the beginning of season two (you can tell because he has a portion in there illustrating how best to kite warmasters as a warlock and that was removed about halfway through TBC), but the ideas are still valid today. I like this video particularly for two main reasons: firstly, it has Through the Fire and Flames during a mirror match and that song rocks; and secondly, he has subtitled the entire fight with tips, explanation, commentary, etc. concerning the warlock+druid duo (which he rocks).

There is a bit in there where he praises Lifebloom versus other class' heals in terms of arena viability. "Lifebloom is so good that it might be more efficient to simply heal through Curse of Agony rather than to dispel it. Lifebloom heals as much as Flash of Light if it gets dispelled, and twice as much over the duration of a three-stack. Lifebloom is a DoT on crack, but for healing. When you team a survivability spec'd warlock [23/38/0 back in the day] with a survivability spec'd resto druid, you have the most formidable combination in twos play against any other healer+dps team." The thing that impresses me the most is that he's absolutely right. His team was almost a year ahead of the curve, his druid figured out that the warlock didn't take enough damage to really NEED swiftmend, so he altered his spec and went with the equivalent restokin-type spec but played it defensively rather than supplemental damage. Essentially, his druid had about 300 more healing than any other druid in the game, had talents which made his lifebloom tick for way more than every other druid, and he had something egregious like 400mp5... when you team an infinite mana healer with an infinite mana dps/drainer, you get an amazing team.

This is what was fun about arena, trying out unknown comps, specs, styles, etc. Getting hyped over matches and gushing over this move or that situation and just getting pumped up crazy-style. This is why I am already excited about the start of a new arena season: we already have tried out some PvP styles and specs at 80 on the beta, so we have a bit of a leg-up on the competition in that regard, and we have a comp now with which I doubt we will ever see a mirror-match.

Feral + Disc/Holy

I know I've already talked about this comp a bit, but it really doesn't go far enough into the play-style to warrant its finale yet. First off, let's talk about the specs. The feral spec is missing some older, outdated, talents which one would normally see on traditional builds from different druids. The fact of the matter is, Predatory Instincts, while improved from TBC to scale, is still an outdated talent and not really worth the points. The same is true for Heart of the Wild as well, 10% more attack power in cat form would be nice, but it's definitely not worth 5 talent points, and it's DEFINITELY not worth the 3 required from Predatory Instincts as well. Instead, I have eight talent points to throw around into less popular talents which could bring more utility to the playing field. Talents such as Nurturing Instincts, Protector of the Pack, Rend and Tear, and a full 5 points into Naturalist.

Nurturing Instincts is a good talent, though people complain that 70% of our agility to healing just isn't enough especially when coupled with our limited mana pool. My contention on the subject is this: I would still put 2 points into Nurturing Instincts if it gave me no healing; I don't take it for the healing given, but for the buff to healing received. Nurturing Instincts increases healing received while in cat form by 20%, effectively making me take huge amounts of healing, which is good because cat form is reasonably squishy. This is the crux of the healer+feral 2s arena viability. That is, without this talent, there is no feral arena viability... but it's a moot point since every feral takes it by accident for the bonus to their healing... shmucks.

Rend and Tear and Naturalist are just two amazing talents, the former being overlooked by most druids in the forums because of its cost. Yeah, it takes 5 talent points to make it awesome, but it's reasonably awesome enough to warrant that cost. Many druids still contend that "Ferocious Bite is still too wonky to use viability in an arena setting" and I tend to agree, however that is again missing the point entirely. See, I like to play as a Shredder, which is to say that I use Shred as my primary source of damage, which is a multiplier attack. Don't get me wrong, Mangle is a multiplier attack as well, just not as big of one. Essentially, I take RaT because it has this little blurb with 5 points in it: "Causes your Shred and Maul to do an additional 10% damage against targets who are bleeding." If I'm doing my job right, my opponents are always bleeding, and a 10% multiplier for an ability which is a straight multiplier adds up to a gross amount of damage. Similarly, because I don't have to spend those eight points in PI and HotW, I get to take three additional points into Naturalist over other druids, which makes me do 6% more damage with physical attacks... which means another 6% multiplier for Shred which already has a laundry list of multipliers. I have had Shreds in the arena against DKs that crit for 5k damage under the proper conditions. We had one match against a resto shamang + dk in which the resto shamang would simply not run OOM because of water shield and naturally high mp5/spirit. Eventually, I hated a plan to simply burst down the DK whilst we caught the shamang napping on his duties. So, I saved up some cooldowns and got the DK to about 75%, 5-pt maim'ed him with Mangle, FFF, and Rake up, popped Tiger's Fury, hit Berserk, and went to town with Shred. 5k, 5k, 5k, 11k FB crit, dead. I think I had a clearcasting in there for the FB, because it would never have gotten so high otherwise, but it still was a sight that the shamang was ill-prepared for, and I suspect that our opponents once the arena is opened again will also not be prepared for.

The last "weird" talent I picked up was Protector of the Pack. Right now, this talent is a bit underwhelming in that it relies on the number of party members to determine how much damage reduction is applied. Currently, it would only give me 3% damage reduction while in bear form in 2s arena, but it was confirmed by GhostCrawler that the party restriction is being removed and it will be indeed turning Bear form into an honest-to-goodness defensive stance (with battle stance like damage output) at 12% damage reduction flat from the 3-point talent. Personally, I don't see why every druid wouldn't want this talent as 12% damage reduction is very nearly the 20% damage reduction warlocks got from soul link, except we don't have to keep a pet up and our damage is a little bit more intensive. Essentially, I'm rocking ~50% physical damage reduction currently in bear form, with this talent I would have an additional 12% damage reduction, I can pop Barkskin while in bear form for an additional 20% damage reduction, and I have Primal Tenacity which reduces damage taken while stunned by 30%. If we take damage reduction to be multiplicative (which I think it is as the damage is reduced, then the remainder is reduced, etc), then that would net me about (1.0 - 1.0*0.50*0.88*0.80*0.70) 75.36% physical damage reduction and 50.72% non-physical damage reduction while stunned in bearform with barkskin up. That should speak for itself in terms of utility and survivability.

Additionally, I bring crowd control utility, and innervate for my priest to the table. I can, at almost all times, root one opponent and cyclone the other, giving my priest enough time to make a hasty escape and get some well deserved healing and/or drinking into the match. This also comes very much in handy against double dps teams who try to target the priest (though that happens less and less now... which is why I went with the survivability talents for bear form so I can live through the double dps burst while my priest is cc'd). We fought a couple of mage+rogue teams that succumbed to trying to gib me while cc'ing my priest only to lose to us because of my amazing physical damage reduction, feral charge school lock, and my partner's grand mishmash of abilities.

The priest spec I linked has a few notables in it. First, and foremost, is Lightwell. Many disregard Lightwell as a useless PvP ability only because it requires the dps of the team to stop doing what they do in order to us it. However, we understand it as much more than that: it's an amazing heal in and of itself, but it cannot be crowd controlled. When the priest is eating polymorph and/or blind/sap etc, I have to live through the burst damage that the other team can put out, and this is where Lightwell REALLY shines. I take damage slowly, meaning that any amount of healing over time magics used on me will really do a good job, so while my priest is cc'd, I am surviving as best I can with 1) my ccs, 2) bear form, 3) lightwell. In a number of those matches I would simply root/cyclone the rogue, go into bear form and wait for the mage to start casting and I would feral charge him to lockout his dps school (or better yet, lock out his arcane school so my priest couldn't get poly'd again), and let lightwell keep me alive during the onslaught. More often then not those rogue+mage teams would help me more than hurt me by stunning me. In essence, they would stun me which would force me to take damage, but then it would be reduced by 30%, and I would pop barkskin immediately (usable while stunned) to take even less damage and I would usually be near enough to the lightwell to use it (also usable while stunned) so I would actually come out with more hp than before they started the burst. Eventually, I would kill the mage and we would win.

The other aspect of the priest build we're using is also high survivability. The spec has essentially four abilities which proc from an opponent's critting him, all of which cause him to either take less damage or get out a knockback-free heal, or something else equally amazing. At the same time, he has a slew of healing abilities and a number of talents which make them cheaper to use. He also has reflective shield and a few burst spells in case we really need to burn an enemy down while we have cc'd his teammate.

I cannot wait to get out there and try this comp out again, but for real this time.