Sorry for the late update, everyone; I completely blanked on my post today and was hitting my work issues hard in the face. Let's talk about that NAO tournament!

Okay, so the finals came down to RLS and Ret+DK+Disc. This did not really surprise me. Okay, well, the RLS being in the finals did not surprise me - it was snutz, original, and kollectiv; no one should be surprised by this. What did surprise me is the Ret+DK+Disc team getting past the Feral+Shadow+RSham team. It did not really seem like Yipz and co were having much difficulty in defensive cooldowns being popped and landing insane CC-chains, but in the three matches that mattered, they simply could not etch out a kill on the DK, nor could they peel the cleave long enough to get through the insane damage (and Necrotic Strike) that the DK and, to a lesser extend, the Ret put out. To put things into perspective, the Feral, who had essentially all the up-time in the world, hit about 500,000 damage in the second match, but the DK, who was peeled a LOT and kiting with defenses, ended up doing close to one million damage. The Ret, who is brought along for burst, also ended up doing about 600,000 damage that game and was largely the focus of the CCs put out.

Personally, there were a fair few things I took away from this tournament:

1) PvE gear in PvP is broken; it makes for overpowered classes and not everyone has access to them - this needs to be addressed.
2) DKs have insane damage output but weak survivability against melees; maybe this is the balancing point - DKs against melee-cleaves will get trained to death, but against caster teams are invincible, and against both teams put out more than any other damage-dealer in the game.
3) Feral is there for sustained damage and selective burst.

Really, I want to stress the last two since I have harped on the first point for the past few posts. First and foremost, DKs are INSANE. If a DK gets to sit on a target without getting peeled or forced to play defensively, that target is going to die. Against casters, DKs never really have to play defensively; all the defenses a DK possesses work while being offensive against casters. However, against a melee team, DKs have to actively use stuns, roots, and silences defensively and try to kite out of kill-shots. To top this all off, bad DKs can simply train damage into both melees and casters with impunity. On top of that, their damage output is staggeringly higher than every other damage-dealer in the game presently. Their burst is strong, their control is strong, their sustained damage is strong, and NS puts them over the top. Oh yeah, and I am referring to Unholy here... not Frost... which gives up some sustained damage and survivability for more control and twice the burst. I, personally, do not feel any empathy for running trains on DKs and killing them in smoke-bombs... they deserve it for their crazy damage and control.

Okay, but the main point I want to talk about is with regard to the 3s team dynamic and the shift in understanding I have been going through for the past couple weeks. While watching the NAO stream, the one thing the commentators continually looped back on was each player's role on their team, and rather than looking at "melee" vs "ranged" vs "healer", as I tend to, the commentators kept saying things like "brought for his situational burst" or "brought for the sustained damage and CC". Really, when discussing the Feral+Shadow+RSham team, the commentators made a point of saying that the Shadow Priest was there for control and setting up huge burst attempts. In fact, they went further in saying that while Ferals bring strong CC and sustained damage, they really teamed well with Shadow since they both have on-a-dime burst that is extremely strong.

It took me a while to realize exactly how this dynamic plays out, but eventually I started seeing a trend. Most arena teams that played in the tournament were variants of "control and pressure, then CC and burst". In fact, if we look at RLS and RMP, we can see this dynamic played out really well - the Rogue is largely there for control and sustained damage, but has some strong burst that he can bring to the table. In the case of RMP, the Mage brings pretty unreliable sustained damage, but good control and amazing burst; in the case of RLS, the Lock brings amazing sustained damage pressure and, good control, and some on-demand burst (by way of Demon Soul). In fact, if we take this a step further and start looking at teams like Shadowcleave and PHD, we start seeing this trend in full - there is good sustained pressure, good control, decent-to-good CC, and on-demand burst for kill attempts.

Really, when all the dust settles, it is less about whose CCs do not share diminishing returns, or whose spells work well with whatever... it comes down to "can you put pressure on your opponent, make them use a strong CD before you are counter-pressured, and score a kill during that window of weakness?" All that must be done is line up your CCs, control, and burst damage; do not kick into immunities, do not waste finishers on damage reductions, and keep them from killing one of your teammates. It is a tricky balance, but one that is decided quickly.

I have long felt that Feral needed to keep Rip up 100% on the kill-target to pressure the opposing team. Once I learned more about burst rotations in PvP, I found that I do not really even have to use Rip all that often except when matches start running long. In fact, I am starting to see that FMP is probably the best Feral comp simply because it relies on the Feral's sustained pressure and control, then sets up burst opportunities every thirty seconds with the Mage. Watching the NAO has left me wanting to play this comp more than anything ^_^.