Opening Moves: Preparing the Front

This article is a part of our Opening Moves series, where we talk to World of Warcraft esports pros about the meta-game and strategy behind the beginning of every match. Read part one here.

In a game of chess, opening moves are made with the intention of gaining control over key areas of the board, protecting the King, providing mobility for friendly pieces, and creating opportunities to capture opposing pieces. These goals are also present in World of Warcraft Arena matches, and in each game, player or unit positioning is one of the most crucial elements to understand in order to gain and maintain control of a match.

In the context of WoW Arena, “positioning” refers to a player’s location relative to their teammates, their opponents, and obstacles on the map. All three of these considerations must be taken into account when analyzing a player’s position. In order to understand the importance of positioning, let’s take a closer look at each of these elements individually.

Position Relative to Your Teammates

The most important thing to be aware of in an Arena match is the position of your teammates. “If you relate it back to chess, your team’s healer is essentially your King piece”, says Method Synergy’s Ryan “Trill” Costello. Healers typically play further back in the field, where they can’t be easily stunned or interrupted, but still within the 40-yard healing range of their teammates.

As a damage dealer, it’s important to remember that your healer will have to move as you do to stay in range, which could be dangerous. “There’s not much worse than getting out of position in a match,” said Jason “Pika” Smith. “It drags everyone into a risky position, which might result in your healer getting CC’d, interrupted, or swapped to.”

Position Relative to Your Opponents

Simultaneously, you’ll need to be aware of your enemies’ position—and how you can use it to your advantage. Alex “Alec” Sheldrick, described one strategy for accomplishing this. “As the Mage on a caster cleave team, my goal is often to draw the enemy melee out into “no man’s land. Once they begin to overextend, my melee moves in behind them to “zone out” their healer and apply pressure.” 

Think about your team’s capabilities and win conditions, and consider how you can force the enemy to play into your strategy.

Position Relative to Map Obstacles

Equally important to consider is your team’s position relative to the obstacles on each map. Obstacles can be used to break enemies’ line-of-sight, allowing you to avoid damage and CC. “No amount of damage you take is trivial when you think about your healer’s mana pool,” says Trill. “Knowing when to use obstacles to avoid unnecessary damage can make a big difference later in the game.”

Often times, healers will opt to play close to an obstacle on the map, such as one of the four pillars in Nagrand Arena, so that they can break their opponents’ line-of-sight to avoid being targeted. While these obstacles provide relative safety, Alec says they don’t give as much of an advantage as most players think. “Every time you peek, you’re in danger—if the fighting is close by. Consider playing in the open field at maximum range. Your enemies will have to move further to target you, giving you more time to react.”

“Positioning is the most important thing that’s not properly understood or discussed by most players. It’s not obvious to think about at first, but as you gain more knowledge and game experience, you’ll be able to tell what’s working!” – Alec

There are seemingly infinite factors to think about in the Arena, but establishing strong fundamentals, like positioning, will do wonders for increasing your game sense and skill level. Be on the lookout for the next entry into our Opening Moves series, where we’ll discuss the importance and power of cooldowns with professional World of Warcraft Arena players to help level up your play.

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