Midgame Moves: Recover, Learn, and Grow

July 13th by Samantha Cruse

This article is part five of our Midgame Moves series, where we talk to World of Warcraft esports pros about the metagame and strategy of the midgame of an Arena match. Read part four here.

Nearly every second of an Arena match is ripe for mistakes, such as a missed interrupt or a defensive cooldown blown too late. Sometimes it’s as simple as a perfectly executed setup not producing the desired effect—no one died or the enemy didn’t feel sufficiently pressured to use their cooldowns. There, “You only have one option: you instantly have to try and run away as fast as possible and make sure you’re not gonna die,” says The Move’s Jason “Pikaboo” Smith.

There is considerably more on the line if your enemy gets you on the back foot. Split-second decisions can spell victory or doom depending on a play’s outcome. “When an all-in happens, everyone is [usually] super low on health,” Pikaboo continues. “You go from full offensive to defensive instantly and everyone just tries to run away and slow the [incoming] DPS.” When the worst happens, he says, “I’ll try to stun every target I can and use all of my diminishing returns and every single button available to get out of that situation as fast as possible.”

Keep Calm and Carry On

The easiest way to seal your fate in the above circumstance is to lose your cool. What might look like the end of the line is really an opportunity to withdraw and reassess. (The only exception is if you’re facing off against a class with an execute, such as a Warrior, where it’s imperative that you don’t enter the execute range as it can immediately spell your doom. It’s best to create some distance before that happens; if not, be prepared to sacrifice a cooldown to keep yourself in the game.) Noble Esports’ Damon "Jahmilli" Bligh says, “If something’s going wrong, you have to figure out the best possible solution to handle it. Don’t look at it as if you’re dying; it’s just a problem you have to figure out the best solution for.”

Getting Back on Track

One of the biggest mistakes a team can make is unnecessarily overlapping cooldowns, as this can tip off the enemy team that they have you rattled, and thus boosting their confidence to try risky maneuvers. If this happens, you’ve lost to yourself as much as you have the enemy team.

But it’s not over ‘til it’s over. “Usually you should lose games when things like that happen,” Pikaboo says. “But if you’re careful and play more defensively, sometimes you can get away with [it]. It’s bad when everyone stacks a bunch of cooldowns, it’s hard to come back from—but maybe you get a really good go and do that back to them and it’s an even game again.”

While such reversals are rare, and even more so as you gain experience and move up the ladder, it’s important not to lose hope—or focus—until every last point has been drained from your health bar.

Both in matches that are going well and matches that aren’t, take time in the midgame to analyze what’s happening, and take that insight into the remainder of the game—and the next one. By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to pushing ahead of your competition.

Thanks for joining us for Midgame Moves! If you want to catch up on Opening Moves, which kicked off the year, you can see the whole cross-franchise series here.