So you may have noticed that Relentless Gladiator gear requires only arena points...but no rating. And also there's no option for getting it with just honor. It seems like to get that pretty i251 gear you may actually have to take off your socks and get your toes wet in the arena after all. But where do you start? How do you go about finding a partner? Well lucky for you that's today's subject!
BEFORE YOU GET YOUR TEAM:
1) Know this website : Arena Junkies -- it's the PvP equivalent of Elitist Jerks, except less n00b-friendly. There is a lot of information on there, especially in the forums where they only allow people with high ratings to publish. It's a somewhat-guarantee that the people talking know what they're talking about. We'll get into some specific things you can do with AJ a little further down, but for now, feel free to browse and see what you come up with.
2) Buy a charter. You can do this at four different places: a fella in Gadgetzan named Bip Nigstrom, a fella at the Nagrand Arena named King Dond, a fella at the Blade's Edge Arena named Steamwheedle Sam, and a fella-ette in Dalaran named "Baroness" Llana. Apparently if you're horde you can also buy a charter in Orgrimmar (lucky!) from Greela "The Grunt" Crankchain. A charter costs you 40g per person -- 2v2 is 80g, 3v3 is 120g, and 5v5 is 200g. General courtesy is that founding members of your team should reimburse you their section but that does not always hold.
PLANNING YOUR TEAM:
3) Now you've got a pretty charter, and it's got your own lonely signature on it. You need more. This is where AJ comes in helpful. If you click the "Ratings" tab at the top, you will see the top arena teams in various brackets. Go for the bracket you're trying to form a team for, and you will have a corresponding range of pull-down menus to talk about class. The first one is you. Are you married to having certain people on your team? Friends, guildies, etc. -- fill those people in also.
This is what I did when I wanted to make a 3s team. I knew I wanted to build it around me and my 2s partner, who is a mage, so I put us in and then look down the chart and it will show us what people with a druid and a mage are running with. 8 of the 16 highest teams run with a lock, so that's what we started shopping for.
Also be careful to look at spec -- you can click on the individual teams that show up. Once you have a team put together, find a team on AJ that matches that, and you may find that in order to do Well a respec is necessary. If you look at 2s teams with a druid/mage, tree is not optimal. Feral or Boomkin are much preferred. I chose to sacrifice that because I like to challenge myself -- but be aware of that handicap ahead of time. Which leads to :
4) Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to hit 2k in the first go-round. Experience playing not only arena, but with each other, shows noticeably. Me & Kitykat don't notice improvement particularly from when we first started, but when we picked up our lock for 3s he commented several times on how well we worked together. If you're running a sub-optimal comp, be comfortable with the fact that you may not hit 2k at all -- there is a glass ceiling sometimes to what you can achieve. Apparently, tree/frost mage CAN get to 2k...but there is only one team on AJ that has done that. I would be happy if we hit 1800. Know your limitations.
5) If you're shopping for a partner, do you want them to have experience? Or not? Like I said, experience tells, and it can teach you. I learned a ton from my first serious 2s partner over on Emerald Dream (Hello, Cleverfox!) and I am grateful that he took me with my relative lack of experience. That was an arms warrior who knew what he was doing. However you need to look at your synergy too -- If some people on the team have experience, will they be intimidated/threatened by people with more? Another thing to remember is that people who have experience have certain ways that they do things -- they're not wrong, or right, usually, but it may be different than other people run. I ran a few 2s skirmishes with a DK who had a tree as his actual partner, and there was an adjustment there b/c he was used to expecting certain things out of his tree that I didn't do, and not expecting things that I did do. You may add to your learning curve if people have to unlearn old ways of working. It's a balancing point.
6) Know where to get your gear and how to get it. Much like you have to run heroics before you can raid, you will need to do some non-arena stuff before you can run arena successfully. This can include BGs, Wintergrasp...even running heroics, since you can buy furious gear (i232) with emblems of triumph. I'm going to make a copout here and highly recommend that if you're having trouble with this step, you read Cynwise's article on the subject.
7) While you're gearing, don't do it alone. Gear with a buddy, ESPECIALLY your arena partners, in BGs -- it's more fun, and it helps you practice together outside of getting gibbed in 2 globals in an arena. Much like my set on healing battlegrounds, playing arena together is about two things : working with each other, and working against the enemy. When you first start an arena team, if you're a total n00b at it, then you're going to lose. A lot. And very quickly each time. It's hard to learn much, except what classes really have it in for you (Kitykat and I are terrible against locks, for example). So BGs can give you a longer set of time where you're all alive together to practice different things and coordinate them.
PLAYING YOUR TEAM:
8) Don't be afraid to lose. This doesn't require much explanation but your team starts with an invisible matchmaking rating of 1500, which means the system is going to try to put you up against 1500 teams. Your team is not a 1500 rating, and I don't care if it's the most dreamy mcdream team ever made : you lack experience together and there's going to be losses, especially at first, as you learn to play together.
9) Know your team's pacing -- does your team focus on burning someone fast? Or playing chess for a long game? Do you CC? How are you coordinating that? Figure out your team's strengths and weaknesses are -- playing a lot of games will help give you an eye for that -- and tailor your strategy for winning to your team's strengths. On the flip side, think about what you can do to limit your team's disadvantages.
10) Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone...but don't sacrifice your primary role to it (I need to CC sometimes...but not at the expense of healing necessarily). If you're dps, do you need to bandage your partner? If you're heals, do you need to throw in a last little push of dps to help drop someone? Look for opportunities to step outside your realm. As a general rule the need to do that is going to go down the bigger your team is -- in a 2s team there's only the two of you to do everything that needs doing; in a 5s team you likely have more specialized roles and stepping outside of them is not so much encouraged as frowned upon.
And last but not least :
11) Communicate! Vent or some similar form of real-time speaking communication is absolutely key for arena. Things move too quickly for you to take the time to type things out. My 2s partner and I really struggled last season, even though we had vent, in doing this. There was a lot of dead air during the match. Don't let that happen to you, talk about EVERYTHING. We've somewhat corrected that this season by having a little pep talk before we start a session. I say "What are we doing?" and she says "Communicating!". Whatever helps you focus. Referencing #9 above, we recognised that effective communication was one of our weaknesses that we needed to address, and so we added that little back-and-forth to our pre-game warmup to help fix it. And it has, and our performance has been noticeably better this season.
Hopefully this information will help you if you're new to that whole arena thingy...go forth and dominate :-)