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Confessions of a Gladiator: Part One - The Talent Spec Con


Confessions of a Gladiator: Part One – The Talent Spec Con

[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]orgive me father, for I have sinned.

I didn’t lie, cheat or steal… but I binged hard on World of Warcraft Arena from Seasons 2 through 5 to lock down the Gladiator title — and there were times I acted like one ornery, greedy sumbitch because of it.

I’m not sure where that puts me in the seven circles of gaming hell, but now that I’m older and (a tiny bit) wiser I can man up and admit it: I should’ve acted a bit differently. Here’s an example:

Part One: The Talent Spec Con

I had a friend I played WoW with back in the day. We’ll call him Facile. He was the guy who got me into the game, matter of fact. He was also one of the first poor bastards to suffer at the hands of my burgeoning Arena sickness.

Technically, he was my little brother’s best friend — but I grew to like the kid too. (You didn’t hear that from me, though.) Since I was his best friend’s older brother and we were all still teenagers, I had the “I’m the oldest, that means I hand out ass whippings at the slightest hint of discourtesy” act going loud. Plus, I was bigger. And ball-busting is just what older brothers did.

The first time I saw Facile in-game though, things were different.

Different set, but similar to the vibe Facile gave off the first time I saw him.

I still remember the whisper: “Meet me in front of Stormwind. I’ll wait.” After what seemed like an eternity of meandering the dirt path connecting Goldshire to Stormwind, there he was, seated atop his Black War Tiger at the gates of the Alliance capital with the air of some decorated war veteran.

Calm. Proud. Like some farcical herald’s trumpet, someone within the confines of the city /yelled “FACILE I LOVE YOU” followed by no less than thirteen exclamation points. Dude’s e-street cred was undeniable.

Facile was a Fire Mage; had been since day one. He liked Fire spec a whole hell of a lot. Flinging conjured fireballs and roasting enemies like polygonal ‘mallows for roughly 17,000 hours straight was how the guy got Grand Marshal (the highest PvP honor you could achieve back in Vanilla WoW and a pretty big deal), for s--t’s sake. If Facile could put the phrase “POM PYRO LOL” on his tombstone — I’m sure he would. TL;DR: Facile played a lot of Fire Mage.

My low-level gnome approached him like a lowly pauper, head bent in reverence, knees trembling. Grand Marshal Facile had been straight up murdering chaotic manifestations of the elements, fire-breathing dragonkin, and Frostwolf generals while my warrior was still fighting grueling battles to the bitter end with… prize-winning pigs that Ma Stonefield didn’t like. And owls with kinda sharp beaks.

Facile dismounted and waved in greeting. The air rippled in his wake. Bits of purple and orange-red glinted about the spires of his Field Marshal’s Silk Amice. (In comparison my little toon looked not unlike a ball of garbage that had suddenly gained sentience, stubby arms and legs sprouting from a motley of low-level mail scraps.)

What Facile’s face looked like back in happier times.

The first thing he said when he saw me was “LOL.” Then he said, “Keep leveling.” All haughty and such. Like a G.I. Joe giving some half-assed PSA to a kid that didn’t know any better. I suddenly felt the same sinking level of shame I had when someone made fun of me for being a virgin my senior year of high school.

After the disgusting amounts of time devoted to the Grand Marshal grind, Facile understandably took a break from playing. (Seriously, you had to have no life. Playing for over 16 hours a day, for 6 months straight wasn’t unheard of.)

When Facile came back to the game around the time of Arena Season 2, as distinguished scholar Biggie Smalls would put it: “Things done changed.” I was the highest rated Arena warrior on my server and becoming a bit of a PvP celebrity in my own right.

I was also dead set on getting Gladiator rank. 2v2 was my main bracket, but I really wanted to form a solid 3v3 team. Nabbing Facile for our 3s team seemed like a no-brainer; I convinced my paladin healer that s--t was about to get real: it was time to add the famed PvP fire mage Facile to the fold and tear the 3s bracket a new one.

Let’s do this, baby.

There were just two problems:

1. Fire wasn’t the most viable PvP spec anymore. Frost was. (This was back when you could pull off two Ice Blocks in succession and not worry about that pesky Hypothermia side-effect and had both passive and active Frost snares out the wazoo.)

And 2. Facile had never stepped into a ranked Arena match before.

So if we wanted to ascend the Arena ladder like I’d envisioned, I had to make my friend understand the fact that he’d have to abandon everything he knew about his character, switch from Fire to Frost, then master the entirely new spec he had very little experience with in a matter of days and acclimate himself to the new Arena environment… and everything would be copacetic for our 3s team, “Bob Saget Loves My Dad” right?

Naturally, the outcome played out a lot better in my mind than in real life.

The problem wasn’t just Facile having to learn a whole new spec from scratch and applying it to split-second decisions/high-stress situations in a fast-paced environment against other experienced players; it wasn’t that he had to shake off the rust from his sabbatical; it wasn’t the fact that endgame PvP in World of Warcraft had undergone a massive paradigm shift in the transition from battlegrounds to Arena; it was all those things… plus the fact that I was hounding his ass on the daily to play a spec he probably just didn’t find very fun. And it probably made the game a little miserable for him.

It’s just a baker’s dozen or so new spells to learn. No big deal, Facile.

Every time I saw him in-game, there were no pleasantries exchanged. No shooting of the s--t. No goofing around. It was always “How’s that Season 2 set coming? You fully geared up yet? Learning the ins and outs of Frost spec like the PvP genius that you are? Perfecting your kiting against melee and pillar humping against casters?” from me and “No, the status hasn’t changed in the past fifteen minutes” or “I’m a Grand Marshal, grinding battlegrounds for inhuman amounts of time for new gear is kind of my thing, will ya back off?” from him.

Facile garnered his Resilience-stat laden gear with the quickness, I’ll give him that. A couple days after I told him of my plan to usher in a new era of 3vs3 greatness, he already had the full Season 2 Merciless Gladiator’s Regalia along and the PvP trinkets to match, which required a lot of nonstop battleground grinding and honor point accruing back in those days.

I expected nothing less than sheer dominance. I had become like the High Expectations Asian Father of WoW friends. If I hadn’t known the guy for so long, I’m sure he would have told me to f--k off a lot sooner.

It didn’t go too poorly… at first. Facile was Shatter Combo-ing fools left and right with aplomb; he was kiting like a beast; his sheep rotations were on point. It appeared that the transition from Fire to Frost would go just as smoothly for Facile as I had imagined. Once we got a few echelons past the backpedalers and the keyboard turners though, Facile’s inexperience with Frost was beginning to show. In one match he didn’t Ice Block quickly enough even when warned beforehand. In another he kept sheeping the wrong target when under the pressure of focus fire. Still yet another he flubbed up a Shatter Combo.

One day, old friend. One day…

“Why don’t we just try a few games with me as Fire?” he asked one day, confident that his Fire-spec familiarity could trump the axioms of the new PvP meta.

“You’re gonna hate the way that feels. I guarantee it,” I said, inverse George Zimmer/Men’s Wearhouse impression and all. After a few games of being focus targeted and killed in record time (Fire Mages didn’t have Ice Block back then), Facile reluctantly switched back to Frost.

As he paid the mage trainer the required gold pieces that day and tucked away Fire spec for the second time, a little bit of Facile stayed dead and buried with it.

We never did play with Facile in 3s again. Whenever we asked him he just answered with, “Nah, I’m just gonna farm some BGs with some of the old farm team for kicks.” Or “Gonna finish leveling my warlock.” Or nothing at all.

The Moral

“Although you might have good intentions, don’t peer pressure your friends into doing something they don’t want to do, even in a place like Azeroth.” — Blizzard spokesperson voice.

But seriously, present the idea if you like, see if they dig it… and then leave it at that. If they’re not enjoying it then there’s no reason to make the game into a chore for them. (We’re playing games like World of Warcraft to escape the stress/mundanity of everyday life, after all.

If you’re out there reading this, Facile. let’s play some WoW again one day. PvE, PvP; it don’t matter to me. Just for kicks, breh. You can play whatever spec you enjoy most, I won’t push the issue. (Although, maybe we should try some rated battlegrounds. You might like those. Let me just look up which spec is most dominant right now for mages…)

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