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return of the (dot, dot, dot)

March 15, 2009
tags: , ,

No, this isn’t going to be about how messed up it is that Bright Wizards and Engineers have major advantages over their mirrors in their DoT trees creating an inequality in PVP. I can only beat a dead horse for so long before people start wondering if it’s some sort of sick fetish. This is as many may have feared, the return of the literal dots.

Yes, this is more about the lovely skill-based movement technique known as circle strafing. Some people still seem unconvinced of the relevance of this technique in a game that features auto-facing. I could spend time explaining why auto-facing is not sufficient and provides you with no benefit, so even if it was sufficient as a defense it would be a poor offensive choice. Instead I’d like to delve into another facet of the game. That’s right kiddies, this isn’t a one-versus-one dueling game you played outside of Orgrimmar. A lot of people assume that circle strafing is a dueling tactic which loses its usefulness in actual PVP. Now, I’ll leave out ‘RVR’, which is a totally different concept.

How many of you have heard tanks claim that their experience allows them to keep many enemy players in front of them? I’d be pretty surprised if some of you haven’t because it’s a common justification for tanks who are against the use of two-handed weapons. How realistic is this though? Can a player corral other players to keep all their opponents in front of them to maximize block? Well, this largely depends on their opponents skill level. Against bad players this is entirely possible. Against decent players you may have some success. When it comes skilled players it is impossible to keep multiple opponents in front of you.

I’ll give an example of the easiest group to defend against, which is a two-versus-one engagement. This will involve melee obviously, because as soon as you involve ranged it becomes a discussion of kiting. When two players are attacking a single player they should try to get behind them, just as if they were dueling. The best way to do this is to flank from each side to pin the target between your attacks so that if they turn in either direction they give up their back to one of you. It’s fairly simple and looks like this:

straight-loopThis is easy against a target who is standing still. As long as the target (red) is stationary, the attackers (blue) have total control of the situation. What you’re looking at though is a situation where you are being circle-strafed by two opponents moving in opposite directions. So your goal is to separate them and counter one of the circles. This will put distance between you and one of your attackers, while countering the movement of the target you’re counter-strafing.

seperationThis puts you out of range of one attacker, with both of them in front of you. For the moment you aren’t outnumbered. This is actually a one-versus-one situation and you even have a fun little barrier between you and one of your enemies.  Luckily for you it also seems that one of your attackers isn’t very good at positional movement. In the above illustration you’ll notice that the attacker on the left makes no effort to adjust to the defenders lateral movement. Instead if you find yourself in this situation, you should make an effort to counter their counter-strafing. This will prevent separation from your partner and instead contain the opponent like this:

containmentTiny adjustments make all the difference in the world sometimes. The defender is now surrounded by the attackers and is giving up their back to one of them. Red is at a disadvantage and there is no way out of it.

Sucks to be red. Let’s take a step back though. Remember the advantageous situation red got into due to the poor movement of the attacker on the left? Well, here’s a look at what happens if that attacker decides that auto-facing makes circle-strafing pointless and decides to stand still.

dizzy-timeThat’s right, you spin me right round baby. Like a record. The idea is to use the stationary opponent as a sort of shield and when their partner moves around them you rotate in the same direction (clockwise, or counterclockwise). It won’t always be this never-ending loop of course, as you need to match their rotation, but I’m sad to say I’ve seen this happen.

If you somehow get into this situation you need to move. Standing still and using auto-face as a defense is actually protecting your opponent from your partner. This is not a good thing. The idea here is to cut off their movement. Since the defense against this is to reverse rotation this will force them back into a two-versus one with your partner flanking them. It looks something like this:

surroundingOne attacker cuts off movement while the other flanks. Any attempt to escape results in the flanking attacker having the defenders back at all times. An attempt to reverse rotation results in both attackers having the defenders back before the defender is forced to decide which attacker is more dangerous to have behind them.

You probably didn’t need me to tell you that being outnumbered is bad, but go back and think about how many tanks claim that they have no problem keeping people in front of them. Are they skilled? They’re at least decent, I won’t deny that. Knowing how to take advantage of people with poor movement is a good first step and without that knowledge being outnumbered turns into chaos pretty quickly. So there is definitely some skill there. The problem is they are relying on their opponents poor play to make an argument.

Imagine if I told you that Mike Tyson was the best boxer ever because he was able to destroy so many of the hobos that Don King had him fight. Kind of a crappy argument, isn’t it? Kind of insulting to Mike Tyson in his prime as well.

There may be some exceptions in very tight spaces, but on the whole circle strafing is a great way to get an advantage in both dueling and group PVP settings. It’s actually more obvious in groups than in duels because players with poor movement will actually reduce the performance of their team. People might want to be cogs in the machine of war… but you should know what happens to cogs that stop moving. They get replaced.


11 Comments leave one →
  1. Omelettez permalink*
    March 15, 2009 3:42 pm

    Oh my god, you totally asked for it!

    Side note, it’s also absolutely hysterical when a healer runs around in circles, being chased by a WH/WE… who is in turn being chased by said healers team. It’s like watching a dog chase his tail on crack.

  2. pancakez permalink*
    March 15, 2009 3:45 pm


    Side ntoe:

  3. Ventris permalink
    March 16, 2009 11:25 am

    Don’t worry about this cog – movement is life!

    Unless you’re part of a shield wall on the 2nd landing …
    or the Keep Gate …
    or just happen to hit Hold The Line at an inopportune moment …

  4. pancakez permalink*
    March 16, 2009 1:46 pm

    You can move during Hold The Line… by the way… xD

  5. March 17, 2009 2:06 pm

    Nice graphical explanation of RvR reality.

    I know from circle-strafing, but even when I can keep people in front of me, I can’t kill them, and I can’t actually stop them from going anywhere. So … I get a front seat to watch my damage get healed through and my healers or ranged get killed or punted into lava.

    More robust collision detection would make tanking RvR a lot more meaningful.

  6. March 17, 2009 6:42 pm

    As above said, this is a good and usefull (and not hard to understand) (for me) Post. I will be sure to adjust my movement issues. Although I usually am alone at the back of the line killing a healer in Mourkain Temple(as a Witch Hunter). I should stop Playing Mourkain Temple. (so often)

    I had to laugh at your side note Omelettez, running away seems to be a good choice, the best choice would be walking backward facing said WH/WE, that correct? If you stand still (facing the WE/WH) waiting for your team is better then running towards oblivion with your back shown. I Have done this a couple of times myself though, shamingly admitting. It also has to do with the group you play with, a PuG will hardly ever take a look back at their healers to see if they’re all right. Maybe I should promote my WH to a Healer Guardian.. is a WH suitable for such a task?

    Let me know, onegai 🙂
    Cheers on the (good) post!

  7. pancakez permalink*
    March 17, 2009 6:49 pm

    Walking backward reduces your movement speed by around 80%. It’s a great way to have people run to your back and then back up with you. You should circle them then go in a straight line with the slightly to your facing side -toward- someone who can help you. Even a ranged DPS can help with a quick AOE snare or knock-back morale.

    Oh and WH is okay for healer support, but really doesn’t have a way to support except to kill the attacker. White Lion is better with Fetch and Pounce to come to your aid faster. WE and Marauder (especially Marauder) are good because of knock-downs.

  8. March 17, 2009 6:53 pm

    You’ve gotta be kidding me!

    just read the RR80 thread on WHA.. 🙂

  9. Omelettez permalink*
    March 17, 2009 7:48 pm

    The one about getting a dragon? I love that one!

  10. March 20, 2009 3:47 pm

    I used circle strafing the other day (as you suggested) on a BO I had rolled on (some server) and was able to take down a rank 8 IB when I was rank 4. I figured it was my only chance at beating him so I chucked my mouse across the room and manned the keys. Rank 8 IB dead. That guy chased me around the last 10mins of the Scenario but every time he caught up with me some random Choppa would wade in and waste him. LOL. -NK


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