I’ve been running all kinds of crazy comps this season, including double healer/hunter, hunter/moonkin/priest, hunter/DK/priest, turtle cleave, and every variation on hunter/shaman/paladin that you can think of. I probably played hunter/DK/priest the most, but lately I’ve been running hunter/protret/resto shaman and have had by far the most success with it out of all the comps I listed. If the comp sounds familiar, it’s because hunter/paladin/shaman has been viable since the 3.0 patch, and works with any spec of hunter, shaman, and paladin (assuming you avoid straying into double healer territory). I’ll talk about this comp’s variations today, starting with beast cleave.
For anyone who missed it, a beast cleave team just won another 3v3 tournament last Sunday night, so I’m sure the excitement surrounding this comp, on the forums and elsewhere, has been renewed. This comp really thrives on the TRs in a way that I don’t think it can on live, Toez’s team notwithstanding. The reasons for this are myriad, the main one being the skill cap required to play a holy paladin in a non-TSG comp.
The amount of CCs and interrupts flying around with all the variations of wizard cleave that exist means you need a paladin who can predict damage on teammates and stay out of the line of fire simultaneously. As someone who has played with Toez extensively, I can tell you that he does this as naturally as breathing. For most others, it is a struggle, and any slip-up will result in drastically reduced chances of victory. Another problem is the gear that is currently available. Casters are hitting levels of haste that are nothing but fever dreams on the TR. CCs that are interrupted in s5 gear will go off in s7/ICC gear, no problem. So with an excellent shaman, who can predict the casts and interrupt the right thing consistently (remember a spellcleave has 3 different people casting) you have a chance at high rating. In addition, trinkets like Reign of the Dead increase caster burst substantially, whereas casters on the TR have nothing like that to count on. One final, less significant reason is the prevalence of melee cleaves. There are very few of those around these days, but probably more on live than there are on the TR, and they trash hunters with little difficulty.
I don’t want to trash anyone’s hopes regarding beast cleave, just keep in mind these factors, and the fact that you can change comps on the TR (which the winning team did several times). It’s a fun comp to run, but it’s very gimmicky and stops working reliably when people begin to adapt to you.
The next comp I’ll discuss I have a little more familiarity with than I do with beast/turtle cleave. It is hunter/elemental shaman/holy paladin. It’s a very straightforward comp, it basically gives you the option of training mages (something most hunter comps can’t afford to do). It REALLY struggles with warrior teams. Your only real chance of beating a team with an arms warrior is to blow him up in the first 5 seconds before his healer(s) can react. Double healer teams will actually let their warrior die, and the warrior is more likely not to shield wall because he thinks he has 2 healers spamming him, but once they are wise to your strat, well, you can figure out what happens to your chances. Still, the blitzkrieg usually works the first time on most wars, just drag him out of los after the charge and make sure your entire team is nuking him. Use a pve dps rotation (in other words highest damage shot first, even before aimed shot), because the whole point is to kill him before he catches a heal. And then it’s time to queue dodge ;). A holy paladin who can manage his mana well (or has Solace of the Fallen) is necessary for this comp.
The next comp I want to discuss is the one I’ve been running most recently, and is really the only comp I’ve ever truly enjoyed in 3v3 (and I do mean ever. It is hunter/ret paladin/resto shaman. I’ve been running with a prot-ret paladin, which has very strict gear requirements (read: must have gold and a pve guild), and it has been incredibly fun. Prot-rets have great survivability, one huge advantage over normal rets (although the comp is decent with a plain ret paladin), and the damage difference isn’t noticeable. You lose repentance, of course, which doesn’t really matter considering it shares diminishing returns with hex and freezing trap. Prot paladins use seal of corruption, which means they can do devastating damage on anyone who has a max stack of corruption on them.
In a nutshell, you can beat any warrior team very easily. To put this in perspective, with a prot-ret paladin, out of ~150 games, we lost to a team with an arms warrior once. We also beat them the second time we played them, so yeah. The flipside is good spellcleaves and any run of the mill RMP will give you a run for your money. The trick is to focus whoever you and your paladin can stick on the best (i.e. not mages) and interrupt healers. Interrupting healers, rather than whoever is trying to CC you, means that your dps target will very quickly have to go defensive and will therefore stop trying to dps you. This is the ideal scenario, at least, even though the remaining dps will just be training you mercilessly and your hp will spike the whole game. Things get really hairy if you try to attack something that has outs, though, like frost mages, paladins, warlocks with a properly placed demonic portal (the counter to this being charging the lock and fighting him on top of his portal).
If you ever find yourself in a position where you can’t dps your preferred target but someone on their team is still dpsing you, you can always try to gib the dps that remains in range, but be ready to jump back to your first target immediately. With this comp you can’t survive long enough to run two people out of defensive cooldowns, especially where classes like rogues and MM hunters who have several rounds of cooldowns are concerned. So pick a target, change off when you have to, and get back on it as soon as possible. For warrior teams, you should never really need to get off him, unless he’s prot and very good, in which case if the initial gib doesn’t work, the next game (you will have lost the first one by this point) just kill his hunter. Your shaman must be on top of interrupts on the healer, make sure you coordinate your own interrupts with him if you’re not interrupting your dps target, and you should do fine.
Again, the comp works fine with a normal ret, but rets go down pretty quickly, and most of them won’t even glyph salv, further reducing their survivability. Suffice it to say prot-ret is preferred. I know I”m gushing, but prot-ret paladins really do seem to solve all of a hunter’s problems in arenas. Your only weakness will be lack of snares, but if your ret judges justice and you have concussive barrage and spam concussive shot when an opportunity presents itself you should make do just fine.
Remember, the keys to arena are remembering to do these things: making a focus target at the start of the match; coordinating your interrupts and CC with your shaman; and sacrificing/deterrencing early. Don’t let your shaman get opened on without having your pet in LOS of him to sacrifice, and never let a warlock get a UA/immolate off. Your paladin must SPAM dispels to get fears and polys off (sometimes you will get feared out of range of tremor and dispels, but if it happens at the start of the match don’t be afraid to trinket, you really don’t have time to eat a full fear if they try to kill your shaman).
That’s all for now folks, stay tuned for a forthcoming pvp video!