Faction Champions in Crusaders’ Coliseum gets a lot of bad press. It’s essntially the Priestess Delrissa fight from Magisters’ Terrace, except on crack. Are you “late to the party” guy and never did Magisters’ Terrace at level 70? Okay, here’s how it goes.
Right after you defeat Lord Jarraxus, your opposing faction leader (Garrosh Hellscream in my case) starts acting like a spoiled brat who’s had his candy taken away and demands the raid should be forced to face his champions in the next encounter. Tirion Fordring agrees to allow it if he’ll just stop being such an emo crybaby and shut the hell up. And so you end up facing what is basically an Arena team of opposing faction players. Except they’re not.
All flippancy aside, it’s pretty important that you remember this is not really a pvp fight. This is where the majority of the crying about Faction Champions arises, and I was just as guilty as everyone else when I first had to do the fight. See, I suck at pvp. I mean, I really suck at pvp. If being bad at pvp was a sport, I could represent my country at it. So I read the patch notes about how you’d have to face a number of classes of any spec and how pvp diminishing returns on crowd control was in force. Then I played the encounter and cried as my polymorph was dispelled by the opposing Priests, my fireballs were eaten by the Shamans’ grounding totems, the Paladins bubbled and healed up when we got down to 15% and I got melee- trained and insta-gibbed by the Rogue and Arms Warrior.
Oh noes, Blizz am making me pvp in my pve contents! QQ!!
Well, no they’re not. All they’re doing is making you think outside of your nice comfortable kill-the-raid-boss mindset. This is not actually a bad thing. Allow me to elaborate.
Yes, Faction Champions, in any flavour, is a lot like a pvp fight. As already stated you have diminishing returns on all forms of crowd control, so your first polymorph will last a maximum of 10 seconds, then less each consecutive time you cast it on the same target until they very quickly become immune. In practice, this is not an issue anyway, since the opposing priests and paladins dispel it as quickly as you apply it. In that respect it’s exactly like a pvp fight, but there are differences and the differences are huge.
For a start, they’re all tauntable. In the past this shared diminishing returns too, but that’s been removed in the latest build. Taunting them doesn’t guarantee you aggro for ever, but once every 8 seconds you can get them to forget who they’re wailing on for a moment or two, so it’s nothing like pvp in that respect. Next, all of your “oh shit” pve buttons work just fine, even if you don’t get the full duration out of them. Fade will drop aggro, as will Mirror Image, Vanish, Feign Death, Invisibility and any other number of class skills. You might get aggro back a few seconds later, but it gives you time to be somewhere else. One other major difference that pissed me off immensely was that Counterspell’s magic school lockdown doesn’t work. This may actually be the same in real pvp, I don’t know since I don’t do it. But the sweet thing about Counterspell is that while it has the longest cooldown of any spell interrupt (24 seconds, fact fans) it has the sweetest side effect. It locks out all spells from the same school as the interrupted spell for 8 seconds. Imagine a Holy Paladin with their Holy spells shut down for 8 whole seconds. You do not want to be that Holy Paladin. Well sadly, in the Faction Champions fight, all Counterspell does is work as any other interrupt, except it’s on a 24 second cooldown. Meh!
The one thing that Faction Champions does share with a pvp or Arena fight is that personal survivability is your problem, not your healers. Faction Champions is the Olympic Medal Not Standing In The Fire contest. You could have 2 tanks, 22 healers and you in the raid, and if you’re going to stand there looking pretty and continuing your nuke rotations when the melee train switches to you, you’re going to die anyway. No healer will be able to keep your squishy butt in one piece if the Warrior/Rogue/Deathknight/Enhance Shaman/Ret Pally suddenly take an intimate interest in it. Surviving is up to YOU. Check Recount after one of your Champions wipes and look at the damage done to you. I guarantee you that the opposing Mage, Shadow Priest and Warlock will all be doing far more damage than the melee classes combined. But this damage is coming in relatively small chunks, it’s entirely manageable. This is damage your healers can handle, whether that be through dispels or heals. No-one should be dying from damage sustained from any of the casters unless you were low on health anyway from being battered by a melee class, and if that’s the case it was your own fault anyway. Now look at the number of deaths on recount and see who got the killing blows.
Yep, the casters are doing the most damage, but the melee dps are the ones who are actually killing people. If you just stand there while that Arms Warrior smacks you upside the head with a 15k Mortal Strike, you deserve to die. And you will. This is where we all need to get out of our nice comfortable raiders’ mindset and start thinking like an Arena team. And I was quite frankly amazed at the number of tools I, even as a raid-specced Fire Mage, had to keep my squishy butt from getting… well.. squished. Let’s go through the numbers.
Ice Block. Our old favourite. Except in this fight, the Arms Warrior will remove it with Shattering Throw and the priests will Mass Dispel it. Ice Block is your tool of last resort, never the first.
Mirror Image. I want to marry this spell and have its babies. Every mage, regardless of spec should be casting this as the fight starts, because the aggro drop works and it gives the Champions three other targets to choose from. There’s a very good chance that if you start the fight with this spell you’ll have 30 uninterrupted seconds of pew pew on your focus target, and if he’s not dead in that time your raid failed, not you. Note that the Mirror Images can be the focus of the Champions’ aggro, and this is a Good Thing. Standing next to them when the Arms Warrior Bladestorms through them is a Bad Thing. Cast it, move aside, begin the pew pew.
Frost Nova. Another awesome spell that’s saved my ass more times than I care to remember on this fight, but as ever it’s highly situational. Never use it when the Arms Warrior has Bladestorm up or the Rogue has Cloak of Shadows, all you succeed in doing is wasting a global cooldown and forcing yourself to wait to cast the Blink you should have cast. Also, as in any pve situation, never, ever, ever cast Frost Nova when the mob you’re escaping from is standing next to anyone else, especially a healer. All you’ll succeed in doing is forcing the mob to switch aggro to the closest target that they can hit, and insta-gibbing them.
Did we mention Blink? If you have a Hunter on your team they should be laying a Frost Trap in the middle of the arena at all times. Blink into it. Even if the mob maintains aggro and follows you through the Blink, he’s going to run right into the Frost Trap and isn’t going to catch you in a hurry. In that time, a tank can and should have taunted him off you anyway. Try to save Blink for when the mob focussing you has immunity effects up and can’t be crowd controlled easily.
Invisibility. Because it has such a long cooldown and takes so long (untalented) to activate, Invisibility is ideally used in one of two situations. Either when everything else is on cooldown and the melee train is running for you or when it’s a wipe and you want to save yourself some repair bills. Note that to get the most out of invisibility you should ideally be standing in the area of effect of your Hunters’ Frost Trap. This makes the most of the few seconds it takes for Invisibility to kick in, just in case the enemy Rogue is trying to introduce you to the business end of Mister Pointy.
Polymorph. As a crowd control effect this is almost useless in this fight, at least at the early stages. If it lasts longer than 2 seconds before it gets grounded, dispelled or purged then you’re not playing the same fight I am. However when all else is lost, you’re got a few seconds to spare and there’s an angry Arms Warrior bearing down on you, Polymorph can save your ass and give you time to run and your tanks time to taunt. Bear in mind it will have no effect on a Bladestorming Arms Warrior. Blink is always your friend in this case.
Slow. Arcane mages only, this one. But it’s a beauty. If you have it, you’ll most likely be assigned to keep it up on one of the melee targets anyway, but since it’ll be getting dispelled quite often it isn’t going to make much difference if you use it to keep your ass alive and out of reach of the Retribution Paladin who’s chasing you down. If it keeps you alive long enough for him to lose interest, it served its purpose.
Run Away. Simple but highly effective, especially if your side have a Frost Trap or Earthbind Totem in play.
Note that all of these tricks aren’t going to be much use to you if the first indication you have that the melee train is arriving at You Station is when you start taking 15k Mortal Strikes. The idea is to be reacting before you start getting beaten on and that can be handled in a couple of ways.
1. Use Teamspeak/Ventrilo. Have your two “tanks” enable Target of Target so they can see who their target is switching to and have them call it out.
2. Use some sort of addon that alerts you when you have aggro. I use X-Perl and it handles this as well as an incredible number of other things. Very little grabs your attention like the word “AGGRO” across the middle of your screen as a PVE raider. In most raids it’s usually the last thing you see before you die. On Faction Champions it’s your cue to start getting creative.
3. Pvp a lot. There’s no better way to hone your sense of situational awareness. On the plus side you’ll become a lot better at staying off the radar and at target switching if you take part in any kind of competent Arena play.
Alternatively you could just do Faction Champions three or four times a week. You’ll either get good at it or you’ll eat a lot of dirt. As a Mage you’ve got a massive number of tricks up your sleeve to stay alive and continue doing damage that other classes would kill for. Any Mage who dies early on in this fight simply wasn’t paying enough attention. Dying in Faction Champions is always your problem, not your healers.