Positioning is a big deal for anyone in arenas, but for hunters it is a particular problem. Today I’ll present all the information I can in a concise way on the topic of arena positioning. At the end, I will address all the hunter-specific considerations associated with the same.
The number one thing to remember about positioning is that no matter how good a reason you had to “line of sight” (or LOS) your opponents (and in the process, your teammates), it was a mistake unless you told your teammates that you were going to do it. If you prepare your teammates for a move, then it’s on them to execute it well, but if you don’t call out in advance what you want to do and what you want them to do, then it’s your fault when the shit hits the fan. It sounds easy enough, but most people won’t bother to cue their mic to let everyone know where they’re going, and that’s a huge problem. But more on this later.
There’s really two parts to positioning: defensive positioning and offensive positioning. I’ll talk about defensive positioning first, but allow me define my terms.
Defensive positioning is any movement you take towards a position in order to mitigate the damage you’re taking (or to heal up), whereas offensive positioning is any movement or configuration you and your team takes in order to get a kill on someone. Defensive positioning is the kind of positioning that’s easier to plan in advance, and it becomes a big deal when your healers, in particular, have to make a decision between being in LOS or not. If there’s a serious threat to them when they’re in LOS, such as being mana burned or polymorphed or whatever, then defensive positioning becomes crucial. Your healer should be letting you know that he will be behind such and such pillar healing until he has to run back, so if the pressure gets too intense you know where to fall back to. This was really important in BC where games were slower paced and mana was paramount. Nowadays, it’s not that big a deal unless you’re one of the 20 people on every battlegroup who really takes 2s very seriously. This isn’t to say you should never change positioning during a fight except to facilitate a kill, but it does mean that defensive positioning is something you REALLY don’t want to overthink. Because there is rarely time these days to retreat back to a safer place (and, on some maps, rarely a safe place to retreat to) without totally sacrificing your ability to put pressure on the other team, 95% of the time it’s best to just make sure your whole team is in LOS of each other, especially in 5v5. Outranging or LOSing your healer for a split second in 5v5 will cost you the game. Sometimes, as much as it might kill you, you just have to trust your teammates to do their job locking down the other side’s dps :P
There’s much more that can be said on defensive positioning in particular, but the only additional comment I will make here regards a mistake I see healers make all the time in 2v2 and 3v3. They tend to panic when a teammate outranges or LOSes them, so they will abandon the pillar they were using to LOS the other team, and come in range of everyone just to get a shield or a heal off. THIS IS NOT GOOD. The healer should see what his dps is doing and where he’s going, and call him back when he’s obviously going too far. It seems so simple, but it so rarely happens. Tunnelvisioning is bad, but healers (like parents who spoil their children too much) encourage it by bending over backwards to keep their teammates alive. As weird as it may sound at first, healing is only part of what a healer does in an arena. He also has to avoid being casted on as much as possible, or being caught out in the open and trained down.
Offensive positioning is a complex issue, and even more complex for hunters so stay tuned at the end for more on that. What you want to do in every game is decide whether you can afford to let the other team come to you. On the one hand, if you wait for them to come to you, you can set up all you want and come up with contingencies for whenever the shit hits the fan. On the other hand, if the team you’re playing needs time at the start of every match to setup and decide how they want to tackle your team, then it comes down to whose planning and/or team composition is better. If, however, you have absolutely nothing to gain by sitting around and waiting for them to attack you, then you can just say screw it all and run in to fight on top of them. I would encourage the latter strategy if your composition has a lot of spammable cc, but obviously this is very subjective advice and sometimes the only way to figure out what you need to do is to lose a couple times. [snip-see comment section for revised example]. So you need to decide with your team on a case by case basis what the best way to tackle any given team is. Just make it clear to your healer that he isn’t a dps class and should really avoid being right in the middle of things when the fight gets underway :) they seem to forget this fact on a regular basis. The other thing I would caution everyone on is chasing people behind a pillar. Sometimes it’s a great idea, sometimes it’s not, and there’s no reliable gauge for predicting the right choice. Just make sure everyone knows if you want to chase or if you don’t, and if you don’t, be ready to find the next target.
Hunters need to be especially wary of positioning. It can be the pivotal factor against any team we play, more important than differences in gear, skill, and coordination combined. If you run with only 1 healer in 3v3, and 2 in 5v5, then you really want to bring every fight into the open as much as you can. Pets can be hard to micro-manage, and if your healer is LOSing you, he’s probably also LOSing your pet, which will make it difficult to get a roar of sacrifice out in time. In 3v3 if you have a priest or shaman healer, you really want your healer to stay mounted and have him be ready to run as far from the opposing team’s melee as possible. Hunters have notoriously bad peels, and it can be hard to get a warrior or rogue off your healer once he gets on. Additionally, when we are being focused by melee teams, our inability to shoot in melee forces us to kite, but our desire to avoid taking damage prevents us from merely kiting back and forth in a tight formation. Our natural inclination is always to just go really far in one direction until we have to turn around, but it’s important that this impulse be resisted. I can’t tell you the number of times I died right out in the open when my healer was in LOS of me because I dipped out of range for a split second. Disengage is another 2-edged sword (like all of our pitiful excuses for defensive cooldowns) which often takes us farther than we’d like to go, or into random objects that block our path, or off of ledges taking us out of the fight for awhile. Kiting in a sort of small triangle formation is what I’d advocate for in any bracket above 2v2, so that the risk of errors with disastrous consequences can be minimized regarding range and LOS.
Chasing is always dangerous for a hunter, but especially so in dalaran sewers. Attacking someone who is humping those boxes is a good way to get feared/polyed/novad, or swapped to once you’re out of LOS of your healer. On RoV you want to be hyper-aware of the pillars and which ones are going up/coming down. The second a pillar goes down, you need to be ready to find a target and kill it, because once your target gets back to a pillar you’re screwed. Alternately, if you’re being focused, you need to know where to run. The most important thing hunters should remember is that having targets run out of LOS is inevitable, but you MUST be ready for it and switch to another target once your first one escapes (or agree that your teammate is going to chase, and you are going to bide your time).
The ultimate goal of this post was to express to you the importance of making your intentions explicit over vent. All the thoughts you have in an arena regarding who you’re going to burst, cc, and kite/LOS should be mentioned so there is no duplication, and therefore waste, of effort. I still don’t call out my scatters, it’s a terrible habit but I find it so hard to kick =/. Good luck guys, I wish you all success with a fun but tricky class.