Synergy was a term I learned years ago when I was just starting to play Magic: The Gathering. Most people when they first start playing a game like Magic, or any other collectible card game, their instincts is to build decks based off individual cards that they think are the most powerful. They do this to the point where they ignore the rest of the stuff in their deck.

As they learn more and more about the game they learn it’s not just about which cards are capable of standing on their own, it’s the ones who stand with the rest of your deck. The same principles are applied to selecting talents for any class in WoW, Arena teams, and raid compositions.

With a lot of the talents, Blizzard made it very clear which talents worked together. They connected them with a line and said “You can’t take this talent if you don’t take this one first.” Other times they just put that connecting line for limitations.

For example, Survivalist links directly into Hunter versus Wild. A talent that increases your stamina followed by a talent that increases your attack power based off of your stamina. Synergy.

I still see lots of folks in-game who ignore the synergy concept. The other night I was running a heroic on my Death Knight and one of the PuGs we found happened to be a Hunter. After inspecting his talents it was quite apparent that his talent selection was based around what “looked cool” when the time came to click in his talents.

I suggested that finishing talents like Mortal Shots and removing points from things like Concussive Barrage would help his DPS. His response was “Not everything is about min/maxing you know.”

Ok then, I left it at that. We finished heroic Nexus with him bringing in 750 DPS, out-DPSing Warbull/Freshmaker, who happened to be our healer.

The advice I provided that night wasn’t about min/maxing. It wasn’t about speccing Survival over, well . . . his three-tree hybrid spec. It was more about making sure you had talents that worked with each other, provided a benefit to anything you were doing and overall being a more effective player.

When I played competitive Magic I remember a saying that was used on the tournament scene a lot. It was “Build for the format or build to beat the format.”

At any given time there is a dominant deck type in the Magic tournament scene. Usually it’s just a certain combination of cards from the current rotation that works so well that it beats everything else. If you wanted to be competitive you played that same kind of deck. In Magic people refer to it as the metagame.

If you didn’t, the only other option was to build a deck that was designed to beat the most popular deck in the metagame. Sure, if you came across any other lone wolf kind of deck you would probably lose since your deck was so specialized. But you were counting on having enough of a knowledge of the tournament scene to know that most of your match-ups would be against the popular deck type.

You can see this principle in Arenas too. There is the most popular Arena team compositions. It was RMP, right now on the tournament realm you see lots of DK/Warlock/Paladin. In fact that team is so strong 8 out of the top 10 teams on the tournament realm were this composition last time I checked.

Is it that those 3 classes are the most overpowered in the game currently? Some people would say yes. But others would say no. In a one-versus-one scenario I haven’t come across a Warlock in a long time that gives me any trouble, in Arena or anywhere else.

But now consider the tools that the 3 classes bring to the table and you are looking at the metagame of Arena. How many diseases/DoTs/curses will be loaded up on a person from a Death Knight and Warlock. How many silences, interrupts, or other tools they have to deal with their opponents. Put them together and you have a most dominant 3v3 team.

Switching back to PvE, most raid leaders deal with synergy anytime they put a raid together. Do you have Fort? Mark of the Wild? People with Replenishment? Do you have someone with the 10% AP effect?

Constructing a balanced raid is all about not just what an individual class brings to the table, but what they contribute to the raid. Fan of Knives on the Fire Elemental adds during Sartharion if you need it? Misdirecting Kel’thuzad’s adds during the end of the fight?

Blizzard has come a long way in making sure classes bring more than just DPS, healing, or being a meatshield to a raid.

In the end, not everyone is going to min/max to the extreme. Not everyone will spec Survival. Not everyone will switch to the dominant spec when the patch hits. But it’s important to be effective at whatever you choose to do.

I’ll share one last story. This was a story I read about after the first WoW card game championship. When you build a deck for the WoW card game, you pick a hero, and then build a deck filling it with equipment, allies, abilities, etc.

The current metagame showed that the most dominant deck type was a deck that used a Rogue hero and had no allies but was filled with equipment and abilities. Solo Rogue was tearing through the tournament.

One person opted to build against the current metagame and built a Paladin deck designed to do nothing but control the Rogue deck.

During the first day of the tournament the Paladin had a rough time against the variety of decks in the field, but pulling off enough victories he advanced to day 2.

And sure enough day 2 of the tournament was filled with solo Rogue decks that demolished anyone that didn’t build for the current metagame during day 1. 5 of the top 8 players in that tournament were running a solo Rogue and every match the Paladin played was against what he designed his deck to do. Beat the popular Rogue.

He saw how the the tournament was shaping up, he knew what was popular and he came to the tournament prepared. And what’s why the world’s first WoW CCG champion was a guy who put a Paladin deck together just to beat the popular Rogue.

Well that’s my story. Thoughts, comments, your own stories, share em!

About Drotara

Drotara (or BehemothDan) considers himself a geek on many levels. A web developer and programmer by trade, he has no shortage of geeky hobbies. When not fulfilling husband and daddy duties, he enjoys WoW, the WoW TCG, Magic: The Gathering, and great board games with friends and family.