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Coaching Yourself in Competitive Play | Guide

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#1 Guest_Freelancer_*


Posted 09 August 2012 - 08:08 AM

With the newly launched GW2 section of AJ, I am promoting some of my most popular and well-received guides for the community here that were originally shown on guru, While they pertain to GW2 in general, I published these guides to be sure they represent a variety of competitive scenes, so many items, such as in this guide here, can be applied to WoW or other formats.

I hope you enjoy. We posted the guide in full here, but the original can be found on www.teamlegacy.net, as well as many other great guides.

Coaching Yourself in Competitive Play

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How many friends do you know that lose their game in a fit of rage and blame everyone else for it? Throughout the gaming community, players like them fail to realize the clear picture of how the big names in E-Sports rose to fame. Here's a hint, if you thought they mega-raged after each loss, you were wrong.

Coaching yourself in Competitive Play

Chapter 1. Introduction - You learn the most from losing. It's true.
Chapter 2. Dealing with a Loss
Chapter 3. Learning from previous mistakes
Chapter 4. Practice Makes Perfect
Chapter 5. Closing Thoughts

Chapter 1. Introduction - You learn the most from losing. It's True.

If you are in this thread, it means you have gone past the basics of what it means to be a competitive gamer. Although you understand what is to come, until you actually experience it, you won’t truly know what it’s like. What I’m referring to is losing. Losing straight-out sucks. It can be frustrating, infuriating, and make you want to quit. There are plenty of reasons why you lose, teammates, out-skilled, out-smarted, mistakes, etc. However, there is something to be gained regardless of knowing why you lost. Losing is perhaps the most important part in the growth of a competitive gamer. But if you aren’t taking your losses properly, you will continue to lose, eventually plateau, and never improve.

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Before we go into this idea of losing properly, I want to give you a background of me as a gamer, so you understand my mindset and perspectives. The games that I have played shaped the way I have learned from them. The games YOU play, affect the way YOU learn from them. I cannot stress that enough. Your gaming background is going to influence how you view what I write, and I want to let you know where I am coming from, so that you can take my knowledge and apply it properly to your knowledge.

I started gaming at the age of 2 on the NES with Super Mario Bros. Ever since then I have been addicted to video games until maybe 2 years ago, at the age of 23, when I moved to Korea. My drive to be a competitive gamer started in middle school with CS 1.3, and started when I was in college. I have since then stopped playing competitively

My gaming time has recently been cut down drastically due to work and relationships, but my mentality has not changed. I pick up games very quickly, and I always want to win. I succeed in every game I play, not because I play it a lot, but because I nitpick the hell out of it. The games I played the most in my gaming career, Counter-Strike 1.3-1.6, Madden series, World of Warcraft until TBC, Guild Wars, DOTA until 6.54b, Brood War, League of Legends, and most recently DOTA 2. Note that three (WoW world PvP/duels) of the games I listed have been solo competitive play oriented. They also happen to be the games I played least out of the ones I listed. So my input comes from not just learning from my own play, but from playing with organized clans/guilds and pugs, as will my examples. This guide is focused on losing when playing team-oriented games.

Chapter 2. Dealing with a Loss

Losing will be the most frustrating you encounter when you play games. You can be hardcore or casual, it doesn’t matter, losing is frustrating. It’s why game developers have different levels of difficulty, and why they include cheat codes rather than remove them when the game goes live. Losing becomes even worse once you make the decision that you always want to win, and being a competitive gamer is something you desire.

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Remember, this doesn’t mean having fun is now out of the equation, what it does mean is that winning will amplify your enjoyment of the game. Never lose sight that in the end, we all play games to have fun. Once it stops being fun, you should re-evaluate playing the game. Seriously, from the words of Lim Yo-Hwan, known to many of you as SlayerS_`BoxeR`, “But if one is a progamer, the most fun thing in the world must be games, and the only thing that is fun must be games.” When there is no fun, there is no purpose. When there is no purpose, every loss snowballs to the point where you will take your frustrations out on others and you will hurt those you meant to have a good time with.

That being said, when playing a game, keep things in perspective. Realize everything else you learn to do in life, you have to start somewhere, and it’s not the same starting point for everyone. You will not be the best right away, and based on the life of the game, you will probably suck. Always remind yourself that you are a student of the game, and that there is always something to take away from these losses. If you are out skilled, you already have a starting point to learn from someone better than you. If you lost from your mistakes, you have a focal point of where to improve. If your losses are from your teammates, you have areas to learn on how to lead and be a better teammate. The list goes on. No matter what level of play you are at, there is always something to learn, something to improve. Most importantly, it’s not always related to the game, but your own personal condition. Your mental and physical health plays a pivotal role.

Try your best to not get upset from these games as you learn. There is a fine line between not caring and caring, just as there is a fine line for caring and caring too much. Your goal as you play is to ride the line to as close as caring too much as possible. It will improve your skills and efforts, because you are trying to win. If you do not try your hardest, then the losses become meaningless since the source of every mistake or problem that was made in the game is unknown.

Chapter 3. Learning from previous mistakes

So you’ve lost a game, now what? This is where it’s important to separate the focal point of your losses, and gaming backgrounds will influence what you consider important. i.e. Starcraft first focus of improvement in losses is mechanical since wins and losses are directly tied to your own play, whereas Counter-Strike would first be positional tactics because you need your whole team to work together to win, since pre-requisite is that you have mechanics down. Your loss breakdowns will fall in one of these categories probably: Mechanics, Out played, Out skilled, Teammates. There are different stages to improve your play based on how far you have progressed on the learning curve of the game.


What I mean by mechanics is not the basic gameplay elements. I am referring to the individual aspects that will allow a player to maximize and minimize their play. Mechanical losses are probably the easiest ones to deal with. This is because you know that the fault lies within your own play. It’s the one thing you have absolute control of, because your opponent(s) cannot influence how you click a mouse or how you push keys on a keyboard. (Doesn’t mean they can’t influence what keys you push though ;])

Chobo Status

If you are brand new to the game, then you simply need to learn smaller parts of the mechanics and focus on just that one aspect of the game. Replays are not needed, because the tactical areas of the games shouldn’t be involved. You simply want to succeed at completing the one task you have set for yourself. The nice thing is that you can practice this normally through some form of PvE where the influence of the enemy is hampered quite a bit. Some games make it more difficult to practice, but your options will always be there. Here’s a list of examples that you can apply.

TS: Practice Partner or vs. AI<br />
FPS: Designated aim_xxx maps.<br />
MOBA: vs. Bots

As stated before, the goal of these games aren’t to win, but rather to complete that one task and do it damn well. Set your goals relatively low, but not something you can regularly attain. Slowly increase your increments. Once you are comfortable with it, EXPAND your goals. Include your goal + timers for example. This is the basic form of a build. They are easy to emulate, and will start netting you wins. It will also let you transition nicely to the next level of the learning curve, and the next main reason for your losses.

You also should be looking up how skills work and interact with each other. What makes PvP far harder than PvE is the chaos. Teamwork and communication helps here, and the less chaos there is, the higher chance of success. It is very important to know HOW you can interact with your enemies AND teammates. Figure out the strengths and weaknesses of the role you enjoy playing and exploit it. When you run into something you don't understand, look it up. This will help develop the proper mentality when you play.

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Sure, having your skills perfectly layed out is great, but executing them properly is another matter entirely.


At this point in the game, you have left the newbie style of play and progressed to a level of play where you at least have some idea of what you are doing. What has led you to victory before, will probably not work as well anymore. This is largely due to the change in opponent. Your games should be played against other human opponents in order to introduce the core elements of competitive gaming: strategy and tactics. Your reason for losses will shift from your own play to your opponents. The next two stages you have of your competitive gaming rise to the top, will fall into two categories: Lower-Intermediate and Upper-Intermediate. There is no true intermediate stage of any game, due to the constant flux of players and patches. It’s either you win slightly more than you lose, or you win a lot more than you lose. If you’re losing more often than you win, it’s either you hit your plateau in terms of skill for that particular game, or you’re in the upper-intermediate status of organized play.

Lower-Intermediate Status

This stage is probably the quickest to get out of. Players normally enter this stage and will either get out quickly or stay here permanently. It’s what separates the players who want to learn from those who simply don’t care. Your mechanics have strengthened to the point where there is a good room for improvement, but they are solid enough where you can focus on other aspects of the game. Mainly, live game analysis. This is where you start massing games against live enemies. Bots/PvE will not help your improve here, because they are predictable. You need real situations to analyze and adapt to. Replays are still not a focal point, except for something that completely blows your mind away and makes you want to know what the hell just happened.


Mass gaming is incredibly stressful. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s exactly as it sounds. It’s play as many games you can when given the time. Based on your personal life, it varies a lot. While it sounds perfectly fine, since that’s all we do with our free time anyways, the difference is the amount of mental strain you put on yourself. Your goal is to play perfect every single time. Some games like Starcraft will burn you out in one or two games, others like League of Legends or Dota will take maybe a few more. Either way, you need to put a lot of pressure on yourself to maximize gains.

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Jaedong - SC Brood Wars Idol

A person I used to play Brood War with is perhaps the best example I know about mass gaming. We would play on ICCUP, a the official competitive Brood War server. It gives grades based on your performance in a season. Pro gamers are usually S class, sometimes A+. Top foreigners would hit A-, only one or two have been able to hit A. The lowest grade is E/Computer, and everyone starts at D. Perfect mechanics is about C-/C. I never exceeded D+ often not having the dedication to do well. I’d run into late-game macro problems, as well PvT wall break issues (sadly, my worst matchup as Protoss was vs Terran). The person I used to play with, was always around C-. I considered him extremely good, but he considered himself bad and undisciplined because of the lack of games he played. He eventually reached B+ in one season, but he told me that it took about 20 games a day to get there. If you’ve ever played Brood War seriously, one game is extremely tiring. There’s so many things you have to do, even if your mechanics are perfect. It’s absolutely grueling thinking that you have to do 20 20-minute games with minimal breaks. The payoffs are huge, but it also takes a toll on your physical condition.

I’m not saying you must dedicate yourself to gaming, just realize the more games you play seriously, the faster your improve. There is no shortcut. Some will learn quicker than others, just don’t be frustrated by what happens. This is the most critical point, because it will give you the needed exposure to what actually happens in games. It will help build your ability to adapt and analyze. It's okay to play non-serious games. It will help your relax and refresh your mind, but realize you also can't properly judge your own ability in these games.

Upper-Intermediate Status

The upper-intermediate status is similar to that of the lower-intermediate, except you are now winning far more frequently than you lose. Your analysis of situation is generally acceptable, and you make few mechanical mistakes. You understand your role within a team, and the best way to achieve your team’s goal. However, there will be a point when your skill level hits a plateau. Many games with matchmaking have incorporated the ELO system, and whenever your ELO starts to fluctuate +- 100-200 of where you started is when you need to start watching replays to improve. It’s important to understand what you’re looking for. If you just blindly watch a replay, it will do you no good, because you just wasted a bunch of time not truly understanding your losses. I’m going to use League of Legends, a MOBA that actually prevents 1v5s unlike other popular MOBAs, for the rest of my examples in this thread. I think it stresses teamwork far more than people realize, and with the reputation MOBA communities hold, proper analysis of replays is further magnified. This is where I’m currently at in League of Legends, but I haven’t hit my cap yet simply because I don’t put in the time to find out what it is. I’m fairly certain my ELO is higher than what I maxed out at, simply because I still had a 60+% win ratio at the time I stopped. I will be focusing on PUG play in this section. By PUG I mean a non-full team with everyone on the same VoIP. If you are playing with a group of friends on a VoIP program, this can still apply ONLY if you are relatively new to the scene. Organized play is a completely different beast, and probably deserves its own section.

Replays should be watched for your own personal play. I will guarantee you that you did something wrong that contributed to the loss of the game. Your positioning was off reducing the amount of damage you could do, you got caught and forced your team to fight with uneven numbers, you made a bad call, etc. Pay attention to what you can fix, because the nature of PUGs prevents you from having a huge amount of influence. Replays in MOBA are pretty simple, although they may seem long. Skip to the team fight sections and realize what went wrong. t's rather easy to find out if you were out of position, lacked vision, etc. If you lost your lane, no need for a replay. Practice and get better at it, you should realize what made you lose since it's a 1v1 thing.

Solo queue in League of Legends supposedly has something called, “ELO Hell.” As you can imagine, it’s a point of ELO where your teammates are simply so bad, you cannot get yourself higher. This prevents you from reaching your true ELO. There is a big debate about this, and I for one, think it doesn’t exist. I believe it reflects the poor mentality of the standard “hardcore” gamer, and shows why only a small percent actually reach “high ELO” status.

I have played games where I have double digit kills, and 1-3 deaths, and lost, and I was a huge factor to why we lost. I could have lost my lane early and not applying proper pressure to prevent the enemy from roaming. I could have not been committing hard enough in team fights. There’s always something that I did wrong that contributed to the loss, and my goal is to prevent those mistakes from happening. While that is obviously impossible, limiting the number will far increase your chance of winning, and it will also help you stay level-headed so that you don’t tilt and throw your own game.

If you are having trouble understanding what I mean, it’s easiest to just see it.


Day[9] provides great insight in terms of analyzing replays. He also is popular enough to draw in professional level players and hear about their thought process. Although the game is Starcraft 2, it shows just how many facets that should be looked at when analyzing your play from a game.

The one thing I cannot stress enough is this. It is important to realize that YOU are the problem when you lose. Whenever in doubt, just think about the common denominator rule. What is the one constant in every loss? YOU.


“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”
- Proverbs 27:17

Teammates are the last thing to consider when learning from a loss. However, they will be the reason for some of your losses. Just like with anything that is team oriented, communication is the key to winning. You don’t win by yourself, and you don’t lose by yourself. Organization is crucial, and with PUGs, it can be extremely hard to do. You, as a player, need to learn how to lead. Confidence is important and trusting yourself. If you honestly believe you know what is best for your team, make the calls. You have no one else to blame except yourself if you knew what to do to win, but say nothing about it. A lot of responsibility comes with making calls, because a bad one will cost you the game. However, having everyone commit to a bad call is far better than people half-committing to good ones.

Another thing to remember when dealing with teammates, is how to properly change their attitude and behavior in a game after losing. Show them respect, even when they aren’t respectful to you. Applying more pressure to them, or talking them down when they are already doing poorly, WILL shut off the desire to win. Their goals may even change to make sure you have the least amount of enjoyment possible. MOBAs are notorious for this. Forcing your teammates to mute everyone only hurts and doesn’t help. Just because you aren’t the one saying it, doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. Mediating helps tons. Just realize, the instant someone gives up, you’re fucked.

Chapter 4. Practice makes Perfect

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It's ok to be upset you lost, but take a moment afterwards to reflect on why.

This is as straightforward as you get. Apply the knowledge that you have gained in order to improve. Learning from your losses is a crucial step to improving quickly. When something doesn’t work out as planned, go back and try again and make adjustments if needed. People with the time to play games don’t need any guidance with this. Many of us already do this without realizing it. However, for the gamer who lacks time, like myself, we live in an age that will give us pseudo-hours of actual playing time:Streams.

Streams come in two forms: Professional Players and Tournaments

Streams of professional players let us know what we should try to achieve, even if we aren’t at that level of play. It gives a visual cue when it is normally impossible. The most popular streams are ones who keep in touch with their viewers and let us know their thought process. The biggest advantage is the incredible amount of insight you get through FPV. You get to know how they watch the game unfold. When I streamed and people I played with got to see how I played for the first time. They were amazed at how much I'm keeping tabs on everything. My screen never just stays in one area but rather jumping to places where I think something important may happen.

Streams of tournaments are another excellent form of learning. It gets to show us the team-play aspect of games. Often times, streams of players are very self-centered. You can learn the individual things you have to do to succeed. Tournaments are the opposite and allow you to understand what to do as a team. Just make sure the casters are appropriate. The color commentator NEEDS to know his/her stuff or else you won't learn anything. Tobiwan for DOTA 2 vs. any group Riot Games sends out will quickly show the huge gap of casting skills in the same genre of gaming.

Remember, streams are a resource just like anything else. Nothing will ever replace actual playing time, but they can help you improve much quicker. Furthermore, there are many sites that provide written guides for games you play, which will give you a framework to work with, if you cannot watch streams. They should not be a crutch, but rather guidance until you are comfortable enough to do everything on your own.

The last thing to remember is to keep things in perspective. The people you playing with aren’t professionals. You won’t improve as quickly as the person who can play 6-8 hours a day, but you can improve far quicker than before if you are smart about your time.

Chapter 5. Closing Thoughts

If you have gotten this far, congratulations! I do not often put my thoughts down on paper, and am actually a pretty poor teacher of games. I am much better at understanding the thinking of others than explaining how I actually think. I hope that this guide has provided some insight to how you should view games. Much of how I view games is actually from how I view life. Looking for the why instead of the what has treated me well, and is the basic requirement for understanding and improving yourself.

For the aspiring gamer, there is one thing I strongly recommend you read: Crazy as Me. The biography of Lim Yo Hwan. If you can find it somewhere translated on line, it's worth the read.

This will not only make you a better gamer, but give you a greater appreciation for games and the commitment that we as individuals make in our lives. Since it is from a professional gamer, I believe it is easier to understand since he goes over many situations that we have experienced or have imagined.

This guide and others can be found on www.teamlegacy.net. We understand everyone has great opinions, and we encourage open criticism. Thanks for reading, be sure to drop kwlpp a line @ TL if you have specific feedback!
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#2 Mirik

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 08:47 AM

Good Read, I really liked Chapter 3 where it goes from stage to stage of your progression. It can really show a person where they are at compared to where they want to be.
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#3 Lowell

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 09:09 AM

This was quite a good read, nice job!
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#4 xtatic

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 09:24 AM

nice read. Thumbs up from me.
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#5 Furhunter

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 10:43 AM

Thumbs UP!
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#6 PastorT

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 12:39 PM

Great Read
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#7 Jasy201

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 12:53 PM

This is great stuff. Really articulates on the saying "more GG, more skill."
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#8 ValorLotD

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 12:57 PM

Good read Freelancer. Lots of concepts from the gaming experts are highlighted here and you did a good job of bringing that together.
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#9 Qali

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 01:01 PM

I created an account just to say thanks for this awesome guide. I'm so excited AJ has decided to feature gw2. I used AJ all the time for WoW. I expect to use it even more for gw2!
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#10 Guest_Freelancer_*


Posted 09 August 2012 - 01:06 PM

I created an account just to say thanks for this awesome guide. I'm so excited AJ has decided to feature gw2. I used AJ all the time for WoW. I expect to use it even more for gw2!

Yea, we're excited as well, many of our members, and i'm sure many peple you know as well -- all used to love AJ at one point or another. This is certainly a breath of fresh air.

I made every attempt to encourage my members @ TL and even the community members to pop on over here, so hopefully there will be a nice mix of current GW2 fans and newcomers from the WoW scene in this subforum :) One could hope.
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#11 Supabad

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 01:29 PM

Once I've run out of things to throw and I lose my voice, I'm very calm when I lose at videogames. Just kidding - good read, haha.
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#12 KillAcer

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 04:24 PM

Great reading. Everyone can learn a thing or 2
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#13 Horgag

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 05:27 PM

Very nice read. Similar concepts to what we teach kids wishing to enter the competitive sports world. Even the best baseball players fail nearly 70% of the time. But it's what you do with those failures, how you learn from them, and the adjustments you make based on what you learned that separates one player from another.
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#14 bloodworks


Posted 09 August 2012 - 05:35 PM

Thumbs up to this post.

Thumbs up @ TEAM LEGACY as well. XD
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#15 Valio

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 07:12 PM

I know this guide is titled 'Coaching yourself', but what is your opinion on coaching? If the professional community starts offering 1 on 1 coaching, do you think its worth it for the intermediate player? Obviously its dependent on price and regularity, but lets just say I am an intermediate player who can afford to have a couple hours of coaching every few months.
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#16 Guest_Freelancer_*


Posted 09 August 2012 - 09:13 PM

I know this guide is titled 'Coaching yourself', but what is your opinion on coaching? If the professional community starts offering 1 on 1 coaching, do you think its worth it for the intermediate player? Obviously its dependent on price and regularity, but lets just say I am an intermediate player who can afford to have a couple hours of coaching every few months.

It really depends on whether that player can actually absorb that coaching or not. TL has tossed around the idea of coaching similar to how it's done in Team Liquid, but it always bounces back and forth between costs and whether the investment is worth it.

Player-wise, I think most top players these days learn from from watching replays and videos than actually getting direct coaching IMO.
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#17 Mianhe

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 01:55 AM

Always enjoy reading this kind of threads, hope people will find it just as interesting and get something out of it.
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#18 ItsTheDoctor

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 04:22 AM

I'm so pumped for ArenaJunkies to head towards GW2. I used to cruise AJ all the time to find arena builds and meta trends in 2's on WoW. Can't wait to see how it works with GW2. This guide was stellar as well. It took me a long time to mature as a gamer (prone to raging and trash talking), but maturing has made me a much better gamer. I wish I had a guide or mentor like this back in my more competitive days!
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