“The Pain Train” is a slang phrase that, roughly translated, means “everybody dies”.
Ever been in one of those Warsong Gulch games where the opposing team simply storm up the field, kill everybody, grab the flag, and storm back the way they came?
That’s a pain train.
Pain Train Jermaine, as photographed by Brandon Voges.
The idea of the pain train in an arena setting is a simplistic one: pick a dude on the other team, and then kill him. And then kill his friends!
The execution of this is, understandably, slightly more complicated.
When the gates open, your team and whatever team you’re going up against are immediately figuring out which guy on the other team you should attempt to kill first. At least you should be. Which target you decide will be your kill target will be completely on a situational basis.
The deciding factors are:
- Is it a healer?
- How easy is it to kill?
- How deadly is it if left alive?
Say, for whatever reason, your team is a hunter and a warrior, and the opposing team is a paladin and a mage. With this team makeup, the warrior and the hunter will find the mage far easier to kill than the paladin.
By the same token, the paladin/mage team will find the warrior much easier to kill than the hunter. However, due to the fact that the hunter is far deadlier to their team than the warrior, their strategy will be to kill off the hunter while controlling the warrior.
See how that works?
Sometimes, how deadly something is can be neatly counteracted by simply crowd controlling them. Sometimes you can lock down a healer, and kill their teammate. Sometimes you’ll see a hunter, think “oh, thats easy to kill” and then suddenly your warrior is dead, the healer is controlled, and you’re facing Bestial Wrath all by yourself with Ice Block on cooldown…
Communication and an understanding of how every single class in WoW works will be the key to choosing the correct targets to kill. This doesn’t only apply to the strengths and weaknesses of the team you are facing, but the team you are a member of as well.
For example, as a mage, warriors pose little threat to you. But to, say, a warlock, a warrior is a much more frightening presence.
Two terms here to understand before we go any further.
When you “train” something, that means your entire team is attempting to kill that player. This is a very basic concept that most arena teams start off using, by simple merit that most other lower ranked teams have no idea how to respond to it.
For example, if you are on a 5v5 team, and the other team has a warrior, retribution paladin, and an enhancement shaman, and they all come gunning for you, dear mage… that’s a train.
A “swap” is similar to a train, but much faster. When a team performs a target swap, that means that your team will simultaneously target and attack a member of the opposing team. As a mage, this will usually be where you pop your water elemental, and then drop a shatter combo on the selected target.
A target swap is usually called out far enough in advance so that everyone who needs the time has it to prepare whatever they need to in order to lay some serious smackdown… well, down.
As an example, say your team is currently expending a lot of effort to try and kill a druid on the opposing team. A shaman on the opposing team is trying to drop a Healing Wave, and has dropped a Grounding Totem to protect itself.
The mage tosses an ice lance to kill the grounding totem, then counterspells the shaman. It is assumed here that the mage has a water elemental out. The druid in your team (let’s just say you have one, for the sake of argument) cyclones the druid you were just trying to kill. Then, the rogue on your team shadowsteps to the shaman, the mage drops a shatter combo onto the shaman… you see what I mean.
Countering a Pain Train
The idea behind a pain train is to rapidly kill a member of the opposing team, and disrupt the other players so it can be pulled off. Silencing healers, polymorphing, cyclone, that type of thing.
In other words, the idea is to pull it off so that the other team can’t counter it.
The first step is to rob the opposing team of key cooldowns, such as Ice Block. A mage without Ice Block is a vulnerable target, as is a Paladin without the ability to bubble.
As a mage, you will be a very popular target for the other team to try and kill. Bad to average teams will come screaming for your blood. Average to good teams will pressure you into Ice Blocking when it suits their team, not yours, or otherwise just trying to waste your cooldowns. (Awful to bad teams will ignore you because they think they can’t hurt you, due to ice block).
The important thing to remember with this is to never, ever get overconfident. Your defensive cooldowns are exactly that – defensive in nature. There is literally no reason to use them if you are merely being harassed, not outright attacked. A fairly common strategy is to have one person harass the mage in an effort to get him to blow Ice Block at an inopportune time. On their side, they are ready to swap to the mage to destroy him, and if they have a priest, are probably waiting with an itchy mass dispel finger.
If you blow a crucial cooldown too soon, or just generally at the wrong time, you will only succeed in getting yourself killed. Read this post here at Out of Mana for a specific warlock on mage example.
To be blunt, when Ice Block ends, you are intensely vulnerable. You and your team needs to be aware that, very likely, the opposing team will come gunning for you. Be ready. A freshly Ice Blocked mage is the perfect target for a swap, especially if they have already put significant pressure on your healer(s).
Essentially what I’m saying here is, don’t allow yourself get trapped into a situation where you’re going to do something stupid. Make sure you have excellent communication with your partner(s), especially with the healer if there is one.
I’ve seen it happen (and fallen victim to it myself) where a mage assumes the healers got his back, and the healer assumes the mage has got his own back. Either situation leads to a dead mage.
Whatever you do, be smart, communicate, and DON’T PANIC.
A panicked mage is a mage who does stupid things, and then dies.
Well, now that we got all that, out of the way, onto the specifics!