Wizard101 PvP Theory: The Stages and States of a Match

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The Stages and States of a Match

If you’d like to see my last PvP theory article where I tackle the concepts of baits, reads, and conditioning, click here.

In a PvP match, you need to have a plan; an attack plan, a defensive plan, and sometimes even a plan to trick your opponent are vital aspects of successfully dueling. However, knowing when to put these plans into action is an instinct developed mostly by practice. That won’t stop me from trying to explain it anyway, though! Bear with me as I try to explain the concept of stages and states in a PvP match.

First Things First: The Literal Stages

By “literal” stages, I am referring to the actual course of a match (i.e., the beginning, middle, and end). Note that in top level PvP, these stages get distorted because there is so much potential for an early one hit knockout. 

Stages of a PvP match turn startingYou’ve just found your opponents school (click here for a guide to doing this) and the first turn has commenced. Generally, this is the phase where you want to get a sense of what your opponent’s playstyle is. Are they offensive? Defensive? How do they react to shields? Minions? Bubbles? Don’t be afraid to throw out some moves to see how they react. Once you get a better sense of them as a player, you will have an easier time reading and baiting them. Similarly, this is where you can give them an impression about your playstyle; this isn’t as important, but conditioning your opponent in the early game will make it easier to catch them off guard later. 

The early game is also a good time to start to set up your attack (and occasionally defense); blades, Ice Guardian Spellminions, Infections, and sometimes Weaknesses are generally good to put out during the early game. Bubbles and shields are both a “maybe” in that it depends on your opponent. Against a Storm wizard (or any “spammy” wizard,) shields are going to be a great asset in the early game; otherwise, I would hold off on shields until your opponent starts to become a serious offensive threat. Against a school with no spammable damage bubble (such as Balance or Life,) throw yours out early to take control; otherwise, it is generally more efficient to avoid putting your bubble out first in the bubble war (due to being down in resources if they override it).

Early game is also a time to keep the Infections and Weaknesses on you to a minimum; wand/sprite them off as soon as possible.

Stages of a PvP match pipsBy this point, at least one player (generally both if they’re evenly matched) will have a good amount of pips, and they should be making moves in attempt to overwhelm their opponent and capitalize on the opening. You need to flood your opponent with things to do; make them need to change the bubble, heal, take out your minion, and remove Weaknesses all at the same time. Overwhelming them is key to creating an opening, which is the entire goal of the mid game: to create an opening to finish your opponent. 

At the same time, you need to be keeping up with your opponent’s attempts of doing this to you. Ensuring that you are safe is always very important. Don’t let their minion live, or let them keep their bubble, etc. Keep in mind, though, that offense can be a great defense; pressuring them with things to do can make them lay off you for a bit, allowing you to clear yourself.

The end game is where you put a kill option into action. After you create an opening in the mid game, the end game is where you seal the deal. This is easier said than done, because often this kill string isn’t a guaranteed combo; you need to make sure your opponent doesn’t escape as you pound them into the ground. This means making sure to avoid shields (likely with a DoT in front of your killshot,) heals (making sure they have enough Infections on them,) or even a last resort attack (looking at you, Insane Bolt).

Stages of a PvP match heckhound

To avoid getting hit with an opponent’s final killshot, you need to look to every possible corner for an escape method, and use the least predictable one. As mentioned before, healing, shielding, or even attacking are all options to avoid getting killed. Shielding, if possible, is ideal because it leaves you with pips and negates the damage. Healing is good for when an attack will kill you around a shield. Attacking (if enough damage is done) can make the opponent think twice about trying to kill you. Being unpredictable is crucial here, because being read means being dead.

Top level is an exception to all of this theory simply because of the nature of the meta. It is so volatile storm glowbug w/ Stages of a PvP match borderoffensively that any turn can be your last. All of that meticulous planning and end game execution is gone because a quick attack or string will finish up your opponent. Top level is all about pressure, in all stages of the game; making your opponent feel unsafe is generally going to be in your favor.

In top level, always be ready to attack given the opening. Naturally, the openings will come if you keep their defenses down. Reaching that opening faster than your opponent will win you the match.

Second Things … Second: The Playstyle States 

The mental states I am referring to are the states of play you can be in: offensive, defensive, and neutral. Knowing how and when to play in each of these states is a great way to have an edge over your opponent. 

“[The offensive state] occurs … in the attack phase, typically either pressure oriented spam attacks or spike oriented clerical or combo attacks.”

-Eric Stormbringer

When you’re playing offensively, you should be putting tons of pressure on your opponent; this can beSupercell pressure (Stages of a PvP match border)through literal damage, or a threatening position. Playing offensively does not mean to disregard your defense, as this is something you should avoid doing at all costs. The “attack phase,” as Eric calls it above, should be a time when you are leaning heavily on offense to force your opponent into playing defensively; if they aren’t playing defensively, you either aren’t being enough of a threat to them, or the match has become “first attack wins.” If the former is the case, you will want to reset to the neutral until you are prepared to launch an assault; if it is the latter, attack quickly and powerfully.

The offensive state should be used when you have set yourself up to be a threat; in some cases (think Archmage Ice,) this means you should wait until after you’ve bladed yourself to the point of your computer being laggy, while in others (think Darkmoor meta,) this means you could be instantly in a position to play offensively. It depends much on your school, level, and playstyle. 

There are two main reasons for the offensive state: to deal damage and/or close out a match, and to pressure your opponent in order to get them to play defensively. 

“[The defensive state] occurs [while] defending … from an [opponent’s] attack or healing.”

-Eric Stormbringer

(Spell)_Tower_ShieldYou should be playing defensively to counter an opponent’s offense or potential offense; reducing their damage and making them stop and think about attacking you is the major goal. The key to this is to always keep enough pips to heal, and utilize your shields and weaknesses to limit their damage as they go through their pips. Ideally, once they don’t have the pips to damage you, you can heal up as needed and be ready with lots of pips to counterattack. A key point to remember is that shielding and debuffing should be your go-to defensive measures, not healing. The reason behind this is that shields and debuffs reduce your opponent’s damage, while heals simply erase it; this means that shields and debuffs make your heals more effective, so a general rule of thumb is shield/debuff first, heal later. An exception to this is when your opponent has the potential to kill you through a shield/debuff, in which case you should always heal.

You should generally play defensively when your opponent has threatening offensive potential. Any other time, playing defensively means you’re putting no pressure on your opponent, which gives them control of the match. This is never good. Think of defensive play as a counter to offensive play.Stages of a PvP match fire immune w/ border

While countering offensive play is the main purpose of the defensive state, you can also condition your opponent into playing offensively by using defensive play; if they’re playing sloppily, they may disregard their defense, giving you an opening to strike. 


“[The neutral state] occurs … in the build phase of my attacks or in the “defense” phase from combos (typically involves placing stun blocks or convictions). In this stage of the battle I am often blading and scoping out the play style of my opponent.”

-Eric Stormbringer

The neutral is easily the most common and most difficult to learn/understand state. It should dominate FannedSpellsmost of your match (excluding top level matches). The neutral is a state that is exactly what it sounds like; you should be in a flexible position to both guard against attacks and take advantage of offensive openings. It is key to build pips and “control the field” by doing things such as establishing minions, winning the bubble war, and removing Weaknesses/Infections. You also need to have a bit of offensive threat (think a blade and pips) and protection (think a Weakness or shield). As Eric describes above, it is also key to scope out your opponent and defend against simple combos; scoping out your opponent means getting a feel for their playstyle by studying their reactions to your moves and watching their habits. Understanding both that this is primarily a state of building resources and that it is simply a necessary state of the game is important in dominating the neutral.

Stages of a PvP match castingThe neutral generally composes 50-70% of a match; flexibility is impertinent to winning matches. Any time when your opponent isn’t in a life threatening offensive position or you aren’t on the offensive, neutral stance is the way to go. Stretching the boundaries of the neutral is a great strategy, because as I mentioned before, flexibility is key.

Being in a neutral position as much as possible also limits the chance of your opponent being able to condition you; being able to counter most/all of the moves your opponent can make renders conditioning you impossible.

Top level, again, is slightly different when it comes to these states; they all exist for sure, but the neutral isn’t as important. With sure an offensive meta, the offensive and knowing how to effectively execute attack strings is more important.Stages of a PvP match storm damage

Any opening you get to attack or pull off an attack string is good, because a top level match more often than not comes down to who gets the most attack opportunities the fastest. You need to be prepared to take offensive risks, but not blow all defensive measures; try to have a defense up and maybe some follow-up pips before you launch an attack.

Defense is more about timely shield placement, and less about an overall playstyle shift; knowing how todo this will come with experience.

The neutral is near nonexistent in the current meta because sitting on a pile of pips is generally counter-intuitive; by the time you set up a solid neutral position, you could be dead. Also, against Balance, holding pips is even more counter-intuitive. I believe that this loss of the neutral is what has driven many experienced duelists from top level PvP.

And on that merry note…

That’s all for this article! If you have any questions/comments/concerns, please comment below!

Happy Dueling!

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  • And this is why Top Level is considered so unstable, because it doesn’t follow the stages of a match.

    • Logan LegendThief

      I don’t think that Top Lvl. doesn’t follow the stages of a match, I think it has it’s own stages–which are usually fluctuating in both structure and longevity. And people just haven’t realized that (or don’t want to submit to it). But that’s just my opinion.

      • Well yes, it has its own different build, but that’s what makes it unstable. Most other level ranges follow the basic outline shown here, but Top Level typically doesn’t, which is the instability. You are correct though.

        • Blaze MeOut

          define stable define unstable … define whats normal is anything really normal … what really is normal … top level is different… maybe people are scared of different … scared of the unknown … I grown to like different because stable is boring … just because its different doesn’t mean you can hate it … people hate change because they want to understand and try to make sense of the world we live in … but sorry without change I would personally quit wizard101 from being bored … the “unstable” environment is where I can personally pvp and enjoy it because playing the same thing repetitively gets old … I want to make my own rules when I pvp that’s just how I roll …

          • Stable-Following the normal pattern outlined in the article here.
            Unstable-Opposite of stable previously defined
            Normal-What people know about the workings of PvP

            People don’t like how the “unstable” meta favors one school in particular, in this case, Balance. Some schools get a HUGE advantage while the others are totally at the bottom.

            Another thing is the luck factor and RNG. In Top Level, your luck plays too much of a big role and true skill doesn’t shine enough. That’s another HUGE reason why the “unstable” Top Level meta is disfavored.

          • Blaze MeOut

            well the game is always changing… especially at top level balance wont always be at the top… I used to argue how ice used to rule pvp before hades gear and Aquila came out … just gotta deal with the popular school for the time being there is always a argument on that … the game is too complex for just a simple fix now considering the number of spells in the game…but the popular school isn’t gonna be popular for all of time … the meta is always shifting which allows each school opportunities to succeed in the meta granted new material … also I liked the increase in luck in the game … I don’t think at all during the waterworks era where I could ever land a critical it was all too same and even and bland and boring… if I was working for kingsisle I would see this as a halt in wizard101 pvp … on the contrary I believe that luck was finally added to the game … something the meta missed for a long time… People now critically consider the value or multiple stats instead of the “waterworks era” where all people did was trained their pets to increase defense and maycast heals… people consider critical people consider block because critical became more important … people consider pierce because its important … people actually consider damage because they are not stuck with waterworks anymore … also shadow spells added a new sucker punch element to the game so that people think more critically each round on card choices because each move could be their last one … taking risks and betting chance is also a skill … to understand where the odds lie and interpret yours and your enemy move allows people to succeed in pvp … increase in utility spells and special side affect from spells allow this meta to run … what I believe top level meta is missing is loss of minions and reduction of rank team 4v4 pvp

          • Just one thing….Critical is so high now that it isn’t luck anymore. It’s guaranteed.

          • Blaze MeOut

            Which makes block and more important stat as well as critical … yeah its guaranteed to land a critical but your also forgetting that darkmoor, jade, many wands, and other types of gear offers decent block too … the versatility of using many different kinds of gear increased since the creation of jade gear and Aquila dungeon gear … try landing a critical on a opponent with good block not so easy now … its all luck still and strategy involves how you use your gear … critical and block were not even important in waterworks pvp … this adds new dimension and entertainment to pvp considering more factors

          • I’d rather say that inflated critical and block subtract dimensions from PvP. No longer are you wondering if you’ll hit critical or not, you guaranteed will. That’s one luck factor that’s been eliminated and that makes the game more dull, steals some of the spices from life. Now the only luck factor is will it land or will it be blocked?
            Given how much damage criticals wield when they land, you’re likely to be dead or close to dead. Criticals change the tide of the match too drastically which diminishes the skill. It’s like MC Healing Current hitting 1k hyperactively, no skill, tons of luck.

          • Blaze MeOut

            Isnt this the same reason balance and life and death are succeeding … its not the hits that just change the field its also critical heals which I can agree with you … yeah it adds more change … but in my opinion was the change drastic or was there too little change before that it was neccessary such as the 4 hour long jade matches … I played a 6 hour match with a jade before critical came in … the game is a pendulum … I respect your opinion but in my opinion defense was too emphasize that everyone just used the same gear “waterworks” no fun in diversity in gear whats so ever … pets oh typical double defense pet yeah obvious and bland … I “came out of the closet” when I stopped using waterworks and realized there is more to this game … there are people still using the same waterworks gear since it came out the first day … that is if you think about 4 years … this game is about moving on and exploring … go ahead stick to whats normal … I would rather take an adventure and get stronger and change along with way … if you ever take college or high school level physics the change is like a spring … the spring is now pulled way more down … but it goes the same period length of time as if it was pulled a little down … the greater amplitude just means the spring has more energy put into it … this is how I feel … there is more energy there is more fun … this a greater chance to turn yourself around at any moment … I think its harder to turn around when your nearly dying in pvp and the damage is just so little to change your fate … I want to change my fate … I don’t want my destiny to be choosen by anybody else but me

  • Eric Stormbringer

    The lack of neutral does turn away a lot of old school players particularly due to how quickly a match can be closed out in the current meta. In the old school meta making a mistake or mispredict while in the neutral was usually not a game-ender and you could recover. A match between 2 highly skilled “old school” warlords was often played entirely in the neutral and only closed out after a series of slowly built “neutral” mistakes or after one opponent had exhausted another’s resources said person needed to control the neutral. However in top level making a mistake or mispredict in the neutral is usually deadly as an opponent can instantly press his offense. This is why cards such as stuns and mantles(cards that force “mistakes” in the neutral) are so dominant in the top level meta.

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  • Sierra

    flexibility is impertinent to winning matches??? Oops, there goes my annoying habit of proof reading.

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