Author Archives: Cynwise

About Cynwise

Warlock from Northshire. I write about the battlegrounds of Azeroth, warlockery, auction house tomfoolery, and assorted other Warcraft topics on my various blogs. I love the smell of seaforium in the morning.

Warlocks, Trash Your Keybinds

You’ll get all sorts of advice before having your first kid. Most of it will be bad. “Get plenty of sleep now!” sounds great, but it’s really bad advice – it makes you freak out about the impending sleep deprivation while not actually helping you cope with the reality of the first year or so of raising an infant. Getting 8 hours of sleep during the second trimester does you no good when your 8 month old is still waking up every three hours and oh god could I haven’t had a complete REM cycle in forever. It’s even worse advice if you’re the one who is pregnant, because getting a good night’s sleep during the final month or so is basically impossible due to the very large, very active kicking being in your belly.

“Assemble the crib in the nursery” is a bit better, because it points out something you might not realize if you’ve assembled furniture but not cribs before – they’re too wide to fit through doors, but not so wide that you’ll immediately realize it. So if you assemble the crib out in your living room (where there’s more room) and try to get it through the door, you’re bound for frustration. But you can also probably figure this out yourself.

The best advice I got before having my first kid, and I’m now giving to you, is to start lifting light weights as soon as possible. Get some light dumbbells, curl gallons of milk or six packs of diet coke, do some pushups – whatever you can to start getting your arms ready for carrying 8-10 lbs of baby around all the time. I wasn’t prepared for that, and even with the advice (which I didn’t follow enough) I found myself still struggling with how much more physical I was going to have to be. Kids are gradually increasing weights, so you catch up – but I could have used even more of a boost.

So, I’m going to pass on something that I learned in the beta which you might not have considered. You can take it, or not, but if I had to go through the experience of picking up my Warlock all over again this is what I’d do.

Trash your keybinds.

Take everything off your bars. EVERYTHING. Take every ability off your action bars and start with a blank slate. Look over the spec you’d like to try, open up the spell book and read over the new abilities. Go to a training dummy and start, slowly, bringing stuff back onto the bars.

My initial experience in the beta was awful. It was terrible. I told Xelnath that after the first hour of trying to make sense of the changes, I nearly quit in frustration. This was before the Core Abilities tab, or the What’s Changed Tab – I was trying to set everything up like I was used to having them and it just didn’t work. Warlocks have changed too much to bridge between the patches. Your macros are probably useless. (Stop trying to cast Fel Armor, you don’t need to do that anymore!)

Start over from scratch.

My second day in the beta, I threw everything out. My intricate bindings were gone. I switched, for the first time in years, to a WASD setup, and started adding things back onto my bars. I remapped to different buttons. I looked at the spellbook and threw out what I thought I knew about playing a Warlock. It wasn’t easy. But instead of being totally frustrated with the strangeness of it all, of cursing that it doesn’t work this way and why doesn’t my buff macro work it was, oh, I have a suite of defensive CDs now, I should group them over here, and Fel Flame can always go here, and …

I was amazed at how much better this went, how much easier it was to adapt to the changes of the class. Forget that, I was amazed at how much room I had on my action bars now! By giving up mouse driving and going WASD (and eventually ESDF), by admitting that my previous strategy of having 120 potential binds wasn’t needed, I got rid of my expectations that I knew the class and got back to learning it anew.

The class is different now. Even Affliction – the spec which is the most similar – is really quite different. Don’t assume you know what you’re doing – you don’t. Not yet. That’s what this next month is for.

Start over. Nuke your whole UI if you have to, but start by jettisoning your keybinds.

Your keybinds carry expectations with them.

Today is a day to reset and start over.

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Revisiting Gnomebliteration

I was in Uldum tonight questing for some transmog gear when I came to everyone’s favorite mass-murder excused by a machine, Gnomebliteration. As the gear I wanted for my warrior was a reward from said quest of doom, I set aside my in-character brain for a bit and rolled a flaming ball of death over the doomed expedition.

I killed a thousand gnomes for some red plate gloves. And I liked it.

My opinion of the quest hasn’t changed since the last time I wrote about it. I still think its morally repugnant, out of character for a lot of characters, and a hell of a lot of fun.

But at the end of Cataclysm I’m left wondering, why wasn’t this made into a daily quest?

This is a serious question. You’ve got a quest which is popular and provides a fun little mini-game. It’s in a zone which only has two daily quests for reputation, both of which have different mechanics than normal play and the body count of an ’80s action movie, so killing cursed gnomes fits in with the theme of Uldum. The quest got a lot of positive feedback on the forums and on wowhead. Players asked to do a quest again – that’s pretty high praise!

So why didn’t it happen?

Normally, when I write a post like this I have some kind of action that I’d like to argue for, some option or alternative to pursue. Here, I don’t. There are less than two months before Mists; thinking this should get changed now would be naive folly. It’s done. Gnomebliteration is never going to be a daily quest. That’s okay! It’s time to move on.

And I don’t think we, as players, will ever know why it didn’t happen. Development priorities are subject to a lot of different pressures, and I don’t subscribe to any A/B team conspiracy theories. Did this idea even get raised to the developers? Did it get serious attention? We’re there other priorities that kept it pushed down on a feature request list, or was it shot down for technical reasons? Was it deemed more important to keep it a unique part of leveling, one shot and you’re done on that toon?

Or did someone just not like the suggestion?

I have no idea.

What I do know is that, while rolling around a giant flaming ball of death on a quest I should have morally objected to for any good-aligned character, I had more fun than I’d had in the entire zone. Possibly the only real fun I’ve had in Uldum, once I get over how gorgeous the place is. Wheeeee! roll down the steps, pick up more gnomes! It’s not a complicated mini-game, it’s a visceral one.

And to me, this quest seems to symbolize the problems of Cataclysm. Many things were done right, but the things which were truly fun seemed to be shunted aside, fleeting moments. Opportunities to create more fun weren’t capitalized upon. Instead of Gnomebliteration as a daily, we got Tol Barad and the Molten Front. There were a lot of almost-rights, of things which were just a bit off, of things which didn’t quite flow enough to be fun.

Would we have gotten bored of crushing cursed gnomes? Maybe.

But we never got the chance.

I’ve come to accept that I don’t think Cataclysm was a very good expansion. Yes, there were plenty of quality of life improvements which made the game more enjoyable to play – vast UI improvements, transmogging, revamped old content, flight almost everywhere – but many missed opportunities for making the game fun. It was so close to being good, in so many places, but the execution was off. There was a lot of good work, and the game of Warcraft itself is still enjoyable, but I just haven’t found Cataclysm content compelling. I haven’t found it fun.

I don’t really have much else to say about Cataclysm; I had fun, I had frustrations, I’m glad it’s done.

And I’m left wondering why Gnomebliteration never became a daily quest.

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Resurrection Vectors in Strand of the Ancients and the Problem of South Graveyard

Strand of the Ancients is a battleground dominated by demolishers and walls. The core object of the map is to break through a series of gates and capture the Titan Relic at the south end of the map. Each side takes turns attacking and defending, with the fastest time winning the battle. Since speed is so important, using the demolishers to take down the gates quickly is a key component of any strategy. You can take down a gate with the bombs littered around the beach (takes about 10-12 bombs), but it is much slower than taking a pack of demolishers through.

Speed and demolishers are the key to Strand, and they create a truly unique situation for the resurrection vectors in this BG – namely, that there is a graveyard objective which can considerably cripple the offense’s ability to win.

Don’t cap South GY unless you know exactly what you are doing.

Let’s take a look at the map.

The rules governing resurrection vectors are relatively straightforward; attackers will go to the highest (most southerly) graveyard they control, while defenders will fall back to the highest defensible point. Once taken by the offense, a graveyard cannot be retaken.

The above map shows the initial rez vectors with the Horde on offense. When the Horde is on the beach and has not knocked down any gates, they will continue to resurrect on the beach. Alliance defenders will resurrect back at the workshops, behind the gates, though the flags which control the graveyards are on the opposite side of the path.

Once the first set of gates is breached, the Horde should concentrate on taking the East and West Graveyards. Not only will this change their resurrection vector to the workshop level, but it will make the workshop’s demolishers available to your team. This is critically important because as the Horde moves south on offense, it will take longer and longer to drive demolishers up to the relevant gates. Having demolishers available right outside Green and Blue gates is much faster than having to run back down to the beach to get one.

Remember, speed is really important here.

As the Horde offensive progresses, Alliance casualties will be sent back to progressively higher levels – first E/W, then South, then the Courtyard. It’s possible to skip a level by dying on the beach and resurrecting in the South GY – but unlike the offense, defenders can use the teleporters by each gate to achieve the same result.  Tying up their team down on the beach is often a good tactic, but not if demolishers are rolling up to Yellow unopposed.

This brings up the problem of South Graveyard.

WHY SOUTH GRAVEYARD IS A TRAP

The South Graveyard is a trap for the offense in Strand of the Ancients. Taking it puts the offense at a disadvantage entirely because of resurrection vectors.

When South Graveyard is held by the defense, the following conditions prevail:

  1. Offense rez vectors are to the workshops, next to the demolishers.
  2. Casualties are able to grab a demolisher at the Workshop and bring it up to Yellow gate in about 25 seconds.
  3. If no demolishers are available at the Workshop, players can retrieve demolishers from the Docks for an additional 50 seconds.

Let me illustrate this scenario using our battle from above. Horde is attacking.

Leaving South GY ensures a constant stream of demolishers to replace any which are destroyed assaulting the Yellow Gate or the Titan Chamber.

If the Horde takes South GY, however, the situation changes drastically with respect to the demolishers.

By taking South GY, the Horde casualties will spawn just outside Yellow Gate. This would be great if no vehicles were involved; having a close respawn point helps turn the tide in many battles.

But vehicles are involved, and they’re now much further away in time and in distance.  25 seconds to run to the West Workshop, and about 35 seconds (best case, not counting getting slowed by the defense) to get to the East Workshop. Then it’s another 25-30 seconds to get back up the hill to Yellow. Taking South GY doubles the amount of time to bring demolishers into play.

The demolishers on the beach become effectively unreachable when South GY is taken. It’s now nearly two minutes to get one of them back to Yellow, which at the later stages of the battleground is an eternity. Taking South GY effectively halves the number of demolishers you can use.

It’s really hard to get people to not take an undefended flag. They see a flag, they cap it, normally this is laudable behavior. It’s hard to get people to see that it’s actually changing the resurrection vectors away from the demolishers and why it’s better to leave it alone.

But it is. Leave South GY alone.

The only time taking South Graveyard conveys an advantage to the offense is when all walls are down, including the final one to the Titan Relic. Only at this point in the battle do the demolishers become less important than people reinforcements. At this point you want all hands on deck up at the courtyard, and having the South GY is now advantageous.

But the scenario of breaking down the wall yet not taking it is pretty rare.

Leave South GY alone on offense.

OFF-CENTER SOUTH GRAVEYARD

The other curious thing about South GY is that it’s off-center. The flag has a central location, but the actual rez point is on the west side, closer to Purple than Red. This location has tactical ramifications for both sides.

In general, weak-side attacks from the East (Blue/Red Gates) will fare a little bit better than those from the West, all other things being equal. The demolishers have a clear path to the gate, their escorts can establish a buffer around them in the middle, and defensive casualties will be sent a little ways away from the action.

Strong side attacks from the West (Green/Purple) have to go through the spawn point, which can sometimes lead to rez waves appearing right on top of them:

In this example, if the Horde can get their demolishers past the South GY, Alliance casualties will get sent behind them, making it a little easier to get by. But the Alliance defense will be stronger on the West side because of the graveyard proximity and resurrection vectors.

(Don’t use this as an excuse to cap South GY. Just don’t.)

This off-center location can be used to the offense’s advantage, especially later on when Red and Purple are both down. By concentrating attacks on the strong side, the Horde can draw Alliance attention and focus to the demos on the West, while sneaking demos in from the East.

Good defenders will be aware of this trick, call out incs, and not get pulled too far down towards Purple. They’ll also hold back forces, choosing to concentrate near the front of Yellow instead of down past the trees and ridges. A spread defense is preferred to a concentrated defense here – stacking your whole team on either side is rarely a wise choice on defense.

(Letting the offense take South GY uncontested, however, is almost always a wise defensive strategy.)

Good luck!

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Resurrection Vectors in Arathi Basin

Arathi Basin provides a dynamic set of resurrection vectors. Bases can and will change hands throughout the fight, causing troops to scatter across the map in ways you’ll just have to adapt to. Unlike Warsong Gulch, it’s practically impossible to base an Arathi Basin strategy around Rez vectors. They are something to consider, to be sure, but are nowhere near as strategically important as in some other battlegrounds. You are better served by having a solid team which can take a flag quickly than try to engage in a protracted battle to force a rez vector.

That said, there’s one tactic which takes advantage of rez vectors in Arathi Basin – disrupting the initial flow of the battle and sending the opponent back to their spawn point. The spawn points (Trollbane Hall, Defiler’s Den) are substantially inferior graveyards in AB for two reasons:

  1. There’s only one exit, not two, making it easier to farm.
  2. They’re away from a node, so rez waves are not contributing to any flag’s defense.

The spawn points are bad places to be, so forcing your opponents there is good. If you can divide the other team so that some of them are resurrecting at the spawn point, while others are on the field of battle, you weaken them considerably. Whoever gets sent to the spawn point is effectively removed from the field of play for a minute or so, and their ability to influence events is curtailed dramatically.

Arathi Basin can be somewhat complicated to map out, so I’m going to use a sequence of topological maps to outline how this happens. The arrows do not represent movement, they represent resurrection vectors – where players should go if they happen to die.

In this scenario, the Alliance begins by sending 1 to ST, 7 to LM, 5 to BS, and 2 to Farm. The Horde sends 8 to BS, 3 to LM, 3 to GM, and 1 to FM.

The very first phase shows the Stables and Farm under assault but not yet captured. All resurrection vectors are pointing back to the spawn points; no matter how far away people are when they die, they will go back to their side of the map.

The skirmishes shape up to be:

  • ST, FM, GM, uncontested. Farm has 2 incoming.
  • BS: 8 Horde, 5 Alliance.
  • LM: 7 Alliance, 3 Horde.

We will assume, for the moment, that numbers prevail. This is not always a safe assumption, but this is Xs and Os.

This early stage is always so interesting to me because everything happens so fast as flags are assaulted. There will be casualties, but how many and from where is always totally up in the air. Stables and Farm are ticking but haven’t flipped as LM, GM and BS get assaulted, so all casualties go back to the spawn points.

The key to watch is Farm in this example. If the Alliance outriders can take it from the defender, they disrupt the graveyard flow of the Horde. It’s actually really important to hold ST and FM long enough to provide your team with a decent graveyard!

Let’s assume they succeed – no small assumption, I know – and see what happens.

Let’s assume total casualty rates at each base for the losing side, and some losses for the victorious side. The Horde at LM, FM and Alliance at BS are sent back to the spawn points. This is numerically worse for the Alliance (they lost more at BS) but they hold the strategic advantage at the Farm.

All rez vectors are still plausibly pointing back to the spawn points, but ST is about to flip.

Horde sends 2 from BS to ST. Alliance sends 3 from LM to reinforce FM.

Here’s where it starts getting interesting. I’m going to focus just on a few of the Horde rez vectors here, because once ST flips the blue team will all go there.

The Horde attacking ST are going to be in trouble. They are going to meet the rez wave coming out of Trollbane Hall and get steamrolled – but because there are no red graveyards yet, they’ll go all the way back across the map.

The Iron Triangle junction between LM, BS and FM is another place to watch. Farm will be under attack, there will be a lot of attention on it from the Horde. BS will split its defense, sending 2. The rez wave will come at it from the other side.

If the Alliance is smart or bloodthirsty, LM will send most of its troops to Farm to counter the BS reinforcements.

The key to notice is that the Horde is still sending all casualties away from a defensible node in this scenario.

Here’s the map about 30 seconds later, or around 1:45-2:00 into the battle. The second tier of nodes convert and the Horde finally gets some graveyards on the map.

The problem is now that they’re split across the map at the Farm. Almost half of their team has rez vectors pointing to the Defiler’s Den, while the rest are pointing to BS or GM. If the Alliance meets the rez wave on the GY side of Farm, they’ll keep sending the Horde back to the spawn point. The BS flag is pretty far away from the Farm, so the Horde really need to be near the Iron Triangle junction to be sent back to BS.

And if they do that, chances are pretty high that they’re not fighting at the flag, they’re fighting in the road.

This is a bad situation. If you are attacking from BS and get too close to the flag (like you should) but fail, you’ll get sent to the corner of the map to the spawn point. In that case more of your team will be moving out of the effective field of play to the edges, weakening BS further and further.

I see this split a lot. A fast counterassault on the Stables or Farm can really throw off a team’s rhythm and they won’t even know why – they just know that people aren’t getting the job done, that Farm/Stables is a problem point, can’t someone please take a base?

The split can be overcome, but it’s not easy. The people who got sent to the spawn points might have died because of overwhelming numbers, but they might also have died from getting outmatched. The attack vector out of the gate is somewhat weak (no cover, highly visible approach, easy for defenders to engage away from the flag.)  There are times that being in the spawn point can work in your favor – if you have 3 people repeatedly rezzing there, and 5-8 opponents holding the node, those 3 players are creating a statistical imbalance elsewhere on the map by getting farmed.

This goes back to one of the important points about Arathi Basin – you have to win the individual matchups. AB rewards pure PvP play all over the map. If your team can’t take a base with a 1:1 matchup, then they’re going to lose no matter what kind of strategy you have.

FIGHTING IN THE ROAD

It happens to all of us. Sometimes you get jumped, sometimes you are trying to defend something, sometimes you just see red and stop thinking, and then … you’re fighting in the road.

Away from a base, away from a flag.

Keep in mind that fighting in the road can be a viable defensive strategy under the right conditions. If others are holding the base and staying at the flag, then killing the enemy out in the road doesn’t pose much risk, and your own death should put you back at the base in a reasonable amount of time to help defend. The attackers are intercepted well away from the flag and have no opportunity to assault the base.

However, for attackers it’s a pretty bad idea. You’ll get sent back to a base you control, you’re nowhere near the flag, and even if you defeat this defender, they’re going to show back up in 30 seconds at the base you’re assaulting.

Avoid it if you can on offense; the rez vectors don’t favor you.

Fight at the flag, instead.

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Tactical Graveyard Control at Arathi Basin Nodes

This is the second post in my series on resurrection vectors and graveyard controls in Warcraft’s battlegrounds. I should just go ahead and admit that this is going to be a series; it is. I don’t have a catchy name for it yet, but why wait for a title? Let’s just dive right on in and talk about Arathi Basin.

The resurrection vectors of Arathi Basin are to the nearest controlled graveyard, including the original spawn point. These vectors have tactical implications for skirmishes at individual nodes and strategic importance when dealing with troop movement. In this post I’ll focus on the tactics at each node; we’ll talk about the Iron Triangle in the next one.

Control of the node’s flag gives your team control of the node’s graveyard. Each node starts off uncontrolled, but clicking on the flag assaults the base, turning the flag grey. The graveyards come into play one minute after the initial assault, when the node is captured and the flag turns blue or red. From this point on, they work like a standard graveyard with rez waves at the spirit healer.

Each node’s flags are on the other side of some object or building preventing the resurrection wave from knowing exactly what is happening at the flag while dead, and requiring them to run around the obstacle to get to the flag. There are thus two components to the local rez vector that have to be considered:

  • Casualties/reinforcements are blind to the situation at the flag; they don’t know if someone is assaulting it or not.
  • Defenders will always have at least two routes to return to the flag1. The route chosen will determine how quickly they get it back in sight, as well as which side of the offense they can attack.

Because defenders have to run a route to get back in sight of the flag, attackers have  additional time to allow attackers to assault the base. These lines of sight are important!

The above diagram is a general representation of each node. You might have to flip the orientation a bit, or change the building shape and add in chickens or undead horses or something, but it’ll suffice for a discussion on graveyard control. The routes aren’t equal length to run, but it’s more important to get to where you can disrupt the attackers than necessarily get back to the flag.

From a tactical standpoint, the ideal placement for defense is near the flag to prevent capture, no matter where the attack comes from. Fight at the flag! is the rallying cry of introductory battleground manuals everywhere, but the real tactic is:

  1. Establish a buffer zone between the flag and the attackers. Engage them away from the flag to deny them opportunities to assault the base.
  2. Position so rez waves reinforce the flag first.

Creating this zone of control is important and takes practice. You don’t want to stack on top of the flag, but you don’t want to be too far away from it. Teams should get used to moving forward and engaging the enemy away from the flag without getting pulled off it.2

Furthermore, the direction reinforcements come will either help or hinder your flag defense. Having rez waves passing by the flag to get back into combat is far safer than having them never see the flag.

Let’s take a look at a flag-side assault.

Attacks on the flag side of the node generally put the defenders in a good position. They are able to watch the flag and have a few people cluster near it while sending DPS off to meet the assault at a moderate distance. Lines of sight are usually pretty clear on both sides, and rez waves know which direction they need to be heading to get to either the flag or to battle quickly.

Flag-side assaults are often slugfests and death matches.

A more interesting tactic is to assault the graveyard side directly, with the intent to both pull defenders away from the flag and neutralize rez waves quickly.

Attackers can (and should) use the resurrection vector at the node to their advantage by drawing defenders into this kind of fight. Pushing towards the graveyard:

  • Blocks line of sight to the flag for many defenders
  • Focuses attention away from the flag
  • Allows attacks on newly-resurrected characters, when they are unbuffed and unprepared

Establishing this kind of control allows attackers to really use the rez vector of the node against the defense. Remember, the whole point of using rez vectors is to send your opponents where they don’t want to be, where they will be ineffective. Hitting the GY side allows you do shift all defenders away from the flag.

Shifting defenders away from the flag means you’ve opened up the Ninja Zone. The reason that people like me yell FIGHT AT THE FLAG! so much is because if you’re not near the flag, not looking at the flag, not remembering that the flag is the really really most super important part of the entire node, then it’s open for the enemy to take. Ninja: doesn’t need to be a rogue! 

One thing I like about Arathi Basin is how the resurrection vectors don’t dictate the entire battleground’s strategy. There are a lot of different ways to take a base. There are a lot of responses to which route you should take in which situation, depending on your class, role, and the position of your opponents. It’s not wrong to assault flag-side! There are plenty of ways that it can work – one of my favorite strategies is “ride in and kill everyone in sight, take the node before they rez.” Another one is “hit defenders with CC chains while standing/healing at the flag, click it often, steal the node while the defenders are still alive.”

But I also like that I have to ask questions like: where are the reinforcements going to come from? How long do I have before the next rez wave arrives? Am I getting pulled off the flag? Is it worth it to get pulled off a little bit?

I think it’s interesting how the answers change from battle to battle, from skirmish to skirmish.

Next time, I’ll zoom out a bit and look at the strategic uses of rez vectors and graveyard control in Arathi Basin.

—-

(1) Even the Gold Mine allows two ways to return to combat – the path down the mine, and the path to the mine roof. GM suffers a bit in that the second route doesn’t put you on a radically different attack vector; ideally, you could turn right after leaving the graveyard and approach the flag from the Stables side.    

(2) In an earlier post, PvP Playbook: Pulling Defenders Off Flags, I talked about how you can pull defenders off a flag just by letting them engage you at maximum distance – basically goading defenders to fight in the road. Don’t be that defender.

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Resurrection Vectors and Graveyard Control in Warsong Gulch

Character death and resurrection vectors are key strategic elements of Warcraft’s Battlegrounds; unlike the Arena deathmatch format, battleground combatants can and will die multiple times throughout the course of a match.

Death in a battleground is like being sent to a penalty box. Characters are removed from their present position, placed somewhere else on the map, and then prevented from rejoining their team for a set period of time. It’s possible for a teammate to put someone back on the map where they were through a resurrection spell, but once in the penalty box, the character’s new location is permanent.1

I call this movement of players across the map through death and rebirth their resurrection vector. Understanding these vectors is essential to understanding the overall strategy of a battleground.

WHERE DO WE GO WHEN WE DIE?

Where characters go when they die in a battleground is not a metaphysical question; they go to the graveyard to be resurrected by a Spirit Healer in 30 seconds or less. This brief visit to the afterworld is often punctuated by the cries of the fellow damned bemoaning their fate and lack of heals or peels2, but – aside from this cacophony in /bg – our hero’s katabasis is brief and uneventful. Thirty seconds to reflect on your situation, check the map, and then it’s back to work again.

Because death only temporarily removes characters from play in battlegrounds, resurrection vectors are really the primary weapon in disrupting your opponent’s plans while achieving the goals of the match. Knowing where you and your opponents will end up dictates the answers to strategic decisions like:

  1. Which graveyards should we seek to control, and which should we ignore?
  2. Where is the best place to engage the enemy?
  3. Where should our forces go next?

Each battleground has unique resurrection vectors. Some maps have very logical vectors and symmetric graveyards; others are asymmetric or follow nonstandard rules designed to balance Rated PvP.

One constant is that Spirit Healers resurrect in waves based on a timer. Every 30 seconds a graveyard could potentially spit out multiple reinforcements for a given area. These resurrection waves can turn the tide of a specific battle – or get destroyed by a well-organized graveyard camp.

While the general principle is easy to understand, each battleground is unique and requires individual evaluation. Over the next few posts I’ll be going over specific resurrection vectors in different battlegrounds, using topological maps to illustrate how they can be used to your team’s advantage.

Let’s start with the most zen of all battlegrounds – a little conflict in Ashenvale and the North Barrens that we like to call…

WARSONG GULCH

Warsong Gulch has the simplest map of resurrection vectors because each side has only one graveyard.

No matter where someone dies on the map, they go to their team’s graveyard.

There are several important strategic facts about the WSG graveyard to consider:

  1. The graveyard placement is symmetrical for each faction.
  2. The graveyard is on the stage right side of the map. (From the home base of each faction looking out over midfield, it will be to the right.) This means that resurrection waves are going to reinforce that side first and stage left (ramp) last.
  3. The graveyard is much closer to the home base of each faction than to their opponent’s base.
  4. The graveyard was changed in patch 4.1 to only allow characters to only allow exits onto midfield. They cannot run back directly to the base, the ramp area, or even the ledge above the graveyard without some kind of assistance.
  5. Characters in the graveyard can be attacked from above and below. There is no immunity from camping.

Some of the strategies we can derive from the resurrection vectors are obvious. Defenders have the edge in their base because reinforcements will arrive quicker than the offense, Flag Carriers should favor runs down the Ramp over going straight through the Graveyard.

I’ve written before on graveyard camping in Warsong Gulch and how it is, sadly, strategically sound. Looking at the resurrection vectors gives you an understanding of why it’s so effective:

You see how pressuring the graveyard opens up half the map for the FC to run unimpeded? That is why graveyard camping works. Pushing the offensive control zone (the blue slanted lines) towards the enemy graveyard means that when opponents die, they are sent into a situation where their movement is restricted. They have to break the blockade before they can do anything about the FC, by which time it’s usually too late.

The single graveyard of WSG creates a resurrection bottleneck that rewards camping. You don’t have to camp the graveyard per se, but setting up a strong line of offense at midfield and pushing it towards the graveyard:

  1. Establishes a zone for the FC to run.
  2. Removes the opponent’s ability to reinforce their offense.
  3. Eventually removes their ability to establish an offense.

Establishing and maintaining that blockade zone around the graveyard establishes control of the map. Even if a few opponents get by, they will face poor odds isolated from their teammates, and their resurrection vector sends them right back into the blockade.

Next time, we’ll look at a more complicated set of rez vectors: the shifting graveyards of Arathi Basin.

—-

(1) Admittedly, it’s not an entirely permanent relocation. Corpse Running in Battlegrounds describes how running back to your corpse can screw up resurrection vectors, and is sometimes the difference between keeping or losing a node.  

(2) “First to complain, least skilled. No exceptions.” Dusk of Uldum, How to BG, 2009.

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Infographic: How To Win Tol Barad

At the beginning of Cataclysm, Tol Barad dominated the PvP scene. It was a tough battleground – hard to capture, easy to defend and dominate, and with rewards which were needed for both PvE and PvP.  It was the source of a lot of balancing issues, rumored exploits, and a win-trading debacle all in the first few months of this sad island’s existence. Factions could, and did, hold the fortress for weeks at a time, giving raiding guilds a significant advantage over their competition on that server. It was a contentious place.

I wrote a guide to it – How To Win Tol Barad - which, in retrospect, I think is the best battleground analysis I did in Cataclysm. Writing it represented a turning point for me, personally. I set aside all the complaints I’d heard, all the frustrations I had with losing it repeatedly, and all the scandals around this battleground. They didn’t matter anymore. They were excuses standing in the way of a basic, unshakable truth - there is a way to win this. Yes, it is hard. Yes, the odds are against the attackers. But it can be done.

I stopped making excuses and got down to work.

The opening paragraphs of that guide were directly inspired by JFK’s speech where he declared we would go to the moon. I’d heard recordings of it as a child, and I watched it again when working on that guide. It’s stuck with me with its simple message about why we strive to do the impossible:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

In the face of failure, in the face of impossible odds – we persevere and strive to overcome any challenge. Even if it’s just in a video game.

You can imagine my astonishment when I discovered that Lilpeanut from Heal Over Time had gone and captured not only the strategic points of that guide, but also that all-important attitude of indomitability, with a Visual Guide to How to Win Tol Barad:

Visual Notes: How To Win Tol Barad from Cynwise's Blog

The Godmother from ALT:ernative had suggested that Lilpeanut tackle my Tol Barad guide as part of her series of infographics, and I’m really glad that she did. I love it. (“I’m not leaving!”)

Check out more of Lilpeanut’s Visual Guides (including some great ones on being an Arena Priest, oh, I love those!) on her flickr photo stream.

Thank you both so much!

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Podcast Alert: Darkmoon Herald Ep. 13, Lock and Load

And now for something a little different.

I was on the Darkmoon Herald podcast a few weeks ago with Kevin and Apsana, and it’s finally available for download! I had a lot of fun doing this show – it’s a pity my schedule doesn’t leave me more time for recording. (Perhaps if I didn’t talk incessantly on these things, it might be easier to find time. :D)

Check it out online or on iTunes. Thank to the Darkmoon Herald crew for having me on, it was a blast!

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XP-Off Battleground Exploit Needs Fixing

I’m sadly starting to see more of  a pretty simple exploit that has been around for a while. It’s usable in any of the leveling brackets, but appears to be most common in the 10-14 and 75-79 brackets – anywhere gear differences are potentially very pronounced.

The exploit allows someone to turn off XP while queuing for a regular battleground. Normally, turning off experience places a character in an xp-off battleground with other characters who have done the same. Gear is assumed to be of very high quality in these brackets, and players are assumed to know how to play both their class and the battlegrounds with skill. The exploit allows them to queue with leveling characters, giving them a serious advantage.

The advantage isn’t the problem; any player can choose to lock XP for a while, gear up, farm consumables, get great enchants, and then go to town in a normal battleground. You can do this with disposable heroes, you can do it to learn your class better, you can do it because you like winning in PvP. Warcraft PvP is, in many cases, a game of gear. Locking to gear up and unlocking to PvP is part of that game.

No, the problem is that the exploit deliberately sidesteps the XP lock to allow characters to enter a leveling battleground but avoid gaining experience. It’s cheating. It takes advantage of a delay between turning XP off and queuing for a battleground to get a twink into a leveling bracket. They become immune to the experience gain, even accidental experience gain, that moves people along in these brackets. There’s a level 10 toon on my Alliance server with “of the Alliance” – 100k Honorable Kills – who got it entirely by farming battlegrounds with this exploit. It’s one thing to AFK out of a battleground before each flag cap to avoid experience gains. It’s another thing entirely to cheat so you can cap and win as many BGs as you like because you’re immune to experience.

This exploit is in the same category as the Arathi Basin Fast Start exploit from a while ago – deliberately circumventing the explicit rules of the game. There’s not even a gray area here about how everyone can do it – you need to download an add-on for it, and no, you can google it yourself, I’m not linking to it.

But I hate when things like this happen – it’s bad for leveling PvPers, it’s bad for twink brackets, it’s bad for everyone - but the folks who are cheating. There are a lot of good players in the twink community, players who enjoy the thrill of competing with the best gear you can get for a bracket. I find higher quality battlegrounds in the 19s and 70s and 80s than I ever do at 85.

Yeah, I get it. I get that it’s fun to take a geared toon into a 10-14 bracket and rock it. I get that it’s fun to deck yourself out in Cata greens and kick ass in the 75-79 bracket. It’s fun winning. It’s fun being overpowered.

But play by the same rules as everyone else, for pity’s sake.

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Play Now, Not Then

This too shall pass.

I think about that proverb a lot.

I remember how much pressure I felt two years ago to see everything in WoW before Cataclysm changed it all. It was this palpable weight on my mind, this knowledge that it was all going away.

I had been playing just long enough to have seen enough to know how much else there was to see, but not long enough to have seen it yet. It was my first expansion transition, but also one where the changes to the game outweighed any changes I might have expected to my characters. I knew that there were changes coming to how I would play, but I didn’t really pay them much mind. I had two goals – Ambassador and Kingslayer – and getting those two titles on two very different characters helped me put Wrath to bed and get mentally ready for Cataclysm.

Those titles don’t mean very much anymore. Their value has passed, as the changes in the game made them easier to get. But I remember those accomplishments fondly, and I value them still. I’m glad that I did them then, and didn’t wait for Cataclysm.

Over the past few months I have quietly set aside my twinks and reclaimed my warlock main, Cynwise. There’s a certain natural flow to playing her that I don’t have on any other character, even after almost a year of disuse.  I’m not near Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to master her yet, but I’m working on it. I find myself enjoying PvP on her again – something I hadn’t expected – and that I no longer bemoan her professions or her gear or how Rogues love to gank her.

We just play. It’s uneasy at times; I find I miss healing any BG that lacks a healer, and I tend to tank old raids without a viable tank spec. But by and large, we just play. I’m slowly working on Battlemaster and Justicar, but they’re more an excuse to PvP than goals for Cataclysm.

I realized, though, that there’s a fundamental difference between where I was at the end of Wrath, and where I am now at the end of Cataclysm. Pre-Cataclysm, I wanted to see the game before it went away, and it didn’t matter who I saw it on. Pre-Mists of Pandaria, I want to enjoy playing a Warlock as they are now, flawed yet challenging, before they go away.

This class that I love – it’s going to change in Mists. It’s going to change a lot. I can look ahead and go, I think that I will like the new Warlocks – but I don’t know. I thought I would love Cataclysm, but I didn’t. I don’t think I really even liked it very much, as a whole. There were parts I loved – many of the revamped leveling zones – and there were things I enjoyed well enough – but the sum total wasn’t what I anticipated two years ago.

So I look at the changes to Warlocks with very guarded optimism. I know leveling will be better, but beyond that – I think they’ll work out okay, but I really don’t know. I think I’ll have fun with the specs, but I don’t know which ones will click with me, which ones will work in PvP, which ones will be fun to quest with. I don’t know.

I do know that the specs I enjoy now are going away in a few months. There is a countdown timer running on them. Time is running out for me to play the way I’ve learned over the past few years.

I don’t know if what’s coming will be better or worse. I hope it’s better, but I don’t know. I’m afraid it will be worse, but I don’t know.

I know it will be different, and this too shall pass.

So I’m playing Warlock now, because I enjoy it now.

Changes will come soon enough. They always do.

It’s ironic that I spent so much time in Cataclysm trying to freeze things in place, trying to deny that change should happen, was happening. I built over a dozen twinks – characters locked in various XP brackets – this expansion, each working on different Best In Slot lists, frozen in time. My surprise main character for 4.2 and much of 4.3 was my level 70 Druid Cynli, who is about as geared as I can make her for her primary role.

Cynli was one of many attempts by me to thumb my nose at Heraclitus. All things are change, that ancient greek philosopher maintained, and yet I tried to step into the same river over and over again. I was upset that Cynwise had changed beneath me, that not only had the foundations of the world been torn asunder, but my vehicle for experiencing them had, too.

Was it too much change for me to deal with? Honesty compels me to admit that it might have been.

The Mists Beta is full of all sorts of scenes like the one above. Classes change dramatically without warning. Abilities work, or don’t work, or kinda work, or have interesting bugs that might not really be what was intended – or maybe they might! It’s hard to say.

But as time marches on, and class design starts to solidify and Blizzard developers start making balance passes with the new mechanics, it hits me more and more – I don’t really know what this game will be like in the future. I don’t know what my favored class will really be like.

It’s not going to be like it was in Burning Crusade, or Wrath. There’s no going back.

But there’s also no skipping ahead – no hurrying up the expansion so I can get to leveling my baby Horde Warlock, no trying out the Glyph of Demon Hunting as an off tank in retro raids, no cool new glyphs or simplified rotations or wondering what Haunt is really for.

There’s just the Warlocks of now, the Warlock class I know how to play.

Yes. I know that this, too, shall pass.

So I’ll enjoy it while I can, and take the changes as they come.

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