Tag Archives: Alterac Valley

Making School of Hard Knocks Work for You: PvP Achievement Synergy

 

So here’s the situation: hordes of non-PvPers are going to be swarming the BGs next week trying for the School of Hard Knocks achievement. Their presence gives you the chance to work ok a lot of other battleground achievements. Helping both sides out can have unique benefits, as behavior in the BGs is going to be radically different during Children’s Week.

HELP THEM, HELP YOURSELF

Here are some examples of how helping people get the SoHK achievement can work towards your own PvP achievement hunt.

Warsong Gulch

The normal nice thing to do is to have one person go to the other flag room, see the opposing team dancing in there with their orphans out, pick up the flag and drop it, allowing everyone to return flags. (Returning a flag is when you click on a loose flag, sending it back to the flag room.)

If you are an experienced PvPer, you want to encourage this kind of behavior, because you can hang out and work on:

You also provide real defense to PvE players if the other team comes roaring in with no intention of playing nice.

Arathi Basin

Trading a node back and forth between sides can be beneficial for both parties. If you hang out by a blank node, dancing with your orphan out, you can hopefully signal the other team that you’re there to help them by defending the flag – allowing them to assault it over and over again.

Being the defender contributes to:

Tagging along with the orphan crowd contributes to:

The trick there is that you have to find someone willing to trade the node with you, which seems less common than in WSG.

Alterac Valley

Much like Arathi Basin, not everyone notices that you might be a friendly defender, willing to recap the tower and give the opposing team a turn. But if you find a group who won’t kill you on sight, you can work on:

I’ve found this one difficult in the past because not everyone realizes that a lone defender might be there to assist and then leave. But it’s worth a shot.

Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm is perhaps the toughest BG to help other players with. If you’re experienced with running the flag, you can take it from mid and run it for SoHK people, but you don’t get anything from doing so. You have to either cap the flag or kill the flag carrier to contribute to any achievements.

Your best bet to play nice is to watch and see if someone is trying to grief their own side – someone who takes the flag and hides away with it, refusing to cap, that sort of thing. (Refusing to cap is normally a legitimate tactic, but it’s a dick move during Children’s Week if you control mid.)

Take out the griefer and you work towards:

Note that you don’t have to return the flag – just kill the FC and it counts.

It’s your call whether to go after the opposing team’s FC for this achievement. Personally, I think you should, but if you’re feeling really nice you can let them go … while capping 4 nodes and working on Eye of the Storm Domination.

WINNING AT ALL COSTS

I think there’s a strong argument to be made for helping other players is more beneficial to chasing achievements this week than sticking to the rules of each BG. But if you insist on playing to win, you can still work on some achievements. Winning games is a good one – show people how to play the BG once the achievement hounds are finished. There are a few (like Stormtrooper) which can be done to help your team win.

The key to surviving Children’s Week is to keep a long-term perspective on your goals. Sure, you can get frustrated by all the under-geared achievement seekers.

But you can also look at this as an opportunity to make some headway on your own achievements.

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A Brief History of Alterac Valley

Foury @ Spinebreaker’s “A Brief History of Alterac Valley” is a gem of a post on the official forums.

Over the years, you have made a significant number of changes to Alterac Valley. Some changes appear to have been made in isolation. For example, maybe you felt that there were too many NPC’s before patch 1.8, so you conjured up a mighty avalance and buried the treacherous Syndicate stronghold. Other changes, such as the introduction of reinforcements, were in response to problems caused by other additions like the Mark of Honor system.

Unfortunately, each individual change has brought about such a drastic reshaping of this battleground that its purpose is now virtually unrecognizable when compared to what the initial vision seems to have been. Even the isolated changes became catalysts for a chain reaction that has, in the opinion of a significant number of players, gutted Alterac Valley and made it totally un-fun to play in.

We have been engaged in thoughtful discussion for some time now, but I have decided to provide some additional background for players who might not know exactly what they were missing when AV was truly a legendary experience.

He then goes through a detailed history of Alterac Valley, one that lives up to its promise of giving the reader a thorough understanding of how the somewhat fragmented battleground that exists today came to be. It is a long read, but it is exceptionally good, and I suggest you read all of it. Even the poem.

Starting with post #8, Foury then goes into a detailed proposal for how to change Alterac Valley to restore it to its former glory. Remove it from the random battleground rotation, lower the honor per minute, make significant restorations to the environment, make quality of life changes – make it cohesive and relevant PvPvE again. There’s a lot of attention to the little details of AV, things that have always bugged me (the location of the trinket teleport, the lack of owls in Van’s chamber) that shows that this is the work of a careful though.

Seriously. This is a good post; go read it. You can agree with it, or disagree with it, but you will learn something about Alterac Valley.

 

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The School Of Hard Knocks

The [School of Hard Knocks] is a relatively straightforward Children’s Week holiday achievement: perform 4 tasks in the battlegrounds of Azeroth while your impressionable orphan ward is watching. Welcome to the World of Warcraft, kid!

This is also the holiday achievement that causes the most stress to non-PvPers. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s the most hated achievement in the entire What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been meta-achievement – hated more passionately than all the RNG-dependent ones, or any of the other achievements which brings players into the battlegrounds. It is hated because it’s the only achievement in the series that requires you to complete battleground objectives during a fight. You have to play the battlegrounds to complete it.

If you don’t PvP, I completely understand how intimidating this can be. The School of Hard Knocks takes you into an unfamilliar activity which you don’t like doing and asks you to compete against your fellow teammates while other players actively try to kill you. The environment is strange, your teammates may vocally resent your presence, and you are competing with other achievement seekers for the same goal.

When you put it that way, School of Hard Knocks can seem like a nightmare.

But you can do it.

I’m not going to patronize you and say “oh, this is easy!” The School of Hard Knocks is not easy if you don’t know what you’re doing. Heck, it’s not trivial even if you do know what you’re doing!  It takes a good attitude, preparation, research, and a willingness to fail. Sometimes, to fail repeatedly.

But with planning and perseverance, you can get the job done and impress the heck out of your orphan.  And yourself, too.

Ready?  Let’s begin.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

The most important thing about this achievement is to ALWAYS have your orphan out when in the battlegrounds. Put the orphan whistle on your action bars and make sure that orphan sees everything. You don’t want to accomplish a goal and then discover you forgot to summon your orphan, and got no credit as a consequence.

BATTLEGROUND BASICS

Behind every die-hard PvPer there was once a new player who stumbled around the battlegrounds, blinking in total confusion. Don’t let any of the nerdrage you hear in /bg convince you otherwise — it’s okay to not know what you’re doing when you first zone in. It takes at least a few runs for the map and objectives to make sense, and a few more before you can really start contributing to a battleground.

So my first suggestion is to visit the battlegrounds before the Children’s Week holiday begins and scout them out. Don’t worry about accomplishing anything, don’t fight if you don’t want to, but get in there and figure out where things are. Where is the flag in Eye of the Storm? How does flag running and flag returns work in Warsong Gulch? Where are the towers and bunkers in Alterac Valley, and how do I climb up them?

If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this advice. Get familiar with the battlegrounds before you are under pressure to do something with them. While videos can help, there is no substitute for having run your virtual self over the course, so when the time comes and you are actually competing with others to finish, you will already have the edge of knowing what to do.

The second basic suggestion is to come to terms with dying in a battleground. I’ve seen some excellent PvE players really struggle with this; it can be a very personal hurdle for some to overcome. If you are used to raiding, where death means someone (sometimes you) failed to do their job correctly, the frequency of PvP death can be not only alarming, but a personal indictment of failure. It’s not.

PvP deaths aren’t personal. Sometimes – often, even – there was nothing you could do about it. Shrug it off and move on. There’s no repair bill, there’s no xp penalty, just a loss of buffs and a 30 second timeout. Learn from it, yes – but don’t let it get you down.

I’m passably good at PvP, and I die a lot. Like, an average of 12 times a day. Don’t sweat death.

My third suggestion is that you don’t need gimmicks to complete this achievement. You don’t need a premade or collusion with the opposite faction in order to do these achievements. Really, you don’t. Stories of dancing flagrooms and coordinated tower recaps are all well and good, but they’re gimmicks.

What you do need is planning and perseverance. Don’t give up. Keep trying. You can do this.

Let’s go take a look at the individual battlegrounds to show you how.

ARATHI BASIN: ASSAULT A FLAG

Arathi Basin is an easy one to start with. Each node has a clickable flag at it that represents control of the node. If the flag is gray with no logo, the node is unclaimed, gray with a logo, the node has been assaulted and will be claimed soon, and a colored flag indicates the node is controlled.

Your goal is to find either an unclaimed node, or a node that the other faction has assaulted or controls, and click on the flag. Assaulting the flag is an 8 second channel, so you can be interrupted by defenders.

The simplest way to assault a flag is to ride to the closest node – Stables for Alliance, Farm for Horde – and capture that flag. This often involves competing with several other players during a normal battle, and doubly so during Children’s Week, so it involves some fast reflexes and planning.

If the competition at the closest node is too much, ditch to one of the side nodes – Lumber Mill or Gold Mine. If you’re consistently losing at Stables/Farm, stop trying for them and go for LM/GM immediately instead. Depending on the opponent’s strategy, you may encounter no resistance at all in the first rush.

Finally, if you lose out at the two side nodes, you can ride straight to the node closest to the enemy’s base – Alliance go to Farm, Horde go to Stables – and try to capture that.

If you fail in the inital rush, don’t give up. Nodes change hands all the time in Arathi Basin, so you will have plenty of chances to assault bases. Use the map to scout out which bases are under enemy control, then look for ones that are lightly defended. (Or not defended at all!) Stick with others, don’t pick a fight in the road, stay and defend nodes that are taken.

The one place I don’t recommend you go for the achievement (at least not if you don’t like PvP) is the Blacksmith. Let me repeat that:  do not go for the Blacksmith if you are at all PvP averse. The BS is seen as the critical node for most Arathi Basin strategies, so it is usually hotly contested throughout the match.

Here’s a map of Arathi Basin, with your target’s priority noted for both Horde (in red) and Alliance (in blue).

So for the Horde, it’s Farm -> Lumber Mill / Gold Mine -> Stables -> Blacksmith.  For Alliance, it’s Stables -> Lumber Mill / Gold Mine -> Farm -> Blacksmith.

There are a few tricks that can help you rush a flag. Mount and start running against the gate before it opens. Aim at the flag but be near the center when the gate opens to get out quickly. When you approach the flag, have your mouse free for clicking – I switch to keyboard driving in those last few seconds. And spam your clicks until the channel starts! Don’t just click once.

Here’s a video with an example of Alliance taking Stables (the easy way) and Farm (the harder way.)

Ride hard and click fast!

ALTERAC VALLEY: ASSAULT A TOWER

So now that you know how to assault a node in Arathi Basin, it’s time to move on to the frozen battlefield of Alterac Valley.

Your job is to assault one of the four towers or bunkers before anyone else gets there first. The towers (and bunkers, I use them interchangeably) have flags at their top level that need to be clicked. The towers do not change ownership like nodes in Arathi Basin; instead, once they have spent 4 minutes being contested, the towers are destroyed. They can be defended before they are destroyed, which allows the possibility of trading assaults, but in most battles this just doesn’t happen. You should proceed with the idea that you have 4 shots to assault a tower each AV, and after that it’s time to farm honor. So be ready to run AV a few times before you get the achievement credit.

There are four towers: two on the far side of the Field of Strife (a large open plain in the center of the map), and two clustered near the enemy leader at the far end of the map.

If you are Alliance, you will start at the top of the map and need to ride south to reach Iceblood Tower (blue 1), Tower Point (2), and the two Frostwolf Towers (3). Horde start at the south end of the map and ride north to Stonehearth Bunker (red 1), Icewing Bunker (2), and the two Dun Baldar Bunkers (3).

The location of the towers dictates the three strategies you can adopt.

  1. Closest tower first, then rollover. Ride hard to the closest tower (1: Iceblood Tower/Stonehearth Bunker) and try to get it first. If it’s taken, move to the next (2), then the final two (3). This method has a lot of competition but has some resiliency built in – you give yourself 4 chances, and you might get lucky on any given one of them. The drawback is that your chances on the subsequent tries are lowered because of the time you spent at the previous towers.
  2. Ride straight to the second tower (2: Tower Point/Icewing Bunker) and capture it, ride on to the end if you fail. I like this option because it has less competition than the closest tower, but only delays you a little on your way to the final two targets. The delay is less because these two towers are along your riding path to the enemy base, while the closest ones are not.
  3. Ride straight to the enemy fortress and capture the towers (3) there. I like this option a lot, but you have to know your route well and be able to check the map to see where your competition is not. You have to choose your target as you leave the bottlenecks (3: East/West Frostwolf Towers, North/South Dun Baldar Bunkers) and you only get one shot. There is no recovery if you choose wrong; you have to try again next battle. So while it’s risky, it also has a very good chance of success.

No matter which method you choose, there are some preparations you should make.

  • First, practice getting up the tower stairs. Horde have it a little easier here, as bunkers are less dizzying than towers to climb quickly, but both sides need to practice.
  • Second, running speed is everything. Make sure you have speed enchants on your boots and Swiftness potions on hand – and practice climbing towers with both active! Unlike AB, where most movement is mounted, AV assaults have an unmounted component so speed boosts will help. (Dont forget to practice with the speed boosts active, or you will launch yourself off the stairs.)
  • Third, practice running the map. See where people go in the pack to find all the little tricks of terrain that confer an advantage, and use them! Your goal is speed, and lots of it. Every second counts.  I’ve included some videos below to show some of them, but there is nothing like practicing yourself.
  • Fourth, practice fast mounting out of the cave. Unlike AB or EotS, you can’t start mounted. You need to move slightly out of the cave and start mounting. That initial mount will either put you at the head of the pack (and in a good position for the nearest tower) or the middle (better to go longer.)  The way to do this well is run just past where the rock ends and the normal ground begins and mount up.

Alterac Valley is big.  REALLY big.  And it has an asymmetrical map — the Horde and Alliance have very different experiences in AV — so I went ahead and recorded two videos to help familiarize you with the terrain and show how this all works in practice, one from each faction’s perspective.

Here’s an Alliance-side tour:

And here’s the Horde-side tour:

Alterac Valley can be a lot of fun, but with 39 other players shooting for 4 towers, this task is a bit more challenging than Arathi Basin.  But it’s still pretty easy compared to the next two.

On to Outland and Eye of the Storm.

EYE OF THE STORM: CAPTURE THE FLAG

Eye of the Storm is a mixture of Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, with four bases (one on each corner) and a flag in the middle. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to take that flag and capture it at one of the bases your side controls. You control a base by having enough people of your faction hang around there long enough to capture it.

If you’ve never been here before, the map is straightforward:

The black squares are the 4 nodes you can control: Mage Tower, Fel Reaver Ruin, Blood Elf Tower, and Draenei Ruins.  The white circle is the flag in the center of the battleground.

There are really only two ways to get this achievement.

  1. Grab the flag yourself and run it to the base. This is pretty straightforward, if somewhat hectic.
  2. Guard a base, have someone else on your team grab the flag and run it to you, but you capture the flag. This requires you to communicate with your teammates, and for them to cooperate with you. The runner takes the flag almost to the base you control and drops it; you pick it up and capture it.

The first method is relatively straightforward. Go to the middle of the map, fight off the enemy, and grab the flag as soon as it spawns. Then run like the wind to the nearest friendly base you control.

The second method relies more upon your powers of persuasion. Let people know in BG chat that you are here for the achievement, and that you want to cap the flag but would rather defend a base. Ask if flag runners will let you cap it. Many will. Whisper them when they pick it up where you are at and let them know if your base is clear.

Here’s where working together with other people will really pay off. Guildmates, server mates, friends you quested with back in the day — if you can go in as a group you can focus on spreading around the flag captures until everyone has one.

The biggest problem with this achievement is that the flag is noob bait. It can help you win Eye of the Storm, but the better strategy is to take 3 of the 4 bases and hold them while letting your opponents run the flag to try to catch up. (Hint: it doesn’t work.)

What often happens, as Ihra describes so eloquently, is that the battle sometimes settles into each side holding 2 bases and fighting in a swirling fight over the flag in the center of the map. If you’re PvP averse, your best bet at that point is to hold one of the bases and adopt the second strategy (asking someone else to let you cap it.)

Here’s how it looks in practice:

There’s really no secret recipe for this task, just persistence, perseverance, and tenacity. Keep at it until you get the flag, and then run like the wind.  Your orphan will keep up!

WARSONG GULCH: RETURN A DROPPED FLAG

The Warsong Gulch achievement sounds quite hard, but is easy if you play the battle as intended. Your task is simple — return your flag to your base once an enemy has dropped it. Normally, this is done by killing the enemy flag carrier (EFC), which makes them drop it. But there are all sorts of gimmicky plans to let the enemy take the flag, point to your orphan, and have them drop it repeatedly, and you know what?

I hate to say it, but sometimes those gimmicks work.  Because Warsong Gulch is the smallest battleground, with only 10 players per side, your chance of getting a premade like that is actually pretty high.

I try to always talk about the battlegrounds as they are, not as I’d like them to be. And the likelihood of you finding an easy WSG during Children’s Week is good. But if you don’t, and you find yourself chasing the EFC all over the map, let me give you some tips on how to get that flag back.

The first is that you have to know where they are going before you can catch them. Your map helps immensely here, since your flag will show up on it. By watching it you can learn where they have gone.

There are three common escape patterns for the EFC — the roof, the flag room (FR), and the graveyard (GY). Each has characteristics you can pick up on the map with a little bit of practice.

First, the roof:

The roof is the best initial defensive position for the EFC. From the roof there is only one entrance and two very large escape paths, as well as a quick route to a flag capture. Most EFCs go to the roof first.

There are two ways to spot a roof runner: the little bend they make as they run up the hill to the roof (which looks like a ? or a shepherd’s crook) and that they tend to hug the front side of the base. The bend is the easiest to spot, since the only time someone runs in that area they are going up to the roof. There is no other reason to go there.

Second up is the flag room, or the FR. Some runners like to hide in the little room in the corner for protection, others like to be ready for an instant cap by standing on the flag spawn point. There are three ways into the FR, as so:

As they approach their base, they will either go straight up the tunnel (the entrance is that funny structure in the middle of the map) or up the ramp on the side, which means they will pass in a wide curve in front of the structure. These are called out as “EFC going tun” and “EFC going ramp.”

The tunnel is a straight shot into the flag room — just watch and make sure they don’t peel off to go up to the roof. The ramp offers two entrances, one to the second level, and one to the ground level. The quickest way is to turn immediately up to the second level entrance, which has a very straight pattern when you’re watching it on the map. If they veer off to the side, they’re going onto the ground floor.

No matter which level they’re on, the EFC in the FR usually hugs the back wall. If they’re along the edge of the map in their base, they’re probably in the FR.

Experienced flag carriers will often retreat to the Graveyard when trouble strikes. This puts them right in the resurrection vector of all their team’s reinforcements, as well as being defensible with a good escape route down to midfield. The resurrection vectors favor the defense here; your casualties will be sent across the map, while theirs from all over the map will be sent in as reinforcements.

If that’s not bad enough, there are three ways the EFC can escape: out to midfield, out the ramp, and out along the fence. Midfield runners can be especially dangerous if they can get back to the tunnel, or meet up with other forces down at midfield. Ramp runners are usually the easiest to kill, since they chose a bottleneck where your midfield reinforcements can trap them. Fence runners are experienced and you’re going to have to chase them down before they either run out to midfield, drop into the tunnel, or climb out on the tunnel roof and heal.

Here’s a video giving a tour of the battleground, showing the layout of the map, how to find the EFC, how to return a flag, and (as a special bonus) how to capture the flag.

Okay, is your mind spinning yet? Because now that you’ve found the EFC, you have to kill them.

The best way to kill an EFC is to bring a lot of your friends and gang up on ‘em. The problem is that those friends are likely going to be trying to return the flag too (unless they’re really your friends, and they know you’re there for the achievement.) So there’s competition, but just watch the EFC’s health, and be ready to click on the flag when it drops. Eventually you’ll get it.

The other way to kill an EFC is to take them out on your own.  Make sure to disable any healers who could be healing the EFC, and then focus on countering their moves while burning down their health.  I’m unqualified to give class-specific PvP advice for the majority of the classes in Warcraft, so I won’t even try. If you are having trouble with this task, try dueling with some friends to get used to individual combat.  But keep in mind some EFCs are practically unkillable without help.

As for the rest of the strategy? I will point you to Gnomeaggedon’s great WSG guide, Midfield is Not An Objective.

BE A GOOD GUEST

One of the biggest problems with the School of Hard Knocks and other achievements like it is that they bring people into battlegrounds with goals wildly different from the primary goal of the match – namely, winning. Be it honor farming or achievement chasing, players actively working at cross-purposes to winning is the bane of battleground players everywhere.  This strife between those who are there for the PvP versus those who are there for the achievements can be a large contributor to the stress around this holiday (on both sides).

It’s odd, because the School of Hard Knocks is actually not that bad for winning battlegrounds, as achievements go. While running the flag in Eye of the Storm is not an ideal strategy, it’s at least actively contributing to victory, and all the other tasks are helpful to any strategy.  There are other holiday achievements where you do nothing to help win (I Pitied The Fool) or have bad strategy (With a Little Helper from My Friends). Heck, there are plenty of PvP achievements guilty of that sin! (Hint: anything that requires you to fire a turret gun in Strand of the Ancients is bad strategy.)

So listen:  you don’t have anything to apologize for by queueing for a battleground for this achievement. It’s a valid part of the game.

But in return, I’d like to appeal to you: be a good guest.  Don’t leave once you’ve capped your flag, or when you think you can’t complete it. It’s equivalent to leaving an instance midway through because you didn’t get the drop you wanted.  Seriously, have you ever had a tank drop in the middle of a fight because they didn’t get the loot from a boss, leaving you to deal with the adds they pulled?  Don’t be that guy.

No matter your feelings on PvP or abilities in the battleground, you still have something to contribute. You’ve taken a role in a raid group, put yourself in a position where you can do some good and contribute – no matter how good or bad you think you are at PvP. Stay and defend that node you just captured. Go protect your flag carrier.  Heal like you’ve never healed before.

But please, don’t leave your teammates in the lurch and drop group.

PERSISTENCE > TALENT

There’s a famous quote from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Keep that wisdom in mind as you work on the School of Hard Knocks.  Not only do you not have to be superbly talented in PvP to accomplish these tasks, you don’t even have to be very good at PvP at all.  Seriously.  Watch the videos above and you’ll see success is putting yourself in the right place at the right time.  Well, and clicking on the right thing.   But you get the idea.

What you do have to have to succeed is persistence.  Tenacity.  Stick-to-it-ivness.  Don’t give up.  You are going to have to make multiple attempts to succeed — don’t fool yourself that it’s going to be as simple as visiting each battleground once.  Give yourself plenty of time to work on this, and keep going.  Keep going! A positive attitude will get you though this.  Don’t give up.

A FINAL WORD

Don’t forget to have your orphan out at all times in the battleground. Nothing sucks worse than finally capping that tower in AV and discovering no one was there to watch you do it.  (Trust me, I’ve done this.)

Okay, that’s all I’ve got on the School of Hard Knocks. Good luck!  Go forth and achieve!

The kids are counting on you!

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Graveyard Control in Alterac Valley

If Fight at the Flag! is the best tactical advice I can offer in the battlegrounds of Azeroth, establishing graveyard control is the best strategic advice I can give.  It’s an essential concept to understanding how battlegrounds are won and lost, but it’s not an easy one to grasp at first glance.

Graveyard control doesn’t have a catchphrase that can be shouted out in /bg chat.  It’s not something that has an easy, universal application.  Sometimes it involves making calls that seem counterintuitive, or downright crazy to other players.

But believe me when I say it’s absolutely critical to winning.

RESURRECTION VECTORS

What happens when you die?  Where do you go?

This is not a metaphysical question in the battlegrounds, but instead a matter of deep pragmatism and strategy.  When you die you aren’t taken out of the battle permanently.  Instead, you’re sent to the closest penalty box, told to go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done, and wait out your resurrection by the local friendly spirit healer.  Running back to your corpse is a bad idea, because all it takes is one enemy to loot your insignia and… poof, you’re stuck away from the graveyard with no corpse to reenter.

Resurrection waves come every 30 seconds, as the spirit healer … I don’t know, needs to recharge?  Wants to make sure you’ve thought about what you’ve done wrong?  Whatever it is, every 30 seconds the graveyards pop out another set of reborn heroes, ready to buff up and fight again.

Which graveyard you go to depends upon where you died:  you always go to the closest graveyard under your side’s control to your corpse.  This is what I call your resurrection vector – the direction you will go when you die.

Understanding where you and your teammates will go when you die is important.  Knowing where your opponents go when they die is critical.  Why?

Because by controlling which graveyards are available to them means you can relocate your opponents to places which no longer have strategic value.  You can send them away from the node you are attacking, away from the flag room, away from keep defense, all by controlling which graveyards are available to them.

In some battlegrounds, like Arathi Basin and Eye of the Storm, the graveyards are closely aligned with the respective nodes.  If the Alliance controls the Blood Elf Tower, fallen defenders will resurrect at the nearby graveyard down the slope.  If the Horde controls the Blacksmith, their dead will return from the graveyard on the other side of the building.  In other battlegrounds, like Alterac Valley and Strand of the Ancients, they are not associated with specific objectives, but are rather separate places to contest and control.

Because the graveyards are completely disassociated from the towers in Alterac Valley, let’s use AV as our example to illustrate how resurrection vectors and graveyard control works.

THE NINE GRAVEYARDS OF ALTERAC VALLEY

Alterac Valley is an epic battleground.  Seriously, it’s huge.  Including the 9 graveyards, there are 23 objectives in the battleground to be controlled or destroyed.  If we added in all the quest-related objectives, there are over 30 different objectives, but since those rarely come into play these days let’s narrow our focus to just the graveyards.

Did I mention this place was big?

Each side begins with 3 graveyards and their spawn point: Stonehearth (SHGY), Stormpike (SPGY), and the Dun Baldar Aid Station (AS) for Alliance, Iceblood (IBGY), Frostwolf (FWGY) and Frostwolf Village Relief Hut (RH) for Horde.  Snowfall Graveyard (SFGY) is neutral at the start.

It will take you at least 5 battles before you figure out where all the graveyards are while playing.  Seriously.  And then people will only speak in acronyms, so those subtle differences between SHGY and SPGY (and Icewing versus Iceblood) will still trip you up.

The two caves (Dun Baldar Pass and Rock of Durotan) are the initial spawn points.  Players will get sent back there if there are no other graveyards available.  Since they are a little special, I’ll fade them out until they become important in future diagrams.

Graveyards, like the towers in AV, need to spend 4 minutes in a neutral state before they change to the opposing side.  So for the first 4 minutes of the game, the Alliance cannot resurrect any further south than Stonehearth and the Horde is forced back to Iceblood.  This means that any casualties on the other side of the Field of Strife will come back across midfield and reset there.  The resurrection vectors during this initial time look like this:

The simple way to say all of this is, if you are Alliance:

  • If you are south of the fork in the road by the lake, you will rez at Stonehearth.
  • If you’re north of it but east of the bridge, you’re probably going to Stormpike.
  • If you’re west of the bridge in Dun Baldar, you’re going to the Aid Station.

If you are Horde, it’s a little more linear:

  • If you are north of Tower Point, you’re going to rez at Iceblood.
  • If you are south of Tower Point but north of Frostwolf Keep, you’re going to Frostwolf.
  • If you are in Frostwolf Keep, you’re rezzing at the Relief Hut.

Obviously, this all starts to change once the battle begins, depending on the strategies used by each side.  But in many cases, this initial setup is going to be the one we keep coming back to over and over again.

Let’s look at a few common AV scenarios to see how graveyard control works in practice.

THE ALTERAC BLITZ

The Alterac Blitz is when you focus upon one thing, and one thing only — killing the enemy general as quickly as possible.  Whatever defense is offered by the blitzing side is irrelevant; the key is that there is a coordinated effort to get as many people to the opposite end of the map to kill the general.  Any towers or graveyards assaulted are incidental; the key is killing the general.

The Blitz is extremely challenging at lower gear levels due to the presence of 4 very big, very angry adds surrounding the general.  Each Warmaster or Marshall is linked to 1 of the 4 towers on that side, so the more towers that are up, the more adds are in the room.

Did I mention the buff they give the general, too?  Oh yeah.  Each one gives a +25% stacking buff to the general’s health and damage.  Stacking.  So if all 4 towers are up, the boss is +144% health and damage, and there are 4 adds in the room who can’t be pulled separately.

Before ToC and ICC, the most common way to do this was to run 2 well-geared tanks, 4+ healers, and as many DPS as could fit all the way down the map, where the MT would tank the general, the OT would tank the adds, and everyone would DPS as fast as possible to get the boss kill.  As gear improved, however, single-tanking the room became possible.  Watching a single ICC-25 geared tank hold aggro on the entire room is an awesome, awesome sight.  But no matter how it’s done, the map almost always looks the same.

The only graveyard that each side usually takes is the one right next to the general: the Aid Station and Relief Hut.  And the Alliance takes Snowfall Graveyard, because it’s right next to their running path across the Field of Strife.  Someone always peels off to assault it.

However, because the Blitz is so fast, the resurrection vectors are still mostly in their initial state.  They’re a little worse for defenders if the AS and RH are actually assaulted, as any deaths will send them outside the defensive bulwarks of their respective bases, but for the offense the resurrection vectors are even worse.  You can’t continue the assault if you are suddenly 2/3rds of the map away, either at Iceblood or Stonehearth.  Any losses by the offense cannot be replaced.  Less obviously, casualties can’t switch to defense because they are 1/3rds of the field away from their own base, and (usually) the opponent is already pulling the general.  So you can’t attack, you can’t defend.

Your only real hope at that point is hoping your opponent wipes on the general as well.

The Alterac Blitz is a high risk, high reward strategy.  When it works, it’s brilliant.  And when it fails, it fails spectacularly.  It is highly dependent upon clutch performances by a few people — the tank(s) and healers — and as such is easily disrupted.  A single stealthed druid casting Typhoon at the right moment will wipe your entire Blitz.

The Alterac Blitz completely ignores graveyard control in favor of achieving the victory condition.  If you wipe, you are completely at the mercy of your opponent.  What’s scary is that the graveyard map above is the best case scenario for the Blitz; if your opponent assaults all the graveyards along the way, you can be sent all the way back to your spawning cave!

I don’t like the Blitz.  More specifically, I don’t like the current incarnation of the Blitz and how it plays out.  It can work, and it can work well when properly executed.  With the right team, you can rack up an impressive number of wins in a short period of time.  But those Blitzes are sadly the exception, not the rule.  Too many Blitzes start without a solid tanking and healing team identified, yet the entire strategy depends upon them.  Charging the enemy general without knowing how you’re going to kill them is like going all in during a poker game before the cards are even dealt.  It’s foolish.

The Blitz focuses upon the PvE aspects of the battleground to the exclusion of the PvP.  If you do it right, your team never comes into contact with enemy players, or perhaps brief contact with their defenders in the enemy base.  If you really Blitz right, it’s nothing more than a competitive PvE race to kill a boss.

Before 3.3.3, the Blitz was a good way to grind honor if your team was good and your opposition didn’t know what was going on.  I don’t think it’s nearly as good of an honor grind now with the advent of the Random Battleground Finder and massive honor boosts in all the battlegrounds, so hopefully people will start looking at other ways to play AV.

The Blitz requires a team to commit to it fully because the price of failure is so high.  Recovery from a failed Blitz is very difficult because of the complete lack of graveyard control and the resurrection vectors present at the time of the wipe.

ISLAND HOPPING

In contrast to the Blitz, where no graveyard control is displayed, Island Hopping battles focus on isolating the opponent from effectively attacking or defending.  The key is skipping non-essential targets and focusing your attention on taking towers while defending your own territory.  While sometimes you’ll see this strategy used during Blitzes, the Blitz is over too soon for graveyard control to matter.

(Island Hopping is the strategy used by the United States in the Pacific Theater of WWII; whenever an island had no strategic value, the US simply moved around it to the next target.)

Alterac Valley’s map is asymmetrical, and those differences of geography matter while Island Hopping.  Here’s what it would look like if both sides hopped but conveniently forgot to defend:

You can see both sides have taken each graveyard along the way but one.  That one graveyard becomes the place where all casualties over the entire map will go.  For some, it will mean moving forward.  For many, it will mean going backwards.  But for all of them it means getting sent out of position.

The above map doesn’t show any defense — we’ll get to that in a second.  But for each side, it takes the least advantageous graveyard for the opponent and sends casualties there.  Let’s take each in turn.

The Horde should skip Stonehearth Graveyard because:

  • Stonehearth does not control a choke point, unlike Stormpike GY.
  • It is on the wrong side of the Icewing choke point, allowing the Horde to use IWB as a defensive bulwark.
  • Stormpike GY is useful as an assault point against Dun Baldar, even if the Aid Station is still under Alliance control, both due to closeness and straight LoS across the bridge.
  • Sending Alliance casualties to Stormpike only gives the bridge as a defense against their rez waves.  Sending the Alliance to Stonehearth allows the road and canyons to be used as additional defenses against Alliance trying to get to Dun Baldar.

The worst thing you can say about leaving Stonehearth in Alliance hands is that does make taking the two adjacent bunkers more difficult for the Horde.  But a common way around that is to wait for Snowfall to go Alliance, and then assault Stonehearth anyways.  At that point Snowfall graveyard becomes a trap.

An important thing to consider is the location of the Alliance Cave.  If no graveyards are available for you to resurrect in, you go back to the cave.  The Alliance cave is more defensible than the Horde cave, and it’s very easy to get to Dun Baldar.  Sending Alliance casualties back there is less optimal than sending them to either Stonehearth or Snowfall, like so:

Smart Horde players will look and see if the Alliance captured Snowfall before taking Stonehearth.  Ideally, the Horde should wait until Snowfall is actually under Alliance control before taking Stonehearth away.  And at no point should they try to send them back to the cave in Dun Baldar pass, because that’s too close to Dun Baldar and SPGY.

Astonishingly, the situation is somewhat more complicated when we look at the Alliance’s situation.

THE PROBLEM OF FROSTWOLF GRAVEYARD

The rule of thumb when playing Alliance is: skip taking FWGY unless you want to have a lot of players yell at you.  The conventional wisdom is that taking FWGY will lead to a turtle; more specifically, taking FWGY before the Relief Hut will lead to a turtle.

The idea is relatively straightforward and has some merit.  If Frostwolf Keep and Village are heavily defended, Horde casualties will be sent back to the Relief Hut, where they can further fortify the position, causing a defensive war at the bulwark.  If FWGY is still under Horde control, casualties at the bulwark move forward to FWGY, on the other side of the defenses, so that they have to run through the gauntlet to rejoin the fight.  While you’re now fighting a two-front battle, at least the FWGY forces are being corralled into narrow passageways, unlike those still inside the Keep.

Let’s take a look and see the result of this strategy.  If FWGY is allowed to remain under Horde control, this is what the map looks like after a few minutes:

The tactical situation within Frostwolf Keep is exactly as predicted; casualties are going to FWGY, north of the defenses.  The biggest problem is that all Horde casualties are going to a spot just north of the Alliance offensive, where they can turn south and demolish them.  The only thing that saves the Alliance offense is that the Horde casualties come in small waves, instead of one large group.  If the Horde groups up in FWGY and then does a concerted assault on the Alliance in keep, they can do a lot of damage.

Now, the conventional wisdom is actually completely, 100% correct here.  If you take FWGY before RH, then all casualties, all over the map, will go to the Relief Hut and make Frostwolf Village a defensive monster.  So skipping FWGY in favor of RH makes sense.  (Taking FWGY after RH doesn’t really matter, because the Horde Cave is right across the field.  It actually worsens the Horde position somewhat to do so, but people will still complain you took FWGY.)

But look at the map again, and compare the resurrection vectors to the Horde map.

By hopping over Stonehearth and Snowfall graveyards, the Horde create a situation where the Alliance is sent to the middle of the map.  This is bad when the middle of the map is being contested, but very good for the ends — which means assaulting Dun Baldar and defending Frostwolf Keep.

The problem with the Alliance map isn’t Frostwolf graveyard, it’s Iceblood and Snowfall.

IBGY is the best graveyard in the game from a terrain and positioning standpoint.  Like Stonehearth, it’s close to two towers.  Iceblood is on the defensive side of the chokepoint, however, whereas Stonehearth is on offensive side.  Furthermore, IBGY is the only graveyard in the game that doesn’t resurrect you in a canyon; you can turn and immediately ride north across the Field of Strife without passing the graveyard flag.  Every other graveyard forces you to travel some distance before you get back into the battleground, but not IBGY.  You can reinforce the defense or offense from it.  It’s perfect for protecting TP and IBT, and control of it blocks the chokepoint.

Snowfall, on the other hand, is probably the worst graveyard in the game, but it is irresistible to Alliance. The Alliance path across the Field of Strife favors the west side towards Galv and IBT, while the Horde favor the right to SHB and Bal.  The ramp to SFGY is right there when you’re running south as Alliance.  Someone always peels off to go cap it.  And while it might help during the assault on IBT/TP, it becomes a serious liability when the Alliance gets to FWGY.

IBGY is too good not to take, and SFGY is too easy not to.

I said in the very beginning that graveyard control sometimes makes you do crazy, non-intuitive things.  This is one of those situations where in order to get your opponent’s resurrection vectors to go where you want, you are probably going to have to do some crazy things.

Either:

  • Take all the graveyards except FWGY, and move your defensive line south of the Field of Strife.  Hold the Tower Point checkpoint as strongly as you can and let no Horde pass.  Trinket back if a stealther gets through.
  • Take all the graveyards and bottle the Horde up in the Cave.  This only works if there’s a large difference in players, which hasn’t been the case in a few patches.
  • Give up SFGY or SHGY to the Horde and strongly fortify the south bunkers.  (Or yield the south bunkers and hold the line at Icewing Bunker.)
  • Direct the Horde to FWGY while IBT and TP are falling, then let the Horde go north unopposed to IBGY while the Alliance goes full on offense.

The Alliance can certainly win if the Horde is concentrated in FWGY, and it is preferable to concentrating the Horde at the RH.  Is it the best option?  No.  But it’s not the worst option for graveyard control, so it’s worth pursuing.

THE ALTERAC CAMPAIGN

Back when Cynwulf was a 59 DK twink, I had a macro I would spam at the beginning of every Alterac Valley:

Welcome to AV! If this is your first time here, kill Galv, take the towers, kill Horde, defend towers until they fall, then kill Drek.  Got it?  Let’s go!

At level 60 (in WotLK), it’s really tough to get tanks who are geared enough to take on Drek/Vann+4.  The Blitz is far too demanding at this level to have everyone do it all the time, and while there is still a rush down to Drek, it’s a controlled rush.  Taking the towers while defending your own is the name of the game.

Unlike the previous two strategies discussed, this one actually relies heavily upon the PvP skills and abilities of the combatants.

Each force will send the majority of its forces towards the opposing captain on the other side of the Field of Strife.  The Horde will charge through IBGY along the east side of the Field of Strife, while the Alliance will pass Bal’s bunker on the right and take the west side straight to Galv.

The majority of each force will go after the respective captain, while small teams tend to peel off to take the nearby towers and graveyards.

The initial rush changes the resurrection vectors substantially as graveyards are assaulted.  If the towers are defended, casualties are going to start going back even further than the initial phase once the graveyards are assaulted, like so:

It’s at this point when PvP usually starts happening.  Stragglers meet on the Field of Strife, some players like to stay back and defend the towers and captains, others turn back to help defend… it can become very chaotic at this time.  Small unit tactics and individual contributions are essential during this phase — move in packs, protect your healers, engage when you outnumber the enemy, otherwise evade or slow them down to let others catch them.

You can see the value of a good midfield defense during this phase when graveyards are in play.  Casualties will be sent all the way across the map and be taken out of the midfield arena if they die now.

By the time SHGY and IBGY change, both of the Captains are likely down, and the towers are either going or have gone down.  This phase really depends upon your team’s ability to execute and then defend the targets as they are taken.

Once the graveyards have flipped, things polarize.  If you win the fight at midfield, you’ll have the advantage going into the next phase.

All the casualties at midfield have become your defense, as their resurrection vector punted them back to either SPGY or FWGY.  The strength of your defense is proportionately strengthened by how badly you were hurt at midfield, so while it’s possible to have two balanced battles going at once, in practice usually one or the other has the majority of players and becomes the central focus of the battleground.

Taking the graveyards on the opposite side of the Field of Strife polarizes the battlefield.  In the previous phase, the emphasis is entirely upon midfield.  Once the graveyards flip. you can see there’s a lot more corpse movement, both forward and backward.  Capturing (and holding) graveyards on the other side allows your offense to establish a beachhead to launch their attacks.  It also prevents a complete reset, like we see in a failed Blitz.

Consider the following example.  The Horde having a strong offense that dominated at SHB/IWB and left enough people behind to inflict a lot of casualties on the Alliance offense at IBT/TP.  There are more Alliance casualties than Horde casualties as a result of this phase.  The Alliance force resurrecting at Stormpike will be larger than the Horde force going to Frostwolf, but the Horde offense moving north is larger, too.  The battleground population shifts towards Dun Baldar.  The Alliance offense down south becomes progressively weaker with no reinforcements, and while they are able to assault and hold towers until they fall, they are impotent to tackle Drek on their own.

From this phase, it’s a matter of execution.  One side or the other will dominate and push forward into the enemy base, either pushing them aside (the lessons from Island Hopping apply here) or forcing them aside until they rez on the other side of the Field of Strife.

Whatever happens next, it’ll be epic.  And it’ll be the Alterac Valley I love.

CAPTAIN’S GAMBIT

I’ll leave you with one last example of graveyard control in Alterac Valley for your consideration: the Captain’s Gambit.

The Captain’s Gambit is when you don’t defend your general, you defend your captain instead.  As few as five and as many as twenty players peel off from the main assault and go into the captain’s bunker to help defend them.  When the other side comes roaring in for the easy kill, they find considerably more than they bargained for and sustain heavy losses.  If the defenders die, they are either sent to the midfield graveyard (if it hasn’t been assaulted), or the next defensive graveyard, SPGY or FWGY.  Either result is fine for them as defenders.

The attackers, however, are sent back to a graveyard that is likely under assault.  If enough casualties are inflicted, the offense is shattered and doesn’t have enough people to dominate any further conflicts.

Let’s take the example of the Alliance running the Captain’s Gambit on the Horde.

The Horde concedes Galv to the Alliance, focusing instead upon SHB and Balinda.  The Alliance chooses to defend Bal.  Galv falls easily, while Bal does not.  The Horde offense is sent back to FWGY, while the main part of the Alliance offense is already on its way past Tower Point.

The result of the Captain’s Gambit is that the front moves very quickly from midfield to the FWGY/TP area, with the Alliance setting up a defensive bulwark at IBGY.  Because the Horde advance was stopped so early on, no footholds are established for them to launch assaults on Alliance bunkers, so the Alliance defenders are able to move up to support the offense and support the push into Frostwolf Village.

The population of the battleground shifts to the south, and the front moves with it.  The Horde is now at a disadvantage both in position and resources, as losing Galv and towers depletes their resource pool dramatically.  Even if it turns into a slugfest by the Rock of Durotan and Frostwolf Village, the Alliance has the upper hand.

You will notice that I call this the Captain’s Gambit, not the Captain’s Sure-fire Way Of Winning Alterac Valley.  That’s because there’s an element of risk and sacrifice involved.

First, the Horde could have chosen to skip Bal and go straight to Vann.  If they’re Blitzing in any way, this is actually likely to happen.  There might be a few stragglers who decide to take her out, but not enough to really make a difference.  This is definitely the biggest risk — that the enemy will refuse to take the bait.  The impact of this depends on how many people stayed to defend Bal.  If it’s 5, okay, no big deal.  Twenty?  Yikes.

Second, there’s a sacrifice involved with the people who stay behind.  They are going to have a hard fight on their hands.  It’s not as easy to cause a raid to wipe with the Captain as it is with the Generals +4, and there’s every likelihood the defenders are going to get facerolled.  But it’s not a hopeless task, and even failure just means moving further back in the defensive line, falling back towards your own base.

GRAVEYARD CONTROL

Alterac Valley makes a fascinating study of graveyard control because the graveyards are separate and distinct resources to capture.  They’re also unrelated to the victory conditions of AV; they add no resources to your total, nor can they kill the enemy general for you.

Yet, they are a critical part of whatever strategy you adopt.  Controlling where you will resurrect — and where your enemy will, too — is an important part of the battle.  You have to understand resurrection vectors to be able to predict what is going to happen next within the battle, but also so that you can get better for the next one.

You’ll find this concept in every battleground with controllable graveyards.  The lessons from Alterac Valley apply everywhere; Strand can be lost by capturing the wrong graveyard, and Isle of Conquest can be won by getting the Keep’s defenders out of the way with a graveyard snatch.

So, good luck out there.  May the spirits of your enemies be sent to a place with no strategic value!

(Yeah.  I’m still working on a good catchphrase for this concept.)

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Filed under Battleground Strategies, Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

On Marks of Honor

Marks of Honor are one of several types of PvP currency in the game. They are awarded from the various battlegrounds for participation: 3 for winning, 2 for a tie, and 1 for a loss. You can have up to 100 of each; check your currency tab to see them.

Wowhead has a great feature allowing you to view what a given object is currency for, so below are the types of Marks you can get and what you can buy with them.

Some of these rewards are quite good, depending on your level.

THE OLD WORLD BATTLEGROUNDS

The first three battlegrounds in Azeroth (Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and Alterac Valley) all have similar types of rewards that are available for a combination of honor and marks.. You can purchase specific types of gear from either vendors at the site of the battleground, or from your faction PvP quartermasters in Stormwind or Orgrimmar.

The Warsong Gulch rewards are actually quite good for their level, if you can get them early enough. Several WSG pieces (the necklaces, rings, cloaks and staffs) are best in slot or near-best in slot items for 19 twinks, which means they’re good for leveling, too. The Arathi Basin rewards are also outstanding, especially the boots. I’ve written about them before, but I love them primarily because you can have both a riding and walking speed enchant on them.

The gear you get from Alterac Valley marks used to be great, but since it’s available at level 55, Outland greens that outclass them in every way are right around the corner at 58. AV marks can get you a very sweet mount and cool Battle Standard, which is always nice.

Combinations of these marks can buy very nice rewards from the faction quartermasters. Of particular value to collectors are the PvP mounts (Alliance, Horde) that used to be a cheap way to get an epic mount when such things were expensive, and tabards, which can be gotten either through marks (WSG, AV) or reputation (AB). You can also get some great looking level 60 PvP sets for RP, though again — anything that’s level 60 from the Old World is outclassed by equivalent level items in Outland.

EXPANSION BATTLEGROUNDS

The battlegrounds from Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King are fundamentally different from the previous ones because they don’t have a physical location or gateway you can visit in the world. They might have a place in lore, but they don’t exist within the World of Warcraft. So there aren’t battleground-specific vendors, and with that lack comes a corresponding lack of cool gear and neat toys.

Eye of the Storm marks can at least give you access to some level 70 PvP gear, which can serve you well as you level through Northrend. Not that it’s great leveling gear per se, but it has good PvP itemization and is some of the first resilience pieces you can get, which does make a difference in a battleground.

Strand of the Ancients and Isle of Conquest marks can’t buy you anything. Perhaps in the next expansion you’ll be able to purchase the current PvP gear with them, but for now they are almost worthless. Keep in mind I said almost worthless. We’ll get to that in a bit.

WINTERGRASP

Wintergrasp marks are different than the other Northrend marks of honor, perhaps because Wintergrasp is itself different. It exists on the map. There are multiple vendors who sell great PvP gear for level 80 characters that can only be purchased with Wintergrasp Marks. This gear is valuable not only because it’s an alternate currency for getting endgame PvP gear, but because the gear is itemized differently than the standard Gladiator gear, allowing you to balance out Crit and Haste and not be overly gimped in one direction or another.

I’ve written a lot about the gear you can get in Wintergrasp, because it’s the one battleground for level 80 characters where the marks really get you gear you can and should use. But it’s not the only reason Wintergrasp Marks are valuable.

THE VALUE OF A MARK

This post was prompted by several terrible battles where people were yelling to either zerg Drek and ignore all the towers in Alterac Valley (“for quick marks! so we can get honor for gear!”), or forfeiting the fight in Arathi Basin to “collect their Mark and get out.”

Both of these actions confuse me a bit, because those marks are less valuable than the honor you get from fighting a good fight. They’re nice to have for later, but a good fight where you meet more of the objectives will yield more honor, and isn’t that why you’re in Alterac Valley at level 80?

Apparently not.

Determining the value of a battleground Mark of Honor lies entirely upon your character’s goals. While leveling, the marks have value for the gear and stuff they can get you. At level 29, the WSG and AB rewards are pretty darn good, and you need marks to buy them!

But marks lose this particular value as you level, because the gear they purchase loses value. My boots from Arathi Basin served me well, but they now collect dust in my bank. So while there’s real value associated with the gear you can get from marks, it decays over time and expansions.

(You can argue that some of this gear has great RP value, which is absolutely true. The level 60 PvP sets look fantastic. But fashion has a variable value because it is so highly subjective.)

The Old World marks definitely have value if you are a mount or tabard collector. The 6 epic mounts and 4 tabards you can buy with them go a long way towards some of those achievements and there are people (myself included) who have ground out battlegrounds solely for this reason. But, much like RP PvP gear sets, this value is subjective. Not everyone needs dozens of epic mounts. And with prices and level requirements slashed on epic mounts, the gold value we could have assigned to these Marks (90 total marks = 60 AV marks = 1 epic mount) has decreased considerably.

The New World marks have even less value than the Old World ones in terms of purchasing power. Eye of the Storm marks at least can help get you some PvP gear, but Strand and Isle marks buy you nothing. So as you level up, one set of marks is losing the value it once had, and the other set starts out with little value and doesn’t gain anything as you go.

So what’s left to do with these marks at level 80?

The good old standby, convert them to honor. Honor is a universal currency amongst PvP, and can be converted directly to gold. So honor it is.

Concerted Efforts / For Great Honor are repeatable quests that allow you to convert 1 mark from each battleground available to your level (except Wintergrasp) into honor. With each new battleground’s release, new marks have been added and the honor rewards increased. Currently, there are 6 marks required for 1489 honor, so any given mark is worth 248 honor. If you figure that each battleground takes an average of 20 minutes — you have to do Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, don’t forget — then we can start really assigning value not only to the marks themselves, but also to the methods used to getting them.

Six marks from six battlegrounds, each lasting 20 minutes each… that’s 1489 honor divided by 120 minutes, or 12.4 honor per minute. It’s really bonus honor per minute, because you’re already accumulating honor by being in a battleground, which can vary wildly from battleground to battleground. Let’s look at the two scenarios that drove me up a wall last night, running the AV Blitz and giving up in Arathi Basin.

SCENARIO 1: WINNING ALTERAC VALLEY

I’ve been in Alterac Valley battles that netted over 3000 honor for the game. Sure, they have been 45-minute long slugfests, with half of our towers down and honorable kills in the thousands, but Alterac Valley is like that sometimes!

Alterac Valley rewards bonus honor based upon objectives, which you can see on the official AV page:

  • 1*20.9 honor for every wing commander (3) that returns to base
  • 2*20.9 honor for every tower/bunker you still have
  • 2*20.9 honor for your Captain surviving
  • 3*20.9 honor for every tower/bunker you destroy
  • 3*20.9 honor for the captain you killed
  • 4*20.9 honor for winning

So, if all your towers and captain are up while all the enemy’s towers and captain is down when you win, you get (62.7+167.2+41.8+250.8+62.7+83.6) = 668.1 bonus honor for the match.

Now, compare this to the Alterac Blitz, where you take nothing, tank the adds, and kill the general in under 6 minutes. You get 83.6 bonus honor for each match because you win, a difference of 584.5 honor.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you’ve got optimal conditions in both cases and are pretty much facerolling the opposition. Waiting for all the towers to go down adds another 4-5 minutes or so to the standard Blitz, which itself takes about 5-6 minutes. So let’s call it 5 minutes for the Blitz and 10 minutes for the Stormpike/Frostwolf Perfection win to make it easy. We should also add 1 minute at the start of each game in the cave, and another minute for the queue. So 7 minutes per Blitz, and 12 minutes per Perfection.

  • The Blitz’s strength is in the number of marks it generates — twice as much as for the Perfection win if we look at the time fighting, and almost twice as much with the queue and start times.
  • Over the course of an hour, you could conceivably run 8.57 AV Blitzes, giving you 25.74 AV Marks for a conceptual value of 6337.14 honor (or 105.6 honor per minute).
  • During that same hour, you could run only 5 Perfection AVs, giving you 15 AV Marks for 3720 honor.
  • However, those 5 Perfection AVs grant 3340.5 honor from reaching all the conditions described above, for a total of 7060.5 honor , or 732.36 honor more than the Blitzes. That’s 117.67 honor per minute.

This also doesn’t take into account the increased number of HKs a Perfection AV generates over a Blitz, since people are actually defending nodes, capping graveyards, things like that. So that will need to be factored into the model somehow, but it just strengthens the point. Perfection gives you an edge in honor versus the Blitz — not a big one, but there

Now here’s the kicker — this direct comparison assumes that you are running not only AV, but all the other battlegrounds too to generate marks for turn-ins. So the more marks you generate, the more time you need to spend in other battlegrounds — battlegrounds that reward less honor per minute.

Consider it this way: for every AV marks you generate, you will have to win 5 other battlegrounds to realize the value of that honor. So the fewer marks you generate, the more honor you get overall. Using Ihra’s holiday HPM results:

  • AB: 79.19
  • WSG: 83.92
  • IOC: 86.44
  • EOTS: 88.56
  • SOTA: 97.59
  • AV: 146.42

… you will have to spend your time in battlegrounds that yield 56.6% – 66.6% less honor per minute than Alterac Valley. Now, some of the bonus honor from objectives is already baked into Ihra’s AV value, so we can’t distinguish between the Blitz and the Perfection values. But we don’t have to! Look at it this way: Perfection generates 15 marks per hour, while Blitz generates 25.74 marks per hour (1.716 times more).

So, assuming all other things in those other battlegrounds are equal, you will need to spend 1.716 more time in those battlegrounds to convert those marks to honor. If it takes you 10 hours to match all the marks you get from Perfection, it takes 17 hours to match the marks from the Blitz. That’s seven more hours at 2/3rds honor.

In that 7 hours, you could run Alterac Valley for 61496.4 honor, or those other 5 for 35700 honor, for a net gain of 25796 honor.

That’s half a piece of Wrathful gear.

To sum up: not only is blitzing AV for marks bad because you aren’t getting the bonus honor for reaching the objectives, it’s doubly bad because you end up spending less time in Alterac Valley.

And no matter how you value honor (gear or gold), that’s a bad thing.

SCENARIO 2: LOSING ARATHI BASIN

Having laid out why it’s bad to value marks over achieving all the victory conditions in a high HPM environment, what about deliberately losing Arathi Basin to get it over with, collect their marks, and move on.

The competitor in me hates these people. I’ll come right out and say it — I hate people who consider it okay to lose. But do they have a point? Is it logical to adopt this strategy?

The reason I was in Arathi Basin last night was because it was the daily BG quest for me. So to me, the marks had no importance — only victory. Victory meant 1489 honor and 25 Arena points, which for a 20 minute battle is +74.45 honor per minute. The marks — at best — were 248 honor apiece, but I was really there for the Arena points. So a win would get me +2233 honor over whatever I got out of the battleground, while a loss… well, a loss gets me +248 honor. Yikes.

I have to assume the people clamoring for us to lose quickly so they can claim their marks, though, were not there for the daily battleground quest. Why were they there? I’m not honestly sure. Perhaps they were grinding out a few marks for some old gear or some mounts, but I have a tough time thinking that’s the primary motivation behind their desire for a quick mark.

What I’m left with is that they are looking for marks for the turn-in quests, which means that perhaps a loss really is the best use of their time. Giving up certainly requires the least amount of effort! If you aren’t trying to reach any of the goals of the battleground, or even engage in combat to get honorable kills, then you’re basically discounting all the potential honor you could get from fighting.

In a high HPM battleground like Alterac Valley, that attitude is crazy. Even a loss gives you a chance to get good honor, which is one of the reasons why it’s such a good battleground to farm honor in. And fighting back to take objectives gives you honor no matter what. But Arathi Basin doesn’t give nearly as much total honor, and since the resource accumulation scales non-linearly, a side with 4 or 5 bases is going to win in a very, very short period of time. How short?

  • If you control 1 base, you gain 10 resources every 12 seconds. 32 minutes to get to 1600.
  • If you control 2 bases, you gain 10 resources every 9 seconds. 24 minutes to get to 1600.
  • If you control 3 bases, you gain 10 resources every 6 seconds. 16 minutes to get to 1600.
  • If you control 4 bases, you gain 10 resources every 3 seconds. 8 minutes to get to 1600.
  • If you control 5 bases, you gain 30 resources every 1 second. 53.3 seconds to get to 1600.

Resources control bonus honor — I think it’s 20.9 honor for every 260 resources gained, or 160 on a holiday weekend. (Some sources say it’s every 330, but more say 260.) The winning side will therefore get 128 honor from resources, and then another 20.9 on top of that for winning, for a total of 149 bonus honor. (Holiday increases that to 209 and 230, respectively).

Let’s put that into the perspective of Alterac Valley: if you do nothing other than kill the enemy captain and general, you get 146.3 honor, about the same as winning Arathi Basin. Every tower you take down is additional 62.7 honor, so the conservative strategy of taking out the captain, towers, and general will net you +250 honor more than winning Arathi Basin. All in about 8-12 minutes, a time which could only be met by controlling 4 bases. The only conditions when winning Arathi Basin is more profitable than Alterac Valley is when you can control all 5 bases, making it an extremely quick small burst of honor.

Compare that to the established value of a Mark of Honor: 248 honor. If you win, you get three, or 744 honor, on top of the 149 bonus honor from the objectives for a grand total of 893 honor when all is said and done. If you lose having gotten to, say, 800 resources, you’ll get one mark worth 248 and 64.3 bonus honor from objectives, but at the cost of prolonging the match at least 15 minutes for that additional 64 honor. (I am ignoring the honor you can get from HKs during that time.)

So staying and fighting for that additional 800 resources nets me +4.28 bonus honor per minute. Which is terrible. I mean, that’s an awful return on your time.

Assuming that it is not your daily battleground, and you’re there just for honor, giving up when you start getting behind starts looking like a valid strategy. Allowing the enemy to 5-cap ends the battle quickly without materially changing your outcome. You are still going to walk away with 250-500 honor, tops. Staying and fighting might give you some HKs and associated honor, but it’s going to be tough going. Whereas if it is your daily battleground, the stakes for winning are much higher, so gritting it out actually makes sense. If you’re getting an additional 2000 honor out of a win, spending 20 minutes getting it is still +100 honor per minute. You can afford to slug it out.

But if you’re just playing for marks to balance out all those sweet AV marks in your bank? Letting them 5-cap actually makes sense, because the single AB mark you get has more value than fighting back for a win. Surrender is a viable option.

Ugh. I feel dirty writing that.

KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM

The biggest problem with Marks of Honor in level 80 battlegrounds is that they have no intrinsic value outside of the honor they confer. And while I’m generally a fan of having a few, universal currencies, in this case the mechanism of the turn-in quest means that a mark from a high HPM battleground is equivalent to the mark from a low HPM battleground in terms of opportunity cost. To realize the value of an AV mark means you have to spend the time in WSG and AB getting their counterparts; but spending time in WSG and AB means you are getting less honor for your time spent playing than simply going back and playing more AV. Which is madness!

This is one of the flaws of the current PvP reward system. While it’s great to have a unified set of currencies, and the three-tiered model works well in PvE and PvP, the incentives for winning need to be better for the worse-off battlegrounds. It’s like if when running heroics through the Dungeon Finder you had heroics with wildly different numbers of bosses and times to complete, and worse, the ones with the fewest bosses (and therefore the fewest Emblems) took the longest to do, while the ones with more bosses were faster and dropped better loot. No matter how enticing you made the daily quest reward in this instance, players would still look at those hard ones and either take the debuff and bail, figuring they could do something better with their time and try a different one later, or grit your teeth and smash through it as quickly as possible to get it over with.

Replace Emblems with honor and you have the state of battlegrounds and the daily bg quests today. Even having a Battleground Finder to randomize the quest location wouldn’t overcome the discrepancy between battlegrounds in the amount of common currency they reward.

Arathi Basin is one of my favorite battlegrounds. It’s one that uses the most small unit tactics, requires great communication and teamwork, has interesting, challenging terrain, and allows for many, many ways to win. It is wrong on so many levels to have to look at the incentives for playing it and conclude that if you’re not in it for achievements or reputation, you’re sometimes better off forfeiting, losing quickly, and taking your mark than sticking it out.

WHY WE FIGHT

When you zone into Alterac Valley, you’re surrounded by people with a lot of different reasons for being there. There’s a lot of incentive for people to fight well, and while the strategy for optimal gains can be debated, all the incentive is to fight the whole way through. Even a turtle in AV can be profitable (and a hell of a lot of fun.)

When you zone into Warsong Gulch or Arathi Basin, though, you have to wonder: why are these people here? This isn’t the best place for me to grind honor for good gear (or money), so why are people there? Are they trying to realize the honor they have stored up in other marks? Are they grinding reputation, or achievements? Are they completely lost?

Or, are they there to have fun, and maybe, just maybe, win?

The key difference between PvP and PvE is that the opponents have to be motivated in PvP. Winning in a raid means downing the bosses and collecting the loot; your incentives are clear. But you never have to consider the incentives of the trash mobs or bosses; they’ll be there, giving their all, no matter what. In PvP, you have to give players on both sides a reason to show up, a reason to compete, and a reason to win.

More than anything else, this is the problem facing endgame battlegrounds today. How do you motivate the losing side? These battlegrounds are still exhilarating places to spend an evening; simple to learn the basics, but hard to master. Competing in them is fun, and can be rewarding in and of itself.

But when the tangible rewards for doing other, somewhat similar activities are far superior, you have a conflict between doing what is right — fighting hard until the end — and doing what is best for you.

Surrender should never be a viable strategy for victory.

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A Little Bit Easier

MMO Champion has new details about some upcoming Battleground changes in the latest 3.3 PTR build:

  • The achievements to get exalted with the Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and Alterac Valley factions have been removed from their respective “Master of” meta-achievements. Special titles will be offered to those who reach exalted with these factions.

  • Wintergrasp: You must now have the following ranks to build or pilot siege vehicles:
    • Rank 1: Build/pilot Catapults.
    • Rank 2: Build/pilot Demolishers.
    • Rank 3: Build/pilot Siege Engines.

Both of these changes are interesting in their own right.

The Achievements change is an interesting way to address the difficulty of reaching Battlemaster, and not the way I thought that Blizzard would go. Restoring the reputation turn-in system that Warsong Gulch used to have would have made it fairer for those who started playing later. This change makes Battlemaster much easier to get, and therefore cheapens it a bit. That makes me sad. I liked having an absurdly hard goal. The Justicar title gains a little luster with this change, but still — nerfing a difficult achievement is never cool.

(What does make me happy, though, is the introduction of titles for exalted BG reputation. This is cosmetic, but VERY welcome. It would be nice to see in other battlegrounds, if a bit impractical since they have no reputations to grind.)

The Wintergrasp change is complicated. First, let me draw attention to the non-obvious — there’s going to be an additional rank added. Depending on how this rank is implemented, it will likely make getting Siege Engines more difficult than it is at present, which will slow down their production. The other change, limiting the ability to operate a vehicle to those with rank, is a direct answer to the strategy covered in an earlier post, which will definitely slow down the mass production of heavy vehicles, especially at the game start. Both of these changes will have the effect of making Wintergrasp longer, which will result in more honor for everyone.

But it’s also a direct response to the complaints by those who couldn’t defend against the tactic. I’m disappointed to see it happen, but not really surprised. Battlegrounds aren’t any different from any other part of the game, and subject to the same changes. Bosses get nerfed after people have downed them, too. Things get a little bit easier all the time.

I may not have the Battlemaster title, but at least I’ll have the memory of having successfully defended Wintergrasp against a charge of 12 heavy vehicles, of frantically trying to throw enough people at the onslaught to slow it down as it charges up the hill, of holding the line at the walls to the inner keep as the last few Siege Engines explode.

We won’t see the likes of those rushes again.

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And the Winner of the Holiday HPM is….

Ihra has been crunching numbers over on Only God Can Make a Tree for a few weeks now on the relative honor per minute of each battleground on their holiday weekends. This week, he did Alterac Valley to get some numbers to check out if AV is as good as people think it is.

Take a look at the updated list and see where you should be spending your time if you’re grinding honor.

Me? I’ll be in my favorite battleground.

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