Monthly Archives: October 2009

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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How to Raid ANYTHING

Mortigan the Lock has an awesome post up on a single set of rules On How To Raid ANYTHING that you must read.

I find it terribly hard to remember all the nuances of each boss fight. Sorry, but I’m just not hard-core enough to memorize who casts what, and I really don’t care if Pixie McNixie in the bottom of some hole is planning to fear me, sheep me, or chop me in half with a big heavy axe. Why? Because overall things are pretty much the same from one boss to the next, so I figured I could come up with a single set of rules on how to raid ANYTHING. I’ve appropriately named these rules “A Single Set Of Rules On How To Raid ANYTHING.”

I also quite liked:

If you’re cool enough to be a warlock like me, you can even strategically position yourself right next to a mage throughout the fight, and Soulshatter as needed. Be sure to turn toward the mage when Soulshattering, so that you can watch the look on his face when the boss 1-shots him. If you’re a mage, disregard everything I’ve just said, and take one for the team.

But then again, I’m a warlock, and we tend to die first. Mages should share in the fun.

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Rule 69

While I am sad to see the Dwarf Priestess go, she left us with the 100 Rules of Warcraft. I call to your attention Rule 69, since I will probably refer to it a lot:

69. Battleground Failure 103 (Less QQ, More Pew Pew!)

The people who complain the most about other people in the battleground are the ones who are working the least toward the objective.

Best of luck to the Dwarf Priestess in all her future endeavors. Her wisdom will be missed.

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How DID They Win That Wintergrasp?

WG-Fail-Train.jpg

Anyone who spends a lot of time in Durotan’s Wintergrasp is familiar with the above sight. Sometimes, no matter what you do, the Horde is able to launch a massive assault on the west wall of Wintergrasp Fortress with 8-12 Siege Engines in the first 2 minutes of the game. If all Alliance defenders, and I mean ALL defenders, don’t rush out to the west and try to stop them, the mass of siege will break through and capture the fortress in under 6 minutes.

At that point, the QQ starts. “Cheaters!” “Hax!” are some of the kinder words thrown at the Horde. But, unlike exploiting the old bug that let you drive siege through walls, this is just smart thinking by the outnumbered side, using the mechanics of the game to fight an opponent who outnumbers them 2:1 (on a good day.) The Horde groups up their siege for one massive push that the defense cannot stop.

The key is a tactic that both sides should use, no matter who has numeric superiority.

  1. Focus your kills to rank a few players up to First Lieutenant.
  2. Have those players create Demolishers and Siege Engines at the Workshop, and then abandon them to go create more.
  3. Other players without rank man the abandoned vehicles and wait.
  4. Once all vehicle slots are filled, everyone goes together.

That’s it. That’s how you win an offensive Wintergrasp battle. Group all your siege together and shove it through the walls. Organization and discipline will win you Wintergrasp.

This tactic works nearly every time; the only counter is for a very strong defense to start attacking the group as it leaves the Workshop and keep going until it stops — if the defense waits for them to hit the first wall, it’s over.

Now, there’s a legitimate question of how can a side start creating Demolishers and Siege Engines within the first 15 seconds of the game. It’s tough to rank up to First Lieutenant — my personal best is after about 45 seconds, which meant I was creating Siege Engines at 1:30 into the game. But sides with Tenacity have it a little easier.

Tenacity increases the “kill value” of NPCs, making it easier to rank up. On an imbalanced server like Durotan, where 20 stacks of Tenacity are pretty much the norm, a single NPC kill will grant First Lieutenant rank. This gives your side heavy vehicles right away, and if you are organized and disciplined at the Workshop, you can create your Siege mass within a minute.

The more commonly QQed tactic, sometimes called the Wintergrasp Logout Exploit, is to have characters log out during an active Wintergrasp battle so they can log back in to another battle in progress with their previous rank. But with the advent of queuing for Wintergrasp, this exploit just doesn’t work. The buff is removed when you queue for the battle and your status is reset. This was never really the primary reason sides massed siege — consider the logistics between this and the Tenacity option — but it was possible, so people latched on to it.

So how did the other team get 12 heavy vehicles and take Wintergrasp in under 5 minutes? It wasn’t by cheating, or using exploits, or because Blizzard hates your faction. It was because the other side had Tenacity and was organized, disciplined, and executed a massive offensive push that your side didn’t defend adequately against.

It’s okay. Don’t take it too hard. The next battle, you’re on offense. Show ‘em what you’ve got.

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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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Why I Love Fishing In Wintergrasp

Big Bear Butt has a great interview with a PvP hunter in his guild who love to PvP and fish.

As someone who loves to PvP and fish, I especially enjoyed the following bit:

“What I do”, Ruuaarr said, “Is go fishing in Wintergrasp, and I’m the bait. Rogues can’t resist trying to kill someone just standing there fishing. So, they stealth in to take me down, and that’s when I destroy them.”

Great article, and one that makes me glad to be a PvP Angler.

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The Imperfect Isle

Alliance Keep on the Isle of Conquest

I tried Isle of Conquest again this weekend, and lost. Not a lot, because I know when it’s just not working and quit while I was ahead… but I didn’t win any of the battles. The Alliance would mostly rush Docks, but every time we would get outnumbered and eventually get overwhelmed. Once the Docks were gone it would take maybe 10 minutes before the Horde stormed the Keep and won the match.

It’s a pretty consistent story now on the Alliance side.

THE SNIPE SPOT

Cassandri at Hots & Dots has a short but sweet look at the Isle of Conquest, and why the Alliance has such a tough time winning it.

It comes down to the Snipe Spot described by Rubymelon in his great post, The Secret to Winning Isle of Conquest and also discussed in this comment on WoW Insider. The secret, such as it is, is that the Glaives have a longer range than the defensive cannons on the keep. Their longer range exploits the strong-side/weak-side asymmetry Ihra noticed while looking at win/loss data, where the Docks’ western placement puts them on the Alliance Keep’s weak side (and the Horde Keep’s strong side.)

So the strategy that results in a Horde win every single time is for them to rush the Docks, take the Glaives, knock down the Alliance Keep’s west wall with impunity, and then kill the boss. The corresponding strategy on the Alliance side is to take the Hangar, but it is a weaker strategy because the Horde Keep walls are not destroyed, nor is there a disparity in the offensive/defensive weapon ranges.

Don’t mistake this for QQ. Fighting a battle means exploiting every asymmetrical advantage you can, and I’m really quite impressed at the players who figured this out. I’m not asking for any changes. The map is laid out in a way that favors certain tactics from certain sides, and there’s no way around that. Alterac Valley is the same way. I don’t think normalizing the ranges between the glaives and cannons will fix this; this is a map problem, too.

It’s no excuse; the Alliance should be able to find a counterstrategy that works:  destroy the Glaives at all cost, for instance.  But I think the damage has already been done to this battleground.

GO HARD OR GO HOME

Let me switch to Alterac Valley for a little bit. The 50s bracket of AV in Ruin was (before the sweeping PvP changes of 3.2) completely Alliance dominated. The matches would start 40 Alliance : 10 Horde, and the Horde would get slaughtered on the rush to Drek. Half of the Alliance team would get Drek, the rest would push them into the cave, and the matches didn’t take very long.

The Horde didn’t lose because of a map imbalance, though the AV map does favor the Alliance. (The bridge at Dun Baldar is a great defensive structure that when properly manned cannot be bypassed; the path into Frostwolf Village is not at good because the line of sight is broken, limiting many player abilities.) They lost because they didn’t show up. No matter how good you are, you can’t win a battleground against 3-4 times your number.

But you have to dig deeper? Why didn’t the Horde show up in that bracket, while the Alliance turned out in droves?

Because once upon a time, when it was equal, the Horde lost more games than they won due to a map imbalance. So they did what any rational player would do: either afk in the cave for marks and get honor elsewhere, or play something else entirely. There’s no reason to fight a losing battle when you can fight a winning one elsewhere.

But a funny thing started happening late nights while I was playing AV. The Horde showed up. And they showed up big time, with level 60s who knew what they were doing, and even though the matches started out 20:40, they soon filled up. Premades or not, if you have 40 on 40, it’s a real battle.

Yes, the Horde won most of those matches. They came in and played smart, with a good mix of offense and defense. They capped and recapped and defended and fought at the flag and took down Van in no time flat. They slaughtered the unprepared Alliance forces.

It was glorious, even from the losing side.

Those were the matches that taught me how to play AV, not the facerolls. /bg chat may have been filled with cries of “OMG WE CAN’T LOSE” and other QQery, but enough of us fought through to figure out how to win in the face of an actual opponent. Some of the best AV matches I played were those late-night AVs where the Horde showed up. Losing 0-10 on resources is heartbreaking, but also a hell of a game. We won some. We lost some.

When I got to the 71-80 bracket, I found where all the Horde really were. They were up at the level cap fighting normal AVs, and winning some of them. Not all, but they weren’t fighting a population disparity right away. The lessons learned in the earlier brackets came in handy as the strategies were the same, just the 80s hit much, much harder.

This old war story has a point. The Isle of Conquest has a balance problem that will drive players either to it, or away from it, just like Alterac Valley. Battlegrounds PuGs are good randomizers, so all other things being equal, an advantage in one side will cause that side to win more often statistically than the other. A rational player will look at this and say either this is to my benefit or disadvantage, and participate accordingly. Now that there are so many battlegrounds to choose from, players will go to where they feel they can get the best reward for their playtime.

I worry that Alliance participation is going to plummet in the Isle of Conquest, just like Horde participation did in Alterac Valley. Perhaps it will happen even faster, or has already happened — I have no way of knowing. But I have a hunch people will act in their own self-interest and the Alliance will stop showing up.

Which is really too bad, because the example the Horde set in Alterac Valley is the right one Alliance players should draw from. Don’t give up hope. Find a better way to fight, and exploit advantages that you do have. If that means making a premade, or only letting 60 twinks into the battleground, so be it. Perhaps the advent of rated battlegrounds will give the Alliance the organization it needs to overcome the Snipe Spot strategy. Perhaps not; the advantage will not be asymmetric. I think a more traditional strategy is necessary: yield the Docks, but kill the Glaives at all costs while pursuing a Hangar seems to be a good start.

But I do know that the imbalance in the Isle of Conquest map is already affecting people’s decisions about where to spend their time. Time will tell if this will turn the Isle into an Alliance ghost town or not.

POSTMORTEM

After writing the original post above, I logged in to the Isle to get some screenshots. I had been there for no more than 20 seconds when the Alliance won.

Sure enough, the player count helped explain why: Alliance: 40, Horde: 35.

I then won 3 in a row.

Moral of the story: You have to show up to win.

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The Flag is Noob Bait

Gnomeaggedon has a great post up about working together in EotS, The Flag is Noob Bait. It’s funny, with some good advice, and a touching twist at the end I won’t spoil for you.

Well, I’ll give you a hint — it’s something to think about when you have lost faith that your side can actually pull it together.

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An Introduction To Wintergrasp

Can Catapults Get Up There?.png
I still don’t know how that catapult got up there.

I love Wintergrasp. It’s a fight over a resource-rich zone, and unlike some other zones that get called that, this is not just flavor text. The winning side gains tangible benefits both for combatants and non-combatants alike. There’s real value in victory. Stone Keeper’s Shards and Wintergrasp Marks offer attractive gear for both you and your alts at the vendors who spawn when you control Wintergrasp Fortress, the Vault of Archavon becomes available, and the Essence of Wintergrasp is applied across all of Northrend, helping your entire faction.

The goal is simple: take control of Wintergrasp Fortress, or defend it until time expires.

But Wintergrasp is big, and confusing, and how you do this simple goal is not apparent. Your first few matches are often spent with very little idea how you can contribute. There are no obvious markers to guide you, no mad scramble or charge you can join in that says this is the right thing to do.

THE MAP

First, let’s get familiar with the zone.

(click to embiggen)

The northern part of Wintergrasp is dominated by Wintergrasp Fortress and the Temple Workshops. This is where much of the heavy fighting will rage during a battle. There are some subtle terrain differences on each side, but you should find the Flight Points for each side (Horde is west, Alliance is east) because this is where the offenses will zone in.

The southern part is less populated during a battle, but is where you’ll find the Towers and Southern Workshops. Not everyone goes here during a battle, but it’s an important part of the defense, so we’ll talk about it more in a minute.

The quest zones to the east and west are not tactically important during a battle. You can ignore them for now.

I really recommend you ride around the zone before a battle begins to get an idea of where everything is located.

GOALS

Next up are the goals in Wintergrasp.

Wintergrasp Goals
(click to enlarge)

On offense, you have one goal: get inside the inner fortress and click the Titan Relic in the center. This involves knocking down at least 3 fortress walls with vehicles: an outer wall, an inner wall, and the door to the relic chamber. Walls are knocked down by vehicles — siege engines are optimal for this task. A mass of 4-6 siege can often destroy a wall before the defense can stop them.

On defense, you have a primary and secondary goal. Your primary goal is to keep the offense away from the Titan Relic for 30 minutes. Your secondary goal is to destroy the three southern towers, which takes 10 minutes off your defensive clock. Destroying the southern towers therefore means that you only have to defend for 15 minutes. Towers are destroyed with vehicles, too, often with a combination of fast-moving catapults and slow, lumbering siege.

You no doubt noticed that each team needs vehicles to accomplish their victory goals. You can have 4 vehicles for every workshop you control, so the more workshops you control, the more vehicles you can field — and the fewer your opponent can have. So controlling the workshops is a shared goal for each side.

VEHICLES AND CANNONS

One of the defining features of Wintergrasp are the vehicles. Once you have reached the rank of Recruit (5 kills) you can create fast, lightweight catapults, and Lieutenant (10 kills) gives you access to antipersonnel Demolishers and heavy, slow Siege Engines. You can only create vehicles if your side has available slots — check the battle status in the upper part of your screen for this information. You can create a vehicle by going inside a workshop you control and speaking to the gnome or goblin manning the controls. They’ll give you a choice of what you can build.

Catapults are fast vehicles that are excellent for both taking down the southern towers quickly, as well as supporting larger vehicles during an assault. Catapults get a bad rap because they are easy to make, but that’s another advantage; if your side can field a lot of catapults early on, they can make a significant difference. However, cats take up slots that can also be filled by heavier vehicles, so as the battle progresses you should be swapping out catapults for siege engines.

Siege Engines are heavy, lumbering rams that are essential to both offense and defense. They have a gun turret which should be manned if at all possible. They are hard for defenders to take down quickly, so a very good strategy is to mass siege at one of the workshops and then send 4-10 of them in a single group to overwhelm the defense. Most defenders can stop 1 or 2, but a concentrated mass of siege is usually too much to stop, especially if it is protected.

Demolishers combine the good traits of both catapults and siege engines without excelling in either role. They are good support units for the southern tower offensive, as they are quick enough to move from tower to tower, but they are not as fast as a pack of catapults. They can stop other vehicles and take down walls, but don’t pack quite the punch of a siege engine. Demolishers are useful to have in your mix, but shouldn’t be your primary units.

The vehicles take some getting used to. If you’re new I wouldn’t recommend piloting one right away, but instead watch and see how they are used in different situations.

While they’re not vehicles per se, the defensive Cannons on the towers are worth a final word before moving on. The cannons are an integral part of defending any structure, be it the Fortress or the southern Towers. Cannons provide great ranged AoE DPS and having them manned in the right places is crucial to defending the walls. Conversely, knocking out any manned cannons is essential to the attackers to protect your siege. Cannons are easy to use, and for most characters, manning a cannon is a better contribution to your side than running around outside the walls.

I say most characters, because there comes a point where either your crowd control or healing abilities are more needed out in the thick of battle than any contribution you can make from a cannon. If you’re a new 80 (or sub 80), new to PvP, or a tank, though: consider manning any empty cannon you find.

TENACITY

Depending on which side of the Tenacity buff you’re on, Tenacity is either the best or worst thing about Wintergrasp. Tenacity is a stacking buff applied to the outnumbered side and increases both health and damage dealt. It can be very, very potent when used properly. But it’s also relatively simple to overcome, because it has no effect upon crowd control.

The best way to overcome Tenacity is strong crowd control and group tactics. Fear, stun, disarm, silence all still work, and ganging up on the opponent will usually overcome anyone with Tenacity. So the key to using it well is to play smart — don’t engage 20 opponents by yourself. Stick to the basics and let it work for you.

One last note about Tenacity: complaining about it is worthless, and usually marks you as a bad player to the other players. It is an integral part of Wintergrasp, and you must learn to deal with it. Stick together and use your crowd control.

BASIC STRATEGIES

There are many ways to win Wintergrasp. It’s not as straightforward a battleground as some of the more traditional ones – not only is each server’s composition different, but each battle has different conditions because of Tenacity. There are some general battle strategies that you will see repeatedly that are worth some discussion. Here are two of the most common.

The Quick Punch involves the offense grouping many siege engines at a nearby workshop and making a single, huge push into the Fortress. If the defense doesn’t repel this first push, the offense wins very quickly.

The terrain generally forces The Quick Punch to follow the paths outlined below:

Wintergrasp Zergs
The Quick Punch: Watch out for big arrows, they’ll hurt!

The key to making this push work is to make sure the defense is distracted and pulled away where you are actually going. Drawing the Alliance out front, or the Horde to the side, or either side to the south, will often make taking the Relic easy. Defending against the Quick Punch is simple in concept but hard in execution; everyone has to throw themselves at the mass of siege and stop them at all costs, or the rest of the battle will not happen. Calling out incomings is essential — if you don’t talk on defense, you will lose.

This is what it looks like when the Quick Punch wins:

WG Fail Train.jpg
Yes, I had red hair during this battle.  It was weird.

Sometimes, the opposing side will show up with a half-dozen Siege Engines within 30 seconds.  This is possible for at least two reasons:  Tenacity increasing the kill value of NPCs, and people logging out with the First Lieutenant rank and logging back in at the start of the value.  It doesn’t matter how it happens; just be ready for it.  QQing does nothing to help.

The Long Siege is a more traditional battle for Wintergrasp. Pressure is applied to the Fortress to keep the defenders occupied while the southern workshops are taken. The defenders, in turn, repel assaults while destroying the southern towers.

I’ll present this from the Alliance side on offense because that’s what I’m most familiar with, but the Horde strategy is very similar.

Alliance Offensive Phase 1
Phase 1: Secure the Workshops

The offense begins by capturing the nearest workshop (Sunken Temple) and moving people to the walls of the Fortress to get HKs and create siege. Staying behind the walls is actually a good idea at this point for the defenders, since it takes time off the clock while the offense racks up kills on NPCs.

The offense should also send out squads to capture other workshops to increase the vehicle slots available to their side.

Wintergrasp Alliance Phase 2
Phase 2: Taking Down the Walls

After the initial assault on the walls, the offense should look to secure the remaining southern workshops and establish a modest southern defense, while building up their forces in the north. Holding the southern workshops will become more difficult as the defense starts to send groups south to the towers, so keeping a strong threat on the walls of the keep is important.

Wintergrasp Alliance Phase 3
Phase 3: Endgame

Once enough forces have been build up in the northern workshops, waves of siege should be sent against the walls with the intent of punching through and creating multiple breaches for the defenders to have to deal with. Generally, if the offense can split the defense inside the keep, any one wave should be enough to overwhelm one wall and courtyard. But once the offense has access to the inner keep, the siege needs to pour at the Fortress door until the Relic is taken, or the wave is dead.

At the same time this is happening, the defense should be mounting a concerted effort to get the southern towers down. The offense should make sure that they have enough defenders down at the workshops to keep at least one tower up, as futile a goal as that may be. If the defense strikes strongly enough at the south, the offense should immediately abandon all but the workshops and instead focus on getting in the Fortress as fast as possible. Most offenses should assume they only have 20 minutes, not 30.

ALL WINTERGRASP, ALL THE TIME

Wintergrasp is not a simple battleground to master. The epic battles make it hard to figure out what you should be doing at any moment in time. Hopefully this introduction will help you better visualize the ebb and flow of each battle and react appropriately — because of all the resource-rich zones in Azeroth, this is the one you want to control.

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