For as long as I have played World of Warcraft, “twink” has been a dirty word. Conventional wisdom held that twinks were the reason low-level PvP was inaccessible to normal players, that those toons with their Green Tinted Goggles and their Lucky Fishing Hats –the most visible sign of a level 19 twink — had ruined casual battleground play.
Prior to the great Battleground Experience Patch of 2009, I think the conventional wisdom had identified the symptoms correctly while missing the real problem. A new player venturing into Warsong Gulch, clad in a few quest greens and whites, with untrained skills and professions and only a few hours of /played under their belt, would (and did) get slaughtered at the hands of players with a deep understanding of their abilities and the battleground, best-in-slot gear, maxed skills and professions, and weeks of /played time. Couple that disparity with the nerdrage prevalent in so many battlegrounds and the 10-19 WSG bracket was hellish for casual players.
Setting aside the nerdrage, which is its own independent problem, the ability disparity is neither unique to WSG nor the fault of twinking players. With but one exception, this is the almost the exact same problem experienced at the level cap: a freshly-dinged 80 is nothing like the main of a hardcore raider or arena gladiator with maxed skills and ilevel 245 gear, except in level only. If we ignore the character levels, the attitudes of hardcore raiders and twinks are identical: pursue excellence in your character’s chosen activity and seize every advantage possible. What would you call a raider without maxed professions, who refuses to ever flask before a run or get the Hodir shoulder enchants?
The exception I mentioned above is that hardcore raiders and gladiators get to select both their teammates and their opponents, while WSG twinks could not. Raiders can be as picky as they want about who is in the raid, and run content appropriate to their ability. Gladiators have opponents chosen for them based on a complicated evaluation of gear and performance, and while the system has some flaws, it does prevent teams in crafted blues going up against teams in Relentless gear.
Battlegrounds can be joined by anyone who could find the appropriate Battlemaster and met the level requirements. I think this is why the conventional wisdom about twinks in Warsong Gulch was right, though it was for all the wrong reasons. It was never the twink’s fault. Warsong Gulch sucked for casual players because they weren’t fighting other casual players, and it sucked for twinks because they would get non-twinks assigned to their team, with no corresponding weakness on the other side. In other words, the content was too hard for some characters to handle, and those players with characters who could handle the content grew frustrated at their inability to choose teammates who took it as seriously as they did.
But since there is an order of magnitude more casual players than there are twinks, twinking became the dirty word.
This situation changed with patch 3.2 and the introduction of XP to battlegrounds. In one fell swoop, Blizzard both opened up the low-level battlegrounds back to casual players, and gave twinks their own battlegrounds. The decision to let experience-frozen characters only play their own kind divided each bracket in two: a leveling bracket and a twink bracket. It was a good move, though it had devastating effects on some of the brackets. My level 59 Death Knight Cynwulf couldn’t find a match in his twink brackets for weeks after 3.2 hit, while the leveling bracket exploded with players flocking to the rich XP rewards. Alterac Valley became a place for lightning-fast leveling through difficult stretches, with people leveling alts all the way to 80 within its frosty confines. It changed the dynamic of the game, opening up a new way for players to level. Quest for a while, then take a break and play battlegrounds for a night without falling behind!
I have heard that a similar phenomenon took place in the 19 twink bracket as the 59; very long queue times for infrequent matches. Some twinks resorted to playing in the leveling brackets and leaving the matches before they finished to avoid too much experience gain. But many twinks just had a hard time finding games after 3.2 dropped.
It’s difficult for me to reconcile those reports with the current situation, three months after battleground XP was implemented, because both the 10-19 leveling bracket and 19 twink bracket are thriving now on the Ruin battlegroup. I suspect that what happened was that since 3.2 contained so many changes (Argent Coliseum raids, new tier sets, new heirloom items, a new battleground, and mounts at lower levels) that twink players found other things to occupy their time. I know that 3.2 is when I threw myself out of the battlegrounds and into raiding. I leveled my few alts with their new mounts. I played some Isle of Conquest. I ran the new Argent Crusade dailies every single day and became an heirloom item junkie.
But mostly, I ran the Trial of the Champion and heroics until my eyes bled.
A FRESH START
I don’t know what it was, specifically, that caused me to roll a new alt. I’m a slow leveler, and I have tried to focus my attention on as few characters as possible to achieve as much as I can with them. Perhaps it was the mount changes, or all the pretty heirlooms I was getting, but something caused me to roll a paladin just to see what it was like. I outfitted her with some nice heirlooms, leveled her up to level 12 or so, and then took her into Warsong Gulch to see if things had changed since my last ill-fated visit.
Warsong Gulch at 10-19 is completely different now. The leveling bracket is filled with toons of all different levels, gear, and player skill. Interestingly, level seems to be a poor predictor of performance, which is counter to what you might expect. The matches are short but not frenetic. Best of all, you get to see how your class plays in PvP before a lot of complications are added – there just aren’t as many things to keep track of as with an endgame character. Your opponents lack a lot of counters that they get later on, so you can learn how your abilities are really supposed to work.
It’s really a great experience. I recommend at least trying WSG again if you’re starting a new alt. It is a great training ground and helps you understand the core of your new class much better than solo questing does. (Running Deadmines is the other part of learning a new alt that I find really valuable.)
The leveling bracket of WSG is also ridiculously low-stress. I jokingly call it the Come-As-You-Are bracket, because you will find such a wide variety of gear, skill, and ability spread throughout both teams. Compared to the intensity of endgame PvP, this bracket is like a pickup flag football game. Sure, you want to win, but having fun is just as important.
THE HARDCORE ATTITUDE
If the matches in the 10-19 leveling bracket are afternoon pickup games, the level 19 twink matches are decidedly professional affairs. The expectation is that you’re geared, skilled, stocked, and prepared. You need to know your role in the fight, or learn it quickly.
The item levels are different, but the hardcore attitude is just the same as the endgame: be the absolute best you can be. If you’re not there yet, you better be working on it.
Seeing this attitude applied to level 19 characters is really amazing. The potential abilities are astonishing, if you are willing to pursue them. Bandages that heal you to full in two ticks? Food buffs that give 10-20% more health?
I don’t know about you, but I had no idea any of these things were possible when I first leveled up through Westfall and Loch Modan.
The experience cap has made twinking much easier; no longer do you need to plan out every step from level 10 on. You can quest all the way to 19 and then get your gear, if you choose. Faction changes allow players to get the best of both worlds now, eliminating the problem of faction-only BiS gear. Yes, that’s how hardcore twinks can be – faction changes for a BiS ring.
Having a separate bracket for these characters is a very good thing, for everyone involved. Twinks fighting twinks is a completely different kind of game, with a slower pace and more emphasis on control. There are no facerolls in the twink games.
And when you beat a premade, the taste of victory is very, very sweet.
IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE
You don’t have to be as hardcore as the most hardcore twink to take away some very good lessons from their approach.
First, train your professions to max level as early as possible. You can pick them up at level 5 and reach 150 skill by level 10 – do it. This gives you access to all the benefits at a time where they are completely OP. You will also have a viable income if you are rolling on a new server. Don’t forget that many of the best endgame professions are not very good at lower levels, and vice versa. Herbalism, Mining, Skinning, and Engineering all have excellent benefits while leveling.
Second, max out your First Aid. At level 10 you can reach 225 skill, which let’s you use (but not make) Heavy Runecloth Bandages. So you can use any old-world bandage you can get your hands on. Bandaging can be done in combat and is a cheap, easy way to reduce downtime.
Third, get good gear. Heirlooms are great if you have access to them, but crafted gear is really good at low levels, too. Seriously, crafted gear. Check it out. Enchant it if you can afford it.
I’ve started doing these things on my alts and it’s remarkable what a difference it makes. A level 10 dwarf warrior with Green Tinted Goggles and fully-enchanted heirlooms makes leveling a joy, not a grind.
I admit – I giggle a lot going into WSG and beating people 5-9 levels higher than me in 1:1 combat.
It’s funny; I didn’t originally associate these tips or attitude with twinking; I considered it part of learning how to play well, especially for a part of the game I struggle with. Let me be honest — I made just about every mistake you could make while leveling, No, really, I’m terrible at it. But I got to the endgame, I learned how to play, and now I’m learning again by watching the twinks.
Twink. It isn’t a dirty word anymore.