Monthly Archives: March 2010

Wednesday Reading

You know, it’s been a while since I’ve done a Wednesday Reading post.  Here are some posts I’ve enjoyed recently.

  • Gnomeaggedon has some awesome SotA Tips, Better Than a Guide for those who, ahem, didn’t look at Strand as the ideal filler between Wintergrasp and Alterac Valley during the pre-3.3.3 honor grind.  And yes, I love the map.  🙂
  • Ixobelle tries PvP and finds he likes it.  Huzzah!  (Via Larisa.)
  • Dominic Hobbs does a fine job covering Destro 101 over at WoW Insider.
  • This has nothing to do with PvP or Warlocks, but I quite enjoyed In Other News, Fire is Still Hot over at Pugging Pally.  (Also, congrats on the LK10 kill!)
  • I confess, I think of my Death Knight as a plate-wearing, melee Warlock. Psynister talks about that, and more, in Death Knights for Spellcasters.
  • Krizzlybear writes an inspirational post on Why I Frost, and Why I Won’t Take Anyone’s Crap over at Frost is the New Black.
  • Speaking of mages, which we weren’t, but I guess we are now, Craig over at Plagued Candles has a great write up on Focus Magic and how to use it.  I love, love, love getting Focus Magic.  It’s like Christmas for my DPS.
  • Okay, I may have a bit of a conflict of interest here, but Arrens’ post on Roleplaying and You: Demons and Pets is a good look at playing your relationship with your Demon while roleplaying.  (I suggested the topic, but hey, my blog, I can post links I like too!)
  • Cass takes us through Maraudon: Pristine Waters, and I, for one, bless these maps every time she publishes a new one.
  • MoodyDK over at Death Grip My Heart looks at the new Icy Touch and comes up with some choice names for it.
  • Something a little different, but welcome and needed — Shieldbreakr at A Horde of One talks about ridding his server of offensive, racist trash, and I support his efforts.  Pretend hate of the Horde or Alliance is one thing.  Real hate is something altogether.



Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Links

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.


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.


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 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.


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 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.


  • 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.


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.


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.


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.)


Filed under Battleground Strategies, Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Battleground Gear in 3.3.3

I’ll be honest. Patch 3.3.3 is leaving me a little dizzy in the battlegrounds. The Battleground Finder is everything I hoped for and more. Getting rid of Marks of Honor has opened up the lower gear tiers to players of all levels without having to grind specific battlegrounds.

The biggest change is how much honor you get for PvP now. My GM put it really well: Honor is flowing like water in the battlegrounds. The honor boost to Honorable Kills has yielded a terrific boost to getting honor in every battleground. Blizzard stated that they wanted gearing up for PvP to be as easy as gearing up for PvE, and I think they’ve done that. You can outfit yourself in a full kit of T9 with a few days of random heroics, and now you can outfit yourself in a full kit of Furious Gladiator’s gear with a few days of random battlegrounds. This is a good thing.


I don’t see any new gear since 3.3.2; there’s no new Arena season with this patch, so Wrathful is still the top tier of gear. The vendors are different: Alliance is the badass-looking Knight-Lieutenant T’Maire Sydes, and I assume the Horde got a new vendor, too. But the gear is all the same.

The PvP gear levels at level 80, and how you purchase them, are:

  • Wrathful Gladiator (ilvl 264-270): Arena Points + Arena Ranking
  • Relentless Gladiator (ilvl 251): Arena Points + Honor Points
  • Furious Gladiator (ilvl 232): Honor Points
  • Titan-Forged (ilvl 200-251): Wintergrasp Marks
  • PvP Enchants: Stone Keeper’s Shards or Honor Points

Offset Gladiator pieces are purchasable at a currency level or two higher than listed. Given how much honor is flowing right now, it’s worth changing the format and talking about the best PvP pieces you can get in each slot with only honor or Wintergrasp Marks.

  • Head: Furious (ilvl 232) – 54500 honor
  • Neck: Wrathful (ilvl 264) – 52200 honor
  • Shoulder: Titan-Forged (ilvl 251) – 40 Wintergrasp Marks
  • Back: Wrathful (ilvl 264) – 52200 honor
  • Chest: Furious (ilvl 232) – 54500 honor
  • Wrist: Wrathful (ilvl 264) – 43400 honor
  • Hands: Furious (ilvl 232) – 43300 honor
  • Waist: Relentless (ilvl 245) – 34100 honor
  • Legs: Furious (ilvl 232) – 34700 honor
  • Feet: Relentless (ilvl 245) – 34100 honor
  • 1st Ring: Wrathful (ilvl 264) – 52200 honor
  • 2nd Ring: Relentless (ilvl 245) – 26100 honor
  • Trinket: Medallion of the Alliance/Horde (ilvl 264) – 68200 honor
  • Trinket: Battlemaster (ilvl 245) – 34100 honor
  • Main-hand: None
  • Off-hand: None
  • Ranged: None

This entire kit will cost 583,600 honor and 40 Wintergrasp Marks. You’ll have to bring your own weapons. It’s a pity I haven’t been keeping track of the prices from patch to patch, because I suspect that the addition of Wrathful gear to the honor pool has made this the most expensive battleground kit ever.

However, with the recent buff to the amount of honor you get, it might also be the easiest kit to complete. So take it for what it’s worth.


Mount collectors seem to be unanimously in favor of the change from Marks to honor for purchasing PvP mounts. And I can see why. The convenience of not having to run specific battlegrounds outweighs the honor math, and to be honest, all math before 3.3.3 likely needs to be thrown out, anyways.

PvP mounts now cost 50k honor. Based on a day or so of running battlegrounds with the new levels of honor, that’s about 2-3 hours of random battlegrounds. Before this patch, 50k honor was a significantly greater investment. With moderate PvP, I used to hit the honor cap about once a week or so, and now I expect to hit it every 2-3 days. So comparing prices before (60 Marks * 248 honor = 14880 honor) and after (50k honor) is faulty. Fortunately, there is a common currency.

Time, not Marks or Honor, is the real currency you are using to buy PvP mounts. Getting 60 Marks took a minimum of 21 and a maximum of 60 battles. At 15 minutes each, that’s a range of 5.25 hours to 15 hours. Let’s take a median of 8.812 hours for each PvP mount.

Now, mounts will probably cost about 2-3 hours each. Seems like a good deal to me.

Mount collectors have every reason to celebrate this patch.


Things get a little trickier discussing honor when we move away from the endgame, mostly because each bracket offers substantially different levels of honor rewards. Where the gear scales with bracket, this works out fine. If you get 200 honor per match, buying a sword for 600 honor is a fine value and you should definitely consider it.

Rewards from Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and Alterac Valley all fit this criteria. You can get them from the following vendors:

Don’t dismiss these rewards as PvP-only. They’re not. They’re solid leveling and dungeon gear, and at many points they are the best in slot items you can get. Be willing to spend honor as you level to keep your gear current.

Rewards that are useful beyond a bracket, though, are probably more inaccessible now than they were before. If you get 200 honor per match, a 50k Mount is now 62.5 hours of PvP time instead of 8.812 hours.

But to be honest, I don’t know how much honor folks should expect to get while leveling through battlegrounds. The changes at level 80 have me so disoriented — I seriously got 5k honor from Warsong Gulch, which blows my mind — that I can’t even guess how hard it would be to get 50k honor at level 60, let alone 40. I’m not worried about the scaled rewards, but the mounts and battlefield standards? Yikes.

This patch will take some time to really fully understand.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Fight at the Flag!

Fight at the Flag.

You’ll hear this saying many, many times in battleground chat. If I could only give one piece of advice for how to fight well in the battlegrounds, this would be it. It’s that important.

When you hear people saying this, it is both a reminder and a warning — make sure that when you engage the enemy, you do so at a strategic point. The key is fighting where your battle has meaning, and not needlessly dying over a piece of dirt that means nothing.


In most battlegrounds, the strategic points are the flags. In some, like Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch, they’re the whole game. In others, they are part of a strategy, usually of resource or base control. And if there’s a flag to be captured, you should most likely be fighting next to it. An 8-second lull in the battle is enough to capture a node, but you can’t do that if you’re not near it.

The offense should do whatever they can to get to that flag. Get up the AV tower and fight around the ring of the bunker, get to the EoTS node and stay there, ride as close up as you can to the AB flag and click it when they’re not looking. In Warsong Gulch, you should be relentlessly pursuing the EFC to kill and retake your flag.

Because it takes so little time to capture a flag, defenders should remain in range and in LoS of the flag to prevent it from getting captured. This doesn’t mean all defenders should be at the flag at all times, but it does mean that some of your force needs to physically protect that flag. Depending on the terrain and situation, it’s often appropriate for some of the defense to move forward to hit the offense before they can get to the flag, as establishing distance from the flag always favors the defense. If you can push the offense away from the node, then they are less able to capture it. But you have to be near it to protect it.

Now, there are strategic and tactical reasons for not fighting at the flag, almost all defensive. The bridge at Dun Baldar and gatehouse at Frostwolf Village in Alterac Valley come to mind; they give too much tactical defensive value to yield unfought. There can be tactical value in the surrounding structures and terrain which you should take. But the further you get away from the flag, the less safe it actually is.

This idea should be straightforward. You have to be near the flag in order to take it. You have to take the flag to win it. Ergo, fight near the flag.

But that’s not the only reason why you should fight at the flag.


Arathi Basin is the canonical Fight at the Flag battleground. There are 5 nodes arranged in a diamond shape around a central point. Each node has a flag next to a building of some sort, and can be captured by clicking on it and channeling for 8 seconds. When you capture a node, you control the resources from that node, and you gain control of the adjacent graveyard. The nodes are interconnected through a series of roads and bridges.

Here’s a map of Arathi Basin.  (You’ve been there before, I hope.)  The white circles are the nodes with approximate flag location, the squares are the graveyards.

The road areas in pink are bad places to fight. Even though they are choke points, they are the most worthless areas of the map to contest, and not just because they aren’t near a flag.

It’s also because they’re not near a graveyard.

Death in PvP is a temporary thing. It’s like a 30 second penalty that strips all of your party buffs. It also sends you to an out-of-the-way location to rez; in AB it’s on the other side of whatever structure is at that node. So if you die while defending a node, you have up to 30 seconds to wait to get rezzed, another 5 seconds to rebuff, and then 5-10 seconds to get back to the flag. So depending on your luck, you might be back in 15 or 45 seconds. As long as the flag stays in your team’s possession during that time, all defenders will come back.

The offense has a tougher time of it. The penalty for dying is getting sent back to a graveyard you do control, which may be on the other side of the map. So while you might have an epic battle going for the Lumber Mill, if you haven’t captured any graveyards yet, your reinforcements are going to go back to the spawn point, not to the Stables or Farm — even though you may have assaulted those flags.  Graveyard placement is vital.

Let’s continue with Arathi Basin to illustrate this point further.  We’ll take a traditional 5/5/5 middle offense versus an 8/7 hook rush.

The Farm and Stables are assaulted as a matter of course.  The Horde attacks strong-side (Lumber Mill and Blacksmith) while Alliance sends 5 to each node.  Assuming no huge individual imbalances at any given fight, they should result in the following map:

The vital thing to notice here is that NO graveyards are captured yet, only the spawn points.  Everyone is on offense, so death means you get sent halfway across the map.  Because the Horde outnumbers the Alliance at their chosen nodes, they take them with fewer losses than the Alliance are able to inflict.  So the Alliance has 2/3rds of their team sent back to their spawn point, while far smaller percentage of the Horde resets.

While all this is happening, the close graveyards (Stables, Farm) start flipping as the nodes are actually captured.   However, the battle is already turning against the Alliance:

With only two nodes solidly in either faction’s control, the Horde is in a much better position as they move into the next set of fighting because of the graveyards.  As 2/3rds of the Horde assault the Stables, they are about to have two graveyards come under their control.  If they fought at the flag and assaulted the node early in the first fight, then they will have one or two nearby graveyards to reinforce the Stables fight.  The Alliance is in worst shape; they have a weak force entering hostile territory, with reinforcements coming from three sides.

Removing the vectors, this is where your people will be.

This is why you fight at the flag.  Right here is the entire match — if the Horde can take the Stables Graveyard from the Alliance, then all reinforcements from the main battle will go back to Trollbane Hall, completely isolating the Alliance offense.  If the Horde fails to take the Stables, they still have the close graveyards of the Blacksmith and Lumber Mill to regroup at and hold to apply pressure on the Stables and Gold Mine.

If the Alliance can take the Farm graveyard, they strengthen their position and disrupt the Horde’s march to a 4-5 cap.  They’ll send the Horde back to the spawn point or the Blacksmith.  They’re at a disadvantage compared to the Horde due to having to divide their forces between the Mine and the Farm, but it’s the best they can do with the situation.  If the Horde shifts away from the Lumber Mill, or sends troops back from the Stables to take the Gold Mine, the Farm offensive is in real trouble.

I’ve been talking in terms of holding engagements near the flag at each node.  Let’s consider what happens if you fight in the road, instead of at the flag.

If the Horde engages away from the Stables flag:

  • Horde casualties will go back to the Blacksmith, or maybe the Lumber Mill (depends on which road and where.)
  • Alliance casualties will stay at the Stables.

If the Alliance engages away from the Farm flag:

  • Alliance casualties will go back to the Gold Mine, which will be vulnerable to attack.
  • Horde casualties will to stay at the Farm.

If they both do these things, then the map will stay exactly as it is right now, with Horde leading 3-2.

If one group fights at the flag and takes the graveyard away from the opposition, however, they increase their odds of winning dramatically.  Alliance has a shot of going 3-2, and the Horde can dominate with a 4-1 (and should go for a 5 cap at that point.)

Here’s what phase 3 looks like if both sides fight at the flag.

Now, the Horde still has the upper hand at this point, but the Alliance has driven a wedge into their march to a 5 cap.  Whichever side is able to continue to send dead opponents away from nodes will come out on top, and the only way to do that?

That’s right.  Fight at the flag.


Arathi Basin is one thing, where the graveyards and nodes are right next to each other.  But does that mean that “Fight at the Flag” is universal?

Yes.  Yes, it does.

  • In Warsong Gulch, you should be fighting to protect your flag carrier or trying to kill the enemy flag carrier.  All other places where you fight — midfield, in the enemy base, in your base — all need to be considered with where the two flags are relative to you.  I’m not against fighting in midfield per-se; it just needs to be done with an awareness of what you’re doing (forward defense of your flag, clearing a path for your flag carrier, etc.).
  • In Alterac Valley, the towers and graveyards are separate, but each one requires several minutes between assault and capture.  If you do not defend the flag once you’ve assaulted it, you deserve to have it recaptured by the enemy.
  • In Eye of the Storm, the bases serve as the flags, and are what you should focus on.  The presence of an actual flag confuses things, but you really don’t want to fight at it unless you have to.  This is the only place where I’d say “Fight at the Base” instead of “Fight at the Flag,” because 3 bases > flag.
  • In Strand of the Ancients, the walls and graveyards are separate, and while you have to carefully manage which you capture, the walls are your main objective.  Getting stuck in a firefight on the beach means your demolishers can’t hit the walls.  (Consequently, fighting on the beach or on the roads favors the defenders.)
  • In the Isle of Conquest, control of a node equals control of a nearby graveyard, as well as special abilities or vehicles that you need to win.  If you can capture the enemy Keep, you make it very difficult for defenders to reinforce the generals.

Fighting at the flag is the one strategy that applies to all of the Warcraft battlegrounds.   (Yes, even EotS.  Hush.)  You fight at the strategic points to both seize control of the key resources of the battleground and to redistribute your opponents to your advantage.

So take my advice.  Fight at the flag.


Filed under Battleground Strategies, Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Drain Tanking

Drain tanking is a technique used by Affliction warlocks that allows them to dispatch mobs without taking very much damage at all. When done properly, drain tanking allows affliction warlocks to enter a Kali-state, or God(dess) of Death Mode, where they slaughter mobs without ever stopping.

Remember my post on Destruction Warlock AoE Grinding? Well, if you play an Affliction warlock, you probably looked at that with a bit of amusement and, quite probably, inter-class derision. So much movement! So much jumping and flying and BAM BAM BAMing! So much damage taken! So much like a mage! Wait until you see how an Afflock handles that situation!

Well, you’ll get no argument from me. While Destro AoE grinding is a fun, quick way to kill a lot of mobs and leave them in convenient loot piles, it does suffer from several flaws. It’s mana-intensive, it doesn’t replenish any of your resources, and it requires a lot of movement before damage is inflicted and the mobs die.

(That said, when the mobs die, they die in very, very convenient heaps.)

Drain tanking is different.

The core idea of drain tanking is that the warlock will heal themselves faster than the mob can damage them. As long as this is true, warlocks do not need their demons to tank for them. Using a combination of high Stamina, Spellpower, and Life Tap, skilled drain tankers can run through a pack of mobs and emerge with full health and full mana, resulting in zero downtime. As you level, you’ll get better at this so that the only time you have to stop is to loot.


At level 14 Warlocks gain the spell Drain Life, the first core ability of drain tanking. Drain Life takes health away from the target and gives it to you via a bright green channelled spell. After you apply your DoTs (Corruption, Curse of Agony, maybe Immolate) to the target, use Drain Life to keep healing yourself while doing damage. When dealing with multiple mobs, dot them all up before using Drain Life, and don’t hesitate to Fear them away if they are causing too much damage.

Up to this point, warlocks have been squishy casters without any way to heal themselves (aside from First Aid), and their demons serve as tanks who should take and hold aggro. Drain-tanking warlocks do not worry when their demon loses aggro, because they can take the damage when it comes their way. They’ll just heal it up.

Here’s a macro you may find useful for low-level drain tanking:

/castsequence reset=target/combat,4 Curse of Agony, Corruption, Drain Life

This will allow you to quickly apply your instant dots and then move on to healing yourself. Don’t forget that Demon Skin / Demon Armor will increase healing by 20%, so make sure you have it up at all times.


At level 30 things get more interesting with Siphon Life. Siphon Life changes your Corruption spell to return 40% of damage done as healing to you, allowing you to heal on every single pull. Corruption/Siphon Life becomes your single most important DoT to place on a mob because of this healing. Curse of Agony becomes your next standard DoT, and Immolate is a third option if you need additional DPS. The addition of Siphon Life lessens your reliance on Drain Life, and consequently, makes you more mobile. You can still Drain Life when necessary, but you will often find it more effective to keep moving from mob to mob.

Siphon Life really accelerates your leveling because it lets you damage and heal with the same spell. You cast both a DoT and a HoT at the same time, which is cool, but Life Tap transforms this into a mana-regeneration spell, too. By siphoning the mob’s health and tapping it into mana, you can cast further Corruptions. The more mobs you pull the stronger you get.

It’s a beautiful cycle.

Siphon Life is affected by anything that increases Corruption’s damage, so Spellpower on gear and any Corruption-enhancing talents also enhance your drain tanking.


Siphon Life opens up a lot of options to the leveling warlock, but while grinding and questing you’re still going to be dipping into your deep bag of Warlock tricks. But at some point you’ll stack enough Spellpower and pick up enough Corruption-enhancing talents to enter Goddess of Death Mode, where you spread death and destruction wherever you go without ever stopping.

You literally never stop.

Goddess of Death Mode is when you use only instant-cast spells to kill and heal youtself while constantly moving and pulling new mobs. Your only weapons are Corruption and Curse of Agony; you chaincast them while running from pack to pack, tab-targeting as you go. Tab, dot, dot, tab, dot, dot. As the healing from Siphon Life starts rolling in, Life Tap liberally to keep your mana up.

As long as these two spells are enough to kill the mobs you’re facing – and trust me, they will be, eventually – you never have to stop. GoDM warlocks leave a trail of corpses while emerging with full health and full mama.

At very high levels, with advanced talents and the ability to take talents from other trees, Goddess of Death Mode can be an awesomely terrifying playstyle. The addition of Soul Link and Fel Synergy from the Demonology tree allows your pet to take part in this flow of damage and healing, reducing the damage you take while providing healing to your demon. Fel Synergy heals based on damage you inflict, so the more dots you have ticking, the more healing your demon receives. Even with all the damage coming over the Soul Link, your demon should not need any additional healing.  (And if they do?  Too bad, you’re busy killing things, they’re a Demon, you can always resummon them later.)

There a few other instant spells that you can cast in Goddess of Death Mode – Nightfall-procced Shadowbolts are always fun, talented Howl of Terror can relieve pressure if too many mobs pile on you, and Death Coil provides a nice quick heal on the go. But these are fun little extras. Icing on the cake, if you will.

One tip I have is that it’s useful to know approximately how much damage your Corruption and Corruption/Curse of Agony combos will do when playing Goddess of Death Mode — you can quickly compare it to the mob’s health and know if you need to stop and give them a little extra something later on. Generally this is only really a problem while leveling and tackling higher-level mobs.


Drain tanking has a few key Affliction talents that you must take, and then quite a few more that help considerably.

These talents improve your Drain Life and give you the ability to drain using Corruption:

  • Soul Siphon increases the effectiveness of Drain Life based on the number of DoTs on the target.
  • Fel Concentration keeps your Drain Life from getting interrupted.
  • Siphon Life returns health when Corruption deals damage.

The following talents buff your Corruption or shadow damage, which in turn buffs your Drain Life and Siphon Life.

I don’t encourage splitting trees until after you’ve gotten the 51 point talent in it, but there are several Demonology talents which really help with drain tanking.

  • Soul Link shunts 20% of your damage over to your demon.
  • Fel Synergy heals your demon when you deal damage.
  • Demonic Aegis increases the effectiveness of your Armor.

These talents are fairly standard parts of most Affliction or Demonology builds, but if you’re building one on your own you’ll want to make sure these are part of it.


When I first started playing my warlock, I had a lot of trouble figuring out how drain tanking worked. It didn’t make sense because it was so very different from the early levels, where you send in your VW, avoid aggro, keep the mobs away from you at all cost. I had to experience it myself to see how it could work.

Well, I might not be able to let you experience it yourself without your own warlock, but I can at least provide you a video of how I do it on mine.

Happy drain tanking!


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Elder Cynwise

You may ask, why am I standing in a shaft of moonlight, dispensing advice and tokens of appreciation?

Well, the easy answer is that I’m getting paid to do it. But in this case, the easy answer isn’t the right one.

I’m standing here during the Lunar Festival, lit up for Horde target practice, because Khi over at Tree Burglar made an excellent suggestion: offer advice to new players and share your wisdom.

I debated long and hard about taking this job, to be honest. You don’t get to sit down, there are long stretches where nobody shows up and then it’s all rush rush rush here’s your coin rush rush with nary a thank you in sight. And the whining about queue times? I GET IT. And people much older than I am calling me “Elder?” Do I look elderly to you?

Did I mention I haven’t sat down for three days? I think it’s getting to me.

So if you trekked all the way out here into the cold snowy wilderness of Wintergrasp just to see me, the least I can do is give you some tips for starting out in the battlegrounds of Azeroth.


Especially when you’re starting out in battlegrounds, having a good, open attitude is vastly more important than anything else. Persistence and a willingness to experiment – and fail! – will serve you better than the right class, or spec, or gear. A willingness to adapt, to dust yourself off when you fall down and get back into the fight, is worth more than any gear or ability.


You are going to die in battle. You are going to lose battles. You are going to lose battles so badly that you will stare at your computer in shock.

All of these things are okay, as long as you don’t give up. Each death brings you a chance to review what went wrong with that engagement. Each loss teaches you something more about the battleground. Why? Because…


There’s an old joke we tell new recruits when they first arrive in Stormwind City. “How do I get to the Hall of Champions?” they ask, all bright-eyed and eager. “Practice, practice, practice!” the vets all chorus.

Soldiers aren’t known for great humor. I admit it.

That said, the advice is sound. Getting good at a battleground means practicing in it. You need practice to refine your skills and keep them sharp.

The experience you gain from practice is what ultimately makes you good.


The battleground scoreboard is a funny thing. As a recount, it’s a great tool to measure how you did. But it also lets you compare yourself against others, and that can lead to a lot of bad behaviors.

It’s great to top the meters. It’s an awesome feeling. But it doesn’t mean that you won the battleground, that you’re somehow better than your teammates. You just happened to inflict more pain.

There are a lot of ways people contribute to a fight. Crowd control, defending nodes, running the flag – none of these are reflected on the meters. But they’re all vital to actual success.

Battlegrounds are a team sport. Don’t let the scoreboard fool you into thinking otherwise.


It’s true. Even in twink battlegrounds, there’s always something that can be improved. As long as you keep striving to improve, that’s what important.


This is a holdover from the days before battleground XP. Now that you can level through PvP, the distribution of levels is much more even across sides. So while the upper levels are more fun, they’re hardly required.


It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that the first person to complain has the least skill in a battleground.

You’ll find these folks complaining that tenacity is unfair, that the other side cheats, that their teammates suck. Instead of asking themselves what they could do to improve, or how they could motivate their team to do better, they blame others for their failures.

Good battleground fighters don’t QQ. They look at each loss as motivation to improve.


Then at least you can be productive while waiting for AV to pop.


You’ve probably heard my last piece of advice before: fight at the flag. Engage the enemy in places with strategic value. Nodes, towers, flags, walls, even graveyards — all have value towards winning the battle. That patch of road over there? Not so much.

Okay. You were good, here’s your coin, and a Healthstone. Nah, really, take it. You’re going to need it out there.

Good luck!


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Marks Of Honor Will Suck Even More In 3.3.3

Well, that was a nice little dream while it lasted.

The latest patch of the PTR has substantially reduced the value of each Mark of Honor you get from each battleground from 2000 to 185.  This means that grinding Marks is no longer going to give you a massive bank of honor, but that’s not why this a big deal.  That’s a theoretical loss, one where we never had the value of that bank to begin with.  No one had an actual bank of 1.2 million honor that was just wiped out.

No, the important part is that the current, actual value of a Mark of Honor will go from 248 to 185, or a 25.5% loss to the value of your Marks of Honor over the current trade-in quests.  In exchange for the convenience of being able to turn them in individually instead of in matched sets, you will only realize 75% of the honor value of each Mark.

Now, I don’t know if the Concerted Efforts / For Great Honor quests are going away.  It didn’t really matter before, what with the crazy hyper inflated honor rush we were about to experience. But now it really matters.

If the quests stay, then this reduction becomes nothing more than a convenience charge.  I actually like this model — if you can get all 6 battlegrounds and turn in the marks together, you effectively get a bonus over turning them in singly.  Okay, that’s cool.  I can live with that.

If the quests are taken away, though…  Well, then there are a lot of players who just lost out on a lot of potential honor.

Okay!  Back to the honor grind!  See you in Alterac Valley!


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual