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

37 responses to “Fight at the Flag!

  1. Wow. That has to be the most in depth description of AB I’ve ever seen.


    • Thanks, Psyn! This post is partly your fault – while I could have written “fight at the flag” a few hundred times, and don’t think I didn’t consider it, I figured I could say something more about it. So the more I thought about why you should fight at the flag, the more thinking about graveyard control I did. And that leads us right to Arathi Basin.

      • I love me some graveyard control.

        I think that’s probably the hardest part of the whole concept for people to grasp. Even when they do, technically, fight on the flag and yet do nothing to stop someone from capping it. They just don’t understand the whole point in doing it in the first place.

        I would rather people fight in the middle of the road than to having people fighting “on the flag” and yet not do anything about people trying to cap it. I go from having a blast to friggin pissed when I’m about to rez in a key graveyard and 2 seconds before it pops get shipped over to a new one. Fighting on the flag doesn’t mean chasing the Druid into the river while their Mage caps your flag!

        I also have no idea how so many people get caught chasing druids into the water, knowing full well that the druid’s not going to die because he just healed himself solo against four of you, and then someone else walks right up and caps without any competition. Bittersweet memories I suppose since I used to be the druid, but people still fall for it. It’s almost as bad as people following hunt’gineers, mages, and priests off of the lumbermill cliff, or down to the mine.

  2. chckenmcbndy

    A common tactic I use on my feral druid in AB is run straight to farm to disrupt the horde zerg. The opening you portrayed I’ve seen to many times.

    Feral are perfect to use on this opening and I’d guess I cap farm 90% of the time. Even if they leave one to defend I have the advantage getting the opening move. Switch to pve gear and pop berserk/trinket.

    Horde still dominate the small scale battles in my battlegroup. This strat isn’t a zomg ‘win’ button, but, there have been times I smiled and knew I changed the outcome of the game.

    • I chose these strategies because I knew they’d look familiar to Arathi Basin veterans. When done right, the 7/8 hook curls around and crushes the GM with a small force while taking out the Stables/Farm with the large one. It can be disrupted — and Ferals are really well suited for that disruption — but it doesn’t always happen.

      I found myself having to hold back talking too much about the individual strategies and make sure I focused on graveyards and fighting at the flag. I’m sure I’ll have enough to say about the specific strategies later, though!

  3. sierraday

    went through alot of your sight this morning (maintance day) and couldnt find the right place to to say this. somehow i found your blog. wowinsider? but after reading for over an ahour i must say you are now my favorite blog. funny insightful and real. no math no nubers just this what i do and think. i love it. glad i found you site. /bow SierraD

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  5. Congratulations on your link this morning :-)…*is jealous*.

    I was in an EOTS yesterday that we were winning fairly solidly due to a 3-1 tower advantage and someone had the nerve to gripe in /bg “You guys fail at flag control” b/c horde were capping a lot. To which I responded, “Fortunately however, we don’t fail at node control, so that’s irrelevant.”

    Sometimes I think eots is dangerous because people want to “fight at the flag!” in the one instance where that’s not necessarily the best idea.

    ❤ AB…I think it has one of the best scopes for using actual thinking tactics of any BG.

    • That’s a great response, and thanks! It’s been the strangest night in the battlegrounds, by the way. I’m winning all the ones I usually lose, and losing the ones we should win.

      Also, the honor you get per BG? SKYROCKETED. Holy moly, 6k honor from Warsong Gulch? It’s crazy. Honor is flowing like water right now.

  6. This is one of the best posts you have written. Very entertaining and quite on point. A+. Commentary to follow..

    Concerning AB: When we are running guild premade AB, on offense we fight at the graveyard and on defense fight at the flag. This enables us to control the respawn and generally get someone out of the fray to capture the flag while we keep everyone else busy since killing them is prohibitively wasteful. Not to mention in almost all starting AB situations, reinforcements come from the GY and not the flag side for Alliance (from mines->stables, from stables->bs). I have seen many AB’s start exactly as you have laid out and knowing what to do in this situation seems an easy way to craft strategy and achieve victory.

    Concerning EotS: Fighting over the flag is beyond prohibitively expensive, IMO. I have tried to convince my fellow horde that the flag has an opportunity cost that is generally higher than capturing a node if the Alliance is willing to fight over it. The flag should be used as a catch up device when you are down by 2+ nodes (1/3 or 0/4 game) to curtail the points you are giving away to nodal advantage. In all other cases, expending manpower on the flag seems wasteful. You are almost always better off throwing the 5-7 units it takes to battle over the flag on your opponent’s weakest defended node for a quick flip.

    Your analysis of fighting on the roads in AB seems completely correct, any thoughts on the advantages to fighting on the roads in EotS? It seems obvious that fighting on the other side of the flag, instead of at it, provides the benefit of get away time to your FC since the FC will move the flag after capturing it. However, is there an inherent benefit to fighting on bridges vs the ramps when attempting to disrupt an attack on one of your nodes?

    Also, in a 2/2 EotS stalemate, what are your thoughts on the value of the flag?

    • Thanks! That means a lot to me.

      I like the guideline of fighting at the AB GY when on offense. It forces the opponent to move around the structure to defend the flag, and controlling respawns is essential. You only have to control one wave of them, really, in order to get the flag.

      You raise some good questions about EotS. I need to probably do a separate post just on that BG and why the flag is only used to catch up. I have been in a tie EotS where we were behind by only a few hundred points due to good node control *and* flag running to catch us up. But that’s the only situation I can think of offhand where flag control made any difference.

      In 2/2 tie game, you’re better off running the flag than not, but my gut says you’re even better off taking a third node and letting them run the flag to the remaining one.

      Fighting in the road/bridges in EotS is the same as fighting in the road in AB, I think, though the shift from “click the flag” to “establish presence” at a node might make aggressive road defense a solid strategy. I honestly have to think about this for a bit.

  7. skinnemuva

    What you could say about EotS is that you want to fight at the AB style flag and not the WSG style flag. 🙂

    It would be fun if we could put a group together on one server/battlegroup where we could get together once a week or something for some premade bgs!

    • That would be a great idea! Would love to be able to get folks together for that. Maybe we could all do twinks in SAN or something. 🙂

      • skinnemuva

        I will leave you to organize it (as you have the avenue and connections) and I will come along for the ride! 😀 No heirloom gear (for me at least), but running dungeons is so easy now that twinking is easier now then ever! Sign me up as a resto druid!

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  9. Rhodu

    That is an awesome post.

  10. Speeaking of flag/node control.

    I have read a strat for “we had it all along”. Which is…

    Cap 2, protect but don’t cap 1. Stop & and let the opposition hold the other two.

    You both progress at same rate.

    At 1400 points, cap the 3rd. It will convert just in time to let you win by 10 points.

    Of course you will need a premade or great bg leadership to arrange that

    • That’s an interesting strat. It would work best with collusion with the other team, of course, but could be possible even without.

      I have that achievement on my DK, but not on my warlock, a fact that irks me to this day. Grrrrr.

  11. Gogo linkage – I hope the comment stay pleasant!

    I think you just described, visually, absolutely every single AB match I’ve been in.

    So you’re advocating pushing the Ally force to just Stables +2 instead of across +3 nodes in Phase One?

    It seems so hard to rock the Horde’s LM, BS, Farm 3 way win most days. And capturing the BS when they keep coming at you in waves from the GY is near impossible!

    • Thanks! I’m always happy for new visitors, and so far the comments have been great. Hopefully folks will poke around and find posts like this one, which isn’t linked, in addition to those that are.

      I picked this example for the first reason you listed; it’s a very common scenario, on both sides. The 5/5/5 rush can work if the three teams fight well against superior numbers – good healing and heads-up play can defeat a numerically superior when you’re outnumbered. But in general, I think focusing your forces is a better strategy.

      We were having a really tough day Alliance-side Ruin yesterday; I think it’s the weekend effect, but it was honestly pretty bad. The 8/7 LM hook was NOT working at all. So we changed it up and went ST-GM-LM and put pressure on the FM while yielding the BS, which worked pretty well. We still didn’t win, but a 1470-1600 loss I can live with.

      If I can get out from under my pile of ideas on LFBG posts, graveyard control is definitely the next big topic on my list. Getting people out of an entrenched emplacement is very challenging, and involves you doing not nice things. But they have to be done.

  12. Awesome guide to AB strat especially. I’ve never thought about it that way, but when you lay it out, that’s exactly how most games go one one side or the other. Lower lvl Hordies seem to go for the 5/5/5 strat while Allies hit the 8/7 one – never seemed to work too well for us.

    • I picked this scenario to illustrate my point about graveyards precisely because it’s so common. And yet, it’s not a prescription for success — sending 8/7 doesn’t mean you’re going to win if the other team does the same.

      5/5/5 is actually a good mid- and end-game strategy to follow, as the roving packs are able to take and defend bases very well. The flag and GY placement favors defense, after all! But as an opener, I do think it’s a little weaker to spread out your forces so much.

  13. Awesome article. This should be mandatory reading for any alliance member wanting to queue for a BG (particularly AB). I’ve been involved in more 1600 vs 100 AB losses than I care to remember, with a large portion of them caused by people not willing to fight at the flag, and as a result, ends in a loss with the opposition camping our one remaining GY until the game ends. My main and a few other toons are on an alliance pve server, and I’ve looked at the stats and across all my alliance toons we only win AB 31% of the time. I’ve also got another couple of toons on the horde side on a PVE server, and on my horde toons we win AB 65% of the time. Playing as alliance, strategy seems almost non-existent, and when things start to go bad, it deteriorates real quick into QQing and quitting.

    • While I know that these stats are all battlegroup based, and that there’s no real tactical advantage from the map to either side in Arathi Basin, I’ll be damned if I don’t have a 40% win rate as well across my Alliance toons.

      My theory is that this has more to do with those battlegrounds which do favor one side or another (AV, IoC) leading players of the non-favored side to seek the other battlegrounds, which causes those players to get better at them. So if the Alliance dominates AV, which it did for a long time in the leveling brackets of the Ruin battlegroup, the Horde goes and plays WSG and AB instead.

      My hope is that the Battleground Finder will help even these imbalances out. Only time will tell that, though.

      (I will say my AB win rate this week is around 60%, but it’s far too soon to read anything into that.)

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  15. Fantastic tactical guide, thanks Cyn! About to embark on the honour grind with an alt (can’t decide – cat/mage/hunter/priest?) for a project between raids, and this post, and others on this site are so useful!

    Huge thanks.

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  18. I like how you take apart these BG’s… it’s not often you see someone who’s put this much thought into the dynamics of these (deceptively) simple war-games.
    This post and your “Simple Battleground Strategies” post inspired me to write my own response. It’s from my own experience with a different faction, so maybe it reveals a slightly different attitude. I’d love to here any feedback you’d have about it, regardless.

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