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.
SEIZING THE FLAG
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.
GRAVEYARDS AND RESURRECTION VECTORS
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.