Monthly Archives: April 2010

A Vicious Proposal

Let’s say you read my modest proposal and didn’t agree with it.  Not one bit.  You want blood, and lots of it.  If silly people with orphans are going to get in your way, that’s too bad for them, right?

I can dig.  I get it. I pretty much want to kill things all the time in game too.

So let me make a second proposal.  A vicious proposal.

I hereby declare next week to be the First Annual Southshore / Tarren Mill World PvP Free-For-All. All PvPers with blood in their eyes and rage in their hearts are hereby commanded to report to their respective towns and tear apart the opposing factions.  Even if the other battlegrounds are compromised, the fields of Hillsbrad are not.

The fighting will be bloody and glorious.  There will be ganking.  There will be no quarter asked and none given.   Blood will stain the cobblestones of those two towns next week that will be remembered for years to come.

Or at least as long as the towns stand.

And when we get bored?

We’ll go to Halaa and do it all with flying mounts.

15 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

A Modest Proposal


I have maintained in the past that all achievements are equal.  My right to pursue my goals in this game is just as valid as your right to pursue yours, and that when they come into conflict, sometimes blood is shed. Someone who is trying to steal the flame of the capital cities of the opposing faction, and the players who fight to prevent this, are both pursuing valid goals.  It’s okay for the goals to be counter to each other.  That is one of the reasons why there is conflict in this world, and when there are no valid means to communicate and compromise, violence ensues.

So, by and large, I am a proponent of a laissez-faire attitude to PvP holiday achievements.  PvE players may not like it, but hey, there are a lot of holiday achievements that suck just as bad.  I bang my head against the RNG boss almost every single time; if something has to drop, it’s likely to not drop for me.

The School of Hard Knocks feels different, though. Perhaps it’s because it’s so reviled, so hated, that it drives otherwise rational players to fits of despair, that bothers me so much.  Perhaps it’s because it makes the part of the game which I most enjoy — battlegrounds — a focus for a tremendous amount of hatred and bile.  I can be unapologetically positive and enthusiastic about battlegrounds all day long, but I’m not blind.  I can read the forums and websites and trade chat.  I know that there are a lot of people who look at battlegrounds as the final, insurmountable obstacle standing between them and a year-long-grind to a 310% mount.  And they hate the thing I love because of it.

As a result, I’m conflicted.

On the one hand, I have a rational policy of strict neutrality: that Stormtrooper, Supreme Defender, and Arathi Basin Assassin are equally worth pursuing as School of Hard Knocks, and that should two players come into conflict in pursuit of those goals, combat will likely decide the victor.

On the other hand, I’m not delusional.  I know that there will be plenty of players out there who use those achievements to justify bullying to other players — players who are not equipped to deal with the conflict, who might be willing to fight back but who lack the gear to do so.  There’s no real justification for this kind of brutality, but I’d be a fool to deny it exists.

And on the third hand, there is the looming specter of the terrible effect the School of Hard Knocks has had on the reputation of battlegrounds and PvP.  Nobody involved likes this achievement; not those trying to get it, not those having to work around it.  I expect it may be a little different in Cataclysm with Rated Battlegrounds giving the die-hard PvPers a refuge from the invasion, but I don’t think it that change will solve the image problem alone.

So I have a modest proposal for you, the battleground veteran.

Be a good host.

For one week, strive to be a good host to the neophyte masses who will swarm the battlegrounds seeking their achievement.  If someone asks for help, help them.  If someone doesn’t ask for help, help them anyways.  If someone from the other faction is obviously trying to finish a SoHK task, help them.

That’s right.  Help them.

I’m not asking you to be altruistic.  I’m asking you because I honestly think it’s in our best interests, both as individuals and a community, to start turning back the negative associations with this event.  Being a leader in /bg chat, of welcoming the new players into the world of PvP, of being a supportive voice in the wilderness to people, real people who are possibly scared, frustrated, or irritated — that’s what being a hero is about.  One person can change the tone of a battleground, and can influence dozens of other people’s perception of battlegrounds.

You can be that person.

As for colluding with the enemy?  Well, let me point out it can be in your interests to do so.  While you help them, they can help you on achievements like:

Helping others with School of Hard Knocks can directly benefit you by letting you work on these tasks.  I know that I am going for both Alterac Valley achievements next week with gusto; this is the perfect time to rack up the tower defenses.  There are mutual benefits to be realized here.

If you have read my writing for any length of time you know that I’m not a starry-eyed idealist.  The best way to succeed in battlegrounds is to treat them like a street fight, where you use every dirty trick you can muster to beat the living shit out of your opponent.  Gang up on people.  Use the terrain to ambush folks.  Be unpredictable with unusual gear and consumables.  Maximize your professions.  Do what it takes to win.

But Children’s Week is not a normal week in the battlegrounds.  I think the battle we’re fighting is much larger than the individual matches in the game.  We are, instead, fighting a war of public opinion brought about through no fault of our own.  This is bigger than a few hundred easy HKs, than a few more victories that don’t really mean much.  Unlike nearly every other week of the year, the battlegrounds of Children’s Week are full of people who do not want to be there.

So we, as collective individuals, have a choice.

We can get angry at them for intruding upon our playground, abuse them in /bg, tell them how stupid they are, and reinforce all the negative images they have about battlegrounds and PvP.

Or we can accept that they’re here, try to teach them, guide them, and maybe, just maybe, infect them with the PvP bug.

I’m a realist.  I don’t imagine that any battleground next week is going to consist of the Horde and the Alliance sitting around a Basic Campfire singing kumbayas.  There is going to be bloody, terrible fighting. There are going to be people who are totally unprepared for the realities of PvP getting slaughtered by the thousands.  What I say on this website is not going to change the base desires of humanity.  I wrote my guide with the full expectation that these battlegrounds are going to be littered with corpses.

But I also think that WoW players are some of the nicest, most open people I’ve met.  And that little, small personal interactions matter.  A few people starting off the battle welcoming the orphans and asking that people who are not working on the achievement not aggressively cap towers until the enemy is confirmed hostile will make a difference.  A few folks walking into the WSG flagroom, picking up the flag, and dropping it over and over again can completely make 10 people’s evenings.

This achievement ruins the part of the game that I love the most for an entire week.  But I don’t have to let it ruin my enjoyment of it.

I hope you will join me in welcoming our guests to the battlegrounds.

31 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

The School Of Hard Knocks

The [School of Hard Knocks] is a relatively straightforward Children’s Week holiday achievement: perform 4 tasks in the battlegrounds of Azeroth while your impressionable orphan ward is watching. Welcome to the World of Warcraft, kid!

This is also the holiday achievement that causes the most stress to non-PvPers. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s the most hated achievement in the entire What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been meta-achievement – hated more passionately than all the RNG-dependent ones, or any of the other achievements which brings players into the battlegrounds. It is hated because it’s the only achievement in the series that requires you to complete battleground objectives during a fight. You have to play the battlegrounds to complete it.

If you don’t PvP, I completely understand how intimidating this can be. The School of Hard Knocks takes you into an unfamilliar activity which you don’t like doing and asks you to compete against your fellow teammates while other players actively try to kill you. The environment is strange, your teammates may vocally resent your presence, and you are competing with other achievement seekers for the same goal.

When you put it that way, School of Hard Knocks can seem like a nightmare.

But you can do it.

I’m not going to patronize you and say “oh, this is easy!” The School of Hard Knocks is not easy if you don’t know what you’re doing. Heck, it’s not trivial even if you do know what you’re doing!  It takes a good attitude, preparation, research, and a willingness to fail. Sometimes, to fail repeatedly.

But with planning and perseverance, you can get the job done and impress the heck out of your orphan.  And yourself, too.

Ready?  Let’s begin.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

The most important thing about this achievement is to ALWAYS have your orphan out when in the battlegrounds. Put the orphan whistle on your action bars and make sure that orphan sees everything. You don’t want to accomplish a goal and then discover you forgot to summon your orphan, and got no credit as a consequence.

BATTLEGROUND BASICS

Behind every die-hard PvPer there was once a new player who stumbled around the battlegrounds, blinking in total confusion. Don’t let any of the nerdrage you hear in /bg convince you otherwise — it’s okay to not know what you’re doing when you first zone in. It takes at least a few runs for the map and objectives to make sense, and a few more before you can really start contributing to a battleground.

So my first suggestion is to visit the battlegrounds before the Children’s Week holiday begins and scout them out. Don’t worry about accomplishing anything, don’t fight if you don’t want to, but get in there and figure out where things are. Where is the flag in Eye of the Storm? How does flag running and flag returns work in Warsong Gulch? Where are the towers and bunkers in Alterac Valley, and how do I climb up them?

If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this advice. Get familiar with the battlegrounds before you are under pressure to do something with them. While videos can help, there is no substitute for having run your virtual self over the course, so when the time comes and you are actually competing with others to finish, you will already have the edge of knowing what to do.

The second basic suggestion is to come to terms with dying in a battleground. I’ve seen some excellent PvE players really struggle with this; it can be a very personal hurdle for some to overcome. If you are used to raiding, where death means someone (sometimes you) failed to do their job correctly, the frequency of PvP death can be not only alarming, but a personal indictment of failure. It’s not.

PvP deaths aren’t personal. Sometimes – often, even – there was nothing you could do about it. Shrug it off and move on. There’s no repair bill, there’s no xp penalty, just a loss of buffs and a 30 second timeout. Learn from it, yes – but don’t let it get you down.

I’m passably good at PvP, and I die a lot. Like, an average of 12 times a day. Don’t sweat death.

My third suggestion is that you don’t need gimmicks to complete this achievement. You don’t need a premade or collusion with the opposite faction in order to do these achievements. Really, you don’t. Stories of dancing flagrooms and coordinated tower recaps are all well and good, but they’re gimmicks.

What you do need is planning and perseverance. Don’t give up. Keep trying. You can do this.

Let’s go take a look at the individual battlegrounds to show you how.

ARATHI BASIN: ASSAULT A FLAG

Arathi Basin is an easy one to start with. Each node has a clickable flag at it that represents control of the node. If the flag is gray with no logo, the node is unclaimed, gray with a logo, the node has been assaulted and will be claimed soon, and a colored flag indicates the node is controlled.

Your goal is to find either an unclaimed node, or a node that the other faction has assaulted or controls, and click on the flag. Assaulting the flag is an 8 second channel, so you can be interrupted by defenders.

The simplest way to assault a flag is to ride to the closest node – Stables for Alliance, Farm for Horde – and capture that flag. This often involves competing with several other players during a normal battle, and doubly so during Children’s Week, so it involves some fast reflexes and planning.

If the competition at the closest node is too much, ditch to one of the side nodes – Lumber Mill or Gold Mine. If you’re consistently losing at Stables/Farm, stop trying for them and go for LM/GM immediately instead. Depending on the opponent’s strategy, you may encounter no resistance at all in the first rush.

Finally, if you lose out at the two side nodes, you can ride straight to the node closest to the enemy’s base – Alliance go to Farm, Horde go to Stables – and try to capture that.

If you fail in the inital rush, don’t give up. Nodes change hands all the time in Arathi Basin, so you will have plenty of chances to assault bases. Use the map to scout out which bases are under enemy control, then look for ones that are lightly defended. (Or not defended at all!) Stick with others, don’t pick a fight in the road, stay and defend nodes that are taken.

The one place I don’t recommend you go for the achievement (at least not if you don’t like PvP) is the Blacksmith. Let me repeat that:  do not go for the Blacksmith if you are at all PvP averse. The BS is seen as the critical node for most Arathi Basin strategies, so it is usually hotly contested throughout the match.

Here’s a map of Arathi Basin, with your target’s priority noted for both Horde (in red) and Alliance (in blue).

So for the Horde, it’s Farm -> Lumber Mill / Gold Mine -> Stables -> Blacksmith.  For Alliance, it’s Stables -> Lumber Mill / Gold Mine -> Farm -> Blacksmith.

There are a few tricks that can help you rush a flag. Mount and start running against the gate before it opens. Aim at the flag but be near the center when the gate opens to get out quickly. When you approach the flag, have your mouse free for clicking – I switch to keyboard driving in those last few seconds. And spam your clicks until the channel starts! Don’t just click once.

Here’s a video with an example of Alliance taking Stables (the easy way) and Farm (the harder way.)

Ride hard and click fast!

ALTERAC VALLEY: ASSAULT A TOWER

So now that you know how to assault a node in Arathi Basin, it’s time to move on to the frozen battlefield of Alterac Valley.

Your job is to assault one of the four towers or bunkers before anyone else gets there first. The towers (and bunkers, I use them interchangeably) have flags at their top level that need to be clicked. The towers do not change ownership like nodes in Arathi Basin; instead, once they have spent 4 minutes being contested, the towers are destroyed. They can be defended before they are destroyed, which allows the possibility of trading assaults, but in most battles this just doesn’t happen. You should proceed with the idea that you have 4 shots to assault a tower each AV, and after that it’s time to farm honor. So be ready to run AV a few times before you get the achievement credit.

There are four towers: two on the far side of the Field of Strife (a large open plain in the center of the map), and two clustered near the enemy leader at the far end of the map.

If you are Alliance, you will start at the top of the map and need to ride south to reach Iceblood Tower (blue 1), Tower Point (2), and the two Frostwolf Towers (3). Horde start at the south end of the map and ride north to Stonehearth Bunker (red 1), Icewing Bunker (2), and the two Dun Baldar Bunkers (3).

The location of the towers dictates the three strategies you can adopt.

  1. Closest tower first, then rollover. Ride hard to the closest tower (1: Iceblood Tower/Stonehearth Bunker) and try to get it first. If it’s taken, move to the next (2), then the final two (3). This method has a lot of competition but has some resiliency built in – you give yourself 4 chances, and you might get lucky on any given one of them. The drawback is that your chances on the subsequent tries are lowered because of the time you spent at the previous towers.
  2. Ride straight to the second tower (2: Tower Point/Icewing Bunker) and capture it, ride on to the end if you fail. I like this option because it has less competition than the closest tower, but only delays you a little on your way to the final two targets. The delay is less because these two towers are along your riding path to the enemy base, while the closest ones are not.
  3. Ride straight to the enemy fortress and capture the towers (3) there. I like this option a lot, but you have to know your route well and be able to check the map to see where your competition is not. You have to choose your target as you leave the bottlenecks (3: East/West Frostwolf Towers, North/South Dun Baldar Bunkers) and you only get one shot. There is no recovery if you choose wrong; you have to try again next battle. So while it’s risky, it also has a very good chance of success.

No matter which method you choose, there are some preparations you should make.

  • First, practice getting up the tower stairs. Horde have it a little easier here, as bunkers are less dizzying than towers to climb quickly, but both sides need to practice.
  • Second, running speed is everything. Make sure you have speed enchants on your boots and Swiftness potions on hand – and practice climbing towers with both active! Unlike AB, where most movement is mounted, AV assaults have an unmounted component so speed boosts will help. (Dont forget to practice with the speed boosts active, or you will launch yourself off the stairs.)
  • Third, practice running the map. See where people go in the pack to find all the little tricks of terrain that confer an advantage, and use them! Your goal is speed, and lots of it. Every second counts.  I’ve included some videos below to show some of them, but there is nothing like practicing yourself.
  • Fourth, practice fast mounting out of the cave. Unlike AB or EotS, you can’t start mounted. You need to move slightly out of the cave and start mounting. That initial mount will either put you at the head of the pack (and in a good position for the nearest tower) or the middle (better to go longer.)  The way to do this well is run just past where the rock ends and the normal ground begins and mount up.

Alterac Valley is big.  REALLY big.  And it has an asymmetrical map — the Horde and Alliance have very different experiences in AV — so I went ahead and recorded two videos to help familiarize you with the terrain and show how this all works in practice, one from each faction’s perspective.

Here’s an Alliance-side tour:

And here’s the Horde-side tour:

Alterac Valley can be a lot of fun, but with 39 other players shooting for 4 towers, this task is a bit more challenging than Arathi Basin.  But it’s still pretty easy compared to the next two.

On to Outland and Eye of the Storm.

EYE OF THE STORM: CAPTURE THE FLAG

Eye of the Storm is a mixture of Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, with four bases (one on each corner) and a flag in the middle. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to take that flag and capture it at one of the bases your side controls. You control a base by having enough people of your faction hang around there long enough to capture it.

If you’ve never been here before, the map is straightforward:

The black squares are the 4 nodes you can control: Mage Tower, Fel Reaver Ruin, Blood Elf Tower, and Draenei Ruins.  The white circle is the flag in the center of the battleground.

There are really only two ways to get this achievement.

  1. Grab the flag yourself and run it to the base. This is pretty straightforward, if somewhat hectic.
  2. Guard a base, have someone else on your team grab the flag and run it to you, but you capture the flag. This requires you to communicate with your teammates, and for them to cooperate with you. The runner takes the flag almost to the base you control and drops it; you pick it up and capture it.

The first method is relatively straightforward. Go to the middle of the map, fight off the enemy, and grab the flag as soon as it spawns. Then run like the wind to the nearest friendly base you control.

The second method relies more upon your powers of persuasion. Let people know in BG chat that you are here for the achievement, and that you want to cap the flag but would rather defend a base. Ask if flag runners will let you cap it. Many will. Whisper them when they pick it up where you are at and let them know if your base is clear.

Here’s where working together with other people will really pay off. Guildmates, server mates, friends you quested with back in the day — if you can go in as a group you can focus on spreading around the flag captures until everyone has one.

The biggest problem with this achievement is that the flag is noob bait. It can help you win Eye of the Storm, but the better strategy is to take 3 of the 4 bases and hold them while letting your opponents run the flag to try to catch up. (Hint: it doesn’t work.)

What often happens, as Ihra describes so eloquently, is that the battle sometimes settles into each side holding 2 bases and fighting in a swirling fight over the flag in the center of the map. If you’re PvP averse, your best bet at that point is to hold one of the bases and adopt the second strategy (asking someone else to let you cap it.)

Here’s how it looks in practice:

There’s really no secret recipe for this task, just persistence, perseverance, and tenacity. Keep at it until you get the flag, and then run like the wind.  Your orphan will keep up!

WARSONG GULCH: RETURN A DROPPED FLAG

The Warsong Gulch achievement sounds quite hard, but is easy if you play the battle as intended. Your task is simple — return your flag to your base once an enemy has dropped it. Normally, this is done by killing the enemy flag carrier (EFC), which makes them drop it. But there are all sorts of gimmicky plans to let the enemy take the flag, point to your orphan, and have them drop it repeatedly, and you know what?

I hate to say it, but sometimes those gimmicks work.  Because Warsong Gulch is the smallest battleground, with only 10 players per side, your chance of getting a premade like that is actually pretty high.

I try to always talk about the battlegrounds as they are, not as I’d like them to be. And the likelihood of you finding an easy WSG during Children’s Week is good. But if you don’t, and you find yourself chasing the EFC all over the map, let me give you some tips on how to get that flag back.

The first is that you have to know where they are going before you can catch them. Your map helps immensely here, since your flag will show up on it. By watching it you can learn where they have gone.

There are three common escape patterns for the EFC — the roof, the flag room (FR), and the graveyard (GY). Each has characteristics you can pick up on the map with a little bit of practice.

First, the roof:

The roof is the best initial defensive position for the EFC. From the roof there is only one entrance and two very large escape paths, as well as a quick route to a flag capture. Most EFCs go to the roof first.

There are two ways to spot a roof runner: the little bend they make as they run up the hill to the roof (which looks like a ? or a shepherd’s crook) and that they tend to hug the front side of the base. The bend is the easiest to spot, since the only time someone runs in that area they are going up to the roof. There is no other reason to go there.

Second up is the flag room, or the FR. Some runners like to hide in the little room in the corner for protection, others like to be ready for an instant cap by standing on the flag spawn point. There are three ways into the FR, as so:

As they approach their base, they will either go straight up the tunnel (the entrance is that funny structure in the middle of the map) or up the ramp on the side, which means they will pass in a wide curve in front of the structure. These are called out as “EFC going tun” and “EFC going ramp.”

The tunnel is a straight shot into the flag room — just watch and make sure they don’t peel off to go up to the roof. The ramp offers two entrances, one to the second level, and one to the ground level. The quickest way is to turn immediately up to the second level entrance, which has a very straight pattern when you’re watching it on the map. If they veer off to the side, they’re going onto the ground floor.

No matter which level they’re on, the EFC in the FR usually hugs the back wall. If they’re along the edge of the map in their base, they’re probably in the FR.

Experienced flag carriers will often retreat to the Graveyard when trouble strikes. This puts them right in the resurrection vector of all their team’s reinforcements, as well as being defensible with a good escape route down to midfield. The resurrection vectors favor the defense here; your casualties will be sent across the map, while theirs from all over the map will be sent in as reinforcements.

If that’s not bad enough, there are three ways the EFC can escape: out to midfield, out the ramp, and out along the fence. Midfield runners can be especially dangerous if they can get back to the tunnel, or meet up with other forces down at midfield. Ramp runners are usually the easiest to kill, since they chose a bottleneck where your midfield reinforcements can trap them. Fence runners are experienced and you’re going to have to chase them down before they either run out to midfield, drop into the tunnel, or climb out on the tunnel roof and heal.

Here’s a video giving a tour of the battleground, showing the layout of the map, how to find the EFC, how to return a flag, and (as a special bonus) how to capture the flag.

Okay, is your mind spinning yet? Because now that you’ve found the EFC, you have to kill them.

The best way to kill an EFC is to bring a lot of your friends and gang up on ‘em. The problem is that those friends are likely going to be trying to return the flag too (unless they’re really your friends, and they know you’re there for the achievement.) So there’s competition, but just watch the EFC’s health, and be ready to click on the flag when it drops. Eventually you’ll get it.

The other way to kill an EFC is to take them out on your own.  Make sure to disable any healers who could be healing the EFC, and then focus on countering their moves while burning down their health.  I’m unqualified to give class-specific PvP advice for the majority of the classes in Warcraft, so I won’t even try. If you are having trouble with this task, try dueling with some friends to get used to individual combat.  But keep in mind some EFCs are practically unkillable without help.

As for the rest of the strategy? I will point you to Gnomeaggedon’s great WSG guide, Midfield is Not An Objective.

BE A GOOD GUEST

One of the biggest problems with the School of Hard Knocks and other achievements like it is that they bring people into battlegrounds with goals wildly different from the primary goal of the match – namely, winning. Be it honor farming or achievement chasing, players actively working at cross-purposes to winning is the bane of battleground players everywhere.  This strife between those who are there for the PvP versus those who are there for the achievements can be a large contributor to the stress around this holiday (on both sides).

It’s odd, because the School of Hard Knocks is actually not that bad for winning battlegrounds, as achievements go. While running the flag in Eye of the Storm is not an ideal strategy, it’s at least actively contributing to victory, and all the other tasks are helpful to any strategy.  There are other holiday achievements where you do nothing to help win (I Pitied The Fool) or have bad strategy (With a Little Helper from My Friends). Heck, there are plenty of PvP achievements guilty of that sin! (Hint: anything that requires you to fire a turret gun in Strand of the Ancients is bad strategy.)

So listen:  you don’t have anything to apologize for by queueing for a battleground for this achievement. It’s a valid part of the game.

But in return, I’d like to appeal to you: be a good guest.  Don’t leave once you’ve capped your flag, or when you think you can’t complete it. It’s equivalent to leaving an instance midway through because you didn’t get the drop you wanted.  Seriously, have you ever had a tank drop in the middle of a fight because they didn’t get the loot from a boss, leaving you to deal with the adds they pulled?  Don’t be that guy.

No matter your feelings on PvP or abilities in the battleground, you still have something to contribute. You’ve taken a role in a raid group, put yourself in a position where you can do some good and contribute – no matter how good or bad you think you are at PvP. Stay and defend that node you just captured. Go protect your flag carrier.  Heal like you’ve never healed before.

But please, don’t leave your teammates in the lurch and drop group.

PERSISTENCE > TALENT

There’s a famous quote from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Keep that wisdom in mind as you work on the School of Hard Knocks.  Not only do you not have to be superbly talented in PvP to accomplish these tasks, you don’t even have to be very good at PvP at all.  Seriously.  Watch the videos above and you’ll see success is putting yourself in the right place at the right time.  Well, and clicking on the right thing.   But you get the idea.

What you do have to have to succeed is persistence.  Tenacity.  Stick-to-it-ivness.  Don’t give up.  You are going to have to make multiple attempts to succeed — don’t fool yourself that it’s going to be as simple as visiting each battleground once.  Give yourself plenty of time to work on this, and keep going.  Keep going! A positive attitude will get you though this.  Don’t give up.

A FINAL WORD

Don’t forget to have your orphan out at all times in the battleground. Nothing sucks worse than finally capping that tower in AV and discovering no one was there to watch you do it.  (Trust me, I’ve done this.)

Okay, that’s all I’ve got on the School of Hard Knocks. Good luck!  Go forth and achieve!

The kids are counting on you!

54 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Healers and Battleground Roles

If you can heal, you should be healing in a battleground. That is the rule. No matter how unfair it is to the players involved, no matter the other strengths of the class or player involved, if you can heal, you should.

Forget about the awesome PvP abilities of some of these hybrid classes. Who needs Enhancement Shamans powering a node’s defense, Retribution Paladins dominating front-line combat, or Shadow Priests destroying swaths of the enemy? Never mind that Feral Druids are some of the best flag runners and node cappers in the game!  If those players want us to win they should be healing!

Do you see how silly this attitude is?

This ridiculous strawman what happens when you take an observation – healers win battlegrounds – and turn it into a prescription – everyone who can heal, should. Carried to this extreme it becomes patently absurd.

Yet, even though it is absurd, you’ll hear well-meaning people say it. I’ve probably even said it once or twice.  But the scarcity of healers is no excuse for pigeonholing players into roles they either choose not to play, or frankly aren’t very good at.

The source of the problem lies in the lack of defined roles in a battleground. You don’t select Healer, Damage, or Crowd Control when queuing for a battleground – you just show up. Random chance governs your healing team, if you get one at all. So when you look around at the class compostion of your team, you see the potential healer pool. The actual team is far smaller.

Good healers win battlegrounds. That statement carries with it a terrible burden of responsibility that no player should be saddled with, especially because it is only part of the whole truth.  I propose a new axiom: Good players win battlegrounds. Players who know how to lead, players who know how to fight, players who know how to control the enemy, and yes – players who know how to heal.

Battleground raid roles are not as simple as PvE raid roles.  The Tank-Healer-Damage trinity simply doesn’t apply to PvP, and is instead replaced by situational roles for each battleground.  Within the smallest battleground, Warsong Gulch, I can think of a dozen roles in two different configurations.  Zone coverage would be broken down into Flagroom Defense, Midfield / Offensive Support, and then Offense / Flag Carriers, each subdivided into Control, Damage, and Healing.  Or you could abandon zones and go with task-based role assignment: Flag Carrier, FC Support, Midfield Control, EFC Hunters.

However, trying to communicate these kinds of complex role assignments to a random PuG before a battle is madness.  The reason Simple Battleground Strategies work is because they present a way for your team to work together quickly, easily, and independent of raid composition.  Unfortunately, that simple way of thinking bleeds into how we consider healers and healing-capable classes because there is no refinement within them to consider the other roles a hybrid class can play in the battleground.  Good hybrid players go and perform those roles within the structure of the simple strategies anyways, but it would be nice if we started seeing more refined roles that didn’t just go “Healer / Not Healer.”

I think that the introduction of Rated Battlegrounds in Cataclysm will have a dramatic impact of how we think about our strategies.  PuGs are still going to happen, but I really expect to see more battlefield organization through guilds and general PvP alliances.  The incentive to organize is going to be there, so people will be thinking deeper and longer about how their players should work together and the roles they fill. This is really exciting.  We could be on the cusp of a renaissance of battleground strategies as more players get involved.

We could also be on the verge of losing one of the great charms of battlegrounds, namely the casual, laid-back nature that appeals to many busy players now.  PuGs facing premades can be very frustrating for those on the disorganized side.  Sometimes, you don’t want something serious, you just want to go pwn some Horde or Alliance, and having to execute a complex strategy is not how you want to unwind.  My biggest fear with the introduction of Rated Battlegrounds is that the casual aspect of bgs will be lost.  I am holding judgement until we see more about the implementation, and see how that implementation changes people’s playstyle.  It has tremendous potential both for good and ill.

There’s an unfair expectation on hybrid classes to heal in battlegrounds right now.  My hope is that Rated Battlegrounds will bring about a greater recognition and respect for the other specs those hybrids bring to your team, and that those healers who are there are playing because they enjoy it, not out of some sense of obligation or guilt.

Only time will tell if that hope will bear fruit.

39 Comments

Filed under Battleground Strategies, Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Simple Battleground Strategies

Battlegrounds are messy, chaotic affairs.

To put a Battleground into a PvE perspective, imagine that the only way to raid was to raid randomly. There is no attempt to fill roles; you may have no healers, or you may have no DPS. There is no gear check; not even an attempt to match gear levels. There are no teams, no organization, no defined leadership. The only communication you have is what you can type; there is no vent. Your raid size can vary widely; you might get a 10-man, you might get a 40-man. There’s no social cohesion, no social penalty for failure, no performance review.

And you have, at most, 2 minutes to prepare yourself and your team to fight.

Trying to get everyone on your team to follow a complicated strategy in this environment is simply not going to happen. Not only do you have no time to evaluate your team and determine who should fill which assignment, you have no way to ensure that players will do their jobs.

So any strategy you adopt must be simple, easy to communicate, and independent of the ability level or roles of the participants. Easy, right?

THE SIX SIMPLE STRATEGIES

Let’s cut to the chase.

  • Warsong Gulch: Protect the FC and kill the EFC. Midfield control is a means to one of those two ends. Stick together in groups both on offense and defense.
  • Arathi Basin: Take three bases and fight at the flag. It’s important enough to repeat again: fight at the flag! Travel in packs and don’t engage in the road. Defend your nodes.
  • Alterac Valley: Take and defend the enemy towers while recapturing your own. Trapping the enemy in a bad graveyard is part of this, but the towers are the key to AV.
  • Eye of the Storm: Control 3 bases, or 2 bases and the flag. 3 bases > flag. The flag is a buglight, it is noob bait, it is a shiny thing to distract you from three bases. But it can also help you win when you only hold 2.
  • Strand of the Ancients: Kill the Demolishers if you’re on defense, and protect them if you’re on offense. Use bombs when you can, stay away from the cannons, practice good graveyard control — but SotA is all about the Demolishers.
  • Isle of Conquest: Either take the Docks and protect the Glaives, or take the Workshop and kill the Glaives. It’s all about the Glaives and their ability to take down a wall quickly.

These strategies are simple and easy to communicate. You can type them out while buffing the raid, waiting for the gates to open, or even while riding to the first objective. They don’t depend on having specific types of players, or even roles. While experienced players understand how their class fits into these strategies, new players can focus on the main task at hand and still contribute.

Given the ways in which Battlegrounds are put together, this is actually about as good as your strategy is going to get. If your team follows them and executes them well, you’ll probably win.

And therein lies the rub.

EXECUTION > STRATEGY

If these strategies are so simple, why is it that they don’t seem to work all the time? How is it that you can shout out “fight at the flag!” in Arathi Basin and yet somehow still lose?

Because the best strategy in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the individual players can’t execute it.

Within your typical battleground raid group:

  • Your composition could be poor. This isn’t just needing a different class ability to get past a boss; this is completely lacking a vital role in your team. Luck of the draw gives you who it gives you, and if you’re without healers or ranged DPS, tough. Win anyways.
  • Your players could not know what their assignments are, misunderstand who is doing what, or go to the wrong place. Because there’s so little time to plan, there’s no real way to hand out assignments to individuals. At best you might be able to divide everyone up by raid groups, but that rarely works as well as you might think it should.
  • Your players could be outgeared by their opponents. They don’t play poorly, they just lacked the gear to do their assignments.
  • Your players could be outnumbered and overwhelmed. It’s very hard to overcome multiple enemies; if you do, it’s either because you’re really good, or they were really bad.
  • Your players could play poorly or AFK. Let’s be blunt; some players are not good at PvP, and some of those just aren’t very good at Warcraft. Perhaps they’re new and learning, or perhaps they just stumbled their way through it for years. Or maybe they’re completely AFK, leeching honor. Either way, they’re not getting their jobs done.

In many ways, it’s a wonder anyone wins any battlegrounds at all! The best strategy in the world means nothing if your teammates fail to win the fights they need to win.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to combat these problems.

  • Talk in /bg chat. Don’t just talk about the strategy — call out incomings, tell people where you’re going and where the enemy is going.
  • Identify healers early and often. Make sure everyone knows who they are so they can protect them.
  • Learn to win the 1:1 matchups. I don’t like dueling per se, but it’s great practice for you to learn what to do when the only one you can rely upon is yourself.
  • Make sure your character’s gear and skills are as good as you can make them. You don’t have to min/max, but train up your professions, come prepared with food and bandages, add some PvP gear in there to help you win.

Individual excellence matters. It’s what powers the simple strategies above – the ability to have players do their jobs.  Battlegrounds are no different from heroics or raids in this respect — you have to have people who can do their part.  And the more people who do well, the better off your strategy works.

Individual excellence matters.  Strategy matters.  But individual excellence en masse matters more.

The six simple strategies will work for you — but only if your team can execute.  You have to have a strategy to work together as a team, but your team has to do their job as individuals to make the strategy work.

Given how chaotic the battleground is, these strategies are the best you can hope for.  The rest is in your hands.

23 Comments

Filed under Battleground Strategies, Cynwise's Battlefield Manual