Graveyard camping is a controversial tactic used to corral and demoralize opponents in PvP. By killing opponents as they resurrect at the spirit healers, teams can control the flow of the game, achieve battleground objectives unimpeded, and undermine the spirit of the enemy. It is an effective tactic to farm honorable kills and killing blows, though it is less effective at farming honor when compared to quickly achieving the goals of the battleground.
It is controversial because many players maintain that it is fundamentally unfair, that it is the mark of bad players, and that it is morally objectionable to camp the graveyard. You have your enemy at a disadvantage and continue to press it, sometimes past the point where it serves any good game-related purpose, and instead are just farming HKs/KBs. In most brackets with a strong community, players and guilds who regularly camp the GY are called out on their behavior for public shaming. Screenshots are often provided.
When one team is able to sit on the other team’s GY and kill them as they resurrect until time runs out, it’s hard to sit there and say that this is a fair practice.
But things are rarely that simple in PvP.
WHY IT WORKS
Graveyard camping is effective because of three factors: positioning, preparedness, and the timing of rez waves.
Take a look at the above diagram, which I originally drew to explain why the changes to the WSG graveyard in 4.1 were going to encourage camping, and pay attention to how the opponents are arranged. Melee gets right up into the GY (Rogues and Warriors will literally get up the hill), ranged and healers stay at a distance. Meanwhile, the defenders are reviving all in a small, confined area, with few escape routes.
- Rezzers are positioned poorly to defend healers and ranged when they return to the battle. Opponents can focus on them first, which eliminates a key element of the defense, because…
- The camping healers are untouchable without focused ranged attacks. While some healers may move in a bit closer (especially if melee Shadowsteps/Charges into the GY), they aren’t in range of melee classes, and often ranged DPS will stay by the healers, peeling off any attempts to take them out.
- Rezzers are susceptible to AoE attacks. When they come back, defenders are all within range of a good Pestilence, Howling Blast, Shockwave, Soulburned Seed of Corruption, etc.. While some of the attackers will be focusing on the healers, others can spread the damage around with ease. Death Knights are especially good at causing incidental AoE damage while DPSing down a target, but really any class can do it.
- Rezzers often have no escape. Stealth is nullified, you can’t slip around to a better position. Open graveyards (like those in Arathi Basin) are much harder to camp than closed ones (WSG, AV, E/W GYs in SotA), so the defenders have no chance to reposition the fight for their advantage. The changes to the WSG GY encouraged camping precisely because they limited the number of escapes from the GY; now the prey has no where to run.
- Campers often have multiple avenues of attack. Every time I get fired upon by ranged Horde on the ridge above Stormpike GY in AV, I curse out the GY design. Narrow canyon where I can get strafed by ranged but can’t get back at them? The terrain of many GYs allows campers several different positions, while defenders are stuck with one way out.
- Rezzers can’t (easily) choose to go somewhere else. The only BG I can think of that allows you to really choose where you resurrect is Wintergrasp; WSG has no choice at all (only one GY), making it the most prone to camping. Yes, you can run to another GY, and that is sometimes the best option.
The campers are in a strong tactical position; the rezzers are in no tactical position at all. A group has to be disciplined and communicate how they are going to break the camp in order to make this work – usually a coordinated assault on the enemy healers – and many random groups can’t manage this. Even vent-coordinated groups can’t always manage something so simple as “kill the healers,” especially if there are multiple healers present. (Smart campers will get out of combat and resurrect fallen opponents, or have people run back to their corpses.)
Exacerbating the tactical weakness of positioning is that the defenders are unprepared. I don’t mean mentally unprepared, though there’s usually a second or two of absolute confusion when you come back to the BG. No, I’m talking about buffs – most buffs fall off with death and need to be reapplied. Melee may only have one or two buffs they want to apply (shouts, Horn of Winter, etc.) but casters often need 2-3 GCDs to get back up and running – GCDs which are spent getting attacked or, more often, not breaking the camp.
Buffs matter. A warlock going in without Demon or Fel Armor is weaker than one who has it up. Inner Fire is pretty important for Priests. The camping team will have full buffs; the defending team will be lucky to get even a few buffs on them. These little things add up. It’s personal weakness on top of tactical weakness, which doesn’t help matters. At all.
Not only is one team organized in good tactical position while the other side is disorganized, disoriented, clustered together with few avenues of escape, not only is one side better buffed than the other, to make it even worse, the camping team’s job gets progressively easier due to the timing of the resurrection waves. Every 30 seconds the defense starts off as strong as they’re going to get, but through focus and AoE, the defenders will quickly get outnumbered. Every 30 seconds they get reset into the same bad tactical position; only through killing the opponents heals and attrition will they be able to break it.
Oh yeah, but they have to break it before the reinforcements arrive from the enemy GY, which is usually only a minute or so away. Defenders generally have to break a camp within 2 rez cycles or it’s all for naught.
IS IT WRONG TO CAMP A GRAVEYARD?
I admit it; I’m a little perverse when it comes to finding things in PvP which are obviously wrong and only baddies do this and shaking them around in my head, trying to apply morality and ethics and tactics and strategy to them to see what happens.
I don’t think there’s much doubt that graveyard camping sucks when it’s being done to you. It does suck. I hate it. I hate feeling like there’s nothing I can do – especially in WSG – and that I’m just beating my head against a brick wall trying to get out. (Best tactic if you can’t break free after 1-2 minutes? Stop rezzing. You’re getting farmed, just refuse to play along and they’ll give up eventually.)
But just because something sucks and is personally frustrating, is it wrong?
It would be one thing if the tactic wasn’t effective at helping to win battlegrounds; it unquestionably is. There are valid strategic reasons for assaulting the enemy’s graveyard in every single battleground.
- Warsong Gulch, Twin Peaks: Keep opponents away from your FC and reinforcing the EFC.
- Arathi Basin, Eye of the Storm, Battle for Gilneas, Tol Barad: Hit the GY to keep defenders away from the node while you capture it.
- Strand of the Ancients: Keep defenders away from your Demolishers, keep attackers away from the demos and walls.
- Alterac Valley, Isle of Conquest: Bottle up defenders in non-essential graveyards (or the Caves) to allow your team to capture important objectives.
Each and every one of these is a valid strategy to use in battlegrounds. Occupy the enemy in once place while you win the battleground in another – that’s an elementary tactic. If you distracted them outside of the graveyards, it would be a valid tactic – get them to commit to a battle in Stonehearth while you take Dun Baldar, for instances. Camping a graveyard is even more effective than a mere distraction – you are forcing the enemy forces to stay in a single spot while your team roams free.
But … it lacks honor, doesn’t it? It lacks chivalry, and fairness. It’s not nice. It’s exploiting a weakness in your opponent. It’s hitting them when they’re down.
That’s … wrong.
What the fuck is wrong with you?
This is Warcraft PvP. This is a street fight. There is nothing fair about this game at all.
This game is about finding every single advantage you can use against your opponents and using them to win.
Every. Single. Advantage.
You have terrain that can be used to your advantage? Use it.
You have better gear than they do? Great. Use it.
You have better positioning? You’re using your healers effectively? You’re using the terrain of the game against your opponents? You’re creating a numeric advantage in other parts of the map because a few of your team are holding up a bunch of their team?
Great. G-fucking-G, as the kids say. You have done your job correctly.
This isn’t warfare in the 18th century, with lines of riflemen lining up in a broad field, standing shoulder to shoulder, allowing themselves to be mown down. You’re not a redcoat; you’re a skirmisher.
If camping the graveyard helps you win, do it.
This game isn’t about playing fair. It’s about winning.
Snap out of it!
ALL IS NOT FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR
Battlegrounds are about winning… except when they aren’t.
Camping a graveyard is, in many circles, one of the most dishonorable things you can do. My previous bravado is to make a point – that winning is the goal of each battleground, and working within the set rules of the battleground and the game (no exploits, for instance) there isn’t much that’s off-limits.
There are some things I don’t personally like. I don’t like insulting opponents with /rofl, /chicken, or /spit (/spit especially gets my goat). I think taunting is unsportsmanlike in real life, and it’s unsportsmanlike in a game. But I realize it serves a purpose – to get under your opponent’s skin, to make them come after you and not your FC, to goad them into a fury so they make mistakes.
Taunting isn’t my style. I think you’re a punk if you choose to taunt, to be honest – but I get that it has a place, that it’s a valid tactic. I rarely think it’s worth doing to win, and that the world is a better place if we keep games civil.
But smack talk has its place in games, and that the best thing you can do is rise above it. They’re just words.
Graveyard camping is a bit different from taunting. I’ve seen it called “disrespecting your opponent,” which it isn’t, really – teabagging is disrespecting your opponent, taunting them is disrespecting them, because that’s the intention behind the action. The intentions behind camping a graveyard are less clear, though. Is the team doing it to help win? That’s not disrespect, that’s just playing smart. Respect (or lack thereof) isn’t part of the action or intention – it’s a strategy, nothing more, nothing less.
What if they’re doing it to farm honor/HKs? It’s not a terribly effective way to farm honor, to be honest – you get many more Honor Points from a quick win and requeue than you do from farming a GY. Honorable Kills are a different matter – you can argue that it’s not really that great, you’re better off getting into a AV turtle, but it’s still pretty decent as long as the opponents keep rezzing. (Hint: STOP REZZING.)
People don’t like being turned into a number. People don’t like being put into a hopeless situation, which is what graveyard camping does. It’s most definitely not a nice thing to do to someone, but if you’re doing it in support of winning the game, your intentions are not to torment the other players.
What if you’re just doing it because you can, though? What if you’re doing it to farm honor, to farm HKs? What if you’re doing it to be a jerk?
Whenever I see the FC farming the GY I’m like… this isn’t helpful, guys. Just cap the damn flag already, put the other team out of the misery. The other team can’t break the siege.
When you camp the graveyard to secure a victory, you’re doing what’s necessary to win, and it’s a morally neutral action. When you camp the graveyard to prevent a win, though, when you prolong it longer than necessary, your intentions are now front and center, and they’re a little unsavory.
See, the discussion about right or wrong isn’t really about graveyard camping – camping the GY is just the means to the end, not the end. The debate is really about what happens when you (or your team) achieves an overwhelming position of strength.
What happens when you can’t be beaten? What happens when you’re level 85 facing flagged level 20s? What happens when you’re a skilled Arena player facing freshly-dinged 85s? What happens when you’re a team of twinks facing a undergeared pug?
- Do you hold your fire?
- Do you kill quickly, win, and move on?
- Do you kill slowly, draw out the inevitable?
- Do you outright torment your opponents before killing them?
How you behave in a video game says a lot about you in real life. Graveyard camping is a window into how you think about a lot of things, big things – honor, compassion – but the biggest of which is mercy.
Do you feel pity for your opponent? Can you show them mercy, to inflict only as much suffering as you need and no more? Or are you caught up in the bloodlust, desiring to not just win, but to demonstrate your dominance?
See, graveyard camping isn’t really the problem. It’s a valid, effective tactic to use in every single battleground.
The problem is when players can’t take pity on their beaten opponents.
And the problem is when beaten players can’t tell the difference between camping to win, and camping to be cruel.