PvP Playbook: Pulling Defenders Off Flags

I'm at your flag, stealing your base, because you got pulled away chasing my friends.


In PvE, being called a ninja is a bad thing, but in PvP, ninjas are awesome. Ninjas come in and steal objectives out from underneath the enemy’s noses. They snatch reinforcements away from a node and send them tumbling across the map.

Ninjas are awesome. But they often don’t work alone.

Let’s open up the playbook.


Every PvPer needs to learn this one. Unlike the DPS pick, this is one where you need to be able to read the situation at a node and take one of two roles – decoy or ninja.

Let’s start with a quick discussion on flag defense.

Effective flag defense requires defenders to be alert, pay attention to their surroundings, and be aware of several different avenues of potential attack. They have to be aware of their position relative to the flag, and try to make sure that they engage any attackers far enough away from the flag to deny them access to a potential cap, but close enough to interrupt any caps that get through.

My healing druid Cynli is defending the Blacksmith in the above picture. She’s moved out about as far as I’d consider safe and still defending. She could heal any DPS on the road or approach from Farm, but not quite reach the bridge. I’ve outlined the healing range with the green line so you can see it.

The red line represents how far back I can get with Hurricane, my main flag defense tool. I try to keep the flag within view when defending at all times with the camera angle, and have hotkeyed flipping my camera around to the delete button just so I can check behind me if the flag is not in view.

As a solo defender, this is as far as I should ever get away from a flag. Right now I have visibility only to the Farm and some of the LM road – I’m not defending against the GM or ST approaches, and parachutes from LM will probably land behind my field of vision.

Your goal is to draw me even further away.


Every node could be broken down into a map like this one – where is the flag, where is the graveyard, where are the lines of sight?

Most nodes have an obstruction between the flag and the graveyard, and at least two avenues of approach. That’s deliberate – if you can’t see the situation at the flag while waiting to rez, you can’t call it out to your teammates. You might be able to see someone approaching the flag, but not from all approaches.

The goal of this play is to create a distraction away from the flag, so that the defenders leave it outside of their line of sight. This is one of the times where it’s okay to not fight at the flag, but one of the only ones.

The decoys pull the defenders away from the base by making a very obvious approach. They also pause at extreme range to allow defenders a chance to 1) notice them and 2) engage them. When fighting, they pull back a bit instead of going forward.

Once the DPS are pulled away, the healers will likely follow. This is something that personally frustrates me as a healer, watching DPS tunnel vision their targets and going over the BS bridge. They’re out of range, and if I’m the solo defender, the right thing for me to do is stay right where I am.

But sometimes, even a wary defender can get pulled out of position without even realizing it. That’s what a good decoy attack should do. They should be loud, they should be inviting targets, they should look like a credible threat – or healers who have to die.

Whatever bait works, use it.

While the decoys are drawing attention away from the flag, the ninja comes in from the opposite approach. Now, it’s great if you have a stealther who can do this, but it’s not necessary at all. I think a lot of players think that they can’t ninja cap flags if they can’t stealth, and that’s just not true. It is all line of sight. In the above example, a rider coming up from the GM road may be seen from the BS graveyard, but it’s not really all that likely. If you approach from the water or parachute in from LM, you’re completely invisible to the defenders.

Use the buildings. Use the terrain. Check to see that the decoys have pulled the defenders away, and then cap that flag.

The key here is patience and communication. If you see someone on your map coming around behind a node, call out what you are doing – pulling defense off the flag – and tell them to get the flag. If you see someone pulling defense away, go in and grab it. You can even rush in past the decoys and get the flag, but your team has to know that they should switch to snares, slows, and do whatever they can to keep defenders away from you.

Every node is a little different in Arathi Basin, Battle for Gilneas, and even Eye of the Storm. This also applies to towers and bunkers in Alterac Valley, though with restricted lines of sight.

Every class can ninja cap, and every class can serve as a decoy for a ninja. All you have to do is get the defenders focused on one group of you, while another goes in and steals their node out from under them.

Good luck.



Filed under PvP Playbook

30 responses to “PvP Playbook: Pulling Defenders Off Flags

  1. A great run down of the tactic. If only more people would think before they act.

    • Thanks!

      I rather like playing with disciplined defenders. They make this tactic hard to implement but rewarding when you can pull them off the flag.

  2. I love doing this. It’s amazing how many stalwart defenders will leave their posts to chase a green haired gnome who is bouncing around calling them chicken. Pull them out of line of sight or out of range and let the stealth tag.

    • Taunting is a great way to pull folks away from a target – it’s amazing how many players will lose their cool to chase a gnome. πŸ™‚

      I’ve been known to use Tree Form as a taunt. I thought about glyphing back to the Treant ToL – I have fond memories of it – but the new form is SO much better for drawing fire. People swarm the giant broccoli. Rogues can’t resist it. πŸ™‚

    • Gnomes….

      Yeah, Tauren Burgers with a side of Gnome Sauce is always good.

  3. Olivia

    Fantastic post!

    One of my favourite things to ‘pull’ defenders as a healer is not healing myself back to full, or jumping off LM to get my health down. People can’t resist a shammy on 50% health!

    /diabolical cackling

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it!

      It’s true, people can’t resist a Shammy healer at half health. I’ve never fallen for that one. Nope. Never.



      I keep finding new ways to play the decoy as a healer. That could be a post all it's own. (5 of you, 1 of me, I just wasted 2 minutes of 1/3rd of your team's time in Strand, gg) πŸ™‚

  4. I think that this has been the biggest hole in the current crop of Horde players’ skillset. The past month I’ve noticed I’ve won far fewer games as Horde than Alliance, and for me the big differentiator isn’t the gear but the situational awareness.

    I could call out in BG chat all I want about staying close to the flag/base/etc., but what I’ve seen time and time again are people who want to go for that kill or who think that simply HK-ing the enemy is a good idea –no fuss, no muss– but without realizing that the point of a game like EotS or AB is the control of an area, not clearing an area.

    That’s why Horde tends to win when they play good D on AV. In a pure footrace, Alliance can get to the Towers quicker and therefore can start on Drek sooner. Playing D, pulling the graveyard defenders away from the flag and having a ninja come in and steal it, and luring players into the Field of Strife when you’re ahead can be invaluable tools to victory.

    • Discipline in the twink brackets is a funny thing. Sometimes you get a really well-disciplined group – that screenshot at the top was actually a good group, we had a solid core defending BS, some on the flag, some ranging around. Flares and AoE were used at unpredictable intervals.

      But we got pulled off later that fight by a big inc on the backside (ST/GM road), which allowed a VERY patient rogue to come in and attempt a cap. Even though it didn’t work, it was well played. The other side was just as disciplined, and it was a good match.

      It’s interesting that you say that about current Horde players. I’m always wary about making generalizations about faction play, just because it seems to vary so much day to day and time of day and bracket. I think it’s something where a lot of players just get focused on killing instead of on position, and I’m not excepting myself here. I get pulled off as DPS all the time and go, wow, Cyn, that was dumb.

      Hopefully I’m improving with each match, though. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Normally I hate generalizations as well, Cyn, but my honor levels don’t lie about victories vs. defeats. My mains on both sides had similar honor levels up until a month or so ago, and then Neve started falling behind. And this victory imbalance has been at all times and days of the week, too, which makes me wonder what’s going on.

        The easy answer is that people have moved on to TOR or unsubbed because they’ve seen the end game content, but I’m not so certain. It could be a combination of factors, like a lack of healers Horde side queue-ing for regular BGs. The end of the expac also means the end of the PvP gear race, and I’d imagine that there are some people who stop playing BGs once they get their Cataclysmic set (or Ruthless set if they don’t do Rateds or Arenas).

        But at the same time, TOR has pulled some people away who I know would otherwise be running BGs right now.

      • I love a good ninja cap! I had a great one in Gilneas the other day that wasn’t planned but was just taking advantage of some distracted defenders (who must have chosen to ignore the big red plus sign above my head!)

        But I hate it when I let one happen under my nose! I usually end up kicking myself when it happens. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often now!

        In terms of the generalizations of horde/alliance – I think there are some general brush strokes that can be applied, but not always. I brought it up on Gnomey’s battlemaster post – looking at my win/loss statistics they were pretty much 50/50 all round (excluding Gilneas). But I’ve found if I played in the US evening (my morning) Alliance tends to do better. There is a fairly pronounced Horde PvP bias in Australia though which makes it harder in the evenings. But it doesn’t always prove true.

        I’m growing more and more interested in trying out twinking – to experience the difference. My last experiences of it were back before they had their own BGs and getting slaughtered in WSG… Do you have a recommended bracket?

  5. JD Kenada

    In Arathi, I’m the Defender and completely with every thing you say. Yet it amazes me how often people leave my Frost Mage to defend the stables alone. Then there’s no need for a decoy, they just go full zerg. lol

    Now, in WSG, I’m often a great decoy for flag grabbing. Whenever someone else with speed (Druid, Hunter, Rogue, etc) better than I, I tell them I’ll be the decoy and they genuinely seemed surprise at a willingness to not only use tactics but also sacrifice myself.

    • As a FC, I love you. ❀

      I've found that DPS who are willing to actually run cover for me are gems. I try to watch what they're doing so that I can adjust my speed and route for them – if I see an intercept group going straight for the tunnel, I'll head toward the resto hut to give them time to intercept – or juke backwards, if necessary. I've been a FC as a Frost Mage and it's surprisingly effective – just keep running in between casting rank 1 frost bolt!

      (It's been a while since I played a mage. I admit it.)

      My one challenge – and probably a future post – is knowing when you should abandon a post. I *hate* doing it as a healer, but often, quite frankly, I am needed elsewhere as one of the 1-2 healers in the BG. Having your only healer standing around, solo at the GM, is a pretty good way to lose. 😦

      (DPS, though? I pick a spot and defend it for all it's worth.)

      • JD Kenada

        Yeah, I don’t understand why I constantly see FC’s without ANYONE trying to provide support (though healers who run right past them are the worst).

      • Ive also fallen back then tried to ditsract people trying to capture a flag or just plain ran if theres no help anywhere near and a steamroller bearing down on me. I dont see the logic in one person getting killed in a couple of seconds helping.

    • The only class faster than a Mage for flag carrying (imho) is a Druid and only situationally.

      Mage have speed, it’s called blink and we also have anti-speed, especially if Frost or Fire, which is a relative increase in speed.

      Then we have out get out of jail free cards.

      My issue tends to be that I get back to the base so fast, everyone is left in midfield wondering where I am.

      That and I really need the efc to be taken down as fast as I can return to base. Still, Hunters and Rogues are practically as squishy as me too.

      • JD Kenada

        Sorry, I should’ve mentioned I’m not usually on my Mage in WSG. Since these days I random with him, he tends to get everything BUT Warsong at level 66. Otherwise, I would have to agree immensely.

  6. If you’re playing a rogue, sometimes you can solo ninja the flag away from a single defender (depending on their class, etc). If you sap the defender then *immediately* click the flag, you can cap before the sap wears off.

    • and if they trinket the sap, blind them and try again.

      One day ranged classes will learn not to stand next to the flag πŸ˜€

      • works with all 8 seccond cc. repentence, sheep, frog, etc.

      • I love these kinds of comments.

        Also, I learned that lesson about not standing next to the flag with my warlock. PAINFULLY.

      • Yeah this is a flag defending 101 that gets lost in the mantra “fight at the flag”.

        You want to be far enough away that the rogue wastes 1/2 the sap getting back to the flag, but close enough to love tap them while they cap (and you are out of the sap).

        I love ninja rogue ping-pong.

  7. It’s also incredibly thrilling to pull off. I play almost exclusively with my girlfriend; she’s plays a mage, and I play a priest. As we’re in the same room, communication is flawless, which helps. Unlike arena, it doesn’t matter if you can kill your enemy. As long as I can keep the enemies’ attention and stay up long enough (which is relatively easy as disc) to let her cap, we’ve succeeded.

    • The top picture was a nice ninja cap – we charged the ST and my DPS pulled the defenders around to the GY side. They would come back and get healed then head back over – I was really impressed by how smart they were.

      I went right to the flag, fought the defenders for a bit, and then capped it once they were out of LOS. It was a good game. πŸ™‚

  8. Syl

    Stay at the flag, stay at the goddamn flag – how often have we shouted this in AB? man, the memories. πŸ™‚

    I have enjoyed my share of ninjaing in all the BGs as holypriest back in the days, a successful attempt is one of the greatest feelings ever in PvP, hehe! funnily enough it works more often than people imagine (and there’s nothing lovelier than a good holynova spam to break a “capping-contest”!). great guide, those pics took some time to make, huh! ^^

  9. Jez

    As a hunter I tend to play defensive and guard nodes. I think the hunter is well suited to this with our variety of tools. I enjoy catching sneaky rogues out with my traps and flares and emerging out of camo to keep them tied up long enough for help to arrive. Or killing them myself ideally. If the rogue locks me down though it’s buhbye and I use that time to call for help.

    One thing that I get frustrated by in node BGs is when your node has been capped, defensive assistance swarms in to retake the node but everyone focuses too much on fighting other players and no one recaps. Fair enough if you’re trying to but the opposition is smart and keeps you off but really there is this real disease of HK blindness sometimes….

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  11. Occasionally, rarely, I feel guilty about expending my resources on a ninja cap when there is a heated battle at a node, but I just remind myself of three things…

    1) These games are about points earned while owning the flags – the sooner we own it, the sooner we earn points.
    2) flags = graveyards = reinforcements. In a heated battle, taking the flag early may eliminate the need to fight there for another 5-10 minutes.
    3) Some people will come to defend an owned node. Few people come to retake a captured node – they give up and go elsewhere.

    Defending the node I want the GY reinforcements, many won’t even come for the battle at that node, they will be rez’s from elsewhere on the map.

    Many a node has been saved by defenders holding a flag through 30 second Rez cycles.

    This is why it is vital to stay in range of the flag and AoE the flag, everyone has something they can throw out occasionally.

    Whenever I rez at a node, I always sweep past it’s flag (even if it’s not where I am going), looking for hints of covert activity. The sapped defender, the AFK or distracted defender, the defender that’s been pulled off the node.

    It’s nearly always worth the look.

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