Tag Archives: Achievements

Children’s Week 2011 and the School of Hard Knocks

It’s unfortunate that Noblegarden and Children’s Week are so close together. The combination of two holidays back-to-back, and the pressure people may put on themselves to complete them (or complete them multiple times on alts) adds to the general stress of everyone’s least favorite holiday achievement, The School of Hard Knocks.

The School of Hard Knocks is many people’s stumbling block in accomplishing the meta achievement, What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been, and while the reward from that achievement doesn’t quite have the luster it once did – 310% flying can be bought for 5000 gold now, after all – it’s still a big accomplishment.

If you are going to attempt the School of Hard Knocks this year, let me point you back to my School of Hard Knocks guide from last year, complete with maps, videos, and as much advice as I could cram into a blog post.

The achievement hasn’t changed this year – you still have to perform some battleground tasks that many other people will be trying for. The one place I would recommend you bring friends to help out would be Eye of the Storm; that is a highly competitive environment, with some people actively griefing members of their own faction. And by griefing, I mean actively preventing you from returning flags, not just taking the flag and holding on to it, or running it back themselves. Report those people.

If you are a PvPer and a battleground enthusiast, I leave it up to you to consider if you’re going to take the next week off from BGs, or instead go tear up the newbies. I’ll remind you of both my modest and vicious proposals from last year, and while Southshore/Tarren Mill might not be the best place for Alliance to stage an attack these days. I’m sure you can be creative and just invade Undercity instead.

And don’t forget! If you’re in full Vicious Gladiator gear, go get an orphan!

Because nothing is more fun than having someone think you’re an easy kill, and then turning the tables on them.

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The Level 19 Ambassador

Perseverance.

You’ll hear me talk a lot about perseverance in my posts and videos.  I think more than any other personality trait you can have, sticking with something and seeing it through to the end is what makes people successful in life.  Luck is random.  Tenacity is not.

In PvP, perseverance is vital.  You get killed, you get back into it.  You get owned, you get back into it.  You figure out what went wrong, you make changes, you adapt, you get back into it.

But it’s not just for PvP.  You want something?  Go after it.  Embrace your constraints, set the biggest, most audacious goal you can think of and go for it.

That said, may I introduce Ambassador Cynderblock, level 19 Ambassador of the Alliance.

It took 394 Horde quests and 259 Alliance quests to complete this reputation grind.  It’s only possible with a faction change, and a lot of help from friends.  You should consider how the races will transfer over when doing it.

At level 19, you will pretty much need to do approach it like Loremaster – do every quest you can find, no matter how hard or obscure.  I’ll have full details of how I did it on Green Tinted Goggles soon.

But it is possible.  Just stick with it.

Update: the how-to post is now up on GTG.

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An Eye for an Eye

All reports point to Eye of the Storm as being the problem battleground for the School of Hard Knocks achievement. If guildmates who are skilled in PvP leave it frothing in rage, I can only imagine how inexperienced players are taking it.

There are two problems in EotS. First, your task can be easily disrupted by one player from either team. Because there is only one flag, someone can take the flag but refuse to capture it.  And players from your own team can grief you — and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Second, mutual assistance pacts don’t work in EotS. You are in competition not only with your opponents, but also your own teammates to capture a flag. There’s no way to equally distribute the achievement across a random group, let alone cross-faction.

The advice I gave in my School of Hard Knocks post still applies: don’t give up. If this is the last thing standing between you and that 310%, you will kick yourself for an entire year if you give up now.

But if what you’re doing just isn’t working, then it’s time to try something new. If one strategy – going in solo to capture the flag – isn’t working, it’s time to try something new.

It’s time to go to war.

There are two days left in Children’s Week. It’s time to abandon your scruples, your reserve, and your solitary nature. It’s time to go in with a new goal: dominate EotS so that you and a few others on your team get the achievement done. It’s time to find the biggest, baddest PvPers on your server and promise them a bloodbath in exchange for your getting to run the flag.

If you’re at the end of your rope in EotS, it’s time to bring the gun into a knife fight. It’s time to get as many friends as you can to come and beat the crap out of your enemy.

By dominating the BG and bottling up your opponents, you remove half of your competition. Don’t feel bad for them, not for one second – there is no way for you and them to reach your goal together, so you’re going to reach it. Period. The BG isn’t set up that way. So you have to win to win.

And by making it a group with a controlled composition, you give yourself a great chance to either run the flag yourself or to have a teammate hand it over for you to cap.  You remove the number of slots available to random people who can ruin your efforts.

Look at it this way — out of the 15 available slots on your team, the more you fill with either friends interested in helping you or server mates interested in killing the enemy, the less competition you have for the School of Hard Knocks.

So don’t go in alone.  Bring friends.  Lots of friends.

HOW TO RECRUIT YOUR TEAM

I heard the following last night in Trade.

LFG for that stupid School of Hard Knocks achievement, pst

This is not the way to go about assembling a team.  You are not making a School of Hard Knocks premade.  Advertising for that will get you the wrong kind of applicants – namely, people just like you who will compete for your goal.  You do not want competition.  You do not want inexperienced fighters.

Instead, you want the rough folks who are spoiling for a fight, the frustrated pvpers who want their battleground back. You want people who can calmly massacre hundreds of enemy players without batting an eye.  You want to take the people who are griefing your opponents and use them to your advantage.

So instead of:

LFM School of Hard Knocks, EotS

Appeal to the PvPer with promises of glory and blood:

Looking for kickass PvPers to come help own EotS. I’d like to do some flag running while we pay the Horde/Alliance back for the last week. PST for info.

By stressing things like winning and revenge, you attract the folks who are spoiling for a fight.  You want the PvPers in Wrathful who want to kick the shit out of people.  And trust me, those people are out there.

If promising a bloodbath doesn’t work, resort to the oldest trick in the book:  pay people.  People are ultimately mercenaries, and if you offer them 100g to help you get this achievement, you will get people to help.  Just remember to pay them after you get the achievement.

If you’re balking at that price, remember:  you’re paying 1400g for a 310% mount.  Keep that goal firmly in mind and the cost won’t matter.

Be sure to be up front with people when they do respond that you’re in it for the achievement, but stress that you want to win EotS.  Be honest, but appeal to their motives, not yours.

HOW TO WIN EOTS

Once you have the group, you want to give them a simple strategy to make sure they win.  There have been some great suggestions by the commenters on the School of Hard Knocks guide that I completely endorse.  They boil down to:

  1. Take three bases and ignore the flag at first.
  2. Half of your team pressure the fourth base, while the other half goes and wipes out midfield.
  3. Grab the flag (or have a teammate bring it to you.)
  4. Bottle up the opponents at the fourth tower and/or graveyard.
  5. Cap the flag.
  6. Kill the opponent at the fourth base, drive them to the spawn point.
  7. Win EotS.
  8. PROFIT.

You can sum this up as:

Okay, first we take three bases, then split up and pressure the fourth base while wiping out midfield.  Let me cap the flag, then we can take the fourth base and leave the Horde/Alliance in midfield as easy pickings.

Keep it simple.  Three bases, then take the flag away once, then four-cap.  Let your mercenaries do the rest.  They know what they’re doing…. mostly.  :-)

A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS

It’s practically an axiom in my guild that 5 people (with or without vent) can completely dominate a battleground.  I’ve seen this happen a lot — a core group of people working together in a PuG is vastly stronger than individuals trying to coordinate on their own.

So if you are still having problems with the School of Hard Knocks, find people to help you.  If your guild won’t do it, recruit bloodthirsty, frustrated PvPers.  If you can’t get them to sign on, pay them.  Do whatever it takes to win. Do not give up.  You can still do this.

Now go out and show the Eye of the Storm who’s in charge here.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Cyn’s Guide to Powerleveling Pilgrim’s Bounty Cooking

I think that, despite people’s dislike of the Turkinator achievement, this is turning out to be a great holiday. There are daily quests, reputation bonuses, a cute pet, and the opportunity to level a skill many people find tedious and skip entirely. Yes, one of my favorites – Cooking.

You can powerlevel Cooking on any of your characters up to Outland levels with little effort, and Northrend levels with a bit more. All of this for any of your characters, no matter what level they are.

Yes, you read that right. Any character can be a Grand Master Cook, regardless of level, and this holiday makes it easy.  As someone who powerleveled Cooking and Fishing together the old way, over the course of several days, this change is awesome. Take advantage of the opportunity and level your alt’s skills now.

The strategy is quite simple.  Start in either Elwynn Forest or Trisifal Glades, depending on your faction, and empty your bags as much as possible.  If you want to collect all the mats up front and then cook, you’ll need 68 slots open.

  1. You will need to make 4 stacks (80 units) of each of the various holiday dishes.  So, you’ll need 80 each of: Simple Flour, Mild Spices, Ripe Pumpkins (Alliance, Horde), Tangy Cranberries (AllianceHorde), Sweet Potatoes (Alliance, Horde), and Wild Turkey meat.
  2. You will also need from the holiday vendors: 1 Bountiful Cookbook, 16-17 stacks of Autumnal Herbs, 20-22 stacks of Honey.
  3. Open the cookbook to reveal the recipes you’ll use.
  4. Start off by training Cooking and Spice Bread.  You don’t need any other recipes yet, as they’ll just clutter your Cooking interface.  You can always go back and learn them later.
  5. Make a Basic Campfire and start cooking Spice Bread.  This will go green around 30, but you’ll need all 4 stacks for the next step, so keep going even if it goes gray.
  6. Cook Spice Bread Stuffing until your skill reaches 50.  At that point, go train the Journeyman Cook skill and go back to making stuffing.  This recipe goes yellow at 90 and green at 100; I’ve found you should end somewhere around 105-110.
  7. Learn the next recipe, Pumpkin Pie, and start cooking it until your skill reaches 125.  Go train the Expert Cook skill and make the rest of the pies.  Pumpkin Pie goes yellow at 150 and green at 160, just in time for the next recipe.
  8. You might need to switch cities at this point if you don’t have all the materials (Ironforge for Alliance, Orgrimmar for Horde), but you want to learn Cranberry Chutney and start cooking it. Train your Cooking skill at 200.  This recipe will go yellow at 210 and green at 220, but make all 4 stacks.
  9. Again, if you don’t have all the mats, you’ll need to relocate to Darnassus or Thunder Bluff, but follow the same pattern for Candied Sweet Potatoes.  I love Sweet Potatoes, and not just because they bring you up to about 280-300 Cooking.  Cook everything you’ve got, but stop before you hit 300.
  10. Make sure you have 4-5 stacks of Wild Turkey and Autumnal Herbs, and 8-10 stacks of Honey, train Master Cooking, and then start making Slow-Roasted Turkey.  If you have 4 stacks, you should get just about to 350; 5 stacks should take you past it.
  11. Once you’re at 350, train Grand Master and do a happy /dance!
  12. 2011 Update: Slow-Roasted Turkey will now stay orange well into the 400s. Once you’ve trained Grand Master, keep on going as long as you can!

Even if you aren’t that organized and end up doing a lot of traveling and turkey hunting, this process takes about 1-2 hours, which is a far cry from the days it used to take using Fishing.

Don’t forget that these items can’t be mailed, but they can be traded, so enlist the aid of some friends to serve as mutual material banks.  (They work like conjured items.)  High level mages can collect all the materials but the Wild Turkey meat in minutes, and friends can help you swap unused items over to different toons.

Good luck.  May your cuisine reign supreme!

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Cyn’s Turkey Hunting Guide

Let’s say you’ve been asked to kill 40 turkeys. I don’t know why, maybe a friend dared you to do it.

And let’s say this friend said, not only do I dare you to kill 40 turkeys, I dare you to kill each one within 30 seconds of each other.

You should have two responses.

First, take this person off your friends list! What kind of friend would ask such a crazy thing of you?

Second, bet them 100g on the spot, because you’re going to kill those turkeys AND get paid for it!

Here’s what you do.

  1. Prepare yourself with some Tracker Snacks. If you can’t cook them yourself, find someone who can or buy them off the AH. Pay whatever outrageous prices people are asking, because time is money, friend!
  2. Go to the zone of your choice – Elwynn, Trisifal, the Fjiord, wherever – eat a Tracker Snack, enjoy watching your minimap light up with all those yellow dots, and then…
  3. Go scouting. Don’t skip this step! Ride around and find 2-3 groups of turkeys, all close to each other. In Elwynn I found a LOT of these areas -around Stone Carin Lake, Ridgepoint Tower, Jasperlode Mine – I settled for the far side of the Eastvale Logging Camp and Ridgepoint Tower. I hear the area south of SM in Trisifal is also good, but the specific spot matters less than that there are lots of Wild Turkeys there right now.
  4. Now you’re going to make a macro. If you’ve never made a macro, now’s a good time to start. If you don’t like using macros, tough, because your reputation and money are now on the line. And it’s a simple one — Line 1: /target Wild Turkey, Line 2: /cast (instant-cast damaging spell). That’s it. Put it on your action bar.
  5. Put on your speed boots – you have speed boots, right? – put your pet on passive, and go hunting! Always be moving to the next yellow dot. Ride whenever you are not in combat, and run when you are. DO NOT STOP TO LOOT. Kill turkeys until you’re tired of killing, and then kill some more. Don’t stop until you get [The Turkinator].
  6. /dance, then go kill 25 more Wild Turkeys – this time, loot them. You need the meat for quests.

Once all that is complete, go find your friend, gloat, and collect your bet.

(If the friend was hypothetical, you can just gloat to yourself.)

Enjoy your shiny new achivement!

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A Little Bit Easier

MMO Champion has new details about some upcoming Battleground changes in the latest 3.3 PTR build:

  • The achievements to get exalted with the Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and Alterac Valley factions have been removed from their respective “Master of” meta-achievements. Special titles will be offered to those who reach exalted with these factions.

  • Wintergrasp: You must now have the following ranks to build or pilot siege vehicles:
    • Rank 1: Build/pilot Catapults.
    • Rank 2: Build/pilot Demolishers.
    • Rank 3: Build/pilot Siege Engines.

Both of these changes are interesting in their own right.

The Achievements change is an interesting way to address the difficulty of reaching Battlemaster, and not the way I thought that Blizzard would go. Restoring the reputation turn-in system that Warsong Gulch used to have would have made it fairer for those who started playing later. This change makes Battlemaster much easier to get, and therefore cheapens it a bit. That makes me sad. I liked having an absurdly hard goal. The Justicar title gains a little luster with this change, but still — nerfing a difficult achievement is never cool.

(What does make me happy, though, is the introduction of titles for exalted BG reputation. This is cosmetic, but VERY welcome. It would be nice to see in other battlegrounds, if a bit impractical since they have no reputations to grind.)

The Wintergrasp change is complicated. First, let me draw attention to the non-obvious — there’s going to be an additional rank added. Depending on how this rank is implemented, it will likely make getting Siege Engines more difficult than it is at present, which will slow down their production. The other change, limiting the ability to operate a vehicle to those with rank, is a direct answer to the strategy covered in an earlier post, which will definitely slow down the mass production of heavy vehicles, especially at the game start. Both of these changes will have the effect of making Wintergrasp longer, which will result in more honor for everyone.

But it’s also a direct response to the complaints by those who couldn’t defend against the tactic. I’m disappointed to see it happen, but not really surprised. Battlegrounds aren’t any different from any other part of the game, and subject to the same changes. Bosses get nerfed after people have downed them, too. Things get a little bit easier all the time.

I may not have the Battlemaster title, but at least I’ll have the memory of having successfully defended Wintergrasp against a charge of 12 heavy vehicles, of frantically trying to throw enough people at the onslaught to slow it down as it charges up the hill, of holding the line at the walls to the inner keep as the last few Siege Engines explode.

We won’t see the likes of those rushes again.

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Warlock Battlemasters

When I first started PvPing, I eyed the achievement lists and found one at the bottom that gave me pause: Battlemaster.  A title well beyond even Justicar, one that shows complete mastery of the battlegrounds through the Burning Crusade.  Okay, there’s a goal to work towards, I thought.

Then I started working towards it, and holy moly, is that one hard achievement.  Alterac Valley was the easiest of the lot for me to get started on, what with being in my 50s and the Alliance owning that bracket.  Warsong Gulch was much worse for me as a Warlock, being a squishy cloth wearer.  As I started grinding out the reputation and trying to run the flag, I realized how long of a haul I was in for to get the Battlemaster title.

When I started playing a Death Knight, the situation in Warsong Gulch improved dramatically.  Achievements which formerly seemed impossible (Iron Man) were trivial, and I could romp through the field with impunity.  The experience really opened my eyes as to how some things that are easy with one class can be seemingly  impossible for another.

But “seemingly impossible,” much like the “mathematically impossible” Yogg+0 kill, doesn’t mean “impossible.”  It just means “really fucking hard.”

So it’s with some awe that I congratulate Jagoex on reaching the pinnacle of battlegrounds with his Warlock.  Serious, heartfelt congratulations!

Someday I hope to join you.  It’s just a matter of time.  :-)

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