[PvP][AB] Victory in Arathi Basin, by Kaeldar of "Never Lose"

[PvP][AB] Victory in Arathi Basin, by Kaeldar of "Never Lose"

Victory in Arathi Basin

(Want more on PvP? Never lose a battleground.)

You’re tired of losing. It slows your honor. It slows your marks. Worst of all, it’s demoralizing. No matter which side you play, there are stretches when you get repeatedly stomped, especially if you’re PUGing.

This guide will help you save valuable seconds in every circumstance, maximize the reward for your efforts, and allow you to win far more frequently in Arathi Basin. Once you begin winning consistently, especially after you start 5-capping, you will have more honor and more marks than you can spend.

This is because when you 5-cap, you earn THIRTY resources per tick per node, rather than the usual ten, and the rate of ticks increases to once per second. With four nodes, you get only 3.3 resources per second.. It takes only 1 minute & 6 seconds to amass 2,000 resources with 5 nodes. With 4 nodes, it takes 10 minutes and 6 seconds to amass 2,000 resources.

When your team is good enough to consistently 5-cap, you will earn 3 marks and all the related bonus honor ten times as fast as a 4-cap victory, and twenty times as fast as a “hold three and win”.

Contents:

1. PART I: Arathi Basics
An overview of the battleground for those new to it. The rest of the guide is addressed to experienced players, but some people look for advice before they begin. Skip this section if you are already familiar with the battleground.

2. PART II: The Rules for Victory (Tactics)
Rules to follow at all times for every fight. Some are specific to Arathi Basin, others are helpful for PvP as a whole. This is the core section of the guide, the section most crucial to victory.

3. PART III: Advanced Tactics
Some additional methods that will help you clinch more victories.

4. PART VI: X-Factors
Two additional “X” factors which can at times throw the results of a match into skew, and should be acknowledged.

5. PART V: Strategy
Three of the strategies best suited to victory. I will also explain how to beat these same strategies when they are employed by your enemy. This is the second-most important section of the guide.

6. PART VI: Battleground Myths
Some common battleground myths debunked.

7. PART VII: PvP vs PvE
Chief differences between PvP and PvE to smooth the transition for experienced raiders who may be in the wrong mindset when they come to the battleground.
The second and fourth sections are the most important. Everything else is included as a supplement.

Part I: Arathi Basics
If you are already familiar with Arathi Basin, please skip this section entirely and begin with Part Two: The Rules for Victory (Tactics).

This section is intended to help those who seek advice before their first battle. The remainder of the guide assumes foreknowledge of basic elements, mechanics, and common terms.

Arathi Basin is a 15 versus 15 battleground, fought for control over resources.
The battleground is divided into five regions, each serving as a resource node: Stables, blacksmith, lumber mill, gold mine, and farm. When a team controls the flag at each region, that team receives resources at the rate of 10 resources per tick (except when 5 flags are held). The amount of time between ticks is shortened by 3 seconds for each additional flag held, meaning you accumulate resources more quickly the more flags you hold, and in a non-linear fashion. The first team to reach 2,000 resources wins.

Nodes ControlledResources gained per tickTick LengthResources per SecondTime to Amass 2000 (VICTORY)
11012 Seconds00.841.6 Minutes
2109 Seconds01.130.3 Minutes
3106 Seconds01.719.6 Minutes
4103 Seconds03.310.0 Minutes
5301 Second30.001.1 Minutes

The resources are controlled by physically assaulting the flag located at each node. The flags begin in a neutral state, and thereafter have two modes:
Contested is a state in which the flag momentarily belongs to neither team.
Captured is the state in which the flag belongs to one team or the other.
You must assault a flag to capture it for your team. This is done by right-clicking on the flag. This begins a ten-second attempt with a progress bar labeled “opening”, which must be completed without interruption for success. After a completion, the flag will turn white with your team’s emblem. The flag is now contested, and still belongs to neither team. When the flag has been contested by your team for one minute without interruption, it will turn to your team’s color and become captured.

A captured flag provides two benefits:
1. Resources will be generated for your team according to the table above.
2. Your team will be able to resurrect at the graveyard located at that node.

When a captured flag is successfully assaulted by the opposition, it returns to contested and both benefits are lost. It can be recaptured by a completed 10-second assault from the team who previously held it, and this will result in immediately returning it to a captured state for your team. If no such defensive capture is made within one minute, the contested flag becomes captured by the challenging team. This can occur even when an assault on the flag is in progress, and will interrupt the attempt.

Assaulting a flag to make it contested is the primary objective on offense simply to prevent the enemy team from resurrecting at the connected graveyard.
Preventing a flag from being assaulted is the primary objective on defense. If an assault is completed, assaulting it to regain capture becomes the primary objective on defense.

Arathi Basin has 7 total graveyards: 1 at each of the resource nodes, and 1 dedicated to each team at the entrances. You will respawn at the closest graveyard currently held by your team.

The node closest to the Alliance entrance is the Stables, both at the northwest end of the zone. The node closest to the Horde entrance is the Farm, both at the southeast end of the zone. Both are close enough in distance and elevation to see the Blacksmith, but not each other. The Blacksmith is located on an island in the center of the zone. The Gold Mine is located at the Northeast end of the zone, and is in a valley so low that only players approaching it have visibility on it, and it provides no visibility to any other region. The Lumber Mill is located atop a cliff at the Southwest end of the zone. It is elevated enough to prevent visibility most of the Lumber Mill. However standing at the edge of the cliff provides visibility to the stables, farm, and blacksmith.

Here is a list of commonly used abbreviations and terms:

AB - Arathi Basin
Stables - Stabs, or ST
Lumber Mill - Mill, or LM
Gold Mine - Mine, or GM
Blacksmith - Smith or BS
Farm - Usually just “Farm”, occasionally “F”
Defense - “D” or Def
Offense - “O” or Off
Cap - The capture of a flag.
1-Cap, 2-Cap, 3-Cap, 4-Cap, or 5-Cap - Refers to the number of total flags captured, either currently or in planning.
Tap or Tag - The attempt to assault a flag.
GY - A graveyard.
Rez - Resurrection
Node/Base/Flag - One of the five areas for gathering resources.
FTW - For the win.
FTL - For the loss.
GG - Good game (sometimes used sarcastically).
GJ - Good job.
Ninja - The attempt to capture a flag by stealth rather than force.
Inc - Incoming (hopefully accompanied by a number).
FF – Focus Fire, in other words, “Kill this guy first!”
CC – Crowd control, any spell or ability which can temporarily limit or remove a player from combat.
PUG - Pick up group; any random grouping of individuals not previously coordinated.
Premade - An organized raid group formed in advance for the purpose of playing battlegrounds together.

PART II: The Rules for Victory (Tactics)
These are the key principles you need for victory in Arathi Basin. Follow them while your enemies don’t, and you’ll win hands down. They are not meant to be observed as an ordered checklist, but rather to be absorbed until they become instinctual. First I’ll provide the list in order of importance, and afterwards I’ll explain the significance of each rule.

1. Always fight near the Flag.
2. Speed is Victory.
3. Use Voice over IP.
4. You can’t win on defense.
5. Never leave a flag undefended.
6. Interrupt the capper.
7. Prioritize your targets.
8. Communicate effectively.
9. Travel in packs.
10. Never disparage your own team.
11. Never chase runners.
12. Keep your zone map open.
13. Always take the shortest route.
14. Utilize ghost defenders.
15. Don’t assault more than 6 defenders (except for the final node).
16. Buff in preparation.
17. Always fight near the Flag.

RULE #1: Always fight near the Flag.
Exceptions: Farming the enemy’s graveyard after a 5-cap.

There are some rules for which there are exceptions – the ONLY exception to this rule occurs when you’ve ALREADY WON. This applies on offense or defense, winning or losing, to all races and classes at all times. When you fight near the flag, you are better positioned to defend a teammate capturing it. You are better positioned to prevent an enemy capture, or make a recovery. If you are fighting anywhere but near the flag, you are costing your team valuable seconds of travel before accomplishing anything meaningful. You can outnumber an enemy four to one, but if he’s out of your range when he performs a capture, he will interrupt your flow or resources and prevent your allies from resurrecting at the closest graveyard.

The farthest you should EVER be from a flag if you’re defending or attacking is within shooting/casting range of it. Your travel between nodes should be to and from this radius as well. When you hear people saying, “Don’t fight on the roads!” this is the rule to which they’re referring.

RULE #2: Speed is Victory.
Exceptions: Good teamwork can compensate slightly for poor individual speed.

In any real time strategy, the faster you work, the better you perform. This does not refer just to one type of speed, such as land travel, but ALL types of speed: Travel, DPS/Heals, regeneration, recovery from impediments, communication, combat, controls, and thought. In Starcraft, I had an undefeated record of over 150 wins even though I wasn’t always the better strategist. The fact that I type 96 WPM at 100% accuracy and had every hotkey memorized meant that I could build faster, upgrade faster, attack faster, and (most importantly) recover faster. As the priest says in The Count of Monte Christo, “The stronger swordsman is not always the victor. It is speed! Speed of hand…Speed of mind.”

Here are some tips to help improve your speed in key areas:

A. Recovery abilities are invaluable. The PvP trinkets “Insignia/Medallion of the Alliance/Horde” are must-haves for clearing detrimental effects. (Save it for use against the class or effect which slows you down the most, and/or for the time when cc against you is most crucial…like when you are the only remaining defender.

B. Enchants or enhancements to increase land speed (mounted or on foot) are excellent investments. If you can effectively hotkey them to be swapped with gear better suited for combat, they will serve you even better. (Some addons do this automatically.)

C. Eat/drink/bandage/heal/rebuff THE INSTANT you win a skirmish so you are prepared for the next attack. Then drink AGAIN the INSTANT you are done healing/buffing. If your allies aren’t providing the buffs or heals you need, carry as many self-buff/self-heal items as you can.

D. Practice typing. If it takes you 5 seconds to type “incoming” instead of a fraction of a second, your enemies will be upon you before your team knows you need help.

E. Put your most crucial abilities onto hotkeys in easy reach of your strongest fingers. Here’s how I have my key bindings set up. (You don’t have to mimic this, as long as your system is efficient.)

Default Row: “1” through “=”
Bottom-left Action bar: SHIFT+1 through SHIFT+=
Bottom-right Action bar: ALT+1 through ALT+=

The best position for your key abilities is near your index and middle fingers. In standard typing position, the easiest-to reach keys are (in about this order): 4, 3, 5, 2, 6. My setup gives me 15 total abilities to put convenient hotkeys. I put my “once per fight” or “once per life” hotkeys on 1 or 2, such as charge for warrior (2), or mounting (alt+1). I also have my movement keys set to “ESDF” (instead of the default “WASD”) so that my strongest fingers (index/middle/ring) are ALSO used for movement and I don’t have to move my hands AT ALL to type. I type over 90 WPM, so in combat I average about 6 keystrokes per second – for abilities, movement, communication, or targeting. If your enemy can do that and you can’t keep up, you’re cannon fodder. (If you type so slow that you need amateur abbreviations like “u”, “ur”, and “any1” even in the safety of the trade channel, you are SEVERELY dragging down your team in PvP.)

F. Use autorun when possible so your fingers are free for other needs. Autorun will self cancel the instant you hit a “back” key, and you can turn any which way you like while autorun is on.

G. Dismount with spell/ability which automatically dismounts you rather than wasting a keystroke on the act of dismounting.

H. Slow the enemy. Use your crowd control abilities like fears and snares in ways which slow them down. Suppose you can do 1,000 DPS to a fleeing enemy with 8,000 hp – it will take you 8 seconds to kill him. But if you have four teammates who each do 500 DPS and you can freeze or snare the enemy into range of your allies, it will take you just 5.3 seconds to kill the same opponent. Suddenly you have five people with 2 more full seconds apiece to devote to another target – a total of 3,000 more damage given the above numbers.

I. Learn the EXACT timings of the interface. There is a split second before your mount appears in which you can autorun without interrupting the summon. You will appear to leap forward on foot but at mounted speed an instant before the client’s graphics catch up and your mount appears. This is most noticeable with exact timing on a broadband connection at a high performance machine. This is true of some other abilities also.

The interface was altered slightly in 2.3 to allow you to “queue” a spell slightly. I don’t know whether this change was ever announced, but it was a pronounced difference in fluidity for someone who relies heavily on speed. My testing indicates that you can queue your next spell while your current one is still being cast as long as:

a. Both spells have casting times (i.e. neither one is instant)
b. You press the hotkey for the 2nd spell after the global 1-second cooldown of the first spell.

J. Move your ghost to the edge of the Spirit Healer’s radius. This saves you valuable seconds in returning to fight near the flag (Rule 1). It always amazes me how few people bother doing this. Even if it only saves you one second of travel, 1 second times 15 people times 4 deaths apiece suddenly means your team has A FULL MINUTE against your opponents. EVERY SECOND COUNTS.

K. Set pets on “Aggressive”. Sometimes the AI governing your pet will spot someone before you do. The “sight” of NPC mobs is not limited by an interface or camera angle, and sees “through” other players, elevation, and certain objects. When you keep your pet on aggressive, it will automatically attack the closest enemy every time it detects one.

If that enemy is a poor target (Rule 7), you can manually switch the pet to a better target, and should. But for the few seconds between those events, your pet will have contributed more to the fight than if it were on passive or defensive.

L. Duel in your free time. This will give you practice in the most crucial kind of speed: Speed of mind. It will also help you figure how to better organize your hotkeys for maximum efficiency, and help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses against certain classes or builds.

RULE #3: Use Voice over IP.
Exceptions: None

This means using Ventrilo, Teamspeak, Skype, or any other software which lets your team communicate by voice rather than by typing/reading. While this alone will not guarantee victory (even the worst of organized teams already does this), it is a necessary first step. When you communicate by voice, you eliminate valuable seconds from your fight. Furthermore, if you can do so hands-free, you can talk and fight simultaneously, accomplishing twice as much as anyone who doesn’t (rule 2).

RULE #4: You can’t win on defense.
Exceptions: The “Mobile Defense” Strategy (See Below)

There is a school of thought for Arathi Basin that says, “Hold three and win!” This will certainly work if your enemies are dumb as posts, or just sit on their heels waiting for defeat, but in an actual battle this strategy is very flawed. I’ll demonstrate:
To hold three with a team of fifteen, you have to divide your force into an average of three groups of five. Meanwhile, your enemies can consolidate all fifteen players into a single attack. Fifteen against five will win and you will lose the flag. Even if you have ten at one flag (unlikely), those fifteen attackers will STILL win. Furthermore, if your raid leaders (or misguided backseat drivers) are screaming, “HOLD THESE THREE” without any offense, your enemies can (and will) completely abandon their flags if it’s in their interest to do so.

RULE #5: Never leave a flag undefended.
Exceptions: None

This should be common sense, but I have been shocked to see flags left completely unattended. In most cases, the MINIMUM number of defenders to be left at a flag is TWO. A flag with JUST ONE defender should be considered UNDEFENDED because crowd control abilities such as sap, fear, or polymorph can eliminate one player from combat long enough to capture. (There are certain circumstances where it is helpful to leave just one defender, but only in cases where your position on the map makes an assault against that defender unlikely. See the strategy section below.)

RULE #6: Interrupt the Capper
Exceptions: None

When an assault is being made on your flag, interrupting the capper is your only priority. If they attempt a second or third assault, you keep them targeted and keep interrupting capture. As long as you hold the flag, allies can resurrect at the nearby graveyard and provide an unending supply of reinforcements. Since it only takes 10 seconds to assault the flag, and up to 30 seconds to resurrect, this can be tricky, but by keeping this rule in mind, one or two defenders can delay capture by five defenders or more.

If someone is assaulting the flag when you die, AS SOON AS YOU REZ, throw the fastest interrupting spell you have at him as soon as you’re in range. THEN worry about prioritizing your targets appropriately (see Rule #7, below).

Ranged weapons are excellent for interrupting flag cappers. Don’t underestimate the speed and range of a wand, bow, or gun for this purpose even if it has little other application for your character.

RULE #7: Prioritize your targets.
Exceptions: None

Attention to the wrong target is a waste of time (rule 2), not to mention mana/rage/power. In roughly this order, these are your top priorities:
a. Healer > Non-healer
b. Near the flag > Away from flag (rule 1)
c. DPS > Non-DPS
d. Cloth > Leather > Mail > Plate (rule 2)
e. Ranged > Melee
f. Damaged > Healthy (rule 2)
g. Has Mana > Out of Mana
h. Closer to you > Farther away (rule 2)
i. Not-CCed > CCed (rule 2)
j. Character > Pet
k. Ally is attacking > New target (rule 2)
l. Unbuffed > Buffed
m. On foot > Mounted (rule 9)

Don’t try to use this as an ordered checklist, but rather try to absorb its principles over time until they become instinct. These are not hard and fast rules, but general guidelines; combining them will reveal the exceptions. For instance: The exception to H is when a hunter or warlock out of attack range sends his pet to harass you at the flag (B and G). Of the healing classes (A), priests should be your first priority because wearing cloth makes them much easier to kill than druids, shamans, or paladins (D). Of the DPS classes (C), hunters, warlocks, and mages are more threatening than fury warriors, shamans, or rogues because they can kill you from farther away (G/rule 2), not to mention warlocks and mages wear cloth (D).

The principle is simple at each step: Kill the BIGGEST THREAT, go for the FASTEST KILL. Healers are the biggest threat of all because they can keep EVERY other alive and kicking. Then those who can dish out damage are more threatening than tanks, and so forth.

Also consider your strength versus a particular class. Some players believe these are hard and fast rules, but in my experience, this can vary greatly depending on gear, play style, and build. Just target the classes YOU excel at destroying, while bearing in mind the above principles.

RULE #8: Communicate Effectively.
Exceptions: None

First, this means communicating at all, which many people don’t do. And second, doing so effectively. On PvP servers, I was amazed at vague ‘incoming’ callouts in world PvP, missing such crucial details as level, class, precise location, or other details which would clue you in to those factors. (I.e. “mounted paladin” tells you he’s at least level 40. Just “paladin” could mean level 10 or level 70).

In battlegrounds, the principle is the same, but the crucial information is different. Here’s what you need to communicate:
A. How many attackers/defenders (What)
B. Location (Where)
C. Progress (How)
D. Assignments (Who)

The difference between “3 inc stables” and just “inc stables” is the difference between victory and defeat. By being vague, you may get everyone or no one to rush to your aid. If three are incoming, and 7 of your allies rush to help, you’ve tied up half your team to meet just 1/5th of the enemy team. However, if everyone has his/her zone map open (rule 12), and you call “3 inc stables”, everyone can see that 2 people are already defending the stables, and 2 or 3 assisting (at most!) will assure victory. Furthermore, with everyone’s battleground map open, everyone can see how many are already en route to aid. Just 1? Not quite enough. 2? Probably but no guarantee. When I see three are on the way to help 2 more defend against 3 inc, I know I can keep defending where I’m at. Once everyone on your team instinctively responds in this way, you become a much more fluid and responsive force.

The third thing to call is progress. That is, if you’re assaulting a node but suddenly half the enemy resurrects there, your allies may assume it’s still up for the taking, when in reality it is a lost cause. Call out the success or failure of a skirmish when appropriate to educate your team. A raid leader should also call out an alternative target, and those watching un-assaulted nodes should indicate the number of defenders there to help determine the best target.

The fourth thing to call is assignments, whether self-assigned or the purview of a raid/group leader. When four players are all trying to assault the same flag, they aren’t fighting, and will be easy to interrupt and even kill. An expert player will announce he is assaulting the flag, enabling EVERY OTHER PLAYER to fight to keep enemies off of him. Since you can’t fight and assault at the same time, he will also clue in how many seconds to go. You tend to respond more quickly when you discover that 1 or 2 seconds makes a huge difference.

RULE #9: Travel in packs.
Exceptions: Rogues and Druids using stealth to “ninja” a flag.

When going on offense, travel as part of a large group; always an onslaught, never a trickle. You may outnumber a defense by 2 or 3 to 1, but you arrive all strung out, you give them the opportunity to kill off a few at a time, or even recover, eliminating your advantage.

When you gather for an offense, gather in a tight clump, using the zone map (rule 12) to determine everyone’s location. Then ride mounted all the way to the flag or as close as possible if crowd control prevents you from reaching it (rule 1) and dismount with an instant cast spell into combat (rule 2).

RULE #10: Never disparage your own team.
Exceptions: None

Consistent victory is as much about morale as strategy. Insulting your teammates will never help in battle…it’s a waste of typing (rule 2) and all you will accomplish is making your teammates feel abused and unappreciated. In the first place, the most common insult is what a “newb” someone else is, which is the most meaningless insult in the world. If the person really is NEW to PvP, BGs, AB, or even WoW, is your own world so narrow that you are criticizing someone for trying something NEW? That’s absurd. Everyone has to start somewhere. There’s nobody who was NEVER a newb.

If you have advice, educate your teammates off the battlefield (as I am here), because there isn’t time for an in-depth analysis of strategies and tactics during a match.

The best of leaders are people who can make their team feel good, even when the chips are down and things look grim. The ability to talk up your troops instead of talking down to them…that’s what separates the men from the boys.

RULE #11: Never chase runners.
Exceptions: If you have 5-capped and are farming the enemy’s graveyard.

This rule may be difficult for those accustomed to pre-battlegrounds PvP, world PvP, or instanced PvE. Back in the Everquest days, if you let a mob get away, you’d cause a huge train and a guaranteed wipe. The instinct still exists to smash the heck out of anything running away.

Don’t.

Sometimes one to three enemies will engage you near the flag, and for whatever reason one or more of them will decide to flee to another node. Don’t worry about them, don’t take them down, don’t pursue. If they return, engage them again as you would any incoming attacker.

If you see a drive-by runner, or someone retreats, one of three things is happening:

1. The fastest route for him to reinforce elsewhere happened to pass by your flag.
2. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing, thus he is wandering aimlessly.
3. He is deliberately trying to lure you away from your flag.

In the first two cases, it doesn’t help you at all to bother with him unless you’re after one lonesome honor kill. Whoop-dee-fricken-doo. If you begin winning consistently, you’ll make honor hand over fist. In either case, if you abandon your flag to pursue, you have removed one defender from your flag, violating rule 1 and possibly rule 5. If your target is a deliberate decoy, then he’s got you right where he wants you.

RULE #12: Keep your zone map open.
Exceptions: None

There is a transparent map of the whole battleground you can choose to display on your screen in addition to your regular local minimap. To open it, SHIFT+CLICK on the PvP icon on your minimap, or press SHIFT+M.

On a test run, set this up to your tastes. Choose a location on your screen for easy reference with doesn’t interfere with other data, set desired transparency, and thereafter keep it open all day every day when you run battlegrounds.

The map includes two key pieces of data: Which nodes are under whose control, and the location of your entire raid group.

Keeping this map open at all times will help you determine at a glance:
1. Whether you need to stay behind to defend a node or can afford to go on offense instead.
2. Compare the number of “incoming” to the number of allies you have defending a node.
3. Compare the number of enemy defenders called out to the number of allies on offense at a particular node.

When you can respond to these circumstances without even having to be told, you’re well on your way to victory. When your own assessment begins to match exactly what the raid leader is saying, you are close to functioning as a high-performance team. But you can’t do it if the map is closed.

RULE #13: Always take the shortest route.
Exceptions: None

When attacking or rushing to help defend, do NOT take the long way around. Take the shortest possible route.

There are direct roads between the Farm and Stables. If you have to get from one to the other, use them instead of going by way of the blacksmith, lumber mill, or gold mine, EVEN IF your team holds them. It’s a waste of time (rule 2). If the enemy holds them, so much the better – you’re staying out of their way. If you’re lucky, some may even abandon their flag to chase you (rule 9).

For priests and mages, the shortest route from the lumber mill to the blacksmith or the blacksmith to the gold mine is to drop straight down the cliff. Stock light feathers for this purpose as this is an INVALUABLE time saver (rule 2). Furthermore, amateurs won’t expect it or know to include these people when they call their “incoming” numbers.

Classes with a lot of hit points can also make the leap, as long as you account for the injury in your planning. For my warrior, a jump from the lumber mill and a moment to bandage took less time than going the long way around, and with few enough defenders the bandage or potion wasn’t even needed. However on my warlock, I never had enough hit points for the leap to be worthwhile.

RULE #14: Utilize Ghost Defenders
Exceptions: The local flag is currently in conflict.

This is the method of counting resurrecting players as defenders for the purpose of determining how many to send on offense. For example:

You’ve just defended the blacksmith with six defenders. Three of them died, three survived. Your raid leader calls for the blacksmith and the lumber mill to assault the farm. The three surviving people at the blacksmith should clump together (rule Cool and help assault the farm. This is because the three people who died are currently in the graveyard about to resurrect are sufficient to defend it (rule 5) and you will save valuable time (rule 2) by launching your offense more quickly.

RULE #15: Don’t assault more than six defenders (except for the final node).
Exceptions: Varies significantly; consider this the most breakable rule.

I see groups all the time who get it into their heads not only that they need nodes to win (which is true), but that they need PARTICULAR nodes. Then they bang their heads against a wall by repeatedly attacking a sizeable force.

First, you need to know that it’s easier to defend than to assault. This is because:
A. Dead defenders can resurrect nearby with refilled health and mana. This means that three defenders can be as hard to kill as six defenders, whereas three on offense who are killed have to rez halfway across the map before they can threaten you again.
B. Defenders can be dropping prep buffs/spells/traps while you are approaching them mounted and unable to do likewise until you’re already in their range (except for rogues and druids).
C. An assault has to get one attacker 10 uninterrupted seconds on the flag. A defense technically only has to interrupt such attackers (though it is prudent to kill them also).

If you are assaulting a node with over six defenders, think about what this means for the other nodes. A team holding two nodes usually has three groups: One defending each node, and one on offense. If they’re equally split, that’s five apiece. Which means: If you’re assaulting a node with six or more defenders, chances are you’re attacking the MOST HEAVILY DEFENDED FLAG. Why? By the time you kill the fourth defender, the first three will rez, whereas your group will already be half dead.

Instead, you should always be attacking the node with the LEAST amount of defenders. Unless the enemy team is holding two nodes on 100% defense (highly unlikely, as this is a forfeit), chances are almost nil that six defenders is the weakest point.

Once you have four-capped the battleground and only the fifth flag remains, an all-out battle cannot be avoided. Until then, attack where your enemy is weakest – not the other way around.

RULE #16: Buff in preparation.
Exceptions: None

This should be common sense, but there’s still people who don’t do this. Buffs cast before a battle cost no mana. During this interval, you should buffing as many people as possible with the best spells available, providing summoned aids such as food, water, and healthstones, etc.
Also, any down time on defense just after a skirmish should be immediately spent buffing and regaining mana.

RULE #17: Always fight near the flag.
Exceptions: Farming the enemy’s graveyard after a 5-cap.

This rule is so important it bears repeating. It is the first and last thing you should know about fighting in Arathi Basin. If you’re fighting in the roads, on the bridges, at intersections, in the graveyards, or ANYWHERE ELSE, you need to get your wowcrack-loving self to the nearest gods-cursed flag at double-time. Otherwise you are just asking to be defeated, and the rest of us will be happy to oblige.

Capture the flag first, capture it quickly, capture it always, and defend it well. Your first step to assaulting a node is to ensure that your enemies won’t resurrect there. Your next step is ensuring that they don’t get it back.

PART III: Advanced Tactics

1. Rotate, Rotate, Rotate

In Rule 14, I explained the use of rotating defenders out on offense while resurrecting players rotate in on defense. This is a far more effective use of manpower than letting two defenders sit where they are while the “offense” players wait to resurrect, then wait to buff, then wait to mount, and THEN get where they’re going.

Another method of rotation is to momentarily abandon a flag to help another, knowing that a farther flag will reinforce the one you just abandoned.

Example: You hold the Farm, Mine, and Stables with four defenders apiece, and the rest of your offense at the Farm (deciding what to hit next). The Stables get attacked by 5 or 6. The attack isn’t large enough to make you SURE either of the remaining flags (Blacksmith or Lumber Mill) is a good target, but it IS large enough to make you sure you’ll lose without more defense.

MOST of your team is all the way across the map at the farm. Even going around the Blacksmith, they have a long jog, especially if your flag is under assault. To save time, ROTATE your four defenders from the Gold Mine back to the Stables, while your surplus players from the Farm ROTATE in to defend the Gold Mine.

The specific nodes don’t matter; what matters is the principle of using people far away to free up closer players to help. Do this often enough and quickly enough and it will seem to your enemies that you are EVERYWHERE, no matter WHAT they attack or defend. This is how 5-caps are possible.

2. The Advantages of Being Controlled or Dead

Oh no! I’m feared/mind controlled/sheeped/trapped/frozen/dead!

In PvP, this happens constantly, and should (rule 2). Like most things in life, being crowd controlled (or dead) is what you make of it. Now obviously you can employ trinkets to free you of CC effects, but only between cooldowns. But before you do, consider the following.

An amateur player will lean back and relax for a moment, waiting to be able to act again. An expert will take this opportunity to do wonderful things for himself and his team.

A. Size up the situation. When you’re in the fast and furious heat of all-out combat, there’s chaos. When you can’t do a thing, this is your best time to figure out EXACTLY what’s happening around you. How many times have you watched a sport or game and seen obvious mistakes undetected by the players? When you’re uninvolved, things are clearer.

See how many of each team is present. See who’s healthy on BOTH teams by displaying local health bars. Determine whether this assault or defense is winnable or a lost cause.

B. Update your team. If you character can’t act, this is the perfect time to squeeze some typing into chat to give your team the lowdown. If three of your teammates have full health and only one enemy remains, go ahead and call the flag CLEAR so incoming players can direct themselves elsewhere. If it’s a dead even match, ask for a LITTLE more help to secure the advantage from those closest. If you’re drowning in a sea of enemy combatants, call the flag a lost cause so your team doesn’t waste players nickel-and-diming this battle.

C. Let your cooldowns finish. If some of your cool trinkets or abilities are almost cooled down but not quite, DON’T hit your clear-CC trinket. Let the enemy push you around for a few more seconds at the cost of THEIR mana. Then when you’re ready, you have that much.

D. Know which effects don’t scare you. Some crowd controls are FAR more effective than others, either in general or vs. a certain class. If you got hit with something that doesn’t phase you, keep on fighting and DON’T burn your trinket to clear it – wait for a worse circumstance.

Frost effects are much more effective against warriors and rogues than against hunters or any spellcaster. Polymorph has a healing component, which as an otherwise dying warrior I’ve enjoyed many times. Fear has never bothered me on any character, because running around like a maniac makes you that much harder to target, and sometimes moves you out of range. I’ve finished fear sometimes closer to where I wanted to be than I could have gotten by combat, because while you are feared, some players will ignore you.

E. Select a new target. After you have sized up the situation, you will can identify clothy or healer which should be soonest killed. Even if you were frantically defending yourself before you were CC’ed or killed, come back on offense with a target of the highest priority (rule 7) and you will be even more effective. With enough time, you can even type a message to your comrades to focus their fire on the priest, which they may not have seen yet in the chaos of the battle.

3. Whip Out Those “Useless” Spells!

Remember Eye of Kilrogg? Eyes of the Beast? Far Sight? Eagle Eye? Slow Fall? Levitate? Mind Vision? Water Walking? Those spells with some “cool” effect that had no real application in combat?

Find hotkeys for them once again. They have INFINITE application to battlegrounds…when used correctly. The difference between the winning team and the losing team is often communication. But you can’t communicate what you don’t know.

That’s when these spells come in handy. Exit the mundane Warcraft character, and enter the Warcraft Secret Agent!

A. Remote Vision Spells. Gathering intelligence is a huge advantage to your team, especially if you follow Rule 8: Communicate Effectively, the most important component of which is calling NUMBERS to your teammates. With remote vision spells, you can gather more information about the opposing team. Never use a remote vision spell if you don’t have someone watching your back, though, or you’ll get taught a lesson.
B. Additional Modes of Travel. I mentioned Slow Fall and Levitate earlier under Rule 13: Always take the shortest route. Those spells fall into this category, and so does Water Walking. There are two rivers which run smack through Arathi Basin (with the Blacksmith on an island in the middle). Although you are accustomed to using the bridges, occasionally the shortest distance to your target is across water. Become the James Bond of Battlegrounds. Embrace your superhero side. Ritual of Summoning might also be useful in a pinch if you have a stranded player on the opposite side of the map.
C. Your Ideas Here. The key to outmaneuvering your enemy is doing things they don’t expect. And the key to the unexpected is innovation. Think of new applications for old spells or effects and add those ideas to your repertoire.

PART IV: The X-Factors

There are two basic unknowns which can throw any match into skew.

1. Luck. Any experienced strategist knows that luck plays a significant role. As the saying goes, “I’d rather be lucky than smart”. Chess and Othello are the only two games I know of where luck plays no role at all in victory or defeat.

When I was a ranked Warcraft 3 player, I can tell you: Most of my opponents were more or less evenly matched with me in understanding of strategy. The winning factor then came down to speed, familiarity with different units/tactics, and quite often, luck. If I caught someone’s hero in a skirmish with PvE creeps and forced a townhall portal retreat (whereas I got to keep my scroll), that was often the difference which won the game.

When I played a human warrior, I had the racial ability Perception hotkeyed. Often, I’d activate it, find a stealthed rogue creeping up, and try to turn on both auto-attack and Charge to unstealth him. In many cases, he was too close for Charge and too far for autoattack. Then on his approach he’d use his first disabling ability (one requiring stealth) even though technically I could see him, I hadn’t forced him out of stealth mode. I did everything tactically right to prevent this from happening, but in such cases fortune favored the rogue, and luck trumped strategy.

Sometimes luck is going to help or hurt in unanticipated ways. Some days you’ll feel like Neo under a pile of Agent Smiths. You may be the best of the best, but things aren’t going your way at the moment. Other days you’ll feel like Jar Jar Binks at the end of Episode I – wildly effective even though you are technically botching everything.

Remember that fortune favors the the well-prepared, and the intelligent, and otherwise take the good and the bad with a grain of salt. It’s a game. And even the best of the best occasionally lose.

2. Gear. No matter how good your team and your tactics, a team that has out-geared you will be able to hold their own. As to whether your opponents are wearing green quest rewards or tier 6, that’s another function of luck. The nice thing about PvP is that gear isn’t everything; you can begin PvP completely ungeared (I did) and play on a team which wins all the time (we did). When you begin to outfit your team as a whole, you’ll minimize the chances of being out-geared. But generally speaking, there’s always SOMEONE out there with better stuff than you. Once you can accept the fact that you job, spouse, kids, and friends are more important to you than WoW is to the 40-year-old unemployed guy living in his mom’s basement, you’ll enjoy your losses even more than he enjoys his wins.

PART V: Strategy

This is the most flexible section of the guide. Counter-intuitively, it is also one of the most important. The first thing you need to understand is that there is no ONE strategy to win. Study chess openings, become ranked in Warcraft 3, try to build an undefeated record in Starcraft, and you’ll quickly see what I mean. You have to know what you’re doing, you have to know what you’re enemy is doing (and understand it), and you have to be flexible in your goals to accommodate for the actions of the enemy. Sticking to a plan after it has outlived its usefulness is just as detrimental as having no plan at all. (Sometimes it’s worse.)

A good strategy is a starting point from which victory can be achieved – nothing more. Strategy alone will not win the game if your team doesn’t follow the rules outlined above. And a good strategy can lose if your opponent’s strategy is better, or if both strategies are equal but your opponent is better geared, communicates better, etc.

The best general strategy is simple: Find the WEAKEST node the enemy holds and attack it. This is true at every stage of the battle, whether you have just spawned, are currently being destroyed, or are winning by miles. If the enemy brings a huge force to a node you hold, don’t get hung on up defending it through a war of attrition (at best) or outright wasted lives and time (at worst). I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH: If you’re defending with 3 and the enemy brings 7, it’s a BETTER use of your time to attack the node they left BEHIND and assault it than to defend a node that’s obviously going to lose.

That said, there are specific strategy plans you can employ at your discretion. There are almost infinite variations on these strategies, and others I won’t explore in depth. But these are the strategies I advise.

Strategy 1: Mobile Defense
Rating: Poor

This is my least favorite strategy. I find it stale and gutless, not to mention easy to beat. However, it sometimes works and so it is noteworthy.

In rule 4 above, I said that you can’t win on Defense. This is not 100% true. To be more accurate, you can’t win on Static Defense. With a dynamic mobile defense, you can technically “hold three and win”, but when most people advocate “hold three and win”, they try to force a static defense down your throat, and are easily beaten instead. (Usually scratching their heads or blaming the team for not listening, even though the attempt itself was faulty.)

Here’s how a Mobile Defense works:
1. Capture three flags.
2. Keep enough defenders to stall any offensive long enough for…
3. A large mobile group nearby to provide instant backup against any attack.

Suppose you’re playing Horde, and your 3-cap includes Farm, Lumber Mill, and Blacksmith. You keep three defenders at each (9 players) and the remaining 6 players in your mobile defense. When those six defend any node, that node has 9 defenders (6 mobile plus the original 3). 9 defenders is nearly impossible to defeat unless the enemy brings nearly everyone.

For a mobile defense, you need to know:
1. Don’t bother capping more than three flags.
2. Minimum two defenders on a flag. Three are preferable.
3. Keep the majority of your forces at the MIDDLE NODE between the other two when not needed elsewhere.
4. ROTATE your defenders when your largest force is too far away to help.

The third point is the most important for a mobile defense to work. Suppose you’re playing Horde, and you 3-Cap Farm, Lumber Mill, and Blacksmith. Of those three, the Blacksmith and Lumber Mill are farthest from each other. Between skirmishes, your mobile defense needs to RETURN TO THE FARM to be within easy reach of the other two nodes.

There are two major weaknesses to this strategy. First, it gives your enemies time to organize a major offense, because they don’t have to defend. And second, it gives your enemies many opportunities to catch a weak node.

Using the example above, suppose the Alliance assaults the Lumber Mill with 7. Seven attackers will demolish 3 Defenders, so you (as Horde) send your mobile defense in for backup to make it 9v7 in your favor. While your largest force is still recovering, the Alliance sends their remaining 8 attackers to the Blacksmith. Now they’re attacking 8 vs. 3, and they will easily capture before your large force can make it all the way to the Blacksmith.

This is where you need to utilize step 4, and ROTATE people from one node to the other. You can’t leave a flag undefended (rule 5), but this is a clever way to use defenders from one flag to help another while still defending your first flag. The key is that when a raid leader calls such a rotation, you need to respond INSTANTLY and ACCURATELY to it without hesitation, or it will fail.

In the above example, AS SOON AS incoming to the Blacksmith is called, you must ROTATE your three Farm defenders up to the Blacksmith, while 6 of the people at the Lumber Mill return to the Farm. This is still 8 Alliance against 6 Horde at the Blacksmith, but you will hold it longer, possibly long enough to resurrect and keep defending. Then the six people going from Lumber Mill to Farm split at the bridge… 3 continue to the Farm (to provide minimal defense) and the other three cross to the Blacksmith to aid. This makes it 8 Alliance against 9 Horde at the Blacksmith.

This may sound complicated to read, but it can happen in a moments’ thought if everyone knows what they’re doing.

From Chat: “6+ Inc to BS.”
Raid leader on Vent: “Farm, rotate to Blacksmith, Lumber Mill to Farm. Leave 3 at Mill.” As soon as the six rovers realize that not six are needed on defense at Farm, they will split between Blacksmith and Farm anyway… again, if they know what they’re doing. If not, the raid leader should clarify:
“3 to Farm, rest to Blacksmith.”

How to Beat a Mobile Defense

Watch for the enemy’s weakest node. Hit the nodes farthest apart in quick succession. In the example above, the Alliance did the exact right thing by attacking the Mill and Blacksmith, particularly if the members of both assaults resurrect at the Stables, which is closer to either node than they are to each other. Also take the opportunity if they aren’t performing ANY offense to gather a HUGE force against the weakest node.

Because of the resurrection dynamics and the way players cluster per node, it is much easier to TAKE the third node than it is to HOLD the third node (in spite of the advantage defending). This is because the team holding 2 will resurrect 7 or 8 at a node and immediately have a large force for assault grouped together. This is why “hold three and win” is an essentially flawed strategy.

Strategy 2: Mobile Offense
Rating: Average

This is my second-least favorite strategy.

Apply the principles of a mobile defense strategy above, but instead of waiting to be attacked, your large mobile group of six to eight constantly harasses one of your enemy’s two nodes.

When the large group is close enough to help defend a large attack, they do. When they aren’t close enough, they rotate back on defense to their CLOSEST node, and everyone else rotates to help defend the appropriate node.

When your “extra” group is close enough to fall back and defend, they do. If they are close enough for some to rotate in to defend a node whose current guards are rotating also, they do. If everything is presently held, your extra 6 – 8 people go on offense.

The key factor to this strategy is that your offense MUST go TOGETHER. Suppose you leave 2 at each node and have 9 attackers for your mobile offense. If those 9 attack two or three different targets, they will accomplish nothing. If those 9 attack the same target, but they leave from different nodes, they will accomplish nothing. If those 9 leave from the same node, but arrive too strung out, they will accomplish nothing. They have to hit hard, together, and fast to shake up the enemy and keep them guessing. A mobile offense is your best chance at a 4-cap victory if it does correctly. But there’s a huge margin for error and the stakes are high.

How to Beat a Mobile Offense

The best way to beat a mobile offense is to LET THEM HAVE the node they’re attacking. Yeah, I know this sounds strange…which is why more people don’t do it (and lose). Since I used Horde above, I’ll use the Alliance POV in this example.

Suppose the Horde is employing a Mobile Offense and has taken Farm, Lumber Mill, and Blacksmith. Alliance is left with the Stables and Gold Mine.

Horde minimizes their defenders to two per node, and takes a Mobile Offense to the Stables to attempt to cut off the Alliance reinforcements to Trollbane Hall.

What Alliance needs to do here is NOT defend the Stables. Yes, this sounds backwards to my “hold three and win” audience, but see how this plays out:

Horde is rushing the Stables with 8 or 9 attackers from the Lumber Mill. The Alliance has 7 or 8 each at the Gold Mine and Stables, roughly speaking. Unless you abandon the Gold Mine entirely to bring 11 to 12 defenders to Stables, the Horde will win. Even if you do, a slight interrupt on the Flag will mean respawning all the way at the gate! And no less than 60% of your forces will be fighting just to HOLD your 2nd of two nodes. This is an almost guaranteed 4-cap if the Horde knows what they’re doing.

Instead, this is the right time for your defenders to ABANDON the Stables and RUSH the Blacksmith, where, if you called your ‘incoming’ numbers accurately, there can’t be more than 2 or 3 defenders. Those “extra” at the Gold Mine also should advance to the Farm, leaving two defenders behind.

If you do this QUICKLY, and if you do it CORRECTLY, you will lose the Stables. But 7 – 8 rushing the Blacksmith will beat the minimal defenders, and even 3 – 5 leaving from the Gold Mine should be able to beat 2 at the Farm.

Now the Alliance has 3 nodes (Mine, Farm, Smith) to the Horde’s 2 (Lumber Mill and Stables).

Taking the scenario a step further:

The Horde have MOST of their forces at the Stables, which means the Farm is too far away for them to counterattack, except by rotation. Their best targets are now the Mine or Blacksmith. If they’re working together well on Vent, they will pick a target and win it. If they’re a PUG, chances are they’ll divide their attack and fail, putting the Alliance in good position. But assuming they do the smart thing and assault the Gold Mine, the Alliance takes “let them have it” a step further: The largest alliance force was at the Blacksmith, and returns to the Stables once the Horde abandon it. Or if the large Alliance force was from the Gold Mine to the Farm, the Farm now assaults the Lumber Mill. Either way, even losing the Gold Mine leaves the Alliance with three nodes.

Rinse and repeat to stay ahead of a mobile offense. Make no mistake: In this scenario, the Alliance is on the defensive and a hairsbreadth from losing at each step if a mistake is made. But standing your ground for a massive fight when you are grossly overwhelmed is the biggest mistake you can make vs. a correctly led mobile offensive.

Strategy 3: The 5-Cap Rush
Rating: Good

This is the strategy you need to win. If you employ this strategy and your opponents cannot match you for speed, communication, planning, AND gear, you will dominate. It is my favorite strategy, and it is the one which I have seen win time after time in a fraction of the time it takes to draw out a “hold 3” game.

RAID GROUP:
Set up three groups for your raid with at least one healer apiece, and an otherwise good mix of class roles. Assign each group one of the MIDDLE nodes: Gold Mine, Stables, and Blacksmith. Make sure each group KNOWS where it is going and STICKS TOGETHER for the first step. Afterwards, your organization matters less.

OPTIONAL:

A rogue group of just two rogues/druids can be sufficient to cap a far flag with only two defenders. If you sufficiently out-maneuver and out-communicate the enemy, these two people can afford to be taken out of the main groups. Think of them as an extra two stable/farm defenders put instead to better use. Their first target should be the FARTHEST node from you (stable for Horde, farm for Alliance).

Designate ONE PERSON to capture the “close” flag (Stables for Alliance or Farm for Horde). This is a partial violation of rule 5 above, but if this strategy is performed correctly, it won’t matter. The enemy won’t get to this flag before passing you at one of the other three nodes, so you have enough warning to defend if necessary. And usually, you don’t need to with a good raid group. (It is also customary to rotate this defender each battle, as he will receive far fewer HKs than the rest of the group, not to mention that in a successful 5-cap, this is the most boring duty there is.)

Let’s switch back to Horde for our POV example to continue this strategy.
GROUP 1: Assigned to the Lumber Mill.
GROUP 2: Assigned to the Blacksmith.
GROUP 3: Assigned to the Gold Mine, except 1 member to stay and cap Farm.

In this case, I picked the Gold Mine to be the group of four because it is less visible. At a glance, it appears sizeable forces are attacking the other two nodes, with the Gold Mine as an admitted unknown. If they make the mistake of not reporting numbers at the Mine (rule 7), it will seem an impossibly large force is bearing down on the whole map. This impression alone is sometimes psychologically enough to achieve victory.

Everyone mounted except the Farm capper will reach the other flags fast enough and in enough numbers to cap them earlier if the Alliance has even ONE more person dismounted at the Stables for the cap or defense than you do.

Since most raid groups focus on a set of three including their close node, 9 times out of 10, the Alliance is trying one of the following:

A. Stables, Smith, and Lumber Mill
B. Stables, Smith, and Gold Mine
C. Or Stables, Lumber Mill, and Gold Mine (if they’re really stupid, because this is the hardest triangle to defend).

What that means for the Horde is this: Two of the nodes Alliance encounters will be either evenly matched or outnumbered. The third will be relatively uncontested. From the uncontested node, you IMMEDIATELY advance to Stables all but two defenders.

*NOTE: This is the point where your original groups cease to matter and will have to split up.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO:

Both the uncontested node AND one of the other nodes will win. This results in a three-cap. BOTH teams leave 2 defenders at the flag (just enough to hold it against CC captures) and EVERYONE ELSE from both flags advances to the Stables.

ALSO: Whomever is dead and rezzing at a node (if two or less), they become your defenders WHILE the other three advance, secure in the knowledge they are leaving two defenders behind. Unless you’re still under attack, the Alliance can’t get there and cap fast enough to prevent the rez. This saves invaluable time (rule 2) moving to the next step. If more than two have died, wait until you have all but two TOGETHER before you advance to the Stables.

This best-case scenario results in a three-cap already. Meanwhile, the Alliance is screaming at each other to rush whichever node is still being contested in the effort to hold it against your third group. If you’re lucky, they will, and TWO OF YOUR GROUPS advance to take the Stables. If two groups are free to do so, chances are it will be lost (2 to 4 defenders vs. 6 attackers) and already you have a four-cap.

SECOND-BEST-CASE SCENARIO:

Two nodes are in contention and just ONE is uncontested.

If you had five at the uncontested node, three can advance to the Stables. If the Alliance left 1 behind (as you did), or 2 behind (as is customary), chances are you will still capture this flag, leaving these defenders to resurrect at the Gate, and reducing your effective enemy reinforcements from 15 to about 13 in terms of defending other nodes.

Even if the two other nodes outnumbered you, you have three-capped but cut off their reinforcements to the interior nodes by taking the Stables.

The other option is for your uncontested group to QUICKLY go to the second-least contested node for the fourth cap. If this succeeds, proceed as above and all free attackers (all but 2 per node) advance to Stables AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO:

All three nodes are seriously contested. There are two ways this can happen:

1. The enemy did not coordinate their attack sufficiently and has divided their efforts as a result of disorganization.
2. The enemy deliberately assaulted all three interior nodes, just as you did, as a result of already knowing this strategy.

In the first case, you won’t have to worry…communication will break down and laws of numbers guarantee you one win out of the three. If the enemy doesn’t know the other speed tricks like leaving rezzers to be defenders, capping their close node with just 1 person, you will win two or even all three nodes and can proceed as above.

In the second case, chances are you’re facing a highly organized premade with a well-defined strategy themselves. In this case, no set strategy will win…both teams will know the best ways to counter any particular strategy. Whichever team follows the principles outlined in the rules above will gradually gain the advantage in speed resulting in a sustained three-cap or four-cap.

The only thing you can actively do to respond is know that you will have to rotate away from safe nodes to defend crucial nodes. And that it may be in your interest to ABANDON a node to assault the weakest force.

Concentrate your forces where the enemy is weakest, follow the rules presented above, and fight your hardest.

THE CRUCIAL MOMENT: CLINCHING THE 5-CAP

While a good team can stymie you for awhile, if you employ the above strategy while following the rules, chances are you will eventually achieve the upper hand. And by upper hand, I don’t mean a 3-cap; that’s too easily disrupted to be considered victorious (see above). I mean a 4-cap, whereupon you force all of your enemies to resurrect at the same graveyard, thus severely limiting their counterattack mobility.

If you don’t know what to do when this occurs, you will quickly lose the advantage and be back where you were. This is the turning point at which a near-victory becomes a sure thing.

As soon as four nodes are held by your team, ALL members of your team except FOUR – one to guard each flag you hold – should immediately rush to assault the fifth flag as quickly as possible. This is the best way to take it. And everyone who makes this assault should fight AT THE FLAG. While this appears to be a violation of rule 3, never leave a flag undefended, in this case it is a necessary evil. Chances are slim that your opponent will be able to resurrect to mount a true offensive, and even if they do, the 11 attacking players will quickly surround their remaining flag. Their best chance for another capture is to “ninja” a flag by means of a stealth attacker disabling the defender. Sometimes the defender can resurrect fast enough to defend the flag, but even if he can’t, don’t worry about this happening. It’s more important than you bring a MASSIVE offense to the enemy’s last flag.

This rush has to happen quickly. Some of the enemy players will be waiting at their one remaining flag to resurrect. If you give them any time, you’ll have a heck of a time assaulting one flag with 15 defenders while you have only 11 on offense.

But if you move quickly enough with enough players to assault the 5th flag, you can kill half of the enemy team while the other half is resurrecting, and thereafter continue to keep significant numbers out of combat. Best of all, if you can capture the flag quickly, by killing or CC’ing enough of them, you force them to resurrect at their default graveyard, near the entrance.

If you do this quickly and follow the rules, you will 5-cap and gain bonus honor plus three marks in just a fraction of time most games take. Your honor gained per minute will skyrocket as a result, helping you follow rule 2 in your purchase of PvP gear.

If you don’t assault the fifth flag quickly enough, chances are you will spend the rest of the match fighting for it. This still isn’t a bad way to finish, ends much faster than a 3-cap, and yields tons of Honor kills, but it’s far less satisfying and takes about twice as long as a true victory. Furthermore given enough time, the enemy may eventually get an offense past your onslaught and reduce your flags back to 3.

How to beat the 5-cap rush

If you read the above “worst case scenario” for that strategy, you know that someone else attempting the same strategy correctly can effectively block it. That’s one method to beat it, in which case the faster, better communicating, better geared, or possibly even luckier team will win.

The other method is to make your three primary targets include the FAR node instead of the three interior nodes. This means the Alliance picks the Farm as one of their three initial targets, or the Horde picks the Stables. This is because using the above strategy, there’ll be just one defender and you quickly cap. Thus your team has the end nodes (Farm and Stables) and hopefully one of the middle nodes resulting in at least a 3-cap. This only works if you use the inside paths directly from Farm and Stables as your route…if this group attempts to go through another node (even one you hold or are winning), you will have nullified the advantage of this tactic.

You can rarely determine the enemy’s strategy early enough to know if this is necessary. If you’re facing a premade, chances are higher they’re attempting a 5-cap rush, so this may be your deciding factor. Alternately, your optional rogue group (described above) can help answer this problem. Neither one is a guarantee.

PART VI: Battleground Myths Debunked

Myth 1: Premades always win.

This is patently false. A premade alone doesn’t mean anything. It cracks me up to see people announcing the formation of a premade in Trade, because this kind of premade is really still a PUG, and will still likely lose to teams who know what they’re doing. If you believe premades always win, what do you think happens when two premades fight each other?

A premade group has a much higher likelihood of using voice over IP to communicate, but after seeing many premade vs. premade battles, I’d wager the average premade only a 50/50 chance of knowing and executing any of the other 11 rules, and less than a 50% chance of knowing a particular strategy. If you’re doing these things and they aren’t, they’re easily beatable. Even if your side is a PUG, at best, an enemy premade has better initial organization and more faith in each other. At worst, they’re really just a PUG disguising itself as a premade in hopes of intimidation by means of this myth.

Myth 2: Voice Over IP use guarantees victory.

False again. As stated above, voice over IP is a necessary first step to having an organized and responsive team. It alone does not solve problems of miscommunication, or a poor understanding of the methods necessary to win. But with a consistent team, you can far more quickly educate them with voice over IP than you ever will via chat.

Myth 3: The better-geared team always wins.

This is not always true either. While better gear can help you achieve victory, it is not the be-all/end-all of success. Where gear truly shines is when you are up against an opponent (single or team) who is your equal in every OTHER way. When everything else is equal, the team with more hit points, mana, armor, damage, and resilience (etc) will win.

Gear will NOT help compensate for healers who don’t heal, players who fight away from the flags, poor communication, or any other self-defeating mode of play.

Myth 4: Don’t heal non-tanks.

Ok, those of you who understand PvP will wonder whether anyone believes this – but there are people who do. Once in AV, I (a Fury Warrior at the time) commented that my healing from bandages was outperforming the healing numbers put up by priests and paladins, and I wanted to know: what the hell, guys?

Someone whispered me in reply, saying she REFUSED to heal anyone not carrying a shield. This is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in PvP. The reason to heal shielded people in raids is because they are specialized for protection and have tools to HOLD AGGRO. There is no such thing as HOLDING AGGRO in PvP. Your best weapons are your DPSers, not tanks.

Now, if she’d told me instead that a geared Fury Warrior can only approach 600 DPS whereas Elemental Combat Shamans, Rogues, Warlocks, Mages, and Hunters can exceed 1,000 DPS, and that four of those classes have better CC than a Fury War, thus she was more interested in healing them, that would have been a reasonable argument. But instead, she was arguing that because NOBODY around her was a shield-toting tank, she shouldn’t be healing at all.

The rules are different in PvP, which brings me to the next section.

Myth 5: (Faction) Always Wins

False. Alliance and Horde frequently trade wins. It varies by battleground, by bracket, by battlegroup, and even by time of day. When I played on Emerald Dream, the Alliance won Alterac Valley much more frequently in the morning or midday than in the evening.

The problem is that when you run with pick up groups, your losses are exercises in extreme frustration, and your victories are usually long, drawn-out processes themselves. And when you encounter premades, many people just give up (thanks to myth 1) and don’t bother trying.

When you start running a premade, you won’t win them all, but you will begin to win more and more. PUGs will be your chew toys and other premades will present varying degrees of challenge.

When you can beat even the premades that are clearly playing intelligently, you’ll be at the top of your game. It happens for both factions.

PART VII: The Chief Differences between PvP and PvE.

This is not an attempt at a comprehensive list – that would take months to write. Rather, it is a brief overview of the primary differences of which you should be aware if your main focus is PvE content but you want to foray into PvP for awhile.

Difference 1: There’s no such thing as aggro.

Like the healer’s complaint above, I’ve heard priests and others complain that warriors and paladins weren’t keeping enemies “off of them” sufficiently. In PvP, there is no way to keep anyone “off” of anyone else except by crowd control. A mage has more tools in the CC box than any warrior, so you need to shake the image of a tank toeing the line to “protect” everyone else. If anything, your mages and warlocks can now “protect” a tank by burning down enemies the fastest. Likewise, there’s no reason to conserve your best spells until after threat has been generated. This concept is null in PvP. Burn down what you can as fast as you can.

Also, this misperception hurts when people have the instinct to chase down runners. In a dungeon or raid, an escaped runner can chain pull to cause a major wipe. A runner in PvP is just one guy running away. He doesn’t “pull” extra people to help the way PvE mobs do. Let him go.

Difference 2: There’s no chain pulls.

You won’t aggro a group of PvP enemies by attacking one of them. You may provoke an all out attack, but this isn’t necessarily the case. This makes it far more worth taking potshots (especially CC potshots like concussive shot and frostbolt) than it would ever be in PvE.

Difference 3: Crowd control is severely limited.

Blizzard has no reduced all forms of crowd control to a maximum of ten seconds vs. another player, and most of them (fear, polymorph, banish, charm, sleep, traps) have diminishing returns. (I don’t happen to know if motion-based CC (frost nova, hamstring, wing clip, concussive shot, frostbolt) have diminishing returns, but based on their nature I don’t believe so.

ALL forms of crowd control can also be cancelled by various items, so you should never assume that crowd control will “stick”. In fact, I use polymorph and fear more often as spell-interrupts as I do for any real crowd control.

This also means that forms of crowd control without cooldowns should be valued more highly than those with cooldowns. (i.e., Frostbolt is more effective than Concussive Shot as a snare because if someone purges Frostbolt, you can fire it again).

It also means that PvE CC concepts such as "chain trapping" are not possible.

Difference 4: There’s no boss.

While this seems fairly obvious, there’s a subconscious mentally which factors in against raid objectives which can damage your perception of PvP. The worst way is the pursuit of runners. The “don’t let it get away” mentality is something which applies to PvE bosses, but not to PvP players.

Another “boss” mentality that hurts during PvP is when multiple players gang up against a warrior or paladin with high hit points. Subconsciously, this target becomes the “boss” to burn down because he seems a pillar of survival in a whirlwind of chaos. But this isn’t the case. Once you remove their support, melee classes become much weaker in PvP. Follow Rule 7, prioritize your targets, and realize that a tank’s chief job in PvP is to DISTRACT you from better targets. Take them down last instead of first.

Difference 5: There’s no such thing as a wipe.

If a bunch of your players die simultaneously in a battleground, it can work to your advantage. Instead of resurrecting all strung out, they will resurrect together and make a more effective offense. The worst thing about dying in PvP is that you respawn unbuffed, and that for a few seconds you can’t help your team. When you’re used to PvE content, dying can be discouraging and demoralizing. Go into PvP instead with an attitude of extreme vulnerability. Expect to die quickly and often, and take pride when your death accomplished something.

If you survive and fail to assault a flag, that’s a bad thing. If you die but your team challenged a flag, that’s success. This is the opposite of the PvE mentality.

Difference 6: There are no events.

There are circumstances in PvP which can create circumstances similar to events in dungeons. The “burn down the boss” mentality is just one such problem. Another is PvE events where swarms of weak creatures can be more easily defeated with a few AEs. While a large PvP fight sometimes feels this way, it is rarely the case. Most players are smart enough to step out of an AE given an opportunity.

Difference 7: There’s no AI.

This is both good and bad. No AI means abilities which automatically affect NPCs are greatly diminished in usefulness. Misdirection has no use in PvP. Feign death will clear pet aggro and remove you from targeting, but a smart player will ignore it.

Players are a lot harder to fool than NPC mobs. For some people, that’s why they hate PvP. It’s why I love it. It’s more satisfying to me to outwit another human being. If I get to play WoW at the same time…well that’s almost as good as it gets.

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The only other things I need are cold beer and an ally at my side.

Anyone who’s read this guide is welcome to join me. I currently play as Kaeldar in the Alliance on Khaz’Goroth.