November 9, 2009

The Art of War(craft): Absolute beginners' guide to Warsong Gulch

Alright, so you have some kind of vague idea about what a Battleground is. Basically, Battlegrounds are where players go to consensually bash each others brains out. Or fry them. Or freeze them. These instances are designed for players to enjoy PvP, get a bit of honor and, if you're not already at max level, some experience. In the future, Blizzard has revealed plans to make the Battlegrounds even more like instances or dungeons by hinting at possible actual loot rewards. It's an interesting concept we'll have to revisit sometime in the future.

For now, we'll get back down to the basics. Last week we discussed how to get inside a Battleground. That's easy enough, especially with the new changes to the Battlegrounds queue system. This week we'll take a closer look at the different Battlegrounds available. Think of it as a nice buffet of PvP that you can choose from. What kind of Battleground you choose will depend on what kind of game you want to play (or more realistically, what Marks of Honor you still need. We'll get to that later). Hit the jump to check out this week's featured Battleground, Warsong Gulch.


What is Warsong Gulch?

Basically, Warsong Gulch is a Capture-the-Flag type of game where players must take a flag from the enemy base and bring it back to their own base while having control of their own flag, with the first team to capture three flags winning the match. Flags can be taken by right-clicking on it, and captured by stepping into the spot where your team's flag is. Your team's flag must be at its spawn point in order for your team to score.

In Patch 3.2, the map became a timed Battleground that lasts no more than 25 minutes (original timer was 20 minutes but hotfixed quickly to 25 - thanks, bmurry1976!). If the timer expires, the team with the most flag captures wins. If both teams have the same number of flag captures at the end of the match, the team that captured the last flag wins. If neither team has captured a flag, the game ends in a tie. There are 10 players per side in Warsong Gulch, currently making it the smallest Battleground.

That sounds silly! Why are we doing all this?

The battle for Warsong Gulch is one of the oldest and most touchy conflicts in the game -- it represents the clash between those tree-hugging night elves, the Silverwing Sentinels, and those resource-gathering orcs, the Warsong Outriders. The Sentinels are trying to retake the forests of Ashenvale while the Warsong Outriders are furiously trying to gather lumber because, well, the Horde needs it to make those fancy war machines. While getting the flag probably has absolutely nothing to do with deforestation and the green movement, it continues a proud tradition of one-upsmanship between the Alliance and the Horde because, you know, flags rule.

Awesome. Will those guys like me better if I help them out?

Absolutely. The going might be slow, but Warsong Gulch is one of the three Battlegrounds that has factions associated with it. The Silverwing Sentinels (for the Alliance) and Warsong Outriders (for the Horde) will even give you token gift packages at different stages in your reputation grind. At the very end, you can get the Silverwing Sentinel or Warsong Outrider Achievements for a cool 10 points. I know, it's not much, but at least you feel like you're actually fighting for something.

Aside from getting chummy with these guys, what else do I get?

Because the Alliance and Horde know that players actually play for loot on top of enjoyment (you mercenary, you!), each game of Warsong Gulch awards bonus honor for winning a match as well as capturing flags. If your team doesn't capture any flags (and likely lose), you don't get squat. How's that for incentive? You do get honor for killing enemies, though. Players are also awarded Warsong Gulch Marks of Honor at the end of every game -- three marks for every member of the winning team, two marks for tied games, and one mark for those on the losing side. These Marks of Honor are currency for items such as mounts, tabards, lower level potions and food, and even as turn-ins for quests that award honor. Oh, and there are a bunch of other Achievements, too, but you can probably get into that during advanced class.

I'm interested! Sign me up!

Great. Since you already know how to enter the Battleground, you'll probably want to know what level bracket you'll be entering when you queue:
10–19 20–29 30–39 40–49 50–59 60–69 70–79 80 Players are grouped into brackets with a ten level range, so keep in mind that entering a particular bracket while on the lower end of the level spectrum might not be the most pleasant experience. It's not a bad idea to be on the higher side of the levels in order to contribute more and to be able to take a little more pummeling.

I don't want to go in without a clue, what are the basic strategies?

Play a Druid. Ok, well, if you don't play a Druid -- for a long time considered the kings of Warsong Gulch owing to their superior mobility -- simply keep one important thing in mind: the game is Capture-the-Flag. It's not Kill-the-Most-Enemies-in-the-Middle. It's not Graveyard-Camping. The focus should be on getting inside the enemy base, getting the enemy flag, and bringing it home. How your team wants to go about doing this can vary.

The most basic way to play it (and often the most effective) is to have some folks go on offense while the rest stays on defense to protect the flag from getting captured. Because characters with the flag automatically drop it when they summon a mount, classes that have some form of movement bonus such as Travel Form, Ghost Wolf, or even Sprint and Blink, make excellent flag carriers. Because characters who carry the flag are often focus fired upon, classes that can take a beating are great candidates, as well.

Other strategies involve controlling the middle of the map, that area between the two bases. Although always in constant danger of degenerating into a mindless slugfest, control of the middle when handled well ensures that no enemy flag carrier can get through without major resistance. Having the middle also allows your team to run quickly to the support of your own flag carrier.

One other way involves the crazy, all-out zerging of the enemy base as a team of ten, virtually ensuring that any defenders left in the enemy base will be overcome. This also has the disadvantage of guaranteeing that your flag will be taken from your base, but most zerg tactics focus on moving together as a group even on the way back to the base, ideally killing the enemy flag carrier along the way.

There are a few variations between these three basic strategies, and many players will see a mix of two or three or even see all come into play during one match. The key, as with all good group PvP, is communication. Talking amongst your group at the beginning of the match should at least get all players on the same page and ensure that nobody runs around like a useless, headless chicken. I mean, after all, there aren't any chickens in Ashenvale.

On to Arathi Basin!

Warsong Gulch is an extremely fun Battleground, vastly improved by changes made by Blizzard over the years -- particularly the timer that has driven those old five-hour WSG games into distant memory. After we take a quick look at all the other Battlegrounds (ugh, that's going to take a while...), we'll look at specific strategies every class can employ in each one. In the meantime, get your feet wet -- or bloodied, if you prefer -- and cause some mayhem! Next week, we'll take a beginner's look at Arathi Basin.

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