Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Arena Rewards are Backwards

I've played just enough arena to realize two things:

  • I like it a lot.
  • I'm not very good at it.

The second point has two main causes. One is that my technique could use some work. I still need to learn exactly what to cast and when, and to be quicker on the trigger, so to speak. I sometimes have trouble finding and targeting the correct opponent, don't use my CC abilities at exactly the right time, etc. This will come with practice.

But just as big of a problem is that my gear isn't quite up to snuff to play with the Arena Big Boys. I don't have 1300 resilience, 40% crit, and a weapon that has a base dps rating of 300.

As it happens, there is gear available that will get you these stats (or something approaching it, at least). But unfortunately the system that Blizzard has devised to give out this gear is completely ass-backwards. You can only earn better gear by improving your team rating. That sounds sensible on the surface. But unfortunately the only way to improve your team rating is to get better gear.

This is one of the things that has bugged me about WoW in general, and about PvP in particular. Your ability to succeed in any given encounter is far more dependent on your gear than it is on any actual skill of playing the game. Take two players who are identically geared, and the better player will win out. But more often than not you have one player who's gear is drastically better than the other. Unless the one with the great gear is a complete facerolling moron, he's going to win. Player skill is almost inconsequential.

As far as rewards go, at least most of the other parts of the game reward you for participation, so it is possible to eventually get the better gear you need. You can earn Badges of Heroism/Valor/Conquest by participating in instances and raids, you can earn honor points and marks of honor by participating in various battlegrounds and in Wintergrasp. If you play enough and put in your time getting pwned, you will eventually earn the gear that will put you on a level playing field with the big boys.

But not arena. Arena is the capitalist system gone awry: the rich keep getting richer, and the poor... well they don't get poorer, but they can't really improve because the rich now have all the advantages.

Can someone please tell me if my QQ'ing about this is warranted?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Making a Successful PUG Raid

Immediately following each successful capture or defense of the Wintergrasp fortress, a number of 10 and 25 man VOA groups start to form. I've been a involved in quite a few of these, and they have the highest failure rate of any PUG, anywhere.

The following are some general guidelines I've come up with on how to increase the chances of a successful PUG.

  1. Before each boss, explain the fight. Don't ask if anyone needs it explained, just do it. In any large PUG there are bound to be a few people who don't know the fights, but who are unwilling to admit to it lest they appear to be a noob. (I've never had that problem, but I'm less shy that way.)
  2. Remind people that this is a PUG, and to expect a few wipes, and to be patient. Ask people to commit to a minimum of four attempts. If at that point the group is clearly not getting it, is not improving on each attempt, doesn't have high enough DPS, or generally appears doomed to failure, then go. But don't be such an impatient and arrogant fool to expect that your PUG is going to be the magical one that manages to down the boss on the very first try.
  3. Keep it moving! One of the largest attrition factors I've found is the delay between attempts. Get everybody right back in, get rebuffed, and go. Maybe take a minute to discuss what went wrong, and to change assignments if necessary, but make it quick. Don't debate endlessly. Take too long and it will appear that you simply have no idea what you're doing. People will get bored and start to leave.

Got any others you can think of? Please share them in the comments!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Keeping it all in perspective

I want to take this opporunity to address two completely different groups of people who don't quite have things in the proper perspective.

Group 1

Since discovering WoW earlier this year, I've spent an inordinate amount of my free time playing the game, reading about the game, talking about the game, and most recently, writing about the game. I occasionally hear or read things from non-players saying that people like me need to "get a life", or something along those lines. They are quick to point out how nothing in the game "means" anything, and claim that I am just wasting my time.

"So," I ask, "what do you think I should be doing with my time?"

"Oh any number of things. You could be playing a sport like golf or volleyball, or reading a book, watching a favorite TV show or going to the movies, going out to the bars or nightclubs with friends."

This causes me to chuckle a bit, and it is around this point that I have to stop them. I point out that none of those activities "mean" anything either, any more than playing a pointless video game. They are all just different ways we choose to spend our leisure time. Neither I nor the avid golfer are likely to find the cure for cancer. The guy at the nightclub, notwithstanding any deep conversations he might have after half a dozen beers, is not going to bring about world peace.

The whole concept of "meaning" is completely arbitrary anyway. What is important to one person is not necessarily important to others, nor does it have to be. You get all these people looking for meaning in everything, or searching for meaning in their lives. To them I say this: Life is what you make of it, and it means whatever you want it to mean. Do what makes you happy (just don't be a dick to others in the process).

[BTW, this is not intended to address the separate issue of WoW addiction, where your excessive playtime is a detriment to other aspects of your life, be it health, family, job, schoolwork, etc.]

Group 2

On the opposite end of this spectrum is another group of people who has lost perspective. They are the hardcore and/or addicted WoW players.

The people in group # 1 above have a point: playing WoW doesn't really mean anything. It isn't going to cure cancer, or even hemorrhoids for that matter (though it may cause the latter depending on where you are sitting while you play). Getting a new chest piece or an enchant for your bracers isn't going to make you better looking. Killing the newest boss isn't going to get you laid or find you a prettier girlfriend. Farming mats, doing dailies, and playing the auction house aren't going to make money to pay your rent and your utility and food bills.

And since that is the case, I don't understand why some people take the game sooo seriously. If you wipe a couple of times on a raid boss, so what?? Geez you'd think that people were suffering actual physical injuries or monetary losses the way some of them react in these situations.

What's so bad about wiping a few times during a raid? I'll tell you what: People are stupid and lazy. They want everything given to them, they don't want to have to work hard for it, and they want it right now. If you wipe, it means it isn't just going to be given to you, you are going to have to work for it, and you won't get it right now.

A wipe should not be seen as a failure; it is an opporunity to learn and/or to teach... and to actually play the game. It is an opportunity for improvement. The real satisfaction from any game comes from overcoming challenges. Having something handed to you on a silver platter is boring. Having an 80 run your low-level alt through Dead Mines is boring for both of you, because there is nothing challenging about it.

Want to show what a great player you are? Don't start whining and complaining, and then leave the raid after the first or second wipe. Instead, try explaining to others what they are doing wrong, and show them the right way to do it. This impresses me a lot more than calling another raid member an insufferable moron (even if it's true).

And above all else, keep it in persective: it's just a game. You aren't actually being injured, and those repair bills aren't costing you real money. Try to have fun, damn it!

How boring would life be without PUGs?

I do a LOT of pickup groups. I like to run lots of instances, do lots of heroics, earn lots of badges. I also like to participate in a lot of battlegrounds (as you can see from my battleground guides), which are almost nothing but PUGs. (Hmmm, that phrase comes dangerously close to "butt plug", which wouldn't be an entirely inappropriate analogy.)

Even with a fairly active guild, I find it difficult to regularly find 5 people who want to do these activities with me. When we aren't raiding, they are all busy farming and cooking and crafting, which mystifies me a bit. I mean, I can do all of those things in real life. If I wanted to fish, I'd grab a pole and walk down to the local pond. Why would I play a game to do something that I can do better and get more enjoyment and satisfaction out of doing in real life? On the other hand, when (in real life) am I ever going to get the chance to kill trolls and dragons, strangulate a magic user, cast chains of ice on a fleeing target, infect a group of giant spiders with diseases? Never. To me it makes much more sense to play the game to escape reality, not to emulate it!

Because of this inability to find "regulars" to group with, I end up in a fairly large number of PUGs. I have a few people that I group with on regular occasions that I know and trust, but usually have to fill out at least one or two spots with random unknowns. And sometimes its the entire group.

When I mention PUGs to most people, they do whatever the digitial equivalent is of groaning loudly and rolling their eyes, and act like it is the bane of their existence. I may mention to a guildie that I need one more for a group. "Guild-run or PUG?" he asks. When I tell him it's a PUG, he invariably says no thanks, he'd rather continue farming mining nodes... or put a sharp stick in his eye, for that matter.

But why the utter prejudice against PUGs? All PUGs follow one of three variations:

1) Best case: it turns out to be a really good group, we all really "click", and we plow through the content with little or no problem. You get people with good senses of humor, and who are good players without taking either themselves or the game too seriously.

2) Maybe there are one or two bad apples in the group who we all secretly laugh at. There's a couple of wipes or near-wipes, and the bad apple starts making off-the-wall comments. Or maybe he's just bossing people around indiscriminately, despite the fact that he clearly is not as great as he seems to think he is. Sure we could let him make life miserable for the rest of us, but this IS just a game after all. No sense getting too upset or letting him ruin it for the rest of us. It's more comical how serious he's getting.

3) Maybe the whole group is a disaster. Lots of conflicting personalities, people complaining about who did or didn't do what, finger-pointing, and just general stupidity all around. One idiot standing in the fire, the DPS DK death-gripping everything, the warrior tank who can't manage rage. In these cases, I try to remain quiet and just soak it all in in a state of bemused horror. A wise man once said: "Never argue with a fool, people might not be able to tell the difference." This is never truer than in a bad PUG.

But in any of the above cases, I still enjoy it. Is that so strange? If you didn't have the occasional number 3, there is no way that you can seriously appreciate the number 1's. And it's those two's and three's that give us great stories to tell and jokes to make, and it gives people like me things to blog about!

If you are refusing to join PUGs, you are really missing out on the good times! You should go and join a PUG right now. Just commit yourself to having fun, since that's what playing WoW should be all about in the first place. Even if the encounter turns into an unmitigated disaster, you'll still come away with good stories to tell and lessons learned (i.e. how NOT to do something in the future!).

One final piece of advice: Save your sanity; don't stick around in group #3 any longer than absolutely necessary. Know when to cut and run. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

If you're an idiot, try not to flaunt it

I'm a noob. I freely admit it. I've only been playing WoW for a few months. When I go into an encounter I haven't experienced before, I tell people up front, and I ask to have the fight explained to me. People who know me tolerate this quite well, because I have spent the time learning to play my class well, and I'm usually in the top 3rd in DPS in raids. (Almost always 1 or 2 in 5-mans.) I'm a quick learner as long as I'm given good information. I'll only stand in the fire or poison cloud once before I learn my lesson. :)

I take constructive criticism well, and I try to be helpful to others who are even noob-ier (new word!) than me. I seek out the new players in the group, and explain to them all the things I wish someone had told me the first time I experienced something new.

What really bugs me is idiots who don't understand something, and yet act all elitist. Seriously, some people need to heed the old adage: "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Case in point: the other day I'm in Wintergrasp, on my Warlock alt who was then at level 76 (and who will hit 80 at about 6:00 PM today). I started doing WG battles early so I could get a head start on the marks and honor points I'll need to buy gear when I'm 80.

As everyone does upon entering WG, I ask for an invite to a raid group. I get in... and about 10 seconds later I get kicked. Maybe it was a mistake, I think, so I ask for another invite. I get in... and get kicked again.

I ask unpolitely who the jerk is who keeps kicking me. It turns out it is the raid leader who has determined that only 80's can be in the raid.

Come again? "Dude, this is Wintergrasp, not Ulduar," I tell him.

"We want to save the raid spots for 80s."

I briefly tried to explain to him how silly this was, but he was having none of it. "We want to save the raid spots for 80s because they need the Wintergrasp marks." I explained that I would be 80 in a few days, and his response was that I should come back then when I can actually use the marks. Before I could explain to him what an idiot he was, he put me on ignore. Just as well, because it would have taken too long in game-chat to explain the depths of his stupidity:

  1. Wintergrasp battles are not limited to a single raid group. There are often two or more raids. Everyone who wants to play can get in; it isn't like someone is going to be left out.
  2. Everyone who participates gets their marks, regardless of whether they are in a raid group or not. Being a member of a raid simply makes it easier to coordinate (and makes you more likely to get healed). But on the extremely rare occasion that someone couldn't get a raid invitiation, they would still earn the same marks and honor.
  3. Wintergrasp is not nor is it intended to be limited to 80's. In fact, the more people, the better. You get three marks for a win, and only one for a loss, so you want as many people in the battle as possible regardless of level. Especially in a defensive battle, as this was.

Made worse by the fact that the player in question was a Death Knight, just furthering the bad reputation of Death Knights that I am constantly struggling to overcome.

And one more thing...

What is it with people with special characters in their names? Bôb, Annă, Jímmy, etc. I've found that, by and large, they tend to be the biggest dickwads in the game. The only good reason I can see for putting non-standard characters in your name is to make it harder for other people to contact you. But why anybody would choose to have contact with these asses in the first place is a mystery to me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

PvP Servers: Why they suck and how to fix them

I spent my first few months in WoW playing several Alliance characters on a "normal" (non-PvP) server. Then one day I decided to try playing a Horde toon (Death Knight, of course) on a PvP server, just to see what it was like.

It sucked. I played for less than a week before I paid Blizzard $25 to transfer my character to a normal realm. (Yes, I could've just started again from scratch, but at that point I had invested enough playing time that starting over would have seemed painful, and a week of my time is worth a lot more than $25.)

A PvP server is an interesting idea, but Blizzard has totally screwed up the implementation. If you aren't familiar with PvP servers, essentially you are flagged for PvP at all times and can be attacked by players of the opposing faction at all times. There are a few "sanctuaries", such as the major cities and low-level starter zones, but go anywhere else and you are fair game.

On my normal server, I generally enjoyed the PvP aspects of the game. So the idea that I might fall into a PvP battle at any time sounded like fun, and I thought it would make for a more exciting experience. That was until I realized that this allows level 80s to attack level 30s, and suddenly the stupidity of it shines through.

Trying to do quests and level a character on a PvP server is simply ridiculous. There are far too many a--holes and morons who for some reason get great joy in ganking players way below their level. I did the normal DK starter zone stuff in a few hours without trouble. Then I went to Hellfire Peninsula. I can't count the number of times a level 70-80 character came and killed my 59. I can only assume that they all had small penises that they were trying to compensate for, because I can't think of any other logical reason for attacking a player 20 levels lower than you. These are probably the same idiots who cause their groups to wipe on trash pulls in heroic dungeons. So they need to find some other way to make themselves feel less stupid than they actually are, and attacking low-level players is the easiest way for them to do it.

There is a reason the WoW battlegrounds group players in the same 10-level range: because PvP between players with greater separation is just stupid. I would even argue that beyond about 5 levels, the higher player is so OP'd that he's going to win a PvP encounter 99% of the time.

How to Fix PvP Servers

A couple of very simple changes would make PvP servers palatable:

  1. You can't attack a player more than 3 levels below you unless they attack you first. You can still request a "duel", in case someone really really wants to fight you. (You can attack any player that is above your level. If you think your 60 can take out that 75, go for it. And good luck.)
  2. 80's can only attack other 80's (again, unless attacked first). This rule is needed because a well-geared 80 is so vastly superior to even a 79
  3. You can't attack the same player more than once a day, or at least once an hour. This would solve the problem I kept running into where I would run back, rez, and get killed again by the same asshole. Several times I either just had to take the rez sickness, or log out for an hour and hope the person got bored and went away. Either way I couldn't continue on the quests I was doing, which was beyond annoying.

Additionally or alternately, you could have a "questing" mode. This would be sort of like the ability to turn your PvP flag on and off on normal servers, except that it would be more restrictive. When in questing mode:

  • A) You can't be attacked.
  • B) You cannot attack other players, regardless of their level or PvP status.
  • C) If you turn off questing mode (entering PvP mode), you can't turn it back on again for at least an hour... maybe a full day.

I would never ever recommend a PvP server unless some of these changes got implemented. Unless of course you enjoy running from graveyard to corpse, which is probably how I spent about 50% of my time on the PvP server.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Bad Rep of Death Knights

I hear a lot of complaints about how awful most Death Knights are, and I share your pain. My main is a DK. But unlike a lot of other DKs, I spent a lot of time learning how to play the class correctly, read a lot of web sites, and picked the brains of a few of the good DKs I know.

One of the biggest causes of this problem is the fact that DKs are extremely over-powered at the lower-levels (55-78). This means that there is little reason for people to learn how to get the most out of their DK. When you are questing, you can just mash a few keys and down any mob in a matter of seconds. If you haven't chosen talents like a complete moron, you can kill 3 or more mobs at once and be at or near full health after the encounter.

However, when it comes to more advanced play (instances and raids), a Death Knight is actually one of the more complicated classes to play correctly. It's not like some classes where you can just spam two or three keys repeatedly. I have no fewer than ten abilities that I use in my regular rotation, and it requires a lot of planning and attention to detail to know exactly what to cast and when. You have to know which of your spells require runic power, blood runes, frost runes, or unholy runes, and you have to know when each will be available.

A typical AoE attack with my unholy Death Knight goes something like this:

  • Death and Decay: Open a can of whoop-ass on the entire group. It must be noted though that you can only use this ability if you have a good tank and you give him a couple of seconds head-start to grab and hold aggro. This is a high-threat ability and will immediately draw aggro if you have a mediocre (or worse) tank. If you are unsure, better to forego it.
  • Plague Strike, Icy Touch: Get your diseases up and running on the main target. Each one is a 20 second DoT.
  • Pestilence: Spread the diseases to all other targets in the group.
  • Unholy Blight: burn some runic power with another AoE attack.
  • Scourge Strike, Heart Strike: Kick some butt on your primary target, using up any remaining runes and building more runic power.
  • Death Coil: cast repeatedly until runic power drops below the necessary 40.

That's eight different abilities, and that's just the initial part of the attack. Now comes the ongoing attack:

  • From that point I go into a rotation of Scourge Strike (1 Unholy, 1 Frost), Heart Strike (1 Blood), and Death Coil (40 runic power) as each one comes available.
  • I keep an eye on the disease durations. When they are getting low, it is time to cast Pestilence again, which means you'll need a blood rune available at the proper time. (Thanks to a glyph, Pestilence will re-infect both the main target and all others in the group back to full duration on all diseases. Without the glyph, you would actually need to recast Plague Strike, Icy Touch, and Pestilence.)
  • I have a ghoul up all the time (via talents). If he dies, I make sure to bring him back as soon as possible. He doesn't do a ton of damage, but every little bit helps.
  • I have a trinket that gives me additional attack power for 20 seconds, and has a 2 minute cooldown. I try to use this as often as possible to increase my DPS output.

Now we get into other abilities that get used on an as-needed basis:

  • I can Summon Gargoyle once every three minutes. I usually save him for bosses or other high-HP targets. To get the most out of the Gargoyle, I need to let my runic power build to 90 before casting.
  • Death Grip: It is usually a bad idea to cast this in a raid, as it will immediately draw aggro. However it might be needed in very limited circumstances, such as to pull a caster in range of the tank, or if there is a mob attacking your healer.
  • Army of the Dead: This normally has a 20 minute cooldown, though I have talents that lower it to 10. Even so, you definitely want to save it for special occasions. And there are certain boss encounters that will go haywire from AotD, since they taunt everything. But it can be useful in the right circumstances.
  • Chains of Ice: Will stop a mob in its tracks for 5 seconds, with slowed movement for an additional 10 seconds. Doesn't do any damage (unless you have a particular glyph), so it is usually useless in a raid except in rare circumstances. Much more of a PvP skill.
  • Mind Freeze, Strangulate: These can each prevent casting of spells for a short duration. Again I rarely use them in raids; I find them more useful in PvP.

In summary, playing a Death Knight is not for the lazy, stupid, or faint of heart. If you want to excel at playing this class, you really need to work at it. The problem is that since the class starts at level 55, it appeals specifically to the lazy and stupid. And any facerolling moron can lumber through all the quests in Outland and Northrend with no problem whatsoever. Its not until the Deathtard finds himself in an instance with a group for the first time that the stupidity becomes readily apparent... usually to everyone but the person playing the character. All he knows is the group wiped; he doesn't realize its because he kept pulling aggro off the tank and had the damage output of a band of level 20 gnolls.

For my benefit and the benefit of those around you, I implore you to STOP playing your Death Knight if you aren't willing to spend the time and effort to learn to play it correctly. Go back to your hunter or paladin instead.

And for God's sake, stop using Death Grip in raids, or I'll kill you myself.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Zaphind's Guide to Eye of the Storm


Eye of the Storm has two 15-person teams. The battleground consists of four towers, one located at each of the four corners, and a flag in the very center. The battleground itself is located up in the sky; don't fall off the edges or you will die.

Each team starts at 0 points, and the first team to reach 2000 wins. Points are gained in one of two ways: controlling the towers, and capturing the flag. Capturing the flag earns roughly 100 points. Controlling towers earns points based on the number of towers controlled and length of time you've controlled them.

Each team starts the game on an elevated platform at opposite ends of the battleground. It requires some care to jump down from this platform with no damage; it requires no care if you don't mind a damage hit up to 50%.

Hint: Learn the tower names and locations relative to one another so it will be easier to know where to go when someone calls for help. When in doubt, use the map to determine which tower is which. When communicating with in-game chat, players will usually abbreviate the tower names. The two towers closest to the Alliance players are called the Mage Tower (MT) and the Draenei Ruins (DR). The two towers closest to the Horde players are called the Blood Elf Tower (BE) and the Fel Reaver Ruins (FR).

In-Game Mechanics

To control a tower, you simply have to have more of your players present at that tower. When you arrive at a tower, there is a slider bar that appears under the mini-map. The slider indicates whether the tower is horde-controlled or alliance-controlled, and to what percentage. The more time players from a faction spend at the tower, the further over the slider will go.

There is a gray area in the middle of the bar that represents "uncontrolled". Uncontrolled towers are not earning points for either team, nor can they be used for flag captures. Tower statuses can also be seen on the map.

Players pick up the flag in the center of the battleground by right-clicking it. When the flag is returned to a controlled tower, it automatically "captures" as soon as the player runs over the flag drop area. (It is located at the top of the steps for each tower, and looks like a gear embedded in the ground.) After the flag is captured, it is automatically reset in the center position, where it can be captured again.

You can only cause a player to drop the flag by killing him. Once he is dead, the flag drops at that location. The first player to right-click on the flag (from either team) will become the new flag carrier.

When you die, you resurrect at the nearest tower controlled by your team. If your team doesn't control any towers, you resurrect back on the starting platform.

Strategies and Tactics

Controlling the towers is considerably more important than capturing flags. For one thing, if you don't control any of the towers, you can't capture the flag at all, because the flag must be returned to a tower that your team controls.

Additionally, you will gain victory points far faster by dominating control of the towers. In fact, if you manage to control all four towers, you will win by simply maintaining that control for about a minute. Continuous control of three towers is also usually sufficient for victory, regardless of what happens with the flag. (The logic is simple: you are earning points at a rate of 3:1 over your opponents.)

The best strategy is to go for three towers right at the start. Bad teams/players will run directly into the center and capture the flag, which is pointless for the reasons mentioned above. An early flag capture may give a team an early lead at the expense of long-term strategic control of the towers, and probably won't last.

When the game starts, it should be sufficient to send two players to each of the two closest towers and complete their capture. (To clarify: that's four total players, two per tower.) Those players should then remain in defense of those towers, and call for help as needed. The remaining players should descend on one of the towers that will no doubt be occupied by players from the opposing team. In a well-coordinated effort, this shouldn't be difficult to do… unless the other team is also well-coordinated.

Having controlled a third tower, you'll have a choice to make. If the enemy is showing poor offensive capabilities, get greedy and go for the fourth tower. Leave two defenders at tower number three. The remaining nine can head to tower number four. Again, this will most likely be an overwhelming force, except in the case of an opposing team that is equally well-coordinated.

If the opponents are showing good coordination or are simply more powerful, it may be impossible to retain control over all four towers. In that case, do everything you can to retain at least three, then send a group in to capture the flag. Repeated flag captures at this point will do two things: get you closer to victory, and keep some percentage of the enemy forces busy trying to stop you.

Above all else, keep in mind that retaining control of the towers is the single most important goal.

Alternate Strategies

You may want to send a couple of people in to capture the flag sooner, if for no other reason than to give the opposing team something else to deal with. Bad teams (i.e. most of them) will be very upset and send a lot of forces to stop the flag carrier, thus leaving their towers wide open for attack. A couple players can essentially sacrifice themselves with the knowledge that it is furthering the cause of the team. (Luckily battlegrounds don't cause durability damage on your gear, so you can die as often as is necessary.)

Zaphind's Guide to Strand of the Ancients


Strand of the Ancients has two 15-person teams. The ultimate goal is to be the team that captures the prize, known as "The Titan Relic", in the shortest possible time.

The game is split into two rounds. In round one, the Alliance team is on offense, and tries to capture the relic, while the Horde team must defend the relic. In round two, the teams switch sides.

In round one, the Alliance team is given a clock with a ten minute countdown with which to make the capture. The Horde must match or beat their time in the second round, so the Horde clock starts with only as much time as it took the Alliance.

(I'm unclear on what happens in the event of a tie, such as both teams failing to capture. I've never seen it happen. In practice, if the Alliance team fails to capture in 10 minutes, it is probably because the Horde team is vastly superior, and will slice through the defense like a hot knife through butter in round two.)

Battleground Description

The Titan Relic is housed in a building called (oddly enough) The Relic Chamber. This chamber is fortressed behind three separate walls. The first (outer-most) wall has two gates: Blue and Green. The second wall also has two gates: Red and Purple. The third and final wall has a single gate: Yellow.

The following diagram provides a crude overview of the layout:

The offensive team is given tanks (up to four at one time) that they must drive and use to blast through each of the gates, and finally into the relic chamber. The round is completed only after they break through each wall, then break into the relic chamber, and one of the players right-clicks the relic to capture it.

Each gate is protected by two gun turrets, one mounted on either side. The defensive players can control the guns to try and destroy the tanks before the tanks destroy the gates.

Both tanks and gun turrets can also be used to attack players, and are also vulnerable to assault from player attacks.

Start of Each Round

The offensive team starts the round split up on two boats somewhere out on the ocean. The boats will eventually travel to the beach, where the players can grab the first set of tanks and head to the outer wall. There will be two tanks located at each of the docks to start the game.

The defensive team starts on a platform between the first and second walls. From there they must take up their defensive positions while the boats carrying the offensive team are heading towards shore. This period lasts about one minute.

(Note: don't fall off the boat before the start of the game. It is a LONG swim back to shore.)

In-Game Mechanics

An offensive player can get in an available tank by right-clicking it. Once mounted, he gets a control panel that has two abilities: shoot and ram. Ram is used to do damage to enemy players nearby who are attacking the tank. Shoot is used primarily to bring down the gates, but can also be used to damage enemy players.

Tanks can also carry up to two passengers. Passengers mount by simply right-clicking a tank that already has a driver. The passenger positions are good for ranged attackers or those with crowd-control abilities who can go after enemy players that are attacking the tank.

On the defensive side, gun turrets are also mounted by right-clicking. In a strange quirk, you can get on a tank while mounted on your horse (you will automatically dismount), but you must manually dismount before it will let you get on a gun. Guns have just a single ability: shoot. It is good for dealing damage both to tanks and enemy players.

Tanks and guns both have similar aiming mechanisms. Simply right click and drag your mouse to move the target, then shoot. The shot will go wherever the target was at the time you shoot, regardless of where you move the target after you get the shot off.

There is a teleportation chamber located outside of each gate that defensive players can use to get inside the gate. (Just right click on it.) Offensive players cannot get inside a gate until it is destroyed. To get outside an intact gate, defensive players must run up the steps to the gun turret, then jump down to the ground.

Strategies and Tactics: Defense

The goal of the defense is quite simple on the surface: prevent the advance of the enemy tanks, keeping each gate intact as long as possible. However, it takes a good bit of planning to coordinate an effective defense.

In total, there are ten gunner positions between the five gates. It is possible for gunners to be positioned at each gate right from the start of the game. However, this is a terrible tactic, because anyone positioned behind the first wall is worthless until that wall is breached. Good teams will only man the guns at the outer gates (Blue and Green) at the start of the game, and only send gunners to the next set of gates after the outer gate is destroyed.

All players who are not manning a gun should start the game on the beach, ready to attack the tanks. As soon as the game starts, the tanks are immediately vulnerable to attack. You should have ground forces ready to start beating on them right away (the more DPS the better).

All fire from both players and guns should be focused on tanks whenever possible. Enemy players can do no damage the gates; only tanks can damage the gates. Therefore, unnecessarily engaging the enemy players is a waste of time and energy that would be better used on attacking the tanks, which are the only real threat.

Before starting the defensive round, you'll want to split the team into two roughly equal groups. One group should head to the Blue gate, and one to Green. Try to determine:

  • Who will be the gunners at each gate (anyone but your healers; their skills are more useful on the ground)
  • Who will be the ground-based defenders at each gate

Once a gate is destroyed, all players assigned to that side should fall back to the next level. Two players should man the guns at the next gate, and everyone else should continue attacking tanks on the ground, trying to keep them as far from the gate as possible. This repeats all the way back to the relic chamber.

Once the yellow gate is under attack, ALL players from both groups should fall back on defense (even if only the gates on one side were destroyed). The reason is that when the yellow gate falls, you will have two things to defend, and you will need your entire team to do it effectively. First, you need to continue to attack the tanks to keep them from entering the relic chamber. Second, you need to prevent offensive players from planting bombs in front of the chamber.

On the right side of the courtyard (as you are facing the relic chamber), there are bombs that offensive players can pick up and place in front of the chamber door in an attempt to destroy it. At this point you want to do the following:

  • Prevent the players from getting to the bombs and picking them up.
  • If they pick up a bomb, prevent them from getting to the chamber door and dropping it.
  • If they get to the door and plant the bomb, try to disarm it by right-clicking it before it explodes.

Strategies and Tactics: Offense

The offensive strategy is simple:

  1. Get tanks
  2. Drive up to the first gate (blue or green), destroy it
  3. Drive to the next gate (red or purple), destroy it
  4. Drive to the yellow gate, destroy it
  5. Drive to the relic chamber, destroy the front door
  6. Run inside the chamber, right-click the relic, done.

As I said, simple strategy. Tactics are another matter however. (It will help if you've read and understand the defensive tactics first.)

If the defensive team is well coordinated, they will already be on the beach attacking your tanks as soon as your boats dock. It may help to know in advance who will be the tank drivers (really anyone but the healers). Everyone else has just one job:


That's it. If you see an enemy player attacking a tank, stop them! Well-geared enemy players can inflict far more DPS on the tanks than the gun turrets can. You need to use every ability you have to keep the enemy away from the tanks. Kill them, freeze them, snare them, stun them, fear them, death grip them… anything to stop their attacks on the tanks.

If enemy players are ignoring the tanks… let them. They are worthless. If someone wants to just sit on the beach and get a tan, they are doing your team a favor.

If your tanks are destroyed before the first gate is destroyed, they will respawn on the beach after a short period of time. Someone needs to go and grab the next one as quickly as possible. Time is everything in this game, and cannot be wasted.

Shortly after the first gate is destroyed, a "shop" opens up between the first and second walls where the tanks will respawn. (An in-game announcement is made, something along the lines of "Grigsby's vehicle emporium is now open for business.")

Alternate Offensive Strategies

Some teams find it useful to send all tanks to a single gate in the beginning, either blue or green. This tactic might work against a badly coordinated team. However, I personally am dubious of this strategy, especially against a good opponent. The reason is simple: by attacking both sides simultaneously, you force them to divide their defenses and fight a "two-front" war. If you attack just one side, it may actually make it easier for them to stop you because they'll have more players.

A slight change to this that might be useful would be to begin by attacking just on one side. But when the first set of tanks is destroyed and respawns on the other side of the beach, then start to split the attack. This could confuse their defense by forcing them to go back and forth between the two sides, and might open up one side completely.

Once inside the yellow gate, you need to have players trying to pick up the bombs and place them at the door to the relic chamber. If you fail to do this and only attack with the tanks, a good team will have your tanks destroyed long before they get close to the relic chamber because they will be able to focus all of their energy on the tanks.

There are two graveyards located inside level 1. These are initially controlled by the defense, but can be captured by the offense by clicking the flags located directly in front of the gates. Because the battleground is not that large, these graveyards represent minimal strategic importance. Capture them if the opportunity presents itself, but not at the expense of your primary offensive goals of protecting your tanks and destroying the gates.

Defensive Gunner Tactics

The primary focus of gunners should be the tanks. All other targets are a distant second on the priority list.

It takes a few seconds for your shot to reach the ground, so you need to anticipate the movement of the tanks and lead them a short distance. I've found that if you place the target directly in front of the tank, your shot will usually be right on. If the driver is smarter and is zig-zagging quite a bit, you may have to improvise.

If there are no tanks in range, you can shoot at enemy players. Your shots do a very effective AoE attack and inflict quite a bit of damage, and can help out your ground forces quite a bit. (Fortunately you are using "smart bombs" that only affect enemy targets and do no damage to friendly targets.)

Once your gate is breached, it often makes sense to remain at the gun turret for a period of time because it is still possible to prevent additional tanks from advancing. However, your turret is now reachable by enemy melee attackers. The best and often-overlooked strategy is to call for help from the gunner on the other turret. He can target your turret and kill the attacker without inflicting any damage on you.

Red and Purple gate gunners should keep an eye on the flag in front of them that represents the graveyard. Pummel any enemies that attempt to capture this flag, but not at the expense of drawing fire away from the tanks. Tanks are always priority number one.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Under Construction

This article is under construction. Please check back soon.

Zaphind's Guide to Warsong Gulch


Warsong Gulch has two 10-person teams. Each team starts inside its own fort. The two forts are located at opposite ends of a field that is roughly 200 yards long.

Within each fort is a flag. The goal is simple in concept: pick up the opponent's flag, and capture it by returning it to your fort. The first team to successfully capture 3 flags wins.

In reality, it is a lot more difficult.

In-Game Mechanics

You pick up the opposing team's flag by right-clicking it. When you return it to your fort, it automatically "captures" when you run over your own flag. However, you cannot capture if your flag is also in play. In this situation, your teammates must first rescue your flag and return it to the base before you can complete the capture.

To rescue your flag, you need to kill the flag carrier. Once he is dead, the flag drops at that location. At that point, any other player can right-click on the flag. If another player from the capturing team clicks it first, that person will become the new flag carrier. If a player from the defending team clicks it, the flag is safely returned to its base, and the offense must start again from square one.

Resurrections in Warsong Gulch take place at a graveyard located just outside of your team's fort.

Strategies and Tactics

Warsong cannot be won without huge group coordination. Players who run around and try to do things on their own without the coordination of other team members will find themselves killed early and often, and will be of little use to their team. Always stay with a group of other players.

The team needs to split up into at most two groups: one defending their own flag, and one on offense to capture the opponents' flag. The optimal number and makeup of each group will vary depending on the tactics of the opposing team, which means that people have to be prepared to switch from offense to defense several times during the game.

The flag carrier needs to be someone with a lot of health and/or self-healing, because he's going to take a beating from the opposing team when they catch up to him. He will need a large group protecting him, pulling defenders away from him, and healing him.

When it comes time to get your flag back, you will need to attack with ferocity and numbers. It will become especially difficult if the other team is also well-coordinated, and has healers protecting their flag carrier. Finding a way to stop the progress of the flag carrier can be daunting. More advanced players will have very high resilience and resistance ratings, and may be able to deflect or absorb a lot of the damage and spells you deal to them.

When your team takes control of the enemy flag, its location will immediately show up on the map. All available team members should rush to help the flag carrier. Don't unnecessarily engage opponents who aren't posing any immediate threat in other areas. Let them waste their time if they so choose; don't let them waste yours.

When your flag is taken, it will not show up on the map right away. Thus it becomes very important for anyone who sees where the flag is to call out that location to other team members, so that they can come and assist in its rescue. Clicking on the mini-map to signal the location is also helpful.

Know the Forts

The layout of each fort presents certain tactical opportunities and challenges. Knowing the layout of each fort is extremely important. First, each fort has three entrances:

  • There is a lower tunnel leading directly to the battleground.
  • There is an upper tunnel that leads out to a hill that overlooks the battleground, but it does not provide as direct access. (You can only come up the hill from the opposite side of where the entrance is located.)
  • It is also possible to go up on the roof of each fort. The flag room of each fort has an open roof, so it is possible to jump down from the roof directly into the flag room.

Within each fort, there are several places to hide, at least temporarily. This can be useful for ambush attacks on either fort, or as a place for your flag carrier to hide while waiting for your flag to be returned so that he can complete a capture.

  • Right next to the flag base is a small area that is hidden from view of the roof and the lower tunnel entrance.
  • There is a small room near the flag with a one-way window that allows you to see players coming up the lower tunnel without them seeing you.

Why Battlegrounds Rock!

I seem to be somewhat in a minority when it comes to my enjoyment of battlegrounds. Mention the word "battleground" to a lot of WoW players, and you will hear various moans, groans, and complaints. But I think that battlegrounds can be far superior to other types of gameplay in WoW, and I'm here to tell you why this is the case.

Most people who hate battlegrounds dislike it because it is the worst type of PUG (pickup group). When you enter a battleground as an individual, you are randomly assigned to a team with a bunch of strangers, many of whom are undergeared and/or have no idea what is going on or how to play. There is little to no communication or coordination among team members. There is no real sense of "team". Strategy is right out the window.

BUT, that can all change when you put a coordinated team together, and you enable voice communication either through in-game chat or a tool like vent. Just like dungeons and bosses, you can discuss raid strategies beforehand. (In fact, this is the purpose of my battleground guides.)

Battleground raids can potentially be much more entertaining and rewarding than dungeon raids for the following reasons:

  • Battlegrounds are more challenging. In a raid, the monsters you fight do the same thing over and over. No matter how many times you beat them, they will never change their tactics.
  • Battlegrounds require you to think and remain alert at all times. Not only do you have to continually adapt to your opponents' tactics, they will adapt to yours.
  • You can't cheat. There is no "deadly boss mods" for battlegrounds, and no videos you can watch to tell you how to defeat the team you're facing. Yes there are general strategic guidelines, but no add-on that is going to yell out "Fear being cast in 10 seconds!" You have to actually think for yourself, learn to anticipate, and be ready for the unexpected.
  • Everyone gets to share in the rewards for battlegrounds, through honor points and battleground marks. You can buy some really cool stuff with honor points. In a dungeon raid, you have to clear it again and again, hoping that the item you want drops, and hoping that when it does drop, someone doesn't out-roll you for it. But in a battleground, you ARE going to gain honor (more if you win), and you can see exactly how close you are to earning that iLvl 213 chest piece or helm.
  • In a battleground, you can lose. Some might think this is a disadvantage. But I've only been playing for a little over a month and I'm already getting bored of clearing Naxx over and over. There no longer seems to be any question of IF we will succeed, only how long it is going to take us. Having no real chance of losing makes winning much less exciting.
  • A successful battleground requires excellent coordination and communication, even more-so than a raid. In a raid, it's basically everyone beating on the same mobs over and over. In a battleground, different people will be assigned to different areas and roles, and will have to adapt as the game progresses. It isn't nearly as predictable as a dungeon raid.
  • The best part: battlegrounds don't cause durability damage on your gear! So no matter how often you die, you won't have a giant repair bill at the end of the night.

If you are in a guild, doing battlegrounds is a perfect way to break up the monotony of doing the same raid over and over. It is also a good way to participate when you have either too many or too few people show up for a raid. For example, if only 8 people show up, Warsong Gulch is a good option since it is limited to ten-person teams. Having a coordinated 8-person team would be a distinct advantage. (The system will automatically assign you two players if you don't care to search for yourself.)

Battlegrounds do require a bit of a shift in your expectations for gameplay. First, you will die and die often, especially when you are getting started. This is simply part of the game. Second, you won't be able to kill level-80 players with the same ease and speed that you dispel level-80 mobs. It just doesn't work that way; that's part of the challenge.

All you need to do is learn the proper strategies and tactics, and enjoy the game!

Zaphind's Battleground Guides – An Introduction

World of Warcraft's battlegrounds offer a very unique kind of gameplay that is much different from the rest of the game. (To understand why I think battlegrounds and PvP in general can be a lot more fun and interesting than questing or raiding, read this article.)

Each of my battleground guides contains information that is valuable both to complete beginners as well as intermediate players, and should turn both very quickly into seasoned veterans. To make it easier to find the information that is most helpful to you, each guide is split into the following sections:

  • Overview: A general description of the layout of the battleground, the teams, and the object of the game.
  • In-game Mechanics: Describes how to interact with the various elements and objects within the battleground.
  • Strategies and Tactics: Gives basic and advanced strategies to playing and winning the battleground. Players who are already familiar with the basics of a battleground may prefer to skip directly to this section.

The key to winning any battleground is team coordination. If all (or even several) of the players are off trying to do their own thing, this will pretty much ensure a loss – unless the players on the other team are equally bad.

Useful Add-ons for Battlegrounds

The one add-on that I find indispensable in battlegrounds is Cartogropher 3. It lets you leave your map open at all times, but shrink it to a small area of your window (similar to the Picture-in-Picture functionality on TVs). This allows you to see a complete picture of the battleground at all times, including where other team members are, what locations you control, where the flag carrier is, etc.

General Battleground Rules

For those who are new to battlegrounds, what follows is some basic information that you will need to know that applies to each of the battlegrounds. More advanced players will probably want to skip the rest of this section.


When you die in a battleground, you are automatically resurrected at a nearby graveyard within the battleground. Resurrections happen on a continuous 30-second countdown. So depending on when you show up at the graveyard, you may have to wait anywhere from 1-30 seconds to get back in the game.

Players who had active pets at their death will find their pet resurrected alongside them.

Once you release to the graveyard, all you can do is sit and wait. Do not wander too far from the spirit healer, or you will miss the resurrection and have to wait another full cycle. 30 seconds waiting in a game that is as fast-paced as a battleground already feels like an eternity, so don't prolong your suffering.

If the graveyard that you are in is captured by enemy forces while you are waiting to resurrect, you may suddenly find yourself transported to another graveyard. This can be exceptionally annoying if it happens just as you were about to be resurrected, because it may cause you to miss the resurrection and have to wait another full cycle. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable. (Hopefully Blizzard will fix this someday).


You can use any land-based mount within the battleground. Normal usage rules apply, such as mounts not working indoors. Flying mounts cannot be used in any of the battlegrounds.

In battlegrounds that involve carrying a flag, the flag carrier is not allowed to mount and must remain on foot until the flag is successfully captured. Attempting to mount will cause him to drop the flag at that spot.

Leaving a Battleground

You normally shouldn't leave a battleground until the battle ends and a winner is declared. If you choose to leave early, you will be marked as a "deserter", and will be unable to enter another battleground for a period of 15 minutes. This apparently is Blizzard's way of preventing someone from continually entering and leaving battlegrounds just trying to find a group of players that he feels has a chance of winning.

If you must leave prematurely, simply right-click the PvP icon that is attached to your mini-map (it looks like a small shield), and choose "Leave battleground".

Going AFK in a Battleground

Some players enter a battleground solely for the purpose of receiving the marks that everyone gets for participating, and don't care whether they win or lose. (This is kind of stupid since you get three marks for winning and only one for losing, but lazy people still attempt it.) Sometimes these players will simply sit at the starting position, or some other hidden location to avoid detection, and proceed to watch TV while the battle unfolds. This is extraordinarily annoying for those of us who are actually trying to play and win.

Blizzard has taken some steps to minimize this type of abuse. First, players automatically go AFK (away from keyboard) after a few minutes of non-use. As soon as they go AFK, they are kicked out of the battleground and marked as a deserter.

If for some reason they do not go AFK (maybe they run around in a circle every minute or so while watching their TV show), you have the ability to report them. Simply right-click on their name and choose "Report player AFK". (I'm not sure what action is taken in this case, but at least it makes you feel better.)

Welcome to Zaphind's World

Hi there. My name is Zaphind. Well, that isn't my real name, but it's what they call me when I'm in Azeroth. (Correct pronunciation: "ZAY finned", although my friends have been known to shorten it to "zaff".)

I was a little late in getting to Azeroth, having just arrived in the spring of 2009. Like so many before me, upon my arrival, I was completely addicted.

I wouldn't be shocked if most of the things I'll blog about have been written about by others before me to one extent or another. But I think I have a fresh perspective to share as a late arriver. And if not, then it's just a good place for me to voice my opinions to no one in particular!