World of Warcraft PvP Battleground Primer

I find there’s a serious lack of quality Battleground guides out there. This is my attempt at making a guide that is concise and useful.

The intended audience is the relatively new WoW player who solo-queues for BGs and wants to know how to achieve a basic level of competence that will make them an asset to their team, rather than a liability. That sounds like a very modest goal – and it is – but it’s one that many WoW players never achieve. Various tips apply to certain situations, or certain classes, specs, BGs, etc., so the tips are organized into sections that describe the scope of their applicability.

Lastly, note that any applicability to “Epic” battlegrounds is incidental. These BGs are very different in many cases. While some of the points here may apply to them, it should not be assumed unless explicitly stated.

Everbody, everywhere
These tips apply to all BGs:

1) The Right Place at the Right Time. This is probably the single most important piece of advice you can receive with respect to battlegrounds. If you’re not in a location where your actions will make a difference to the game, it doesn’t matter how awesome you are or how many people you kill. Of course, while the overall advice applies to everybody, everywhere, the actual application of this tenet varies considerably. This could mean being at a flag when it needs defense, or attacking an enemy flag carrier at the right time, or attacking a node at the right time. It’s impossible to go into all the permutations here, but at a very high level, it’s important to understand the mechanics of the battleground and how your presences in one location or another can be beneficial. Just one simple example, to put some meat on this suggestion: You’re in a Silvershard Mines game, and both teams are right around 1400 points. Whichever cart reaches its destination next will win the game. If you’re not at that cart, you are simply not providing any benefit to the BG. It might as well be 9v10. [yes, there are two other ways to contribute in this situation, but if you’re advanced enough to know what I’m talking about, you are not the intended audience of this guide]

2) Assist Your Team. This can be thought to literally mean “assist”, as in “attack the same target”. While there are numerous interpretations of “assist”, attacking the same target is the most obvious and probably the most effective. If you’re a ranged DPS involved in a battle with a few people on each side, and there’s a warrior on your team who happens to be attacking X player, you had better ALSO attack that player. But more generally, you should be doing things to help your teammates. You shouldn’t group PvP with 9 or 14 other players and pretend you’re solo. You should notice what your teammates are doing, and try to contribute to those goals. Attack the same target as them. Protect a healer. CC a melee that’s attacking a caster on your team. Interrupt an enemy healer on the next cast after your teammate interrupted the previous one. Prevent an enemy from kiting your melee. CC a defender while your teammate caps the flag. BGs are not the place to test your dueling skills. You might want to 1v1, but your opponents will outnumber you.

3) Be Aggressive. I don’t mean be Rambo and run into a mob of 7 people by yourself. What I do mean is that, in a battleground, the purpose of being there is to fight. If you’re defending a node, and you see an enemy approaching – go to them, and get the upper hand. Nothing is served by being passive, even if you’re a tank. The obvious caution to this point is that if you stray from a node you’re defending and let a rogue/druid/mage (or really anybody) cap the node while you’re distracted, that’s awful. Being aggressive doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be mindful of your charge. It just means that sitting back and letting the enemy get the opener does not help you. In general, getting the “opener” gives you an advantage, even if it’s nothing nearly as sexy as a perfect rogue opener from stealth. Just landing the first Charge, Fear, or Entangling Roots can mean the difference between a Win or a Loss in that particular encounter.

4) Focus on the goals of the battleground. It doesn’t matter how many times you die. Never get sucked into personal animosity or competition when you feel like you’ve been singled out by some enemy players, or just get the short end of the stick. Nothing is served by taking combat personally, other than to increase your frustration. I realize this should go without saying, but it gets overlooked often. Your actions in the BG should never be decided by who you want to kill. They should only be decided by what will help your team win. Remember – it’s only a game. And you’re here to win it, not be the coolest guy on the field.

5) Size up the Opposing Team (and Your Team). While you’re sitting in your staring area waiting for the BG to begin, there is a wealth of information available to you. How many healers are on your team? How well are they geared? How many healers are on the opposing team? How well are they geared? Which team is better-geared in general? Does the opposing team have 5 people from the same server? Is the opposing team heavily melee?.. heavily caster? These are all data points that you can use to inform your play. Just as an example, from my perspective as a mage main – if I see an opposing team that clearly has a few people from the same server, including a healer, I will immediately put that healer as my “focus” target. I have macros that make it easy for me to sheep and counterspell my “focus” target. This is very valuable because I know this healer is dedicated to keeping some potent DPSers alive. Anything I can do to make their lives more difficult is a huge boon to my team.

6) Understand the value of CC. As a Mage main, I can’t tell you how often people misunderstand CC. Almost any 1v1 I get into in a BG, I will start off by casting polymorph on them. Good players understand the situation and will react accordingly. Bad players will either put themselves in a position to get manhandled by a single sheep, or will trinket the sheep immediately. If sitting in a full-duration CC will make you lose a node, you were standing in the wrong place. If sitting in a full-duration CC will not have any negative effect, and you trinket it, you’ve also messed up horribly. Similarly, if you’re not USING your CC, you’re also making a huge mistake. Nearly every BG I get into, every single person I sheep immediately trinkets it. This means that nobody else has used CC on them in 2 minutes. That’s not good!

7) Dead people come back to life. I know it’s obvious, but many people do not account for this fact when approaching a battle. If 2 people attack a node that is defended by 2 opposing people, it’s rare that the attackers will be able to efficiently kill BOTH defenders and cap the flag before anybody resurrects there (including people that died in other nearby locations). This means that 2 people who successfully attack a node that is defended by 2 opponents probably had some major advantage, like being coordinated friends, or heavily outgearing/outskilling the defenders. Another very common place that this comes into play is Alterac Valley. If you push the opponent back into their base, and they still have the graveyard there, every player you kill on the way into their base (while trying to take it) will rez again pretty soon. While sometimes you can be successful like this, it’s a very bad idea in general.

8) Don’t get sucked into a long, drawn-out battle (without thinking about it). If you’re attacking a node, and it’s defended by 2 healers and 2 tanks, it’s going to be relatively hard to get that node. They can employ many tactics to draw out the battle and waste your time. Two pairs of GOOD tanks and healers can hold off a solid 6-8 people for quite a while. During all this, the rest of your team is greatly outnumbered. Of course, there are two sides to this. The side that has committed less people, and already owns the node (and is thus gaining points from it) is at a huge advantage. The bottom line is that it’s really important to assess the value of any battle you’re engaged in. Generally, if that battle does’t have you on the defensive side, it’s not worth being there for very long.

Arathi Basin, Gilneas
These BGs are won exclusively by holding more nodes for longer than the other team. They are almost indistinguishable from a strategic standpoint, though the tactics differ slightly. There may be overlap with other BGs when talking specifically about capping flags (Deepwind Gorge, Alterac Valley) or generally holding nodes/objects (Silvershard Mines, Eye of the Storm).

1) Defending > Attacking Flags. It’s easier to defend a flag than to attack it. This is an extremely important point and informs many tactical situations. To attack a node/flag, you really need to have every defender on the opposing team dead or in full CC for the duration of the cap. This is hard to do. To defend, conversely, you just need to “touch” a player trying to cap the node, and they’ll fail. This point is hard to overstate, and it feeds directly into the next point, which is highly actionable.

2) Attack All Nodes. At the outset of a match, you should always have at least 1 person going to each of the “middle” nodes. In AB, this is Lumber Mill, Mines, and Blacksmith. In Gilneas, it’s only the WaterWorks. This is one of the most pervasively misunderstood things in all of WoW. It’s so common at the beginning of a match to hear people rattle off various targets… “BS and LM!”. This is nonsense. No matter how many people you send to X node, the opposing team will send Y number of players, and whatever happens will be a result of numerous factors. But what happens to a node that your team sends 0 people to? At the very best, nobody will send any players there, and nobody will cap it. But more often, the opposing team will send some players there, and they will get it. This is very important, so I’m going to review a few scenarios. But one of the most important things to realize about this tenet is that once you’ve gone to a node, you are able to react to the circumstances and change your mind. This is simply about where you head directly from the starting position – which is very important, because getting the initial cap, and then only needing to defend it, is very important.

For simplicity, let’s focus on Arathi Basin, and let’s say one person on your team caps Stables/Farm and the rest of the team splits up evenly among the three middle nodes. So you’ve sent 4 or 5 people to each middle node. Then let’s say the opposing faction “declared” that they want their teammates to go to “LM and BS”. Well, they’ll send 7 or 8 to LM and 7 or 8 to BS. So hypothetically, they’re outnumbering your team at both of those nodes, and over time, should probably take the nodes. However, if you sent 5 people to Mines, and those 5 people clearly see that nobody from the other team is at the mine, one person can stay behind to cap, then defend, while four others head to BS. This would ultimately give you a 9v7/8, and you should win the BS.

There are some details to consider here as well. For example, you might have those 5 people heading to mines when it becomes clear that the opposing team is not going to mines. You could have your additional 4 players arrive at BS only a few moments late for the battle, thus reducing the impact of going to Mines first to basically nothing. This applies to Gilneas as well. I’m basically advocating that your whole team goes to Waterworks at the beginning of a match (aside from whoever stays and caps your local node). But of course, if 9 of you are heading to WW, and you clearly see that very few of the opposing team is going there, most of your team can head back to your local node to defend it. This is great for you because of #1, where it’s much easier to defend than to attack (and you will have capped the node before the enemy arrives).

The moral of this very important point, especially for Arathi Basin (and also Deepwind Gorge), is that you should always have people going to every middle node, regardless of what the distribution looks like.

Flag-Capping (Arathi Basin, Gilneas, Deepwind Gorge, Eye of the Storm, Alterac Valley)
1) Defending is Easy. Defending a flag you’ve capped is relatively easy, whether it has fully converted to your control, or you’re still waiting for that. Basically, as long as you’re alive, you should not give up the node to the opposing team. It’s imperative that while you’re defending a node, you always pay attention to the area around the flag so you can see if there is a “ninja” trying to cap the node. A “ninja” is basically somebody who sneaks up to a flag while the defenders are distracted, and tries to cap it without opposition. This is a really bad thing to allow. If you’re guarding a node, your job is to make sure anybody who tries to cap the flag gets hit (thus interrupting the “cap”). In many cases, your contribution to the battle will consist of 1) telling the rest of the team about the incoming attack, and 2) staying alive and disrupting flag caps long enough for help to arrive. This may seem like it’s not a lot of fun, but the contribution this makes to winning a BG is exceptionally high.

2) Stand in the Right Spot. If you’re guarding a node that doesn’t appear to have any “action”, and seems rather boring – that’s great. You’re doing your team a valuable service. However, if a skilled opponent can easily take it from you, that’s bad. If you’re standing directly adjacent to a flag, you’re just asking for a rogue to sap you and cap the flag. Don’t do that. You actually want to be pretty far from the flag, but close enough that you can hit a “capper” before they cap. Similarly, if you’re guarding a flag with another person, you shouldn’t be standing right next to each other, or else you leave yourself open to the sap->attack, or something like a ring of frost, or other AoE CC. If you have 2 people on defense, you should be pretty far away from each other. Of course, there is some class-dependence on this. If you’re a warrior, it’s probably better to stand right next to the flag, since you’re more susceptible to ranged CC than you are to sap. If you’re a mage like me, you want to be pretty far away, since you can blink/shimmer to the node easily, and you can even park your pet relatively close to it, to interrupt caps.

3) Breaking Caps. Make sure you know which of your abilities will stop a cap-in-progress. Direct damage will almost certainly do the trick. Damage-over-time generally will not. AoE centered around your character will usually do the trick. AoE casted at a distance is iffy. Make sure you know which of your abilities will get the job done.

4) Defending is Important. I’m going to recount a small anecdote here. I played a game of Battle for Gilneas (on Horde, for context). Our team capped the Mines and headed for WaterWorks. We also had two people from the same server who went to LightHouse. So we had 7 going to WW, 1 at Mine and 2 at LH. As the 7 were heading to WW, it became clear that basically nobody from the opposing team was going to LH, so most of the team headed back to Mines. As it turned out, the Alliance team had ~5 well-coordinated people that showed up at Mines in stealth and attacked the node. The few people that turned back from WW to defend Mines were able to hold off the attack for a while (it probably would have been overrun eventually). During that time, WW was taken, and the two people at LH were able to take that node as well. The net result was that the (slightly) outnumbered and out-coordinated force at Mines was able to stop a cap for a couple minutes, allowing a 3-cap to run its course and win the game in just a few minutes.

The moral of the story here is how important it is to defend. In fact, the more nodes you have, the more important defending becomes. If you have ALL the nodes, defending is literally a matter of seconds. In both AB and Gilneas, possessing every node simultaneously makes your resources increase at an incredible rate. But even if you only have 3 of 5 nodes, every moment you hold your node is giving your team an advantage.

Capture the Flag (Warsong Gulch, Twin Peaks, and Deepwind Gorge to an extent)
1) Controlling the flow of battle is generally more important than the actual flag. Now, this point comes with some caveats. Obviously you need to get their flag. Obviously you need to get your flag back from the enemy. These two conditions are required in order to cap a flag. So, let’s put that aside as being obvious. Beside those points, it makes a huge difference whether you’ve got one flag carrier running solo across an empty field vs. having them fight their way tooth-and-nail across an explosive battlefield. The basic action I am advocating is that at the beginning of a match, your entire team (minus one flag carrier) should engage the other team. Of course, if you lose that battle, you have a good chance of losing the game, but there’s a really good chance you’d have lost anyway. At least this way, you’ll know if you’re vastly out-skilled/geared/whatevered early on.

2) The actual flag is more important than anything (except #1 above). Either defend your flag, or attack their flag carrier. Nothing else matters, unless you are in an edge-case situation.