World of Warcraft
Battlegrounds for Dummies

Cedric Beust
August 8th, 2006

The intent of this guide is to give quick directions to people entering a World of Warcraft battleground (BG) for the first time.  Within five minutes, you should have enough information to follow what's going on and make significant contributions to your team.  There are additional resources to the BG (see the links at the end of this guide), but I never really found a simple explanation gathering all the important information in one convenient place, so I hope you'll find this guide useful.

If you want to become a more knowledgeable BG player, read this article in its entirety since the second half of it contains a few advanced advice.

Introduction

World of Warcraft features three different types of battlegrounds:
 
Name Abbreviation Where (Horde) Where (Alliance) Levels accepted
Alterac Valley AV North of Tarren Mill North of South Shore 51 and above
Arathi Basin AB Behind the Hammerfall flight point Refuge Point Brackets (*)
Warsong Gulch WSG Border of the Barrens and Ashenvale Forest Silverwing Outpost in Ashenvale Brackets (*)

(*) When you enter these battlegrounds, you are guaranteed to be playing with players in the same bracket: 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and 60.

Note that you don't have to go to the geographic locations listed above to enter a queue:  all the major cities (Orgrimmar, Undercity, Thunder Bluff, Stormwind and Iron Forge) have three battle masters in the War Quarters for each of them.  Just sign up with all three of them, then go on your way:  you will be teleported to the battlegrounds as soon as your turn comes (you will be prompted first).

All three battleground have different structures and strategies and picking one is a personal choice.  In a nutshell:

Levels

As indicated above, you can start playing the BG as soon are you're level 10, but considering how brackets are structured, you will probably die a lot if you happen to have a level that ends in 0-6.  Obviously, having a level ending in 9 guarantees that you will never face anyone higher than you (except in Alterac Valley).

Also, keep in mind that all battlegrounds are marginally different at level 60 than any other level, since most of the players you will face will not only have epic mounts, they will most likely be geared in tier 2 epics or more.  For people not familiar with this term, it simply means that the opponents will have better gear than you, so be prepared for a certain amount of frustration in the battlegrounds at level 60.

For this reason, I strongly recommend staying at a level ending in 9 for as long as possible if you enjoy PvP gaming.  Once you reach 60, there is no turning back...

Rewards

Blizzard has created two different systems of rewards that will please both hardcore and casual gamers.

Reputation

This is the recommended approach for casual gamers.  Whenever you participate in one of the battlegrounds, you gain reputation with one of the three associated factions.  The amount of reputation you win will depend on the outcome of the game and on various other events that happened while you played (capturing buildings, killing enemy players, etc...), but you are basically guaranteed to leave a battleground with more reputation than when you entered, so reaching the maximum level is just a matter of time, no matter how little you play every week.

There are several levels of reputation, each one unlocking more items that you can buy from a special supplier either inside the battleground (for Alterac Valley) or just outside the instance in the geographic locations mentioned above.

Here are the reputation levels along with the number of points you need to accumulate before reaching it:

Status Reputation points needed
Neutral 0
Friendly 3000
Honored 6000
Revered 12,000
Exalted 21,000

If you reach the Exalted status, you will be able to buy epic (purple) items, something you cannot do anywhere else in the game.

Honor system

The honor system rewards players that can play on a regular basis.  Once a week (usually on Tuesdays, after the maintenance is over), your standing is reassessed and based on your achievements of the week past, your rank will be re-evaluated.  There are fourteen ranks, and the higher you go, the harder it is to get to the next level (but not impossible:  each realm typically has a small number of levels 14).   On the other hand, the higher you are, the slower your rank will decay if you don't play, thus allowing you to slow down or let one or two weeks go by without playing without seeing your rank drop down too much.

The exact formula used to calculate the honor points is not public, but a few facts are known about it.  In a nutshell, the final number is calculated from the number of HK (Honorable Kills, see below) and honor points that are granted to you based on achievements performed by you or your team throughout a game.  Whenever you gain one level, you can go to your main city's Hall of Braves to buy the new items that are now available to you.  Note that you need to be at least level 6 before you can enter the hall, and to whet your appetite, you will probably be happy to learn that at level 11, you can buy an epic mount for 90g...

Marks

Finally, each appearance in either of the battlegrounds will grant you either one (if you lose) or three (if you win) "marks".  These marks can be turned in at each battleground location for money, reputation and honor for every three marks you turn in.  While it is possible to turn in marks for each battleground separately, I recommend you wait until you have three marks for each battleground and then turn in the "For greater honor" quest.  You will get more honor and reputation with all three factions this way.

Be aware that each mark only stacks up to 20, so make sure you never have more than 17 marks when you enter a battleground, or you might end up losing some (the extra marks are actually mailed to you in that case, but they have a twenty four hour expiration, so check your mailbox as soon as possible to retrieve them or they will be lost for good).

Terminology

Like everything in World of Warcraft, the battlegrounds have very specific terminology that it's important to understand if you want to follow what's going on.  Here is a quick rundown for each of these terms.

General

Abbreviation Meaning
O   Offense
D   Defense
To zerg  To assault an objective with as many people as possible without trying to group up.  This is a reference to StarCraft.
 
To turtle To play defense exclusively.  Typically happens when a team is outnumbered or outskilled.  It then gives up any hope of winning and puts everyone in defense in order to rake up honor and honorable kills.  It's also a way to wait out in the hope that more people will join.
To ninja To capture a node or a building with very few (maybe sometimes only one) players.  Rogues and druids are particularly good classes for this.
inc   Incoming.  Used to signal when the enemy is approaching a target, usually associated with a number:  "inc 3 lm" = "3 enemies approaching the lumber mill".
To kite To pull a computer-controlled character and force him to follow you.  This is used in two specific circumstances in Alterac Valley:  to ninja buildings and to fight elite lords (see below).
DOT Damage over Time.  A particular type of damage that manifests itself over time, e.g. "100 nature damage every 3 seconds over 30 seconds".
GY   Graveyard.
cap   Capture.  Sometimes used as a verb:  "GY caps in 2mn".

Arathi Basin

Abbreviation Meaning
Farm   The Farm
LM The Lumber Mill
BS   The Blacksmith
Stb   The Stables
Mine   The Mine
Node   One of the aforementioned buildings

Warsong Gulch

Abbreviation Meaning
FR Flag room.  The room in your base (or the enemy's) where the flag is kept.
FC Flag carrier.  The person currently carrying your or the enemy flag.
tun Tunnel.  The tunnel that leads to both sides' flag rooms.  This abbreviation can be used to signal where the enemy went (to intercept him) or where the flag carrier on your team should go (for maximum safety).
ww Which way?  Asked when your flag was just picked up by the enemy and you hope that someone on your team saw it and can tell you which way the runner is going.

Alterac Valley

Abbreviation Meaning
SP   Storm Pike
IW   Ice Wing
SH   Stone Hearth
SF    Snow Fall
TP   Tower Point
IB   Ice Blood
FW   Frost Wolf
RH   Relief Hut
AS   Aid Station
trinketing   Teleporting back to the base.  You get this trinket by completing a quest requiring you to go into a mine and touch a banner there.  Do this quest as soon as you can
Bal   Balinda Stonehearth, an Alliance captain located in the Ice Wing Keep.

Warsong Gulch

If you've never played any PVP, I recommend you start with Warsong Gulch, which is fairly easy to master strategically.  The goal is to capture the enemy flag and to bring it back next to your own flag (which needs to be there in order to score the point).  The first team to capture the enemy flag three times wins.  The top of your screen indicates how many flags each side has captured so far and if a flag icon is next to it, it means that the flag shown is currently in the hands of the enemy.

WSG games typically start with a rush on both sides toward their opponent's FR, capture their flag (since most of the time, 8-9 players rush in offense, only 1-2 can stay in defense, and they get quickly overwhelmed).  Then each side will bring the enemy flag back to its base and try to hide in a "safe" place (see below).  After that, the game is mostly about protecting your flag carrier while trying to spot and kill the enemy carrier.

Depending on how confident the team is, it is common to leave the flag carrier with two or three defenders and send the rest of the team in offense to locate and kill the enemy carrier.  If you see an enemy pick up your flag and run, immediately announce which way the runner is going, which is typically either "gy" (the graveyard), "ramp" (the ramp that leads to your base) or "tun" (the tunnel).  Similarly, if you happen to pick the enemy flag, announce which way you intend to run so that your team can meet you there.  Since "tun" alone is ambiguous (you might be talking about the enemy carrier),  I tend to add a "me" for each of my announcements whenever I pick up the enemy flag: "me tun".

Here are the various places a flag carrier can hide with his bodyguards: Here are a few random thoughts about tactics:

Arathi Basin

In Arathi Basin, you are trying to control nodes which, when captured, start producing resources.  The more nodes you control, the faster you produce resources, and the faster you will reach 2000, which is when the game ends.  Since there are only five nodes, controlling three and keeping them is enough to guarantee a win, so this is usually the strategy you should aim for:  capture three nodes and make sure they are all evenly defended at all times.

Of course, it's never that simple and the opposing team will typically try to reconquer some of these nodes either by attacking one massively, or fake an attack on one and assault another one (this is rare, but very good teams do that).  On your end, it's also good to keep the enemy team on its toes and regularly send one or two of your players to try and ninja a fourth or fifth node.  The attempt will probably fail but it will force the enemy to distract some of its forces to the threatened node in case they were just scouts for a more massive attack.

Alterac Valley

Alterac Valley is by far the most intriguing battleground, and it's the kind that you either love or hate.  The reason is that there seems to be a general imbalance on every single realm that I've read about.  On the one I play on (Draenor), the Alliance basically wins 95% of the games.  It's the opposite on other realms, which probably tends to prove that Blizzard designed AV just right, and the imbalance is simply created by players for various reasons that I won't go into (gear is usually the main factor).  If it's any comfort to you, I reached Exalted status with the Frost Wolf faction after having only won one game.  That's right, one game.  We lost all the others I participated in (which I evaluate to around fifty).

If I can make it to Exalted, anybody can...

In the beginning, an AV battle is a massive rush:  both sides head strong toward the enemy fortress and try to go as fast as possible.  In a perfect (but boring) game, both factions will soon reach each other's fortresses and it will be to whoever is the fastest to kill the enemy general.

In practice, it never happens this way.

Very often, a midpoint encounter will happen and one side will prevail, slowly eroding the other's offense.  After a while, one side will typically have 80% offense and 20% defense and the other team will have the opposite, guaranteeing a non-stop kill fest on both sides of the map.

The first thing you should do when you enter AV is to check out your map and identify the main fight points (there are usually two). One will typically be behind you and the other ahead.  Pick a destination and head there, while paying attention to the messages flying by.  Typically, each landmark on the map has two buildings of importance:  a bunker and a graveyard.  The bunker is defended by bowmen and an elite captain and the graveyard will also have an elite and five guards.  Bunkers typically need to be taken by force, but graveyards can easily be ninja'ed by two players:  one will ride on his mount and "kite" the elite and his guards, while the teammate runs to the flag and captures it.  Ninjaing graveyards can sometimes be of value, but unless you have a stronger presence, it is very likely that the two ninjas will soon be overwhelmed by the other team that will try and reconquer it right away.

When you approach the enemy fortress (Storm Pike or Frost Wolf), the first thing you should do is destroy the two towers defending it.  This is not mandatory, but doing so will make future walkthroughs easier and it also impacts the number of war masters (assistants) the enemy general will have at his side once you reach him.  The next step is to capture the Relief Hut (Horde) or Aid Station (Alliance).  This will guarantee that the enemies can no longer respawn inside their fortress.  Once you capture the RH/AS, it's usually very hard for the enemies to retake it, and at this point, it's only a matter of time before you kill the general.

The next step is to pull the war masters one by one.  These are elite characters, so you need to make sure you don't pull out everyone or your offense will quickly get wiped (if you own the RH/AS, you will respawn nearby, so it's typically only a temporary setback).

Finally, you will enter the fortress and fight the general (he cannot be pulled).  He's a 62 elite that will require at least ten people to take down.

Alterac Valley has a few additional complexities that make the game more interesting than the other two battlegrounds.

Each time you loot an enemy corpse, you will get a certain amount of armor scraps, blood and flesh (different items for the Alliance).  Each of these can then be turned in to NPC's back at the Keep:

Should you kill the captains?

The captains give their respective faction a regular buff and will give some reputation if you kill them (e.g. 125 points for Balinda Stonehearth), so the question regularly arises to figure out whether you should kill them on your way to the enemy fortress or just skip them.  Even though these characters can usually be taken down by five good players, I tend to think that they are a costly distraction when the game is just beginning and each side is rushing toward each other's fortress.  Of course, people will be quick to point out that "it only takes a few minutes and five men", but the reality is very different.

First of all, you never have only five men heading there, so your raid comes to a big slowdown as half, if not more, of the crowd gets diverted.  Second, it is likely that a few of them will die during the fight and will have to resurrect to a far graveyard (chances are you don't own a nearby graveyard yet, and even if you do, there's still the time penalty and the time it will take them to catch up).  For all these reasons, I usually recommend to skip mid-field captains and head for the enemy graveyard as soon as possible.  There is always time later to revisit this choice and if your team is losing, you will usually have enough of an advanced notice (i.e. your Relief Hut / Aid Station will fall) to send a small group to reap the reputation benefit before the game ends.

So you want to be a leader?

Once you've accumulated some experience, you might want to become a raid leader (especially since people are usually very lazy and prefer to endlessly type "invite please" instead of starting one themselves).  Players are usually grateful when someone creates a raid and also fairly tolerant with the raid leader, so don't be shy.

As an AV raid leader, your responsibility is to spend more time looking at the map, read the messages and direct people appropriately.  Pay close attention to the messages describing which nodes are under attack, and if you're using AVBar (see below), make sure you keep your team appraised on capture times (I usually announce the three and one minute marks).

Whenever you give directions, expect that only a small portion of your team will obey, so feel free to repeat at length.  It also helps to use group numbers to give orders ("group 2 retake SF GY") but again, I found that most players don't know enough about the game to even know what group they're in.

On the other hand, something that works very well is to call out names.  It takes a bit longer (you need to identify them on the map) and extra typing (you need to be a fast typist), but "people in tunnel, defend FW GY" doesn't work as well as "xyzzy haru dozel, defend FW GY".  Try it and you will feel some great satisfaction when you see these players moving in the direction you asked them.

Pay close attention to how both teams measure up in terms of captures.  You can get a good sense of what team is ahead by seeing which buildings each one takes.  For example, if your Horde team is still fighting around the Ice Wing Bunker while the Alliance has already taken the Frost Wolf Graveyard, you know you're rapidly falling behind and you should probably start allocating more people to the defense of your keep.

Class considerations

PvP is a very different game than PvE, and you'll need to radically alter the way you play if the battlegrounds are your very first contact with PvP.  This section is not about teaching you how to play PvP but just a list of a few battleground-specific thoughts that you might find useful.

I'll start this section with a few general comments and then more specific ones depending on which class you are.  I'm hoping to receive some help from the community to fill this section since even though I have three 60 characters, my Rogue is the only one I've ever PvP'ed with.

The first thing you need to realize is that you will rarely be dealing deadly blows.  That's right:  very rarely.  You'll land a few hits on someone, but you won't be the first one to hit them and you won't be the one finishing them off.  Therefore, all the crit and combo abilities you have in store need to be revised in light of what battlegrounds really represent:  teamwork.

For this reason, I tend to focus a lot more on crippling and immobilizing enemies than killing them (I rely on my heavily equipped teammates to do that).  DOT's are also a good weapon to use since a lot of human players will know when to run away to heal (especially paladins, which have the ability to "bubble up" when they reach 1% health and then heal themselves), but they will typically not know exactly the amount of DOT they have just received until it's too late.

Rogues

Mind-Numbing and Crippling poisons are a must.  Forget all the other damage-dealing poisons that you probably use in PvE.  In the battlegrounds, you want your enemies to walk very slowly, receive massive DOTs, have their casting time reduced and, last, receive less healing (healing is difficult in the battlegrounds).  I also use a lot of Kidney Shot to immobilize someone, and Rupture, which is a great DOT to inflict especially with five combo points.

As a general tactic, Rogues should never engage plate and mail and should stick to cloth only.  Based on what I said above, you will never be able to kill any of these players, but you can incapacitate them quite a bit by sneaking behind enemy lines and either sap them if they are not in combat yet (ideally when they just resurrected or are drinking or eating).  If they are in combat, a Cheap Shot, followed by a Back Stab and maybe one Sinister Strike are a good way to make their life a bit harder.  Depending on your build, you will have accumulated three or four combo points by then and it's then time to run away back to your team and spend your capital on Slice and Dice to make sure you don't lose these points (again:  you will not be killing your target, so the combo points will disappear soon).  Sapping priests or druids is particularly effective since you are basically putting out of commission a major healer for thirty to forty seconds.  Sapping lonely flag takers is also a good option if you know that help is on the way and you don't feel like soloing that particular player.

Add-Ons

There are quite a few add-ons specifically targeted for PvP, but I recommend two in particular:

Conclusion

That's all I have for now.  Hopefully, this little guide will help you ramp up on battleground fighting faster than I did.  Please email me if you have any feedback or contribution, or post a comment.

Resources

  Alterac Valley Arathi Basin Warsong Gulch
WOWWiki Link Link Link
Rewards Link Link Link
General information Link Link Link

Blizzard guides:

Miscellaneous:


Cedric Beust
August 8th, 2006
(Ros on Draenor)