by Byron "Messiah" Mudry, based on the guide by Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle
Starting at level 10, you can join the Warsong Gulch queue and see what PvP is all about. Warsong Gulch is a 10 person per side faction battle, arranged in 10 level brackets (example: levels 10-19 compete together, then 20-29, 30-39, etc.) While taking out opposing faction members is fun, the main objectives in WSG are capturing your opponent's flag, defending and retrieving your flag from the enemy, and winning the first to three competition.
Note: Level 10 is the minimum level, but you might be better off to keep training until your in the upper part of your level bracket. That said, the more the merrier, and a smart low-end player will probably out-contribute a clueless higher level player. The big exception being at the upper end of the level range, gear becomes much better and if your 61 you really can't complete with a 69, so don't frustrate yourself and your allies, go level and come back later.
Background and Location
The Warsong Gulch battleground is physically located between the zones of Ashenvale and The Barrens, although few players will visit the actual physical entry to it any longer. The area represents where Grom Hellscream and his Orcs ravaged the forests in the third war for lumber. The orc faction is called the Warsong Outriders, and the Orc entrance is along the northern edge of the Barrens.
The Night Elves are now finaly trying to recapture the area to reforest it. The Night Elf faction is called the Silverwing Sentinels. The Allaince phyical entrance is along the southern edge of Ashenvale Forest. To show dominance in the battleground you must invade the enemy base and capture thier flag, which leads to the rules section.
Warsong Gulch Rules
On the surface, WSG is purely a game of "capture the flag." Two flags, two bases, and your main objective is to bring the opponent's flag to your base three times (i.e. earn three points before your opponent does). One significant rule change from the traditional game is this: that you have to defend your flag in order to score a point. In order to score, your team must touch the opponents' flag to your flag in your home base. Note that the honor points you accumulate from capturing the flags far outweigh what you'll get by "HK (honorable kill) farming" midfield, so doing what it takes to help your team win the flag battle should always take first priority.
There are a few special icon buffs a la Unreal Tournament on the map as well. A speed buff pops every thirty seconds or so in a small alcove to the side of the long center tunnel in each base. Additionally, healing and berserking (a buff that allows you to do +30% damage, but increases damage taken by 10%) icons occasionally spawn in each of the small outbuildings in the mid-field. When you've killed a player, right click their corpse to remove their insignia so that they can only revive at their graveyard (you can also loot a small amount of coin on occasion - but this coin doesn't come out of their personal account). If you die and press the "Revive" button, you'll take the ghost form at your faction's graveyard, where a special NPC will cast an area-effect resurrection spell every thirty seconds. If you're within the area as a ghost, you'll revive with full health, full mana (if applicable), and (if you're a warlock or hunter) a pet.
If both flags have been held for 10 minutes with neither side managing to capture the flag of the other team, the flag carriers recieve a debuff that makes them suffer 50% increased damage. This doubles to 100% after a further 5 minutes. In addition the flag carriers movement is slowed.
You'll gain a "Mark of Honor" in your inventory for competeing in the battle ground as long as you stick around until the end, and get two additional marks if your side wins the game.
That's about it for the rules. The rest is experience, communication, and tactics!
As of patch 3.2 you have been able to gain experience in Battlegrounds. This means that if PvP is your thing, you can do it almost exclusively and still level up a character. The experience you gain is based on the level bracket you are in and is granted for different accomplishments. For example in the level 70 bracket you gain about 6,000 experience for capturing a flag. This obviously is less at lower levels. You also gain experience for killing flag carriers and winning the battleground.
You should also note that you can queue up for a non-experience version of the battleground. To do so you talk to a different NPC named the Experience Eliminator found near the battlemasters. Once you pay him 10 gold you will no longer earn any experience. This allows you to "twink" and fight other players at your level without earning any experience and therefore leveling out of your desired bracket.
Getting into the Queue
All the major cities have a "Warsong Gulch Battlemaster." Talk to this NPC to get into the WSG queue, then go about your business. When a battleground opens up (it takes anywhere from a few minutes to an hour and more, depending on how many Alliance and Horde in your level range are running WSG), you'll be given the option to join. Note that if you don't accept in a few seconds' time, you can still join for a limited time by right clicking the faction symbol icon located around your minimap.
Also you can queue from anywhere in Azeroth by clicking your PvP button. This brings up the battleground queue tool. From here you can queue up for any battleground while questing, farming, grinding, or anything else you are up to. When the queue is ready, you get transported into the battleground, and when you are done you are returned to where you started. Talk about convienience! Just be sure to move to a safe location before entering the battleground, as you will be returned to your exact location upon completion.
When you enter the battleground, you'll have about 2 minutes to get organized before the raid begins. As players join the battleground they will automattically be added to the battleground raid group. You can type "/bg" to talk in the battle ground channel (or set the default chat channel to "bg").
This time should be used to iron out who's doing what, and casting any useful buffs on your teammates. Read on for some of the roles I've come across in Warsong Gulch (but note that things may be entirely different on your server... so use this guide as a springboard into your battleground experience only).
Communication is Key...
So whatever role you serve out, talk it up! Many hardcore PvP guilds have dedicated VoIP servers, which allow freeflowing voice communication between teammates. VoIP has one major limitation; unless everyone's listening, someone will always be left out of the loop. So if you're limited to the keyboard: here are a few commonly used terms, though the definition of these terms (and the terms used) may be different on your server.
Center, Left, Right - When the other team has your flag, messages that "he's going center" means that the flag is probably coming out of the center tunnel and going straight upfield. When your team has a flag, a cry of "go your right" probably means that hostiles are covering the left-to-center side from the flag runner's perspective. Any good instructions you can give your flag runner are always appreciated, as they're usually taking a pounding and are prone to tunnel vision. Also, calling "2 coming your left, D" lets the defense know to expect company on the raised platform in the flag room. Note that using cardinal directions (e.g. east, west, north, south - as per the map) takes the "your left or my left?" confusion out of the mix, but takes a little getting used to.
D - Defense - See below.
FR - Flag Room - As you might have guessed, the room where the flag appears. Note that you can't "carry" your own flag, only click it (when the "gear" cursor turns from gray to gold) to return it to its starting position.
GY - Graveyard - Players revive at the graveyard every thirty seconds. If your corpse is stripped of it's insignia, you may only revive at the graveyard. If you can't get a quick rez, it's usually wise to revive at the graveyard, as you'll come back to life with full health and mana (warlocks and hunters also revive with their pet).
Pushing - Your mid-field group may wish to "push" an enemy group to one side of the battlefield to clear a lane for the flag runner. Inexperienced players tend to rush pell-mell towards the biggest battle in sight, so you'll usually push toward the opposing graveyard to net some of the newly revived from the graveyard (and keep them out of the real action).
Trapping - If both flags are being run, your team must "trap" the flag, i.e. hide and defend it, until your flag is recovered. Hunters can track the flag, so keeping hunters in the revive queue should be a priority. Hunters are especially adept at trapping; they can set up traps around a hidden spot which, along with sicing the pet, allows them time to escape enemies (who usually search for a trapped flag in ones or twos). Trapping close to your flag room is a plus; you'll want to score the flag quickly when it's recovered. See below for some good hiding spots.
- Flag Carrier / Flag Runner / Offense - Fast and resilent classes (or class combos) make the best runners. These guys' job is to carry the opponent's flag back to the home base and score it, or trap it until their flag is retrieved. A badly wounded runner might do well to coordinate a drop with a teammate closeby, just make sure there's no enemies in clicking distance. Druids make awesome Flag runners since they can pop into different forms as required for speed or toughness, and still pop out and heal themselves if needed.
- Mid-Field - Just like in chess, whoever controls the middle of the board has a better chance of winning the game. Mid-fielders gang up on anyone trying to cross, keeping most of the enemy team busy, and provide fighting cover for flag runners. An effective and well-maintained screen at mid-field is really your best defense as it minimizes the chance of an all-out, sweeping assault on your flag room (which usually results in the opposing team leaving a long trail of your team's corpses along the field as they score).
- Defense - Some runners always seem to get through the mid-field screen, and it's a good idea to have a continuous presence in your flag room. Either preventing players from grabbing the flag, or retriving the flag from an opposing player. When a flag is dropped, click the flag to return it to your base (it's good to have someone watching the flag room to prevent a stealthed rogue from quickly and easily grabbing the returned flag)
Trapping the Flag
If both flags are "out" - and assuming your team can get the flag out of sight from your opponents (not a small task, considering that the flag leaves a slowly fading blue or red stripe as it travels) - you'll need to find a safespot where you can keep the flag until yours is retrieved. The less travelled (by either side), the better... inexperienced teammates might see you holding the flag and want to "help" by standing near you, possibly increasing your exposure (tell them to hide with you!).
Here are some of the best places I've found to hide the flag: 1) flattened against the wall just inside a doorway (most will run right past you without turning around), 2) nestled inside the small obstacles behind the graveyard, 3) on the opposite side of the upper terrace area, 4) flattened against the doorway wall inside the small outbuildings (use this one only in a pinch, the flag trail on any part of the mid-field stands out like a sore thumb, but you might be able to snag the heal icon buff when the enemy comes. You can cut down on your profile a smidge by sitting down.
While on offense your goal is to get the flag carrier to the enemy base and back to your base. This can mean that many times while on offense you are at your own base guarding the flag. Don't get field position mixed up with your role. While you are trying to score with the enemy flag you are on offense.
The key to a good offense is having a group able to move quickly and keep the flag runner alive. This means having at least a healer or two and some crowd control and DPS to keep the enemy off the flag runner. While many times the flag runner wants to hurry back to the base, you must ensure you stay grouped up, and not lead with the flag. Watch for openings across the field and make your way for them. Lead the group with some DPS to engage and destroy the opponent if they are alone.
Cround control such as fear and mass slowing effects can really help while trying to return a flag. This means hunters, frost mages, priests, warlocks, and warriors all make great assistants for the flag runner. Having 3 fear causing players with the flag runner can almost guarantee a free run across the field if they are timed correctly.
When first entering the enemy base it can be a good idea to send in a sacrificial player or two to occupy the enemy or move them away from the flag in a fient on the flag. As soon as they appear the enemy will chase them and become preoccupied. It doesn't always work, but many times a paladin and hunter or warrior can draw 3-4 enemy from the base while surviving and allowing the real flag carrier to get the flag. It is also nice to have some sort of CC placed on the path you are going to take out of the enemy base in preparation. This could be a shaman or hunter leading the way dropping traps or totems to slow the pursuers.
Once you have reached your base, the objective is to trap the flag (as above) until your defense can obtain your own flag back so that you can score. Once the flag is being held at your base, you can free some of the players up to help out on defense. Generally all that is needed to hold the enemy flag is a healer, DPS, CC, and the flag carrier. If a large push comes, you can always call for assistance.
While on defense your goal is to defend the flag and to get your flag back should the enemy capture it. This sometimes means that defense is in the enemy fortress. Don't get field position mixed up with your role. While you are trying to prevent the enemy from scoring you are on defense.
When starting on defense, your goal is to prevent the enemy from getting your flag, so you should use as much CC as possible to slow them down and prevent them from grabbing the flag. Make sure that if you are ranged or a healer you use the walls and LoS to your advantage, moving around throughout your base as required. Assuming that you eventually die and the enemy gets your flag, wait at the graveyard for any other players that died before running into combat again (unless you were the only death). This allows you to meet force with force, rather than walking into a fight outnumbered.
Once the enemy gets the flag and escapes from your base it becomes your job to track them down. Familiarize yourself with the enemy base and have a scout search out the flag carrier. Once the flag carrier is found, it is critical to do burst damage as fast as you can on either the flag carrier or thier healer, whichever is the easiest target. Many times this will be trial and error. If you have a big enough group you can usually DPS through heals, if not and it is a single healer, kill the healer first. Fear and CC also play a big role in killing the flag carrier, so if you can fear or CC the healer, do that instead. Either way, your goal is to drop the flag carrier fast enough that they dont have time to call for help.
Warsong Gulch still offers all the old PvP rewards, and there are the WSG Tokens that you earn from fighting in the Battleground. If you win, you gain 3 Warsong Gulch tokens, if you lose, 1 Token. These tokens are used in both the new PvP system to gain rewards such as potions and epic level items, as the old world "former" reputation rewards. You can also collect tokens from six of the different battlegrounds and turn them in for bonus honor as a repeatable quest offered in any major city, so even if you've outleveled the gear rewards from WSG or don't care to pick up any of the PvP reward ground mounts, the tokens can still come in handy for earning extra honor to be spent on a decent set of epic gear.
The honor you earn in WSG varies depending on how much you contribute to the fight, how long it goes on, and most importantly on whether you win or lose. On average though, you should count on a match running about 15 minutes long and granting roughly 300 honor to the winners and just under a 100 to the losers on top of any honor earned by completing various objectives in the battleground. If it's the WSG holiday weekend, you earn double the honor points in this battleground. Also, be sure to check with the Battlemaster in major cities to see which daily battleground quest is being offered. Simply winning the offered battleground will complete this daily and grant additional honor and arena points.
Lastly, if you are still not level capped, you can earn experience while fighting in Warsong Gulch. While it doesn't provide a ton of experience, it does add up over time. If you are bored with quests, and PVP is your thing, it is a viable option.