Wednesday, July 2, 2008

2.4 Alterac Valley Strategy Guide

I wrote an article back in February called “The Truths about Alterac Valley” in which I wrote about that:
  • Faction and map imbalance means nothing in the face of good communication.
  • Helping the team win is simply about being in the right place at the right time.
  • You need to be well-geared to pwn face, but not to help your team win.
  • He who contributes most is not the one at the top of the damage or killing blow chart.
  • If you work at winning by communicating and not acting like a sheep, then you will win more games than not.
Twenty-five of your 40 players are sheep and run around on auto-pilot doing whatever everyone else is doing. 5 are AFK in the cave. The other 10 are the Difference Makers. These Difference Makers are the ones who win the AV for you. This article is about teaching YOU to be a difference maker.

The best strategy and map imbalance
Map Imbalance exists for each faction. There are advantages and disadvantages caused by the terrain for both sides. The best strategies take advantage of the imbalances that are in your favor and utilize them as strengths. Since the strengths are different for each faction, it makes sense that the best strategy for each faction would be different. For a detailed explanation of the map imbalances, read my earlier entry on “Truths about AV”.

The strategies I am going to recommend below are all winning strategies in PuGs. While I believe there is a BEST strategy, it’s less important that it be used than it is to simply get everyone to agree to follow the same strategy. You can play a part in this discussion early on by lending your support in BG chat when someone steps up with a winning plan. Some strategies are NOT winning strategies or simply require more coordination than is possible in a PuG. Do NOT endorse these strategies. The point is to help get consensus and make sure all the sheep do something useful. Endorsing a winning strategy in chat and shutting down the inevitable “we tried it that way last time and lost” crap will dramatically increase your odds of winning.

Difference Makers adapt to the strategy of the group and the strategy of the enemy. Remember that helping the team win is simply about being in the right place at the right time. It’s important for you to recognize where the sheep are headed and what they are doing. Then you go fill in the gap wherever the team is weakest. Keep in mind that it takes a good 5 minutes to run from one end of the map to the other, so you need to try and think that far ahead. It doesn’t do much good to run all the way to the other side to help kill the General when your General will be dead in 3 or 4 minutes.

Tactical objectives
An Alterac Valley match is won or lost when a team is reduced to zero reinforcements or a Faction General is killed. Here are the things that impact reinforcements and honor since Patch 2.3.
  • Faction General (Van or Drek) killed:
    -600 reinforcements (guaranteed loss), (+84 honor for enemy)
  • Faction Captain (Bal or Galv) killed:
    -100 reinforcements, -42 honor (+63 honor for enemy)
  • Any Tower/Bunker destroyed:
    -75 reinforcements, -42 honor (+63 honor for enemy), a Warmaster (or Marshall) disappears
  • Each player killed:
    -1 reinforcements, (+20.9 shared honor for enemy)
  • Wing Commander rescued:
    +21 honor if he returns to base
  • Control of a Mine:
    +1 reinforcement every 45 seconds
One popular misconception is that graveyards yield honor and reinforcements. They do not. Only towers, the captain, enemy players and mines impact the reinforcement total. The combined total of all four towers and the captain is 400 reinforcements. This means that a minimum of 200 enemy player deaths is required in order to win through reinforcements alone. Failing to cap a tower means an additional 75 kills are needed. It takes over 28 minutes of controlling two mines to equal the same value of one tower.

The importance of knowledge
I strongly encourage you to download and use an addon that provides timers on key Alterac Valley events. The one I use is called Capping, but there are plenty of others that do something similar. This is critical because it’s absolutely essential that you know what has been capped and how much time is left in order to prioritize where you will assist. It takes 10 seconds to cap, so trying to cap with less time than that is a waste of effort. As I wrote earlier, if there is 50 seconds left on something that is 41 or more seconds away – then it is pointless to go running after it.

Towers are the key to winning Alterac Valley. They are worth 75 reinforcements AND a Marshall (or Warmaster) waiting inside with your General. These NPCs increase each other's maximum health and maximum damage by 25%. It also stacks, so each NPC left alive dramatically increases the difficulty. It’s actually not too difficult to take out the General with three destroyed towers but damn near impossible with only two. In other words, keeping two towers defended virtually guarantees that you won’t lose because your General is killed. To underscore that point, I have only ever lost ONE match when we had two towers.

Alliance Strategy
The Alliance have two areas of strength in AV. The first is that the Stormpike base is very easily defended. The second is that most Horde chokepoints can be skipped. The result is that Alliance have an easier time simply running down the map, capping objectives and then getting inside the base than the Horde. If both sides go “all offense” the Alliance hold a significant advantage.

Everyone rush Frostwolf: The everyone rush Frostwolf strategy plays to the strength that Alliance can take and hold the Relief Hut with 10-15 players. It is a sound strategy, but only works well if Frostwolf is lightly defended or one very large group all goes together. It also absolutely requires that you get at least one of the two towers in the MIDDLE. As mentioned above, you can kill the General with three down but not two – so you need either Iceblood or Tower Point to cap in order to win. If a large group does head down to FW, then your role as a Difference Maker is to help cap and defend one of those two middle towers. If TP and IBT are both very well defended by your team, then join the group rushing FW Towers. It is actually quite helpful to take the Relief Hut first, then the FW Graveyard to keep the number of Horde able to rez at the Relief Hut as low as possible. I can’t stress how important it is to “go as a group” with people if the archers are still alive in the FW towers. If you go alone, one Horde hunter or rogue in greens can kill you while the towers rain down death. There is also a small gap on the right that you can take to run around the tower. This helps you avoid the choke in the middle and the towers have no LOS to attack you.

Recap Icewing Bunker/Stonehearth GY: The idea here is that the Alliance offense is encountering little resistance because the entire Horde team is off rushing to Stormpike. In a straight “rush to general” match, the Alliance have a decided advantage. Your role as a Difference Maker is to guarantee the win by recapping the middle two bunkers. Once the Horde have passed Icewing Bunker, head back to Stonehearth Graveyard and recap it. If you die, you will now rez close to a bunker. Next, head towards either Icewing or Stonehearth bunker and recap it. Keep in mind things like the number of other people helping you, number of defenders and time left on the bunker. Ideally, you want to recap both. Now – it doesn’t matter that you hold it, so much as it matters that you reset the time for the Horde to destroy it. You can be very effective just going back/forth between bunkers. In most cases, the Horde will often not have enough forces in the middle to take back a bunker once it’s been recapped.

Defend the Bridge: The best single chokepoint in the entire game is the Bridge of Death. In pre-2.3 games, this Bridge was the single biggest thorn in the side of the Horde. 15 Alliance defending this one location can hold off twice that number of Horde as long as the tower archers remain alive. If you are Hunter, you are super useful here in tossing down traps and flares. Now – the problem with the bridge strategy as it exists today is that it absolutely requires that you take out two enemy towers and Galv. If your entire team is on Defense, then you have already lost Icewing and Stonehearth. If you haven’t taken any enemy towers, then you are down 150 in reinforcements and need 150 more kills just to catch up. Chances are that if you are defending like this, your team is behind in kills not 150 above it. Your role as a Difference Maker is to get the hell out of there and cap a tower, preferably at least two. However, if your offense is doing quite well, then it might be a lot more useful to add your weight behind the handful of defenders at the bridge. Don’t let people take towers and make them fight ON the bridge as much as possible. It’s worth pointing out that if you have lots of defenders, this is a much more successful defensive strategy than recapping Icewing.

Skip Galv, Take Iceblood: This strategy is based on the idea that Galv is a low priority target that can be killed after you have established control of Iceblood GY, Iceblood Tower and Tower Point. This is a good strategy in the sense that Iceblood is one of the Horde’s two best chokepoints. Your role as a Decision Maker in this strategy is going to be to lend support to taking these objectives and then making sure they stay capped. Many of the sheep on your team are going to go after Galv regardless, so your help here will likely be needed. Be prepared that the Horde are going to fight you tooth and nail at Frostwolf. If your offense starts meeting quite a bit of resistance, you might want to recap some towers in the middle or recall to defend the Bridge and slow the Horde offense. Taking Iceblood early works because it helps secure the middle and pushes the Horde back to FW Graveyard.

The Turtle: A crushing blow at the hands of the Horde defense has the effect of sending your entire offense back to Stormpike. When this happens, it’s imperative that you get back to Stonehearth and recap the middle towers. The odds are good that this will become a Turtle and defending those middle objectives is the difference between a slow loss and a slow win. You are almost forced to take back Stonehearth GY and a battle line will be drawn around Icewing Bunker. Once this turtle settles into the Icewing area, you should break away from everyone else and help establish a new forward base. If you can’t stealth, then the most likely and easy to get candidate will be Frostwolf GY. If you and one or two others can manage to stealth into one of the FW towers, you might be able to cap one or both from behind while most of the Horde is off fighting the Turtle. Believe it or not, the Alliance having Snowfall GY during a turtle like this actually favors the Horde. They didn’t really want to Turtle you, just knock you back. Letting you have Snowfall relieves pressure from the chokepoint at Icewing but is still far enough out of the way that it doesn’t really provide much advantage.

The Reverse Turtle: This strategy is almost a combination of two strategies: Take Iceblood and Defend Icewing. No one really plans this strategy, it just develops because the offense stalls. The idea being that defense will defend Stonehearth and Balinda, then recap Icewing and Stonehearth bunkers. Meanwhile, your offense controls the Iceblood GY and two nearby Horde towers (IBT and TP). The result is that all of the Horde will pop up around FW Graveyard and be bottlenecked at IB GY. The group that recapped Icewing/Stonehearth can now move down to kill Galv (if he’s still alive). When that is done, they will bottleneck the IB GY and the rest of the Alliance will push down. Stealth classes (rogues/druids) should push into the towers while the rest of the offense keeps the now countless Horde occupied. This is a war of attrition. Your role as a difference maker will most likely be in defending the towers at IBT and TP since these will undoubtedly come under heavy fire by the Horde rezzing at FW GY. One way to relieve the pressure of this reverse turtle is to allow Iceblood GY to get recapped by the Horde once you have enough towers down to defeat Drek. Defenders will be pushed north as they rez but will have insufficient time to cap towers and kill Van.

Horde Strategy
The advantage for the Horde is that they have an easier time defending the four middle towers. The Horde are given Stonehearth Graveyard with little to no contest almost by default. Any Alliance killed early on are sent all the way back to Stormpike and have to wait 4 minutes for Snowfall to cap. Horde almost always have Iceblood Graveyard until Galv and Iceblood Tower are both capped. The net effect of having a GY near the towers gives the Horde a decided advantage in capping and re-capping the middle four towers. When you also consider that the people sent to Stormpike are also plagued by the incoming Horde, then it becomes that much more difficult for Alliance to counter-attack the middle. It’s also worth noting that while the Frostwolf Towers are not as good a chokepoint as the Bride of Death, it is still a very powerful chokepoint and even 5 defenders can easily take groups that don’t rush in together.

Everyone rush Stormpike Graveyard: As mentioned previously, if both sides go “all offense” the Alliance hold a significant advantage. This a very popular strategy that fails far more often than it wins. The reason is simply that the Horde have more obstacles and NPCs to overcome in taking the towers. Think of it this way – Alliance can run up a tower, skip archers and cap the flag. In two of the bunkers, the Horde must first kill or occupy at least one archer in order to cap the tower flag. Also since bunker archers can shoot you inside the room, it takes less Alliance to guard one of these bunkers. In addition, every time an Alliance dies early in the game they go back to Stormpike Aid Station and you’ll face them as you cross the bridge. So if the Horde offer no defense at all, they are most assuredly going to go lose any “race” to cap the North and South Bunkers before the Alliance caps the two Frostwolf Towers. The best thing you can do as a Difference Maker is therefore to slow the Alliance down using one of the below defensive strategies.

Everyone rush the Aid Station: This is marginally better than the Stormpike Graveyard strategy because the Alliance respawns end up on the wrong side of the Bridge of Death. However, it requires a very coordinated group to pull it off and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a party of friends with you to help. To do this effectively, you need to avoid Alliance follow a very specific route that minimizes the traffic you might encounter. As you rush forward and reach Icewing Bunker, veer RIGHT through the TREES instead of going downhill following the road. Instead, of taking the road, you will go up a narrow gully in the mountains and come out right next to the shed where you find Jeztor. From here, you can go straight along the high road that leads to the Alliance cave. Then ride past the fallen log above the Stormpike spawn point and towards the mine. You’ll come out behind the Graveyard flag and can run past the choke to the bridge. Once across, veer LEFT around the backside of the South Bunker to LOS yourself from the archers. Then head straight from the backside directly to the Aid Station flag. Done correctly and you’ll take only a few shots from the Archers and not aggro a single NPC. If five of you do it, then you will most assuredly cap the Aid Station and can then proceed to cap the North and South Bunkers. At no point should you fight on the road or fight on the bridge. Only fight on flags. If your offense is non-existent or struggling, this is the best way to get an offense going or simply bust past an Alliance Turtle.

Defense meet at Galv: Back in the days before Burning Crusade, one of the best ways to beat the Alliance was to defend Galv. Unlike Balinda, Galv is easily defended because he needs a proper tank. Kill or CC the tank or tanks and then watch the other team crumble. Even so, he’s still much easier to kill than the Generals, so at least 10 people are needed here in order to ensure that the Alliance will be defeated. The thing about a Galv victory is that it decimates the Alliance offense and sends them all back to Stormpike. As long as the Horde don’t recap Snowfall, you can cap the middle Bunkers and keep all four of their Towers. Once Snowfall does cap, this relieves the Turtle and it’s up to the Horde offense to make a strong push for the North and South Bunkers. The danger in this strategy is that the part of the Alliance skip Galv and take Iceblood Graveyard or that the Horde offense get badly defeated by the returning Alliance. It’s quite possible for this to slow the game down overall, but not slow down the outcome when the Alliance come back and recap all the objectives around Stonehearth. This strategy is pretty unpredictable and can result in anything from an Alliance shutout to a long drawn out Horde loss.

Defend Frostwolf: No, not the Graveyard. Not the Relief Hut, either. The Frostwolf Towers. As I noted above, the Horde don’t have a chokepoint like the Bridge, but they DO have a pretty powerful choke at Frostwolf Towers. There is basically what amounts to a killing zone between the two towers in which all the Tower archers can rain down a bunch of pain on the Alliance. Anyone foolhardy enough to ride through by themselves is quickly killed if they are slowed or stunned in any way. Large groups riding through should be slowed in mass (Hunters!) and specific targets like healers and cloth types should be singled out for stuns or other loss of control abilities that don’t break with damage. A team of 4 or 5 can dispatch 15 Alliance that come through in smaller groups at short 45-90 second intervals. Now, the killing zone is the hotspot, but you absolutely have to make sure that no one caps the towers or the Relief Hut. Fight as much as you can beneath the towers and actively target anyone trying to enter. The same group of 4 or 5 can get spread out trying to take back objectives, so stick together as much as possible. The biggest danger are stealth classes ninja’ing something and spreading out your small group of defenders. It’s not real important that Frostwolf Graveyard is controlled as a spawn point, but it IS important that the Alliance don’t cap it 100%. The reason is that once FW GY caps, the defenders are going to see significantly more pressure as large groups come at them spaced in 30 second intervals. As a current Horde player, participating as a Frostwolf defender is one of my favorite place to be because even a small number of people there can make a big difference. You also chalk up a ton of Honorable Kills in the process as the Alliance pound themselves against a wall of swords. The frustrating part about your role here is twofold. The first fold is that if the Offense stalls, then this match becomes the Reverse Turtle described above under Alliance strategies. And if you are killing lots of Alliance at Frostwolf early then your Offense gets to fight all of them at Stormpike. The second thing is that you are just giving up on Tower Point and Iceblood, so if you fail at Frostwolf then you are going to lose.

Recap the Middle: This is the strongest defensive strategy that has the least probability of developing into any form of Alliance or Horde turtle. The basic idea the defense helps the offense achieve some of the middle objectives (like killing Balinda and capping Stonehearth Graveyard) and then reforms as they retake Iceblood Graveyard, Iceblood Tower and Tower Point. The goal is that the Alliance offense has largely moved past those objectives and onto Frostwolf. The critical thing here is that you MUST take back two towers. Only taking back one tower is not going to be enough to keep the Alliance from killing Drek. It’s not 100% important that you maintain control of them, just that you can keep recapping them as needed. A group of 5 moving back and forth from Tower Point to Iceblood Tower can stall the Alliance for quite a while, particularly if there are one or two back with Drek causing interference. If your recap group is particularly strong (possibly because the Offense got decimated) then the whole group might have a lot of success heading back down and retaking Frostwolf. It’s also worth pointing out that an alternate strategy is to FIRST try to defend Frostwolf and then recap middle if you get overrun.


Anonymous said...

Hey, nice write up of the possible strategies. Have been back in AV after 6 months of raiding and for two nights straight horde lost every single game. Before we used to have a good defense but now you don't find one person willing to do it and most of them call you noob whenever you suggest to defend something.

sid67 said...

Thanks. That’s a big reason I was prompted to write the article. I always hear people say how they don’t win AV matches when I won all the time. After thinking about it for a bit, I started to wonder how big a difference I was actually making to the matches. It’s hard to imagine that one person makes that big a difference when there are 80 people playing, but then I realized how often I was in the right place and how many times I had helped tip the scale at critical moments. Then I thought about how many people just fight in the silliest places and l realized that I really DID make that big a difference. There are lots of things outside your control and you are not going to have a perfect match every time. But you can control what you do by working hard and playing smart. This whole guide is intended to be advice as to what you should do to help the team win despite everyone else doing whatever the hell they want to do.

Gorbaz said...

Excellent writeup. I was in the process of doing this myself, and found your guide while researching basic facts.

It's truly amazing the absolute basement level quality of AV players in the past six months. Hopefully some will find your guide, and learn to play.

You've covered everything, and are precisely correct in every respect. I've tried to say everything you've said here, a thousand times, during AV contests.

Good job!