I am a veteran of Wintergrasp.
I can prove it.
I have the achievement.
I even got the achievement yesterday, on Veterans Day, so it double special I guess.
So I must be an expert on Wintergrasp, right?
Hrmm… maybe not.
I’ve certainly figured out the mechanics of it. But I am not much for WoW battlegrounds generally, and on the ground in PvP I die. A lot.
At least when I am out there with my paladin. You have to get up close and personal with a pally, into the middle of the fray, and that attracts attention. A die a lot less with my hunter who can stay back and engage targets that are already trying to kill the pallys… and the rogues. Must kill rogues.
But Wintergrasp has vehicles and guns. I do much better with heavy ranged weapons.
And Wintergrasp has a simple goal.
Well, okay, it is not like capture the flag is game with a complicated system of goals, but this is even more simple, in my reckoning of things.
In Wintergrasp, your team has a single, overriding mission. Your faction either holds the Wintergrasp fortress, in which case you need to defend it, or your faction does not hold it, in which case it needs to break in and take it.
When I first started playing Wintergrasp, about a year ago, offense was king. The side that held the fortress lost almost every time. Winning on the defense was a rare thing.
At least on my server.
Unlike other battlegrounds, Wintergrasp is populated only from your own server, which is good in that you see some of the same people and you get to know them, but which also means that if your server has a population skewed towards one faction, things can be tough for the smaller side. (Plus, if there is some guy who thinks it is funny to share odd quests when somebody asks the raid to “share quests,” you’ll keep running into him again and again.)
At peak hours, like on a Saturday afternoon, all 240 (not 100 as some have reported) slots in the battleground fill up and the teams are equal. At 7am on a Thursday morning though, things can be something of a toss up. The larger population doesn’t get favored all the time, and there are quality versus quantity issues all the time.
My own server was split about 60/40 in favor of alliance the last time I looked at population stats. But for ages the horde held its own even at off hours.
And then something odd started happening.
On the alliance, we had one strategy for offense: Pound our way through the front door. And it worked almost every time.
The match would start, we would take the Sunken Ring, then run off to the front gate of the fortress, with a small group peeling off to defend the towers. Massed in front of the fortress, the horde players would come out to engage us. Eventually people would get enough kills to start getting siege engines. Those siege engines would start pounding the front gate. Then once that was down, the inner gate. Then, finally the gate to the hold itself. Once that was down, we’d run in and that was that.
Hey diddle-diddle, straight up the middle
It is a bloody, Civil War-like strategy. You can call it zerging if you like, but it follows a clear doctrine of concentration of force. And it works.
It can be countered with discipline.
Probably the most epic defeat I’ve seen was the one time the horde just decided not to leave the fortress and we all stood there watching the clock tick down with nobody to kill.
No kills, no siege engines.
No siege engines, no victory.
A couple of people managed to get enough kills for siege engines, but when they headed to the front gate, the horde popped up, concentrated fire on them, then fell back. It was simply awesome in its ability to stymie our attack. They won, running the clock down the full 30 minutes.
The horde, likewise, had their own “always works” attack. They just preferred to come in one of the side doors. They would show up in force, pile on, and keep piling on until they pounded their way to victory.
Horde - Secret Plan A
Sometimes, they would change things up a bit.
Horde - Secret Plan B
In general, the concentrated push was the accepted strategy.
This was the way of the world for a while, and I was always cheered when we were on offense, because I could smell a victory, and annoyed when we were on defense, as we would always fall apart.
Then the horde on our server lost focus, almost literally.
I will use yesterday morning’s battle as an example.
Alliance was on defense, but the horde seemed to have regained some sense. Five siege engines came in a pack from Sunken Ring to the north east wall. Defenders hammered them, but they blew through the outer wall, destroying all the defending guns along the way, and had started breaking down the inner wall to the courtyard before the last siege engine was destroyed.
Another attack like that, or maybe two at most, and they would win. We had too may people out tackling the towers. We started covering that hole in the wall waiting for the next assault.
Vikund covering the first breach
But the next attack came from the other side. It too broke down an outer wall before being broken.
Then they hit the front door.
Then they hit the east side of the front courtyard.
There were four holes in our outer walls before the horde decided that, just maybe, they didn’t need to bore through a fresh stretch of outer wall with each assault.
They finally came on through one of the holes they had made with a lot of players on the ground in support. They broke into the inner courtyard and the last siege engine in that wave was killed on the steps of the citadel, having already damaged that last door.
The next wave was coming. The 30 minute clock had just dropped below the 10 minute mark. There was still the western tower to be taken down by our side.
And as that wave came in, there was a fierce battle at the line to the inner courtyard. Two siege engines trundled through and were half way across the courtyard when the alliance team out in the field destroyed the western tower, the last of the three we needed. Destroying all three towers takes 10 minutes off of the game clock. Since there were less than 10 minutes left, victory went to the alliance.
It was one of those near run things when you feel the end is nigh, but you keep on fighting and victory finds you against the odds. We won.
But really, we shouldn’t have won.
The horde on our server now seems to follow an attack plan that often looks something like this.
Horde - Secret Plan Z
I have been in battles where they have knocked down 5 or more of the outer wall panels, but the inner courtyard walls are still intact.
This strategy has lead to a record of battles like this:
Keep captured is always off by one, so keep defended is the key indicator of success.
The horde, in this time frame, defended the keep successfully 97 times, while the alliance managed it 1,660 times. So there is essentially a 17:1 ratio favoring the alliance right now on keep defense.
But it did not used to be that unbalanced. And the horde seems to run that same “outer wall of Swiss cheese” strategy on both full, prime time games as well as during off-hour lightly staffed runs.
And the only way I can explain it is that somehow the horde on our server have lost their strategic sense.
Now, while I play Wintergrasp a couple of times a week, I am no expert, achievement or not. And there have been big gaps in my play. I skipped most of the summer, for example. So I have to wonder if something else changed that might have had an effect on play.
How does Wintergrasp run on your server?
Do you see ratios out of whack like that?