Storytime: Wintergrasp surprise party


Player versus Player content, or PvP for short, is something I always struggled to get into when I played World of Warcraft. Across the numerous years I hopped around Azeroth I joined an arena battle 3 times, only to be absolutely steamrolled within seconds. It was like signing up for EVO after just finishing the tutorial for a Blazblue game. The battlegrounds were a lot better, since even a confused newbie without proper gear can run around and capture territory or run a flag back to your base, and after a while I did get sort-of decent at fighting other players. Then there was World PvP.

World PvP was kind of neglected in the large scheme of things, at least in its intended form. Players could always battle it out when they ran into members of the other faction, but Blizzard tried to give it some form by creating objectives. In Vanilla the Eastern Plaguelands received towers that players could take over, providing buffs to members of their faction in the zone, and Blizzard tried to spice up the barren, abandoned region of Silithus by encouraging players to fight over resources there. The problem is that this just didn’t happen on any notable scale, since nobody wanted to go to Silithus and controlling the towers or not wasn’t that big of a deal either. The idea was revisited briefly in Hellfire Peninsula with more towers, much to the same effect. People just moved on from the region and PvP shifted back to arenas and battlegrounds.

Then Wrath of the Lich King came around and Blizzard tried to finally solve this issue by marrying the two concepts. Wintergrasp was an area in the very center of the new continent and its big feature was that players could always be there, regardless of whether or not a battle was currently raging. It wasn’t a leveling zone, but it spawned creatures that players could farm and housed the Vaults of Achavon raid that the victors of the previous battle could do for some easy loot, since the raid was notably easy for even the most under-geared, inexperienced raiders. This made it beneficial for everyone to control the zone and you could either fly in when the battle started to join up or queue for it like a battleground.

Wintergrasp map

The structure of the battle was really fun, since it was made for a variable amount of players and used the vehicles that were a big, new feature in the expansion pack. The defenders had to hold their fort while the attackers assaulted it and the surrounding towers with tanks and their infantry. Holding the towers provided buffs, encouraging the defenders to sally forth, and the zone was huge, allowing for a lot of maneuvers and tactics. Then, one day, we decided to try a tactic that Blizzard probably didn’t intend.

I was asked to join for a raid in the Vaults, except I knew for a fact that we didn’t hold the zone at the moment. The raid leader told me not to worry, passed me an invite, and asked me to meet up with him. Where exactly? Atop the mountains behind Icecrown Citadel. When I arrived there were two full raiding parties just sitting on this mountain range, mounted on whatever flying mounts they owned, and we were about to really tick off the Horde on our servers.

Northerend map.png

A flaw in the design of Wintergrasp is that those who queued up spawned in set locations, which for the defenders was just the fort, while those who flew into the zone started where they’d land. So when the timer started and the battle began, we flew into the zone from Icecrown. When on a flying mount, you got a timer that allowed you to either get out or go somewhere safe to land, since it wasn’t permitted to fly around during a battle. Except, this timer was lenient enough for us to fly down and place ourselves in the central courtyard of the fort we were meant to capture, allowing us to immediately siege the final objective while our Horde counterpart wasn’t even ready yet.

When the Horde players found out what was happening, they were immediately beleaguered by 50+ max-level players, all decently geared and buffed. This was, of course, a one-sided massacre, but serving to make this situation even more unfair was that the system to prevent this didn’t kick in. Wintergrasp provided a stacking buff called “Tenacity” to the faction with the fewest combatants, providing an all-around stat boost based on how outmatched you were. This was really broken, since you could sometimes be nearly alone in the zone and just go around killing everything in mere seconds. Because we flew into Wintergrasp rather than queue up for it, our players seemingly weren’t counted and the Horde was deemed to have an advantage instead. While tenacity eventually kicked in when the game recounted the number of players, it was too late to save the majority of our opponents and we ended up capturing the fort, again because we were already attacking it before the match formally started.

I honestly don’t know how common this tactic was or if Blizzard ever patched it out because I have never seen it employed before or after this one time. Either way, it stands as one of my fondest memories of playing WoW and definitely my favorite moment in PvP content, even if I feel a little guilty for it to this day.

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