Wintergrasp is the smallest zone in Northrend, bordered by Sholazar Basin, Icecrown, and Dragonblight. It is a PvP zone, which flags all players entering it for PvP. This isn't an issue on PvP servers, but on normal or RP servers, this makes everyone in the zone fair game. There is no physical way to access Wintergrasp other than through a flying mount, creating a natural Level barrier of 77 although lower-level players can be summoned or take the portal from Dalaran. It is my favorite zone in Wrath of the Lich King, although it isn't without its flaws.
To best understand how to play Wintergrasp, it's important to understand the zone itself. Wintergrasp Keep is the structure North of the map, with siege workshops and graveyards to the East and West, as well as further down South. There are three towers South of the map that currently have no strategic advantage but confer bonus Honor when destroyed or defended. The Horde permanently controls a graveyard and flight path on the Northwest side while the Alliance have a counterpart on the Northeast.
The Keep itself has four partitions, not including the main sanctum. There's a frontal courtyard, an inner courtyard, and East and West areas that house the defender's factories. Within the inner sanctum itself is the Titan Relic, a huge sphere that players must attune to their faction, a channeled 10-second action similar to capping the flag in Arathi Basin. A successful tag will win the game, but it won't be easy.
The Keep has destructible walls and towers, with four towers labeled the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest. The Southern towers flank the Wintergrasp Fortress Gate, which is also destructible. There are fourteen destructible, external fortress walls and about nine protecting the inner courtyard. The last line of defense is the sanctum's main door which, when broken through, exposes the Titan Relic for attunement.
Protecting the Keep are equally destructible cannons that spawn when the battle starts. Wintergrasp Keep has a total of about eighteen turrets protecting the outer walls and six more lining the inner fortress walls. These turrets have extremely long range and deal a ton of damage to players and siege vehicles. Players may only attack the turrets, and in order to damage the walls and towers, players will need siege vehicles.
In order to get siege vehicles, players must rank up by killing players of the opposing faction. Currently, two kills will grant the rank of Corporal, while ten kills will grant the First Lieutenant rank. According to the 3.0.8 Patch Notes, Corporal will now take five Honorable Kills, while the former two kills will grant the rank of Recruit instead. Players ranked Corporals or First Lieutenants can make their way to a vehicle workshop to build vehicles.
There are a total of six workshops throughout Wintergrasp. Two are situated inside the keep and cannot be captured, and four are outside, the East and West Workshops, and the Eastspark and Westspark Workshops, which are on the Southeastern and Southwestern part of the zone respectively. The workshops outside the keep can be captured and / or destroyed.
There are also towers apart from those lining Wintergrasp Keep, which belong to the faction on Offense. These towers have no apparent function other than to provide bonus 250 Honor at the end of a match, similar to how the towers in Alterac Valley confer bonus Honor. The Shadowsight Tower is to the Southwest, so named because it overlooks the Forest of Shadows; Winter's Edge Tower is directly South of the keep; and Flamewatch Tower is to the Southeast, overlooking the Cauldron of Flames. These towers are not capturable but can be destroyed.
Each faction has landing camps, permanent graveyards similar to the spawn points in Alterac Valley, and players on offense will only rezz there if their faction does not control any of Workshop graveyards, otherwise, they will rezz at the graveyard nearest to where they died. Porting into Wintergrasp while not in control of the zone will take players to these landing camps. These camps are directly behind workshops, making them vulnerable to control at the start of a battle. The landing camps also house the quest-giving NPCs when Wintergrasp is under enemy control.
Wintergrasp is a no-fly zone and players flying over it will be dismounted within 10 seconds, usually with a parachute but sometimes without, ending in disaster. There are no flight paths into the zone, but the faction-specific landing pads have direct flights leading out, for easy departure from the battlefield once a game is over. Both Alliance and Horde have direct routes to the River's Heart in Sholazar Basin, Crusader's Pinnacle in Icecrown, and Dalaran. The Warsong Landing Camp for the Horde also goes to Taunka'le Village in Borean Tundra and Agmar's Hammer in Dragonblight, while the Valiance Landing Camp of the Alliance leads to Fordragon Hold and Star's Rest, both in Dragonblight.
Wintergrasp is hands down the best place to farm Eternal Elements, which is one reason why control of the zone is valuable. Control of the zone grants Essence of Wintergrasp, a buff that allows players to see Revenants, greater elemental spirits that have a 100% chance to drop 1-3 Crystallized Elements. The elementals are found in their own distinct zones, such as the Forest of Shadows on the West side, where Shadow Revenants and Wandering Shadows reside. Below that on the Southwestern edge of the map is the Steppe of Life, a raised plateau that's home to Living Lashers, although there are no greater versions even when players control the zone.
On the Southeast, there's the Cauldron of Flames, a small but frequently camped zone where Flame Revenants and Raging Flames spawn. There's a long strip along the Southern edge of the map where Whispering Winds and Tempest Revenants abound, although there's an issue where the Tempest Revenants spawn in what's considered Dragonblight, making them despawn when engaged (players only see Revenants while in Wintergrasp). This should be fixed in Patch 3.0.8.
Glacial Spirits, Water Revenants, Chilled Earth Elementals, and Earthbound Revenants are fairly common throughout the zone, not restricted to any particular area but don't spawn where the other elementals do. The Chilled Quagmire and Glacial Falls to the East and West are rife with water elementals, making Crystallized Water the easiest to farm with little competition.
Vault of Archavon
One of the biggest reasons for controlling Wintergrasp, of course, is because it makes the Vault of Archavon available for a player's faction. The Vault is a 10- or 25-man raid instance located within the inner sanctum of the keep, where the Titan Relic is housed. It is accessible only by members of the controlling faction and only when there is no ongoing battle for control. The normal or 10-man version of Archavon the Stone Watcher drops pieces of 10-man Tier 7 or Hateful Gladiator gear, while the heroic or 25-man version drops 25-man Tier 7 or Deadly Gladiator items. Neither version drop head or shoulder pieces.
Wintergrasp is an excellent zone and definitely my favorite in Northrend, if not the entire game. Playing Wintergrasp is fun, especially with more players and the chaos of siege vehicles and exploding walls and towers. Now that we've familiarized ourselves with the zone, next time we'll dive right into the gameplay.