Patch 3.2 introduced a new 40-man raid Battleground, technically the biggest instance since old world Naxxramas. In Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, raid dungeons were cut down to 25-players and the two Battlegrounds since then, the Eye of the Storm and Strand of the Ancients, were limited to 15 players per side. Isle of Conquest sees the return of epic battles not seen since Alterac Valley. Well, okay, epic battles with less lag not seen since Wintergrasp, anyway. If you're just hit Level 80 or are curious about the new Battleground, here's a quick guide to help you out.
What's the deal?
There are essentially two ways to win the Battleground, identical to the new and improved Alterac Valley -- kill the enemy General or deplete the opposing team's Resources. The Horde forces are led by Overlord Agmar, the orc after whom the Horde base in Dragonblight is named, the leader of the Kor'kron Guard who looks like he's wearing Northrend greens or blues, at best. On the other team is High Commander Halford Wyrmbane, the leader of the 7th Legion and whom Alliance players will typically first encounter giving quests in Wintergarde Keep in Dragonblight. He isn't any better off than his rival, as he looks like he's in Sunwell epics. Cool, right? Alright, now let's figure out how to kill them.
The boss fights
Unfortunately for flavor but wonderfully for game balance, Agmar and Wyrmbane are identical in every way except one is green and grumpy while the other is prim, proper, and probably powders his nose. Both have about 800k health in the Level 80 bracket and have a few notable abilities. One is Dagger Throw, a ranged ability cast at a random raid member and has a DoT component. Another is Mortal Strike, so named as to not confuse anyone -- it hurts and creates a healing debuff. The last ability, also the coolest, is called Crushing Leap, where the boss concentrates for about two seconds before jumping into the air and slamming on the ground and knocking everyone back with a little damage.
Unlike the bosses in Alterac Valley, who generally have to be tanked by a proper tank, Agmar and Wyrmbane are designed to be mobbed. The Mortal Strike debuff and leap discourages tanking to begin with, and the boss' hall design is such that the main difficulty is getting enough raid members on the same floor. The idea is to engage them with enough numbers to minimize the impact of random strikes and just DPS away. This is why it's also important to break down the walls so that allies can keep going into the keep. In short, mob the boss, DPS and heal, profit. I know, kind of brainless, but it keeps the games short and sweet.
Although it is significantly faster to kill the opposing general, another thing that can end the game is Resources. Each faction starts off with 300 and whittles down with every player death. Unfortunately, the capture of certain points of interest in the game will also add to the resources, slowing down that avenue for ending the match. The two locations on the map that confer resources are the Quarry and the Oil Refinery, and controlling both at the end of a winning match will also unlock the Resource Glut Achievement. Additionally, control of either location will grant Honor at a steady stream, increasing the incentive to capture them.
There are three other locations in the game that should be of interest to players, and each one provides a different benefit to gameplay. These are the Docks, the Hangar, and the Workshop. The Docks are located West of the map and gives players access to Glaive Throwers, anti-personnel vehicles that also deal significant siege damage. Control of this location also allows players to resurrect from the nearby graveyard. The Workshops give players access to Demolishers and a Siege Engine, identical to the ones found in Wintergrasp, as well as a graveyard roughly in the center of the map. The last location grants the most interesting twist to the game, as control of the Hangar gives players the ability to parachute from an airship that circulates on a rail above the enemy keep. As with the other two locations, the hangar also grants a graveyard to the controlling faction.
While each location grants various ways to penetrate the enemy keep, there is no one location that gives an unfair advantage. The Hangar was initially perceived as the "must" capture location but all it really does is allow players access to Huge Seaforium Bombs inside the keep. Until the gates are broken through, the airship isn't a reliable method of getting players to stream inside the keep. However, for players who enjoy the thrill of actual fighting, dropping from an airship right into enemy territory is the best way to get the most PvP in this Battleground. Control of the Docks and Workshop both provide traditional, reliable means to break into the keep. It works in Wintergrasp, and it works just as well here.
How to win
Break the walls down and rush the general. It's really just that simple. If you use the airship to drop in, grab a Huge Seaforium Bomb and damage a gate, preferably the one in the center. If you control either the Docks or the Workshop, focus the use of vehicles on breaking the gates down. While the Glaive Thrower is an excellent anti-personnel vehicle and the Achievement Glaive Grave actually encourages its use against other players, focusing on the keep will deliver the fastest results. The faster the gates go down, the easier it will be to get most of the raid into the general's room and give him a smackdown.
This makes it important to capture the flag inside the keep courtyard, as it allows players to resurrect inside the enemy base, making it easier to keep rushing the boss. There's really not much to it, except that it takes some coordination to keep all relevant locations under the proper control. Once the gates are broken, for example, none of the three strategic locations actually matter except for graveyard proximity. Most games will bog down when the team disperses -- through enemy defense, deaths, or simple distractions elsewhere -- after the gates have been broken through.
Unlike Alterac Valley where there can be a back-and-forth movement among towers, bunkers, and graveyards, the most movement important in Isle of Conquest is forward. In the Horde's case, it's towards the South and for the Alliance it's Northward. I mention this because Isle of Conquest is significantly the first Battleground map where the Horde base is located in the North. That doesn't actually have any strategic implication, I just threw it in there because it's a nice little factoid.
Isle of Conquest is fun and fast for a 40-man raid Battleground. Although even with the number of players, it doesn't feel as epic as Alterac Valley or Wintergrasp simply because the map is large and players can be dispersed all over rather easily. Unlike Alterac Valley where the narrow map and chokepoints sometimes force epic encounters, Isle of Conquest is so expansive that PvP can sometimes be minimal. That said, there's enough opportunity for player combat if one looks for it, with ample encounters at the key locations and inside the keep itself. Now open up that 'H' tab and sign up. We need players to fill the queue.