Explaining the map
This here is a map of the Silvershard Mines battleground. Using the amazing power of MS Paint, I've highlighted some key areas for you for clarity. The red and the blue circles are the Alliance and Horde starting points; as ever, red is for the Horde and blue for the Alliance. These are both the holding rooms where you zone in and wait for the battleground to start and the graveyards you get sent back to when you die.
There are two tunnels from each room down to the black circle, the Central Depot. This is where all the mine carts spawn, fairly constantly, on one of the three rail tracks heading away from the black circle.
The four green circles are the capture points. Although it may look like there are three on the Horde side and only one on the Alliance side, it's really not that relevant, because either faction can capture carts at any of the capture points.
Last, the two yellow markers are the two crossroads. This is where players can choose to alter the direction of the mine carts. Capturing the crossroads causes the arrow to flip around and change direction, sending the cart where it's pointing.
And the three square things with white bits on them? Well, they're your carts. They're the key to this battleground, and when they're captured, they change color to either red or blue, depending on what faction holds them. Also notable are the two bridges either side of the northernmost crossroads. They're very skinny indeed, and prime territory for Thunderstorm and Typhoon use!
Playing the battleground
So how does it all happen? This shot, as you may be able to see, was taken while we were all still in the waiting room. The carts spawn all the time -- they don't just start to spawn when the battleground begins -- so if this battleground had begun at the very instant this screenshot was taken (it didn't), the Alliance could have swooped down from their start point and had an advantageous capture of the cart closest to the centre.
The carts spawn in turns on the three tracks leading away from the middle. Right now, it seems that they spawn on each track in a rotating pattern, so the northwesterly track gets a cart, then the southwesterly track, then the southeasterly track, the back to the northwesterly and so on. This may well change and may well just have been the pattern by chance while I was observing!
How do you capture a cart? Once the carts spawn, you need to capture them. This is done not by clicking with a capture timer like the flags in Arathi Basin but by fighting in proximity to the carts, like the towers in Eye of the Storm.
You can see in the above picture that this cart is held by the Horde. The red ring you can see the edge of denotes the area in which you have to fight to assert control over the cart. It works not so much based on deaths or damage but on the number of live bodies from either faction in the zone. I've copied the sliding scale from the area right under my map to show you; it wouldn't normally appear so close to the cart. You can see that the highlight is over the Horde end of the scale. If there were more Alliance than Horde in the zone, the slider would start to reposition itself toward the Alliance end until the cart changed hands.
You can also see the box at the end of the line in this screenshot. The cart will trundle slowly into there, and once the banner disappears from the top of the cart, it's safely captured by whichever faction owns it at the time of capture. Your team earns points for controlling carts over time, with a larger number of points for carts that land in the depot when under their control.
Crossroads Crossroads are a really interesting element in this fight. You can not only capture carts but also crossroads. Crossroads are captured in the more traditional way, with a timed capture, as you can see in the picture below. Again, the cast bar is copied from elsewhere on my screen.
Capturing a crossroads causes the arrow to switch directions. On this picture, the cart's arriving from the bottom left side; where it would have turned right, after I captured the crossroads, it would turn left. Capturing the crossroads did seem to award a small number of points, but holding the crossroads could be advantageous or disadvantageous, depending on who holds the cart approaching the crossroads.
Why's that? Well, changing the cart's direction on the crossroads will almost always send it on a track with a longer or a shorter distance to travel to the capture point. Go back up to the map and check out the northern crossroads, where this screenshot was taken. The Horde controlled the cart, and had it turned right, it would have had a long old way to go to a far-away capture point. However, I flipped the crossroad sign to turn it left, sending it on a far shorter route to a far closer capture point.
What should we take into consideration when trying to establish the best course of action in this battleground?
Time from spawn point to capture point This is clearly a vitally important element, and it's largely dictated by the spawn track of the carts. Two of the three tracks are influenced by crossroads, but the one that heads from the central point to the southwest isn't. I've employed my super-awesome MS Paint skills again to indicate the slower and faster routes from spawn point to capture point in a map below.
The red (southeast) is the fastest capture route, followed by the orange (southwest), the yellow (northeast), and the pale green (northwest), and then the darker green (northwest, turning northeast) is the slowest. The two black circles indicate crossroads. The red and yellow routes are on one spawn track, and the pale green and green are on another, with the orange one being the third. The dark green route seems to be influenced by the uphill direction of the track right now, making it even slower, but that could equally be my imagination!
What I am not sure of right now is whether you get more points for capturing a cart at a more distant capture point or whether it is simply that if you hold it for longer, you get more points over time. I'm also not entirely sure right now whether you'd be best advised to try to capture carts in quick succession on the red route or hold carts for longer on the green and yellow routes.
The orange route is sort of a safe middle ground -- and, importantly, it's not influenced by crossroads.
Areas to control
The most tactically vital crossroads from the perspective of travel time is the eastern crossroads. You can see that the difference in travel time between the red and the yellow routes is considerable. It's less the case that you always want it to send carts down the red route and more that you want to control which of the two routes the cart takes. So if the opposition has control of a cart, you might want to ensure it's taking the long route, giving your team more time to recapture it.
One tactic that seems to be currently used in beta is to control the central spawn point and pick off members of the opposite faction as they try to depart with carts. The controlling team essentially camps the opposition's graveyard, as the spawn paths run down into the central area, and sends individual players off with carts to ensure they are controlled for a sufficient period, while also maintaining a firm grip on the central zone.
This is a risky strategy, but with some classes outperforming others in the beta at the moment, it can work. It remains to be seen whether it will function come the live launch. It could also be mitigated by making carts that aren't actively controlled by players go back to neutral, meaning that the cart controllers have to accompany the cart to its destination.
All in all, this map's definitely gone up in my estimation for rated battleground purposes -- it's really interesting tactically -- but I fear it may become rather frustrating in random groups!
Do you want to capture flags, invade cities, attack towers, and dominate the enemy for your faction? Do you dream of riding your War Bear with pride? We'll steer you to victory with secrets of Battlegrounds and Arena, prepping you with proven addons and keybindings that win! Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.