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The Art of War(craft): Absolute beginners' guide to AV, part II

Zach Yonzon

Aside from cool titles and Achievements, what else is there for me?

If you're into large scale battles that won't lag you out, Alterac Valley is one of the most fun large scale PvP environments in the game. Alright, so maybe it's only one of three large scale PvP environments (the other two being the Isle of Conquest and the non-instanced Wintergrasp), but the snowy landscape of Alterac is usually where a lot of players get their first taste of PvP with an entire raid. It's a lot of fun, even back in the day when matches stretched out for so long that it was entirely possible to log out of the Battleground (and the game) and come back hours later and enter the very same match.

If fun isn't enough of an incentive for you -- and some people don't find the imbalanced map as fun -- there's quite a bunch of honor to be gained. At one point, Alterac Valley was the most profitable Battleground in those terms, eclipsing all others in terms of honor gained per hour. Changes to all Battlegrounds have evened things out some more so that all of them grant relatively equal amounts of honor. That said, Alterac Valley has an edge in that various objectives award bonus honor, such as killing Captains, burning down towers and bunkers, and rescuing Wing Commanders.

Honor gains aside, leveling players can also obtain relatively cheap items beginning at Level 55. Hunters (and other classes who can use ranged weapons) can actually purchase items as soon as they enter the Battleground at Level 51, as stacks of Ice Threaded Arrows and Bullets can be purchased for a mere 60 Silver and 1 honor. Other classes can pick up rare (blue) items such as belts and cloaks at Level 55 and epic (purple) weapons such as the Unstoppable Force or The Lobotomizer at Level 60. While no longer as great investments in the new, faster leveling environment of WoW, they're fairly decent items and should last players a while. Of course, there are also the cool Alterac Valley mounts that were once available only at exalted reputation, the Frostwolf Howler and Stormpike Battle Charger.

I'm convinced. Let's go!

Great! The minimum level for Alterac Valley is 51, which is a bit of a jump from Arathi Basin's minimum of 20, so leveling players will take a while before setting foot in the cold landscape.There are four level brackets for this Battleground after a change was applied in Patch 3.2.2:
  • 51-60
  • 61-69
  • 70-79
  • 80
Unlike most Battlegrounds where players on the lower end of the level spectrum can sometimes be dead weight, the large scale of Alterac Valley as well as other Battleground objectives allow lower level players to contribute to the battle in significant ways. Burning down or defending towers and bunkers, capturing graveyards and mines, and even turning in items looted from the field of battle to relevant quest givers can be done by players of any level inside Alterac Valley and provide advantages to varying degrees.

While it's still advisable to be of a higher level in order to perform better against opponents in combat, players can enjoy the Battleground because of its size and geographical features. Ranged classes, in particular, can easily find spots from which to snipe enemies with little fear of getting hit back.

Alright, this is a bit more complex than WSG or AB... help me out?

Don't worry about floundering around for a bit during your first few games. The map is large and can be a bit confusing for new players. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the landscape, particularly the locations and names of key points such as graveyards and bunkers/towers. Don't worry too much if you lose your way going to a place, and it's generally a good idea to follow the crowd for the first few games just to get into the flow of things.

To make matters a little more difficult, most players already familiar with the Battleground will abbreviate all objectives so it will take some getting used to. I'll list common abbreviations used in Alterac Valley below just so new players can get an idea of what to expect in Battleground chat:

Horde Locations and NPCs
  • Relief Hut - RH or Relief
  • East Tower or West Tower - sometimes called East, West only
  • Frostwolf Graveyard - FWGY
  • Tower Point - TP
  • Iceblood Tower - IBT or IB (sometimes confused with Icewing Bunker)
  • Iceblood Graveyard - IBGY or Iceblood
  • Captain Galvangar - Galv
  • Drek'thar - Drek
  • Rokholar the Ice Lord - Rok (rarely summoned)
Alliance Locations and Captain
  • Stormpike Aid Station - Aid or Aid Station
  • North Bunker - Sometimes called North or NB
  • South Bunker - Sometimes called South or SB
  • Stormpike Graveyard - SPGY
  • Icewing Bunker - IWB
  • Stonehearth Graveyard - SHGY
  • Stonehearth Bunker - SHB
  • Captain Balinda Stonehearth - Bal
  • Vanndar Stormpike - Vann
  • Ivus the Frost Lord - Ivus (rarely summoned)
Other abbreviations
  • Snowfall Graveyard - SFGY or SF
  • Field of Strife - FoS (hardly used as it's not a specific objective)
  • Starting points - The Cave (which spawned the term AFKavers)
It might seem a bit daunting to have to learn so many terms, specially after the simple Warsong and Arathi maps, but it gets easy after a few games. There are many specific strategies to win Alterac Valley, so we won't get into the specific ones but there are just some important things to remember while inside the Battleground. We can worry about specific strategies later.

Towers and bunkers are more important than Graveyards

This might be a controversial statement to make, but I say this because these structures can be destroyed permanently and directly affects the reinforcement count. A tower or bunker has a flag inside it which can be tagged through a 10-second channeled action. Once tagged, it will burn after two minutes. While some strategies involve yielding towers to the enemy to facilitate forward movement, it's never a bad idea to try and recapture towers to impede enemy progress.

Defend what you tag
Corollary to bunkers and towers being important, players should never leave what they tag. Just as with Arathi Basin, where it's a bad move to leave a flag unguarded, graveyards or bunkers and towers should be defended until they are captured or destroyed. Can you imagine how much of a setback it is to have a bunker with thirty or so seconds left on its timer get reclaimed by the enemy? Careless defense of tagged objectives often spells the difference in close matches.

Be useful

This might seem like a no-brainer, but there are unscrupulous and lazy players who tend to just 'soak' honor by entering Alterac Valley and not participating actively in the battle. In fact, this behavior led Blizzard to introduce the debuff that prevents players from gaining Honor while its on. Report players who exhibit suspicious behavior by being in odd areas of the map where there seems to be no activity by clicking on their 'dot' in the map and selecting 'Report Player AFK'. There are many ways for players to be useful in Alterac Valley, from defending nodes to capturing them, as well as good old-fashioned killing enemies.

On to Eye of the Storm!

Alterac Valley is most players' first taste of epic PvP encounters. While it takes a coordinated, concentrated effort to win efficiently in the Battleground, it's quite alright for beginners to feel their way around the map as there are many opportunities to be useful. So queue up, get some quests while you're at it -- those quests provide decent XP -- and cause a bit of mayhem! Next week, we'll take a look at the 15-player Eye of the Storm.

Zach attempts weekly to write about the Battlegrounds and world PvP in one crazy column. Since Lisa Poisso pointed out that a lot of players still need the absolute basics, he started off a series of basic BG guides starting with Warsong Gulch, followed by Arathi Basin.

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