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Apparently it’s PvP week, here at Aggro Management. You had to know it was coming – my last two posts were largely positive, cheerful things, but as much as I am actually enjoying PvP (God, it feels so wrong to say it…) and rediscovering a class I’ve played for years, the more familiar I get with the game (specifically Warsong Gulch) the more annoyed I become at a few trends I’m just not understanding.

Should any of the following actually make sense to you, please do explain it. Some of it I’m pretty sure is just the standard PuG hazards. Other pieces may actually have some kind of reasoning behind them that I’m just not familiar enough with the game to get.

So, without further adieu, I present: Shit That Makes No Sense

Part 1. Pavlov’s PuG

Allow me to paint you a picture of the start of every. Single. Game.

You hit “Enter Battleground” when the message pops up and are promptly assaulted by the sight of an Alliance banner blocking your view of everything because you messed up your camera for Malygos back in the day and you can’t seem to un-mess it up. You titch to the side while Pitbull tries to decide if you’re a raid or a party. Approximately half of your group is num-locking into the doors, frothing at the mouth to get out there and die as quickly and uselessly as possible. The other half is not content to simply buff everyone for no mana – they have to spam every single spell they have. Someone’s using tranquility. Every mage in the room is Blizzarding. The pally is running around and consecrating everyone. Anyone who can’t cast a spell is jumping up and down and back and forth.

When the horn blows and the gates go up, for no reason that you can discern, the entire raid group pours out the door, mounts, and tears off through the graveyard and on their way across the midfield. “Okay,” you say awkwardly, “I guess I’ll go defence.”

You watch with a morbid fascination on the little map in the corner of your screen as what started as a blob of dots representing your allies inexplicably begins to fray at the edges, drawing out, splitting up, leaving pieces behind. There are dots all over the midfield now, each by itself, and maybe 4-6 left to go try to get the flag. That’s fine. That should be plenty. You know that for a fact, because at least five Horde have just come tearing up the alliance tunnel and are moving for the flag.

You grind your teeth as one of your team members managed to grab the Horde flag and charge the huge-ass, plate-wearing tauren aiming for your own. “For the Alliance!” you think, not without a tinge of bitterness, because your supposed allies have basically left you to try to defend the flag against five freaking level X9 tauren.

You can watch the rest from the graveyard, waiting for your rez. The Horde grabs the flag and heads out down the tunnel. The party guarding the Horde flag carrier will inevitably meet the Alliance flag carrier on their way back from the Horde base, now hopelessly whittled down to, at most, three people. Whatever Horde they managed to kill in the flag room have since rezzed at the graveyard and are now tumbling down over that cliff like a waterfall of death.

The alliance flag carrier gets sandwiched between the two halves of the Horde group, screaming obscenities at his own team as he dies. Some guy named Allysuck returns the Horde flag to its base. Fifteen seconds later some guy named Heresbeef caps the Alliance flag.

Part 2. The Part Where we Don’t Fix Anything

This makes the score 0-1 for the Horde, but there’s still 20 minutes left to the game and plenty of time to realize the mistakes of our past, organize ourselves, and actually, you know, win. Instead, the Alliance will do one of the following:


  • Abruptly lose all hope of winning because it is very obviously impossible and there is very obviously nothing we could have done differently. Half of them ditch immediately, leaving the battleground and a cloud of vitriol and hate in the chat in their wake. The other half decide the mid-field is a really good place to stay, and stay there for the rest of the fight, perhaps figuring since the entire group is obviously composed of retards and we’re never going to cap anyway, they’ll just farm HKs for the rest of the match – by which I mean give HKs to the vastly more organized, less defeatist Horde.
  • Do the exact same thing as we did last time, only now it works even worse, because we all died at different times and the concept of waiting to group up is apparently a foolish, foolish idea that would guarantee our deaths. So we just sort of…attack the horde base on a one-by-one basis. Three people will take the Horde flag and die two steps later within the space of as many seconds. In the meantime, the Horde have had time to confirm that yes, we are in fact a standard Alliance PuG, and they don’t actually need to send five guys anymore. They send two to three to rape me in the corner where I am stubbornly attempting to defend the flag. They will kill me again when I meet them at the end of the tunnel. And again when I chase them into their own tunnel, but not until they have killed whichever unfortunate team member has managed to pick up their flag and chosen to come down the tunnel at the exact wrong moment.

Either way, once the score switches to 0-2 for the Horde, the Alliance will kind of wake up. A sudden, startling realization will streak like lightning through the collective group – Holy shit, guys! We have a flag too! And we haven’t been defending it!

And so, now that there’s only ten minutes left in the game, and we absolutely need to get at least two caps if we want to win, which means we should probably actually be playing a bit of offence here, there will be eight alliance crammed in as tight as they can into the flag room, faces stern and serious, determined now to protect our flag at all costs. The same rogue who has picked up the Horde flag and dropped it again a hundred times continues to stubbornly stealth his way down the side of the field to try it again – no doubt already planning his epic, rage-fuelled swearing when he dies again because he didn’t get the support he never asked for. He’s also level X1 and no support in the world is like to keep him standing for long anyway.

“Okay,” says I, “I guess I’ll go O, then…”

The Level X1 rogue does not wait for me. He grabs the flag and dies just as I’m running into the base. “Fuck it,” says I. I jump on the bandwagon and down into the flagroom. I grab the flag, stun the pally guarding it, and make it halfway down the tunnel before I get raped by the entire Horde team, who are basically turtling now that they have two caps and we have none and their victory is more or less assured if they can just keep us from capping.

I am returned to my team’s side of the base, where we are also turtling, because we have zero caps and absolutely need to get two more to win, but we are not going to do that because everyone knows defence is the key to winning WSG.

We lose. The next BG group consists of largely the same people as the last one. Oh good, I think, they learned their lesson last time. Maybe this time they’ll…run out the door, mount as fast as they can, and make a desperate dash down the midfield for a flag they’ll never be able to keep. It’s cool, though. I know they’ll be back to turtle down with me once the Horde has two caps.

Conclusion

WTF?

Specced for Angst

On the day I decided I wanted Justicar, I was specced prot (naturally). Unfortunately, I was labouring under a misunderstanding about the nature of PvP – I believed it to be entirely about the “deeps,” because, after all, isn’t that what PvP is? Deeps deeps and more deeps?

So, after doing a couple WSGs to test the water and my own resolve, I decided to suck it up and do this thing right. No matter how much it pained me, I would respec into something deeps related, and take all those PvP talents I’ve always ignored. I went to my trainer, head down and shamefaced, and requested a respec. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry a little when all my talents went back into their pool, and I switched away from the protection tab.

I decided I would go Fury because waaaaay back when I rolled my first baby warrior, I was fury, and on my level 80 main (who used to be my first baby warrior), Fury is her sadly neglected off-spec. Also because I have been severely obsessed with dual-wielding since I was introduced to Leonardo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, with whom I have been madly, deeply in love my entire life.

My hunters dual-wield. My shamans dual-wield. My DKs dual-wield. My warriors, when they are not sword-and-boarding, dual-wield. It has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of the spec or whether it’s better than something else at what it’s supposed to do.

So, in the interests of Doing This Thing Right, before I started plunking my points down willy-nilly, I hit Google to look it up and oh my God, people are not friendly to Fury in PvP, are they? Forum thread after forum thread of people spewing bile at anyone daring to ask for spec recommendations for Fury in PvP, even after that person had explained that they know it’s sub-par, but it suits their play style, and that’s what they want to do.

And I thought raiders were picky.

Now, I fully support everyone playing the game however they want and fuck the forums, but there was a moment when I wavered and almost went Arms. They were just so…adamant that Fury had no place in PvP, and I really, honestly did want to Do This Thing Right, and I wanted to contribute, and I didn’t want to be that total noob bringing everyone down and making us lose the battleground.

But, in the end, two things kept me from going Arms – solidarity with my fellow it’s-my-game-I’ll-play-how-I-want brothers, and a lifelong crush on a bipedal mutated sea creature, who also happens to be a ninja.

Fuck the forums, I went Fury.

I settled on an interim spec and went back into the BGs, but for reasons I couldn’t entirely fathom, it wasn’t as fun as it had been the first couple times. I stuck with it for a whole two hours (so…4ish crushing losses and no rep), but I couldn’t take it. I died so easy. The rotation was escaping me, and as with anything at low levels, there’s no help to try to figure out what your rotation should be when you don’t have any fancy level 80 buttons and procs to work in. Then the crank started to kick in, and I went back to Google to figure out what I was doing wrong.

The answer was so simple it was mind blowing.

The problem wasn’t that I was Fury. The problem was that I wasn’t prot.

There, on the first forum thread I’d looked at, was my answer. “fruy sux do arm sor prto”

Out of the mouths of douchebags.

It had never once occurred to me that prot was a valid PvP spec. Not even after that funny little patch where Blizzard nerfed Prot warriors because they were “doing too much damage in PvP” and we all kind of laughed and looked at each other and wondered what the PvP warriors were doing differently than the PvE warriors given that I can’t generally DPS my way out of a paper bag.

I can haz respec, NAO!

First though, I tested it out. I loaded up my level 80 prot warrior and popped her T10-wearing-ass into the WSG queue. More on this later, but suffice it to say yes. Yes prot is totally viable in PvP. Unequivocally.

Clutching my precious, precious talents once more to my chest I flipped back to the only tab I should ever look at and began to pop them back into place using the Talent Preview option. It was actually kind of fun to resist the urge to instinctively put them where I always do. For the first time in a long time I sat down and carefully read each talent and re-considered its purpose in light of the different game I intended to play. Suddenly talents I have always turned my nose up at became not only viable, but integral. Improved Disarm, for example. Others that I wouldn’t have been caught dead without – Vigilance – were suddenly kind of lacklustre.

I lay them down where I thought they should go and double-checked my logic against a generally recommended spec. Things seemed to be in order, so I hit learn, and watched, with no small amount of relief and glee, the sudden insurge of yellow text announcing all my favourite abilities were once again back in my spell book where they belonged.

Someday, Fury, I will give you the time and attention you so richly deserve, but my shield remains my security blanket, and I refuse to go far without it.

Mobile Gnome

Did you know that nobody links the metres in PvP? I had gone probably five whole BGs before I realized it. At best somebody might crow if they top the “Damage Done” in the BG Summary at the very end, but even then not often.

In part, I suppose, the metres probably can’t track everything going on, given that me and half my party can be an entire map away from each other. And even the damage done at the end is not really an accurate measurement of what you did. If I stayed on defence the entire time (as I usually do) I could have very little damage done if the Horde never tries for the flag, or if they try for it with a massive army and I die before I can do much more than cry out in alarm.

It’s refreshing, in a way. The DPS in a raid are so tightly chained to the metres and what they say that sometimes I wish I could institute a No Recount policy, where everybody shuts it off or hides it and doesn’t look at it. Then maybe we could all focus on something else. Like, I don’t know, the fight or something.

The idea that damage is the most important thing in PvP appears to be a myth – at least at this point. Obviously damage is important and the more you can dish out the faster you kill things, and the faster you kill things the longer you live, the more you win, etc.. But it’s not the only thing, and I really don’t think it’s the most important thing. Know what matters more?

Mobility. And the ability to hamper the mobility of others.

I’m telling you. When I loaded into WSG on my 80 Gnome warrior it was music. Warbringer + 3 different charges (two on enemies, one on allies) + Concussion blow + Hamstring…shit couldn’t get away from me. When I’d tried at lower levels as fury, I could charge once, if I wasn’t in combat, hamstring them – if I didn’t miss – and as soon as the hamstring was off they were gone again. I swear to God I feel like I’m the only class in the game without some kind of speed-up mechanic. I could do nothing but stare at a rogue’s ass as he tore away from me with Sprint. And staring at rogue-ass isn’t usually that onerous a task, depending on the rogue, but you honestly just hate the fuckers so much in that moment that it takes all the joy out of it entirely.

Shortly thereafter their fucking poisons and bleeds will kill you. It’s cool, though. They’re waiting for you at the graveyard.

On my 80, fully specced and (admittedly) geared, I could charge and concussion blow, and when that came off and they stunned me and tried to sprint, I could push the yellow-button-with-a-foot-on-it-that-undoes-snares-if-you’re-a-gnome and then intercept them and fuck them up some more. And by the time they were ditching again charge would probably be off cooldown.

If I had the flag, I could leapfrog all the way home, charging a tauren coming at me, then intervening to one of my allies up ahead, then intercepting up to a rogue waiting for me at the tunnel.

This is all completely situational of course, and sometimes it works out cleanly and other times it doesn’t, but the potential, in that moment, was limitless to my mind.

And I couldn’t help it – every time I shattered a Tauren’s kneecap with Shield Slam, I thought of every big-ass-cow I’d ever seen named after the various ways to commit violence to gnomes, and felt absolutely vindicated on behalf of my people.

Not punting anything now, are you Gnomkilr?!

A Different Kind of Prot

Doing that one BG on my 80 confirmed for me that I never should have switched specs. I understand Prot. I know its rhythm. I understand the cadence of its priority list and cooldowns, I can recognize the cues with my eyes closed, I can apply every tool in its box to a given situation without having to completely relearn what I’m doing. Raiding may be different than PvPing in just about every conceivable way, but it’s ingrained certain reactions and all of my keybindings into my brain in a very permanent fashion.

Plus, it’s been nothing short of giddy glee to suddenly discover dusty old buttons I haven’t pushed in years – icons I’d grown blind to over the levels due to their near complete lack of usefulness in PvE.

Disarm. I have pushed this button here and there, from time to time, only if required, or I’m bored, and only if it’s been pointed out to me I can do it. I use it so infrequently in PvE simply because it works on almost nothing. I didn’t even think of it in PvP until the Horde was assigned the same five rogues in two consecutive battlegrounds. They roamed the map in a pack, stealthed and ready to sap. There would be lines of alliance fighters, laid out in a row, all sapped, one after the other, as they tried to cross the field.

Anyway, I wound up spending an entire fight disarmed, as fucking rogues popped into and out of existence again. There was a certain RP satisfaction to picturing my baby warrior (unfortunately not a gnome) sucker punching the fuckers as they destealthed long enough to stab me and put a bunch of bleeds on me before disappearing again. But RP satisfaction is where it ended.

The one good thing that came out of that is that I was disarmed long enough to grow cognizant of the fact that I had been disarmed and to remember, in turn, that I could do that too. Now, out of pure spite, I will disarm every rogue I cross blades with.

But it will never take away the shame of getting into and losing a fist fight with five invisible men.

Hamstring. In PvE? I just. Don’t. Bother. For one thing, I’m tanking, so I’m not even in the right stance to use it. For another, when would I need to? Again, there just aren’t that many situations where it’s required, and another class can do it faster and easier than me.

In PvP? It’s the second thing I put on them (please see the previous paragraph about sprint).

I’ve finally learned to stance-dance properly. Start in Battle so I can charge (until I get Warbringer, anyway), drop a concussion blow and a hamstring, then switch to Defensive and start bludgeoning their skull with my shield. Switch back to Battle as they try to run to charge them again.

I almost feel like, as I gain levels and more talent points and abilities and other goodies, I can unlock a whole side to Prot I’ve never seen before. In the absence of the need to stand in one place and generate threat, I’ve picked up a whole new host of abilities that are the exact opposite of standing in one place. I can dart here and there around a playing field – something I always enjoyed in the few encounters as tank where I’d get to do so – interrupting and silencing and stunning as necessary.

Instead of being the heavily armoured thing standing between my part and the Big Nasty that wants to smash them, I am the heavily armoured thing that is chasing you down to wring bloody justice from your corpse.

I’ve gone from Implacable to Inevitable.

From Immovable to Unstoppable.

I’m still protecting my allies. I’m still protecting the objective. But I’m doing it in a different way, with a different feel. It’s not a passive defence, it’s an active defence. Instead of sitting there and waiting for them to come to me and just taking it, I am actively hunting them down, chasing them down, seeking them out and, ultimately, making them pay (for…taking our flag. But that’s another post).

I have become a Justicar in truth*.

Only 124,000 more rep, and I’ll be one in title.

*Using the D&D sense of the word, which is what I’m assuming Blizz is going for…more like a cop than a judge.

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