The Burning Crusade brought in many new things to the World of Warcraft -- new spells, ten new levels, outlandish new zones and more -- quite a lot of things, really. For PvP enthusiasts, BC also ushered in the era of Arenas and introduced a sort of brand new Battleground called Eye of the Storm. I say sort of brand new because even though it's an entirely new map, it rehashes elements from Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and the outdoor PvP objectives in the Eastern Plaguelands. Eye of the Storm fuses resource gathering elements from AB with the capture-the-flag aspect of WSG, creating a familiar feel in a new, almost alien environment. The result is a fast-paced game where fortunes turn very quickly.
Unlike the other Battlegrounds, there is no faction associated with Eye of the Storm. There is no Frostwolf Clan defending their territory against the Stormpike Guard; no Defilers and League of Arathor squabbling over resources; there are no outraged Silverwing Sentinels decrying the rampant logging of the Warsong Outriders. Even though Blizzard has stated that Battleground reputations are now obsolete -- you can buy PvP items using relevant Marks of Honor regardless of reputation -- I personally felt that the various Horde- or Alliance-aligned PvP factions added depth and character to the game. While other Battlegrounds have "real" locations one can access through an instance portal, the Eye of the Storm isn't even situated anywhere one can reference -- it's simply, nebulously somewhere in the Netherstorm.
Sound and fury signifying nothing
It almost seems as though EotS was tacked on to The Burning Crusade merely as an afterthought. Without any faction, there is no real conflict within the zone... nothing to fight for. No one to side with. It's just another piece of real estate coveted by Blood Elves and Draenei. Sure, the Battlemasters say a little something to add a little lore to the conflict, but really, it has no... personality. Don't get me wrong, Eye of the Storm is a good Battleground. It's fun, frenetic, and offers many combat and strategic opportunities. It's also the one Battleground where you can literally fall into the void and die.
Eye of the Storm is fast-paced and balanced, utilizing ideas taken from older PvP implementations. It uses the same mechanic as the towers in the Eastern Plaguelands where the number of people at a tower determines who gains control over it. Similar to Arathi Basin, the game is a race to 2000 points; your team gains these points by holding towers or capturing the flag. Unlike Arathi Basin, however, teams gain resources at a steady pace every 2 seconds. Naturally, more towers equate to more points. In Patch 2.2, the points awarded per flag capture was improved to scale with the number of towers your team controlled.
The symmetrical map consists of two main islands floating in the nether connected by three bridges. As mentioned, it's possible to fall off the islands or connecting bridges and die. In fact, it's possible to die right out the gates -- or starting bubble -- with a miscalculated jump from the starting ledges. Many players often start the game at 3/4 or half health because of fall damage. The terrain is extremely uneven and can be annoying to navigate, particularly for melee classes. There are also stalagmite-like formations in the periphery that can be used to obscure visibility (but often doesn't break line-of-sight for spells and attacks).
Towers > Flag
One of the most important things to keep in mind when playing Eye of the Storm is that taking towers is more important than capturing the flag. A team should hold at least two towers throughout the entire game, with capturing a third -- or even a fourth -- a constant goal. Holding three towers for most of the game will guarantee a win, as it is virtually impossible for a team that possesses only only tower to accrue points fast enough to overtake the point gain of three towers. Towers. Towers. Towers. As long as your team repeats this mantra, you are guaranteed to win Eye of the Storm.
Starting the game, some players find it a wise investment to head directly for the flag while a few teammates necessarily go for the nearest towers. This will result in a slower conversion for the towers, but capturing the flag early results in a 75-85 point gain that sometimes makes up for the slower conversion in the beginning. Advanced strategies involve denying the opposing team towers from the onset, rushing across the bridges to contest the opponent's nearest towers while maintaining a token force to convert the towers closer to home.
The flag, quite plainly, is a mechanic that only exists to break stalemates. In an evenly matched game where both sides control two towers each, capturing the flag can spell the difference between winning or losing. It is still a higher priority to try and capture a third tower at all times. Only if it is certain that procuring a third tower is not feasible should the team focus on controlling the middle. Control of the middle becomes key to winning 2-2 games. It is always prudent to refrain from capturing the flag until one's team has secured the middle portion of the map, ensuring a consequent capture. It is advisable at times to keep the flag out of play while attempting to take control of more towers. The only caveat to this is that the flag's location remains visible at all times on the Battle Map, making it easier for the enemy to make a concentrated effort to steal the flag.
If you have only one tower and have the flag, do not capture it. The only instance where this is at all acceptable is if your team has 1925 points or more. Capturing the flag while controlling only one tower is a spectacularly unintelligent decision and will betray a player's complete lack of knowledge about Eye of the Storm. Holding the flag while attempting to secure another tower will prevent your team from falling behind further in points.
Strength in numbers
Because towers are captured through numbers, it is always wise to assault an enemy-controlled tower with a sizable force to ensure that any defenders are eliminated faster than they can replenish through Spirit Guide Resurrection. It is also less of a risk to leave a tower unguarded because unlike towers in Arathi Basin or Alterac Valley, it takes a bit of time to start converting to the other side. This provides a decent buffer with which to rush to aid an assaulted tower.
Unlike other Battlegrounds, Eye of the Storm rewards the rolling zerg. If executed well, a rolling zerg will control the map fairly quickly. But because zergs leave little to no defense, it is easily countered with a counter-zerg tactic makes the same rotation to towers across the map. EotS favors sheer numbers over combat superiority, so it is always best to travel or defend in packs. A lone defender, however skilled or well-geared, will lose a tower to two or three inferior combatants over time. If an encounter lasts long enough, a tower will convert to the side that has more players. In this respect, healers play a directly contributive role to converting a tower. The key is in prolonging the fight. The longer the fight goes, an advantage of just one player will start the conversion of a tower. It is even possible to convert a tower without combat merely by being in the vicinity of one and waiting for its defenders to leave (this happens a lot); irregular architecture in all towers and its surrounding terrain lend itself well to concealment.
It is important to fight as close to the tower as possible. If you are fighting on the tower and don't see the control slider, you're fighting too far away. This is equivalent of fighting on the road in Arathi Basin or the midfield in Warsong Gulch. When fighting for control of the middle, do not stop right before the flag unless you have range limitations; ride past it and into the fray. Fighting before the flag -- that is, closer to your opponents' bases -- allows your teammates to attempt to take the flag with less interruption.
An eye for the eye
Eye of the Storm Marks of Honor are required to purchase several PvP items, particularly the Gladiator weapons from Arena Season 1. Honor gained from playing Eye of the Storm isn't any better or worse than the other Battlegrounds, although because of the volatile nature of point gains, it never draws out into protracted affairs. Resource gain is constant and can be boosted with flag captures, which is a definite plus. Personally, I only play Eye of the Storm to keep my Marks at 100 and my stack of Major Combat Mana Potions at 10. Conceptually, it has little significance, lacking lore and character. Honor-wise, its gains are mediocre, with minimal (20-60 Honor) bonuses even during the Call to Arms holiday. As far as gameplay is concerned, however, it is a fairly exciting, fast-paced map that offers a change of pace from old world Battlegrounds. Besides, Mind Controlling opponents into the twisting nether is infinitely more fun than making them jump off the Lumber Mill.
Next week: World PvP
Zach Yonzon writes the weekly PvP column The Art of War(craft). He also enjoys freeclimbing the floating islands of the Eye of the Storm with Yula the Fair, who brings the Picnic Basket while he brings 99-Year-Old-Port.