I once wrote that Warsong Gulch was my favorite Battleground. To be quite honest, in the past couple of weeks prior to Patch 2.4, I had seriously begun to doubt that. I was grinding reputation with the Warsong Clan on my Blood Elf, and increasingly, the games became excruciatingly long and even though I often engaged in exciting combat, the protracted games would sometimes end in a 0-3 loss that would net 0 bonus Honor and 0 reputation. For many players, this is the prevailing experience. For many players, Warsong Gulch sucks. Despite how much I always enjoyed my WSG games, grinding it for reputation is a total pain. That hasn't quite changed with Patch 2.4, which still doesn't award any reputation whatsoever for losing games as opposed to Arathi Basin or Alterac Valley, but the games will no longer last for hours.
I know that Mike speculated that the changes to Warsong Gulch might not have helped, but I have a dissimilar experience. The important thing to remember is there has to be a complete change of attitude because it's no longer possible to turtle. Yeah, I know that people have been groaning about the continued turtling. They're wrong. That's because when the Focused Assault debuff is on, there's absolutely no way healers can keep up the flag carrier. In some of the games that I've participated in, players going after the flag were still concerned about the healers and wasted time burning them down or crowd controlling them. One word: don't. Ignore the healers when the debuff is on. Unless they have nine guys spamming heals on the flag carrier, it will be next to impossible to keep up a flag carrier with the debuff on, even more so with Brutal Assault. Ever tried healing through an enraged raid boss? Or maybe Gruul at 20 grows (who even lets Gruul get to 20 grows?)? It's sorta kinda of like that. Enjoy.
No more excuses
The problem with Warsong Gulch post-Patch 2.4 isn't the game design anymore. It's the players. If you're still having hours-long games with the changes, you have idiots playing on the field. That's the only explanation. There are no more excuses for long games now. 45 seconds after the flag is picked up, it can be tracked on the map. You don't need Hunters, Druids, or Priests using Mind Vision to find out where the flag is. It's right there. You know where the flag is. If your team isn't going after it, that's player error, not game design.
The early tracking and the debuff changes everything. Even if the flag is dropped -- and I've seen players try to get rid of it by passing flags or dropping it and picking it up again -- the debuff stays. In fact, if a flag is returned and the team doesn't cap, when the returned flag is picked up, the carrier will automatically have the debuff. As long as both flags are held, the debuff timer keeps on ticking. This works extremely well because some players stealthily camp the flag spawn just in case the flag is dropped. These players won't get very far because aside from the increase in damage taken, movement is also slowed.
Yes, there will be games that will take a long time, specially if teams are evenly matched and flag carriers are burned down before they reach their respective bases. But that's fine. That means it's a good game. It means you've gone into overtime. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, those are probably the best kind of games. Exceptions aside, most Warsong Gulch games should hardly extend to an hour now. If they do, it can only mean one of two things: a) an epic battle with competition so intense that flag carriers never make it across, or b) people need to learn2play WSG.
Is it a perfect solution? Probably not. Many of you posted your ideas on how to fix Warsong Gulch, but the changes make the Battleground much more bearable now. What's important is to keep the objective in mind. If this isn't on focus, you'll have a frustrating time on any Battleground, not just WSG. People fighting on the road in Arathi Basin; people going for the flags instead of the towers in Eye of the Storm; and well... everyone else diddling around in Alterac Valley.
In this new paradigm, roles will necessarily shift somewhat. Whereas having healers stay with the flag carrier throughout the entire time they held the flag used to be a sensible strategy, it's no longer as tenable in the new Warsong Gulch. In fact, in the new design, healers should be playing a more offensive role because the game becomes less hide and seek and more seek and destroy. This means healers need to shift to offense once the debuff is applied or near application. Why? Because you need to keep your offense going. Your assault, needless to say, should come as a deluge and not as a trickle. A healer on offense keeps the pressure on the opponent because the assault lasts longer. Whoever has more on assault the moment the debuff is applied will win. If the debuff is on, ignore the healers and focus fire. Flag returned. Score.
Healers on offense used to be a luxury in old Warsong Gulch games because healers needed to be with the flag carrier to ward off retrieval attempts. Now, however, if the debuff is applied, healer efforts on the flag carrier are going to be less efficient, more wasteful, and ultimately, futile. The best defense, in my experience so far, has been a good offense. And by offense, I mean keeping a few DPS classes with the flag carrier to burn down retrievers before they get to your flag carrier.
Healers can go on offense with more efficacy than staying on defense, which has been the norm. The idea is to keep your offense alive just long enough for them to burn down the opposing carrier. Offensive dispels become even more valuable, removing key buffs such as Power Word: Fortitude or Power Word: Shield. If a Mortal Strike effect is applied on the flag carrier in conjunction with the debuff, they go down so fast it isn't even funny.
It also becomes more important to try and stay close to the capping area because once Focused or Brutal Assault is applied, the flag carrier won't be able to travel far. It's entirely possible for a lone DPS class to burn down a carrier because of the debuff. Nobody wants to be in The Curator's shoes while he's Evocating. A 13,000-point Pyroblast crit? Yes, please. This means flag carriers hiding in the Silverwing Hold tents or by the Warsong Lumber Mill saw blades aren't doing their team any favors once the debuff is on. In fact, the farther they are from the capping area, the better it is for the opposing team. This means less hiding and more fighting.
The new Warsong Gulch doesn't encourage turtling. On the other hand, the debuff is so good that I'm sometimes tempted to stretch the games out just long enough so that it applies. And that's even when I'm healing. Yeah, I know, I'm silly that way. The idea is to tunnel vision the flag carrier when the debuff is on. It's that simple. Blizzard has broken down the game mechanics into recognizable elements that put the game entirely in the players hands. With earlier map recognition, players can find the flag even without communicating with their teammates. With the damage debuff, no flag carrier can stay alive indefinitely. The new WSG gives players all the tools they need to accomplish game objectives. Everything else in between, well, that's PvP.
Zach Yonzon writes The Art of War(craft) while greedily rubbing his palms together in anticipation of Focused Assault or Brutal Assault appearing underneath an enemy's icon.