What's better than ganking alone?
Ganking with friends.
Or with family, as it turned out. My sister and I logged on one evening, found no one on, realised that all our toons were Conquest capped and scratched our heads and pondered on what to do. We didn't want to do 2s - while it was good fun to cap with 2s, at higher and higher rankings they become real stamina-sapping battles which can go on forever, especially with healer/DPS teams. My sister doesn't play for rating anymore - she just logs on to PvP casually with my mates and I, and so I don't like to put any pressure on her whenever she is online. We ruminated on what would be a relaxing evening of PvP with just the two of us, and we were actually on the verge of trying a Heroic dungeon for the first time when suddenly it dawned on me.
"Hey, we can go ganking in Warspear."
Lelle was sold. As far as OWPvP goes she is more gung-ho than I am, often starting more fights than I would. She's never malicious about it - she spent most of her WoW life on a PvE server, so she was always grateful whenever the Horde "came out to play" - that is, voluntarily flag and engage in consensual OWPvP. Since our transfer to a PvP server she has been like a kid in a candy store, attacking every red on sight. She rolled a mage for the first time this expansion, and our levelling was often interrupted by her chasing after Hordies that crossed our path. Either that, or hollering for back-up while being chased by irate Hordies hell bent on taking her out. Never a dull moment when she was around.
So it was decided - it was off to Warspear we would go. My sister's druid and mine have a long history together - back in the Burning Crusade we were "twink" team mates in the level 40-49 bracket. The practice of "twinking" has sadly died out due to changes in game mechanics, but back in the day it was common practice to kit out toons to compete in specific BG brackets. My sister's great nemesis back in those days was a rogue named Skillhoutte - twink brackets were composed of a limited pool of players, so you got to know your team mates and the opposition quite well. Skillhoutte knew Lelle was the Alliance's team main healer, and he hunted her mercilessly every BG we played. Back in those days my druid was a female night elf named Seylune on Garithos. She has subsequently had a sex change, grown fur and fangs as a Worgen, and bounced around from server to server before finally coming to rest in Gundrak and changing her name from Seylune to Bjorn. During the Burning Crusade, however, she was recruited to be Lelle's bodyguard on the twink team, and her job was to prowl around Lelle and pounce Skillhoutte whenever he opened on Lelle. Of course, Skillhoutte adapted as well, and learned to look for me first. He eventually started bringing friends to help him out, too. By the end of our twinking time, Skillhoutte and his mates had become our friends, which goes to show that not all PvP is all about power and domination - sometimes it is just a contest, and people can see beyond the death of their avatars and appreciate the skill and tenacity of their opposition.
Modern day PvP in WoW has lost that personal touch, however. Region-wide queues have been an amazing step forward in dramatically reducing waiting times and increasing player pools, but the cost has been the loss of player reputations, vendettas and rivalries. During the days of vanilla BGs were fought against the same group of foes on the same server, and I recall fondly the back and forth on the forums from both factions. There were heated arguments and flaming aplenty, but in the end when people departed from the server they were saluted and given a warm send-off more often than not by those who used to oppose them on the battlefield. There is community in PvP, but if you are not naturally inclined to this playstyle you will not recognize it for what it is.
Back in the present day my sister and I made our final preparations for our ganking trip, consuming food and flasks to buff ourselves before departing. We jumped off the western edge of Stormshield and made our way north to Warspear, taking care not to breach the invisible boundary surrounding Ashran. Upon our arrival I immediately circled us around to the north while telling Lelle what I had learned about the layout on my first visit here. Of course my sister being my sister she insisted on ascertaining the lay of the land herself, and so we parted for an interval so that she could conduct her own recce. It was at this point that I realised that the Horde Auction House was completely accessible from the northern side. The last time I was here I had ganked a shadow priest and hurriedly displaced from this location, and in my haste I had missed this most perfect of openings. There were guards at the entrance, but the building was accessible via the windows in the back, and the approach was completely clear of NPC patrols. What's even more interesting was that all the NPC auctioneers were clearly visible from the outside. This presented us with a golden opportunity to provoke a fight with the Horde on terms that were advantageous to us.
|Lelle and Bjorn ponder survey the Horde Auction House in Warspear. The back of the building can be approached from the northern side of the island, and the route is clear of any NPC patrols.|
When my sister returned I told her of my discovery and we quickly made a plan of action, working out places where she could line of sight enemy spells, and what our escape plan would be if things escalated out of control. Then giggling like a naughty school kid, I blasted all the auctioneers with Moonfire and aggroed them out of the Auction House back to the rocks where we were waiting.
The auctioneers were simple NPCs with fairly low health pools, and it didn't take much to kill all three of them. I didn't use any CDs, saving them all for the inevitable reprisals that would follow. It didn't take long. A warrior and a ret paladin came tearing out of the AH, and I bolted and ran for the shore line. They followed me around the corner of some big rocks, and in the lee of this virtual boulder, out of sight of the AH, I turned to fight. He was red and angry - he'd popped his burst trinket and was going HAAM on my furry ass, so I was doing my best to stay out of contact by stunning and rooting. I knew Lelle had my back with heals, but there's no sense in making the healer's job harder by wilfully sitting in someone's burst. I was trying to either stun or root then follow it with a Cyclone, but the warrior was decent, and kept closing the distance and snaring me. In Arena I can't just hardcast a Cyclone against good warriors. As soon as they hear a Cyclone being cast they'll immediately pop Spell Reflect or Mass Spell Reflect, and you'll end up eating your own CC. What you have to do is to juke a Cyclone - start casting it just to trigger the Cyclone warning on most Arena add-ons, and immediately cancel the cast. This hopefully makes the warrior pop Spell Reflect, which you then remove by throwing out a Moonfire. The Moonfire will be reflected back onto you, but at least you're now free to Cyclone the warrior.
While the warrior and I played tag amongst the rocks, the ret pally came around the boulder and immediately popped wings, but then much to his surprise, he immediately ate a Cyclone courtesy of my sister coming out of stealth behind him. He trinketed it but then ate a second Cyclone literally one second later - Lelle had pre-emptively started casting a second Cyclone in anticipation of a trinket. The pally, rather than waiting out the DRed Cyclone (it would have only been 3 seconds long due to diminishing returns) then showed his greenness by bubbling out of Cyclone (now possible in WoD) and wasting his second escape.
The warrior, in the meantime, had spell reflected my clumsy attempt to Cyclone him. I didn't juke the Cyclone and I paid for it - sometimes I don't want to waste my time juking, and I just cross my fingers and hope the warrior is not good, or has bad reflexes, or bad latency. This guy did not belong to any of those categories, but fortunately it didn't matter. He could no longer attack me either while I sat in my own Cyclone, and he lacked the situational awareness to notice that his buddy was being played with by Lelle so he never switched targets. We just stared at each other through the Cyclone, and when it fell off we went at it again. His burst was petering out, so therefore it was time to pop mine. He was soon in deep doggie doo, wracked by vicious bleeds and eating Ferocious Bite after Ferocious Bite. He tried to escape back to the bluffs above by using Heroic Leap, but the terrain around the northern shore is jagged and uneven, and his mighty leap became a faltering hop that traversed all of 10 metres instead. He was dispatched moments later. I then turned to the paladin, who was chasing Lelle around the rocky beach without much success. A single healer is designed to tank a single DPS indefinitely, and so I wasn't worried about Lelle as long as only one DPS was on her. She can take care of herself. I jumped on the paladin and started bleeding him. It took longer, because my burst was gone and my energy pool depleted on the warrior, but in the end the paladin fell, too. He prolonged the fight with a Lay On Hands which surprised the hell out of me, since that ability is not permitted in Arenas and Rated BGs, but once I realised it was just that ability and not some Horde healer entering the fray, we just focused him down again.
|Bjorn stands over the corpses of the warrior (Mudkoh) and ret paladin (Aresz), and thanks the WoW gods that he has a pocket healer.|
We quickly scuttled away like a pair of evil hermit crabs, and re-stealthed. The warrior and the pallie were back in moments - their graveyard is literally 30 seconds away, and death was just a minor inconvenience for them. For me and Lelle a death would mean being sent all the way back to Stormshield, and so we agreed that if one of us went down the other would endeavour to get away in order to cast a rez later. If we both went down then our trip would be over. This gave the whole sortie a real sense of danger and excitement, as well as a definite "lose" condition. There is nothing at stake in world PvP in WoW - you have to set your own parameters and bring your own reasons for engaging in this type of gameplay.
The warrior and ret pally started sweeping the beach for us, and Lelle and I obliged again by fighting and killing them. Again. And again. And again. After the third or fourth death the ret paladin had had enough, and he retired from the fight. The warrior, however, brought friends. A feral druid and a hunter waded into the fray. Even three on two we were able to wipe them, not because Lelle and I are particularly good (our highest achievements are 1750+ in all Arena brackets), but because we had played together for so long and our enemies were uncoordinated. Things started becoming bad when an enemy priest joined the fray, however. With a healer in play I had to train the healer, which meant that Lelle would be tanking three people by herself. I could peel occasionally with Cyclones, Mighty Bash and Mass Entanglement but in all reality I needed to stay on the priest to put enough pressure to kill him. As I said earlier, competent healers should be able to tank one DPS indefinitely. Anything less and the healer is a liability to a team. I was hoping that this particular healer was of that kind.
|A silent battle rages in the deep waters off the coast of Warspear. The priest Täldur in the top left is keeping the Horde in the fight.|
After about a minute of training the priest I had to admit defeat - I couldn't take him down. Lelle was doing a mighty job holding off a warrior, a feral and a hunter, but she was fast running out of CDs. It was time to run. I switched to peel mode, rooting the warrior and Cycloning the hunter, and said, "Let's get out of here!" We both jumped into the water and shifted into our aquatic forms, and dived for the bottom. Lelle kept us both up with Lifeblooms and Rejuvenations. The warrior stuck with us tenaciously - he'd been killed about five times and wanted revenge. As we went deeper and deeper however, he realised his predicament. The feral, on the other hand, was a druid like us, and he had no problems sticking with Lelle and I as we plunged for the bottom. The hunter stayed in the hunt as well - he was ranged and so he could shoot us from the shallow waters, and pop up to take a breath whenever he needed to. The warrior could not, and he eventually disengaged and swam for the surface, and left the fight. The odds had improved tremendously for us with his departure, and Lelle was able to stabilise the incoming damage from the hunter and the feral.
|Engaged by a warrior (Mudkoh), a feral druid (Doball) and a hunter (Ramishen - out of screenshot, but his wolf pet is chewing on my furry hide). Apparently there's a DK somewhere, too, because I can see a DK debuff on me.|
The hunter and the feral kept pursuing us as we moved further and further away from the coast of Warspear. We were in a deadlock - the warrior was actually the danger man, and without his damage the feral and the hunter were just nuisances to Lelle's healing output. I, on the other hand, couldn't kill either of them either, because the priest was near the surface spamming heals. We just kept moving further and further away from the coast in a type of twisted underwater waltz, wondering how this would all end.
Then the priest decided he'd had enough, and turned and began to swim back to shore. His buddies didn't notice at first - I did, however, and took this opportunity to pop my CDs on the druid. The druid, thinking the priest had his back, ignored me and kept chasing Lelle. He suddenly realised he was dying, looked around frantically for his healer, and died. The hunter realised that he was all alone, and began retreating - unfortunately for him he moves at half speed in water while both Lelle and I had the Aquatic Form glyph which boosts our submerged mobility. He tried to create some distance by using Disengage, but that ability is nigh useless in water - you literally disengage about 1 metre and come to an abrupt halt. Guess all that virtual water has heft and weight. At any rate, there was no way the hunter was ever going to escape from a pair of free swimming druids, and he was soon at death's door. The hunter, in a fit of pique however, voluntarily disconnected himself rather than take a killing blow. I don't know why people do that - as far as I'm concerned, voluntary disconnects are a sure sign that a player is pissed off, and are worth than just kills if "harvesting tears" is the goal. Everyone dies in PvP - but only irate and discomfited players pull the plug on their game. Lelle and I had a little laugh about it, and breathed a collective sigh of relief at having escaped. We were about to go in again and prepare for round two, but at this point real life intruded when Lelle's baby woke up. We called it at that point, and logged our druids off at a small island north west of Warspear. We had achieved nothing - won nothing - gained nothing - and by most standards we had just wasted two hours of our time. Nonetheless, we had a few laughs - exercised a skill set which has no bearing on real life - and we both logged off in good spirits. If that is not the essence of play then I don't know what is.