Thank you all for the kind comments on my last post. Here's the conclusion (for now) to the "Newbie's Guide to Battlegrounds" series!:
(Edit: Matticus has reminded me that patch 2.3 brought some changes to AV. For example, you can now win the game through objectives other than killing the boss. I have yet to play the "new" AV but I will see if I can play some games soon and I'll report any major changes. In the meantime, I think that most of my basic guide still stands (except for the part about pulling at the end) and will hopefully be a little helpful to people.)
The Basics: This is probably the most complicated to learn and master of all the battlegrounds, and it's hard to condense the point of it into one sentence. Basically you and the other faction start out on opposite ends of a very, very large battleground. Your goal is to get to the other end and kill their leader, which is a very powerful elite NPC. And their goal is to come to your side and kill your leader. Along the way you'll have to deal with a lot of NPCs that want to kill you, not to mention the other players themselves. It's sort of like a big game of chess, only more chaotic.
There are also quite a few other objectives for you to capture or accomplish along the way, which may or may not be skipped. Some of these objectives are more important than others, though-- graveyards, for example. The more graveyards your faction has, the more places you will be able to rez at and the sooner you'll be able to get back into the fight, which will give you a significant edge. In general you will want to have graveyards close to where your offensive team is currently.
General Strategies: It's hard to discuss general strategies for AV because it's so big and "deep". But there are certain things that seem to be "givens" in the typical game. The Horde is going to take Stonehearth Graveyard, and the Alliance is going to take Iceblood. After that, the Horde takes Stormpike, and the Alliance takes Frostwolf. Finally, in the final stretch, Horde takes Stormpike Aid Station, and Alliance takes Frostwolf Relief Hut. People wanting a really fast game and wanting to beat the other faction speed-wise may prefer to skip Stonehearth/Iceblood all together and go straight for Stormpike/Frostwolf. People who are more interested in farming honor will go slower, taking everything along the way and stopping to kill Captains Stonehearth or Galv.
A typical strategy is to "let" the other team capture one of the graveyeards (generally Stonehearth/Iceblood) so they don't start rez'ing way back where they started and make life hard for your offensive team.
For the most part what you will probably want to do here is just follow your offensive team around, especially if you aren't sure of what you're doing. After a while, you'll start to learn your way around. I find it best to keep the mini-map up in the bottom corner of my screen on this one, just so you can see where you are and where everybody else is.
Basically, in a nutshell, what you are probably going to be doing is following the offense from graveyard to graveyard, capturing these graveyards along the way and eventually getting to the boss at the end.
Defense is very important for graveyards. Capturing graveyards is just like capturing the flag in Arathi Basin-- you click on it and wait for it to change colors. However, it takes a much longer time. While you're waiting for the graveyard to cap, it's a very good idea to stick around with at least one other person and provide some defense. I find myself "stuck on defense" a lot because nobody likes to defend, everybody likes to go kill stuff on offense. But it's still very important. If you're defending a graveyard do the same strategy you do elsewhere when you're defending-- tracking, flare, traps. Do take note that you will probably see members of the opposing faction rushing by you on occasion; often they don't want to stop and fight you, but want to catch up with their offense. In that case, use your judgment on whether you want to attack them or not, and keep in mind that they might be trying to distract you to get a stealthie in.
Once the graveyard caps, a bunch of friendly NPCs will show up who will guard your graveyard for you. Generally that means you can go run and catch up to the offense now. You can also keep defending the graveyard if you like, but the NPCs will usually do an okay job of defending and, most of the time, will at least keep the graveyard safe until your team caps the next one.
Eventually, after taking a few graveyards, you're going to get to the big "bad guy" at the end. It's important to take the graveyard that is there-- either Frostwolf Relief Hut, or Stormpike Aid Station, depending on if you're Alliance or Horde. Because the boss is probably going to kill everybody and the trick is to rez at that graveyard that is right there and run back in and keep attacking him, while people are still on him.
Don't go in the building right away, wait for a decent offensive team to have been built up and then let somebody else (someone usually volunteers, so I let them) pull out some of the NPCs that are in there with the boss. These NPCs can be very powerful and some of them have really vicious AoE attacks. (This is one of the parts where I often find my poor pet is dead; Avoidance Rank 2 helps immeasurably here, as does keeping a Mend Pet up if he's fighting somebody really hard. Oh, and make sure he has growl off. If he pulls aggro and nobody else gives him heals, he's probably a goner.)
Note: If you are Alliance, some of the NPCs here are elite wolves. You will often hear it repeated "DON'T LOOT THE DOGS!", meaning the wolves. It is said that if you loot the wolves, they will respawn and you'll have to fight them again. I have no idea if this is really true or not, since I've heard people say different things on this subject, but personally I like to err on the side of caution and leave the wolves alone. (You really shouldn't be looting in the middle of the fight anyway, but I digress! =P)
Once all these NPCs and any defenders are taken care of (it might take a while and you might die a couple times-- that's expected, so don't worry about it), and preferably once the relief hut/aid station is cap'd, somebody will usually give the call: "All in!" or a similar variant. This means it's time to kill the boss. Now the most important part, once you are in the building trying to down the boss, is to not run out of the building, ever. If you run out of the building and the boss follows you out, he will reset to full health. So if he's on you and your feign death cooldown is up, just let yourself die, you will rez nearby (hopefully your team has the closest graveyard!) and be able to run back into the fight really quickly.
The boss fight is just like the boss of a dungeon, you will need tanks and healers and DPS. So it's very crucial that you have adequate tanks and healers here, because without them the DPS can't happen, at least not very well. Keep in mind that this guy has really horrible AoE attacks (even worse than the previous NPCs) and your pet is probably going to die even if he doesn't have aggro. Being a BM hunter, I typically use Beastial Wrath first thing so I can get that overwith before my pet falls and then I can't use it anymore. After your pet dies just keep on DPS'ing as best you can. You will probably pull aggro at some point, since you're a hunter and hunters are aggro magnets. ;) In that case, run to the nearest tank and feign death; if it resists or your feign death is on cooldown, then as I mentioned before, stay where you are, take one for the team, rez with your pet and run back in.
Basically during this fight the goal is to whittle down his health bit by bit and keep at least some people on him at all times, because chances are a lot of people are going to be dying and making the run back in, and you don't want him to "reset", which he will do if he kills everybody. Also, often (but not always) by this time, the other team is also at your own boss so there's sort of a rush to see who can down the boss first. With any luck, your team will be first, and you'll have won your first AV!
Your Role as a Hunter: If you find yourself on defense then once again you will be very prepared for it, just as you will be in other battlegrounds, thanks to your traps and tracking and flare. If you're on offense then just use your Blizzard-given talents to DPS the enemy down. Preferably you should have growl turned off on your pet throughout most of this battleground but if you find yourself needing to take down an NPC (and the NPC isn't too hard for you) then hit the growl button or use Intimidation and do like you would any other mob.
A lot of this battleground just has to do with huge battles-- masses of Alliance and Horde just rushing at each other. If one side really has a numbers advantage then it will show, but otherwise it can really go either way. Put Hunters' Mark on rogues, use Scare Beast on druids, Wing Clip warriors, and all in all just try to put all your hunter-abilities to good use.
If you see a big mass of the other team coming for you, stop and take a look around and make sure you aren't alone. You don't want it to be all of them vs. just you, or you and one or two other people. If you have no chance there's no shame in backing up for a bit and waiting for the rest of your team. Putting yourself in the front lines is generally not a good idea, try to stay sort of back-- you are a hunter, after all. If there are casters or other hunters standing on high ground, shoot them back, because you're one of the few classes that can do so... save the poor melee'ers the work of having to climb up after them.
And that's AV in a nutshell! There is a lot more to it actually; there are quests you can do in AV and there is a way to summon a big elemental to fight for your team, but if you are just starting out then you shouldn't have to worry about those things for now; just get the basics down.
The rewards of doing Battlegrounds:
Doing battlegrounds will earn you both honor (for kills, etc.) as well as marks (for victories. A loss gets you one mark, and a win gets you three.) Honor and marks can be used to buy things in the Champion's Hall or Hall of Legends, or outside of the battleground's instance portal. Some of the things you can buy include PvP-oriented gear, epic mounts, and various other handy things such as the Insignia of the Alliance/Horde, a trinket which you can pop to get you out of Fear, Frost Nova, or anything else that hinders your movement. Most of the stuff is for level 70s, but you can find great things if you are a lower-level character as well.
Finally, doing a lot of PvP will make you a better player, in my opinion. You will learn how to be more effective with your class in certain situations that you wouldn't come across in PvE, and you will quicken your reflexes as well. PvP and battlegrounds are a very different game than just PvE, and it can be very fun aside from teaching you more about the game.
And I think that just about does it for my Battlegrounds guides for now! I have yet to play the fourth and (for now) final battleground, Eye of the Storm, but once I start playing that one I shall return with a Part 3 of my guide. These guides were obviously not meant to be an authority on battlegrounds and you really have to do a lot of playing to learn. But I hope that they at least have given beginners a good idea on how to start and what to do, so they aren't completely lost when they enter the battlegrounds for the first time, as I was.
So until next time, get out there and do some battlegrounds, soldier! =D /salute
And as always... questions, comments? Lemme know and I'll do the best I can to answer them!
(Back to Part 1)