Tol Barad: the attackers’ lament
Let’s start with a few caveats. I’ve only done about 20 of these Tol Barad battles, and I’m no PvP expert; I’m barely even a PvP noob. On top of that, my situational awareness in visual effect-heavy PvP is diabolically bad — I’m working on that, but I’m easily visually overwhelmed.
All that being said, I’ve been reading up on Tol Barad and I’ve reached a few conclusions of my own. This post is partly to set out those conclusions for review and partly to get feedback from the more experienced PvP types out there, because I really would like to work out if it’s possible to win Tol Barad through strategy, or if it mostly comes down to waiting for the defending team to be bad enough to permit a win.
For those unfamiliar with Tol Barad, this is a much better introduction than I could provide, though it may be a little dated. I gather there may be some TB changes in the works, but I haven’t actually done any research on that yet — so this post is based on the situation as I know it and as it seems to be right now. Listos version for those who don’t like links:
1. The zone is contested and never starts off neutral. The team currently in possession defends, and the opposing team attacks. Maximum team size is 80 (2 raid groups). I’m not sure what the minimum team size is currently because that’s been tweaked a bit since December, but I’ve never seen less than a mostly-full raid.
2. There are three capture points, arranged as the points of a triangle around a central non-contested location (Baradin Keep). The attackers have to hold all three at once to get a win. The defenders need to retain only one at the end of the countdown timers to win.
3. The initial battle timer is 15 minutes, but this can be extended in 5-minute batches by destroying 1-3 defending siege towers. The siege towers can be destroyed by using siege engines positioned at various points around the map, which have to be driven up to the towers. Those same siege engines can also be driven around the map for other purposes, though they can’t really do much other than be really bulky and have lots of hit points. Note that as far as I know, the siege towers serve no purpose whatsoever other than to give an extra 5 minutes when they’re destroyed. They don’t help the defense and they don’t hinder the offense.
4. The attackers always respawn near the capture point where they died, at one of the three triangle points. The defenders always respawn at Baradin Keep, right in the middle of the map and equidistant from all the capture points.
5. At the beginning of the battle, the attackers spawn on a bridge leading into the zone proper, which is a little to the left of the top point of the capture-point triangle — which means that that particular capture-point becomes the obvious first point of attack (and has been in every attacking battle I’ve been in so far).
So that’s the basic setup. From what I’ve seen, attacking strategy seems to be to grab the first point as fast as possible, which doesn’t usually take long, and then to always move clockwise around to the next capture point. Defenders are occasionally left at the first taken flag, but usually not enough to put up a creditable defense. Zerging is the most prevalent strategy on both sides, but it seems to work a lot better for the defenders than it does for the attackers.
My observations and possible strategy ideas are as follows. Please feel free to destroy them and improve on them, bearing in mind my opening caveats.
I. Fight at the flags. Flag/capture-point possession begins to shift as soon as there are opposing-team bodies around the flag. There’s no need to kill anyone or clear the area around the flag before possession can start changing (which if memory serves, was a requirement in Warhammer scenarios like Nordenwatch). If those defending a flag have 10 bodies there and you bring 30, and even if those 10 mount a heroic defense, possession will immediately begin to shift towards those with greater numbers.
The obvious conclusion here is that being near the flag is actually more important than killing the opposition, other than as a means to reduce the number of opposing bodies at the flag. The corollary to that is that fighting away from the flag is strategically unhelpful. And yes, luring people away from flags is a common tactic — from what I’ve seen of late, the Horde appear to understand this flag mechanic while the Alliance (my team) doesn’t.
II. Intelligence is crucial. In just about every battle I’ve been in, I’ve seen the Horde leave corpses at the capture points so they can keep an eye on what’s going on. I’m not sure we’re doing the same thing, and I’m starting to think we should be. Of course, being a corpse isn’t really that glamorous and the instant reflex is usually to respawn so you can rejoin the battle as fast as possible. I have a feeling it would also be useful to have scouts on the roads, but that might be a) dangerous for the scouts and b) spreading the team too thin. The attackers tend to get spread pretty thin around all three bases as it is.
III. Defend the captured points. Obvious as it is, this is the really hard part. The attackers have to keep moving because they have to take the other capture points. The defenders, in theory, could use about 80% of their forces to just zerg from one capture point to the next and make sure the attackers can never hold all three at once. This is pretty much what actually happens in the matches I’ve seen, both as an attacker and (less frequently!) as a defender.
The question here is, how many do you leave at a flag? Leaving a handful is pointless unless you can rapidly reinforce them, and “rapid” just doesn’t seem to be possible in TB. Comms aren’t easy, and most of the time nobody listens because 75% of what gets said in raid and general chat is either conflicting or just plain bad advice. Leaving 10-15 lets you defend a flag for a little while but generally doesn’t work when the opposing side brings 20-25. Leaving 20-25 of your own leaves you too short to effectively attack the other capture points, especially if they’re well-defended.
IV. Communications. I’m only including this because it should be, but I don’t see this being affectable. There are too many people shouting too many different things in chat, and the good comms gets drowned out by the crap. Good communications would be an invaluable tool for victory, but I just don’t see it happening.
V. Kill priorities. I have a feeling that if the attackers could decide on kill priorities they might have a better chance. Instead, battles tend to be incredibly chaotic — which of course is the nature of PvP. My own priorities as a hunter are to hunter’s mark any healers I can spot and then take out any of the softer targets I can see. I think I’m going to start sending my pet in to bug casting classes, especially healing casting classes (i.e. priests).
VI. Better use of AOE annoyances. This is almost certainly skewed by my many deaths, but it seems to me that the Horde knows how to use their ground-based AOEs to better effect than Alliance does. It took me several matches to realise I should be putting down traps ALL the time, because even if they’re only a minor annoyance, local skirmishes can actually hinge on such minor annoyances. I’m not sure what all the other classes can do but if the Horde can do it I’m pretty sure we have the means to as well.
VII. Go counter-clockwise — that’ll totally fox ’em! Okay, I’m (mostly) joking on this one. But you never know. As it stands, everyone knows the general direction of battle is clockwise, and I’m not sure that’s really a strategy. I’ll grant that it’s a start — people need to have a basic idea of where they should be going, but that only seems to work for a few minutes. Once the capture points have changed hands a few times, the attacking forces are scattered between them, and the clock has counted down a few minutes, it all seems to devolve into even greater chaos. People will holler for reinforcements in chat for their own beleaguered area, and the match turns into instant-reaction rather than overall tactics. This probably goes back to Communications, and since I don’t think it’s possible to effectively communicate and have people actually listen, this may be insurmountable.
VIII. The towers are irrelevant — or are they? I welcome clarification on this point. Right now, as far as I can tell the towers do nothing for either side other than prolong the agony for the attackers. If that’s true, then there’s absolutely no need to pay any attention to them. From what I’ve seen, if the attackers can’t win in 15 minutes they won’t win in 30 — in fact, extra time seems to work entirely to the benefit of the defenders.
IX. If VIII is true, use the siege engines for other purposes and use them a lot. Those siege engines are slow, but they’re BIG and they have quite a lot of hit points. I noticed as a defender (only the attackers can use them) that they’re a real distraction when someone drives them right onto the flag and just bimbles around there, getting in the way, until the engine finally gets destroyed. Maybe I’m just easily visually distracted, but it seems to me that we could and should make use of those engines to add a bit of chaos and force the flag-stickers to move around. If nothing else, while the defenders are ganging up on me in a siege engine, my buddies have a chance to gang up on them.
That’s about it. I’ve noticed a few other things but they mostly pertain to my own character and how I still suck at PvP. For instance, Warden’s Vigil is a horrible place to fight at when you’re ranged. There are stairs with corners on the way up to the flag (outdoors but still), which impedes line-of-sight, and the damned flag itself impedes LOS — which means that I can see my opponent perfectly clearly, but I can’t bloody fire at them because of LOS issues. I need to figure out my own positioning up there so I can be more effective both as an attacker and as a defender. As a result, I’ve noticed that I’ve been avoiding Warden’s Vigil like the plague if I possibly can, which isn’t much help to my team if that’s where I should be.
Comments? (Helpful) suggestions? Observations of your own? I’d love to hear them. I’ve been enjoying Tol Barad for the last week or so that I’ve been playing it, but a string of defeats has left me frustrated and wondering if it’s even worth bothering with. If I can improve, if we as an attacking team can improve enough to have a chance of winning, that’s one thing. However, if it mostly comes down to waiting for the defenders to be crap — then I probably can’t be bothered to take part. That’s not fighting, that’s just gambling, and I don’t gamble.