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- Alliance advantage: The bridge serves as an excellent choke-point. Flags within each bunker are covered by archers. The archers in these bunkers immediately aggro just before leaving the bridge area, and cover all the way up to the Aid Station flag.
- Horde advantage: Horde attackers are less visible moving around the north of the north bunker. Once Horde assaults a bunker, it serves as an excellent fire base for the Horde, a fact that is, bizarrely, not so for the alliance. Flags in bunkers can be capped without being hit by archers, albeit not easily.
- Horde advantage: Inner gates create a very tight choke point, easily holding back greater numbers of Alliance.
- Alliance advantage: Invading Alliance players can bypass virtually all additional NPCs on the way to the Relief Hut. Defending tower archers do not have to be killed in order to capture either base tower or the Relief Hut, allowing Alliance players to capture the base towers earlier on in the game (often before the Horde can even enter the Dun Baldar base). This allows Alliance players to pull and tank Drek'Thar earlier.
- Alliance advantage: In the flag area, are 5 NPCs in addition to the Stormpike flag defenders (and bunker archers) that are easily aggroed, making it difficult to capture the graveyard without a larger force of players.
- Horde advantage: Horde has a sheltered advance underneath the Bridge, from the mine entrance, and from above, via the road that runs up to the alliance starting area. The high mountains are only accessible further south down the road, thus the snipers perch just south of the flag, as well as the majority of the walls that surround the graveyard, have no direct, safe or quick route on foot to engage in melee with the Horde, giving Horde ranged units a significant advantage.
- Alliance advantage: The main advance is narrow, which corrals the Horde and makes them susceptible to AoE attacks. If it is taken, the next spawn point (Starting cave usually) is a very short run, aiding in recapture.
- Alliance advantage: The average Horde rush game runs straight to Balinda, and on to Dun Baldar, completely bypassing the graveyard capture point. This leads to many scenarios in which this graveyard is captured late in the game
- No advantage: Both sides now start at equal distance to the graveyard as of Patch 2.4. This GY is controversial, as capturing servers no advantage, and can be a hindrance late in the game, when it can be more advantageous to respawn in your own base to fight back enemy Offense, rather than spawn midfield. Especially in defense, it would be better to spawn in your tunnels than in the middle of the map.
- Horde advantage: Good choke point for the Horde, with nearby NPCs/tower and useful high ground to watch over the entire area. Capturing this is often discouraged as it will send all horde respawns back to Frost Wolf creating more defenders.
- Alliance advantage: Warriors can charge up from below, onto those who are spawning. Susceptible to capture even if it is an active graveyard, as the flag is set behind the players spawning (whom are typically advancing north, away from it), with its view obstructed by a wall. Once captured, this serves as a great choke-point for Alliance players as any north-bound Horde are funneled into two narrow passageways. One passage will aggro the flag defenders and lead to the Ally-controlled spawn point, and the other will take Horde players to the path for south-advancing Alliance players.
It is a flat, fairly open area with no natural advantage for either force. Both sides have seen this as biased against them, but ultimately it is a level playing ground in a confrontation, barring the owner's closer spawn point.
Notably, the open area is beneficial for ride-by NPC kiting, and its proximity to the nearby mine can give some NPC support via kiting.
- Alliance advantage: The capture point is not covered by archers from the defending towers, and other than the initial flag defenders, there are no extra NPCs that aggro.
Vanndar Stormpike/Marshalls vs Drek'Thar/Warmasters
- Horde advantage: In Dun Baldar, Vanndar and the Marshals line the back wall. In Frostwolf Keep, Drek stands in the center, his Warmasters arrayed around him. This gives the Horde an advantage in both attack and defense: When defending Drek, they have a safe area behind the aggro of theNPCs to retreat/rest, while Alliance have less shelter.
Captains Balinda vs Galvangar
- Horde advantage: Balinda is a fairly weak caster NPC, with unintuitive attack combos and easily countered attacks. Galvangar is a strong melee-type character, who uses a periodical intimidating shout and has a cleave attack.
- Alliance advantage: Galvangar can be disarmed, greatly reducing his damage.
Lieutenants and Commanders
- Removed from the Game*
Alliance Advantage: Horde Tower flags are not covered by archers.
Horde Advantage: Horde Towers are slightly harder to climb.
Because it is situated right next to the only path into and out of Alliance territory, whoever controls IWB controls the pass. In most games the Alliance won't leave any defenders, making it an easy take for the Horde who can hold off a squad of Alliance players with just a couple RDPS in the windows. Were the Alliance to leave defenders here, they could rather effectively bottleneck the Horde and prevent them from moving onwards.
Horde Advantage: The bunker is set out of the way, such that Alliance players won't be passing near it on their way to Galv. This makes sending one or two Horde units to capture it very easy without significantly reducing the scope of the attack force on Balinda.
A group of ranged characters encamped on the tower can effectively control the roads leading to Iceblood Garrison and Iceblood Graveyard.
Set almost squarely between two Horde starting graveyards, Tower Point can be somewhat difficult for Alliance to hold if the Horde holds any units in reserve from the initial blitz. However, once the point is controlled, it represents a rather effective bottleneck for the Alliance to prevent Horde reinforcements from moving towards the Alliance towers.
- High road: Road running south from the Alliance entrance cave to where it branches to join with the lower road, and where it continues into the Alliance lumber mill. Horde can use this to attack SP from above, and Alliance can bypass Horde forces as they travel south.
Theories on real/perceived imbalance
Quite simply, Alterac Valley was not designed as a PvE battle to be decided in under 20 minutes, and the removal of superfluous NPCs (patch 1.11) does not address the placement of the remaining NPCs, the terrain, or how good the opposing defenses are with a skeleton defense—or quite often, no player defenders at all. These were designed to compliment the other NPCs, and a lively PvP battle.
Another factor to consider is the level of thought put into by players who don't want to be in the battleground for over half an hour, and the level of organization in an average [PuG]. Presumably, AV being a PvP arena after all, there is a counter available to either side for whatever is put in their way. Change however comes slowly in a disorganized mob, so better tactics are slow to filter through. For instance, from this author's view (Alliance), I can see no real reason why Horde players would not attack SP from above and behind, pretty much exclusively, from what is referred to as the high road. It's not intuitive however, but then it may change in time.
At this time, Alliance does have a significant advantage; issues such as the placement of NPCs in the two bases, which used to be balanced by other issues in a fuller game, and the terrain itself when used in race games, cater to the lowest common denominator of the two forces. However, Alliance, even with the perceived advantage, does not win AV an unbalanced amount of the time, though a thorough examination of rated battlegrounds might show if this advantage can be pressed in such a way to make the horde loose every time.
This is simply a reflection on the playerbase, and how they have chosen to play, rather than issues of balance inherent in the map, which is after all, objectively, being abused to gain as much honor as possible.
Groups of players who believe they can win, will usually win; players who believe they will probably lose anyway, will not try as hard, and thus generally lose. If your opponent has a force of 40 who have some level of trust and organization, and you a force of 30 with 10 AFKers, bots, stealthers, fishermen and grinders, you are already at a disadvantage.
What begins as a being decided by a combination of skill, gear and organization, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as a loss will often result in another loss, a win in a win, as a pool of players become entrenched as either winners or losers in each battlegroup. Thus a supposed bias will emerge, while a neighboring battlegroup can have an alternate view on bias.
It should be noted in support of this, that the current prevailing attitude of patch 1.11 onwards is similar to a pre-patch 1.10 (for some servers at any rate) situation that saw one side not caring whether they won or lost. It would seem that Blizzard's actions can have a resounding impact on player contribution within this battleground.
As AV has moved from its traditional long encounters to a cynical exercise in milking the system, players are not exactly endeared to the map (not that the previous versions were universally popular, or free of players focused exclusively on the rewards), a common sentiment being to get out of there as soon as rep/honor permits. Short games where essentially the same strategy is played out ad nauseum, also leads to a narrow range of experience. How much can a player know of the tactics an enemy uses on attack, if they themselves never defend? How quickly can counters be discovered when players are encouraged not to search them out?
This leads to a playerbase that is largely inward-looking and ignorant when determining what their opponent faces—delivering an entrenched and narrow-minded view of AV. The only way to fix this is to train players, and that is itself a difficult task. To do so would take a group of dedicated players on each battlegroup queuing in a small group. These players, with clear ideas of the map, strategy, and a willingness to change strategy and command the battlegroup, can direct the other thirty five in a concentrated effort to win the game. In doing so, they introduce those players to the effectiveness of a solid group strategy. With time, the group will train enough players, and they others, etc, so that the game is very enjoyable.
Overall Problems Post 2.0
Essentially, Alterac Valley has become just another PvE raid instance where a PuG can walk in and easily win. Side quests and other things that potentially make the fight more interesting are overlooked because they are simply unnecessary, and doing them removes players from 'the action' and potentially loose you honor points. A group can leave 15 people on defense, send 25 in on offense and easily win the match. There is no need to upgrade the armor of the NPC units, send cavalry attacks, or summon the raid boss. Battles have gone from the former multi-hour strategy matches, to footraces to the opposing base. It's simply a matter of which group of 40 people can reach the opposing base first and kill the leader, which, in itself, is painfully easy. As of patch 2.4, when Season 4 was released and Season 2 became available as Honor gear, every single Alterac Valley seems to be a massive zerg without any thought put in to the offense except "CAP THEIR BASE NOW!!!". Honestly, if I am playing Alterac Valley, I get about 5 of my friends to go back capture the towers. Bunkers/towers are rarely ever defended after the capture timer has started. The game requires many changes if it is to return to its former glory.
(From Horde perspective) As a Horde Paladin player, Alterac Valley frustrates me very much post 2.4. In Patch 2.4, the Horde's starting cave was moved back about another 30 seconds of running. This gives the Alliance a much closer starting point to the Horde's base, and the Horde ends up reaching Dun Baldar much later than the Alliance reaches Frostwolf Village. If you pay attention in Alterac Valley, you should notice that the Alliance will always start on the Relief Hut flag before Horde even reaches the Dun Baldar bunkers. This is due to the fact that Horde: A) has no defense whatsoever and B) The Alliance starts much closer and you can't get interrupted while capturing the flag at the Relief Hut.