Battleground Tactics – Carrying the Flag

Thunder ran down the ramp of broken rock, the unwieldy alliance flag strapped over his back, over the grassy knoll towards the swiftly flowing stream. On the far bank he saw a night elf mage.

Long ago the night elves had cast out his people from amongst themselves for practicing magic. That set off a chain of events that had led his people from one betrayal to another. So many of his people had perished and it had all started with the Night Elves’ phobia of magic and distrust of magic users. Seeing his duplicitous long separated kin on the opposite bank infuriated him.

He dove into the stream.

The Night Elf caster, in the fine ranged military tradition of striking while the iron is bogged down in water, began to cast.

The swift current pushed Thunder closer to the mage. Years of training and being kited by sniveling mages took over and Thunder charged.

The stunned mage was bowled over by a cannonballing mass of bristling (and glistening) steel. Resisting the urge to enter a protracted fight with his would-be assailant, Thunder instead roared at the mage.  It was an intimidating shout, calculated to make him soil his clothes and run shaking with fear. It had the desired effect and sent the mage off stumbling in horror in the general direction of the stream.

Thunder then ran towards the rocky ledge where the spirit healer performed the task of reassembling fallen soldiers. Nearly there, he heard a roar and intensifying heat headed towards him from where the mage had last been. Not breaking his stride and with an easy grin, he raised his burnished shield. The massive fireball zinged off the shield and moments later there was a panicked yelp and the telltale sound of a sizzling mage jumping in the water.

Up ahead he saw Tukano and Tacticus and met up with them. Layers of iron and steel, and a plate codpiece aside, there was definite safety in numbers.

For people new to PVP, and even some experienced PVPers, finding themselves carrying the flag is the stuff of nightmares. Not only are you carrying a stonking big flag that leaves a glowing trail behind you, you cannot mount up, stealth, bubble, iceblock or even nitro boost while performing this role. To top that off every single person in the battleground is now extremely curious in what you’re doing. Some wonderful people also start getting hysterical and pass unhelpful comments about your intelligence, genealogy, gear, spec etc.

If you want to be a successful flag carrier, it is important to start from the basics – your job is to successfully carry the flag from its spawn point (usually in an enemy base) back to your own base to cap it. If the enemy team has your flag, your offense needs to retrieve it before you can cap the flag. This means that you need to be able to survive through the enemy’s attacks on you and you need to get that flag delivered to where it needs to be.

Anyone can pick up the flag and run back with it but tank classes do especially well in this role. No matter what class/role you are playing, it helps to remember that the objectives of a flag map (Warsong Gulch, Twin Peaks – NOT Eye of the Storm) are to cap the flag three times before your opponent does or the clock runs out. It does not matter if you did 3x more damage than everyone else but ignored the flag objectives – you win or lose based on flags.

Heck you can win a game without a single point of damage or healing done by carefully avoiding the enemy while you focus on the flag.

Thudnblunder is my Holy Paladin – 0 damage, 0 healing – but 3 caps. Focus on the objectives!

Simply put, try to apply as many of these guidelines. Once you’re more experienced, you’ll get a feel for when you can deviate from them:

  1. Avoid combat if possible. Take a path that keeps you away from where the enemy is and their graveyard. You really do not want to run past their graveyard.
  2. Try to run past your graveyard when you are crossing the dangerous midfield – this is where your reinforcements come from.
  3. Wait for your healer and escort, don’t run away past them. You’ll be easy pickings without backup.
  4. Protect your healer. Take the pressure off them by interrupting, snaring, disabling their attackers.
  5. Your mission is not to kill people attacking you, your goal is to cap the flag. Use line of sight, elevation etc to make things more difficult for your pursuers.
  6. Generally, it is better to hold the high ground than be on the low ground.
  7. Make macros to pop your survival cooldowns when you’re being focused and your health is dropping fast. Timing is critical so keep it on an accessible keybind.
  8. When you’re waiting in your flag room for your flag to be returned so you can cap, think about positioning… stand where you’re less exposed. Upper level of WSG is more defensible and you can get to the flag pretty quickly – but if you’re at the lower level, someone from the upper level can take pot shots at your team with no real risk to themselves. In Twin Peaks either stand on top of the platform near the back wall or under the platform in a corner – don’t stand in the middle of the room where people coming in from all 3 entryways can attack you.
  9. Use battleground targets to keep an eye on the enemy flag carrier. Get ready to cap when their health starts to drop – you don’t want to be far from the flag and let them grab the flag again.
  10. The higher the “vulnerability stacks” the more vulnerable you are. Each stack means you take 10% more damage. The maximum is 10 stacks at which point you take 100% extra damage. If healing is very strong, the flag retrievers will often wait for a high number of stacks to blow their cooldowns and get the enemy flag carrier down. They’ll usually CC the healers at this point and go for the kill. If you have ten stacks on you, expect to get hit – hard. Stay near the flag spawn area, your team’s offense should be trying to get their flag carrier down too.

A protection spec is ideal. A protection spec tweaked for flag carrying is even better. Prot warriors excel against melee heavy teams, Blood DKs do very well against caster heavy teams, but for random BGs any tank can do reasonably well. An issue common to most people who engage in PVP and PVE the same toon is the dual spec limit. You can tweak your specs for PVE or PVP and its usually a pain to switch. While there are addons that can help you “remember” specs when respeccing, you can do the same thing with macros.

Visit a class trainer and unlearn your talents. Then you use your macro and voila! when you open your talent tab, the spec is filled out and all you need to click is “Learn”. This takes the hassle out of switching specs though the minor gold cost remains.

My PvP prot macro is:

/run t,p,a={3,13,32,42,53,62,72,81,91,102,111,122,131,141,172,182,193,201,1,11,22,32,52,2,13,}SetPreviewPrimaryTalentTree(t[1],GetActiveTalentGroup())for i=1,#t do a=t[i]if a<9 then p=a else AddPreviewTalentPoints(p,floor(a/10),a%10)end end

My PvE prot macro is:

/run t,p,a={3,23,32,43,53,62,72,81,91,102,111,122,131,152,161,172,193,201,1,22,2,23,32,61,71,}SetPreviewPrimaryTalentTree(t[1],GetActiveTalentGroup())for i=1,#t do a=t[i]if a<9 then p=a else AddPreviewTalentPoints(p,floor(a/10),a%10)end end

Now you’re probably thinking, holy cow, how in blazes am I going to figure this macro out? Well, you don’t need to write it yourself. All you need to do is, go to Wowhead’s talent calculator and build a spec in there. Once done, click the “Use in-game” link and you’ll get a popup window containing the spec macro.

Hit CTRL-C with the macro selected to copy it and then create a new macro in game and paste the text in its body with CTRL-V. It is very handy once you have it set up.

If you want some ideas on what good flag carrying specs are, head over to Noxxic and check out their PvP guides. While I only really play my prot warrior when I am in the mood to carry a flag, they do have guides for all classes.

Some tips for protection warriors:

  1. Keep your shield on and stay in defensive stance when you have the flag on you – doesn’t matter if no one is around, when you’re in stunlock, defensive stance helps.
  2. Don’t waste your heroic leap for no reason – when rogues stunlock and smoke bomb you and go for the kill, this is how you get out and into the warm comforting embrace of your healers!
  3. We are the kings of mobility – charge an enemy in the direction you want to go, intervene a friendly further in that direction, intercept another enemy and if you need it, heroic leap – you can cross midfield in Warsong Gulch in seconds! Heroic leap over the stream in Twin Peaks is useful if you need to leave pursuers behind.
    • /castsequence [harm] reset=15 Charge, Intercept, Charge; [help] Intervene;
  4. Don’t forget your defensive cooldowns – Shield Wall, Last Stand, Enraged Regeneration, Emblem of Tenacity, Healthstone/Potion, Banner, Retaliation – macro them together for maximum effect.
    • /cast Shield Wall
    • /cast Last Stand
    • /cast Disarm
    • /cast Spell Reflection
    • /cast Shield Block
    • /cast enraged regeneration
    • /use Healthstone
    • /use 14
    • /use Horde Battle Standard
  5. If you manage to snipe a killing blow (charge + shield slam, revenge/devastate works well) don’t forget victory rush. You get a huge chunk of health back. Remember though, your main job with that flag on your back is to stay alive, not do damage.
  6. You likely won’t be focused until the “stacks” go up. Don’t just stand in the corner, run into the group and apply liberal doses of :
    • Rend+thunderclap – the damage isn’t huge but it adds up over time
    • Demoralizing roar – 10% reduced physical damage is good!
    • Shockwave  – AoE stun best used on clustered melee, especially when they pop cooldowns
    • Heroic throw – a ranged 3 sec silence in your face Mr. Caster!
    • Charge – stun and interrupt ’em and with the Blitz talent you stun 3 for the price of one!
    • Concussion blow another stun!
    • Disarm – best against melee though loss of spellpower hurts casters too
    • Intimidating shout  – run away little girls!
    • Intervene – with the safeguard talent you can really make life easier for a healer
    • If your team is getting banged up, use your rallying cry to help buy time – bear in mind this will trigger the cooldown on your last stand.
    • Pummel – melee range interrupt and 3 sec silence on on a 10 sec cooldown – use it!
    • Spell Reflect – do it late so you don’t get juked (tricked into using it by someone who starts a cast and then cancels it, making you waste your interrupt or reflect).

3 thoughts on “Battleground Tactics – Carrying the Flag

  1. Navimie

    I love the story at the beginning again! If I ever get to be in a BG with you I want to be in a story! 😀
    This is a good read for prot warr carriers. I might get our FC to read this.


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