I think it's relatively safe to say that in recent times in the World of Warcraft, no BG has gone through quite as many changes as Strand of the Ancients. With Cataclysm, the Battleground was completely redone, but it turned into something of a ridiculous zerg-fest, forcing Blizzard to rework the BG again, into its current incarnation today.
With all the confusion surrounding Strand, I figured now would be a good time to give everyone a quick primer in the ins and the outs of the BG, as well as some solid tactics for keeping on top, and pulling wins out of the fastest battleground.
For those of you who aren't already Strand veterans, let me give you a brief introduction. You'll start off randomly put on one of two boats, heading towards shore. This is the time to buff up, as the game starts as soon as you land.
Once you land you'll be on a beach, facing either a green gate or a blue one, with two demolishers at your disposal. The goal is to break down those gates, get to the red, and purple ones behind them and then finally break through a final yellow gate to get into a courtyard and breach a room called “The Relic Chamber.” Once you do that, you'll win the offensive round.
However, there is also a defensive round, (which could actually happen first, it's just RNG), where you play the side holding the demolishers off. This is pretty simple, CC the demos and the bad guys, shoot down the demos, and keep the bad guys from getting into your relic chamber. The team who has offence first sets a time, and the second group to play offense has to beat it. If they do, they win, if they don't, they lose.
Simple enough, right? Now – how do you win?
First of all, it should be noted that in the new patch the demolishers no longer have an extra two seats for ranged dps to park themselves in. The only person who can be in the vehicle is the demolisher. With that in mind, it's more important to have solid CC on the ground than ever before.
The name of the game on both sides of Strand is Crowd Control, and the secret to winning is to successfully CC the defending team enough that your demolishers can get ahead of them. Once the demos break away they opposition will be stuck playing a hopeless game of catch up, and the win will be yours.
There are two main tactics to pulling this off. The first is stacking demolishers. I can't emphasize enough how important this is. The demolishers now move extremely fast, and doors are pretty weak so if you get four (or sometimes, even more) stacked on a door, it'll go down extremely fast. Then you can sprint ahead to the next one, and so on and so forth.
|Well-stacked demos lead to an easy win.|
The best way to win Strand is to have demos stack on either blue or green, break down that gate, grab the GY behind it, break down the next one, CC the crap out of the other team, get ahead when you get to yellow, and sit back and relax and you faceroll the courtyard to win.
The trick here is both effective CC, and the other main tactic on offence in Strand. Dispelling. You NEED a paladin, or another class capable of purging crowd control from the demolishers because if they get slowed regularly, the other team can and WILL catch up with them, and they'll get burst down.
You need to have a paladin on your team riding ahead with your demolishers on strict dispel duty. Have him mount up, catch up to your demos and STAY WITH THEM. If you can successfully keep the demos at full speed, or close to it, they'll outpace the other team and you will almost always pull a win.
Winning on defence is a little more tricky. Offence is much easier now due to the huge speed of the demolishers. The best way to stop a demo now is with a frost mage, as they can freeze them in place, and keep them rooted pretty well. You'll want to get a frost mage (even in PuGs, most groups have one) on the gate the other team rushes and have him on root duty. If he can hold them long enough it'll give you time to burst the demos down.
Guns are also viable on defence again as they have been buffed significantly. If you get both guns on a gate pounding on the demos attacking they will actually go down, so it's definitely worth it to make use of the guns again.
The secret to winning on defence is to break the initial zerg of demolishers. If you pull a solid offence, you'll make it to the relic chamber with your first batch of demolishers. As a result, if you kill the first group of demos on defence (though it's better if you can stop two waves) the opposition will generally fall behind enough that even if they regroup quickly – they won't have time to get to your relic.
A good way to make sure you're effectively burning the demos down is to have the group leader use raid icons on them. Then call out in BG chat (or vent if we're talking Rated BGs or a premade) “Kill skull, kill cross, kill star,” etc. It's important to ONLY hit the actual players on the other team when all the demolishers are down. If there are demos up on a gate, you should be hitting those, and NOT the players, just CC them until the demos go down. A lot of people get caught up in HK farming and fall behind the wave of demos, which is a sure formula for a failed defensive.
Overall, Strand has changed a lot since its incarnation in the earlier days of Wrath. But I think it's easy to like the changes. It's now the fastest BG, win or lose, which makes it great for farming honour, especially on its holiday weekend. Strand is also a very interesting BG, as unlike focusing on objectives (the flag, territory control etc.) and killing players to do it, Strand focuses almost entirely on non-player goals. Kill demos, kill gates, etc.
The only thing you really want to do is crowd control the opposing players, except when you've got nothing else to do on defence. It makes Strand unique, as it's probably the only BG so focused on NOT killing players. Does that make it good or bad?
That's up to you.
Until next time, practice safe Death!