[Gaming] When War Mode Goes Awry

So, World of Warcraft abolished PVP servers in Battle for Azeroth. It was a smart move in one respect, because the legions of players who felt trapped on PVP servers where all their friends were could now level in peace. In its place, Blizzard created War Mode, a more formalized method to join open-world PVP than simply telling people to flag for it. New PVP skills that can be used in the open world are tied into it, and it can only be enabled from Stormwind or Orgrimmar. Initially, it could only be disabled from those places, but as of Patch 8.1.0, players can disable it from any rest point such as a tavern. The five-minute cooldown for unflagging still applies.

To encourage players to voluntarily enable War Mode, Blizzard has incentivized it beyond adding these new PVP skills. Both factions get a flat 10% increase in XP or Azerite rewards as well as various buffs for successfully killing a certain number of players of the opposite faction. There are also air drops that appear that players can fight over and the winning faction can then loot a piece of gear for a short period of time afterwards.

Here’s where it breaks down a little bit. Horde players have frequently enabled War Mode in far greater numbers than Alliance, causing Blizzard to add special incentives that are currently Alliance-only, although technically they would be available for Horde if the balance was the other way around. First, there is a 120 quest that rewards gear for killing a certain number of opposing players, and secondly and far more interestingly is an additional 20% XP/Azerite bonus for a total of 30% for players of the underpopulated faction in War Mode. We don’t know what the criteria are for activating these additional incentives, but it’s caused consternation on social media.

Now, the thing to understand is the fact that most people know when you flag for PVP, you get what you’re asking for, and there’s a decades-long culture of ganking lowbies. It happens. Blizzard doesn’t really consider that griefing, even if one faction camps the other’s graveyards for hours at a stretch. There are stories of some people being banned for that behavior, citing the ToS about being too disruptive to others’ gameplay, but considering the much larger numbers of individuals and groups that have done these things for years with zero consequences, such stories of bans are the exception and not the rule. It’s also likely the bans happened for reasons other than what the player or their friends claim they were banned for.

So, many folks who would opt into War Mode for the XP gains are likely people who are leveling alts for racial heritage armor, because those quests are not available to boosted characters – a bit rude to players who paid for boosts with real money by the way. There might be some first-timers, but I would guess that most of the folks doing lowbie leveling are veteran players, so they know what PVP culture is and what the expectations are. And sure, it’s not hard to expect that some bored high-level characters would camp lowbies in leveling zones just like the old days with PVP servers. However, things are different now.

For years, there have always been accusations of Blizzard being biased toward either of the factions, with folks in the argument citing every nitpicky detail they could, and I even included a segment about how the Alliance got treated unfairly with regards to their first Allied Races in my review of Legion and look-ahead to BfA. Since War Mode became a thing, these accusations increased in frequency because of Corner Crossing. This is a max-level Horde quest that has players tracking down news of the escaped Varok Saurfang by disguising themselves as a little human girl, their Dark Ranger companion as an adult human female, and questioning the locals in Redridge Mountains between the Inn and the tower at Three Corners. Great story, quite interesting if you’re Horde. In theory, players would go through the quest objectives, complete it and continue on, and Redridge goes back to its usual behavior.

Nope!

What I have observed over the past few months is that Horde players will hang onto that specific quest, camp the corridor between the inn and tower, and repeatedly gank the level 20ish Alliance characters trying to level. I’ve personally been ganked multiple times as multiple lowbies over the space of a week by the same exact Horde player, so it’s definitely not personal, and it’s not just yet another random Horde player passing through while doing their quest – although there are still lots of those too. A single Horde player can tie up leveling for every Alliance player in the zone for hours if they were that bored like that first guy.

I must be perfectly clear here. I do not object to the basic understanding that turning on War Mode means I’m agreeing to be ganked, nor am I angry because some bored 120 can see me riding away as fast as I can as a level 25 and will hop on their flying mount, race over to me, and kill my character before my slow mount can help me escape. That’s open world PVP in any other zone. And Alliance will gank Horde just the same if the situations were reversed, and have done so in the past. No argument, no discussion. I understand the philosophy of PVPing, but that’s not the point of any of this.

My point is that Blizzard plopped a max-level Horde quest in an Alliance-primary lowbie leveling zone and didn’t create a similar quest for the Alliance in a Horde leveling zone. Simple as that.

Alliance players wouldn’t be complaining and opting out of War Mode quite as much regardless of how large the XP incentive is if Blizzard had given them something equivalent in return. Blizzard has been around the block enough to have known as soon as they came up with the idea for the Horde quest that this would happen (and would happen if it was an Alliance quest as well, let’s be brutally honest here, you’d do it too). They could have easily made it so that Horde couldn’t attack Alliance while they were disguised as Alliance during this quest, because they use this kind of flagging tech in so many other quests in the game. The only real conclusion here is that it’s working as intended and thus it adds ammunition to arguments that Blizzard has Horde bias. Not that there really needed to be any thoughts otherwise, considering their iconic tourist photo-op location on-campus is the orc statue.

So, right now, if you’re Alliance trying to level a lowbie but want to at least mitigate some of the risks of being ganked in Redridge, these are your alternatives:

  • Turn War Mode off and deal with the slog to get your heritage armor with regular XP
  • Try to level in other zones regardless of whether addons like Azeroth Auto Pilot recommends Redridge
  • Try leveling when it’s super early or super late for your region’s players to be around (remember: sharding means it’s not based on your specific server anymore)
  • Ignore PVPers who use abusive/bullying speech

Ultimately, opting into PVP right now in WoW is opening yourself to ganking by anyone from the opposite faction regardless of level. A player isn’t weak for simply not wanting to deal with the hassle and level up in peace and save PVP for battlegrounds, capital raids/defense, or for those occasional quests that require PVP (Children’s Week, anyone?). Thankfully, those players who were trapped on the former PVP servers can escape by turning War Mode off. At the end of the day, it’s up to you as the player to decide how you want to level.

Good luck!