A Guide to Arathi Basin
Arathi Basin is situated in the Arathi Highlands. Supposedly nestled in a fertile valley, hidden from the recent wars because the only access is through two cave, the basin is rich in resources that the Horde and Alliance both want to control for themselves. Blizzard designated these "resources" as a farm, mine, stables, blacksmith and lumber mill. All common features from the original Warcraft RTS games. The five resource are spread out across the map. The blacksmith is set in the center and surrounded by a lake, while the other four are spread out around the edges. The map is basically a mirror, though the lumber mill is on high ground and the mine is buried at a lower level then the rest of the map. While it's not a big deal, it's worth mentioning that the lumber mill is able to see and helps provide communication to the rest of the map while the mine can't see anything. The mine also can't be seen though, so it has its positives and negatives.
A quick overview of the basics. The Alliance start in the Northwest at Trollbane Hall, the Horde in the Southeast at Defiler's Den. Each team consists of 15 players. The objective of the battleground is to control the various resources, or "nodes" as they are often referred to. All five nodes start out neutral in the beginning of the match. Each node has a flag next to it that is used to capture it. In order to capture a node a player must click on the corresponding flag and they will start to channel a spell. After the spell is complete, it takes ten seconds, the assaulting team gains "contested" status over the node. After one minute the team now controls the node. Thankfully a team does not have to control all five nodes in order to win. Instead for every controlled node the team gains points every couple of seconds. The more nodes controlled, the more points gained. The winner is decided by which team reaches 2000 points first. The game often takes over 20 minutes to complete.
Logically then a team needs to control more nodes for a greater amount of time than the opposing team in order to win. Each node also comes with a nearby graveyard which has a cycling 30 second resurrection timer just like in WSG. Because a player needs to channel for 10 seconds uninterrupted in order to assault a node, defending a node is much easier then attacking one. Except for at the stables, it takes roughly seven or more seconds to go from resurrecting at the graveyard into getting back into the fight around a node. What this does mean though is that if you are assaulting a node and finally kill the last defender, there's a chance you'll have bad luck and all of them will spawn and be on top of you again at full health and mana. This leads the battleground to have a heavy leaning towards zerging bases. If the attackers don't zerg, then the defenders will continually spawn and sap the attackers' strength until they manage to drive them off.
In order to succeed in AB, teams need to communicate and have a balanced force of offense and defense. For example, if nobody is attacking the mines, then there is no need for five people to be sitting around doing nothing defending them. If you don't see the opposing team where you are, then they are somewhere else. On the flip side, leaving only one person or even worse, nobody at a node is inviting disaster. A sap or a sheep or an ice trap lasts long enough for one defender to be CC'd while the lone attacker assaults the node. In general, a good number to keep on defense at a node is 2 players. Next is where communication comes in. Players need to talk to each other and notify the raid of the enemies movements. A group of 2 defenders is not going to last very long against a zerg of 7 attackers. Before the attackers even reach the node the defenders, or anybody who saw what was happening, needs to tell everybody so that the node can get backup.
An important issue to the basics of AB is knowing when to attack and when to defend. When your team has less nodes then the other, you want to attack. When your team has more nodes then the other, you want to defend. While this is a good simple rule, it's not the whole picture.
The whole picture can be best summed up with the concept of pressure. Arathi Basin is a game focused on pressuring your opponents and freezing their mobility. Mobility itself is important because players need to move rapidly from node to node either to beat the defenders from getting backup, or so they can save it from attackers. There is no better way to limit an opposing teams mobility then engaging them in a fight. The effects of pressure are simply explained. 3 players from one team are attacking a node with 7 defenders. Obviously their attempt is futile, they aren't going to capture the node. What they are capable of doing though is holding up 7 players, basically half the enemy team in combat, for as long as they can manage to stay alive. Solid healers help the attacking team of less last long enough to be more then a 10 second nuisance and turns them into a 2 minute clog.
A team constantly under pressure in the way outlined above is going to have a hard time. That guy defending the blacksmith may keep yelling the enemy is there over battleground chat, even though your team outnumbers them 2 to 1. Defenders need to realize when there are too many of them defending a node. Even if it is currently being attacked, the defenders would be better off protecting a node that is actually in danger of succumbing to the enemy. That may sound even simpler then pressuring, but most players seem incapable of stopping themselves from chasing the resto druid across half the map instead of actually fighting where it matters. Pressure itself is not related to whether or not your team is on the offensive or the defensive at the moment. It's all about forcing a large portion of the enemy team, in regards to the size of your own assaulting force, from participating in the battleground except for fighting you.
On the note of defending, it kind of goes without saying that when you are protecting a node you should be near it. Because of AB's mechanics though, often the best place to defend is not near the node itself. Heading off the enemy by counter attacking before they reach the node they are attempting to assault, when you can pull it off, is a very good thing. Not only will the rest of your team have more time to supply the node with defenders, you will have plenty of time to be resurrected and defend all over again before fighting on top of an actual node. This type of tactic is more akin to reducing the mobility of your opponent, making them dismount to attempt to you kill you instead of going straight for the node. Players should be careful not to be caught in a position where they only have control of 2 out of 5 bases and believe they are defending by not fighting on a node. More often then not, what they end up experiencing is the enemy still applying pressure to them while they are unable to assault anywhere.
Onto less pervasive tactics. As noted before, the stables has the only graveyard where players can near instantly spawn and in under 3 seconds be back into the fight. That makes this node slightly easier to defend then the others. The Alliance tend to leave barely anyone there though, and once the Horde have taken it, a problem arises. This same problem can also happen with the farm, as it is the Horde's first node they are given access to. Inside each starting area is yet another graveyard. When a player dies out somewhere on the map, they will go to the nearest controlled node for respawn. The problem is that if the Horde take the stables, or the Alliance take the farm, anybody who dies does not go to another controlled node, but instead back to their starting zone. It may not seem like a major issue, but the starting zone is the furthest point a player can get from any of the nodes. This means that they are out of the fight for a much longer time then if they were able to spawn at a captured node instead of their start zone.
Furthermore, because of the ease to defend the stables, the Horde have the ability to effectively bottleneck any Alliance players from doing anything but respawning over and over again at their starting zone. Any Alliance player that runs down and tries to take the stables back anyway. In this situation, and the same applies to the farm, the best thing for a player to do is ignore the node unless they are completely sure they will not die when attempting to take it. Any player who keeps running at the farm or stables from their starting zone and keeps dying is shutting themselves down with barely any effort on the part of the opposing team, not to mention those players are no longer helping to defend captured nodes.
Some might say that these players are just applying pressure to the stables or farm. The problem is that while they are applying pressure, they are limited to doing nothing but providing pressure, and it's probably not that great of pressure either. They always spawn in the starting zones and so cannot shift to defend captured nodes when needed. Many games have turned into complete routes because players kept respawning in their starting zone until all 5 nodes belonged to the enemy.
Arathi Basin requires a lot of communication. To the point where the team that communicates the best will probably win. Unlike in WSG where everybody can run around and just know what to do by a simple glance at the map and by being away of their surroundings, in AB it's often impossible to know what node needs help or what node looks vulnerable to attack without the help of team mates. Don't forget to be constantly moving. 10 players sitting around a node they successfully defended and drinking water does nothing to help stave off the impending attack on one of their other nodes.
Some important acronyms for this BG:
ST - Stables
GM - Gold Mine
BS - Blacksmith
LM - Lumbermill