|Parts of this page were originally written by Quor.
It's a PvP-focused world zone in the WotLK expansion pack. It's a medium-sized zone that is the focal point for a vicious battle between the Horde and Alliance for control over the fortress of Wintergrasp. The map is up for grab every 2 hours and 30 minutes, and battle can last as long as 45 minutes.
Controlling WG gives every member of your faction in Northrend a buff that increases all experience gains by 5% and allows bosses in every instance (yes, every instance) to drop what are called Stone Keeper's shards. If you've ever done the Auchindoun instances with the Terrokar buff on, the Keeper's shards are similar to the Spirit shards you would acquire there, only the selection items that can be bought with Keeper's shards is much greater.
If that weren't incentive enough, a single battle of WG can easily give up to 5000 (five thousand) honor, even for a loss. This is in addition to any honor gained from directly killing enemy players. Having control of the Wintergrasp Fortress also gives your faction a "PvP hub" of sorts, as portals to each of the battlegrounds exist inside the fort, as well as a portal to the Violet Citadel in Dalaran. Owning Wintergraps also gives access to the 10man and 25man version of the Vault of Archavon. In other words, doing Wintergrasp is not only very fun, but also very profitable in a number of different ways.
Wintergrasp is broken up roughly into three parts; the Fortress, the northern Workshops, and the southern Workshops and towers. When WG is "dormant" (that is to say, the 2.5 hour period of time between battles) the northern workshops and fort are occupied by the faction that most recently won Wintergrasp, while the southern workshops and towers are listed as neutral (gray) and are guarded by NPC's of the opposing faction. All workshops, including those within the fort itself, are disabled while WG is dormant. This means the only time you can use siege weaponry in WG is during an actual battle.
As you can see in the above screenshot, the Alliance has control of the Fortress and northern Workshops, while the southern Workshops are listed as neutral. The southern workshops still have Horde NPC's guarding them, as do the three southern towers. There are five graveyards total in Lake WG, one for each of the northern and southern Workshops, and one at the back (north) of the Fortress that is used solely by the defending force.
During a battle period, control of the map changes slightly. The two northern Workshops fall under the control of the attacking faction, and are now considered objectives that can be captured by either team. This means the attacking force starts out with four (4) workshops at the beginning of a WG battle, while the defending force starts out with two (2), namely the two inside the fort. This is important, as the number of workshops you control influences the number of siege vehicles that you can employ on the battlefield at one time. Each workshop counts as four vehicles, meaning an attacking force starts out with a potential for sixteen (16) vehicles while the defenders start with half that, eight (8).
Of the six workshops, only the northern ones can be captured, Eye of the Storm tower-style (as far as I'm aware). My understanding is that while the southern and fort-based workshops cannot be captured, they can be destroyed (the northern ones are immune to damage of any kind). Under certain circumstances, this can force some interesting engagements at the northern workshops, as the battle becomes about securing resources (siege engines) more than actual fortress assault/defense. However, the time limit of WG battles generally keeps this kind of conflict short, with the defending side inevitably winning.
Of the graveyards, the "natural" Alliance and Horde graveyards while on offense are, respectively, the northeast one and the northwest one. However, just because you're sent to a certain graveyard doesn't mean you have to stay there. Blizzard has implemented a few key mechanics that help fight against being outnumbered, being camped, or being forced into a bottleneck or surrounded.
The first, and most important mechanic, is known as the tenacity buff. One of the common complaints about Wintergrasp during beta was the possibility of heavily unbalanced numbers greatly favoring one faction or the other. In essence, an outnumbered faction would stand no chance just on the basis of sheer numbers, even if the outnumbered faction somehow had an advantage in siege weaponry. Tenacity is the answer to being outnumbered.
Whenever there is an inequal amount of players on both factions in Wintergrasp, the side that has the lower number of players receives what's called the Tenacity buff. This buff increases your health, your damage dealt, your healing received, and the honor you gain from kills. Tenacity buffs also stack based on how great the inequality is, so the more you are outnumbered, the stronger you get. The most I've personally had was a stack of twenty-seven (27) tenacity buffs. At level 76, this gave me over 60k health and something like +320% damage to all my attacks, as well as over 100% extra honor gained per kill. In short, I was a player-controlled raid boss. I felled a goodly number of 80's before the enemy finally wised up and came at me in overwhelming numbers (it took about eight 80's to bring me down).
As the number of players on either faction begins to even out, the Tenacity buff begins to lose stacks, until when things are roughly equal (no more than one or two players difference) it is removed entirely. Tenacity affects everything you do, from the damage you deal with spells or auto-attacks, to the flame breath and health of your Catapult, to the destructive power of the anti-vehicle RP-GG (Rocket Propelled Goblin Grenade).
The second mechanic, the anti-camping mechanic, is called Spiritual Immunity. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, whenever you are within a certain distance of a graveyard, you are immune to everything. You cannot die. At all. This mechanic is designed specifically to combat people who like to graveyard camp. Each one of the graveyard spawn points are far enough removed from any objective of importance that if a person or group of people were to attempt camping, then it's clear that they're just being bastards. As such, Spiritual Immunity exists to give the camped side not just a fighting chance, but a way to completely and utterly destroy the campers with impunity (and gain some nice honor in the process).
Thirdly, this mechanic is one that I've found to be the most innovative. Basically, it combines an anti-camping mechanic with a means to break any kind of bottleneck or chokehold. This mechanic is Graveyard Porting.
Put simply, if you are attacking and are dead and you don't like the graveyard that you have been sent too (say, it's near a workshop controlled by enemy forces who outnumber you) then you can right-click on the spiritual healer there and choose another graveyard, any graveyard (save the Fortress one) and choose to be teleported there, where you will rez. This allows blockades to be easily broken (or flat out ignored) and ensures the attacking side always has access to a Workshop.
Finally, there is one other unique WG mechanic that doesn't fall into any kind of category, the Rank mechanic. Basically, as you kill NPC's and players of the opposing faction, you gain rank. As you can gain higher rank you gain access to more advanced siege weapons. The only two ranks implemented at the moment are Corporal and First Lieutenant (for Alliance, I'm unsure as to what Horde have for ranks). Corporal rank allows you to access the Catapult, a fast anti-personnel and anti-static defense siege weapon. The First Lieutenant rank allows you to access the Demolisher, a medium siege weapon with decent anti-personnel capability, a two (2) passenger+one (1) driver capacity and strong siege power, and the Siege Tank, a heavily armored (and slow as heck) tank with enough room to hold a driver, two (2) passengers and one (1) gunner. Each of these vehicles has their strengths and weaknesses, and each is uniquely suited to handling various situations.
First off, the controls. They're fairly basic; if you haven't I'd recommend making a Death Knight and going through the starter quest line, as there are a number of situations where you'll be in control of vehicles, thus getting experience with the new vehicle interface in a low-pressure environment. Second, the default controls (assuming you haven't rebound any keys) for the siege vehicles are your WASD keys and the 1, 3, and 5 of the numpad (with numlock on). The WASD should be obvious; that's your movement. The 1/3/5 allow you to shift seats when in a multi-seat vehicle such as a Demolisher or Siege Tank, while the 5 will dismount you from the vehicle. Naturally, these keys can be rebound if you so choose.
Now...on with the fun.
The two weapons of the Cat are the Plague Barrel and Flame breath. The Plague Barrel is pretty much what it sounds like; a big barrel of sickness that deals AoE damage on impact, with more damage being done the closer a target is to the center of the impact. The impact shatters the barrel, loosing Plague Slime in an area all around it. The Plague Barrel has both a cooldown (about five seconds) as well as a short cast time (about 1.5 seconds) in addition to the travel time of the barrel itself. This makes leading targets a bit difficult at times, especially when moving over rough terrain, but with a little practice it's not hard to nail people in the face with a big barrel of death for a few thousand damage in a decently large area.
Plague Barrels deal the most damage out of the Cats two weapons, but due to the cooldown and launch time, as well as the often uneven terrain of WG, you can't rely on them for your sole method of attack unless you're stationary attacking a stationary target (generally not something you want to do as a Cat, because it means you're probably trying to kill a tower cannon that's likely doing more damage to you than you are to it). Cat drivers live and die by how they move, and staying in one place too long invites assault from something that a Cat just can't stand up too.
Thus enters the Flame Breath. The Flame Breath is a channeled, no cooldown attack that lasts for about 4-5 seconds and deals roughly 1000 damage (modified by tenacity) each second. The lack of a cooldown means you can essentially spam this, and nothing tears through massed infantry like an overlap of flame from two or three Cats. Even the heavier Demolisher and Siege Tank can't last against that kind of assault for long, although the Siege Tank has the potential to make short work of any Cats that get too close.
Overall, the purpose of a Catapult is, as noted above, anti-pesonnel and anti-vehicle. The AoE effect of the Plague Barrels lends itself to softening up tower defenses, but overall the Cat is best suited in a support role, fending off ground-based attacks on the heavier and slower Demolishers and Siege Tanks. Hence, Catapults are one of the two absolutely necessary vehicles in order to succeed in Wintergrasp. There is no better anti-infantry vehicle, and when it comes to thinning out the mass of NPC's in the central part of the fort during an attack, nothing does the job like a Cat. Likewise, when the enemy is flooding through a breach in the wall and laying waste to your fort workshops, nothing sends them flying back to the graveyard faster than some Plague Barrels and liberal use of flame breath.
The Demolisher (Demo for short) is a medium-siege weapon with decent anti-infantry defense and good siege power. While not as heavy as a Siege Tank (and thus, not as sturdy) the Demo makes up for it with a bit more speed and the ability to be successfully piloted by a single person and still retain high effectiveness (Siege Tanks by comparison need at least two people before they eclipse Demos in terms of sieging power). Hence, if you need that wall or tower down AND YOU NEED IT DOWN NOW! then your best bet with two people is to grab two Demos instead of a Siege Tank.
Weaponry on the Demo is pretty straightforward. You have a medium-range fireball that can be lobbed quite a ways (relative to the short-ranged Barrel of the Cat) that deals about the same damage as a Plague Barrel but without the cast time and with a shorter cooldown. The fireball not only hits infantry and vehicles pretty hard, but it deals a good hunk (generally about 1000) of siege damage to walls and towers. Thanks to the long range and lobbing nature of the shot, a properly placed Demo can inflict damage on a tower or wall while remaining out of the line of fire of any nearby tower cannons. However, it's the very same lobbing nature of the fireball that makes the Demo a worse anti-personnel vehicle than the Cat. The Plague Barrel of the cat is a more direct-fired projectile, making aiming and hitting things that much easier. The Demos fireball requires a goodly amount of lead time, and as such is hard to score direct hits with unless you're firing on a mostly stationary target.
The second weapon of the Demo is the Ram. It's pretty self-explanatory; it rams sh*t, ideally walls, but it can be used against other siege vehicles and players as well. This causes a knockback effect. Hence, you can use the Ram of a Demo while on defense to buy some extra time for your walls by knocking enemy Demos and Siege tanks away. The unwieldly nature of the heavier siege vehicles means it'll take a few extra seconds to reposition them just where they need to be, and sometimes all you need to secure a win is a few extra seconds.
The Ram deals exactly 1500 damage to walls and towers, and the cooldown is about twice as long as the fireball cooldown (using one weapon triggers the CD on the other). This lends itself nicely to a Ram > fireball > repeat rotation. A lone Demo can drop a workshop, tower, or wall rather quickly if unmolested. Two Demos can usually get into the inner courtyard of the Fort within minutes if left to their own devices.
Finally, the Demo houses two passenger slots, allowing ranged dps classes or support classes a safe vantage point from which to distribute death and salvation. Stack two dps if you want to have extra anti-tower and anti-personnel defense, or put a healer/dps combo in to support the ground troops while you tear down The Wall. Go double healer and your infantry will have enough staying power to create a good-sized mound of corpses on which to stand and mock your enemy.
Aka "The Tank", or just Tank for short, the Siege Tank is the heaviest vehicle currently implemented in Lake Wintergrasp. Like the Demo, it excels at base destruction, but unlike the Demo, it requires at least two people before it reaches it's full potential. The crew of a Tank must then consist of at least one driver and one gunner in order to be most effective. The advantage Tanks have over Demos is in their stronger Ram attack (controlled by the driver, 2000 damage per hit, same cooldown as the Demo Ram) and the 360 coverage and high-damage provided by the turret-mounted cannon. Also like the Demo, the Tank has two slots available for passengers, offering the highest level of vehicle-based protection for your ranged dps and support classes.
While the Tank is the slowest of all the vehicles, it's also the sturdiest, with the capability to hit the hardest at the longest range. The cannon controlled by the Tank gunner hits about as hard as Plague Barrels and fireballs do, but with a greater flexibility thanks to its 360 degree coverage and ability to either use a direct shot or go for a lob. Tanks aren't necessary for success in WG, but as the game progresses and more players become involved, the all-around coverage of the gun, large life pool, and stronger Ram all combine to make the Tank a welcome addition to your forces.
My personal experience has taught me that Siege Tanks excel in a direct support role. That is to say they do their best work on the front lines both ramming down towers and walls while covering other vehicles and friendlies nearby. The cannon is a great great tool for killing pretty much anything, and doubles as a strong siege weapon (at least as strong as the fireball of the Demo, if not stronger). The two passenger slots lend the Tank the same flexibility that the Demo has, only in a sturdier package. A pair of Demos may be able to tear through walls in no time unmolested, but if any kind of resistance begins to mount, the Demos often have trouble surviving long enough to do any kind of real damage. Siege Tanks don't have that problem; the long range, direct-fire capability of the gun combined with a stronger Ram make dual Tanks an incredibly hard-to-crack offensive or defensive force.
It should be noted however, that the passengers in the Tank cannot affect anything outside the Tank, while those on the Demo can (including the use of RP-GG's).
In all seriousness, the RP-GG is a great anti-vehicle weapon that gets more accurate the closer you are to a vehicle. It has a long cast time (about ten seconds) but it deals MASSIVE damage when it hits, as well as the aforementioned knockback. I believe they can even be used from a passenger seat of a vehicle, but I have yet to be able to test this personally.
RP-GG's can be found outside each of the southern Workshops and each of the Fortress Workshops. They are lined up in neat little rows, and each RP-GG comes with five rounds. Dying while holding an RP-GG will cause it to drop and be useable by anyone else who happens by, friend or foe. While not an ideal anti-vehicle weapon (Cats or Tanks fill that role) the RP-GG nonetheless acts as a great supplement to any kind of assaulting or defending force. Any time you're on foot and an enemy vehicle is distracted in some way is a good time to hit it with an RP-GG.
This is the role I've found myself in more often than not. It's fairly simple really; break through enemy defenses, get to the center of the fort, activate the Titan Artifact there and profit. Of course, things are never that easy, as there's never a short supply of opposing players ready to throw themselves beneath the wheels of my Cat as I burninate my way to victory. In my time on offense, I've found that the following basic strategies work out pretty well.
Procedure of attack - generally, if the opposing faction has any interest in keeping WG in their hands (and thanks to that buff, they do) chances are pretty high that you'll zone into WG only to find one or both of the northern Workshops under enemy control. This leaves your side with two (three if you're lucky) Workshops with which to mount an attack from. Your first order of business then is to get some rank! Depending on how many tenacity you have, you may or may not want to find some players to kill. If you have a lot and you can get a solo player, or even a duo, then great. If it's not so many, I'd recommend heading to one of the three bridges spanning the middle of the map and taking out some NPC's. One or two kills should get you the first rank you need to go to a Workshop and build a Cat. With Cat in hand, you can go on a gleeful rampage until you get the rank necessary to build Demos and Tanks, and chances are if you do it right you'll take back one (or both) of the northern workshops, giving you a nice forward staging area.
Once you've got a Demo in hand (or if you have enough players, a Tank or two) and a couple of Cats running escort, your best avenue of attack is going to be along the eastern or western walls. Punching through the first wall will give you access to the enemy Workshops, and if you're quick you can level those, forcing the defenders out of the fort and on the offensive if they want to secure a production facility. Attacking from the east- or west-most area also reduces the number of cannons that can fire effectively on your position. In fact, it's not a bad idea to take out the northwest or northeast towers so as to remove those cannons from the equation (and get a nice chunk of honor, 500 per tower) in the process.
So in short, go from the northern-most east or west side, punch through that first wall, and take out the siege workshops. Watch out for the giant glowy teleporting pads inside the fort. If you roll over those you'll be ported outside of the fort, and have to make your way back in again. So give those pads a wide berth.
Once you've knocked out fort production, you can focus on the inner wall leading to the inner courtyard. The same rules apply; Cats cover the Demos and Tanks, Tanks drivers focus on ramming, Demos focus on total sieging, and Tank gunners shell the enemy until nothing is left but gibs.
After you get inside the inner courtyard, all that remains is the final door to the Titan Artifact. Bash it down like any other wall, push inside, activate the artifact (it's long "use" to activate it, so be prepared to delay the defenders and cover as necessary), and enjoy your win. Above all, stick together. There's only one situation where a solo or duo attempt should be made at fort assault; otherwise there is strength in numbers, and the more people you have covering each other, the better off you'll be in the long run.
Now, sometimes you get into a bit of a stalemate. As with all world pvp encounters, people of various stripes (and intelligences) come together, and sometimes these stripes don't match one another (aka people are stupid). If this is the case, and it seems like you're side is just getting thrown back from the breach over and over again, it's time to open up a second front. Assaulting the enemy from the opposite side and roughly following the plan as outlined above is a great way to not only draw pressure off the main breach, but also to grab more honor and possibly disable the other fort Workshop. In fact, if your side has the coordination necessary, having two smaller groups assault both sides of the fort at once is a pretty good idea. Unless you're massively outnumbered, one side or the other will get through, and with the right balance of vehicles, it's not unlikely that both sides will meet in the middle, gutting the Fortress down the middle.
Of course, as with all battle plans, things are very prone to go to sh*t as time goes on. Thus, the best, most advanced strategy I can give isn't any set attack pattern or troop makeup. It's merely a reminder to be open-minded and flexible. Don't overcommit to one area just because you've already committed a lot of time to that area. Be ready to move and attack from differenct angles. At the least you'll throw the defense off balance, and at the best you'll open the fort up to attack from two (or more) sides at once. Once you have a clear line through the center of the fort, you can flood the place with Cats and a Demo or three, pound the door down while plaguing and burning the defenders into submission, and netting a nice 5k+ honor in no time.
So you took Wintergrasp. You won it with blood, lots of comrades gave their lives, and you've got some nice WG marks and a fat sack of honor to show for it (not to mention the pile of corpses you brought home to proudly display on your mantle). You've run a few instances, amassed a few Keeper's shards, and next thing you know the damn place is contested again!
Welcome to the Suck. Welcome to Defense.
Playing D in WG is a sight harder than playing O. You have the advantage of all the defenses the Fortress has to offer, including a number of wall-and-tower mounted cannons that have good hitting power and obscene range, as well as an endless supply of RP-GG's near at hand, plus a pair of workshops ready to churn out all the makings of a defensive armor division. However, you've got a LOT of wall to defend, and there are a number of methods of egress that you'll have to be prepared to cover.
First off, even moreso than offense, communication is key. Your fellow defenders really need to talk to one another, calling out incoming siege engines and getting into position with cannons and RP-GG's. The cannons fire their projectiles at a decently fast rate, but at longer ranges you'll still need to lead your targets to get the most damage, so practice makes perfect. Your attack order should focus on Cats first (since they'll be targetting you, and are the fastest) followed by Demos and Tanks, killing whatever is closest first. You need to last for about forty (40) minutes before WG is succesfully defended, and that means you'll need tight coordination between static defenses and your anti-vehicle siege weaponry (your Cats).
Once you've racked up enough kills to grab a rank or two, split some defenders into Cats and begin using those to help curtail enemy production by securing the northern Workshops. If you get into the zone early, you may be able to grab one or even both of them before the other faction makes a strong showing, but holding onto those shops before you have vehicles is sketchy business at best. At the least it makes for a good delaying action, which gives time for a reinforcements to arrive (if needed) and for a tigthening of the defense at the fort.
Demos and Tanks aren't really used much on defense, at least not the way I've played, but that doesn't mean they're useless. Having a Tank crew head down south to assault the towers there can be a boon both from an honor standpoint (500 per tower) and it can throw a monkeywrench into any kind of retaliatory action by the offense. A lone Tank with a full crew can wreak a lot of havoc, and sometimes divert attention from the main attack on the fort. Tanks are especially useful along with a Cat or two in securing (and holding) a northern Workshop. Two people in a Tank and a third in a Cat can hold off quite a few people at a workshop, and this forces the attackers to waste precious time taking out what amounts to a superfluous objective. So while I'm personally a fan of a tight defense, I've seen a more "offensive defense" style of play work out great.
How you decide to play depends, again, on the situation. Just like on O, keep an open mind and be flexible. If the attackers just got routed at a breach in the first wall, maybe now's the time to grab a pair of Cats and a Tank and push towards the nearest Workshop. If the walls are mostly unmolested, and your cannon crews are doing well in defending from any incoming enemies, then marauding down south in a Tank or a few Cats is probably a good idea. If the attackers are bashing down the door to the artifact and you've got five minutes left on the clock, your best bet is to flood your inner courtyard with Cats and just plague/burn the area until theres nothing left but green ooze and char marks.
As the battle shifts, so too must your plans. Be open, and be ready.
Lake Wintergrasp is really just great fun. This is the first guide I've had the drive to write in quite a long time, and I attribute that drive to the feeling I get when I hop into WG with a few friends and we start fighting to take our slice of the pie. For me, the thing that keeps me going in WoW is a combination of teamwork with friends, pride in my my pvp, and a burning desire to stand atop a pile of my dead enemies, bloodied and howling for more. Back before cross-server battlegrounds, I took great pleasure in playing with my friends and guildies and going against guilds of the opposing faction. There was always a nice feeling when we won, especially if we won against odds due to superior skill and teamwork (i.e. beating a raiding guild in tier 2+ epics while wearing the blue pvp set).
Cross-server BG's really took that sense of competition and cohesiveness away, and the rivalries, both friendly and not-so-friendly, that developed in the days before XBG's were replaced by a seemingly endless amount of random names and faces. Wintergrasp hearkens back to that time of yore, when it's me and my undergeared, underleveled friends going up against the powergamers who already have a few pieces of T2.5 (or T7) gear. Nothing compares to that feeling of out-playing and out-thinking your enemy and coming away with a win despite the odds, and I'm very thankful that Blizzard has put some of that missing faction rivalry back into the game.
Hope you all enjoy Wintergrasp as much as I do.