Before we go onto fixing any of this, though, I just want to note the weird outlier in World of WarCraft and Warlords of Draenor’s PvP rebalancing: Ashran. Ashran, for all intents and purposes, replaces the nostalgia of the original Alterac Valley with yet another endless battlefield where weird stuff happens, people can do quests outside of the battle to tip the scales, and everyone fights on the road. Pump the numbers up to 100 versus 100, while also throwing new character abilities and random events in the mix, and Blizzard crafted a recipe for success. The asymmetry really does not matter, as there’s no capping of points – just kill totals. The further into enemy territory you go, the more people of the other faction you need to kill. All fighting takes place on a central Road to Glory, and the level terrain gives no strategic advantages to either faction (each base even has a narrow bridge and several chokepoints! Yay!).
Frankly, every single Ashran battle descends into total chaos almost immediately. People keep dying, respawning, and trying to push the other faction back to their base through spawns, camping, special NPC spawns, new item books (which enhance your default abilities just in Ashran), items that summon huge beasts to turn the tide of battle, and just about everything else you could imagine. The battle progresses in stages, as each faction needs to kill a specific amount of people to progress to the next stage. Things tend to go back and forth when it gets good, and just about anyone can have fun. Ashran, to me, does not represent much in the way of “skill”; it’s more like the ability to have fun all day just trying to kill some people on the other side. It looks like a war, and feels like one, and in the World of WarCraft we can consider this an important addition to the PvP environment.
One problem remains, though: the rewards do not provide anything even near commensurate to the effort of winning the actual conflict. We could call it the opposite problem: instead of fighting each other, everyone just does their own thing on the battlefield without engaging the other faction. If you kill the opposite faction’s leader, you obtain 50 Honor (500 pre-nerf), 250 Conquest, and 2,500 reputation with your Ashran faction (you need this to upgrade your gear and buy Conquest Point quality gear, so it’s not bad). Unfortunately, that does not compare in any way to the various Event quests taking place around the main battle on the road. There are four areas, each with PvP focused quests, and successfully winning them rewards 250 Honor, 125 Conquest, 500 Reputation with your faction, and a chance at a Ashmaul Strongbox (the latter speculatively based on how much you contributed). The strongboxes, as I noted earlier, are wonderful, but that Conquest point bonus is the real prize here.
The quests, simply put, come too frequently. On most sites, they say it takes 1-2 hours for these quests to come off cooldown, but it seems like they arise every 10-20 minutes or so like clockwork. I found myself running around with a group of like-minded people completing the quests. For whatever reason, the Alliance chooses not to contest the Horde on any of these events (most likely due to the outright drubbing the Horde gives them if you get in the way). Thus, Ashran’s most efficient means to get gear quickly, and actually the game’s most efficient way to gear up at all, involves little to no PvP! What an abject disaster from a game design standpoint; Ashran barely contains any PvP, because WoW players know that they must strive for efficiency over fun. I am not sure why they never craft these places with the inclinations of their decade-old player base in mind. Are they idealists? I can’t tell, but their idealism often screws up whatever stuff they actually design for PvP. Admirable? Sure. Does it ever seem to work? No, not really…
Blizzard needs to do one thing: make each additional stage in the actual Ashran conflict mete out far better rewards than these Event quests. Much as I like doing it with little effort involved, I am sure that this does not represent their intention for the zone in any way, shape, or form. So why do they not fix this? I honestly don’t know; they’ve got about two months worth of analytics as this article goes to print, so surely my experience in the zone cannot be universal across all servers? Either people actually fight for no reason (highly doubtful, given how familiar I am with people in WoW playing as efficiently as possible), or they just let it sit for months like this with little PvP actually happening. Both sides gave up having fun actually fighting.
Plus, this is the most efficient means to get any kind of gear. Ancient Artifact trade-ins (gaining for any and all NPC kills) give a 1 for 3 Honor Point trade-in. I stayed in the zone for approximately two hours, and gained about 8000 Honor Points – enough to buy about 4-5 pieces of gear at a go. Need I remind you that none of this required fighting Alliance players in any fair, balanced way? I call this simply preposterous.
That said, I think the actual battles of Ashran that I did fight show off some of the most fun times you can have in PvP as you push towards the other base. When it gets going, everyone fights their hardest tooth and nail to obtain the advantage, and the flowing nature of it means people rarely leave the battle after a point. I did not win yet, of course (that’s incredibly hard to do, and the team actually needs to coordinate special abilities), but pushing the other faction back to their base remains quite satisfying. If only they could make it more rewarding and more competitive!