You Got Your PvZ in My WoW

As soon as I saw the achievements for defending against waves of zombies, I knew I would have a new favorite thing in WoW next to jousting. Yes folks, we are getting an in-game version of Plants vs Zombies and it is going to own me until I get the achievement for defending against 100 waves. Thankfully I’m in the beta and don’t have to wait until December 7th to my Peacebloom vs Ghouls on and therefore get distracted from priority #1 at launch: get my rogue to level 85.

Now PvG has undergone a couple of tweaks during the past couple of builds in the beta and will likely see a few more before launch, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a sneak peek at how the game works. Not everyone has played PvZ, such as myself, and might be a bit perturbed by the inclusion of a full-blown mini-game within WoW. I can allay some of those worries by telling you that it works and plays very well. Essentially PvG is a vehicle quest in that the vehicle UI will pop up and replace your standard bars and the camera will pull out to a fixed position giving you the ideal view of the field.

But how does it play? I’ve never played PvZ before.

A Blank PvG Field.

A blank PvG field.

It’s a very simple tower defense style game with 5 different rows to defend against oncoming undead. There are 6 different plants that you can place around the field that have different purposes. Here’s a rundown of those plants: (Note: This is a preliminary rundown, I’ll update these with more specific information as I nail it down)

  1. Sunflower [10 SP] Generates more solar power (8 second cooldown).
  2. Spitter [20 SP] Spits a ranged attack to attack zombies (10 second cooldown).
  3. Freezer [20 SP] Spits a ranged attack to slow zombies (10 second cooldown).
  4. Rocknut [15 SP] Provides defense for the row it is placed in by acting as a wall, does not attack (18 second cooldown).
  5. Strangler Vine [30 SP] Picks up zombies and incapacitates them while dealing damage to them (20 second cooldown).
  6. Pumpkin Bomb [40 SP] A one-use AoE attack dealing massive damage to all undead in adjacent tiles (25 second cooldown).

As I mentioned earlier, there have been a number of tweaks to how PvG has played out between the different beta builds, so there could still be some radical changes that would affect the strategy you would employ. In the previous build (13066) solar generation was so incredibly low that the daily quest was really, really, really difficult to overcome and I had to really toughen the fuck up to overcome it. Fortunately the solar generation has been boosted substantially in build 13117, but it wouldn’t hurt to go over the tactics I had to employ to be successful:

  • Only place Sunflowers in the rows that you’re actually going to make an effort to defend early on.
  • Plant 2 sunflowers ASAP in the same row.
  • If zombies and ghouls pop up in an undefended row it might actually be beneficial to not defend that row. You’re given ONE MULLIGAN per row with the lawnmower.
  • If you are going to sacrifice a row and not defend it, do not place anything in that row as the lawnmower will kill everything in that row, plant and zombie alike.
  • If you do fall back to the lawnmower, be ready to defend that row immediately afterwards.
  • In order to properly defend against ghouls early on, you need a spitter and freezer in the same row.
  • Pumpkin bombs are your friend when you feel overwhelmed, but make sure you place them carefully.

An example of bad luck with zombie/ghoul placement.

So far in build 13117 I haven’t felt pressured to fall back on utilizing the lawnmower “defense” but these strategies are still effective with the increased solar generation. Basically you want to toss up 2 sunflowers at the very beginning to get your solar generation going and then defend that row with a spitter when you get 20 solar power. The only really threat early on are ghouls since zombies are verrrry slow and can be taken out easily by a spitter. That being said, you don’t necessarily want to neglect all of your rows, but I’ve found that in build 13117 it isn’t too difficult to prevent an early mulligan by relying on the lawnmower.

This is what you're aiming for before the first massive wave.

Also I want to address the use of rocknuts: it may be tempting, but they’re only walls and you shouldn’t utilize them early on if you get unlucky with the spread of zombies and/or ghouls. You’re far better off holding out for a spitter and allowing that spitter to take some damage (unless it is a heavy zombie/ghoul infested row). Rocknuts are far more effective in the midgame when aberrations appear and you have enough solar power generation to start building up your spitter defense.

Finally, I’ve only found uses for the strangler vine when my rocknuts are on cooldown. They can entangle up to an aberration, but abominations will simply cleave them to death. That brings me to another important tip, pumpkin bombs. Sure they may be super costly at 40 solar power, but they are imperative to a successful defense during a massive wave where you might be facing 3-5 aberrations, a half dozen ghouls and multitudes of zombies at once.

 

Your ideal setup to strive for in PvG.

Do not be shy with using a pumpkin bomb, as long as you’ve planted enough sunflowers, you’ll be able to generate more than enough solar power during the pumpkin bomb cooldown to use another. Let me stress it again, THEY ARE IMPERATIVE during a massive onslaught, especially when you’re facing aberrations AND abominations. Just make sure you leave at least one tile open so you can plant a pumpkin bomb.

Once I’m able to record an endless mode that actually works, I’ll update this post with a video guide to PvG. Until then, I’ll continue to figure out the nuances of PvG and update this blog entry (as I ended up doing with my jousting entry)

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Disorientation

Consider this entry a brief public service announcement for those running the new Icecrown Citadel 5 mans, the Frozen Halls, using the dungeon finder tool. Inevitably there will be a wipe and you may have to make the flight-of-shame back to the instance and may not know where the instance portals are. So where are they? I’m here to help with some useful pictures to guide you back to your corpse.

This is what you'll usually see upon release.

After turning around, head towards the Citadel.

Fly towards the right side of the Citadel.

There will be an open door/hallway on the catwalk of the 2nd level.

Fly through the hallway and enter the appropriate portal.

And there you have it. Simple, easy, and hopefully you won’t be doing too many flights back to your corpse. Oh who am I kidding? If you’re pugging heroic Halls of Reflection you’ll be doing it a lot.

Jousting

Not everyone is a fan of the jousting, but I sure as heck started to love it once I got the hang of it. Considering that the 5-man dungeon Trial of the Champion has a jousting encounter in it, I figured it might be beneficial for everyone to understand how to proficiently joust, even those that abhor it.

First of all I’ll give a very brief run-down of the abilities.

  1. Thrust: A melee attack that inflicts 3250 damage. 6 yd range, Instant, 2 sec cooldown
  2. Shield-Breaker: A ranged attack that inflicts 2000 damage and removes one layer of Defend from the opponent. 5-30 yd range, Instant, 2 sec cooldown
  3. Charge: A charging attack that inflicts 8500 damage and removes 1 layer of Defend from the opponent. 8-25 yd range, Instant, 6 sec cooldown
  4. Defend: Reduces damage taken by 30%. Up to 3 layers of Defend may be stacked. Instant, 4 sec cooldown
  5. Refresh Mount: Heals your mount. Can only be used out of combat. Instant, 1 min cooldown

I’ve seen a number of tips/guides out there depending on the play-style of the person, but I’ll give some basic ideas of what you should and shouldn’t do.

First of all, always make sure you have your shield level refreshed and stacked up to the max (3) before beginning a fight. It’s not imperative that you constantly ensure that your defense is maxed, but allowing it to dip will result in a large increase of incoming damage and allows the CPU too many oppurtunities to hurt you.

That being said, the basic flow of my jousting is to initiate the battle, immediately thrust and then charge your opponent once they’re at range. You can also sneak in another thrust as you’re charging your opponent once you’re in melee range for even more damage. After you charge through your opponent circle back and toss a shield-breaker and close to melee range as fast as possible.

At this point I melee my opponent and “dance” with them looking for an oppurtunity for a min-range shield-breaker. Be careful with this though, as dancing can open up oppurtunities for your opponent to shield-break you. Just make sure you do not dance into charge range if your opponent is facing you. If you do, you’ll eat a charge AND a shield-break. While in melee range (shield-breaker dead-zone) you can replenish your defenses and thrust as they do not share a cooldown with one another.

At some point your opponent will turn away and unless you’re at the right range to shield-break them immediately when they turn away, do not fall into the tempation of shield-breaking them as they move away for a bigger hitting charge. You would be better served to charge them and circle back to toss your spear because shield-break and charge share a global cooldown. If you wait too long to charge your opponent, they will turn around before you can close the gap and you will eat a charge and then a shield-break.

Remember, jousting is more about keeping your defenses up as you patiently exploit openings your opponent gives you. If you get reckless and/or attempt to kite, you will sustain a lot of damage from your opponent knocking off two-levels of defense. This is what you want to do to your opponent; it is far better to stay in melee range and exchange melee attacks when you’re at a defensive advantage.

As you get better with jousting you’ll recognize openings better by strafing through your opponent to get to shield-breaker range and peel their defenses off faster than they can replenish them. Strafing is your friend when “dancing” and do NOT under any circumstance listen to the tips of “jumping and mid-air turning.” Jumping inhibits your ability to dance and allows your opponent to get their own shield-breaks and/or charges in.

TLDR cliff-notes:

  • Always start with a refreshed 3-shield stack.
  • Thrust and then Charge on initiation of combat.
  • Thrust when Charging your opponent for extra damage.
  • After charges circle-back and toss a shield-breaker.
  • Keep your shield stack at 3 as much as possible.
  • Melee thrusts do not share a global cooldown with the other abilities.
  • Charge when your opponent turns away, only shield-break first if you’re at the perfect range the instant they turn away.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to chain 4 champion level jousting opponents without needing to heal. Sometimes I’m able to defeat a champion without having to using defense other than to refresh my stack. I’m usually able to defeat a champion within 30 seconds unless the AI doesn’t cooperate during the dance inhibiting my ability to get to shield-breaking range.

As for the questline Battle Before the Citadel it is possible to solo commanders, even with ease. You will want to avoid the area directly north of the Icecrown Citadel stairs as there are far too many potential adds that make soloing a commander precarious. This isn’t to say that you can’t solo a commander over here, but you’ll have to do so by pulling him onto the stairs. It is far easier to take on the commanders on the out-skirts of the phased area as the only adds you’ll have to contend with are the gargoyles.

Soloing a commander is a little different than an Argent Tournament Champion, but a lot of the standard tips/tricks hold true here. You’ll want to thrust once in melee range of the commander as you’re charging and use shield-breakers to peel his defenses. The main difference here is that the rate at which commanders refresh their defense and attempt to shield-break you are lower. Because of this you will generally want to strafe out to charge range whenever it is off of cooldown and not rely as much on dancing with the commander.

I initiate combat at max shield-breaker range and strafe away as I wait on the global cooldown to charge the commander. You will want to refresh your defenses as much as possible in the beginning to minimize damage as you will have gargoyles respawn on top of you at which point keeping your defenses up will be impossible. Should this occur, and it will, you want to focus on the commander and burn him down as fast as possible.

Once the commander is down, you can then focus your attention on the gargoyles. A useful tip to take down gargoyles quickly and painlessly is to toss a spear as you’re approaching them and execute a jumping thrust to kill them before they can get off their attack. This won’t always be possible if the gargoyle is too far off the ground, but sometimes they’ll be low enough to where you can use a charge to kill them instantly.

You will take lots of damage soloing commanders, so always make sure to allow yourself to exit combat to heal your horse vehicle. It is preferable to tackle commanders with friends, but alas there won’t always be people to help.

Hope this guide helps your jousting endeavors. Cheers!