Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How to Run a Premade

Why wait for Cataclysm? There's nothing stopping you from running an organised group into a battleground now (a "premade"). A premade is to PVP what a guild raid is to PVE -- or described on the flip side of the coin, going into a BG without one is like trying to use trade chat to find an ICC PUG that's not going to fail. On a Monday evening right before reset. This post is geared towards newer people who have found their appetite for PVP whetted by the iminent Cataclysm, and want some information on how to get started before that hits and the world is changed forever.

I. Limiting Mechanics
II. Your Raid Composition
III. Leading the Raid
IV. Managing the Other People
V. Ending the Raid / Consistency

I. Limiting Mechanics

Blizzard restricted the amount of people you could take into a premade a while ago. Widespread wisdom suggests that you can only take a party-sized group of 5 with you, and to some extent this is true. But only to some extent. I formed a raid group of six over the weekend and attempted to queue for everything, with the following results:

Warsong Gulch (10) : Works with a raid
Arathi Basin (15) : Works with a raid
Eye of the Storm (15) : Works with a raid
Strand of the Ancients (15) : Works with a raid

Alterac Valley (40) : Limited to a party of 5.
Isle of Conquest (40) : Limited to a party of 5.
Random BG (??) : Limited to a party of 5, presumably because you might get one of AV/IOC, which apparently want you in smaller groups.

This is a little counterintuitive -- the smaller BGs allow you to take a larger group into them, exerting more control over the outcome, while the two largest battlegrounds restrict you to a small group. I wish I could explain Blizzard's logic here, but I can't.

There are ways to get around this, though they are cumbersome. An addon such as Preform AV Enabler will queue everyone in your party as individuals, and only enter you if everyone gets into the same one. I have used this addon in the past and found it to be clunky and time-consuming, apart from the difficulty of requiring everyone in your premade to have it installed...which if you're recruiting your premade out of trade chat and not out of a solid PVP guild that requires its members to have it, will cause yet more delays as everyone goes to go get it.

You might ask why that's worth it, and the answer is that Blizzard first attempts to queue premade groups against each other, considering the significant tactical advantage that accrues to people who queue as a group with instantaneous voice communication. Only after a set amount of time failing to do so will Blizzard match your group up against a pug, which you will undoubtedly stomp. AV Enabler (or addons like it) allow you to game the system into thinking you're all queueing separately (ie, not a premade) when in fact you're not -- guaranteeing you disorganised opposition. If you're one of those people who claimed to be excited when blizzard gave the ability to turn off XP so that your geared twink could face other twinks, but in reality stopped playing b/c your actual enjoyment came from roflstomping lvl 10-12s in grey gear...then an addon will let you enjoy that again. I personally do not find the organisational headache worth the tradeoff -- it inevitably takes a long time to get all the kinks straightened out with an AV Enabler group, and I would rather spend that time actually pvping -- but if you do...I've given you the resources to do it.

II. Your Raid Composition

I'm assuming that you're rolling with a 5-man premade, in order to be able to use the random BG queue and maximise your honor return. On a holiday weekend which allows it, you could make a larger one. Those five roles should probably be, with some variation as the situation calls for:

A Single-Target Healer

A Holy Pally or a Disc Priest work well here -- these are particularly useful in games where keeping one person alive is important -- the flag carrier in WSG, or a tank in AV or IOC. They also have nice synergy if they're traveling with your other healer --

A Raid Healer

Priority here goes to Resto Shamans, Resto Druids, or Holy Priests (assuming you can find any of the latter who PvP). These are useful when you need to keep a group of people alive -- defending or attacking a node/tower (AB/EOTS/AV/IOC), or trying to recover a flag (WSG). You can see, I think, that if you are forced to unbalance your group, it's a little better to have two raid healers than two single-target healers, just b/c of their slightly wider area of usefulness.


I like to take a lock or a mage here, for Howl of Terror / Frost Nova, respectively. A priest can also fill this role, or dual fill that role if you already have a priest as one of your healers. The ability to take a large chunk of an enemy force out of action, even for the smaller amount of time that you usually trade in order to get that AOE capability, is critical in several BGs -- it can buy your flag carrier in WSG needed space to get out of midfield, or put a lot of people out of range of your demos in SOTA (you only run as fast as the demos, barring things like sprint or dash, so once you get behind them you'll stay behind).

The Sneaky Folks

A rogue, or a druid (feral or otherwise) can provide you with valuable reconnaisance, spying out enemy weak points without putting themselves into harm's way. It helps that both of those classes also have solid single-target CC (sap, roots/hibernate/cyclone)

Everyone Else

Mostly you fill this with any dps; in some specialised instances you may want this slot to go to a tank -- WSG to run a flag, or AV/IOC to tank the enemy general NPC. If your premade goes to 8 or more people, I would bring a third healer.


Generally, you can fill your slots from four places, in descending order of usefulness : from your guild, if you set the event up on your calendar beforehand; from your friends list, especially if you make an effort to keep other PvPers on your realm on your FL; trade chat; and from the BGs you run -- if you see other people from your realm while you're running your premade, feel free to invite them along on your next queue.

A word about trade chat : you need to say three things. First, "LFXm to run some premades", replacing the X with your number. This conveys the idea that you know what you're looking for, which builds people's confidence that they're not signing up for a waste of time. Some servers have a negative connotation associated with the word "premade", for reasons that escape me, or people may not know what they are (if you're on a normal server, especially), and so sometimes you can get better results if you say "LFXm to run some (battlegrounds / battleground premades) with". Second, mention that they should have vent, and resilience. Again, this is a confidence builder. If you want to name a specific figure for resilience, that's fine too (5-600 is good); I usually just say "decent resilience" and rely on people to know what their own capabilities are. If someone doesn't know what they should have, I figure that's maybe not somebody I want running with me. Possibly that's judgmental of me, feel free to vary that. I say "decent" and I get people whispering me saying "I have 1100, is that ok?" which is amusing in its own way. Lastly, I like to put a smiley face, or an exclamation point (ONE ONLY) at the end...it demonstrates enthusiasm, that while you're going to be running something with a serious desire to win, you also haven't lost sight of the fact that you're also trying to have fun.

III. Leading the Raid

It is reasonably important that you have vent. You can run a premade successfully without it, but the quality of your win will be correspondingly decreased...much like trying to organise a PUG of any wing past the first in ICC without vent. You might pull it off...but it will be messy.

It is more important that you have a plan for every battleground you go into. Remember how we used our advertisement to give an illusion of self-confidence? Now is the part where you have to deliver on that, or you are not going to retain the people you recruited. This is where having two healers is crucial -- it gives you more flexibility to split your team in half to do a couple things at once. Within reason, the more map coverage you can get onto your vent, the more up-to-the-second information you have as the leader to determine what needs doing. Don't take this to extremes though -- sending one person to each node in AB may get you more information, but it nullifies your advantage.

In WSG, for example, I like to leave two to defend the flag (sneaky dps + me as druid heals, usually, but you could make any combination work) and 3 to go get the opposing flag with the crowd of PUGS. Once they make it back we swap to the FC and his healer (we send out the single-target heals usually) staying behind, and I take the other two dps with me to go lead an attack. By having a strong presence in both groups we have a good amount of influence.

The splitting also works well in a game like AB or EOTS, where you may need 5 people to take a node, but you certainly don't need 5 to hold one.

Speaking of lead...try to get yourself promoted to BG Lead...there's something about having different colored text that will occasionally make people listen to you.

Assist. The second guild I was ever in, a lovely PVP guild back on Emerald Dream called Meridius (and later, I regret to announce, DEVASTATE, yes in all caps), was fond of using an assist method, and I've carried it over to my premades. I usually pick a ranged dps before we go into a BG, or failing that I'll do it, to pick out high-priority targets and call over vent for an assist. I do this now just by having them say "assist" over vent, and making sure everyone has a macro made up beforehand that says "/assist XYZ". This is important for knocking down things like healers, or that Kingslayer DK with shadowmourne who's going to rip you all to shreds if you leave him up. It's also better that this person be someone at range b/c melee are...well...melee. They have a harder time seeing the bigger tactical picture than someone who's at a few steps remove from the brawl.

IV. Managing the Other People

One of the most distressing mistakes you can make is to forget that half your team, or more, is not on vent with you. Remember to relay information that you have in vent onto BG chat, if you expect anyone to do anything about it. I've led premades that went down to failure, only to realise afterwards that probably nobody had any clue what was going on b/c BG chat was totally silent.

The reverse is also true of course -- remember to READ BG chat as well.

There are two schools of thought on whether you should announce at the beginning of the battleground that you are a premade. School 1 suggests that you should do this, b/c it gives you auto-respect/authority and makes people more willing to cooperate with you. School 2 does not do this, b/c if you lose then the pugs will ridicule you incessantly. I belong to school 1...a) you should not be caring what pugs think b/c odds are you're not going to see them again, and b) I know that when I pug and someone announces a premade, I get all excited and just want to help. I don't think I'm alone in having that reaction either.

It is important that you value the pugged people you're with -- they are part of your team no less than your vented premade mates, but you guys can't be everywhere unless you're a full premade in which case...you shouldn't be reading this section anyway. Thank them for their help, both at the beginning, and at the end. Be civilised and polite, yet firm and authoritative. You are the default leader...act like one.

That being said, try to keep on top of what pugs are doing and tailor yourself accordingly. It is inevitable that some people will not listen to you. Try to work your premade's (people who WILL listen to you) strategy around that as much as possible, without fatally compromising your original plan. Hopefully you're using something reasonably simple that most people would already (*cross fingers*) be doing anyway.

I like to make my announcement at the beginning something along the lines of "Hello everyone. This is a partial Draenor premade...we will be handling XYZ, and we would appreciate it if you guys could do ABC. Thanks for playing with us!"

V. Ending the Raid

You should have in mind how long you plan on going -- someone may ask, and it looks better if you have an idea. That being said, don't be surprised if you have to swap people out more frequently than you thought. People are finicky about BGs...some people only want to go once, some people would go all night if you left them. I generally try to go for two hours or so, but sometimes cancel early, and sometimes go past. Have a finger on the pulse of it, and if it seems like your premade is not having fun, it may be time to call it.

The MOST IMPORTANT THING, and I cannot stress this enough, is that you NOT LOSE THE PEOPLE YOU RAN WITH. Offer to trade friend requests, get those people on your contact list so that you can grab them again. You will run better premades if you run them with people you've run with before. It's true in raiding, and it's true in BGs. I have reached the point where I usually fill 80% of my premades out of my friends list before I hit trade. Which is kind of like the job market, really...most jobs you never see advertised b/c they're filled by networking before it ever gets that far. If you run premades consistently (every saturday at 1pm! or whatever), create the event on your calendar and make sure that those people get invites. If you have too many friends...try to rotate them around so that everyone is getting a chance to run once in a while so you don't forget each other.

A good premade is like a raid that one-shots all the way up to LK...it's an exhilarating experience that has the capacity to completely overturn people's opinions about PvP. They are hands-down your best recruitment tool if you are trying to convince someone who "hates" PvP that it's really quite fun. And of course, it's more fun for you too. It goes without saying, I hope, that premades generally enjoy much higher win rates than going in solo. And they also give you the power to make legitimate attempts at the harder BG achievements (Resilient Victory in AB, anyone?). And yet for all that, they are not formed very frequently. I pose the theory that this is due to a dearth of people willing to step up and lead. Go forth and be a PvP missionary!

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