Let me start off by saying that I think that the School of Hard Knocks is a very badly designed achievement. I thought so when I first saw its requirements; I thought so even more when I read people's accounts of how it was giving them a terrible time year after year. One of my friends even quit the game for several months after he had failed to get the achievement despite of hours of trying. For these reasons I decided that I wasn't even going to bother; I wasn't going to support what I considered an inane achievement by working towards it. I got all the other Children's Week achievements, just not this one.
This year, I read this post by Vidyala and these posts by Cynwise, and they gave me reason to pause. Cynwise in particular impressed me, because here we have someone who is a dedicated PvPer, the kind of person whom you'd expect to hate this achievement the most, seeing how it fills up the battlegrounds with tons of people who don't actually want to pvp... and yet he has retained an amazingly positive attitude towards the whole thing, and not in a "yay, I get to gank some noobs" kind of way either. Not only is he encouraging people, telling them that it's all very doable, he also comes across as believing that it's doable without actually hindering your own team - the one fear that has been putting me off this achievement more than anything else.
So I decided to give it a try after all. I'm not completely inexperienced in PvP and actually have pretty decent gear for current levels, so it's not as if the battlegrounds themselves scared me. But some of those tasks required for the achievement... returning the flag in Warsong Gulch? I'm a healer, for god's sake, my job is to protect our flag carrier, not to chase the enemy. Can my role in the battle be any more diametrically opposed to what Blizzard wants me to do? How stupid. But well, no harm in trying, and I vowed to myself that I would not do anything outright stupid just to gain those achievement points. I wanted to see if it was indeed possible to get it done while playing the "proper" way.
Unsurprisingly, Arathi Basin was by far the easiest one, as base assaults are something that happens frequently throughout the game and no class or role is at a massive disadvantage while making them. In fact, I only had to ride straight out of the gate and up to the farm flag. Only one other person tried to go for it, and I managed to start capping about half a second faster. Done! I hung around for the rest of the game of course, and it didn't seem much different from the way Arathi Basin matches usually go. Bases changed ownership reasonably often, but then they always do. And Horde won, as we almost always do in this battleground. Nice.
Alterac Valley was one that I expected to be very difficult, considering that there are only four bunkers to assault, they rarely get retaken, and there were thirty-nine other people in the battleground who might potentially be competing with me. To make things even worse, Healbot pretty much crashed my game the moment I zoned in, since it couldn't cope with so many people in one place after the recent patch. By the time I had managed to disable it and the game was in a playable state again, the rest of the team was already halfway across the map. Not good.
I more or less got trapped in a defensive position, dying a few times and feeling rather unhappy when it started to look like it was going to be another one of those games where the Alliance perpetually choked everyone trying to go north off at Iceblood, slowly grinding the defence into paste as they advanced towards Drek'thar. Never mind achievements, that kind of thing is just painful.
However, after a while I noticed that the Alliance assault didn't seem to be as fierce as usual, and both towers and bunkers kept getting retaken. Of course! All the orphan minders were going towards the enemy objectives to get their 'cheeves done, and all the serious PvPers were suddenly playing defence because it meant that they got to gank clueless achievement hunters, which meant that nothing much actually got done on either side.
Miraculously I managed to slip through a hole in the Alliance force at Iceblood, with only a lock throwing a couple of dots on me, and made it towards mid-field. I was actually approaching some bunkers! Of course I then got ganked at the next choke point at Stonehearth, but since the Horde held Snowfall for a change I at least didn't get thrown back all the way down south. Eventually me and a couple of other Hordies managed to break the resistance at Stonehearth, and suddenly the world was open to me. Too bad that both Stonehearth and Icewing bunker were already tagged and swarming with people... but lo and behold, both Dun Baldar bunkers were still bright and blue.
I didn't really think that I would stand much of a chance on my own, but since I'd never know if I didn't try, I decided to simply ride up to Dun Baldar. Much to my surprise nobody bothered me on the road, and to my delight I found that all the archers in the bunkers had already been killed during a previous assault. A lone mage took a few shots at me but then turned away again - I don't know if she decided to just let me do my thing or got genuinely distracted by something else. Either way I had Dun Baldar north all to myself, and managed to assault it shortly before my side suffered a crushing defeat, as usual. Still, getting that part of the achievement done on the first attempt was a pleasant surprise!
Eye of the Storm was where things got harder. I half expected my entire team to go straight for the flag, but instead they decided to all crowd onto one base, which I found plain odd. The best theory that I could come up with was that we did indeed have a lot of PvP-inexperienced achievement hunters in that battleground, but that they had read somewhere that you couldn't run the flag without having at least one base, so getting exactly one base was what they focused on first. After we capped that one base, everyone kind of dispersed into all directions, and I found myself getting stunlocked and ganked by about four people at once every time I resed up anywhere. Looking at the scoreboard I got the impression that we were fighting a partial premade that had identified me as the only healer on Horde side and was thus having a field day. It wasn't encouraging and I decided to take a break from EotS for a bit.
When I tried again a bit later, people started out doing that single-base-capping thing again, but I managed to lure a couple of them towards the Draenei Ruins and soon we were holding at least two bases. I stayed there for a while, pondering how I was ever going to cap a flag when bases needed defending and so few of my team mates seemed to be willing to do it, when I saw a gnome mage emerge from the kerfluffle in the centre, trying to carry the flag north towards the Mage Tower. However, he had about half of the Horde team hot on his heels and it was obvious that he wasn't going to make it. I mounted up quickly and rode over. He blinked one last time to escape his attackers in melee, but a couple of ranged shots finished him off mere seconds later and he expired right at my feet. I picked up the flag and quickly ran back towards the Draenei Ruins, with my fellow Hordies who had also been trying to get the flag providing a magnificent meat shield. One cap later, I could tick the third item off my list. As the cherry on top, we won that match as well.
This only left the dreaded Warsong Gulch. I really couldn't see how I was possibly going to pull that one off as a healer, but then I hadn't expected Alterac Valley and Eye of the Storm to be so forthcoming either, so I was strangely optimistic. In my first match I simply rode towards mid-field with the majority of my team and assisted them with killing Alliance there for a bit. However, after a few minutes I noticed that nobody had bothered to pick up the flag on either side. A quick look at the map revealed that aside from the people engaged in mid-field, everyone else was camping the flag room, waiting for an enemy to try anything so that they could gank them and get the achievement. Presumably the Alliance was doing the same, so of course nobody was making any progress whatsoever. /facepalm.
Staying true to my vow to play properly, I decided that if nobody else was going to go for the flag, I was going to do it. The Alliance defenders appeared to have fallen asleep out of boredom, so I managed to run the flag and cap it without anyone bothering me much. Of course, when I tried this for the second time, everyone had woken up and soon the entire Alliance team was forming a big dog pile on top of my dead body. Oh well, at least someone on their side got their achievement I guess? At this point a friendly resto shaman decided to join me in my efforts, and together we managed to run the flag another two times despite more enemy attempts to stop us, seeing how they weren't particularly good or coordinated. I was quite content to end the match with a crushing 3-0 victory, even if I had got nowhere close to actually returning our flag.
During my next WSG match, I was pleased to see that the entire team actually left the flag room at the start, deciding to take the battle to the enemy instead of sitting around and hoping for some sort of miracle. I briefly helped the skirmishers in mid-field again but quickly noticed a lonely paladin making an attempt at grabbing the enemy flag. I felt conflicted for a moment, seeing how supporting the pally would only take me further away from any enemies that might potentially pick up the flag, but my rule to not play stupidly for the sake of the achievement still stood, so I joined her and helped to keep her alive.
As we were making our way back to our base across mid-field, I suddenly spotted a gnome mage - once again - trying to carry the Horde flag away. He was about to pass us on a parallel course only a few yards away, and I immediately had a flashback to Eye of the Storm as I saw the majority of my team working hard to bring him down. (I wish people were this focused on returning the flag during the rest of the year!) Since the paladin seemed safe for the time being, I ran over again... and yep, the mage blinked out of range of the melee just like in EotS, preventing them from getting that final grab in, and died right at my feet. One quick click later, both School of Hard Knocks and For The Children flashed up on my screen - after only six battlegrounds in total.
The pally and I continued to run the flag, and only on our last run did I notice the sad human hunter that had been in the Alliance flag room all along - that is to say, I had noticed him there before, but it took three assaults on his base for me to notice that he wasn't even attacking. Instead he kept spamming a macro asking people to /wait and /point-ing at his orphan. I felt very bad as I saw other people killing him mercilessly and making fun of him, and I barely had time to emote a /sorry to him before he died. If I had got that last flag I would have dropped it once, just for him, but the pally beat me to it again and had no interest in helping the poor guy out. I generally agree that battlegrounds are for fighting, not for co-operating with your enemy, but I'm also a hopeless sap. Here's to you, human hunter; I hope you got your achievement eventually and that it wasn't too painful.
Conclusion: Cynwise was right, it is possible to get those achievements while working at winning the battlegrounds at the same time, though I think that while doing so I probably used up my entire supply of good luck for the rest of the year, what with getting it all done so quickly and often against the odds. I should probably play a couple more matches before the end of Children's Week, just to make a point of helping other people get their achievements, in the interest of balancing my cosmic karma.
Thea: The Awakening
13 hours ago