It’s pretty much a fact of life that, while levelling on a PvP server, you’re going to get ganked. Here’s my experience across multiple toons so far, condensed.
Low level zones: mostly safe. Despite CRZ, Cata’s introduction of multiple levelling paths and liberal use of phasing mean that it isn’t really worth it for 90s to go hunting in these areas. You might come across a diehard in Stranglethorn or the occasional fella out levelling a profession, but even the latter of these will usually be inclined to leave a quester alone.
Blasted Lands: deserves its own mention. Really it does. The portal has been a center for ganking activity for ever and a day, though there’s now talk of higher level guards. Either way, there’s often a small contingent of 90s from either side either cautiously keeping an eye on each other or decimating their opponents’ bases in an attempt to lure their opposite numbers away from the portal.
Blasted is, surprisingly, also a pretty decent spot for at-level PvP. Sure, there are a couple of guys hanging out here who’ve already got the stat boost of some Hellfire gear, but it’s also home to any number of legitimate 55 and up players who will cheerfully attack any red tag in sight. I’ve had a few enoyable one-on-one encounters here, and jumped into some unbalanced fights to right the odds – not always successfully, mind you, but I was there.
Hellfire Peninsula: is the worst single area in the game for ganking, and it largely comes down to two things: players relying on the fairly linear Thrallmar quest-lines to get their gear up to scratch, and the indescribably frustrating “collect bonechewer blood” quest that basically creates a straight line down the map that high-level players can repeatedly farm to gank undergeared, underlevelled players. Thrallmar itself is most often under attack, and for some benighted reason the drop rate of blood from fel orcs is ridiculously low. Simply fixing this one quest would provide blessed relief from the biggest issue on this map.
I heartily recommend the small Cenarion outpost near the exit to Zangarmarsh – attackers seem to become less frequent in proportion to one’s distance from the portal. Most alliance players also don’t bother harassing Silverwing point, possibly because they don’t realise it’s there, and possibly because it’s not terribly popular with lowbies anyway and has an unfortunate layout.
Outland in general: tends to have more 90s wandering around than, say, Northrend. Nagrand seems particularly popular. Still, outside of Hellfire it’s rare to see a red tag accompanied by a skull marker.
Northrend: is pretty quiet. That said, I tend to favour Howling Ford as a levelling zone rather than Borean Tundra, and the one time that I did take a character to Borean for levelling it was ganked repeatedly nearby Warsong Hold by a mage with some issues. Hooray for alternative zones!
Cataclysm zones: are weird as hell. There are players of both factions present, but mostly they just seem to want to get through the place as quickly as possible. The most amusing PvP encounter that I’ve had was, amusingly enough, my warrior against a monk who’d beaten my lower-levelled paladin earlier in the week. This monk does seem to attack everything that moves, and has great survivability – but it turns out that a couple of on-demand stuns and the ability to keep her from picking up healy-balls turned the tables quite severely.
Cata in general just flies by, at 5 short levels which take virtually no time individually. I felt pretty much constantly undergeared, since we were levelling past content at a rate of knots. Probably feeds into the lack of enthusiasm for ad-hoc brawling.
Dramatis personae: all of the above may combine to give the impression that there isn’t much ganking on PvP servers anymore. Alas, while it’s not an eternal treadmill of corpse runs into backstabs, there are still folks out there who seem determined to make levelling characters’ lives unpleasant. From my experience, these gankers will generally get stomped flat and disappear completely in zero time at all the moment any solid opposition shows up – hence why I categorically disbelieve any rhetoric about “ganking to draw out mains”.
Gankers seem to follow patterns according to class. So…
- Druids: have serious issues. Most commonly a boomkin in flight form, who will attack by swooping out of the sky and moonfiring everything in sight repeatedly. Most likely to corpse camp, often resorting to switching for bearform when they’re starting to get bored.
- Rogues: don’t like to move around much. They’ll often camp on top of the Dark Portal to surprise newbies going through, or stealth out near isolated questing hubs, preferably without guards.
- Mages: will almost invariably be frost, and in contrast to the above will try and kill every living thing across as wide an area as possible, as many times as possible. After being killed by a mage, keep an eye open – she’s probably not in the area anymore, but will doubtless circle back presently.
- Warlocks: keep to themselves, which is kinda weird for the “eeevil” class. If you see one in a zone, they’re generally there as a counter-ganking force, called in for other 90s that have been causing trouble. May send a demon after you for the hell of it if they’re on the ground anyway, but by and large more mature than anyone else.
- Death knights: will do it for the lulz. 90 Dks will invariably chase and grip lower levels on sight, murder them and then run back and forth in circles around the corpse before mounting some obscenely large proto-drake-esque mount and flying off. Invariably. Might help if you imagine Yakkety Sax playing through the entire episode.
- Paladins: have something against the local wildlife. Most often killing you is more or less a side effect of the thorough slaughter of every quest mob in the general area. Fortunately they’re rare in the wild.
- Hunters: won’t even wait around long enough for their pets to spawn. While some will land on top of a structure and take the time to charge up an Aimed Shot or similar for maximum overkill, most will drop in for a couple of instants and mount up before their poor dear companion has even figured out what’s going on.
- Priests: have a bizarre habit of dotting passing flying players, then levitating themselves down. Then again, I only saw this in Outland, so maybe it’s some sort of group behaviour/shared joke.
- Shaman: don’t acknoledge that lowbies exist. Good for them.
- Warriors: will generally come as part of a package deal. If there are a couple of players hassling levellers, one of them might be a warrior. Even the at-level fights I’ve had against warriors have generally involved other players, and I levelled my warrior with the wifelet’s priest. If a warrior is on his own, he’s probably mining or the like, but will sometimes charge you down after you think you’ve been spared.
- Monks: don’t seem to like the world. I’ve seen shaman out in the wild, but they didn’t attack me. Never come across a maxed monk at all. Maybe they’re off meditating?
So that’s the outline of life on the bleeding edge, usually being held by that Dk who dropped in out of the sky. Hark! The blackguard keks a-yonder!