Gnome Punting is a sport enjoyed by all walks of life in Azeroth. It is a test of skill, strategy, testosterone, manliness, cunning, guile and strength. Members of the Horde as well as the Alliance compete in this daring sport, often times against each other.
Basic Game Play
The goal of the game is to punt a gnome as far as possible, usually at a predetermined target. This target is usually a solid rock face, making Mulgore and the Shimmering Flats in Thousand Needles popular locations for matches due to the presence of high rock faces and vast, relatively flat fields, with The Barrens and Westfall as popular practice and training grounds.
At the start of the game, both teams punt a gnome to see who can punt farther. Whichever team wins the "punt-off", chooses either to defend or punt first.
Each team fields 25 players (5 groups) and each team has a designated Punter. No one but the Punter may handle the gnome. A team may change its Punter after every other round to shake things up.
At the start of each round, both teams start huddled at their respective starting zones. The punting team with the Gnome in the middle of them, sometimes everyone holding the hapless gnome to throw off the other team as to who the Punter is for that round. At the start of the match, both teams break and start moving.
The Punting team starts at the predetermined distance from the target rock face, usually around 100-200 yards. The punter is then given the Gnome and the entire team charges towards the target, and the other team. The goal of the punting team is to try to punt the gnome at the rock face, without the Punter getting KOed by the defending team. Should the defenders successfully take out the entire punter without punting the gnome, the punting team receives zero points that round. The other 24 members are their to defend the punter and take out the enemy team.
Should the punting team punt the gnome, points are awarded (see scoring below).
The defending team sets up at a predetermined distance from the target rock face, usually somewhere halfway between the punting team and the rock face. The goal of the defending team is to take out the punter before he/she has a chance to punt the gnome.
Should the Gnome be coming down after a punt, the Defending Team's punter can "reverse it" by catching the gnome before it hits the ground and immediately punting it back the other way. Should the gnome land and not be reversed by the Punting Team's punter, then the defending team is awarded 1 point per yard from where the gnome landed to where the punter was standing at the time of punt. A Punting Team's punter can reverse it in a similar fashion.
No special abilities (such as Death Grip) can be used on the gnome if it is considered Live. Only on Undead Gnomes.
A volley occurs when the gnome is being continually reversed by the two punters. Managing a volley requires skills. Should the defending punter find himself being slowly backed up towards the rock face, he/she may want to consider shortening the punt to get way he can and avoid the running the risk of the other team hitting the rock face. A similar scenario exists for the Punting Team should the punter find him/herself getting farther from the rock face.
For each yard that the gnome travels in the air, the team is awarded one point. For every yard the punter runs towards the rock face whilst holding the gnome, half a point is subtracted, unless the the gnome hits the target rock face, in that case, the team is awarded full points for the round, which is equal to however many yards are between the punting team and the rock face. Should the gnome hit the ground and bounce forward a few yards, those yards are added to the total as well, if the gnome bounces backwards a few yards, then forward progress is given.
If the punting team is 200 yards away from the rock face, runs 50 yards before punting, and punts the gnome 80 yards, the team is awarded 80-25 points or 55 points.
- Dead Gnome: A gnome that has hit the ground and is no longer bouncing. Once the gnome is declared dead, the round is over and the teams switch side.
- Escaped Punter: A punter that has made it through the Defending Team's lines. This results in the Punter having near free reign of the field, and is able punt wherever or whenever he/she wants.
- Living Gnome: A gnome that is in the air after a punt. When a gnome is live, a reversal can only occur by catching it with your hands.
- Undead Gnome: A gnome that has impacted the ground but has bounced back into the air. A punter can use some special ability (such as Charge or Death Grip) to retrieve the gnome and reverse it. Alternatively, a gnome is declared Undead should it have been punted by someone re-entering the field after a bubble-feint or something similar.
Winning a game of Gnome Punting is more then brute strength. Cunning and guile factor into it as well. Below are some of the more common strategies used by teams to make sure the gnome hits the rock face for maximum points:
A tactic favored by Paladins. Before the match, a Paladin punter will set his or her hearthstone to somewhere outside the general area of the match (and if possible, behind enemy lines). When the two lines engage, the punter will Bubble Hearth away and proceed to return to the match through conventional means. This throws the defense off as they have to co-ordinate as to where the Paladin will be returning, often splitting their forces, allowing the other side to take them down.
One of the most famous instances of Bubble-Feinting was done by Rupert "Goldshire" McGardenhose of the Sentinel Hill Footpads in a match against the Crossroad Manglers (a Horde Team). After a wild night in Goldshire, McGardenhose accidentally set his hearthstone there instead of Gadgetzan, which would have made a flawless tactic as the match was being held at Shimmering Flats, with the punting team punting to the south. McGardenhose's team could have easily kept the other team distracted long enough for him to slip back into the area and punt the gnome. Alas, because he found himself in Goldshire, he had to scurry back to the game, by which time, the Footpads were already down and out and the surviving Manglers were more then ready and in position to take on one Paladin.
There are those who argue that instead of taking the traditional path of Goldshire to Stormwind to Irongforge to Menethil Harbor to Theremore to Gadgetzan to Shimmering Flats, he should have instead gone to Ratchet, and run through the Barrens, arriving in Thousand Needles from the North. This would have allowed him to sneak back into the field and at least gotten SOME points by punting from his team's starting position. The opposite side to this argument claims it would be moot point since a Paladin carrying a gnome running through the Barrens would have garnered the attention of Barrens Chat, and the Manglers could have prepared that way.
Despite this, the Bubble-Feint remains a popular and effective tactic, provided the Paladin in question does not have too good a time in Goldshire the night before.
Summoning is a useful tactic, but has risks. The basic strategy calls for a warlock and two other to create a summoning portal somewhere outside of the field of vision of the defending team, but close to the target. The summoners then summon the Punter who slips back in and punts the gnome into the wall. The risks involved are that if the defending team notices that lack of players, they will immediately alter their tactics to compensate, often by feigning ignorance, but it might become obvious to the defenders when a handful of people start backing off from the melee.
A hazardous ploy of using a Mage as the Punter to Blink past the enemy lines.
In recent times, with the advent of countless strategies, such as Bubble-feigning or summoning, and Punters escaping en mass, teams have had a high rate of success in hitting the target rock face. As a result, matches would go on for days with neither side getting ahead of the other. To shake things up, bulls-eyes have been erected at popular playing fields to offer a greater challenge. Punters still get the full points for making the gnome impact the wall, but by adding the bulls-eye, the punter now has something to aim for, and a well-executed play which gives the punter ample time to line up the punt, now speaks more then a hasty punt as the defenders barrel towards the hapless punter having just arrived after a Bubble-feint which saw his team get annihilated before he could get back. Hitting the target closer to bulls-eye is like archery: more points for getting closer to the middle.
When it became known that Goblins would eventually be joining the ranks of the Horde, several potential Alliance teams that were hesitant to harm their Allies petitioned the AGPC (Azerothian Gnome Punting Committee) to allow for the use of Goblins as well as Gnomes. At the behest of several well-entrenched Horde Teams, the committee passed the resolution allowing Goblins to be used as well. And it was changed that a team can use either a Gnome or a Goblin as their projectile. As a result, almost a dozen new Alliance teams organized overnight and began practice. Some of the Horde teams have even begun practicing with Goblins to see if the scrawny creatures are more aerodynamic and thus fly farther than the chubby gnomes.
Rumours exist that Deathwing prefers Punting Goblins to Gnomes, and the real reason why the AGPC agreed to include Goblins was because Deathwing threatened to incinerate them otherwise. Due to Deathwing's preferance of punting Goblins, Goblins shall be coming out in Cataclysm along with Deathwing.
Criticism to the Sport
Several people have protested the game due to the Astronomically high fatality rate of Gnomes, and proposed creating hoops to punt the gnomes through instead of solid rock faces. This was immediately shot down and the protesters were used as projectiles for next championship game, even though some of them were not gnomes (some Blood Elves, Night Elves and Humans were among the protesters). It was decided there that anything except gnomes (and now goblins) make terrible projectiles.