Blown away…? Blown off… GW2 Living Story is not.

I suppose it is fitting that last night in a cold river way up in the Shiverpeaks, my character was attacked by a shark, and to get away, I jumped over it. That is what I’ve been feeling is what has happened to this game as a whole…

I’ve been meaning to hold off on my opinion blogs until after finishing my build guides, but its getting harder and harder to hold back my growing frustrations with Guild Wars 2.

In re:
Kill ten Rats – [GW2] 2013 Plans:

“I think most Guild Wars 2 fans are blown away with the updates.”

Blown away is not how I’d describe it…

I see all the signs of a focus on short term shinies and addictive repetition and no signs on larger plot development. They seem to have completely forgotten their own setting’s lore in favor of chasing context-less quick patches that have nothing to do with this setting.

This is all really starting to bug me.

I’ve actually started playing LESS GW2 as a result.

They can’t even be bothered to put the plot, what shabby little of it there is, into the game. Instead, to have any clue about what is going on, you need to watch SOTG twitch.tv interviews, and read websites.

Everything is episodic – 2 week long chunks that wrap up with little to no impact. After all of this, the impact is going to be a choice between Commander Keen and Random Cat: which will have all the impact of deciding which of two possible fractals they will release first (presuming the idea for the other will make its way in at some undetermined point).

Meanwhile Elona, Cantha, and about a million dragons sit idly by seemingly forgotten… while we play with Steampunk air pirates for… I don’t know why…

But it doesn’t matter what it is…

… Just that its got no relation back to the core Guild Wars lore…

Each of these two week updates, on resolving, neatly leaves us largely where we were at the beginning. Its like watching Scooby Doo – we could play these in any order and they would make just as much sense.
– thus episodic.

They are plotless. You just go in there and have a huge list of achievements to check off. 10-30+ press-F-to-win entries that have all the meaning of… what? Why am I gathering random crystals? Why fix signs? Why approach hologram generators? WHY?
– Maybe there is a why, but other than the signs of Flame & Frost, it was never told inworld. And then we have to run a race that is there for… what? Why am I playing Mario Kart? What’s the story connection? And then I have to meet a series of random Skritt hanging out in caves and mountain tops next to kites… why?

Where the heck is my lore here?

I love the lore of Guild Wars, stop making me feel like its a ‘dumb game’ I am hassled into playing…

Oh I guess I missed that twitch.tv interview… I was too busy looking for the story, the lore; IN THE FREAKING GAME!!!

The living story is a severe disappointment to me. I see no story or plot in it. People tell me things like “But Commander Keen, she’s the next major NPC, and we’re going to vote for her and all this and that…” and I go inworld and wonder where all that is.

Then I remember that to understand what the fuzz is going on round here, I need to log out/tab out and read a website and watch a twitch recording of a livestream Q&A interview…


/facepalmeryallupinthisplace

Ok, so maybe I am blown away, as in, blown off of my love of this game like being rudely tossed down a hill.

Whatever happened to the people who made Guild Wars 1? Can we rehire some of them?

This game plays a lot better, but at least that game had internal consistency and story.

This is a setting that is rich with vibrant lore. Just a few things we’re ignoring:

  • The war between the humans and that charr – that seems frozen at a treaty negotiation in the Fields of Ruin.
  • The mystery of the second Pale Tree
  • The White Mantle still being active.
  • The Dwarves, their ruins, and tales of their last days.
  • The Tengu.
  • The dragons, lest we forget what this game was supposed to be about…

But look back to Guild Wars 1 and there is so much more:

and so much more…

Mostly the more. Frankly I never liked the Dragons plotline, so I’m not awaiting it coming back… but at least it IS core lore, and I’d rather it than… unrelated things that seem out of sync with the setting like sky-hippies.

Remember when PandaVille was announced for WoW and people were complaining that there was still so much left in the existing lore… the Titans, The Emerald Dream, the this or that…

Now Guild Wars 2 is like that every 2 weeks…

Context-lacking smack-yo-butt-across-the-stage drop of ‘click F to win’ in bulk… that moves the setting all of nowhere, moves the lore all of nothing, and neatly resolves by the end with a tiny tiny tiny piece to feed into the next part… because they’re all written in isolation so all that team B knows of team A is that ‘Commander Keen is alive at the end and will be ready for a handoff to promote to progress step 3.’

What is the point?

Ok yeah, its a game. Stop caring and just play. But with no lore left, no story and no living in this “living story”, what makes this any different from Pitfall or Pacman?

It took WoW 8 years from launch to give up on exploring its core and background lore and just go “hey, dude, kung fu pandas and ninjas, people would buy that right?”

Guild Wars 2 is less than a year old, and its already reached that point… and we actually more background lore than WoW.

This is just sad.

In a MMORPG, Like Bhagpuss, the ‘G’ is the letter I least care about… Give me the RP, and some MMO, and a world.

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Elementalist Build: Building a better Gandalf

Mallalai

Introduction – Elementalist Theory

Start with my article on tanky build design. This PvE Elementalist build is ‘balanced with a slight nod towards tanky. It is intended for PvE, Dungeons, and perhaps WvW.

While Ranger, Thief, and Guardian suffer from perceptions that they are ‘just like their WoW counterparts’ almost no one mistakes the Elementalist for a ‘DPS Mage’. In fact the class is often dismissed in PvE for not bringing enough under the faulty presumption that DPS is all that matters.

If you’re here, you’re potentially open to being disabused of that notion and finding a role for your Elementalist in PvE. I’ve got that role, but I can’t convince others for you that more than DPS counts. Much more counts, and people will continue to faceplant while believing otherwise. But if the GOP can believe it had a shot at winning the 2012 election by sitting in its own echo chamber for years, and the wingnuts on the right can still believe they’re not crazy despite the rest of the world having all the proof they need… well, people love being in echo chambers.

And the echo chamber that DPS is all that matters in Guild Wars 2 PvE will continue no matter how many people fail at it, all because ‘a random guy on the internet who plays at a pro-level pulled it off in his youtube video’. This isn’t Lake Wobegon, not everyone can be above average, let alone Captain Amazing. The first rule of the top 1%, is that 99% of us are not it. If I go out on a limb here and say you dear reader, suck: I have 50-50 odds of being right. But if I just say “you are not Captain Amazing”, I’ve got 99 to 1 odds of being right. I’ll take that bet.

And frankly, even Captain Amazing still gets one-shot from time to time. Why accept that? How much time is spent ‘running back’ or coordinating running past to skip mobs in all those ‘faster runs’? Often that part takes longer than the actual dungeon run itself. Quite common to see a group spend 10 minutes trying to skip a 2 minute encounter, and 5 minutes running back from a 1 minute fight because you can dodge twice in a row, but not thrice.

Ok to you readers, I’m also a random person on the internet. No reason to trust me either – but do get thinking as you look this over.

There are three sides to the model in Guild Wars 2 PvE: Support, Damage, and Control. The typical Elementalist path in Guild Wars 2 is Support or extreme Bunker control in WvW and sPvP, and thus its lack of popularity in PvE. When brought into PvE it is often assumed you must go Dagger/Dagger to get the most out of the class’ weaker DPS. Or you show up for the Gravelings in Path 1 of Ascalon Catacombs with an Icebow, and then switch back to your other character after that fight. This build looks at going into Control – but not as a bunker. Controlled DPS.

On the surface the Elementalist looks like its namesake from the original Guild Wars, but that class was very strong on DPS and Support, but soft on control and unable to withstand even mild aggro.

Guild Wars 2 has changed the dynamic to be still strong in support, moderate in control (until it flips to bunker where it is near the top in a specialized form of control), and weak in DPS. At least by default.

My iconic role model here is Gandalf, standing on the bridge declaring “You shall not pass!” You’re not the heavy damage hitter, but you can tank something to a degree, and you bring your own brand of amazing to the situation.

That means bringing an overall package, that can hold aggro in a dungeon, and switch between support, control, and DPS as needed in mid fight.

You have 4 elemental attunements, if you aren’t using all of them in the average pull, you’re doing it wrong.


The Build:

ElementalistTraits

Traits:

20/20/30/0/0

Internal Fire (VI) and Burning Precision (V) in Fire Magic

Internal Fire: You will spend a majority of your time in fire. This ends up happening in any build that doesn’t go heavy support or bunker. It is just that good for damage. With this trait, its even 10% better. Pretty much mandatory for any build that wants to hit hard.

Burning Precision offers a 30% chance to cause burning on a critical hit. Never underestimate Condition Damage. It is very popular to dismiss it, yet it is a great way to do a lot of damage with little effort. This build, like many of those I design, makes significant use of condition damage. With regular critical hits, this trait will be able to apply constant pressure to the enemy.

Soothing Winds (VI) and Bolt to the Heart (V) in Air Magic

Soothing Winds is handy for getting a bit more healing power. You will see constant comments that healing power is useless in Guild Wars 2. Read them, and then smile as those little tiny numbers you spam out like crazy prevent wipe, after wipe, after wipe. Let that echo chamber have its fun while you keep groups up while barely trying. TOO MUCH healing power is a waste. But a little actually does go a long way. With this build, this trait is giving 95 healing power.

That said, you could got for One with Air for more mobility instead of Signet of Air or Quick Glyphs if you rely on the elemental a lot. But One with Air requires shifting to air in mobility moments.

Bolt to the Heart opens up the concept of a burn phase – that moment in the fight where you speed up to finish them off. A 20% bonus to damage is no laughing matter, and gives you all the motivation you should need to focus fire on any enemy that gets low.

Signet Mastery (II), Stone Splinters (VI), and Written in Stone (XII) in Earth Magic

Signet Mastery will keept your signets active, shaving 20% off the cooldown for more spamming opportunity. This is a signet build, but one where you want to be spamming the active play of the signets.

Stone Splinters gives you a bonus of 10% if you get up close. Staff is a ranged weapon. So what is going on with this choice? The answer is that you’re built to take a beating, and get some aggro – so embrace it. Get in there and hit them hard with a big stick, up close and personal.

Written in Stone is a cornerstone of your build. THis lets you spam your signets with abandon without giving up their passive bonuses. And that makes a signet build very worthwhile.

Armor:

Rabid Helm – Mesmer Rune
Berserk Pauldrons – Mesmer Rune
Knight Coat – Mesmer Rune
Rampager Glove – Mesmer Rune
Knight Pants – Mesmer Rune
Berserk Boots – Rune of the Baelfire (+25 Power)

Underwater Armor:
GavBeorn Breather

Weapons:

Rampager Staff – Accuracy Sigil

Accuracy for critical chance. This is almost always a good Sigil to have on one of your weapons, and when you only have one weapon – its often the ideal choice.

Underwater Weapons:
Rampager Trident – Water Sigil
– Going for a little spill off support here as underwater combat tends to be confusing and button mashing for many people. This will let you give your team a little more space to mash random buttons in such a highly skilled way.

Trinkets:

Cavalier Back – Emerald (Knight) Upgrade
Magi Accessory – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade x2
Magi Ring – Azurite (Sentinel) Upgrade x2
Knight Amulet – Emerald (Knight) Upgrade

Healing

Glyph of Elemental Harmony is your go to heal. While Signet of Restoration might seem better for both the constant healing and this being a signet build, the boon from Glyph of Elemental Harmony is very useful. That said, I recommend trying both and seeing which plays better in the long run. I have been unable to decide.

Utility Skill Choices

We’re going for a signet build, which should have been obvious from the traits. Because of your last trait; Written in Stone, you can spam these to your heart’s content.

On the one hand you can pick any three utilities, but on the other hand, one of them comes way out on top for damage and another way out on top for mitigation.

Signet of Fire is the most important of your utility skills – it provides 180 precision, which gives you a bonus of 8% to critical chance. That is a major bonus. Do not remove this from your utility bar, and do not click it, unless you absolutely must and no other utility can be sacrificed. You might notice a trend if reading my builds – if there is a utility that always gives precision, or a trait, I get it. It is the best place to buff this up just a little bit more, and lets your weapons and armor do things other than just ‘zerker’.

Signet of Water cures a condition every 10 seconds. That is not fast, but it is better than nothing. Don’t dismiss Chill in PvE either – not only is the reduction to skill recharge very powerful against bosses, but the movement reduction is very handy against adds. You active condition removal is found in Healing Rain – Don’t forget it.

If you still have trouble with condition damage pressure, put Cleansing Fire into place (if human, Prayer to Lyssa can be better).

The third utility slot changes constantly. The only regular there is Signet of Air because in the open world that’s great for exploring, and in cities just getting around. It is still useful in fights as a blind with a damage component. But this is the most common Signet for me to swap out when the situation calls for some special ability.

Elite Skill

I’m really not a fan of any of the elite skill choices.
Glyph of Elementals is however, quite handy for the earth elemental. Unlike every other pet in Guild Wars 2, the Earth Elemental can take a beating AND tends to be an aggro hog in PvE dungeons. In other words, its a pocket tank on a cooldown. Very useful in boss fights or fights with a lot of adds.

Resulting Stats Summary

ElementalistStatSummary


Playstyle

This is a ‘balanced’ dungeon build leaning towards tanky. You will have moderate aggro, and can take a boss hit or two. But don’t get overconfident with that. You should be ok having about 30-40% of boss aggro time.

Your success relies on switching attunements constantly and changing your role back and forth between support and control while still keeping up a lot of damage.

I will often open with Flame Burst and then as they get close to me, hit Burning Retreat, positioning to get NPC mobs to walk through as much of the line as possible. You can spam Lava Font on mostly still mobs, but Meteor Shower is best saved for when you’ve got them standing in one spot.

Air is tricky, but Gust can be used to keep some distance. However remember that most of the time you want them relatively close to you for Stone Splinters to do its thing. Out of combat using Windborne Speed can be handy, and makes a credible argument for using One with Air and thereby dropping Signet of Air.

If there is a large stack of adds, you get to show off your control skills by dropping Static Field into them. That is an excellent way to really slow the enemy’s damage output down and open them up to attack.

Magnetic Aura is extremely useful in a ranged fight. Get in between the enemy and the softer member of your group and hit this. Earth is going to be mostly about opportunities to cast Eruption and Shockwave for heavy condition pressure and, when used on enemies lacking defiant – mobility control.

I alternate between saving water for crisis moments and staying in it for periods of time. Judge this by your group. If they have trouble handling incoming damage, switch in to water and spam it into the crowd of melee – where you can hit both enemies and allies. And the benefit of staying close now becomes not just Stone Splinters, but constant self healing.

This is a jack of all trades build. That’s not a bad thing. You’re settling for decent to good in every field. TO play that means you need to be staying in the thick of the battle – right on the edge of melee – and constantly swapping around as the situation demands. You are not stand in the back support and ranged, and you are not the dagger/dagger run in there and hit had and fast. You are steady and reliable, but hard hitting.

Its a style that gives you more options than too much specializing.

And what about when soloing? The common comment is that staff is very weak when solo. This is part of why the build has the toughness it has – you can take the hits when solo, but you still do good damage. Enemies will not go down as fast as they would on a dagger / dagger – but when you can solo more than one veteran at a time, while in melee; a slight delay is not all that bad.

And if it gets tough, pop into Earth, drop your elemental, and let it tank for you while you heal up (and your water heals work on the elemental too).

Conclusion

This is my balanced build. The closest I go to the absolute middle of the line as a Jack of all trades. It is great in normal dungeons. Not the speed runs, but the PUGs where you don’t know how many people will be good and how many won’t. You can hold such groups up pretty well. That’s really what most runs will be anyway. Even in speed run dungeons – the people doing them are frankly, not all as good as they think they are. Which means this is a great build for anything other than a ‘premade speed run team’.

Its good soloing, you don’t need to be ‘at the top of your game’ as you can take the hits, but you do enough damage that you can get stuff done.

Its great in World v World. Its a wide open field there in regards to what you will have on your side and what will be on the other side. You put out very solid AoE pressure, and can support the moderately skilled to excellent members of your team. And if somebody notices you there – you can take a few hits.

Your weakpoint is condition damage. Very low vitality on the build, so you need to be always ready to hit Cleansing Fire or Healing Rain

Thief Build: The Bandito – Bruiser

Raven Mistkeeper

Introduction – Thief Theory

Start with my article on tanky build design. This Thief build is about midway between balanced and DPS.

Just as I noted in my last build guide that the ranger is NOT a World of Warcraft Hunter, the thief is NOT a World of Warcraft Rogue. There is a tendency by a lot of people to map classes and professions across different games as if they were the same. That works when a game has copied another – which has been the sad fate of many recent MMOs. But Guild Wars 2 is not a WoW clone. It has its own design history.

The Thief began as the Guild Wars: Factions Assassin. It appears to have then undergone a series of questions and corrections goals. Chief among them being first, how do we make this class able to survive if it fails to kill its target after the initial burst of instants. The second critical question appears to be, how do we prevent this class from being able to reliably one-shot any target, saving that only for unwitting victims, but still very strong in quick-burst attacks.

To that end thieves occupy a couple of spots in the tactical battle. There is the well known ‘assassin role’ – strike from surprise, hitting hard, and vanishing away. Stealth builds are everywhere and appear to be the primary way thieves get played.

Then there are ranged archer builds designed to apply area pressure – used to stay at a distance and harass in a skirmisher fashion.

This blog presents another option. Not an uncommon one, but not the usual either. A bruiser or thug build. Its going to feel a bit like a warrior. But the ‘analogy’ is different. Where the warrior is a soldier or fighter on an ancient battlefield, the bruiser is like a gangland or barroom tough. You come in and hit hard and fast in small scale combat, and use some distraction tricks to avoid being taken out.

The icon for this is the Mexican Bandito of the Southwest, with a bit of Zorro thrown in. Or maybe ‘The Man with No Name’ of Fistful of Dollars. This is a shoot them in the eye and stab them in the gut while chewing on their nose and jabbing a spiked heel into their boot build. Save the stealth for the ninja turtle backup.

So with that in mind, I build to be strong in multi-target melee, and single target ranged. You jump in and hit a crowd, and then jump back to blast a singular victim.

The caveat here is that one of the two chosen weapon sets is known to be weaker, and I cannot really disagree with that – but I stick to it anyway.

Dual Pistols – the ranged option. The problems with this set are found in the #2 skill having a high initiative cost for what it appears to deliver, and the #3 likewise to a lesser degree. That it is all single target is also an issue, but this build is meant to turn that into an advantage.


The Build:

ThiefTraits

Traits:

20/20/0/30/0

Sundering Strikes (VI) and Combined Training (X) in Deadly Arts

Sundering Strikes applies constant vulnerability pressure. With a crit chance above 70%, the odds of having this apply more than once per 10 seconds are very good. It may even be able to trigger more often than the 1-second cooldown. With Sword in melee, this can end up applying Vulnerability all around you thereby given a damage boost to your entire team. An alternative option of Mug or Potent Poison both rely on frequent use of Stealing – which can be problematic if trying stay at range.

Combined Training is the first of two traits designed to boost up your dual wield skills. As I will note later, this build relies very heavily on using both the sword/pistol and the pistol/pistol dual wield skills. A 5% damage bonus to these skills goes a long way here.

Pistol Mastery (V) and Combo Critical Chance (IX) in Critical Strikes

Pistol Mastery is needed to make using the main-hand pistol worthwhile, and has the added bonus of aiding the offhand pistol’s minor damage. Without this trait, the Pistol is unwise even against single targets.

Combo Critical Chance is the second dual wielding trait, giving duel skills a 5% bonus to critical chance. This makes the build’s normal 73% critical chance bump up to 78% when duel wielding. Every bit counts towards pushing that up.

Alternative traits like Ankle Shots, Side Strike, and Signet Use might at first seem good, but this is an in your face shoot them in the eye and stab them in the gut build. None of that standing to the side or running around. And using your signets means losing their passive bonuses – so don’t unless its an emergency.

Power of Inertia (II), Quick Recovery (IX), and Assassin’s Reward (X) in Acrobatics

What you really wanted in this trait line is the three passives: Expeditious Dodger, Feline Grace, and Fluid Strikes.

Power of Inertia, when combined with all of the above passives should be a giant clue that dodging constantly if what you want to be doing – even when there is nothing to dodge…

Quick Recovery is about damage sustainability. The thief is meant to hit hard and fast and then run for it while regaining initiative. You’re planning to hit hard, somewhat quickly, and then stand there and hit again. Your tactic is to keep hitting them until they fall over, and that takes being able to get your initiative coming back in as fast as you spend it. 2 every 10 seconds sounds like nothing… until you’re fighting something big, nasty, and slow to fall down. I’ve pulled this trait off my list many times, only to decide I actually did need it after all.

Assassin’s Reward is how you stay up when facing them down. People can look at the numbers on heals like this and say they’re not worth it. But then you run out there and spam out initiative like crazy and this thing becomes the difference that gets you over the edge.

Armor:

Rampager Helm – Thief Rune
Rampager Pauldrons – Thief Rune
Knight Coat – Thief Rune
Rampager Glove – Thief Rune
Knight Pants – Thief Rune
Rampager Boots – Thief Rune
– While this play style is not about getting to the side or behind your opponent, there is not better rune set for you. Perhaps swap the last rune for another at your discretion.

Underwater Armor:
GavBeorn Breather
– I have this slotted with a Superior Rune of the Orrian for +28 Condition damage for no reason other than that dropped for me and was Souldbound…

Weapons:

Rampager Sword – Force Sigil
Berserker Pistol – Accuracy Sigil
-Swap To-
Rampager Pistol – Force Sigil
Berserker Pistol – Accuracy Sigil

Accuracy for critical chance, Force for a damage boost. Note that I only have two pistols and one sword equipped. When I swap to sword, it retains the offhand I had in pistol, so you do not need to buy 3 pistols (as I was doing until about level 50 when I realized this).

Underwater Weapons:
Rampager Harpoon Gun – Force Sigil
Berserker Spear – Accuracy Sigil

Trinkets:

Soldier Back – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade
Berserk Accessory – Emerald (Knight) Upgrade x2
Berserk Ring – Coral (Rampage) Upgrade
Berserk Ring – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade
Berserk Amulet – Emerald (Knight) Upgrade

Healing

Hide in Shadows is your go to heal. While Signet of Malice might seem better for the constant healing, you are already getting that from your trait Assassin’s Reward. What you really want here is the ability to drop yourself off of the aggro table for a second or two. Not long term, you’ll be getting right back in there. But timed well this is useful for trading aggro with someone else. You are NOT looking at it as a way to go into a long term sneak around stealth – just a quicky shift up to the situation.

Utility Skill Choices

You won’t be changing one of these ever if possible, and the others as the situation calls for it.

Signet of Agility is the most important of my utility skills – it provides 180 precision, which gives you a bonus of 8% to critical chance. That is a major bonus. Do not remove this from your utility bar, and do not click it, unless you absolutely must and no other utility can be sacrificed.

Assassin’s Signet gives you 180 power. Power is important, but second to critical chance for you. This will boost your attack from 2966 to 3146 – not a trivial change.

The third utility slot changes constantly. The only regular there is Signet of Shadows because in the open world that’s great for exploring, and in cities just getting around. In a fight that utility is less useful as you have so many other blinds, and the mobility is not major enough for getting around given Shadow Step.

For fights, slot the third utility to best benefit the particular situation. Good choices are Scorpion Wire for pulling and Shadow Refuge if you are running with zerkers (who tend to faceplant a lot, so you will need to spend time rezzing them while they complain that you do low DPS because you’re spending 2/3rds of the fight rezzing them…). For added DPS many of the choices work.

Elite Skill

Dagger Storm is amazing in PvP and WvW. It makes you immune to projectile attacks while being channeled, so if you don’t have aggro you can spam this one in packs of adds. In WvW, you can use it when defending territory while in a zerg. Because people are mentally trained to think of a thief as a sneaky dagger heartstriker, they often pay me no attention as I destroy them with this… Maybe thinking “that’s so foolish, somebody else will get her” only they all decide that and so none of them do…

Thieves Guild is handy in melee fights, where you don’t get the defensive benefits of Dagger Storm. As long as your two thieves don’t get aggro and don’t stand in AoE, they provide a nice bonus.

Basilisk Venom is not so useful in PvE – it wears off too fast and as you’re not trying to sneak away, has less uses.

Resulting Stats Summary

ThiefStatSummary


Playstyle

This is a ‘balanced’ dungeon build leaning towards damage. You will have moderate aggro, and you can be two shot. One-shots are not a major risk, but active mitigation play is required.

Your crit chance is the key to your success. With good power and a high crit, you will see damage numbers spike up often. Do not forget about your conditions.

Headshot on both melee and ranged options is your friend – blind may only block the next attack, but well timed can save you or an ally. I often tab over to someone beating down a teammate, hit Headshot, and tab back.

Black Powder is tricky. Save it for when in melee against large groups. Even if you lack aggro – this can take a LOT of pressure away from whoever has it.

You want to spend as much of your time as possible in melee, spamming Pistol Whip. But remember that it can root you for a time – so use it carefully in crowds. If you attract too much aggro, try Black Powder for a moment, and if you must…

Swap to Dual pistols, pick your primary target, and get back. Unload. Unload on pistols is your friend. Spam it. Hit Body Shot now and again to apply ten stacks of vulnerability – but remember that you already get this from traits.

This is the purpose of going for the single target ranged option – to apply heavy pressure to just one target, letting your ‘threat’ / ‘aggro’ on others drop down until you can safely re-enter melee. In a pure ranged fight, your goal becomes taking out the weakest link among the enemy as fast as possible, and used targeted applications of Headshot to reduce pressure at key moments.

Your heal has a short term built in stealth. If you attract too much aggro you can heal, step back, and wait a moment for someone else to take over before using pistols to single target attack for a time.

And what about Stealing? Steal is one of your gap closers. Use it to quickly move between targets. Infiltrator%27s Strike is also a good gap closer, but runs the risk of sending you back to where you were if you hit it again. However once on a target, you can use the second step in its chain, Shadow Return for reliable on demand condition removal.

Conclusion

This is the most ‘damage focused’ build I have, and yet it is still in the realm of balanced for good survivability. It is pretty common for me to find myself having higher armor than even many guardians in groups I dungeon run with – due to the over-popularity of the ‘zerker’ playstyle. As a result I have found myself ‘saving people’ often. A dead toon does no DPS, so I often end up having more damage done in a fight than the zerkers.

Thief is normally played in an attempt to mimic some fusion between the WoW rogue and the Guild Wars 1 Assassin. This direct, in your face, build style is often a surprise to those who encounter me – that in itself is an advantage in PvP, and often secures my spot in PvE dungeons.

Profession Build: Skirmishing Hardy Ranger

Ayeola

Introduction – Ranger Theory

Start with my article on tanky build design. This ranger build is about midway between balanced and tanky.

I was going to start with another profession, but with the recent patch all the eyes are on the ranger right now, with claims the class is broken and unplayable.

I’m finding just the opposite, the patch has buffed everything about the way I played ranger. A bow ranger I’ve spoken to notes the same thing; the June 25th patch seems to have boosted but altered the playstyle for bow rangers. Caveat being these are sample sizes of one each.

A ranger is NOT a World of Warcraft Hunter. And the recent patch set out to make that crystal clear by hitting pet reliance very hard.

So What is a ranger? It is a skirmishing class meant to be highly mobile jumping in and out of melee and ranged combat, with a pet as support (not support as in the ‘role’ in GW2, but support as in a sort of mobile semi independent buff). The is modeled off of the idea of the wilderness survivor: Grizzly Adams, combined with the special forces soldier: an Army Ranger.

The true fantasy icon for the ranger is NOT Legalos, but Aragorn.

So with that in mind, I build to be sort of in between melee and ranged. Weapon choices of Sword / Torch and Axe / Axe. A melee option that pops in and out a lot, and a ranged choice is fairly close in.

Where the WoW Hunter stays in the back and fires volleys of arrows while their pet runs in, the Ranger should be in the thick of the action. You should be busier and more active than the ‘true melee’ warriors and thieves – they’re mostly there in close. You’re all over the place.

If you go bows, short or long, that still holds. Use the pet as a sort of buff, as if it was a utility skill. Don’t sit back half AFK spamming auto-attack. Use ALL of your bow skills, and manage your pet special abilities and swapping quickly and smartly. You might stand further out than me, but you should still think as if you wee in the thick of it: ultra fast proactive actions.

Never play ANY build of ranger as slow paced and relaxed: save that for the hunters.


The Build:

RangerTraits

Traits:

20/20/20/10/0

Keen Edge (III) and Spotter (VII) in Marksmanship

Keen Edge is key to sending out a lot of condition damage. Once foes get low, you’ll be able to speed up the ‘burn phase’ with a heavy application of bleeding damage.

Spotter is now one of the most powerful traits in ranger, with an up to 150 boost to precision for your whole group when in combat. The ‘up to’ part is a bit concerning… but when this starts applying you will see the critical hits racking up really fast.

Sharpened Edges (II) and Honed Axes (IX) in Skirmishing

Sharpened Edges gives you yet more constant condition damage pressure. Your aim to keep bleeding constantly up on enemies.

Honed Axes only favors your ranged option, but with constant weapon swapping even if you mostly melee you will be getting a lot of benefit from the boost to critical damage.

Vigorous Renewal (IV) and Martial Mastery (X) in Wilderness Survival

Vigorous Renewal will help get back to dodge-ability after a heal. I’m on the fence over this trait. It was a choice of ‘best of the choices I saw’ and I might change it.

Martial Mastery works wonders for sword. Remember that you will be doing a lot of weapon swaps, so you want both weapons strong. There is no ‘fall back weapon option’ for ranger: everything has to perform. This gives it for your sword, and when underwater makes your spear the better option (Not as much need to swap underwater, but keep both options good anyway).

Nature’s Bounty (III) in Nature Magic.

Nature’s Bounty extends the duration of regeneration effects you apply. This will get you more miliage out of your heal, and the minor trait before it. If you find yourself not needing as much healing, you can swap this out for Strength of Spirit which gives a boost to power. On this build, it would give 55 Power.

Armor:

Rampager Helm – Mesmer Rune
Settler Pauldrons – Mesmer Rune
Berserker Coat – Dwayna Rune
Settler Glove – Mesmer Rune
Carrion Pants – Mesmer Rune
Berserker Boots – Mesmer Rune

Underwater Armor:
GavBeorn Breather
– I still need to think about the upgrade slot on this.

Weapons:

Rampager Sword – Force Sigil
Rampager Torch – Purity Sigil
-Swap To-
Rampager Axe – Force Sigil
Rampage Axe – Purity Sigil

I might be changing ‘Purity’ for Accuracy soon to boost up critical chance. My other condition removals seem sufficient. If I keep purity, it might make sense to put accuracy in there instead of force so that purity triggers more often.

Underwater Weapons: I have not bought / crafted for this yet, but I recommend Rampage and Force Sigil weapons.

Trinkets:

Rabid Back – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade
Rampage Accessory – Coral (Rampage) Upgrade x2
Rampage Ring – Coral (Rampage) Upgrade
Rabid Ring – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade
Rabid Amulet – Ruby (Berserk) Upgrade

Pets:

Two Devourers. Any two of the three will do. Swap them in combat constantly to get as much use of their special ability as you can, and put them away before they die.

These were chosen because they apply conditions from range, and burrow under when targeted. You might prefer other pets – but I strongly suggest using ranged ones.

Many say pets are hard to keep alive, but if you use them right, they’re not all that bad at staying up. It is about choice of pet and managing their cooldowns. This is one of those areas where the Ranger is NOT a Hunter. The Hunter can let the pet play itself, the Ranger has to look at those F1-4 keys and master timing them all while still mastering their weapons and utilities, AND master positioning of both the pet and the ranger.

The key for this is in three basic elements:

  1. Use ranged pets, that operate further out than you. S if you are ranged and not melee, stand between your pet and the enemy.
  2. Swap pets often (F4). Have both slots filled in with good pets, and swap them constantly. If one gets aggro or takes AoE, swap it right away. Pets heal super fast when stashed, and as long as it doesn’t die the cooldown on swapping is around 15 seconds.
  3. F3 is your friend. Use it to call your pet off of a target. If my pet gets aggro or is standing in a bad spot, this will save it.

Healing

Healing Spring is amazingly good in dungeons and group events. Otherwise go with Heal as One. The Troll Unguent heal is less useful as your traits will be giving you regeneration – but if you can survive spikes, the trait that boosts regeneration duration can make Troll Unguent attractive.

Utility Skill Choices

Modify utility skills as needed to get either more conditions, or a little bit of survivability.

Signet of Renewal is the most important of my utility skills – that clears your conditions. That’s the only utility I always keep on my action bar. Everything else I change up between almost every fight… Activate it when you get too many conditions to deal with, otherwise let the passive strip them off over time.

Sharpening Stone is a major part of the DPS for this build. With the amount of condition damage I have, I want to get conditions onto the enemy as often as possible. This one stays on the bar unless a fight needs something. Its a default, but I’m willing to give it up a little faster than Renewal as I have traits that also apply it. If I have this, I hit it on cooldown.

The third utility slot changes constantly. The only regular there is Signet of the Hunt because in the open world that’s great for exploring, and in cities just getting around. Never activate that one unless in a fight where you’re stacking and have no desire to go anywhere.

Elite Skill

Rampage As One is very nice to have and spam on cooldown. The fury and might are very useful.

All of the other elite skills are situational. Use them when you know the situation calls for it.

Resulting Stats Summary

RangerStatSummary


Playstyle

This is a ‘balanced’ dungeon build, somewhat ‘tanky’. You will have moderately high aggro, but you will not be subject to one shots.

The power and crit chance may seem low, but the damage comes out pretty good due to constant application of a lot of conditions. When playing this I don’t see large flashy numbers as often as on my thief or my warrior, but enemy mobs go down visibly faster.

Jump in and out of melee all the time. When ranged you want to be ‘just over the line’ from the reach of melee or point-blank-area-effects. It is fine to swap into Axe even when staying in melee if there is something of use there.

If there is a stack of enemies somewhere and most do not have aggro on you, the number 5 of axe, Whirling Defense, is amazing. You can also trigger it defensively to avoid a big ranged attack or a whole bunch of little ones.

Be careful with Sword skill number 2, Hornet Sting. Its crazy fun at level 5, but you will soon notice it can leap you back to the very wrong place to be… like over a cliff… or into some new adds…

If your sword has you stuck on the enemy and you need to move away, swap to axe and dodge. Or try hitting that number 2 once, but not twice.

Conclusion

With the recent patch, my damage and survival both went up. The change was slight, but enough to feel it.

Guild Wars 2 mythbusting: If damage is all that counts, why are you getting one-shot?

If damage is all that counts, why are you getting one-shot?

This one has been simmering in my mind since the launch of the game.

First a little background, then the claims, then my counter-claim.

Background:

Guild Wars 2 is a no-trinity combat system MMO. The idea, the intention, was that fluid roles of control, support, and damage would replace the trinity. Each aspect of the tank, healer, and DPS trinity model actually maps to one of the control, support, and damage items. The difference is that you are not supposed to locked to one of them. Not in character choice, not in talent choices, not in gear choices, not even in ‘which one am I for today’s mission?’

If the system worked perfectly, you would be playing all three roles in the same PvE combat – and they would just be labels used to describe your current action.

Intended design:

  • One moment you bash the enemy – damage.
  • The next you put up a smoke screen or protection field – control.
  • A second later you drop a healing seed or revive an ally – support.

If Guild Wars 2 worked, as it was claimed to be designed to work – we would alternate between these various tasks to get through PvE content. Bosses would hit hard enough that control and support would matter, and be susceptible to having damage become more effective when proper offensive control was used (conditions).

Would this be required, optimal, or just possible? There’s a LOT of room for debate there, and I don’t claim a bulletproof answer to that, though my theory below might seem to.

The popular claims in contrast:

I see two very popular claims among notable segments of the Guild Wars 2 community, and a third claim that compliments the first major claim. To me the two claims are a contradiction that form some of the basis of my counter argument.

The first claim is that damage is all that matters, or all that matter enough – two degrees of the same basic argument: one is best served not bothering with control and support is too weak to be impactful (some claim it is so weak it is useless, most just claim its not strong enough to be focused on).

The notion here is that just straight out bursting down an enemy is all one should care about. Build for DPS only. Do as much damage as fast as possible, before the enemy can kill anyone. The phrase “the best defense is a good offense” is the mantra of this theory.

If one focuses on just straight damage, it is possible to turn out some pretty high numbers (my thief probably has about a 4k to 5k DPS, and is NOT focused on pure damage. She could likely get about 10% higher).

The second claim is that bosses often have hidden moves with no ‘clear’ telegraph that can and will one-shot anyone hit by them. This claim then notes that there is nothing that can be done about this RNG based one-shotting. It is a flaw of design, for which some people have to ‘take time out’ to revive downed teammates. Protection, regeneration, armor, vitality, AoE healing, and so on all are too weak to counter this issue.

Because the telegraphs are hidden, or because an attack chain can put a couple of big hits in a row – dodge simply cannot catch these: which is why the claimants call it bad design.

The notion is that these attacks need to be telegraphed so skilled players can avoid them, or paced so that endurance can be there to dodge them.

A complimentary claim to the first claim is that the bosses are just giant health sinks. They have way too many hit points and so all one does is sit there and spam direct damage at them, as much and as fast as possible. That because of this high health, other tactics are less useful. I’m listing this third because I intend to put the first two claims against each other, and am less interested in this claim but will address it to a degree.

My counter-claim
As the subject of this blog post implies, I see a contradiction in the first two claims.

Essentially I boil it down to ‘if damage was all that mattered, why do you keep getting one-shot?’

If the boss is alive long enough to reach one of those untelegraphed one-shot hits and execute it – either their was not enough damage, or something other than just damage must be important somewhere, or the design is just flawed.

I’m going to argue that something other than just damage is likely important.

In part because the bosses are such health sinks, they will tend to last long enough to get off several of those untelegraphed hits, or a chain of effects that come too close together to all be dodged.

Where I flat out disagree with the claims above is the idea that control and support are so weak that they cannot be that something else.

Starting with defensive control.

Protection is a good example. If this boon is up, that’s 33% of the damage of a hit just pushed right off the table as if it never happened. 24000 damage just became 16000 damage. Bring in armor, regeneration, and a steady flow of self and group heals and a hit that might face-plant a group focused only on damage might need to occur 5 more times before it can take someone out – and even when the attacks chain together quickly, attacks on that massive of a scale will rarely chain in 5 times in so many seconds. The normal ‘very bad situation’ of 2 of them back to back moves from a sure killer to a moment to shift up the thinking for just a bit.

Armor… Armor starts to go through significant diminishing returns after 2700. But in the ramp up to that number, a few hundred more armor can be gained with a loss to damage of only a few percentage points. The trade off starts to sound very worth it when that difference is the difference that makes an untelegraphed mega-hit survivable. Instead of the sudden one-shot, you get a ‘mostly shot down’ moment that you step back from, self heal, and re-engage.

That is just two aspects of defensive control, both of which can work wonders to make the concept of a one-shot moot.

And that heal? The support aspect?

If you can toss out a 5 to 8k self heal, then you can handle any hit that leaves you with at least 1 health, and come back strong enough to just grin at the enemy. Threat in the game is heavily impacted by who has already taken notable damage. If you’re at 50% of your health, and the other person is at 90% – that gives you a threat boost. So a medium heal is actually useful as a threat management tool… The heals are designed in conjunction with the threat mechanic to allow clever players to stay up and hold aggro off of more ‘glassy’ teammates.
– granted you will want to get more healing soon… or the next hit might do you in… and so good healing counts. In fact for this regen based or proc based small heals can be better than the big self heal. If you have something like like ‘30% chance to heal on crit’ and that gives you a few hundred health – it will proc enough to get you to a place of safety after the self heal, but not so fast that your threat advantage is lost.

But this becomes a more complex act of balancing factors.

However done right – there is no longer any such thing as a surprise one shot attack in GW2.

Those untelegraphed mega attacks?

Maybe they are there on purpose – so that just dodging is not optimal. They are there, as a certain amount of unavoidable damage, so that people will hopefully be willing to suffer a 5% to 10% loss of damage for a 200% boost in mitigation through control and support.

And there is offensive control…

Why are bosses massive health sinks?

Because in addition to having high health, ensuring they last long enough to run a cycle of unavoidable hits, they have high armor – which mitigates out a lot of direct damage.

Try spamming a huge stack of conditions on a boss. Enough so that you cap out on them and some players are wasting theirs… Note how much faster the boss health can go down, when boss armor is no longer in play…
– But this again requires greater coordination, to avoid too much of players wasting them.

Condition damage builds in PvE have become unpopular due to unshakeable and defiant. Boons on bosses that prevent CC. But these boons do -not- prevent interrupts (just the associated benefits like the followup stun), and they do not stop things like bleed, poison, and confusion.

Because two aspects of conditions perform poorly on bosses (capping conditions and CC), many have simply given up rather than take advantage of the remaining still working aspects.

So maybe offensive control still has a place too, just like defensive control and support.

The counter counter that defeats my entire argument (or does it):

Some will say there are no hidden telegraphs on enemies, that you can dodge every notable attack, shake off every condition without even having a trait or skill for it, never go down, never need to revive anyone else, and burn down all enemies in mere seconds. They point to a few videos making this claim. And maybe for some content they are right, when its done by players who are so amazing they have superman underwear and three times the endurance pool of the rest of us.

But are you all that leet? And does that really work in any content?

 

Builds coming next:

If my plans work out right, I’ll be following this up with 5 builds – one for each of my as of this date 80s. These builds are designed to be PvE balanced builds: in the point between offense and defense. For me they work amazingly well in dungeon and open world content. I can routinely solo in places people claim are impossible to solo. I can do events in Orr on my own, I can ‘almost tank’ dungeon bosses, and so on. I do a little less damage, but I get a LOT more survival. I don’t bunker play. These are not pure support/control builds. They are offensive, but with solid defense for those moments when adds show up, bosses hit too often, telegraphs are missing, and so on.

We’ll see once I post them, hopefully I will be able to explain the choices I made.

Guild Wars 2 – A rare intrinsic reward based MMO, or why loot is so low.

Extrinsic gameplay focuses on the destination. Intrinsic focuses on the journey.

This video highlights the different mindsets:

Guild Wars 2 is an intrinsic reward based MMO. It is one of three such MMOs that I am aware of having ever existed, the others being Guild Wars 1 (officially not an MMO, but played as one by many of its fans) and City of Heroes (now dead, after an 8 year 7 month run). If there were ever other intrinsic reward MMOs, I have not yet heard of them.

This is not the method of motivation most present day MMO players have been trained for, not by a longshot. Its different. Perhaps the most different aspect of Guild Wars 2 from any other MMO. There is more ‘system shock’ in getting used to this change for the typical player than the lack of the EQ/WoW Trinity or the lack of raids.

In an extrinsicly motivated game, players seek some reward. More power, more gear, more gold, access to gated content, special mounts, special weapons, special titles, special stuff.

You are always seeking the next high, the next ‘climatic moment’, when playing an extrinsic moment. The content you do to reach that goal is ‘put up with’. It is designed to test you, or wear you down, or punish you if too slow at it, or keep you paying for a subscription longer, to reach the goal.

You get you joy when you reach the ‘happy place’ at the end of it… which lasts a few fleeting moments, and then you need to find a new extrinsic reward. Developers need to keep giving you more and more shinies to collect, or they will lose you.

In an intrinsic game, there is no real goal or destination to seek out. The peak of all the gear has little is any meaning. The shinies are few and far between if even there at all (City of Heroes had no meaningful loot system for its first few and possibly most successful years).

An intrinsic game seeks to reward the journey, and may even go so far as to remove the destination, or just hand you the destination. The ride is the fun, there is no ‘climatic moment’. You want that journey to last as long as it can, and give you all it can – because when its over, its over. You can seek a new journey, but the shiny has little meaning.

Intrinsic based games seek to get your loyalty by providing increasing amounts of depth to the journey. Make it take a while, give it more flavor, put in lots of things that are ‘off the beaten path’. More story, more color, more flavor. Less rewards, less shinies. Gear is less meaningful; often equalized. Getting the best gear is so easy its almost if not actually just given to you. Content is rarely gated; because the content is not to be overcome, but savored; so it needs to be accessible to get everyone in there for the most joy in the journey they can manage. Special titles? Easy if there. Special loot? Mostly meaningless.

The nature of the shinies in intrinsic play, when present is to enhance the journey rather than peak it. Mini pets, skins, flavor items for roleplay, guild and player halls and houses. Etc…

Guild Wars 2 is a mostly intrinsic play focused game. Its all about the journey here. The destination is meaningless. What are the extrinsic rewards?

Fractal levels and legendaries. One is designed to let people endlessly grind something just to be able to survive grinding the exact same thing set to x% harder – the rewards in it merely let you set x higher next time around. The other? A special skin for a weapon. Almost an intrinsic style reward – but set to be way out there; designed to take a few years of normal play to achieve (but set up such that extrinsic reward focused payers can knock it out much quicker… checking it off their list, only to discover it was a list with one entry).

If you get motivated by extrinsic rewards in an MMO: shinies, loot, gearing, the climatic moment, etc… GW2 is just not the MMO for you.

The extrinsic rewards are subpar, and this appears to be by intentional design. Loot is thin, gold comes slow, and even if you speed up the pace of gold, there is little to use it on. Almost none of the content is gated. Special events even often level-up people so a character at any stage of play can join in the journey. Progression is almost solely horizontal: new looks, stats moved around within the same tier range (such as shuffling between precision or power for which is higher).

GW2 is designed for intrinsic rewarding of play.

The reward is the actual play itself. The journey is the reward here, not the destination. If you enjoy exploring just to explore. If you enjoy doing dungeons just to do them. If you enjoy playing a particular character just to play it. GW2 is the MMO for you. Events and design of the maps, even the hearts – they are all built around the idea that just being there while it is happening is all the reward one needs.

Step into the world of Guild Wars 2 and look around. Vistas are a case in point here. What is the point of a vista in GW2? To get your camera to pan around and see a wide view of nothing more than beautifully rendered scenery. There is a small shiny in this, a little bit of extrinsic reward, designed to get you to just savor a place. But the entire world builds out like this. Everywhere you go, there are artistically done views to enjoy and be in. Savoring the journey, enjoying just being in there: that is what they are aiming at delivering.

Why do ‘Heart Quests’ seem shallow to so many? Because they’re not the design focus. They are merely there to get you to an area where you can enjoy being there, seeing and meeting all the NPCs, and taking part in the events staged there.

This is why they go away in Orr and Southsun. By this point in the game, the thought was that you no longer need to be led to the journey on a carrot, and can find it yourself. Talk to players who enjoy Orr and you find people who often note ‘uncovering the hidden history in out of the way spots’ or taking part in events with friends. Journey focused. Talk to players who dislike Orr and its often about the low loot, the need for a zerg like group to be able to ‘win’ the mega-events, and the lack of ‘things to do’ outside of that. Note that one group will have no trouble finding things to do, that another group never comes across. Not a flaw of extrinsic players: just that its built for a different style of player.

– This pattern, while extreme in Orr, is repeated throughout the game. So extrinsic players, on “finishing” the hearts have little “reason” to come back, while intrinsic players will return to a spot over and over again because the play there is enjoyable to just be a part of.

If you are a solidly extrinsic minded player: you need something to grind for and achiev, this is unlikely to ever be a good MMO for you. It was built, from the get go, to be the MMO for the other players. The players the competition has not been serving. The ones who just want to be a part of a fantasy world, and savor the experience of exploring it.

Guild Wars 2 is just an intrinsic reward based MMO.

 

References for where my thoughts on this formed over the last month:

https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/forum/game/gw2/Intrinsic-vs-Extrinsic-Is-this-relevant

http://www.guildwars2guru.com/topic/83218-dare-to-criticize-guild-wars-2/page__st__150#entry2208233

https://forum-en.guildwars2.com/forum/game/gw2/Our-reactions-to-farming-nerfs/page/5#post2166544

http://bhagpuss.blogspot.com/2013/05/its-better-to-have-and-dont-need.html?showComment=1370044823290#c1513943590190944893