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.
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.
- 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.
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.