Playing 8 vs. 8 in Heroes' Ascent
By Isaiah Cartwright
This article is going to talk about 8 vs. 8 play in the Heroes' Ascent map, (also knows as Tombs', short for its original name, the Tombs of the Primeval Kings).
Tombs is the more casual of the two 8 vs. 8 game types, but it still requires a large amount of coordination and team work. The key thing about Tombs combat as opposed to guild vs. guild (GvG) is that you have to be able to protect your Ghostly Hero. Many of the game types in Tombs will require you to protect your Hero in order to win, so you can bring skills like Spell Breaker, Healing Seed, or other protective spells like Wards. Keep your builds versatile so you can deal with different builds that you run across—preparing for spike builds with spells like Infuse Health, for degen pressure builds with skills like Heal Party, and for Warrior-heavy builds like IWAY with anti-Warrior counters. Even without the proper tools to beat most builds, you can overcome them with strategy and coordination, the key is to never give up and fight to the last second.
In all maps, it pays to be aware of the win condition and the morale condition. On most maps, morale is gained by killing the Ghostly Hero. Therefore, protecting your Hero is extremely important—giving away a morale boost will recharge all of your enemies Resurrection Signets. Now, let's walk through each of the map types and explain some things you might see.
The first map in Tombs is a small fight against a few NPC's. This map should be pretty easy for most groups. Most teams often focus on the Elementalist first and shut down the Monks, or use AOEs (Area of Effect skills). There are many ways to beat these NPC's; if you're having a hard time it often means your build isn't very good.
The second map is called the Underworld, a simple 8 vs. 8 map where the objective is to kill all enemies, with a morale boost granted by killing the enemy Ghostly Hero. Most fights here see both teams run at each other, but sometimes a team will hold back and use the stairs as a defensive point. This can get you in trouble with AOE's. Often groups will run to the top level in the middle. Groups usually do this when they don't have many Warriors and can kill people without standing next to them. This map is pretty straightforward and you won't see very many tricky things going on here.
The third map is Burial Mounds, another 8 vs. 8 map with an additional objective point, and a priest. The priest on this map will resurrect any dead allies every two minutes. You will also find an obelisk on the map which helps add some damage to your attacks, but most of the time it will be too far away from the fight to make much of a difference. The key to this map is taking out the enemy—there are some objects to hide behind if you're fighting Rangers or Elementalist with projectiles. Sending a team (or even one player) to sneak around and kill the enemy priest can really help out in the end. In general this is pretty much a straight-up fight and once again, not a lot of tricks to be seen.
Next we visit the Broken Tower. This map is very different from the rest. This is the first map with the Hero capture mechanic—an 8 vs. 8 in which it is extremely important to capture the throne as early as you can. The morale boost goes to the team that holds the throne for two minutes. The Hero capture mechanic works like so: in the middle of the map is a dais. When you bring the Ghostly Hero to the middle of the map, he will use a skill on the throne called "Claim Resource". This skill takes five seconds to cast, and is not a spell (that means it can only be interrupted with knockdowns or skill-interrupting spells). Interrupting a Ghostly Hero is extremely common and most teams are very focused on it. And since this is part of the end game, most teams are very skilled at it, chaining skills to interrupt a Hero over and over and over again. This is where Spell Breaker, or Guardian comes into play. Spell Breaker helps stop enemy knockdowns, and Guardian helps defend against ranged interrupts. Another mechanic on this map, the Resurrection Orb. This is a bundle object (an object that you have to hold in both hands, preventing weapon use) that can be dropped to resurrect all allies in the area, and is the only way to resurrect the Ghostly Hero if you do not own the dais. The team that owns the dais will be resurrected every two minutes.
Next up, Scarred Earth, the first map where you will run into more then one enemy team. Each 8 vs. 8 match here is closed off from the others by a door, and the door will only open when the enemy is killed, leaving the victors to face another team before they're through. There is one obelisk in the middle, and three in the center of the map. You cannot get to the center until your enemy is down, so don't worry about that one. The flags are also in the middle of the map. Most caster teams will head up top and send a Warrior to grab the flag. But be careful, simply charging in on this map can earn you some serious pain—it's a tight space, and you can easily get stuck there while the enemy lays on the AOE attacks. Once you've beaten "your" enemy team, you will have to fight any other teams in the center. Use the obelisk to fall back if you need to, but the fight should be pretty straight-up. The ramps are good places for Traps, too.
The next map is called the Unholy Temples. This is the first Capture the Flag map, and both teams have a Ghostly Hero who stays on their side. Killing the enemy Hero will get you a morale boost, but this time the hero doesn't follow you around, so guards might be necessary for him. Each team will have a relic (in other words, a "flag"). If you bring the enemy relic to your Ghostly Hero you will score a point, and the team with the most points at the end of 10 minutes wins. If a team ever gets ahead by 3 points, they automatically win. Also, in case of a tie, the team who last scored wins. This map is one of the first maps where "body blocking" starts to become a big deal, a useful tactic for stopping the relic runner, or blocking the Hero. Most of the fighting happens at the bridge. Many teams choose one of two routes, kill the enemy or go for running. If a team is running you have to either stop the runner and kill the enemy or start running yourself. It's also a good idea to sneak someone past the enemy defenses and kill their Hero, and since the Hero resurrects every two minutes, you can kill him right after the two-minute mark on the clock and he will be dead for most, if not all, of the next two minutes. This can give you the time you need to kill the enemy flag runner. Doing this after the eight-minute mark when you're ahead will automatically win the match. This map can be hard on teams that have never played it, as often a team can win without ever killing a single enemy and most builds have to play in a completely different way on this map than they do on others.
The next 8 vs. 8 map is called Dark Chambers. Here you can gain a morale boost by killing the enemy Ghostly Hero. And naturally, you've also got a priest. This map has two gates and two switches that open the gate from one side. Most of the time both teams run through the gate to the enemy priest and kill each other's priests, and sometimes teams will leave the Ghostly Hero behind (it's not a bad idea to bring him along, though). After that the double priest-icide, both teams usually turn around and fight each other directly, sometimes fighting on either side or coming together in a clash on the bridge. The bridge can be tight and is often ruled by AOE effects. In general, Dark Chambers is quite straightforward.
Next stop: The Courtyard. This map is the closest to the Hall of Heroes in in playing style: there are three teams, each with a priest and their own Ghostly Hero. You'll see a dais in the middle of the map, and the morale boost comes from holding the dais. Since no team starts on the dais, it's often either a mad dash to the middle or everyone sits back and waits. Some teams prefer to try and get two other teams to fight each other while they run around and kill the enemy priest—After all, the only way to resurrect the guild lord is if your priest is still alive. So keep that in mind—waiting until the end to capture is a strong strategy, but it's risky. Teams can interrupt your Lord, or body block him at the dais to win. Watch your movement on this map, and don't get sandwiched between two teams.
And so we reach The Sacred temples, the last map you will fight through before reaching the Hall of Heroes. This is another relic run map and it's much like the lower Rift version, Unholy Temples. The main difference is a huge door in the middle of the map that can only be opened or closed by a switch up on the ledge. This map is a perfect place to use the body blocking tactic, since there's a set of stairs next to each relic, closing the door in the middle can cripple a team if done at the right time, Most teams don't fight on this map—they spend the whole time running, so keep that in mind and be careful. It's really easy to chain run, and killing the Hero is relatively easy—there are so many places you can turn and body block the enemy Monks while a team mate kills the enemy Ghostly Hero, it's a no-brainer. In the end, dealing with this map will come down to experience, and reacting to whatever your enemies are doing.
Then there's the Vault. This map has no enemies and we on the design team often just play hide and go seek by having one team turn off their User Interface (with Ctrl+Alt+H) while the other 7 players go hide.
The Hall of Heroes is the last map in the Tombs. This one's for all the marbles. There is only one instance of this map, and it holds up to 5 teams. That boils down to 8 vs. 8 vs. 8 vs. 8 vs. 8, and the middle of the map only opens up after one team on each side beats their opponents. The "middle team" is always the one that won the battle on this map last round, and that team starts with the throne. The defending team normally watches both sides, and will often attack the team that finishes first. The morale boost comes from holding the throne for two minutes so the defending team normally has all the Resurrection Signets and morale they need and can take a few losses. Be very careful about using Resurrection Signets on this map, and do not waste them—you'll need them in the last two minutes which is when the action starts. Around the two-minute mark is when the game gets really frantic as both teams try and run in to take the middle at the last minute. The team holding the middle will try and interrupt the Hero as much as possible. It also turns into a huge cluster of death, with all three teams beating on each other. Normally the match will be won by the team that holds back the most or the team that interrupts the best. There are many ways and many strategies for the Hall of Heroes, most will come with practice. Keep in mind that you will usually be fighting teams that have been through these fights a lot and know what to do. And never discount anyone—even the most unorganized team can pile on more damage and take out the experienced team, or try and lure other teams into fighting each other.
Most of all, have fun. You're going to die on this map more then once before you win, so don't get discouraged!