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State of the Game—December 18, 2007

Meet Heart of Ashes and Dust [HAnD]

By Billiard

Special note: Each State of the Game presents the opinions and insights of one game observer. These observations are personal in nature and do not reflect the opinions of ArenaNet. While ArenaNet does review each State of the Game article to assure that it offers content that is respectful of all players, we intend to allow our reporters the freedom to inject some personal opinion into descriptions of the current atmosphere of competitive play in Guild Wars, and to express views based on their experience and observation.


By winning in November, Heart of Ashes and Dust [HAnD] became the third guild to win two Monthly Automatic Tournaments (ATs) in the Guild Wars $100,000 Tournament Series (Virtual Dragons [vD] and Rebel Rising [rawr] were the other two). Unlike the previous repeat winners, [HAnD] went six months between its May and November wins, while [vD] won back-to-back in June and July, and [rawr] won back-to-back in August and September. The members of [HAnD] were gracious enough to meet early morning (1-2 AM their time) to accommodate an interview. Members of [HAnD] present at the interview included: Andkun, Smith, Aris Kick, Fle, Mashiro, Rufa, Pixy, and Noji. Also participating was Mehdi, an ArenaNet interpreter present to facilitate the interview. Below is a summary of the topics discussed during that interview.


Guild History

[HAnD] originally formed by the merger of two other guilds, Free Will [FW] and The Atomic Clock Tour [TACT]. The main emphasis for the new guild was to participate very actively in PvP. From March to December of this year, [HAnD] played more than 1,300 GvG rated matches, winning nearly 1,000 of them. This is an extraordinary amount of GvG activity, especially considering they accomplished it primarily with the same eight players. [HAnD] has a core team of eight, with only two additional inactive players in the guild. This core group typically plays two to three hours a night, which translates roughly to five or six GvG matches. Because of the small size of their core, Andkun, the guild's leader, often has to invite one or two guests to play.


Builds and Strategy

[HAnD] players spend considerable time in Observer Mode watching other top teams play to generate build ideas. Typically [HAnD] observes a team running a build and then tests it themselves, tweaking the build to better fit their own team's strengths and strategies. [HAnD] members feel that balanced builds are ideal and try to run them whenever possible. However, they have found that when they compete against North American or European players, they may experience extreme lag – with an average ping of 500 or more being common. Because of this potential for heavy lag, [HAnD] often feels they are at a disadvantage running a balanced build against a top European or North American opponent. In those instances, they may instead employ a Paragon spike, a heavy Hex build, or an Assassin split. This strategy was evident in the November Monthly AT when [HAnD] ran an Assassin split build in the early rounds, but then switched to a balanced build in the final when they faced another Japanese guild.

[HAnD] feels that balanced builds demonstrate player skill much better than "gimmick" builds, especially as individual players become more and more experienced. However, they also view the refusal by some guilds such as Delta Formation [DF] and Esoteric Warriors [EW] to run gimmick builds as a potential weakness of those elite teams.

In tournament play the goal is to win, and they feel that some teams, like Idiot Savants [iQ] in the past and Dark Alley [dR] in the present, recognize there must be a balance between running "cool" balanced builds and gimmick builds if they are to win tournaments. That said, [HAnD] has tremendous admiration for [DF] and [EW] because they can win tournaments without resorting to gimmick builds. In fact, the build that [HAnD] most dislikes running against is Assassin split; however, they believe the build is so powerful that they are often compelled to use it for wins.


Monthly Tournaments

Since the start of the current $100,000 Tournament Series, [HAnD] has placed first in May, ninth in June, eighth in July, tenth in August, twenty-first in September, eighteenth in October, and then first again in November. [HAnD] attributes the high variance in their monthly AT performance to several factors. After the May AT, some members of the guild left and had to be replaced, causing a drop in performance during June, July, and August. Before the September AT, the team didn't practice enough, and they just had bad luck in October.

[HAnD] reports that one of their biggest challenges for the monthly ATs is staying awake, because many matches begin around 3 to 4 AM for them. Even so, they understand the tournaments are global in nature and they can deal with the odd hours they often have to play.

For monthly ATs, [HAnD] uses the strongest build for the particular maps in the rotation. They then observe opponents as best as they can and adjust builds and strategies for each guild they face. [HAnD] feels that the monthly tournaments have become much more competitive since they first began, and that top guilds in particular have gotten stronger than ever before. Teams such as [DF] and [EW] are very hard to beat now.


Friends and rivals

Currently, [HAnD] considers Supernova Jpn [SpNv] as friendly rivals and often scrimmages against them. Before they became less active, The Benecia Renovatio [RenO] was also a major rival. [HAnD] would very much like to play more good guilds such as [EW], because they see that as the best way to become better players themselves. [HAnD] reports that one issue that caused problems in Japan is that nearly half the Guild Wars players couldn't play for an extended period due to an earthquake in Taiwan (which disrupted the servers). That has caused pings on the order of 20,000 to 30,000 for many players. This problem, however, was recently fixed.


General Thoughts

[HAnD] advises players and guilds to focus primarily on balanced builds to improve their level of play. Balanced builds depend on individual and team skills, and are less prone to being affected by a major skill balance. They feel game balance is getting better, but that Assassins are still very strong. In general, [HAnD] would prefer reverting back to playing the game with just the core professions.


Future plans

The members of [HAnD] want to continue to be active in Guild Wars until Guild Wars 2 is released, which they very much anticipate. Also, they feel that Asian playtimes are pretty empty of GvGers and would love for other players to come play during those times.


Billiard is a Senior Moderator at GuildWarsGuru.com and former long time guild leader of Xen of Onslaught [XoO], one of the largest and most active PvP guilds in the world. Billiard can be reached in game as Billiard The Bold, or by private message at the [XoO] website.