Match Report - November GvG Championship Finals
Heart of Ashes and Dust [HAnD] vs. Mistral Edge [Me]
By Alex Marsyla
Special note: Each Match Report 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 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.
The final match of the November Monthly GvG championship came down to a slugfest between two Japanese guilds: Heart of Ashes and Dust [HAnD] and Mistral Edge [Me]. Facing off on the Isle of Weeping Stone, the guilds brought strong 8v8 builds to clash for the championship.
A relative unknown, [Me] defeated Rebel Rising [rawr], Revive Teammates [rezz], and The Catharsis [tc] in the single elimination rounds. Against [HAnD], [Me] decided to run a build featuring Nature's Renewal and Tranquility and a heavy physical offense including two Warriors and two Paragons. Taking advantage of the Spirits' adverse effects on Enchantments, the heavy physical offense in this build is intended to pound through enemy Monks' healing and protection ability.
The more prominent guild of the two finalists, [HAnD], defeated Killing Is As Easy As Breathing [JOHN], Know How To Fail [roar], and Supernova Jpn [SpNv] in the single elimination rounds. For the final round, [HAnD] ran a balanced build featuring a blindbot, a Cruel Spear Paragon, and an Energy Surge Mesmer. [HAnD]'s build was meant for consistent spiking and 8v8 play. There were also a few interesting skill choices in [HAnD]'s build that suggest they expected to face Nature's Renewal and Tranquility. The inclusion of Unnatural Signet on the Mesmer's Skill Bar shows that [HAnD] was expecting [Me] to use Spirits in some capacity. Given that these two teams are from the same region, and probably face each other frequently, it is likely that [HAnD] knew its opponent well enough to accurately predict the Spirit usage.
At the start of the match, [HAnD] sent their flag runner out the front gate towards the flag stand while the rest of their players charged out the back gate and cut across to the flag stand. Usually this would be an abnormal opening move, but [Me] had been playing an Assassin split build in previous rounds. This move would allow [HAnD] to overpower any potential split threat from the start. However, no split threat was presented by [Me] and [HAnD] decided to face them 8v8 at the flag stand.
During the fight at the flag stand, [HAnD] consistently spiked nearly every thirty seconds. In particular, they focused frequent spikes on [Me]'s Monks and scored kills on both Monks at 5 minutes and again at 10 minutes. The second Monk wipe caused [Me] to abandon the flag stand and allowed [HAnD] to gain multiple morale boosts until VoD.
[Me]'s Party Health meter fluctuated wildly, showing huge jumps in Health after spikes. This suggests a reactive approach to damage, rather than a preventative approach, meaning a loss of initiative and more vulnerability to spikes. Compare this to [HaND], which had a much more consistent Party Health meter, suggesting more damage prevention methods and a lack of clean spikes from the opposing offense.
[Me] retreated to their base where they turtled until 14:30 when [HAnD] attacked through [Me]'s front gate. Unfortunately, [HAnD]'s Mesmer appeared to go afk and was killed, causing [HAnD] to retreat to the flag stand at 16 minutes. Despite resurrecting in base, the Mesmer never returned to the match. Without the Mesmer, [HAnD] could not push a spike through against [Me] until VoD came. This resulted in a temporary stalemate, highlighting just how important the Mesmer was to the offense. It also shows how the already accumulated death penalty affected [Me] so much that they couldn't capitalize on a numbers advantage.
After pushing [HAnD] back to the flag stand, [Me] captured the flag stand for the first time at 18:30. In response, [HAnD] used two players to run out new flags and managed to retain control of the flag stand.
With the effects of VoD and [Me]'s high death penalty, [HAnD] was able to score kills again with spikes. [HaND] also had a slight NPC advantage, thanks to having protected their footmen and archers near the flag stand through the whole match while taking out those same NPCs on [ME]'s side. At 21 minutes, after annihilating the NPCs, [HAnD] once more pushed [Me] off the flag stand, killing a Warrior, a Paragon and a Monk in the process. After killing another of [Me]'s Monks, [HAnD] killed [Me]'s Guild Lord to win the match at 22:36.
Throughout the match, [Me] seemed outclassed. Compared to [HAnD], [Me] showed sloppier play. For instance, [Me] had positional trouble in this match. It was not uncommon for one of [Me]'s Paragons or Monks to get caught in the Stone Spores. Positioning errors like this may have been responsible for the tremendous strain on both their offense and defense.
During the fight at the flag stand, [Me] also suffered greatly at the hands of [HAnD]'s Mesmer. Unnatural Signet effectively crippled [Me]'s offense, but [Me] did very little to combat it. In 36 uses of Unnatural Signet, it only fizzled once. The skill is such a strong counter to Spirit builds that it has to be shut down. Furthermore, when [HAnD]'s Mesmer was on the other side of the gate at the flag stand, [Me] should have positioned their team across the flag stand opposite the gate. Then, the Mesmer would have had no way to reach [Me]'s Monks without giving up on taking down [Me]'s Spirits. However, [Me] continued to sit where the Mesmer could conveniently switch between the Monks and the Spirits.
[Me] also blundered strategically from the beginning. At the start of the match, [HAnD] did not bring a flag to the flag stand. [Me] could have capitalized on this and started a flag running battle. Instead, [Me] placed their flag among their footmen and began to slug it out with [HAnD]. When [HAnD] pushed [Me] away from the flag stand, they returned [Me]'s flag and captured the stand. From this point [HAnD] had control of the flag stand until 18:30. With [HAnD] continually spiking down [Me]'s players, [Me] desperately needed to do something to control the flag stand and remove Death Penalty.
Finally, [Me]'s trapper proved to be completely ineffective in the match. With Spirits neutralized by [HAnD]'s Mesmer, the trapper should have focused on either pressuring [HAnD]'s midline and defense, or trapping [HAnD]'s frontline. Instead, the trapper was frequently off to the side toying with [HAnD]'s flag runner and Mesmer. Throughout the match, the trapper only activated eight Barbed Traps and eight Dust Traps. Overall, that hardly proved to be a problem for [HAnD]. At VoD, the trapper could have potentially decimated [HAnD]'s NPCs to create an advantage, but [Me] never attempted it. Instead, the trapper focused on laying Spirits and trying to stall the flag runner off to the side of the main NPC combat. This all served to nullify the trapper throughout the match.
Still, [HAnD] does deserve a great deal of credit for their victory. They made very few errors during the match. The decision to run a build with strong spiking capability and armor-ignoring damage like Energy Surge, along with Spirit shutdown from Unnatural Signet proved to be smart. Coming into the match, [HAnD] had an advantage in build that put them in a position to win. Even when their Mesmer went afk, [HAnD] still played strong and didn't give away any critical ground.
Despite losing their Mesmer, [HAnD] won because their frequent spikes early in the match put large Death Penalties on multiple [Me] players. In particular, [HAnD] frequently spiked down [Me]'s Monk Michelle Berkeley. When VoD arrived, most of [Me]'s players had too little Health to last long, even under [HAnD]'s diminished spike.
So, congratulations to [HAnD] for their victory. They played well and earned their victory. This month's final definitely reminds us that experience and predicting the opponent are both important factors in GvG.
Alex is a college student in his third year studying Computer Information Systems. He's been into online gaming for most of his life and has been playing Guild Wars since its release.