PvP Primer: Leaving the Nest
The PvP Primer article series was constructed to help new players get started in PvP, and much of what has been covered you have been able to try out on your own, without finding a team. Beyond what we've been able to teach in this series, PvP has a wealth of complex features, and much of this complexity results from the ongoing interaction of players, teams, skills, builds, and maps to create unexpected synergy or to flawlessly execute common strategies. Two teams, for example, can take the same build and play it differently, depending on individual player strengths, the tactical ability of the leader, the map, and the opposing team. We could try to describe the many intricacies of this process, but you'll have better luck by just jumping in and accumulating your own PvP experience.
This final lesson in the Primer series offers some resources that can help you as you continue improving your PvP skills. It also provides some information about the arenas you will encounter as you continue to play PvP.
If you'd like to continue learning PvP, we suggest you join a guild if you haven't already. Or start one of your own. Either way, learning PvP will come much easier if you are part of a group of players who meet regularly and compete in Team Arenas, Alliance Battles, Heroes' Ascent, and Guild-versus-Guild (GvG) combat. Even though many guilds have established membership and veteran players, new guilds form all the time, and new PvP players constantly enter the game. Generally speaking, guilds do accept recruits with limited PvP experience, provided they have an open mind, a receptive attitude, and a genuine desire to improve. For more about finding guilds and networking with other players, read this Primer article.
In addition to the practical, on-the-play experience you'll get by joining a guild and playing a lot of PvP, you will also want to keep current with the "metagame" (current trends) through in-game Observer Mode, our State of the Game articles, and our Guild Wars wiki website, which provide information about what is happening currently in GvG and other PvP arenas. External sources, such as fansites and forums, also offer a tremendous body of information, especially about the nuances of more advanced PvP. Check out our list of official fansites for PvP discussions and insights from experienced players. You can also try visiting the public forums of top guilds on the official Guild Wars ladder to learn about their PvP philosophy or to see if they are recruiting.
You unlock Team Arenas with a winning streak of five matches in Random Arenas. Team Arena combat is 4v4, with groups created beforehand. Many pick-up-groups form here, so you can still jump in for a quick game with or without voice chat. But often you'll run up against coordinated groups of people from the same guild. These teams will normally use voice chat software to talk to each other and play builds designed to work together as a team, potentially making it harder for your pick-up-group to win.
If you've practiced a lot in Random Arenas, you may recognize some of the maps used in Team Arenas. The maps you haven't encountered before shouldn't take you long to learn, as they aren't overly large or complicated. Additionally, most teams just meet in the middle and fight there, and the maps are small enough that you can quickly get in range to see opposing players on your Compass.
Although there are only four characters on a team, battles in the Team Arenas actually have a healthy variety of different team builds. While a metagame of sorts exists, it fluctuates quite a bit, in part because there is no Observer Mode to spread ideas, and also because gimmick builds are a little harder to pull off. Of course, most teams bring a Monk along to heal, but some don't bother with any primary healers. It's not always the most successful approach, but Monk-less teams can still win, and you have better odds of encountering such a team here than in GvG.
This variety of builds keeps Team Arenas fresh and interesting. Also, the four player format sets up plenty of opportunities to practice mini-builds for GvG. For example, you can take a common four-person split team from your GvG build and play it in Team Arenas so the players in the split get used to their Skill Bars and can evaluate the strength of the build against live opponents.
Heroes' Ascent (HA)
This arena has seen a lot of changes over time. Originally 8v8, it currently consists of 6v6 combat. A natural step between Team Arenas and GvG, HA requires a winning streak of 5 matches from Team Arenas to unlock. The gameplay varies between several map types, which have different objectives and victory conditions. Teams take various approaches to securing these objectives. (Read an analysis of the recent changes in HA and get a description of 6v6 play.)
With more players on a team, HA builds tend to be more stable than you will find in Team Arenas. Teams bring more counters to common shut downs like Hexes and Conditions, and often have spiking capability. While you can still find pick-up groups, success in HA doesn't come easily to such teams. You have a much better chance of doing well with an organized team using voice chat.
As your team wins, you progress upward to different maps and fight other winners from prior maps. Losing teams get kicked back to the outpost. This serves as an ongoing ladder tournament of sorts, culminating in the Hall of Heroes where winning teams fight against each other for prizes of Celestial Sigils and rare items, which they can keep or sell for gold. Along the way you gain fame, which is necessary to advance along the Hero Title Track, and eventually can earn animated emotes you can display. For example, if you reach rank 3 on the Hero Title Track, any character on your account can display a deer emote by typing /rank.
The ultimate form of PvP in Guild Wars, this combat takes place between organized teams of eight players. Finding a pick-up group without PvP experience doesn't really happen, as most teams that use guests find people they know or who have demonstrated prior knowledge of the game. Thus, to play in any GvG, you'll most likely need to find a guild. Choosing a group of players you mesh with is extremely important. If you try to force yourself into liking a group of people, you will probably end up getting frustrated and then you won't learn anything. (Read more about finding guilds and networking with other players.)
The nature of GvG constantly evolves. In fact, we devote special coverage to this metagame (the game surrounding the game where players try to figure out what other people are going to play), and publish regular State of the Game articles about it. During tournaments, we also have match reports to record the clash of top teams, and we've even started publishing detailed statistical information about skill usage.
The official Guild Ladder keeps a historical record of the performance of the top 1,000 guilds over time, and this ladder gets updated several times a day. People play in GvG matches for a variety of reasons, and among those reasons is a desire to place somewhere on the ladder, or even the very top rung, while others just enjoy playing as often as they can for the pure joy of the game. Lastly, GvG offers the chance to win real world and virtual prizes by playing in regular tournaments. Guilds form teams to compete in these tournaments for glory and loot.
Beyond the Primer
Fansites, guild forums, and the Guild Wars wiki contain a lot of information about the more complicated and advanced aspects of PvP (much more, in fact, than we could ever hope to provide for you here). In this article series, we've given you a start on the basics of PvP, now the rest is up to you. Find a team or a guild of compatible players and play as much as you can. Remember, top players all had to start somewhere, and they got where they are at through lots of practice. So keep up the practice, and good luck!