Hero Battles and Skill Synergy: Part One
Two of our Primer articles have discussed one build from each profession that exemplifies skill synergy, making a total of ten individual builds to choose from. For this week, we take that discussion one step further and combine several of these builds into a four-character team for use in Hero Battles. While you may find it easier to play just one of these builds yourself, it would help deepen your understanding of the game if you rotate between each position on the team and try all of them at least once. In this way, you experience the strengths and weaknesses of how these builds perform on the field of battle. You can then extend this personal knowledge to other PvP venues and more easily identify enemy abilities and counter their tactics.
The advantage of Hero Battles for a new player lies primarily in the fact that you don't need to find a team. You can enter a battle and freely learn from any mistakes you make without worrying about the rest of your team suffering because of your errors. At worst, you'll lose a few Hero Battles and give your opponent some Balthazar's faction and a sense of gratification. But over time, you should get better and better and start winning, especially when you begin to encounter other new players practicing PvP in Hero Battles.
Hero Battles can seem overwhelming at first, so we recommend sticking to our suggested builds and concentrating on learning how they work in a team environment while studying enemy strategies. The more Hero Battles you do, the more you'll develop a perception of how four-character teams function. Even though Hero Battles may involve a lot of running around and splitting in different directions, you should have plenty of four vs. four fights going on. In many cases these fights resemble what you will find later in Team Arenas. And this, of course, is why we suggest Hero Battles: to prepare you for future PvP. Just remember that most PvP beyond Hero Battles has its own set of rules and different mechanics to learn, as well as a constantly evolving metagame.
First and foremost: Do not get discouraged when you lose! The experience and skill level of individual players in Hero Battles varies wildly, and your first few experience may well be against PvP veterans. There's really no easy way to learn Hero Battles. You have to just jump in and keep trying, even if you keep getting matched against better players. Keep in mind that often a loss teaches you more than a win.
The basic strategy in most PvP is to always seek to give yourself a numbers advantage. For most maps in Hero Battle, this means taking control of a shrine which generates an NPC to fight with you. If on a map without an NPC shrine, try to seize the Siege Cannon Shrine before taking the Center Shrine. The Battle Cry Shrine can also help a lot if you have to quickly move around the map to hunt down your opponent.
Adam's State of the Game article has a lot of excellent information about Hero Battles, including maps, shrine bonuses, and strategy. In this article, we focus more on a synergistic build and specific tactics for playing it.
To make the build work correctly, a lot depends on appropriate target selection. Having your Hero Control panels open lets you lock an enemy as a Hero's target. This means the Hero will attack that enemy until it dies. What happens when the locked target dies? The Hero then starts attacking the same target as you until you give it another order. Note that once the locked target dies, it clears from the Hero Control panel and you need to relock the target once it resurrects. However, if your Hero dies and later resurrects, the locked target selection persists and you don't have to relock.
Notice on your Compass that the various shrines appear gray for neutral or in color depending on which team controls them. You can order your Heroes using a Hero flag on the Compass to go directly to a shrine by simply clicking the flag directly on the shrine you want to try to capture. This works better than clicking in the vicinity of the shrine or clicking on the actual terrain your character sees. Even if a certain shrine is out of your immediate Compass range, it does appear at the edge of the Compass and you can still order a Hero to go there by clicking on that shrine. To make a Hero return quickly to your location, simply cancel any given orders with the red X icon on the bottom of the Compass.
Melee Condition Build
Please refer to the earlier Skill Synergy Primer articles for the Skill Bar setup, attribute spread, and play tips of the four builds:
Skill Synergy: Part One
- Dragon Sword (play as this one first)
- Prison Assassin
Skill Synergy: Part Two
- Fast-cast Monk
- Blinding Dervish (don't forget Ebon Scythe)
Perhaps one of the easier and more destructive builds, it nonetheless has its own particular breed of complex interactions to master and potential counters to watch for. We suggest playing the Dragon Sword first (because it has a more straightforward approach) and letting the Heroes fill the other roles. After practicing with the Dragon Sword, move on and give the other positions a try.
Here's where the synergy of the build matters. Set the Dervish on any melee or ranged attacker, such as a Warrior or Ranger. Watch carefully when targeting Rangers to make sure they aren't really "touchers" (Ranger/Necros that use Blood Magic rather than attacking) because Blinding a toucher does nothing for you. Having the Dervish assault a melee character serves two purposes: defensive by Blinding enemy attackers and offensive by inflicting damage and forcing enemy healers to respond.Even if your opponent has no characters worth Blinding, set the Dervish "off-target" (a different target than your main target) because it can still Cripple a caster and apply pressure damage.
You don't want the Dervish on the same target as you and the Assassin because all of you are applying Conditions and it is too easy for opponents to remove them from one target. The Assassin and Dervish both Cripple, so putting them on the same target wastes one of the Cripple-causing abilities. Cripple is essential to reduce the effectiveness of enemy "kiting" (basically just running away from damage, though it can also mean attempting to lead an attacker through a certain area). If kiting targets have a harder time getting away, they get hit more often, which translates into higher damage and extra pressure on healers to keep up.
Lock the Assassin on a "soft" target (one with a lower armor level), preferably a Monk. This Assassin can kill some Monks by itself, but it will sometimes need help. If the enemy has two Monks, try going after the other one yourself. Watch Health levels on the enemy and switch targets quickly if you see something get low. A low Health bar indicates the opponent's healing has started to suffer and a timely spike from you could capitalize on that suffering.
Alternatively, you can lock the Dervish on something then start attacking a soft target yourself, causing the Assassin to follow your lead. This means you won't have to waste time selecting and locking the Assassin's target and you can start applying instant pressure to the enemy. Even though both you and the Assassin have skills that cause Bleeding and Deep Wound, they won't go to waste because they usually happen at staggered intervals. Thus, enemy Condition-removal attempts become less effective because the two of you are constantly reapplying your Conditions. And the important Crippled Condition to prevent kiting stays buried under the Bleeding, making it hard to get rid of. You may wish to try this method when you attack a target and realize it keeps running away from you because you lack a "snare" (anything that reduces movement speed, such as Crippled).
If you need to send a solo character to retake a shrine, try the Assassin. It can kill other characters with ease while keeping itself alive. The Dervish also makes a nice choice if you know the opponent has sent a Warrior without Condition removal. The Dragon Sword shouldn't go out solo because of the lack of self heals.
Some builds you run across in Hero Battles will seem designed specifically to counter yours. In fact, a Spiteful Necromancer as outlined in the earlier Skill Synergy Primer article, would counter this build fairly well. Against something like that, you should try to send a Hero off to capture different shrines and give yourself an advantage, or run your entire group from shrine to shrine. If you try to engage four vs. four, you run the risk of giving the Necromancer shutdown Hexes time to work. The more you can run around the map and avoid engagements until you have a numbers advantage or a shrine bonus, the better.
Playing the Other Characters
The Dervish and Assassin are more complex than the Dragon Sword, largely because of the interaction of skills. The earlier articles outline how to play each of these. Keep in mind that you have the additional challenge of ordering your Heroes around as well as mastering your Skill Bar. The Assassin may be slightly easier to play because you can set the Dervish to its target and let the Warrior follow your attacks. The Monk might prove the most difficult because you have to order all three of your Heroes as well as kiting and keeping everyone alive. Of course, you can also set the Dervish to a target and then attack something with your staff to make the other Heroes attack that target. Nonetheless, selecting targets on a Monk poses a difficulty. In fact, learning how to play as Monk may be best left to other Arenas, although it is certainly worth a try in Hero Battles just for the challenge.