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State of the Game— February 5, 2007

Pressure Builds

By Adam Sunstrom

Special note: Each State of the Game article 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.


A pressure build, as mentioned in my previous article on build making, is one that focuses on winning by simply producing more damage than the enemy can survive in the long run. This is different from a spike build, which attempts to kill players before the enemy Monks can react, and split builds, which take the divide-and-conquer approach.

Note that a pressure build can deal its damage in spikes, but that it's not built to kill a target before Monks can react. Rather pressure builds spike hard enough or often enough that the Monks cannot keep up in terms of Energy or skill recharge over time.


Building Pressure

To exert more pressure than enemy Monks can withstand, simply swinging your weapon is usually not enough. If you don't diversify your sources of pressure, the enemy will easily counter it. The following are some popular components of pressure builds, with noteworthy skills for each component.

Energy Denial – Skills that drain Energy are very popular, especially when used with Mind Wrack.

"Fear Me!"
"Fear Me!"
Warrior - Tactics - Shout
Adrenaline: 4
Activation: 0
Recharge: 0
Shout. All nearby foes lose 1..4 Energy.
"Fear Me!" is the pressure Warrior's best friend. Paired with a strong source of adrenaline such as Steady Stance, this skill provides sustainable and hard-to-counter pressure.
Energy Surge
Energy Surge
Energy SurgeEnergy Surge [Elite]
Mesmer - Domination Magic - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 2
Recharge: 20
Spell. Target foe loses 3..8 Energy. For each point of Energy lost, that foe and all nearby foes take 10 damage.
Energy Surge combined with Energy Burn is the most common Mesmer pressure combination. It provides a fair bit of damage, which can be used in a spike, along with its Energy denial. Other noteworthy Mesmer skills for Energy denial are Feedback, Power Leak, and Signet of Weariness.
Debilitating Shot
Debilitating Shot
Debilitating ShotDebilitating Shot
Ranger - Marksmanship - Attack
Energy: 10
Activation: 0
Recharge: 10
Attack. If Debilitating Shot hits, your target loses 1..10 Energy.
Debilitating Shot is the pressure Ranger's most potent weapon.

Hexes – Hexes can do a number of useful things, but require a bit of investment because the build must properly support them. Simply bringing a few random Hexes won't get you anywhere; you must cover them with quick-recharging Hexes to make the important ones stick, choosing ones that complement the other parts of your build. Hexes also need time to work, so the rest of the build must account for that.
Reaper's Mark
Reaper's Mark
Reaper's MarkReaper's Mark [Elite]
Necromancer - Soul Reaping - Hex Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 30
Recharge: 15
Hex Spell. For 30 seconds, target foe suffers -1..5 Health degeneration. If that foe dies while Hexed with Reaper's Mark, you gain 5..15 Energy.
Reaper's Mark has become the Health degeneration Hex of choice since Nightfall's release.
Parasitic Bond
Parasitic Bond
Parasitic BondParasitic Bond
Necromancer - Curses - Hex Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 20
Recharge: 2
Hex Spell. For 20 seconds, target foe suffers -1 Health degeneration. The caster is healed for 30..120 when Parasitic Bond ends.
An excellent cover Hex, Parasitic Bond recharges quickly, costs only 5 Energy, and has a fast, one-second cast time. Use it to make sure more important Hexes don't get removed prematurely.
Panic
Panic
PanicPanic [Elite]
Mesmer - Domination Magic - Hex Spell
Energy: 25
Activation: 1
Duration: 5..20
Recharge: 10
Hex Spell. For 5..20 seconds, target foe and all nearby foes suffer -2 Energy degeneration and take 10..82 damage whenever they use a Signet.
Panic's coming back in a big way this season. Long underestimated, it's now being combined with "Fear Me!" and new skills like Ether Phantom, which forces Monks down to low Energy and keeps them low.
Scourge Healing
Scourge Healing
Scourge HealingScourge Healing
Monk - Smiting Prayers - Hex Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 2
Duration: 30
Recharge: 5
Hex Spell. For 30 seconds, every time target foe is healed, the healer takes 15..80 holy damage.
Scourge Healing, while expensive, is excellent against Heal Party. This easy response to counter Health degeneration becomes less easy with Scourge Healing in play.
Diversion
Diversion
DiversionDiversion
Mesmer - Domination Magic - Hex Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 3
Duration: 6
Recharge: 12
Hex Spell. For 6 seconds, the next time target foe uses a skill, that skill takes an additional 10..56 seconds to recharge.
Diversion is probably the single most popular Hex in the game, and for good reason. Time it right and you can render an enemy character nearly useless for the better part of a minute.

Conditions – Much like Hexes, these skills can do a lot of different things for you. However, Conditions are a lot easier to apply and remove than Hexes. Poison, Bleeding, and Disease are especially popular in pressure builds for their ability to provide easily-spread Health degeneration.
Barbed Arrows
Barbed Arrows
Barbed ArrowsBarbed Arrows
Ranger - Wilderness Survival - Preparation
Energy: 10
Activation: 2
Duration: 18
Recharge: 12
Preparation. For 18 seconds, your arrows cause Bleeding for 3..15 seconds. This Skill is easily interrupted.
When combined with Poison Arrow, this preparation provides the cheapest and most effective Health degeneration in the game, pound-for-pound.
Tainted Flesh
Tainted Flesh
Tainted Flesh Tainted Flesh [Elite]
Necromancer - Death Magic - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 20..44
Recharge: 0
Enchantment Spell. For 20..44 seconds, target ally is immune to disease, and anyone striking that ally in melee becomes Diseased for 3..15 seconds.
A long-standing mainstay of Condition-heavy pressure builds; Tainted Flesh is best used in combination with Rotting Flesh for when enemies keep their melee personnel well separated from their midline.

Minions - The ultimate backload, Necromancer minions don't kick in until the battlefield begins to get littered with a few successful kills. But if you are confident you can produce the bodies to get started, the resulting undead minions will ensure even more fodder down the line.
Jagged Bones
Jagged Bones
Jagged BonesJagged Bones [Elite]
Necromancer - Death Magic - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Duration: 30
Recharge: 15
Enchantment Spell. For 30 seconds, whenever target undead servant dies, it is replaced by a level 0..15 jagged horror that causes Bleeding with each of its attacks.
Jagged Bones combined with Animate Bone Minions is the primary ingredient in one of the most powerful pressure builds in the current metagame. This skill provides both DPS through melee attacks and Health degeneration through Bleeding.

Knockdowns – Usually associated with spiking or movement control, knockdowns can add useful pressure by costing an enemy Monk valuable time at a critical moment. This tactic is best when employed by a character who can repeatedly knock enemies down over a long period of time.
Hammer Bash
Hammer Bash
Hammer BashHammer Bash
Warrior - Hammer Mastery - Attack
Adrenaline: 6
Activation: 0
Duration: 2
Recharge: 0
Attack. Lose all adrenaline. If Hammer Bash hits, your target is knocked down.
When used along with Steady Stance or a similar adrenaline-booster, Hammer Bash becomes a valuable tool for both Monk shutdown and for disrupting enemy spikes.
Gale
Gale
GaleGale
Elementalist - Air Magic - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Duration: 3
Recharge: 5
Spell. Knock down target foe for 2 seconds. This Spell causes Exhaustion. (50% failure chance with Air Magic 4 or less.)
Still the most popular knockdown skill in the game, Gale is incredibly versatile.

DPS – It was once popular to make what I like to call overload builds with all Conditions and/or Hexes and nearly no direct damage, but those days are long gone. The options for Monks to regain Energy and avoid damage these days ensure that most pressure builds have at least two direct damage dealers.
Avatar of Grenth
Avatar of Grenth
Avatar of GrenthAvatar of Grenth [Elite]
dervish/Mysticism - Form
Energy: 15
Activation: 2
Duration: 10..45
Recharge: 30
Form. For 10..45 seconds, whenever you use an attack Skill, you also remove 1 Enchantment from your target, and your attacks deal cold damage. This Skill is disabled for 120 seconds.
Physical – Whether a Dervish with Avatar of Grenth or a Warrior with Dismember, bringing a melee character almost always adds a spike element to your pressure build as well. The exception that proves this rule is the powerful, hammer-based "Fear Me!"/Steady Stance Warrior, which deals practically all of its damage in the form of pressure.
Searing Flames
Searing Flames
Searing FlamesSearing Flames [Elite]
Elementalist - Fire Magic - Spell
Energy: 15
Activation: 1
Recharge: 2
Spell. Target foe and all nearby foes are struck with Searing Flames. Foes already on fire when this Skill is cast are struck for 10..100 fire damage. Foes not already on fire begin Burning for 1..5 seconds.
Elementalist – The most popular and powerful pressure Elementalists use Searing Flames , but Water Magic has its place as well with its ability to provide both damage and cover Hexes.
Xinrae's Weapon
Xinrae's Weapon
Xinrae's WeaponXinrae's Weapon [Elite]
Ritualist - Communing Magic - Weapon Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.25
Duration: 4..10
Recharge: 10
Weapon Spell. For 4..10 seconds, target ally has Xinrae's Weapon. Whenever a foe casts a Spell on that ally, that Spell is disabled for an additional 5..15 seconds for that foe and all party members of that foe. This Spell causes Exhaustion.
Ritualist – During the recent test weekend, many teams brought Channeling/Communing Ritualists as a way to provide ground control, damage, and defense. Let's hope this becomes a viable tactic again soon.

Other Shutdown
Signet of Humility
Signet of Humility
Signet of HumilitySignet of Humility
Mesmer - Inspiration Magic - Signet
Activation: 3
Recharge: 20
Signet. Target foe's elite skill is disabled for 1..16 seconds.
Signet of Humility is a must-have skill for pressure builds that rely heavily on one type of damage. It can stop elite counters such as Divert Hexes, Restore Conditions, Blinding Surge, Light of Deliverance, and other pesky skills that save enemies from overload.

Playing Pressure

As you will notice, pressure builds are often very back-loaded. This means they seem ineffective at first, and are unlikely to score the first kill of the game. But when the pressure builds past the point of sustainability for enemy Monks, their whole team is likely to get rolled unless they escape quickly.

Generally, you should spend as much time as possible in your enemy's face, attacking them 8v8. Pressure builds work up momentum and build upon it, whereas spike builds go from 0 to 100 and back down to 0 in a couple of seconds, and then repeat the process.

Vs. Spike
Get up close and personal immediately. Try to go after the Monks right away and measure their Energy and endurance against your healer's reaction speed. Normally they will score a kill or two before you get your first one, but as long as you have Rez Sigs, it's not a problem. Once you get your first kill, you should either get a second and third right away, or push them away from the flag stand and secure your Morale boost. Beware of pushing too hard on spike teams that can hit from afar, such as when they're perched on the ledges in the Isle of Solitude.

A smart spike team usually resorts to split tactics or hit-and-runs once they realize you have the advantage in a straight-up fight.

Vs. Pressure
If you are confident, go Monk on Monk as if facing a spike build. When you do this, one of two things will happen: either you will eventually start killing them or you will eventually start to crumble. Due to the nature of pressure builds, the team that suffers the first death is likely to lose more than one player as the momentum builds. Therefore, you must identify problems before your Monks are drained. Are your Hexes sticking? If not, find the Monk with Divert Hexes and shut him down. Are your melee attackers constantly Blinded or Blocked? Find the Elementalist casting Blinding Surge or Ward Against Melee and shut him down.

When facing another pressure build, it is vitally important for the team to communicate with the caller and keep him up to date. Your Monks have to be especially aware of this, and must warn the caller when they begin to get low Energy—before they are forced to switch to their negative Energy regeneration weapon sets. If the caller finds your Monks are taking more pressure than the enemy Monks, focus your shutdown on the enemy's offense to buy yourself time and your Monks breathing room while you decide how to shut down the enemy's defense.

Vs. Split
This is the true test of a pressure build. Facing a strong split build can be extremely difficult, and requires a pressure build designed to handle it. Against weak teams, you can often simply send back one or two defensive characters, give up your outside archers, and survive while the main team pressures on through the enemy base. Against a strong team, however, you must collapse upon the enemy anytime you can do so without losing control of the flag stand. The situation you're looking for is one where you've killed their split team and can push them into the back of their base before the next automatic resurrection. When that happens, you can pressure them from the moment they spawn and pin them in their base, or at least inflict a kill or two while their split team moves out. In that situation, send back only as many defensive characters as you absolutely must, and press the numbers advantage with your main team. Situations like these can come down to who can kill the other team's Guild Lord faster, which makes for exciting games and demands a lot of tactical experience from your leader.


Going the Distance

For you Mixed Martial Arts fans out there, my friend Morello once described the difference between a spike build and a pressure build as the difference between a knockout win and a submission win. A knockout happens faster and depends a lot more on mojo and timing, whereas a choke takes planning and work to set up, lock in, and squeeze until your opponent has a choice between tapping out or going to sleep. In that sense, a pressure build win often feels more rewarding, because everything builds upon something you established earlier, as opposed to "just" capitalizing on your enemy's mistakes.


Adam Sunstrom has been playing Guild Wars since February 2004 when he joined the Alpha test, and has been interested in the competitive aspects of the game from the beginning. In the early Beta Weekend Events, he led his team, The Fianna, with success.