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State of the Game— March 26, 2007

Analyzing Melee Professions

By Christian Brellisford

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.


For balanced builds, the inclusion of one or more frontline, melee characters is almost always necessary. Each of melee character types has specific abilities and benefits, and each fills a different and important role within the current metagame.

Ward Against Melee
Ward Against Melee
Ward Against MeleeWard Against Melee
Elementalist - Earth Magic - Ward Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Duration: 8..20
Recharge: 20
Ward Spell. You create a Ward Against Melee at your current location. For 8..20 seconds, non-Spirit allies in this area have a 50% chance to block melee attacks.

In GvG combat, you generally find invisible positioning lines established throughout the game organized by the types of professions the team employs. The backline often includes the team's Monks or other healers, although it can also contain party support characters like defensive Elementalists with Wards or Ritualists using Spirits. The midline encompasses a lot of the soft-armored damage dealers and utility characters (Mesmers and Necromancers), or higher-armored, ranged attackers like Paragons or Rangers (although ranged attackers often push up to gain ground for tactical advantage). Rounding out each team is a frontline established by high-armored Warriors and survivable Dervishes. This frontline supplies most of the steady damage that pressure teams apply to the enemy.

Melee characters rely on mobility, endlessly dancing into and out of the enemy's backline or midline. The fluidly shifting frontline offers a different perspective on the field. While that perspective can sometimes be narrow, target calling often comes from here because these players actively scan for weak targets, whereas midline players tend to concentrate on interrupts, shut-down opportunities, defense, or spreading Health degeneration.


The Warrior

Warriors are the most established frontline characters. They have high armor and damage. Many players choose this profession because it can deal a lot of damage using just regular attacks. Even without using skills, Warriors can stick to a target and cause problems; their attack skills just make them that much deadlier.

Typical Warriors don't completely fill their Skill Bar with attack skills. Warriors need to be dynamic and self-sufficient because they seize every opportunity to push for weakened targets, often advancing beyond their Monks' healing range in the process. In today's metagame, Warriors might bring three to four attack skills for dealing damage, often including a way to cause Deep Wounds. Warriors also need to prepare for enemy counters. Targets they cannot reach, whether due to snares or "kiting" (the process of running away from a pursuing attacker), are one of a melee character's biggest problems. A speed boost like Rush or Sprint helps close on distant targets and mitigates kiters. Kiting is also one reason why Warriors often get away from their healing, so many bring a self-heal such as Healing Signet to help them stay in the frontlines longer, where they can continue to apply pressure.

Skull Crack
Skull Crack
Skull CrackSkull Crack [Elite]
Warrior - No Attribute - Attack
Adrenaline: 9
Activation: 0.5
Recharge: 0
Attack. If it hits, this attack interrupts the target's current action. If that foe was casting a Spell, that foe is Dazed for 10 seconds.

Warrior Skill Bars haven't changed much over time, although players and teams try slightly different things. For example, while new skills like Flail or Enraging Charge have made appearances, you probably won't see a lot of use of Skull Crack or Defy Pain on Observer Mode. Despite minor variations, the same Skill Bars from the past work fine today. A typical axe Warrior might look something like this:

Executioner's Strike, Eviscerate, Critical Chop, Healing Signet, Dash, Frenzy, Bull's Strike, Ressurection Signet
Template code: AxNREpcVHoiURvyUCACAtyEE


The Assassin

Where a Warrior applies pressure damage, the Assassin is all about spike damage. With quick teleports and high-damage attack chains, the Assassin can mete out tremendous damage in a short amount of time, with brief intervals between each spike. Assassin damage, however, is quite conditional because skills must be executed in a specific order, each meeting different requirements. As such, Assassin Skill Bars change often.

Expose Defenses
Expose Defenses
Expose DefensesExpose Defenses
Assassin - Deadly Arts - Hex Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Duration: 5..20
Recharge: 25
Hex Spell. For 5..20 seconds, target foe cannot block your attacks.

Assassins have lower armor than their Warrior counterparts. Consequently, they make use of Shadow Stepping to move from their own backline to the enemy's backline. To counter, guilds try to disrupt the Assassin skill chain combo with a variety of methods. Aegis and other blocking skills, Blinding Surge, and skills that cause Blindness are great ways to cause problems for Assassin attackers. However, Expose Defenses has started to make an appearance due to the plethora of blocking skills teams now equip.

There are still some typical trends players follow when designing Assassin Skill Bars. Some teams tailor Assassins to split by adding secondary professions like a Monk for Mending Touch. In the main group, non-splitting Assassins may choose a Warrior secondary for Burst of Aggression. A number of Assassin skills cause Deep Wound, however, Twisting Fangs tends to be the skill of choice. Self-healing varies from player to player, but Feigned Neutrality is a popular skill.

A split-type Assassin might look something like the following:

Shadow Prison, Black Spider Strike, Twisting Fangs, Disrupting Dagger, Dash, Mending Touch, Feigned Neutrality, Ressurection Signet
Template code: A3AwQnJzIsd0EMvmmFAA


The Dervish

The Dervish is a high-armored (although not as high as the Warrior) and powerful melee attacker. The scythe has a slower attack speed than Warrior weapons, but it compensates by dealing damage in an area of effect adjacent to the target.

Dervishes are the newest frontline profession introduced to Guild Wars, and as such are still being discovered. Besides their AoE attack, the elite Form skills make this a unique profession that offers a wide variety of options in a team build.

Heart of Fury
Heart of Fury
Heart of FuryHeart of Fury
dervish/Mysticism - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.75
Duration: 5..20
Recharge: 30
Enchantment Spell. For 5..20 seconds, you attack 33% faster. When this Enchantment ends, all nearby foes are set on fire for 1..3 seconds.

The metagame is still shifting to carve a niche for Dervishes. They are emerging as excellent flagstand pressure characters. Their AoE attacks make them more efficient when assaulting multiple targets, so they don't appear on splits as often without some sort of support. They can also apply heavy Condition pressure through attack skills and Enchantments. Skills like Harrier's Grasp and Harrier's Haste are popular for keeping up with and snaring opponents, while Heart of Fury is a common attack speed buff. The extra pressure of these skills can force an enemy to reposition and possibly make mistakes.

A typical Skill Bar for a Melandru's Dervish might look like this:

Avatar of Melandru, Heart of Fury, Chilling Victory, Mystic Sweep, Wearying Strike, Harrier's Haste, Harrier's Grasp, Ressurection Signet
Template code: AKAwIfF3DYmbAGd7tFAA


Countering Melee

Blinding Surge
Blinding Surge
Blinding SurgeBlinding Surge [Elite]
Elementalist - Air Magic - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 0.75
Recharge: 4
Spell. Target foe is struck for 5..50 lightning damage and Blinded for 2..8 seconds. If that foe is under the effects of an Enchantment, all adjacent foes are also Blinded for 2..8 seconds. This Spell has 25% armor penetration.

To deal with the widespread use of melee fighters, the metagame has shifted to include a large amount of blocking and anti-melee Hexes. Aegis is one of the most popular choices. Often teams bring it on more than one character to allow chain-casting (alternating casts to keep the Enchantment active as long as possible). Necromancers also received a recent buff to some Hexes, like Price of Failure, so a Necro-Hexer is not as uncommon as it used to be. Blinds still have their place; some teams bring the Ranger skill Dust Trap or the Elementalist's Blinding Surge (which works particularly well against Assassins and Dervishes because they are so often Enchanted).

Positioning can also inherently counter melee attackers. Having established battle lines allows your backline to kite melee characters and lure them away from their healers. Combine kiting with snare skills like Grasping Earth or Crippling Shot and you greatly reduce a Warrior's or Dervish's effectiveness.

The melee attacker poses a nonstop threat for teams, which is why they are included in balanced builds. The pressure from regular attacks added with the bonus damage provided from skills is usually enough to force enemies to make mistakes. And it's those mistakes that you can capitalize on to achieve victory.


Christian Brellisford is a college student currently studying video game design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in hopes of pursuing a career in the field. A gamer since an early age, Christian has been involved with Guild Wars since the E3 for Everyone Event in 2004, and currently leads the Spirits of War guild.