State of the Game— April 16, 2007
Collapsing Guild Hall Tactics
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.
GvG guild halls present unique challenges and opportunities. Each map is different, and playing them as if they were the same leads to a swift demise. Some maps naturally produce situations for certain maneuvers, such as "collapsing," more often than others.
In a tactical context, collapsing means pinching and trapping an opponent between two or more groups of your players. Visualize a scenario where your enemy splits 6/2 and sends six players to the flag stand while two others take a side route to harass your base NPCs. In response you send a split team to drive them out of your base, while the main part of your team engages at the flag stand. When the enemy split team heads for home, rather than letting them rejoin their team, your main group relinquishes flag control to collapse on the enemy splitters and kill them. This type of maneuver wins games because it yields a temporary numerical advantage, often just long enough to gain ground, to inflict death penalty, kill NPCs, and get a morale boost.
Trebuchet Maps – Wizard's, Warrior's, and Hunter's Isle are the original maps (and generally considered the standard from which the others deviate). Historically, they have been very popular, and learning to play them enhances understanding of the game. They feature three routes between the bases and a repairable trebuchet aimed at each base. The presence of the trebuchets makes it difficult to reverse a losing situation. A common tactic is to go out your back gate with the repair kit to repair the enemy's trebuchet without having to push through their team.
If you control the center at Victory or Death, try to block the enemy front gate with two high-armor targets like Warriors, Rangers, or Paragons and keep them alive with Protective Spirit. This allows you to blast the enemy NPCs with the trebuchet as they engage your blockers. Doing this also forces the enemy to go out through their side door. Don't chase after them, though. You can reach your own base faster by simply retreating through the middle of the map.
Hunter's Isle is slightly biased in favor of the defenders, as they have a path in front of their base that connects to their side route and the flag stand route. But you can use this path to collapse on split teams effectively.
You can also fire your own trebuchet and wipe out your entire team with one shot, but this is not recommended. Especially if you're trying to make friends.
Druid's Isle – This map has an unusual and potentially confusing layout, largely due to the vine bridges that aren't there unless triggered, and the sloping access to a lower side path around each base. The safest way to start is to take a quick right after exiting your base and intercept the enemy team it they try to plant the vine seed straight from the beginning. When both teams are at the flag stand, you can send one player through the enemy's water path to harass their flag runner as he (or she; really, how many male Elementalists do you see these days?) comes out of the base.
Isle of Wurms – It's a good idea to use this map if you have problems with spike teams, as the southern Health Shrine provides a maximum Health boost to whoever captures it. Simply stand in its capture radius, just like a shrine in Hero Battles. Despite all the open space in this map, it's difficult to get away with a gank or sneak a split through the enemy's defenses because everything is connected. The guild hall also has gloomy and foreboding wurm-like images scattered about, so the environs might subtly interfere with a spike caller's concentration.
Isle of Weeping Stone – On this map, you'll find it easy to collapse on splitters, because there is a middle passage between its two paths. Be aware that the middle passage can be closed off by a lever on the outer path, so make sure you control that side from the start. The lever is close to the flag stand, meaning a team can collapse on a split then quickly regroup to defend their runner or recapture the stand. If you're thinking of running this map, scrimmage on it to learn the locations of the stone spores. The spores are like little clouds of instant drunkenness. Luring your enemy into them can, if you're quick, guarantee a win.
Isle of Solitude – This map is similar to the Isle of the Dead in that the outside areas are wide and spacious while the bases feature narrow pathways and opportunities for non-LOS ranged damage. The typical starting strategy is to use the one-way teleporter in your base and then move toward the flag stand. This gets you out faster and allows you to spot any side rushes or splits. Be careful, though. If you are running flags and pop through the teleporter without paying attention, you might find yourself alone and isolated in an enemy group with no way back to your base.
Isle of Meditation – This is another two-path map, but with an obelisk flag stand on the top path that shoots fireballs at enemies near the lion statues on the lower path. Because it takes the precious resource of a flag to capture it, meditate upon the possibility of saving the obelisk for when you control the lower flag stand so you can push the advantage.
The following maps are more suited for 8v8 combat than split action. It is fairly easy to defend against splits on each one.
Burning Isle – This is a two-path map. On the side path, Lesser Flame Sentinels camp in lava pools that apply Cripple and Burning. The Flame Sentinels deal significant damage, so if you want to split early on, use Protective Spirit to survive while killing them. Their Health degenerates over time, so if you only plan on splitting late in the game, don't worry about them. They waste away and die before the 12 minute mark, even if nobody touches them. Apparently they can't survive the lava either.
The main paths between the bases and the flag stand are split into two parts, one high and one low. The lower path is faster but has lava, so use it only when speed is more important than damage, such as when first coming out or when running the flag. Whenever you are retreating, always use the upper path. It has bridges that you can block, and you won't risk getting knocked down in the lava.
Isle of Jade – Difficult to split on and popular for slugfests, use of the Isle of Jade continues to spark debate amongst players. Teleporters are the fastest way to the flag stand, but make sure your enemy isn't setting up a campfire and roasting marshmallows on your bridge, or you'll be in trouble. Recent changes to NPC movement after VoD are believed to have targeted this map in particular.
Isle of the Dead – A massive pit filled with frustrating tar surrounds the lonely flag stand island. Rather than a front and rear/side entrance, this map has upper and lower entrances to each base. Inside the bases, split tactics are difficult to execute because the paths are close to each other and defenders can use snares that aren't dependent on line of sight to catch and collapse on you. Water Hexes work well for this purpose. And Shadow Stepping from one level to another is just too fun to ignore.
Imperial Isle – Another large and open map, this Isle used to require a thief to get into the enemy base. Now, the gates open at the start. No thieves necessary. It has two-way teleporters from one side of the room to the other, but they're not enough to make the map split-friendly.
On the following maps, it is fairly easy to split without the enemy collapsing on you, if you know what you're doing.
Corrupted Isle – If you want to run a split build based on strength, the Corrupted Isle is a good choice. The distances are short, and there's no way to go from one path to another, except through a base. The downside is that because the map layout is fairly simple, it's difficult to confuse an opponent. The simplicity of the design and lack of extra features makes this a good map to start out on if you've never run a split build before. It does suffer from extreme vulnerability to body-blocking the path to the flag stand. Try some sneaky flag handoffs if you're having trouble. Possessing catlike, FPS gamer reflexes doesn't hurt, either.
Frozen Isle – The best map choice if you're looking to play a split build based on speed and deception, its open, three-path layout, along with ice that covers a lot of the map, leaves many options for making your opponent chase his tail. The safe way to play Frozen is to take the flag path from the beginning and then head for the middle to see if the enemy team is going for the flag stand or rushing the side path. In case of a rush, use the levers in the middle to cut off the non-flag stand paths and head for home.
Nomad's Isle – This is a split map with a huge pool of quicksand. Avoid fighting in the quicksand at nearly all costs, for it slows you down and drains your Energy. Two-way teleporters on the opposite side of the room from the flag stand allow for a lot of harassment options. The good news is that you can block both entrances to a base at the same time if you are winning, so pushing in to secure positional advantage is imperative. Be mindful of AoE, though. The main gates have narrow bridges leading up to them. Because of the layout, however, you can crank out Heal Parties from the resurrection shrine all the way to the flag stand. This is handy if your flag runner is in the base and the rest of the team has to run away suddenly like scared sheep.
Uncharted Isle – Because it is uncharted, nobody knows exactly which way to go here. Perhaps the extra-wide size of the map accounts for its lack of charting. The flag stand lies way over on one side, while a distant rear passage connects the bases. A split team can run around this back passage for days and never show up on the enemy Compass. A shortcut through the uncharted jungle links the rear path to the central area. In the middle, shallow water and light vegetation lay waiting to receive the fodder of combat.
To make this guild hall more of a challenge, you need a thief to enter the enemy base. A common defense against splits is to simply kill the thief. This renders a split team useless unless they can perform a collapse maneuver through the shortcut to the middle. Sometimes they can sneak through this shortcut and intercept the enemy flag runner, especially if the enemy has relocated near the flag stand. It takes a little time to fall back from the flag stand and help anyone below in trouble. Killing the outer NPCs (the main team can do this) is helpful when performing this maneuver; otherwise the flag runner can simply hide behind them until help arrives.
If your split makes it successfully into the enemy base, they can sometimes run through the Guild Lord area and catch the opposing flag runner inside the base next to the flag respawn point. Killing or even stalling the runner often nets a morale boost. This is a risky move however, because if enough enemy players return to help the runner, your split can get pinned between the Guild Lord NPCs and the front gate.
Feel free to read my article over and over again until your eyes go numb. As always, I can only describe so much in writing. There are lots of relevant details that you only pick up by playing the game. Just remember that experience and good communication will see you through most difficulties, provided you can learn from your 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. He killed his sensei in a duel, and he never said why.